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the time had arrived when the Britons should expel the Saxons and Angles, and be restored to the entire possession of the island. Their good fortune, however, received a sudden check. Cadwallon was defeated by Oswald the Bernician, and killed in battle.* The return of the Britons to their ancient possessions never became probable again.
St. Augustin had gained a firm footing in Kent, and was extending his mission to other parts of the island, when he undertook the design of bringing the Britons to a conformity with the Church of Rome, and reducing them under his own jurisdiction. The following is the narrative of his attempt, as extracted from the works of Bede:t
“In the mean time, Augustin, availing himself of the assistance of king Ethelbert ( Ædilbercl,) summoned to a conference the bishops or doctors of the nearest province of the Britons, at a place which is still called in the language of the Angles Augustinaes ac, or the Oak of Augustin, # on the confines of the Huiccii and West Saxons: and he began to advise them with brotherly admonition, that they should enter into a Catholic peace with himself, and undertake for their Lord the common labour of preaching the Gospel to the heathen. For they were not accustomed to celebrate the feast of the Passover of our Lord at its proper time, but from the fourteenth to the twentieth day of the moon, a computation which is comprised in a
to age or sex, putting women and children to a cruel death with the ferocity of a brute. Penda, that author says, had not embraced Christianity ; but Caedwalla, though a Christian, was a barbarian more savage than a pagan.—Lib. II. 20, and III. 1.
* Bede, Nennius, and the Triads.-Caradog of Llancarvan, and the fol. lowers of Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose account of Cadwallon is as fabulous as any part of his history, place the death of that prince in 660, while Bede, who was almost a contemporary, fixes it in the year 634 See also Turner's Anglo-Saxons, Book III. Chap. VII. † Hist. Eccl. Lib. II. Cap. II.
Situated apparently, within the modern county of Worcester.
cycle of eighty four years; and they were wont to perform many other things also contrary to the unity of the Church. Who, after holding a long dispute, were not willing to give assent to the entreaties, the exhortations, and the rebukes of Augustin and his friends, but preferred their own traditions rather than those of all the churches which throughout the world agree in Christ. The holy father, Augustin, therefore put an an end to this laborious and long debate, by saying :.We
pray God, who hath made men to be of one mind in the house of their father, that he vouchsafe to signify to us by signs from heaven, which traditions must be followed, by what way we must hasten to the entrance of his kingdom. Let some sick person be brought; and by whosesoever's prayers he shall be healed, let the faith and service of that man be acknowledged as devoted to God and be followed by all.'To which proposal, when the adversaries, though unwillingly, had agreed, a certain person of the nation of the Angles, deprived of the sight of his eyes, was produced ; who, when presented to the priests of the Britons, obtained no cure or recovery by their ministry, until Augustin, forced by the necessity of the case, bent his knees to the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying that he would restore to the blind that sight which he had lost, and by the bodily illumination of one man would kindle the grace of spiritual light in the hearts of many believers. Without delay the blind receives his sight, and Augustin is proclaimed by all to be the true herald of light from heaven. Then indeed the Britons confessed that the true way of righteousness was that which Augustin preached, but they could not renounce their ancient customs without the consent and permission of their countrymen. Whence they demanded that a second Synod should be held, at which a greater number of persons should meet.”
