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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 20. THE CONVERSION OF THE SAXONS


    About this present time above prefixed, which is anno 610, I read in the story of Ranulphus Cestren the writer of Polychronicon, of John the patriarch of Alexandria, whom, for His rare example of hospitality and bountifulness to the poor, I thought no less worthy to have place amongst good men, than I see the same now to be followed of few. This John, (being before belike a hard and sparing man,) as he was at his prayer, upon a time (it is said) there appeared to him a comely virgin, having on her head a garland of olive leaves, which named herself Mercy, saying to him, and promising, that if he would take her to wife, he should prosper well. This, whether it were true or not, or else invented for a morality, I would wish this flourishing damsel to be married to more than to this John, that she should not live so long a virgin as now she doth, because no man will marry her. But to return to this patriarch, who after that day (as the story recordeth) was so merciful and so beneficial, especially to the poor and needy, that he counted them as his masters, and himself as a servant and steward unto them; this patriarch was wont commonly twice a week to sit at his door all the day long, to take up matters, and to set unity where was any variance. One day it happened, as he was sitting all the day before his gate, and saw no man come, he lamented that all that day he had done no good; to whom his deacon, standing by, answered again, that he had more cause to rejoice, seeing he had brought the city in that order and in such peace, that there needed no reconcilement amongst them, Another time, as the said John the patriarch was at service, and reading the Gospel in the church, the people (as their used manner is) went out of the church to talk and jangle: he perceiving that, went out likewise, and sat amongst them; whereat they marvelled to see him do so. My children, (said he,) where the flock is, there ought the shepherd to be; wherefore either come you in, that I may also come in with you; or else if you tarry out, I will likewise tarry out together with you, &c.

    As touching the acts and deeds of Gregory above mentioned, how he withstood the ambitious pride of John, patriarch of Constantinople, which would be the universal priest, and only chief bishop of all others, declaring him to be no less than the forerunner or antichrist that would take that name upon him, how and with what reasons he answered again the letters of the emperor Mauricius in that behalf; sufficient relation is made thereof in the first entry and beginning of this book. This Gregory, among many other things induced into the church, (the specialties whereof hereafter shall follow, Christ willing, more at large,) first began and brought in this title among the Roman bishops, to be called, Servant of the servants of God; putting them in remembrance thereby, both of their humbleness, and also of their duty in the church of Christ. Moreover, as concerning his act for the sole life of priests first begun, and then broken again; also concerning the order of Gregory's mass book to be received in all churches; hereof whoso lusteth to read more shall find the same in other places hereafter, namely, when we come to the time of Pope Adrian the First.

    After the death of Gregory above mentioned, first came Sabinianus, who, as he was a malicious detractor of Gregory, and of his works, so he continued not long, scarce the space of two years. After whom succeeded next Bonifacius the Third, which albeit he reigned but one year, yet in that one year he did more hurt than Gregory, with so great labours, and in so many years, could do good before. For that which Gregory kept out he brought in; obtaining of Phocas, the wicked emperor, for him and his successors after him, that the see of Rome above all other churches should have the pre-eminence, and that the bishop of Rome should be the universal head of all churches of Christ in Christendom; alleging for him this frivolous reason, that St. Peter had and left to his ancestors in Rome the keys of binding and loosing, &c. And thus began first Rome to take a head above all other churches by the means of Boniface the Third, who, as he lacked no boldness nor ambition to seek it, so neither lacked he an emperor fit and meet to give such.a gift. This emperor's name was Phocas, a man of such wickedness and ambition, (most like to his own bishop Boniface,) that, to aspire to the empire, he murdered his own master, the emperor Mauricius, and his children. Thus Phocas, coming up to be emperor, after his detestable villany done, thinking to stablish his empire with friendship and favour of his people, and especially with the bishop of Rome, quickly condescended to all his petitions, and so granted him (as it is said) to be that he would, the universal and head bishop over all Christian churches. But as blood commonly requireth blood again, so it came to pass on the said Phocas. For as he had cruelly slain the lord and emperor Mauricius before, so he in like manner (of Heraclius the emperor succeeding him) had his hands and feet cut off, and so was cast into the sea. And thus wicked Phocas, which gave the first supremacy to Rome, lost his own. But Rome would not so soon lose his supremacy once given as the giver lost his life; for ever since from that day it hath holden, defended, and maintained the same still, and yet doth to this present day, by all force and policy possible. And thus much concerning Boniface, whom by the words of Gregory, we may well call the runner before antichrist. For as Gregory brought in their style, Servant of the servants of God. this Boniface brought into their heads first, We will and command, We enjoin and charge you, &c.

