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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.t 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.
if any had existed to a material degree, Augustin would not have desired them to join him in preaching to the Saxons.* Bede is not explicit as to the reason why the Britons refused to accept Augustin for their archbishop, nor does it appear how this point was introduced to their consideration ; but the differences in discipline and ritual are the proof that they did not acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Pope. No fact is more clearly asserted than that the Britons were not in communion with the Catholic Church, for it is repeated throughout the Ecclesiastical History of Bede, who was himself a Catholic. The Catholics treated the British people as schismatics and heretics, and maintained that the consecration of their bishops was invalid; while the Britons on the other hand regarded the Romish clergy as unclean, and refused to eat or hold intercourse with them until they had first undergone a purification ;t and it is a singular argument in confirmation of British independence, that whenever terms of reconciliation were offered, the Britons refused them, proving that their separation was the effect of choice, and not an involuntary exclusion.
It is to be regretted that the Welsh have not preserved any authentic detailed account of these Councils, by which the question of the archbishoprick, which Bede has not sufficiently explained, might be placed beyond dispute. The chronicles of Walter de Mapes and Geoffrey of Monmouth have endeavoured to supply the deficiency; and a speech, alleged to have been taken from an ancient manuscript, has been repeatedly printed, purporting to be the reply of Dunawd, the Abbot, to Augustin; in which the supremacy of the Pope is positively denied, and it is declared that the Britons acknowledged no spiritual ruler under heaven superior to the bishop of Caerleon. Unfortunately the language and style of this speech,* as well as the manner in which its subject is treated, are too modern to allow its genuineness; and the preservation, during many centuries of Catholic ascendancy, of a document, in which the claims of the Pope are so openly impugned, presents a difficulty not easily overcome. Walter and Geoffrey state that Dunawd was the leader of the opposition to Augustin, and, without alluding to the Pope, assert that the ground of the refusal of the Britons to submit to the jurisdiction of Canterbury, was the circumstance that they had an archbishop of their own at Caerleon. These authors, however, whose testimony is always of little value, wrote when the papal power was at its height; and the only authority, upon which any arguments relative to the subject can be founded, is that of Bede, who lived while the separation alluded to still con
* Milner, in his Church History, treats the case of the Britons most unfairly; and in his eagerness to shew that the doctrine of Gregory and Augustin was orthodox, he insinuates that the former retained some of the leaven of Pelagianism. Their opponents, and Bede amongst the rest, would not have been slow to advance the charge if it were true. '
+ Aldhelm's Letter to Geruntius.
* It is thus printed in Spelman's Concilia, from the MS. of Peter Mostyn, Gent.—“Bid yspys a diogel i chwi, yn bod ni holl un ac arall yn uvydd ac ynn ostyngedig i Eglwys Duw ac i'r Paab o Ruvain, ac i boob kyur grissdion dwyuol, i garu pawb yn i radd mewn kariad perffaith, ac i helpio pawb o honaunt a gair a gweithred i fod ynn blant i Dduw: Ac amgenach ufudddod no hwn nid adwen i vod ir neb ir yddych chwi yn henwi yn Baab ne yn Daad o daade, yw gleimio ac yw oyunn: Ar uvydddod hwn ir yddym ni yn barod yw roddi ac yw dalu iddo ef, ac i bob Krisdion yn dragwyddol. Hevyd ir ydym in dan lywodraeth Esgob Kaerllion ar wysg yr hwn ysydd yn olygwr dan Dduw arnom ni y wneuthud i ni gadwyr ffordd ysbrydol.”- Translation. Be it known and certain to you, that we are, all and singular, obedient and subject to the Church of God, and to the Pope of Rome, and to every true and pious Christian, to love every one in his degree with perfect charity, and to help every one of them by word and deed to become the sons of God: and other obedience than this I do not know that he whom you name the Pope, or the father of fathers, can claim and require: bnt this obedience we are ready to pay to him and to every Christian for ever. Moreover we are under the government of the bishop of Caerleon upon Usk, who is superintendent under God over us to make us keep the spiritual way.
tinued, and who could
not in his time foresee the effect which his admissions might have upon the question of the supremacy of Rome as maintained at a later
says nothing of an archbishoprick of the Britons; the claims of Augustin are rejected without noticing the rights of a rival metropolitan; and the inferences presented by the Welsh records would show that the dignity once assumed by the prelates of Caerleon and Menevia had become extinct, if indeed it had ever been firmly established.* Its continuance at the time of the Council must have produced a collision with the pretensions of Augustin, which it would have been disingenuous in Bede to pass unobserved, and its extinction is the most obvious mode of explaining the incidental manner in which the subject is introduced. The plea, upon which submission was refused, is therefore incorrectly stated by Walter and Geoffrey. It was not a dispute respecting the rights of two intermediate prelates, but the rejection of an archbishop sent by the Pope.
That St. Gregory designed that the jurisdiction of Augustin should extend over the bishops of Wales is indisputable, for in answer to one of the questions of his missionary he says:“We commit to thee, our brother, all the bishops of the provinces of Britain, that the unlearned be instructed, the weak be strengthened by persuasion, the perverse be corrected by authority.”+-Here is no recognition of the rights of a British metropolitan. It was the intention of that Pontiff that there should be two archbishopricks in the island, London and York, the archbishops of which places should take precedence of each other by priority of consecration ; but in reference to Augustin, with whom this ecclesiastical polity should commence, he says, as his words may be literally rendered ; “And thou, our brother, shalt have in subjection, not only those bishops whom thou shalt ordain, nor those only who shall have been ordained by the archbishop of York, but also all the clergy of Britain, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ.”*_These were the commissions to which the bishops and clergy of Wales refused to submit, and the same independence was maintained by the Christians of Cornwall and Scotland. Augustin had asked whether his jurisdiction extended to Gaul, a concession which St. Gregory declined to grant, because the Popes, his predecessors, had from ancient times sent a pall to the archbishops of Arles, who by virtue of its possession were the metropolitans of that country ;+ but as there was no similar reason for abridging the authority of that prelate in Britain, the inference remains, that none of the British Christians had received that emblem of dignity; the prerogative of their Churches had never been sanctioned at Rome; and now, when it was intended they should merge into the Church of the Angles, they maintained their separate existence in spite of a papal decree.
* See page 174.
+ “Britanniarum vero omnes Episcopos tuæ fraternitati committimus, ut indocti doceantur, infirmi persuasione roborentur, perversi auctoritate corrigantur.”—Bede, Lib. I. Cap. 27.
The names and titles of the seven bishops who attended the second Council are not specified, and later writers, I who differ considerably with each other, have endeavoured to point out the seven dioceses to which they belonged. The bishopricks regularly established in Wales were five, Menevia or St. Da
* «Tua vero fraternitas non solum eos Episcopos quos ordinaverit, neque hos tantummodo qui per Eburacæ Episcopum fuerint ordinati, sed etiam omnes Britanniæ Sacerdotes habeat, Deo Domino nostro Jesu Christo auctore, subjectos.”-Bede, Lib. I. Cap. 29.
+ “In Galliarum Episcopis nullam tibi auctoritatem tribuimus: quia ab antiquis prædecessorum meorum temporibus Pallium Arelatensis Episcopus accepit, quem nos privare auctoritate perceptâ minimè debemus.”Bede, Lib. I. Cap. 27.
| Roger Hoveden, Bale, and the Archives of Menevia. They are com. pared with each other in Spelman's Concilia, and Usher, Chap. V.