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and clergy remained, could not but move the zeal of the Church abroad; and the compassion of Gregory I., then bishop of Rome, was quickened by the sight of some English children exposed for sale in that city. He sent a mission into England, at the head of which was Augustine, the celebrated monk, who afterwards became the first archbishop of Canterbury. He landed in Kent, A.D. 596, and succeeded in converting Ethelbert, the king, already favourably disposed towards Christianity by Bertha his queen, who was a Christian princess.
The success of the mission of St. Augustine reflects honour upon Gregory, at whose desire it was undertaken. Unhappily, however, that bishop and his successors took occasion, from the circumstance of Rome having been instrumental in reconverting England to the Faith, to invent a claim of supremacy for the Church of Rome over that of England, which had been unknown till then. The archbishop of Canterbury, it was urged, held his see as a bishop suffragan,. or dependent, on the see of Rome, and could not exercise his functions until he had received a pall' (for which he was sometimes obliged to pay a large sum of money) from the pope. This claim was frequently resisted, more or less successfully, on political and ecclesiastical grounds, by the English Church, and, as we shall see in the course of our history, gave occasion to sad heart-burnings and jealousies; but it was finally rejected at the Reformation.
But to return: within about one hundred years from A.D. 596, the Christian faith had spread itself through all the kingdoms of the Heptarchy9; and God raised up many
6 Lithardus, a bishop who had accompanied Queen Bertha from Gaul, had paved the way for St. Augustine's exertions. So that, strictly speaking, the latter was not the reconverter even of the south of England.
7 The pall was perhaps originally a robe, but afterwards it was a small piece of woollen cloth, put on the archbishop's shoulders when he officiated, which lay over the rest of his habit. Its rudeness and the nature of the material were to be emblems of humility, and of the pastoral office.
8 The bishop of Rome is generally called the Pope, although this title (which means Father) originally belonged to all bishops.
9 Contemporary, or nearly so, with the mission of St. Augustine. to the south of England, was that of Paulinus, who was consecrated archbishop of York, to the north. But a relapse into paganism took place shortly after, and Paulinus himself was expelled, A.D. 633.
eminent men for that great ministry. The names of St. Chad', bishop of Lichfield; St. Theodore', archbishop of Canterbury, with others, are worthy of being ever honoured by Englishmen. Under the Divine blessing granted to the labours of these and other men of God, the rude Saxons submitted themselves to the yoke of Christ. Churches were built, and tithes and other endowments set apart for the maintenance of religion throughout the island; and the foundations were thus laid of that system of the pastoral ministry in parishes, which is to our own day the source of such unspeakable comfort and benefit.
INVASION OF DANES. REIGN OF ALFRED.
From A.D. 827 to A.D. 900.
THE period of the Heptarchy was more favourable to learning and religion than perhaps is commonly supposed. The Venerable Bede, who died A.D. 735, and was the author of a history of the English Church, with other valuable works, and the learned Alcuin, who was born and educated in England, though he resided chiefly at the court of the Emperor Charlemagne, were probably more distinguished scholars than were to be found at that time in other parts of Europe. It pleased God, however, to suffer the country to be afflicted for about two hundred years after Egbert became king of England, by invasions of the Danes, who were still heathens, and who, wherever they made their inroads, not only laid waste the country but burnt the churches and monasteries, and put the clergy to death. The north was destined to receive reconversion rather from Scotland than from Rome. The instrument employed by the Scots in this charitable work was St. Aidan, a monk of Icolmkill or Iona. He was consecrated bishop for the north; and removed his see from York to Lindisfarne, an island on the northern extremity of Northumbria. Here a monastery was founded on the model of that of Iona, which became the nurse of religion and learning in early times.
St. Chad received his education at Lindisfarne, under St. Aidan. 2 Before the time of St. Theodore, the authority of the archbishop of Canterbury had not been acknowledged beyond the kingdom of Kent.
