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if written fully, it becomes a history of the English nation. Not only has the Church, under all its successive modifications, exercised the most important influence upon English morals and civilization, but, ap to the time of the Reformation, it was the political element of perhaps the greatest weight in the constitution.
More than one occupant of the see of Canterbury might be taken as representative not of the Church only, but of the age in which he lived. There is no movement of importance, civil or military, intellectual or social, which would not in some way connect itself with such names ; they indirectly influenced, if they did not directly share in it. The lives of such men as Dunstan, and Becket, and Stephen Langton, are not merely ecclesiastical biography, or Church annals; they are the history of England, for the time.
For the archbishop of the early and middle ages was a very different personage from the prelates who now keep their quiet state at Lambeth or Canterbury. The sober costume of a modern primate, far less remarkable than even his own purple liveries, is not a greater contrast to the mitre and crosier and jewelled cope which his predecessors wore, than his own position in the state is from that which they claimed, which was conceded to them, which it was expected they should fill. They held not only the ecclesiastical but the civil power. They were often the chancellors, the grand justiciaries, even the military leaders of the realm; not merely the officers of the Church. They were statesmen quite as much as divines. They held their own-or what they claimed as their own—against kings, and against the power before which kings themselves could not help trembling, even in their most arbitrary moods—the terrible power of the Bishop of Rome, who professed to hold the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
We purpose, then, to show, somewhat briefly and rapidly-our limits will not allow of more-some few pictures of England under her ecclesiastical rulers. Many names will be necessarily omitted, which have left their mark distinctly upon the history of their time; some may be introduced which are less familiar to an ordinary reader.
The first Archbishops of Canterbury were Italian missionaries. Nothing can be more untrue than to claim for Rome the introduction of the gospel into England. The Celtic churches were independent of the Papal see for centuries, and their foundation, for aught that appears as fact, may have been as ancient as the Roman Church itself. Yet it would be
very unfair to refuse to that Church the praise of the good work done in reviving, throughout midland and southern England, a knowledge which had been very imperfectly spread, and was fast being forgotten. The Catholic faith had well-nigh died out in all but remote corners of the island ; British Christianity had retired, with the conquered Britons, into the mountain fastnesses of Cumberland, and Wales,
AUGUSTINE THE MISSIONARY.
and Cornwall; Saxon heathendom was triumphant everywhere else; and while the Pagan conquerors despised the natives too much to study their creed, the latter on their part hated the invaders too sincerely to feel much zeal for their conversion. Pope Gregory (not unfairly called " the Great ") had good right to look upon England as a heathen nation when, in 596, he sent Augustine, the prior of a Roman monastery, on a mission which he had at one time hoped to undertake in person, the conversion to the true faith of those Angli, the beauty of whose children (as the old story runs) had so struck him in the slave-market, that he would rather have called them Angels. Augustine landed, with a company of forty monks, somewhere in the Isle of Thanet, in the dominions of Ethelbert, the Saxon King of Kent. Even there he found a Christian queen holding her own faith, and privileged to retain her own chaplain and holy offices at the court of her heathen husband. Probably the wife's influence had already paved the way for the Roman missionary. Without that, even all the well-imagined appliances with which the mission was furnished—the sweet “Gregorian tones” of the chanted litany which rose from the procession as t'iey neared the place of meeting with the king, the vivid paintings of the Sacred Passion, the tall silver cross borne before Augustine, his own commanding presence, which marked him out, like Saul, as a leader of men, “ taller from his shoulders upward than any of the people,”--all admirably calculated as they were to impress the pagan chief and his rude warriors, might have made their appeal in vain. Whatever was the moving cause of the conversion of Ethelbert, it was rapid and complete -miraculous, the monks asserted; he received the mission into his royal town of Canterbury, and in a few months was himself baptized in the little church of St. Martin, long desecrated, but which had been given to Queen Bertha as her private chapel. As was the fashion in early times, the people adopted wholesale the faith of their ruler. On the following Christmas Day, Augustine baptized ten thousand, if the chroniclers are to be trusted; and the “Dooms of Ethelbert”—the earliest written laws of England-enacted in full vitan of the rcalm, declared Christianity the established religion of Kent. The king gave up his own palace as an episcopal residence, and granted a site for a monastery in honour of St. Peter and St. Paul, afterwards better
as St. Augustine’s, from its founder; and Augustine, having received the "pall”—the insignia of his dignity-from Pope Gregory, became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.
The masterly policy of Rome had determined on a full occupation of the heathen borders, and the whole island had been already parcelled out, in theory, as the heritage of the faithful. Gregory's scheme had contemplated two metropolitan sees with twelve suffragans each, notwithstanding that the majority of such dioceses must be still for some
time in partibus infidelium. The pre-eminence of Canterbury seems to have been chiefly due to the personal ambition of Augustine; for the Pope had intended the two archbishoprics to be fixed at London (one of the three British metropolitan sees) and at York. He seems, however, to have made no objection to Augustine's assumption of the title. But when the new archbishop proceeded further, as he soon did, to claim for himself metropolitan authority over all Britain, he met with the most determined opposition from the British bishops in Wales and Cornwall. He was very anxious to effect an union between the old Celtic and the more recent Anglo-Saxon churches; a step which was admitted to be desirable by the Welsh prelates themselves, jealous as they always were of their national independence. But union, in Augustine's mind, implied submission to Canterbury. Even that they would have conceded, together with the disputed point of the computation of Easter, if their proposed metropolitan had showed a more brotherly spirit. In the low estate to which their Church had been reduced, they appear to have had no longer any archbishop of their own; and an aged hermit of great sanctity, whom they consulted on the question, had advised them to acknowledge Augustine's claim, "if he proved himself a man of God.” The test was to be a very simple one-his behaviour when they met to discuss the subject. If he rose up to receive them as brethren and equals, he was a fit man to be their apostolic head; if, by remaining seated, he affected already a lordship over them, he was no true representative of his Master. The love of outward honours, against which his wise and good friend Pope Gregory had already found it necessary to warn Augustine, was too strong for him now. He received the Celtic bishops without rising from his seat; and one and all they refused him their submission. He and his successors tried to enforce conformity by the aid of letters from Rome; and Celtic obstinacy stood upon its privileges all the more stoutly. Augustine and four following archbishops—all members of the original Roman mission--passed away, and the first Anglo-Saxon prelate, Frithona, succeeded, adopting the Roman name of Deusdedit. He found his own Church languishing; of Gregory's twenty-four theoretical dioceses, only the neighbouring town of Rochester had any bishop in fact; a see had been established at London, but its first occupant had been expelled by the unbaptized sons of the Christian king Sebert; there had been also, for a short time, an archbishopric of York, but it had died out with King Edwin, when Penda, the pagan, ravaged Northumbria. The ruder and less civilized Celtic Church meanwhile was active and flourishing, and was fast evangelizing, at least in name, the midland districts. Yet the archbishop succeeded at the great synod of Whitby, in effecting something like an union between the rival establishments. But the Welsh and Cornish churches retained their custom of