Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small]

Gregory to have had any other views than those of fecular ambition in exacting this promise from Winfrid. But it seems also equally apparent, that the motives of the latter were holy and spiritual. Willibrod acquiesced in Winfrid's desires, and dismissed him with his blessing. The younger

misfionary departed immediately, and came into Heffe, to a place called Omenbourg, belonging to two brothers, who were nominal Christians, but practical idolaters. Winfrid's labours were successful, both on them and their subjects: and, throughout Heffe, or at least a very great part of it, even to the confines of Saxony, he erected the standard of truth, and upheld it with much zeal, to the confusion of the kingdom of Satan. It ought not, however, to be concealed, that Winfrid suffered great hardships in a country so

poor

and uncultivated as the greater part of Germany then was; that he supported himself at times by the labour of his hands, and was exposed to imminent peril from the rage of the obstinate pagans.

After some time he returned to Rome, was kindly received by Gregory II. and was consecrated bishop of the new German Churches, by the name of Boniface. There seems, even in that little circumstance, something of the policy of the Roman See. A Roman name was more likely to procure from the German converts respect to the Pope, than an English one. Gregory, moreover, folicitous to preserve his dignity, exacted from the new bishop an oath of subjection to the papal authority, conceived in the strongest terms; a circumstance, remarkably proving both the ambition of Gregory and the superstition of the times. Boniface armed with letters from the pope, and, what was far better, encouraged by the addition of fresh labourers from England, returned to the scenes of his mission.

Coming

Coming into Heffe, he confirmed, by imposition of hands, several * who had already been baptized, and exerted himself with much zeal against the idolatrous superstitions of the Germans. An oak of prodigious size had been an instrument of much pagan delusion: his fincerest converts advised him to cut it down; and he followed their counsel. It ought to be observed, that the famous Charles Martel protected him

with his civil authority; for the dominion of the French extended a considerable way into Germany. It does not appear, however, that Boniface male any other use of this circumstance, than what the most conscientious ecclesiastic may do, wherever the Christian religion is established by the laws.

Daniel, bishop of Winchester, about the year A.D. 723, wrote to Boniface concerning the best method

723 of dealing with idolaters. “ Do not contradict, says he, “in a direct manner their accounts of the genealogy of their gods; allow that they were born from one another in the same way as mankind are; this concession will give you the advantage of proving, that there was a time when they had no existence.-Ask them, who governed the world before the birth of their gods-ask them, if these gods have ceased to propagate. If they have not, shew them the consequence; namely, that the gods must be infinite in number, and that no mancan rationally be at ease in worshipping any of them, left he should, by that means, offend one, who is more powerful.- Argue thus with them, not in the way of insult, but with temper and moderation; and take opportunities to contrast these absurdities with the Christian doctrine: let the pagans be rather alhamed than incensed by your oblique mode of

stating * Fleury, B. XLI. 44, &c. VOL. III.

N

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

stating these subjects.--Shew them the insufficiency of their plea of antiquity: inform them that idolatry did anciently prevail over the world, but that Jesus Christ was manifested, in order to reconcile men to God by his grace.”--Piety and good sense appear to have predominated in these instructions, and we have here proofs, in addition to those already given, of the grace of God conferred on our ancestors during the heptarchy,

Boniface preserved a correspondence with other friends in England, as well as with Daniel. From his native country he was supplied also, as we have feen, with fellow-labourers. In Thuringia he confirmed the churches, delivered them from heresies, and false brethren, and the work still prospered in his hand.

In the mean time, like all upright and conscientious men, he found himself often involved in difficulties, and doubted in what manner he should regulate his conduct in regard to scandalous priests, who greatly obstructed his miffion. He laid his doubts before his old friend the bishop of Winchester*. Should he avoid altogether their communication? he might offend the court of France, without whose civil protection he could not proceed in his misfion. Should he preserve connection with them ? he was afraid of bringing guilt upon his conscience. Daniel advises him to endure with patience, what he could not amend: he counsels him not to make a schism in the Church, under pretence of purging it; and, at the same time, exhorts him to exercise church-discipline on notorious offenders.

Boniface desired Daniel also to fend him the book of the prophets, “ which,” says he, “the abbot Winbert, formerly my master, left at his

death, • Bonif. Ep. 3. Fleury, B. XLI. toward the end.

death, written in very distinct characters. . A greater consolation in my old age I cannot receive; for I can find no book like it in this country; and, as my fight grows weak, I cannot easily distinguish the small letters, which are joined close together, in the sacred volumes, which are at present in my poffeffion." Do thefe things seem to belong to the character of an ambitious and insidious ecclefiaftic, or to that of a simple and upright fervant of Jesus Chrift?

The reputation of this Saint,—such Ishall venture to call him from the evidence of facts, - was spread through the greatest part of Europe; and many from England poured into Germany, to connect themselves with him. These dispersed themselves in the country, and preached in the villages of Heffe and Thuringia.

A.D. In 732, Boniface received the title of archbishop, 732. from Gregory III. who supported his mission with the same fpirit, with which Gregory II. had done. Encouraged by a letter fent to him from Rome, he proceeded to erect new churches, and to extend the profession of the Gospel. At this time, he found the Bavarian churches disturbed by an heretic, called Eremvolf, who would have seduced the people into idolatry. Boniface condemned him, according to the canons, freed the country from his devices, and restored the discipline of the Church.

About the year 732, Burchard and Lullus were invited from England by Boniface, who made the former bishop of Wurtzburg, where Kilian had preached, and suffered martyrdom, about fifty years before. He was abundantly successful during the labours of ten years, by which his strength was exhausted: he gave up his bishopric in 752, and died soon after. Butler, Vol. X.

Some

N 2

.

[ocr errors]

Some time after, Boniface wrote to Northelme,

archbishop of Canterbury, in a strain, which equally A.D.

shews the charity and sincerity of his spirit, and 738. the superstition of the times *. In 738, he again

visited Rome, being far advanced in life; and, after
some stay, he induced several Englishmen, who re-
fided there, to join with him in his German miffion.
Returning into Bavaria, by the desire of duke
Odilo, he restored the purity of the faith, and
prevailed against the artifices of some seducers, who
had done much mischief both by false doctrine and
flagitious example. He established three new bi-
shoprics in the country, at Saltzburg, Frisinghen,
and Ratisbon. That of Paslaw had been fixed
before. It must, however, be observed, that the
successes and conquests of the Carlovingian princes
much facilitated his labours in Germany.

In writing to Cuthbert, archbishop of Canter-
buryut, after testifying his zealous adherence to the
See of Rome, and his submission to its authority,
he exhorts him to discharge his duty faithfully,
notwithstanding the difficulties to which good
pastors were exposed. “ Let us fight,” says he,
* for the Lord; for we live in days of affliction
and anguish. Let us die, if God so please, for the
laws of our fathers, that with them we may obtain
the heavenly inheritance. Let us not be as dumb
dogs, sleepy watchmen, or selfish hirelings, but as
careful and vigilant pastors, preaching to all ranks,
as far as God shall enable us, in season and out of
season, as Gregory writes in his paftoral.”

Adalbert I, a Frenchman, a proud enthusiast, and Clement, a Scotchman, pretended that Christ, by his descent into hell, delivered the souls of the

damned. * Ep. B. V. See Fleury XLII. 22. + Bonif. Ep. 105. Fleury XLII. 37:

Butler's Lives, Boniface. Fleury XLII. 52.

« VorigeDoorgaan »