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interests of the English by frequent preaching of the word, and by a diligent and useful example. I doubt not the sincerity of this prelate; though seduced by the charms of a nominal unity, he laboured, as the first missionary Augustine had done, to bring the British churches to a conformity with the Church of Rome. He was actuated by the same subtil spirit of selfish ambition, of which even the best men in all ages
have not been void; it operates imperceptibly, through the native energy of indwelling fin, The papist, the national churchman, and the sectary are each liable to its influence, though in truly regenerate spirits there is likewise a diviner principle, and sordid views of secular gain are entirely excluded. In this manner I would appreciate the characters of the Romish missionaries in England. Their disinterested labours, just views of Christian doctrine, and holy and unblemished lives ought to have exempted them from the intemperate censures of writers, who seem to think an indiscriminate aversion to the Church of Rome to be one of the principal excellencies of a proteftant historian*.
Laurentius, in conjunction with Mellitus, bishop of London, and Justus, bishop of Rochester, endeavoured to reduce the “Scots, who inhabited Ireland-f.” to a conformity with the English Church. The three prelates wrote to them with this view, and declared themselves to be sent by the Roman See to propagate the Gospel among the pagan nations. Laurentius complained of the bigotry of a certain Irish bishop, who, coming to Canterbury, refused to eat at the same table, or even in the same house with him. The archbishop could not prevail either with the Britons or with the Irish to enter into his views. “ Even the present times, says our author, declare how little fuccefs he had.” At the period in which Bede concludes his history, the greatest part of the British churches remained still distinguished from the English. The bishops of Rome continued to superintend the latter; and while Ethelbert lived, the Gospel flourished. This prince died after a reign of 56 years, twenty-one years after he had embraced Christianity, and was buried by the side of his deceased queen Bertha. Among other benefits which the English derived from him, there was a code of laws formed after the example of the Romans*, which was still extant in Bede's time, and was particularly calculated to protect the persons and property of the Church.
* I advert, particularly to Bower's lives of the popes, and to Warner's ecclesiastical history of our own country. Their laborious collection of facts deserves commendation. I avail myself of all the helps, which offer, for the fupply of materials. - But, I mean to extol the Church of Christ, wherever I can find her, nor does a Roman dress, when she appears in it, convey any prejudice to my mind.
† Bede's own words, which demonstrate that the Irih were antiently called Scots.
His son and fucceffor Eadbald not only despised Christianity, but also lived in incest with his father's wife. Whence all, who had embraced the Gospel through motives purely fecular, were induced to relapse into idolatry. Sabereth, king of the East - Saxons, who had followed the example of Ethelbert who was his uncle, being deceased, his three sons became joint heirs of his kingdom. Immediately they resumed the idolatry, which they had intermitted a little in their father's life-time, and encouraged their subjects to do the fame. These princes observing the bishop of London to distribute the bread of the Eucharift in the church, asked why he did not give them the bread, which he had usually given to their father, and which he distributed at that time to the people. “ If you will be washed, replied Mellitus, in the same laver of regeneration in which your father was, you may partake of the sanie sacred bread: but, if
you • Bede, Id. C. 5.
ye despise the laver of life, ye cannot partake of the bread of life.”. We will not, said they, enter into that fountain; we do not know that we need it, yet we chuse to eat of that bread. In vain did the upright pastor seriously and diligently admonilla them, that it was not possible for any person remaining uncleansed from sin to partake of the communion: in a rage they declared, “ if you will not gratify us in so small a matter, you shall not remain in our province.”. They thereupon ordered him to be gone with his associates.
Mellitus, thus expelled, came into Kent to consult with Laurentius and Justus. The three bishops agreed to leave the country, that they might serve God with freedom elsewhere, rather than remain among enemies without fruit. Mellitus and Justus retired first into France, waiting the issue. The three princes not long after were slain in battle, but their subjects remained still incorrigible.
Laurentius intending to follow the two bishops, employed himself in prayer in the church during the filent hours of the night, with much agony and many tears, intreating God to look upon the state of the English Church, which, after such promifing beginnings, seemed now on the eve of a total difsolution. Next morning he paid a visit to the king, who struck at last with horror for his crimes, and relenting, when he appeared in imminent danger of losing his Christian instructors for ever, forbad his departure, reformed his own life and manners, was baptized, and from that time became a zealous supporter of the faith*.
Eadbald • Bede, C. 6. I was unwilling to introduce into the narrative the story of
Eadbald was determined to shew the fincerity of his zeal. He recalled Mellitus and Juftus from France, after a year's exile. Justus was reinstated in Rochester; but Mellitus could not recover his See. The Londoners preferred idolatry, and Eadbald had not the same power, which his father had poffeised in that city, to oblige them to receive him. So far, however, as his influence extended, he exerted it for the cause of Christ, and, from the time of his conversion, adorned the Gospel and propagated it among his people.
Laurentius being deceased, Mellitus was appointed the third archbishop of Canterbury, while Justus still presided at Rochester. These two bishops governed the English Church with much care and Tabour* Mellitus, after having given the most
undoubted proofs of genuine piety, and presided A.D. over the diocese of Canterbury five years, died in 624. the year 624, and was succeeded by Justus.
England was still governed by the Saxon Heptarchy. Seven kingdoms, often at war with one another, and also with the old native Britons, exhibited in our island scenes of the most unpleasant nature. Nor is any portion of our history in a secular view
less St. Peter's whipping of Laurentius that night in the church and reproving of him for his cowardice; whence he was said to have been induced to wait upon Eadbald next morning who was ftruck, it seems, with remorse at the fight of the stripes which the bishop had received. Stories of this sort were innumerable in those times. The steady perseverance of Eadbald, and the entire change both of his private and publick conduct demonftrate the reality of his conversion. He most probably retained an internal reverence for the religion in which he had been instructed in his childhood, against which his grand objection seems to have been the love of a diffolute life. The Lord honoured the prayers of Laurentius with success, and recovered the English Church at the last extremity. The subltance of the narrative remains entire, abstracted from the legend which difgraces it
* Bede, C. 7.
less interesting. Nevertheless in this dull period it
blinded * Bede, C. 9.
+ This term meant in those times all that part of England, which lies to the north of the Humber.
| He was one of the Monks whom Gregory had sent into England, and possessed much of the pious and zealous spirit of that renowned prelate.