    Mention was made a little before of Ethelbert, king of Kent, and also of Ethelfride, king of North Saxon or Northumbria. This Ethelbert, having under his subjection all the other Saxon kings unto Humber, after he had first received himself, and caused to be received of others, the Christian faith by the preaching of Austin, confirmed afterward in the same faith, amongst other costly deeds, with the help of Sigebert, king of Essex, his nephew, then reigning under him, began the foundation of Paul's church within the city of London, and ordained it for the bishop's see of London. For the archbishop's see, which beforetime had been at London, was by Austin and this Ethelbert, at the prayer of the citizens of Dorobernia, translated to the said city. Wherefore such authors as say that Paul's was builded by Sigebert say not amiss; which Sigebert was the king of Essex, in which province standeth the city of London. This Ethelbert also founded the church of St. Andrew in the city of Dorubres in Kent, now called Rochester, of one Rof, distant from Dorobernia four and twenty miles. Of this city Justus was bishop, ordained before by Austin. Moreover, the forenamed Ethelbert stirred up a dweller or citizen of London to make a chapel or church of St. Peter in the west end of London, then called Thorny, now the town of Westminster, which church or chapel was after by Edward the Confessor enlarged or new builded; lastly, of Henry the Third it was newly again reedified and made, as it is now, a large monastery, &c. After these Christian and worthy acts, this Ethelbert, when he had reigned the course of fifty and six years, changed this mortal life about the year of our Lord 616, whom some stories say to be slain in a fight between him and Ethelfride, king of North Saxons.

    In the mean time the foresaid Ethelfride, king of Northumberland, after the cruel murder of the monks of Bangor, escaped not long unto his hire; for after he had reigned four and twenty years he was slain in the field of Edwin, who succeeded in Northumberland after him.

    This Edwin, being the son not of Ethelfride, but rather of Alla, was first a panim or idolater; afterward by Paulinus was christened, and the first christened king in Northumberland. The occasion of which his calling or conversion, as is in sundry stories contained, was this.

    Edwin, being yet a pagan, married the daughter of Ethelbert, king of Kent, called Edelburge, a Christian woman, otherwise called Tace. But before this marriage, Edwin being yet young, Ethelfride the king, conceiving envy against him, persecuted him so sore, that he was forced to fly to Redwaldus, king of East Angles. The which Redwaldus,what for fear, what with bribes, being corrupted of Ethelfride, at length privily had intended to have betrayed Edwin. But as God's will was, Edwin having warning thereof by a secret friend of his, was moved to fly, and to save himself, being promised also of his friends to be safely conveyed away, if he would thereto agree. To whom Edwin said, Whither shall I fly, that have so long fleen the hands of mine enemies, through all provinces of the realm? And if I must needs be slain, I had rather he should do it than another unworthy person. Thus he, remaining by himself alone and solitary, sitting in a great study, there appeared unto him suddenly a certain stranger, to him unknown, and said, I know well the cause of thy thought and heaviness. What wouldst thou give him that should deliver thee out of this fear, and should reconcile King Redwald to thee again? I would give him (said Edwin) all that I ever could make. And he said again, And what if I make thee a mightier king than was any of thy progenitors? He answered again as before. Moreover, (saith he,) and what if he show thee a better kind and way of life, than ever was showed to any of thine ancestors before thee; wilt thou obey him and do after his counsel? Yea, (said Edwin,) promising most firmly with all his heart so to do. Then he, laying his hand upon his head, When (said he) this token happeneth unto thee, then remember this time of thy tribulation, and the promise which thou hast made, and the word which now I say unto thee. And with that he vanished out of his sight suddenly. After this so done, as Edwin was sitting alone by himself pensive and sad, his foresaid friend, which moved him before to fly, cometh to him, bidding him be of good cheer; for the heart (said he) of King Redwaldus, which had before intended thy destruction, is now altered through the counsel of the queen, and is fully bent to keep his promise with you, whatsoever shall fall thereupon. To make the story short, Redwaldus the king (although Fabian, following Henry Huntington, saith it was Edwin) with all convenient speed assembled an host, wherewith he suddenly coming upon Ethelfride, gave battle unto him about the borders of Mercia, where Ethelfride, king of Northumberland, with Reiner, Redwaldus's son, was slain in the field. By reason whereof Edwin was quietly placed in the possession of Northumberland.

