Images de page


God was not, tho's he was the first of all creatures :" in Se which opiniom many Bishops joined him, caufing violent difputes and animofities, to the fcandal of Chriftianity. Upon this, the Emperor convened a Council of the whole Church at Nice, in the year 325. And tho' the fubfcriptions of that Synod now remaining, confufed and imperfect even in the best copies, make no mention of any British Bishops; yet our Author imagines, that fome of them were fummoned, and did appear. But, be that as it may, it is plain, from the Canons of this Council, that the Bishops of a province had a power, among themfelves, to constitute other Bishops, with the confent of the Metropolitan; that no perfon excommunicated by one Bifhop, was to be received into communion by another; and that, to decide matters, in cafe of appeals," Provincial Synods were to be held twice in fa year, in Lent and Autumn;" and all this without the leaft mention of any fuperior authority then known.. Here fothen, fays our Author, we fix our right as to the British Churches, that they were not under any Patriarchal Jurif diction of the Bishop of Rome at this time: that is, that he never had the authority to confecrate the Metropolitans or Bifhops of these Provinces; that he never called them to his & Councils at Rome; that he had no appeals from hence; that the British Bishops never owned his jurisdiction over Fethem, and, therefore, that our Churches were ftill to enjoy their former privileges, of being governed by their own provincial Synods.?.


[ocr errors]

Our Author, however, thinking it became him to clear the British Church from the reproach of Arianifm, which fome, it seems, have endeavoured to fix upon it at this early time, takes notice, next, of the Council of Ariminium, where

[ocr errors]

the British Bishops were prefent,' and where Arianism was established. It is plain,' fays the Doctor, that the defini ❝tions there fubfcribed in favour of Arianism, were extorted from them by the Emperor thro' fear and, therefore, the Bishops being returned, upon the death of Conftantius not long after, they fettled the Nicene Faith in the Western Churches, by leffer affemblies of the feveral Bifhops. This is expressly faid by Hilary of the Gallican Bishops, who 5 meeting at Paris, renounced the Council of Ariminium,

and embraced the Creed of Nice. The fame, we have ⚫ reason to believe, was done in the Churches of Britain; becaufe, in the time of Jovian, Athanafius particularly takes notice," of the Britannic Churches as adhering to the Nicene Faith." But whatever imperial force was used to introduce


Arianifm, the fame force, we apprehend, was violently retorted in fubjugating the Church to admit Athanafianifm; and, however unexceptionable the evidence of Hilary may be, for the conduct of the Gallican Church, yet that of Athanafius, with reference to the British, comes from a perfon too remote, and too much interested, to be of any validity.

But Arianifm was not the only herefy the British Churches were charged with: Bede infinuates, that Pelagius being a Briton, and fpreading his doctrine far and near, corrupted thefe churches with it. The principles afcribed to Pelagius by the Church of Carthage, are fummed up by our Author, who afterwards thus proceeds.

[ocr errors]

Lupus and Germanus, Bishops deputed by the Gallican Church, came over, by invitation into Britain; and, in a conference at Verulam with the Pelagians, defended the Truth, in fo ftrong and plain a manner, that they brought off feveral from their errors; and left the Britons well fettled, as they fuppofed, in the ancient Faith. But they were no fooner returned to Gaul, than fome of the Pelagians got ground again; which occafioned another meffage to Ger< manus, and another voyage from him to Britain, in company with Severus. Defpairing then to convince them any more by arguments, because of their obftinacy and perverfnefs, he procured their banishment, according to the edict of Valentinian; and from thence forward, fays Bede, the British • Churches continued found and orthodox.'.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But the Saxons, whom the Britons had called in to protect them from the ravages of the Picts and Scots, taking advantage of their own numbers, and of the diftrefsful circumftances of their friends, ftript them of their lands and property, perfecuted them with the fevereft cruelty, and obliged them to take refuge in Wales. Here flourished the schools of learning, fet up by Dubricius, and Iltutus; and here were the perfons of greatest reputation, for letters and religion, in the British Churches; particularly St. David, whofe name continues in honour there to this day. Let this then fuffice

as a fummary of our Author's first book.


The Britons having been driven into Wales and Cornwal, by the Saxons, and Christianity every where infulted by these pagan invaders, the Hiftory of the Church affords nothing but a few traditionary events, without any order or connection, till we come to the converfion of these Barbarians,' who remained in their primitive ignorance for more than one entire age, and fome of them for more than two.

This fecond book then contains an account of the converfion of these Saxons, of their relapfes, and of their final recovery and fettlement in the Faith; till, at laft, almost the whole Heptarchy became Chriftian; and fuch a coalition enfued among the feveral eftablished Churches, as became the bafis of what was afterwards denominated the Church of England.

Of the feven independent ftates, into which the Saxons had formed themfelves, the kingdom of Kent was the firft which was founded, and the firft which was converted. The young and warlike Ethelbert, fucceeding his father in that kingdom, demanded Bertha, a daughter of France, in marriage. Chilperic, King of the Franks, whofe niece the was, refufing to enter into treaty for her, unless Ethelbert would engage to allow her the free exercife of her religion, and permit her to have her own priests about her; these terms were complied with, and a church, built in the time of the Britons, near the eaft fide of the city of Canterbury, and dedicated to St. Martin, was allotted for the place of her devotion.

