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THE PAGAN RE-ACTION.
to such a question as the time of Easter would be ludicrous but for its bloody associations. It is difficult to understand how a clever man like Bede, who did justice to the merit of his opponents, could talk of the Easter controversy as a question "which moved the hearts of many who feared lest in spite of their Christian profession they should yet run or had run in vain." The explanation, I believe, is, that in the imperfect developement of the critical faculties in a semi-barbarous people, there was absolutely no distinction between the doctrine and the ritual of a religion. All was sacred that regarded God, and it seemed to be equally sacrilege whether a coping-stone or a foundation-stone of the church were removed.
Before Augustine's death in 605 A.D., Kent and Essex, where a nephew of Æthelbert was king, were nominally Christian. But the convictions of the people were not deeply seated; re-action followed re-action; and the battle-field of faith was lost and won several times in a century. Ethelbert's successor relapsed into paganism, 616 A.D., because the church refused to let him marry his stepmother; while at the same time the Æthelings of Essex expelled the missionaries for refusing to give them the white communion-bread when they were not communicants. The bishops were flying in dismay when Eadbald of Kent was retrieved to the church by the primate Laurence, who showed himself in the palace bleeding from the scourge with which St. Peter had punished his intended flight. Yet even in the next reign, under Earkenbriht, 640-664 A.D., the destruction of idols had to be twice ordered. Essex was still more slowly converted, and in 653 A.D., a plague, which seemed to announce the anger of the deserted gods, sent the people back to heathenism.
The connection of race which united Kent to the East Anglians and Northumbrians, explains the eastern and northern track which Christianity took in England. Redvald, king of East Anglia (586-624 A.D.), became acquainted with Chris
1 Bede, H. E., lib. iii., c. 25.
EDWIN'S NORTHUMBRIAN MONARCHY.
tianity in Kent, but was persuaded by his wife and wise men to retain his old altars, and only worship Christ as a new god.1 The fact is important, as the first authentic mention of a process of developement which purified and rationalized Odinism during several centuries. It had an accidental importance of another kind. Among the residents at Redvald's court was a fugitive prince from Northumbria, Edwin, whom Æthelfrith, a military usurper, had driven from his dominions, and now demanded from his protector. For some hours the fate of the fugitive was doubtful. But Redvald finally determined to obey the claims of honour, and marched with a few troops to defend his dominions against Ethelfrith. A great battle near Retford on Idle destroyed the Northumbrian army, and restored Edwin to his principality. He became the greatest king of his times; not only the Angles north of the Humber, but all the Britons of the north obeyed him; and the neighbouring princes of Mercia and Wales were his tributaries. Having lost his first wife, he sent proposals to the court of Kent, for Æthelburga, the sister of Eadbald, who was then on the throne. There was some difficulty about her marriage with a pagan, but Edwin promised her and her retinue full liberty of belief and practice, and held out hopes that he might himself be convinced. Nevertheless, her chaplain, Paulinus, found at first that he made no proselytes in the court, and could scarcely prevent the queen's retinue from relapsing into the heathenism they again saw around them. He seems to have devoted himself to the king. A wonderful escape from assassination, a signal victory over the west Saxons, even the birth of a prince, were claimed as the result of prayers to the Christian God. Pressed by a woman and a priest, Edwin wavered, promised to turn Christian, but shrunk from
'Bede, H. E., lib. ii., c. 15.
2 Edwin subdued all Britain; the Kentish men alone excepted.-A. S. Chron., A., 617. This can hardly mean more than a nominal supremacy; his ally, the East Anglian king, was probably never attacked; and his war in Wessex, 626 A.D., is more like a successful raid than a conquest.
the risk of a precipitate move. Suddenly Paulinus stood before him, laid his hand on his head, and reminded him of a dream on that anxious night in Redvald's court, when Edwin had sat down to sleep on a stone, expecting to be betrayed, and yet seeing no hope in flight. An unknown man had then appeared, and had promised safety and future sovereignty, only stipulating in return that Edwin should obey his commands whenever he should appear to enforce the claim by the sign of laying his right hand on the king's head. The bold assertion of Paulinus, that this covenant had been made with his Divine Master or himself, convinced the Northumbrian king; he acknowledged the promise that he had given, and pledged himself to carry it out. How Paulinus had obtained his knowledge was a mystery to Bede, who conjectures a miracle. It is more likely that the story came from the queen, or from some old friend to whom Edwin had once confided it. What we know of Paulinus would not lead us to suppose him overscrupulous in his assertions about Divine Providence, or incapable of a stage-trick, if it served the purposes of religion.