Illustration -- Edwin and the stranger

    After this, Quicelinus, with Kinegilsus his brother, kings of West Saxons, conspiring the death of Edwin, now king of Northumberland, upon envy and malice sent upon an Easter day a swordman, named Emmer, privily to slay the said Edwin. But one Lilla, the king's trusty servant, disgarnished of a shield or other weapon to defend his master, start between the king and the sword, and was stricken through the body and died, and the king was wounded with the same stroke.

    After this, about Whitsuntide, the king assembled his host, intending to make war against the king of West Saxons, promising to Christ to be christened if he would give him the victory. He then proceeded to the battle against Quiceline and Kinegilsus, with Kenwolcus, and other enemies, who being all vanquished and put to flight, Edwin through the power of Christ returneth home victorious.

    About the same season Pope Boniface the Fifth sent also to the said Edwin letters exhortatory, with sundry presents from Rome to him, and to Edelburge the queen; but neither would that prevail. Then Paulinus, seeing the king so hard to be converted, poured out his prayers unto God for his conversion; who the same time had revealed to him by the Holy Ghost the oracle above mentioned, which was showed to the king when he was with Redwaldus, king of the East Angles. Whereupon Paulinus, coming after to the king on a certain day, and laying his hand upon the king's head, asked him if he knew that token. The king hearing this, and remembering well the token, was ready to fall down at his feet. But Paulinus, not suffering that, did lift him up again, saying unto him, Behold, O king, you have vanquished your enemies, you have obtained your kingdom; now perform the third thing which you promised, that is, to receive the faith of Christ, and to be obedient to him. Whereupon the king, conferring with his council and his nobles, was baptized of Paulinus at York, with many of his other subjects with him. Insomuch that Coifie, the chief of the prelates of his old idolatry, armed himself with his idolatrous bishops, and bestrode good horses, which before by their old law they might not do, nor ride but only a mare; and so destroyed all the altars of idolatry, and their temple of idols, which was at Godmundham, not far from York. And this was in the eleventh year of his reign.

    From that time forth, during the life of Edwin, which was the term of six years more, Paulinus christened continually in the rivers of Gwenie and Swala, in both provinces of Deira, and in Bernicia, using the said rivers for his fonts, and preached in Lincolnshire, where he builded also a church of stone at Lincoln.

    In this time was so great peace in the kingdom of Edwin after his conversion, that a woman laden with gold might have gone from the one side of the sea to the other, and no man molest her. Moreover, by the highway sides through all his kingdom he caused by every well or spring to be chained a dish or bowl of brass, to take up water for the refreshing of such as went by the way, which bowls of brass there remained safe, that no man touched them during all the life of the said Edwin. Such was then the tender care and study of Christian princes for the refreshing of their subjects. But that was then the brazen world, which now is grown to iron and lead.

    This Edwin, who first brought in the faith in the north parts, continuing after his baptism six years, at len the was slain in battle by Cedwalla, king of the Britons, and by wicked Penda, king of the Mercians, with his son Offricus also, in the field called Hatfield.

    This Paulinus was the first archbishop of York; and as he was of Justus, archbishop of Canterbury, ordained archbishop of the see of York; so he again, after the decease of Justus, ordained Honorius to be archbishop of Canterbury.

    Paulinus, after the death of godly Edwin, seeing unmerciful Cedwalla or Cedwallon with his Britons, and wicked Penda with the idolatrous Mercians, to spoil the land in such sort, as they made no spare neither of age, nor sex, nor religion, was compelled to fly with Edelburge the queen, and Eufled her daughter, by water into Kent, where the said archbishop Paulinus remained bishop of Rochester the space of nineteen years. And so the church of Northumberland lacked a bishop for the space of thirty years after. Notwithstanding he left there one James his deacon, a good man, who continued there baptizing and preaching in the north parts, till that peace being recovered, and the number of the faithful increasing, the church came again to his stay.

    By means of this Edwin, Erpwaldus, king of the East Angles, son to Redwaldus above mentioned, was reduced to Christ's faith.