“Which being appointed, there came, as they relate, seven bishops of the Britons, and many very learned men, principally from their most famous monastery, called in the
language of the Angles Bancornaburg,* over which Dinoot,t the Abbot, is said to have presided at that time; who, being about to attend the Council just mentioned, came first to a certain holy and prudent man, who was wont to lead the life of an anchorite in that country, to consult him whether they should forsake their traditions at the preaching of Augustin. He answered, 'If he be a man of God, follow him.' They said, Whence shall we prove this?' He replied, “The Lord hath said, Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. If therefore Augustin is meek and lowly in heart, it is to be expected that, because he bears himself the yoke of Christ, he will offer it to be borne by you; but if he is not meek but proud, it is clear that he is not of God, his speech is not to be regarded by us. They said again, ' And whence shall we discover this also ?' He said, • Contrive that he come first, with his friends to the place of the Synod; and if he shall rise when you approach, hearken to him obediently, knowing that he is the servant of Christ ; but if he shall despise you, and be not willing to rise in your presence
when you are more in number, then let him be des. pised by you.'—They did as he had said, and it was brought to pass, that when they came, Augustin continued to sit in his chair. Seeing which, they were soon moved to anger, and charging him with pride strove to contradict every thing which he said. But he told them, “Since in many things ye act contrary to our custom, and even to that of the universal Church, yet if ye will obey me in these three points; that ye celebrate the Passover at its proper time; that ye perform the service of Baptism, by which we are born again to God, after the manner of the holy Roman and Apostolic Church; and that ye preach with us the word of God to the nation of the Angles; as for the other things which ye do, although con
trary to our customs, we will bear them all with patience.' But they answered that they would perform none of these, neither would they have him for an archbishop ; considering among themselves, that if he would not rise up to them at that time, how much more would he despise them if they became subject to him.”
“ To whom, Augustin, the man of God, is said to have foretold in a threatening tone, that because they would not have peace with brothers, they should have war with enemies; and if they were unwilling to preach to the nation of the Angles the way of life, by their hands they should suffer the vengeance of death. Which, by the agency of divine judgment, was so performed in all respects as he had foretold.”
Since after this, Ethelfrith (Aedilfrid,) the most powerful king of the Angles, having collected a large army, made a very great slaughter of that perfidious race, at the city of Legions, which is called by the people of the Angles Legacaestir, * but by the Britons more properly Carlegion. And when, being about to give battle, he saw, standing by themselves in a place of greater safety, their priests who had come to pray to God for the soldiers engaged in the war, he enquired who were those, and for what purpose they had come thither? But most of them were from the monastery of Bancor, in which the number of monks is said to have been so great, that when the monastery was divided into seven classes, with superintendents set over them, none of those classes contained less than three hundred men, all of whom were accustomed to live by the labour of their own hands. Most of these therefore, having performed a fast of three days, had come together, with others, to the before-mentioned field for the sake of prayer, having a defender, by name Brocmail,+ to protect them while intent upon their prayers from the swords of the barbarians.
* The present town of Chester, which the Welsh still call Caerlleon.
+ Brochwel Ysgythrog. See page 208.
When king Ethelfrith understood the cause of their arrival, he said, “Then if they cry to their God against us, surely even they, although they do not bear arms, fight against us when they oppose us with their hostile prayers. He then ordered his arms to be turned against them first, and afterwards destroyed the other forces of that impious war, not without great loss in his own army. They relate that there were killed in that battle about twelve hundred men of those who had come to pray, and that only fifty escaped by flight. Brocmail and his troops, upon the first approach of the enemy, turned their backs, and left those, whom he ought to have defended, unarmed and naked to men who fought with swords. And thus was accomplished the prediction of the holy pontiff Augustin, although he had long before been raised to a heavenly kingdom; so that by the vengeance of a temporal death the perfidious people might perceive, that they had despised the counsels of everlasting salvation, which had been offered to them."
Such is Bede's description of this memorable controversy, the several clauses of which have been variously interpreted according to the bias of different commentators; some Protestants, in their zeal against Popery, contending that the Britons differed from the Romish Church in doctrine, as well as in discipline and ecclesiastical government; while certain Roman Catholic writers insist, that not only was there no difference in matters of faith, but that the apparent refusal of submission to the Pope extended merely to their rejection of Augustin for their archbishop, as if they were unwilling to be subject to Rome through him as an intermediate prelate.* The question may however be fairly balanced.+ The points in dispute regarded only discipline, rituals, and ecclesiastical government; for no difference in doctrine is mentioned, and
* Butler's Book of the Roman Catholic Church, Letter IV.
+ Soames's Anglo-Saxon Church ; and Europe in the Middle Ages, by S. A. Dunham, Vol. III.