These invaders were but feebly resisted by Ethelwulf, who succeeded his father Egbert on the throne, A.D. 837, and was a prince of an indolent and superstitious character. He is chiefly remarkable for a visit which he paid to Rome, whither he had sent his son Alfred to be confirmed by Pope Leo IV., and where Ethelwulf resided a year, when his kingdom could ill spare his presence. During his time, and through the reigns of his three elder sons, Ethelbald, A.D, 858, Ethelbert, A.D. 860, and Ethelred I., A.D. 866, who reigned successively, the Danes gained many victories, attended by great cruelty and rapine, and began to aim at making a permanent settlement in the fertile fields of England. When Alfred, the fourth son of Ethelwulf, became king, A.D. 871, nothing could be more wretched than the state of the country. For a time, indeed, he made head against the Danes; but they arrived in such swarms, that he found it necessary to withdraw from the struggle, and even to conceal himself in the cottage of a herdsman, whose humble labours he shared. While thus awaiting better times, he is said to have been chid one day by the herdsman's wife for having failed to turn a cake that was being baked, which she had set him to watch. The woman, who little suspected the quality of her inmate, told him sharply that "he could eat a cake, though he was too lazy to turn it." She was much dismayed on discovering Alfred's rank by the arrival of some of his faithful followers, who entreated him to lead them once more against the Danes. In order to acquaint himself with the plans of his enemies, he is said to have entered their camp in the disguise of a harper. He found the camp unguarded, and the Danes given wholly to riot and feasting. He was thus enabled to attack them with advantage, and he defeated them with great slaughter: but he made a mild use of his victory, and Gothrum, the Danish chief, with many of his principal followers, were afterwards admitted to holy baptism.
From this period the reign of Alfred was one of true glory and usefulness. The Danes were bravely repulsed from time to time; and when on one occasion the wife and children of Hastings, their leader, were surprised and brought to Alfred, he generously sent them back, observing that he did not make war with women and children.
great king applied himself to promote the happiness of his people by framing wise laws, and encouraging sound religion and all the arts of peace. His endeavour was to establish for ever by law such ancient Saxon customs as were favourable to freedom and virtue. We may mention the great safeguard for justice, that every man shall be tried by a jury of his peers or equals; and the institution of two councils, the one composed of thanes, or nobles, and bishops, the other (which was called the Witenagemot), a more general council of the nation, through which the public resolutions of the sovereign were to pass. It seems that the germ of these institutions existed in the customs of the Saxons, but they received from Alfred a more fixed and legal character. In order that the process of obtaining justice might be easy to all classes of people, he completed the division of the kingdom into counties and parishes, and distributed the powers of government among officers of various degrees, from the earl, who with the sheriff was set over the shire or county, to the tything-man, who was bound for the good behaviour of his more immediate neighbours. Murder was now made punishable by death; and several laws were passed to better the condition of the churls or villains, who were slaves attached to the soil, and whose degraded state was the chief blot in the ancient Saxon customs. The authority of the law was so respected in the days of Alfred, that when golden bracelets were hung by the public highway, by way of trial, no man touched them.
Alfred was a favourer of sound learning and religion, no less by his own example than by his laws. He gave eight hours of every day to study and the service of religion, and half his revenue to works of piety and charity. He sent a mission to carry alms to the Christians in India, (whose very existence was afterwards forgotten, till comparatively modern times,) and restored the ancient school at Oxford, which seems to have existed even from the days of St. Germain. Here he placed the learned John Scott, called Erigena, a native of Ireland, who is renowned for having opposed the corrupt doctrine that was now beginning to prevail in the Church of Rome on the subject of the Lord's Supper. It may thus be observed, that as the ancient British Church had little or no connexion with the see of Rome, so neither did the Saxon Church acknowledge its
authority to be decisive in matters either of doctrine or of discipline. Gratitude indeed was due from England to Rome for the benefits derived from the charity of Pope Gregory and the labour of Augustine, but nothing more.
The character of Alfred had been formed in the school of adversity. His reign, which was followed by a long period of suffering and darkness, has ever been regarded as the foundation of the British constitution: nor can any one tell how much it is owing (under God's blessing) to his laws and institutions, and to the memory of his glorious reign, that the love of freedom and the manly sense by which the English character has ever been distinguished survived the surperstition and oppression which were beginning to darken and enslave the whole of Europe.
Alfred died in the year A.D. 901, in the 52nd year of his life.
FROM THE REIGN OF ALFRED TO THE REIGN OF
From A.D. 901 to A.D. 1016.
THE Saxon kings were for the most part wise and able princes, but the successive invasions of the Danes continually marred their efforts for the good of their people. Edward the Elder, who succeeded his father Alfred, is reckoned the founder of the University of Cambridge, as he established certain schools at that place, in imitation of those which had been restored and fostered by his father at Oxford. In the reign of Athelstan his son, who came to the throne A.D. 925, three foreign kings received instruction in England; Alan of Bretagne, Louis of France, and Haco of Norway. Athelstan defeated the Welsh under Howel the Good, and overthrew the Danes, who were assisted by Constantine, king of Scotland, at the great battle of Brunton, in Northumberland. Athelstan was the first of the Saxon princes who took the title of King of all Britain. He is said to have taken a cruel course with his