    After the decease of Edwin, and his son Offricke, both slain in battle, reigned Osricus and Eufridus, the one in Deira, the other in Bernicia. Osricus was the son of Elfricus, which was brother to Ethelfride. Eaufridus was the eldest son of Ethelfride; for Ethelfride had three sons, to wit, Eaufridus, Oswaldus, and Osricus. These two kings of Deira and Bernicia, Osricus and Eufride, being first christened in Scotland, after being kings, returned to their idolatry; and so in the year following were slain one after the other by the foresaid Cedwalla and wicked Penda.

    After whom succeeded in Northumberland the second son of Ethelfride, named Oswaldus, having rule on both the provinces, as well Deira as Bernicia. Whereof when the foresaid Cedwalla (or Cadwallo) the Britain king had understanding, who before had made havoc of the Saxons, and thought to have rooted them utterly out of England, he kept King Penda, with a mighty host of the Britons, thinking to slay also Oswald as he had before slain his brother Eaufride and King Edwin before them. But Oswald, when he was warned of the great strength of this Cedwall and Penda, made his prayers to God, and besought him meekly of help to withstand his enemy, for the salvation of his people. Thus, after Oswald had prayed for the saving of his people, the two hosts met in a field named Denesbury, some say Hevenfield, where was fought a strong battle. But, finally, the army and power of Penda and Cedwall, which were far exceeding the number of Oswald's host, was chased, and most part slain, of Oswaldus; after he reigned over the Britons two and twenty years, leaving after him a son, whom Gaufridus called Cadwaladrus, the last king of the Britons.

    Of this Oswald much praise and commendation is written in authors for his fervent zeal in Christ's religion, and merciful pity towards the poor, with other great virtues more. As touching the miracles of St. Oswald, what it pleased the people of that time to report of him, I have not here to affirm. This I find in stories certain, that he being well and virtuously disposed to the setting forth of Christ's faith and doctrine, sent into Scotland for a certain bishop there called Aidanus, which was a famous preacher. The king at what time he was in Scotland banished had learned the Scottish tongue perfectly: wherefore as this Aidanus preached in his Scottish tongue to the Saxons, the king himself interpreting that which he had said, disdained not to preach and expound the same unto his nobles and subjects in the English tongue.

    Moreover, towards the poor and needy his pity and tenderness was such, being notwithstanding of so high and princely calling, that upon a time, being then Easter-day, he sitting with the said Aidanus at meat, and served, after the manner of kings, in silver, there cometh to him one of the servitors, bringing him word that there was a great multitude of poor people sitting in the street, which desired some alms of the king. He, hearing this, commandeth not only the meat prepared for his table to be carried unto them, but also, taking a silver platter which stood before him, brake it in pieces, and sent it amongst them, and so relieved his poor subjects not only with the meat of his table, but with his dishes also. Aidanus the bishop, seeing this, and marvelling thereat, taketh him by the hand, wishing and praying in this wise: This hand (saith he) I pray God may continue and never putrify. What the stories say more concerning this hand of Oswald, I intend not to meddle further than simple, true, and due probability will bear me out. In those days, and partly by the means of the said Oswald, Kinigilsus, king of the West Saxons, was converted to Christ's faith; especially through the godly labour of Berinus, which was sent by Pope Honorius to preach in England, and was then made bishop of Dorchester. To whom Quicelinus, brother of Kinigilsus, after he had also received baptism of the said Berinus, gave to him the said city to make there his see. And, as Guido witnesseth, the said Quicelinus gave after to the bishop of Winchester seven miles' compass of land to build there the bishop's see, the which was accomplished and finished by Kenwalkus his son.