In this favourable juncture, Pope Gregory the Great, about the latter end of the fixth century, fent into England, forty Benedictin Monks, with Austin, in quality of Abbot, at their head; who landing in the ifle of Thanet, fent fome of his brethren to King Ethelbert. Shortly after this, the King, accompanied with the Queen, and fome of his court, went ⚫ into the island: and whether it was that the fuperftitions of the Pagan worship, had taught him to fufpect fome fafcination, or whether any part of Austin's conduct had given him a wrong idea of the Chriftian Faith, he was apprehenfive of charms and fpells; and conducting himself by a re'ceived notion-as Creffy fays, from an ancient prophecy of their religion-that they could have no power over him in the C open air, he took his feat in the field, and commanded Auftin to attend him there. The Abbot having received this command, put himself and his followers into the form of a proceffion; and erecting his filver crofs, and carrying in his banner the picture or image of our Saviour Chrift, he and his company, finging their Litany, came before the King. Being afked, what they had to propofe, and an intimation from Ethelbert being given them to fit down, Auftin opened his commiffion; preaching the Gospel in a forcible and zealous manner. The King having heard, by the interpreter, an account of the nature and principles of Chriftianity, returned him an anfwer, which Bede has given us in


[ocr errors]

the following 'words. Your propofals are noble, and "your promises inviting; but I cannot resolve upon quitting "the religion of my ancestors, for one that appears to me "fupported only by the teftimony of perfons that are entire ❝ftrangers to me. However, fince I perceive you have undertaken fo long a journey, on purpose to impart to us "what you esteem of the most important, valuable confidera❝tion, you fhall not be fent away without fome fatisfaction. "I will take care that you are treated civilly in my domini❝ons, and supplied with all things neceflary and convenient:

and if any of my fubjects, convinced by what you fhall fay "to them, fhould defire to embrace your Faith, I will not be "Sagainst it." When he was difmiffed from this audience, the • King gave leave for the Miffionaries to fettle at Canterbury." And thus began our fatal connections with the Papal See; for as to the communication opened by Lucius, it seems to have dropt with himself.

Sometime, however, betwixt the year 597, in which Auftin arrived, and the year 601, King Ethelbert declared himfelf a Chriftian. The new converted Monarch was not wanting, on his part, to promote the converfion of all his fubjects, as far as it could be attained by inftruction, and good example; declaring, it feems, according to Bede, that the religion of Chrift was to make its way by argument • and perfuafion, to be a matter of choice, and not of force ⚫ and violence. This is a fentiment which does honour to the King's Inftructor; which fhews, that he was himself of a true Chriftian spirit; and which it would have been well for the world, and for Chriftianity, if all the Princes of Chriftendom, and the inftructors in this religion would univerfally ⚫ have imbibed.'

This fuccefs of Auftin raised his hopes to the highest pitch. He haftened away to Arles, and there got himself confecrated Archbishop of the English. Gregory alfo fent him the Pall, and thus feized upon England as an appendage to his own Pa


This Pope having, in his letter to King Ethelbert, advised him to demolish the places dedicated to idols, that no "marks of former fuperftition might remain;' changed his opinion, on fecond thoughts: and, therefore, among other inftructions to Auftin at this time, there is a direction, forbidding him to deftroy the temples ufed by the English for their pagan worship; and that having first cast out the images of their deities, he fhould with holy-water sprinkle the walls, erect proper altars, furnish them with reliques, ༢༣: 6


and thus fet them apart for the fervice of God. But what fhall we fay to his inftructions about the religious rites and ufages of the Pagans?" Whereas," fays he," they were wont to "kill many oxen in their facrifices to devils, you may per "fuade them to make this change in that folemnity; that on "the anniversary day of the dedication of their churches, in "honour of the Saints whofe names they bear, or whofe re"licts are depofited in them, they may raife tents or harbours "about the fame, and celebrate the folemnity with merry

feafting at which time they must not immolate their beafts ❝ to the devil, but kill them for meat to be eaten to the praise "of God, the giver of them. By this means, while we per


mit them a continuance of their former external jollities, "their minds will more eafily be brought to entertain spiritual joys. For it will be impoffible, at once, to draw fuch rude "untractable minds from all their former customs: they will "not be brought to perfection by fudden leaps, but leifurely, "by steps and degrees."-Thus, ever fly, and deceitful, is Popery!

Qur Auftin, out of the abundance of his zeal for the See of Rome, whence he derived his own metropolitical jurif diction, took upon him to make' the Britons acknowlege the Pope as Head of the whole Church.-The Hiftorians, who deal in miracles, add moreover, that finding no good was to be done by arguments, he caused a blind man to be brought into the affembly, and when the Britons had tried in vain to restore his fight, he cured him by his prayers. But whether the miracle might not admit of fome difpute; or whether the Hiftorians, who lived not till long after, might not be impofed upon, as in the cafe of miracles we know they almost always were, the Britons ftood out against this evidence; and all that Auftin could obtain, was, that they would advife on what was paft, and meet again, and determine the matter in another fynod. They met, but difowned the Supremacy of Rome; and, in oppofition to Auftin, maintained their own Independence.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

After Boniface the fourth had fucceeded Gregory in the Papacy, Ethelbert, King of Kent, died, in the year 613, or thereabouts. Upon his death, Eadbald, his fon and fucceffor, permitted his fubjects to restore the pagan worship, and the Christian intereft was reduced to very deplorable circumftances in the kingdom of Kent, But this was not all the calamity of the Church increased, and the storm began to blow higher, upon the death of Sebert.'-No fooner was he dead, than his three fons, who jointly fucceeded

« PrécédentContinuer »