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being too eager in settling a plan of ecclesiastical government for places as yet not in the least evangelized: and it must be owned, that this extreme care of subordination and uniformity does seem premature; but the spirit of the times favoured such hafty external institutions.
Gregory thought long and deeply of this his favourite infant Church; and wrote to Mellitus, one of the missionaries going to Britain, an account of the fruits of his meditations; which were *, that the idol-temples being purged of their uncleanness, should be converted into churches for the use of the natives, in which they might worship God, according to the Gospel
. And reflecting that they had been wont to sacrifice to dæmons, and in their facrifices to indulge themselves in feasts, he directs that, setting apart all sacrifices and whatever was connected with idolatry, they might be allowed on the day of the Church's dedication, or on the martyrdom of Saints, to make booths for themselves in the neighbourhood of the churches, and enjoy themselves in temperate banquets. This latter direction appears dangerous: the reason he assigns for it, is, that the English, if they found their usual entertainments to be altogether prohibited, might be induced to relapse into idolatry. I cannot compare Gregory's compliances to the jesuitical artifices practised in after ages among the Chinese, because
appears that idolatry was absolutely prohibited, and the real Christian religion taught in Britain: but a man, who knew human nature so well as this bishop did, might have foreseen the practical excefles which his license would encourage, and should have committed to God himself the success of his own cause among the English,
* Id. C. 30.
Hearing from Augustine of his miraculous pow. ers, Gregory, who seems to have entertained no doubt of their reality, cautions him excellently against pride and presumption on their account, informs him that they were given him more for the sake of the new converts than of himself, and teaches him the all-important lesson of humility. He wrote also to Ethelbert, to congratulate, instruct, and exhort him, setting before him the example of the great Constantine, and pressing him to extend the propagation of the Gospel*. His zeal was much animated by the near prospect which he him.
felf * Hume (Chap. I. of his history of England) represents this exhortation to extend the propagation of the Gospel as inconfiftent with the conduct of Auguftine, “who had thought proper in the commencement of his mission, to assume the appearance of the greatest lenity.” Thus it is that men, more malignant than intelligent in Christian history, pervert facts, and represent pious men as hypocritical in their moderate conduct. The truth is, neither Constantine, uor Theodofius, nor Gregory, nor any of the antients ever compelled any. man to become a Chriftian, either in the beginning or progress of religion. Nor does any thing of the kind appear in Gregory's letter to Ethelbert. But he, like Theodosius, directed, that the worship of idols should be destroyed. Men were allowed to remain aloof all their days from Christianity, if they pleased. Forced converfions, like those of popery in after ages, were as yet unknown, and this other mark of Anti-Christ, persecution, as yet existed not in the Church. It is very poslible, that the indifferent fpirit of our times may be disgusted with that part of the conduct of Theodofius and Gregory, which related to the destruction of idols, and call it persecution. Be it fo: I have (in Chap. XVI. Cent. 4) examined this point with as much exactness as
But let not men of fincere pięty and fervent charity for the good of fouls, be represented as if they were hypocritical in their moderation at first, and as if they intended to establish tyranny afterwards. Their plan was, whether it be agreeable to present reigning maxims or not, to compel no man to receive Christianity, and at the same time to render the practice of idolatry impracticable. I believe many, who have written against them as persecutors, have not distinctly understood this distinction. All I contend for here is this, they acted consistently and up rightly.
self had of the end of the world, and of which he failed not to inform the king of Kent*. The latter reigned fifty years, and died in 616. As a states. A.D. man he was great, as a Christian greater still. And 616. few princes in any age were richer blessings to their subjects than Ethelbert and Bertha.
But this fine gold was not without some alloy! Before these events there existed, in Wales particularly, a British church. Augustine willing to establish an uniformity of discipline and customs in the island, invited the Welsh bishops to a conference, and began to admonish them to enter into Christian peace and concord, that with hearts united they might join in evangelizing the pagans. The Britons observed Easter at a season different from that of the Roman Church, and did many other things contrary to her customs. The conference proved fruitless; the Britons would hearken to no prayers or exhortations; and Augustine in the close had recourse to a miraculous signt. A blind man was introduced to be healed. We are told that the Britons had no success; but that Augustine's prayers were heard, and his sight was restored. The Britons were induced to confess, that Augustine was sent of God, but pleaded the obstinacy of their people, as a reason for their non-compliance. A second fynod was appointed, attended by seven Bri. tish bishops, and many of their learned men, belonging to the famous monastery at Bangor, of which Dinoth was at that time the abbot. Before these came to the fynod, they asked the advice of a person of reputed fanctity, whether they should give up their own traditions on the authority of Augustine or not. Let humility, said he, be the
test, • Gregory had already written to queen Bertha, and ftimu. lated her zeal to labour for the conversion of her husband. Id. C. 32.
+ Bed. B. II. C. 2.
test, and if you find, when you come to the fynod, that he risés up to you at your approach, obey lim; if not, let him be despised by you. On so precarious an evidence, it seems, did he reft the proof of humility. It happened, that Augustine continued sitting on their arrival, which might easily have taken place, without any intentional insult: the Britons were however incensed, and would hearken to no terms of reconciliation. Augustine proposed to them to agree with him only in three things, leaving other points of difference undecided, namely, to observe Easter at the fame time with the rest of the Christian world, to administer baptism after the Roman manner, and to join with Augustine in preaching the Gospel to the English. In all other things, says he, we will bear you with patience. The Britons were inexorable, and refused to acknowledge his authority.
will not have peace with brethren, said the archbishop of Canterbury, rouzed at length into an unbecoming warmth, you will have war with enemies; and if you will not preach to the English the way of lile, you will suffer death at their hands.” pened afterwards, that, in an invasion of the Pagan Saxons of the north, the Bangorian monks were cruelly destroyed, though long after the death of Augustine. He died in peaceable poffeffion of the See of Canterbury, after having lived to see the Gofpel propagated with increasing success. He ordained Mellitus and Justus bishops; London was brought into the pale of the Church, and the southern parts of the island found the benefit of his labours, and of those of his auxiliaries.
I fhall close the story of English affairs with the death of Augustine, which happened early in the 7th century. And as the ground I am now upon has been disputed, I am willing to lay open all the infor
mation which antiquity can give us. Let us hear fome other accounts of these transactions.
Writers, who have been studious of the honour of our country, tell us, that when Augustine came into England, he found seven bishops and an archbishop supplied with godly governors and abbots, and that the Church was in goodly order, at Bangor particularly: that Dinoth the abbot shewed Au. gustine, that they owed him no subjection : that their bishops had been independent of Rome: that the bishops of Rome had no more right to their obedience than other Chriftians had, and that the bishop of Caerleon upon Usk was their proper superior*; and that in revenge for this honest assertion of their independency, the Kentish king procured the invasion and slaughter of the British monks mentioned above.
How Christianity was afterwards propagated in our island, and how the disputes between the Roman and British churches terminated, will properly fall under our consideration hereafter. In the mean time the injustice of a certain writer to the meinory of Gregory, in accusing him of exercising tyranny over the British Church, is very glaring. We have, by an early association of ideas, been fo habituated to condemn every thing that is Roman in religion, that we are not easily open to conviction on this subject. It should, however, be remembered, that not the least revenue could accrue to Gregory from the conversion of Britain; nor did he suggest or intimate any lucrative plan, directly or indirectly. If there were any improper steps taken, they must not be charged to a selfish or interested spirit, such as that which has since animated the papacy. The
* Galfridus Monometensis, B. IV. C. 12. See Nicholis on the Common Prayer.
+ Bower's Lives of Popes, Vol. II, Gregory.