    Of this Berinus, Malmesbury, Polychronicon, with divers other writers, do report a thing strange and miraculous; which, if it be a fable, as no doubt it is, I cannot but marvel that so many authors so constantly agree in reporting and affirming the same. The matter is this. This Berinus, being sent, as is said, by Honorius, to preach in England, promiseth him to travel to the uttermost borders thereof, and there to preach the gospel, where the name of Christ was never heard. Thus he, setting forward in his journey, passeth through France, and so to the sea-side; where he found a passage ready, and the wind served so fair, that he was called upon in such haste, that he had no leisure to remember himself to take all things with him which he had to carry. At length he was on the sea sailing, and almost in the middle course of his passage he remembered himself of a certain relic left behind him for haste, which Honorius had given him at his coming out. Malmesburiensis calleth it Corporalia, which we call a corporal, or such a like thing, and what else enclosed within it I cannot tell. Here Berinus in great sorrow could not tell what to do; if he should have spoken to the heathen mariners to turn their course back again, they would have mocked him, and it had been in vain. Wherefore, as the stories write, he boldly steppeth into the sea, and, walking on foot back again, taketh with him that which was left behind, and so returneth to his company again, having not one thread of his garments wet. Of this miracle, or whether I should call it a fable rather, let the reader judge as he thinketh, because it is not written in the Scripture, we are not bound to believe it. But if it were true, it is then thought to be wrought of God, not for any holiness in the man or in the corporal, but a special gift for the conversion of the heathen, for whose salvation God suffereth oft many wonders to be done. This Berinus, being received in the ship again with a great admiration of the mariners, who were therewith converted and baptized, was driven at last by the weather to the coast of the West Saxons, where Kinigilsus and his brother Quicelinus above mentioned did reign. Which two kings the same time by the preaching of Berinus were converted and made Christian men, with the people of the country, being before rude and barbarous. It happened the same time when the foresaid kings should be christened, that Oswaidus, (mentioned a little before,) king of Northumberland, was then present, and the same day married Kinigilsus's daughter, and also was godfather to the king.

    Thus Oswald, after he had reigned nine years in such holiness and perfectness of life as is above specified, was slain at length in the field called Marfield by wicked Penda, king of the Mercians; which Penda, at length after all his tyranny, was overcome and slain by Oswy, brother to Oswald, next king after Oswald of Northumberland, notwithstanding he had thrice the people which Oswy had. This Penda, being a panim, had three sons, Wolferus, Weda, and Egfridus. To this second son Weda Oswy had before time married his daughter, by consent of Penda his father; the which Weda, by help of Oswy, was made king of South Mercia, the which lordship is severed from North Mercia by the river of Trent. The same Weda, moreover, at what time he married the daughter of Oswy, promised to him that he would become a Christian man, which thing he performed after the death of Penda his father; but afterward, within three years of his reign, he was by reason of his wife slain. And after him the kingdom fell to Wolferus, the other brother, who, being wedded to Ermenilda, daughter of Ercombert, king of Kent, was shortly after christened; so that he is counted the first christened king of Mercia. This Wolferus conquered Kenwalcus, king of Kent, and got the Isle of Wight, which after he gave to Sigbert, king of the East Angles, upon condition he would be christened. And thus the East Angles, which before had expulsed Melitus their bishop, as is declared, recovered again the christian faith under Sigbert their king, who, by the means of the foresaid Wolferus, was reduced and baptized by Finianus the bishop.

    But to return again to Oswy, from whom we have a little digressed, of whom we showed before how he succeeded after Oswald in the province of Bernicia, to whom also was joined Oswine his cousin, over the province of Deira, and there, with his fellow Oswy, reigned the space of seven years. This Oswine was gentle and liberal to his people, and no less devout toward God; who, upon a time, had given to Aidanus, the bishop above mentioned, a princely horse, with the trappings, and all that appertained thereto, because he should not so much travel on foot, but sometimes ease himself withal. Thus Aidanus, the Scottish bishop, as he was riding upon his kingly horse, by the way meeteth him a certain poor man asking and craving his charity. Aidanus, having nothing else to give him, lighted down, and giveth to him his horse trapped and gar nished as he was. The king understanding this, and not contented therewith, as he was entering to dinner with the said Aidanus, What meant you, father bishop, (said he,) to give away my horse I gave you unto the beggar? Had not I other horses in my stable that might have served him well enough, but you must give away that which of purpose was picked out for you amongst the chiefest? To whom the bishop made answer again, saying, or rather rebuking the king, What be these words, O king, (saith he,) that you speak? Why set you more price by a horse, which is but the foal of a horse, than you do by him which is the Son of Mary, yea, which is the Son of God? He said but this, when the king forthwith, ungirding his sword from about him, (as he was then newly come in from hunting,) falleth down at the feet of the bishop, desiring him to forgive him that, and he would never after speak word to him for any treasure he should afterward give away of his. The bishop seeing the king so meekly affected, he then taking him up, and cheering him again with words, began shortly after to weep and to be very heavy. His minister asking the cause thereof, Aidanus answered in his Scottish language, saying to him, I weep (saith he) for that this king cannot live long. This people is not worthy to have such a prince as he is to reign amongst them. And so as Aidanus said it came to pass. For not long after Oswy, the king of Bernicia, disdaining at him, when Oswine either was not able or not willing to join with him in battle, caused him traitorously to be slain. And so Oswy, with his son Egfride, reigned in Northumberland alone.