But however obtained, the conversion of Edwin was as important for England as Constantine's had been for the Roman world. The Saxon king assembled his Witan at Godmundham in the East Riding, and asked their advice on the expediency of a change of faith. Coifi, the high priest, instantly spoke against the value of the old creed: no man, he said, had worshipped the gods more diligently than he, yet many had received greater rewards; he was ready to join at once any faith that promised him advantage. There can be little doubt that Coifi's hopes of worldly promotion were answered; men of his temper are pretty certain to find or make the opportunities of success. Very different in spirit was
A friend had been with Edwin on the occasion in question at the court of Redvald.-Bede, H. E., lib. ii., c. 12.
2 Yet Symmachus, who was no time-server, uses very similar language: Accedit utilitas quæ maxime homini Deos asserit. Nam cum ratio omnis in operto sit, unde rectius quam de memoriâ atque documentis rerum secundarum cognitio venit numinum.-Woodham's Tertull., Apolog., p. lviii.
the speech of one of the ealdormen. "The present life of man upon earth seems to me, O king, in comparison of the time which we know not of, as when, while you are sitting at supper with your ealdormen and thanes at Yule-tide, with the fire lighted in the midst, and the hearth warm, but with all the storms of winter, rain or sleet, raging outside, a swallow comes into the house and quickly flies through it, entering in at one door, and presently going out at another. Just while he is within he is untouched by the storm, but after a short moment of fair weather he goes forth from storm to storm, and passes out of sight. So we see a little of this life of man, but know not at all what is to follow, or what may have gone before. Wherefore, if this new teaching hath brought us any more certain tidings, it deserves to be followed." The speech expresses beautifully that natural and vague yearning after some knowledge of the invisible world, which we may well believe would be felt by a thoughtful people. The other councillors assented; Paulinus, at Coifi's suggestion, preached to them; and Coifi, at the end of the sermon, proposed to desecrate the neighbouring temple. Armed, and mounted upon a horse, in violation of his priestly character,' he rode to the shrine and hurled his lance against it. No miracle avenged the insulted gods, and the people, who had flocked to see their mad priest, accepted the omen of success, and burned the temple and its sacred hedges. Soon afterwards Edwin and his court were baptized. (April 12, 627 A.D.) Paulinus became primate of a new diocese, and the people flocked in hundreds to be made Christians.
From this day the success of Christianity was only a question of time. Redvald's son, the king of East Anglia, was persuaded by Edwin to adopt as an exclusive faith the Christianity his
The Northumbrian priests might only mount mares, and were forbidden to carry arms. This would seem to confirm the conjecture that Coifi was a Briton, for the Druids were forbidden to carry arms.-Villemarqué, Bardes Bretons, p. xxvi. In the 12th century it was considered disgraceful for a knight to ride a mare.
DEFEAT OF THE GAELIC MISSIONARIES.
father had patronized as an eclectic. The Saxon kingdoms of Sussex, Wessex, and Mercia were Jess quickly converted than the Anglian; Sussex was perhaps the most purely national; the inland position of Mercia excluded it from continental influences, and both Mercia and Wessex were engaged in constant wars with the Christian Britons and Angles. Yet, as early as 658 A.D., the midland counties gave employment to one bishop; and in 688 A.D., Ceadvalla, of Wessex, who had been pagan when he became king, only four years before, renounced his crown and retired to die within the holy walls of Rome.1 Sussex was converted by Wilfrid, 681 A.D, who was aided by the influences of a famine, and who civilized while he instructed the barbarous people. It is noticeable that Gaelic missionaries, such as Aidan, Colman, and Cedd (Chad), took signal part in the conversion of the north. But their appearance revived the disputes about Easter, to which the grave question of a circular or semi-circular tonsure was now added. At a great synod at Whitby, in Yorkshire, king Oswiu presided over a conference, in which delegates from either side were heard. The Gael claimed the precedent of St. John; the Roman party declared that St. Peter had instituted the full tonsure. king asked if the disputants were agreed as to the side which St. Peter espoused; and learning that this was beyond dispute, declared that he would never offend the saint who sate at the doors of heaven. This decision ended the controversy, and the Gaelic faction acquiesced or gradually died out or withdrew to their native land.
Gregory, when he sent out his missionaries, had divided beforehand the country he meant to convert. He fixed upon
1 Ceadvalla was not the first Christian king of Wessex, for Cynegils is said to have been baptized in 635 A.D. But there must have been a relapse, probably through the influence of Penda. Ceadvalla made a pagan vow to exterminate the people of the Isle of Wight, but seems to have been converted before he conquered them.-Bede, H.E., lib. iv., c. 16.
2 Two centuries of undiluted Saxondom had made them so barbarous that they could not fish; and a three years' drought drove them to commit suicide in companies of ten or twenty.-Bede, H.E., lib. iv., c. 13.