    In the time, and also in the house, of this Oswy, king of Northumberland, was a certain man named Benedict, who was the bringer up of Bede from his youth, and took him to his institution when he was but seven years old, and so taught him during his life. This Benedict, or Benet, descending of a noble stock and rich kin, and in good favour with Oswy, forsook service, house, and all his kindred to serve Christ, and went to Rome, (where he had been in his lifetime five times,) and brought from thence books into monasteries, with other things which he thought then to serve for devotion. This Benedict, surnamed Bishop, was the first that brought in the art and use of glazing into this land, for before that glass windows were not known either in churches or in houses.

    In the reign of the foresaid Oswy, and Egfride his son, was Botulphus, abbot, which builded in the east part of Lincoln an abbey. Also Aidanus, Finianus, and Colmannus, with three Scottish bishops of Northumberland, holy men, held with the Britons against the Romish order for the keeping of Easter day. Moreover, Cuthbertus, Jarumannus, Cedda, and Wilfridus lived the same time; whom, as I judge to be bishops of holy conversation, so I thought it sufficient here only to name them. As touching their miracles, wherefore they were made saints in the pope's calendar, seeing they are not written in the Gospel, nor in my creed, but in certain old chronicles of that age, so they are no matter of my faith: notwithstanding, as touching their conversation, this I read, and also do credit, that the clergy, both of Britain and England, at that time plied nothing that was worldly, but gave themselves to preaching and teaching the word of our Saviour, and followed the life that they preached by giving of good example. And over that, as our histories record, they were so void of covetousness, that they received no possessions or territories which were forced upon them.

    About this season, or not much before, under the reign of Oswy and Oswine, kings of Northumberland, another synod or council was holden against the Britons and the Scottish bishops, for the right observing of Easter, at Sternhalt. At what time Agilbertus, bishop of West Saxons, came to Northumberland, to institute Wilfride abbot of Ripon, where this question for Easter day began to be moved; for Colman, then bishop of Northumberland, followed not the custom of Rome, nor of the Saxons, but followed the Britons and the Scottish bishops, his predecessors in the same see before. Thus on the one side was Colman the archbishop of York, and Hilda the abbess of Sternhalt, which alleged for them the doings and examples of their predecessors, both godly and reverend bishops, as Aidanus, Finianus, archbishops of that see of York before them, and divers more, who had used always to celebrate the Easter from the fourteenth day of the first month till the eight and twentieth of the same. And specially for that St. John the evangelist at Ephesus kept and observed that day, &c. On the other side was Agilbert, bishop of the West Saxons, James, the deacon of Paulinus above mentioned, Wilfride, abbot of Ripon, and King Aifrid, Oswy's son, with his queen, holding on the same side. The full contents of which disputation here followeth, according as in the story of Beda at large is described, with their reasons and arguments on both sides, as ensueth, &c.

    The question of Easter, and of shaving, and other ecclesiastical matters, being moved, it was determined that in the abbey which is called Sternhalt, of the which Hilda, a devout woman, was abbess, a convocation should be had, and this question there determined. To the which place came both the kings, the father and the son. Bishop Colman, with his clergy of Scotland, Agilbert, with Agathon and Wilfride, priests. James and Roman were on their sides; Hilda the abbess, with her company, were on the Scottish part, and the reverend bishop Cedda was appointed prolocutor for both parties in that parliament. King Oswy began first with an oration, declaring that it was necessary for such as served one God to live in one uniform order, and that such as looked for one kingdom in heaven should not differ in celebration of the heavenly sacraments, but should rather seek for the true tradition, and follow the same. This said, he commanded his bishop Colman to declare what the rite and custom was in this behalf that he used, and from whence it had the original. Then Colman, obeying his prince's commandment, said, The Easter which I observe I received of my ancestors that sent me hither a bishop, the which all our forefathers being men of God did celebrate in like manner; and lest it should be contemned or despised of any man, it is manifestly apparent to be the very same which the holy evangelist St. John (a disciple especially beloved of the Lord) did accustomably use in all churches and congregations where he had authority. When Colman had spoken many things to this effect, the king commanded Agilbert to declare his opinion in this behalf, and to show the order that he then used, from whence it came, and by what authority he observed the same. Agilbert requested the king that his scholar Wilfride, a priest, might speak for him, inasmuch as they both with the rest of his clergy were of one opinion herein, and that the said Wilfride could utter his mind better and more plainly in the English tongue than he himself could. Then Wilfride at the king's commandment began on this sort, and said, The Easter which we keep we have seen at Rome, whereat the holy apostles Peter and Paul did live and teach, did suffer and were buried. The same also is used in Italy and in France; the which countries we have travelled for learning, and have noted it to be celebrated of them all. In Asia also and in Africa, in Egypt and in Greece, and finally in all the world, the same manner of Easter is ohserved that we use, save only by these here present with their accomplices, the Picts and the Britons; with the which two (and yet not altogether agreeing) they condescend and strive foolishly in this order against the universal world. To whom Colman replied, saying, I marvel you will call this order foolish, that so great an apostle as was worthy to lie in the Lord's lap did use, whom all the world doth well know to have lived most wisely. And Wilfride answered, God forbid that I should reprove St. John of folly, who kept the rites of Moses's law according to the letter, (the church being yet Jewish in many. points,) and the apostles not as yet able to abdicate all the observations of the law before ordained. As, for example, they could not reject images invented of the devil, the which all men that believe on Christ ought of necessity to forsake and detest, lest they should be an offence to those Jews that were amongst the Gentiles. For this cause did St. Paul circumcise Timothy, for this cause did he sacrifice in the temple, and did shave his head with Aquila and Priscilla at Corinth; all which things were done to none other purpose than to eschew the offence of the Jews. Hereupon also said James to Paul, Thou seest, brother, how many thousand Jews do believe, and all these be zealous (notwithstanding) of the law. Yet seeing the gospel is so manifestly preached in the world, it is not lawful for the faithful to be circumcised, neither to offer sacrifice of carnal things to God. Therefore John, according to the custom of the law, the fourteenth day of the first month at evening, did begin the celebration of the feast of Easter, nothing respecting whether it were celebrated in the sabbath or in any other ferial day. But Peter, when he preached at Rome, remembering that the Lord did arise from death on the first day after the sabbath, giving thereby a hope to the world of the resurrection, thought good to institute Easter on that day, and not after the use and precepts of the law, (that was,) the fourteenth day of the first month; even so John, looking for the moon at night, if it did arise, and the next day after were Sunday, which then was called the sabbath, then did he celebrate the Easter of the Lord in the evening, like as we use to do even at this day. But if Sunday were not the next day after the fourteenth day, but fell on the sixteenth day, or seventeenth, or on any other day unto the one and twentieth, he tarried always for it, and did begin the holy solemnity of Easter on the evening next before the sabbath. And so it came to pass, that Easter was always kept on the Sunday, and was not celebrated but from the fifteenth day unto the one and twentieth: neither doth this tradition of this apostle break the law, but fulfil the same. In the which it is to be noted, that Easter was instituted from the fourteenth day of the first month at evening, unto the one and twentieth day of the same month at evening; the which manner all St. John's successors in Asia after his death did follow, and the catholic church throughout the whole world. And that this is the true Easter, and only of all Christians to be observed, it was not newly decreed, but confirmed by the Council of Nice, as appeareth by the ecclesiastical history. Whereupon it is manifest that you (Colman) do neither follow the example of St. John, as ye think, nor of St. Peter, whose tradition you do willingly resist, nor of the church, nor yet of the gospel, in the celebration of Easter. For St. John, observing Easter according to the precepts of the law, kept it not on the first day after the sabbath; but you precisely keep it only on the first day after the sabbath. Peter did celebrate Easter from the fifteenth day of the moon to the one and twentieth day, but you keep Easter from the fourteenth unto the twentieth day; so that you begin Easter oftentimes the thirteenth day at night, of which manner neither the law nor the gospel maketh any mention. But the Lord in the fourteenth day either did eat the old passover at night, or else did celebrate the sacraments of the New Testament in the remembrance of his death and passion. You do also utterly reject from the celebration of Easter the one and twentieth day, the which the law hath chiefly willed to be observed; and therefore, as I said, in the keeping of Easter, you neither agree with St. John, nor with Peter, nor with the law, nor yet with the gospel. Then Colman again answered to these things; saying, Did then Anatholius, a godly man, and one much commended in the foresaid ecclesiastical story, against the law and the gospel, who writeth that the Easter was to be kept from the fourteenth day unto the twentieth? Or shall we think that Columba, our reverend father, and his successors, being men of God, who observed the Easter after this manner, thd against the Holy Scripture? whereas some of them were men of such godliness and virtue, as was declared by their wonderful miracles. And I hereby (nothing doubting of their holiness) do endeavour to follow their life, order, and discipline. Then said Wilfride, It is certain that Anatholius was both a godly man, and worthy of great com mendation; but what have you to do with him, seeing you observe not his order? For he, following the true rule in keeping his Easter, observeth the circle of nineteen years; the which either you know not, or, if you do, you contemn the common order observed in the universal church of Christ. And, moreover, the said Anatholius doth so count the fourteenth day in the observation of Easter, as he confesseth the same to be the fifteenth day at night, after the manner of the Egyptians, and likewise noteth the twentieth day to be in the feast of Easter the one and twentieth in. the evening; the which distinction that you know not by this may appear, for that you keep the Easter on the thirteenth day before the full moon. Or otherwise I can answer you touching your father Columba and his successors, whose order you say you follow, moved thereto by their miracles, on this wise; that the Lord will answer to many that shall say in the day of judgment, that in his name they have prophesied, and cast out devils, and have done many miracles, &c., that he never knew them. But God forbid that I should say so of your fathers, because it is much better to believe well of those we know not than ill. Whereupon I deny not but they were the servants of God, and holy men, which loved the Lord of a good intent, though of a rude simplicity; and I think that the order which they used in the Easter did not much hurt them, so long as they had none amongst them that could show them the right observation of the same for them to follow. For I think, if the truth had been declared unto them, they would as well have received it in this matter as they did in others. But you and your fellows, if you refuse the order of the apostolical see, or rather of the universal church, which is confirmed by the Holy Scripture, without all doubt you do sin. And though your forefathers were holy men, what is their fewness, being but a corner of an island, to be preferred before the universal church of Jesus Christ dispersed throughout the whole world? And if Columba your father (and ours also, being of Christ Jesus) were mighty in miracles, is he therefore to be preferred before the prince of the holy apostles? to whom the Lord said, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

    Wilfride having thus ended his argument, the king said to Colman, Is it true that the Lord spake these things to St. Peter? And Colman answered, Yea. Then said the king, Can you declare any thing that the Lord gave to Colman? Colman answered, No. Then quoth the king, Do both of you agree and consent in this matter Without any controversy, that these words were principally spoken to Peter, and that the Lord gave him the keys of the kingdom of heaven? And they both answered, Yea. Then concluded the king on this wise: Forsomuch as St. Peter is the door-keeper of heaven, I will not gainsay him; but in that I am able I will obey his orders in every point, lest when I come to the gates of heaven, he shut them against me.

    Upon this simple and rude reason of the king the multitude eftsoons consented, and with them also Cedda was contented to give over; only Colman the Scot, being then archbishop of York, in displeasure left the realm, and departed into Scotland, carrying with him the bones of Aidanus. And thus much concerning this matter of Easter.

    After the decease of Oswy, Egfride his son was king after him in Northumberland fifteen years. By this Egfride Cuthbert was promoted to the bishopric of the Isle of Farne; and Wilfride, which before had been archbishop of York, was displaced through the means of Theodore, archbishop of Canterbury, and Cedda possessed that see. Wilfride, when he was put out, went to Rome, and complained of him to Agathon the bishop, and was well allowed in some things. But the king and Theodorus had there such proctors and friends, that he returned without speeding of his cause. Wherefore he returned into the South Saxons, and builded an abbey in Sileseie, and preached unto the South Saxons fifteen years. The king of the South Saxons at that time was Ethelwold, to whom we declared a little before that Wolferus, king of the Mercians, gave the Isle of Wight, upon condition that he would be christened, and so was baptized by Berinus; the said Wolferus being his godfather and son-in-law both in one day. Wherefore Wolferus, now being licensed by Ethelwold the king, preached unto his nobles and people of Southsax, and converted them to Christ. In the time of whose baptizing the rain, which before they lacked three years together, was given them plentifully, whereby their great famine slacked, and the country was made fruitful, which before was dried up with barrenness; insomuch that (as in some stories it is said) the people, penured with famine, would go forty together upon the rocks by the sea-side, and, taking hands together, would throw themselves down to the sea. Moreover, where they lacked before the art of fishing, the foresaid Wilfride taught them how with nets to fish.

    And thus by process have we discoursed from time to time how and by what means the idolatrous people were induced to the true faith of Christ; of whom the South Saxons with the Isle of Wight were the last.

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