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Scotland and of Ireland remained heathen. It was not till the fifth century that a thorough beginning was made of the evangelization of the Irish race. That beginning was due to the zeal and heroism of Patricius, or Patrick, the “Apostle of Ireland.” To be sure, he was not the first regular missionary to the island. He had been preceded by a certain Palladius, who had entered upon the mission under the sanction of the Roman bishop Celestine. Little, however, is known of the work of Palladius. The results of his labors were probably not very great, and the honor of founding the Irish Church may well be accorded to his successor. The question of Patrick's birthplace is not very definitely answered. Professor Todd gives his verdict for Dumbarton, on the Firth of Clyde, as being decidedly favored by ancient traditions. Lanigan, on the other hand, from a consideration of the names contained in the writings of Patrick, makes out a very plausible case for Boulogne-sur-Mer, in northern France. According to the “Confession," and the “ Epistle concerning Coroticus," both of which are considered genuine writings of Patrick, his father was a deacon, and, in civil standing, a decurion. While yet a youth, Patrick was taken
, captive by a plundering band and carried into the north of Ireland. “I was then," he writes in his “Confession," “ nearly sixteen years old. I knew not the true God; and I was carried into captivity to Hiberio, with many thousands of men, according to our deserts, because we had gone back from God, and had not kept His commandments, and were not obedient to our priests, who
1 J. H. Todd, St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland. 2 John Lanigan, Eccl. Hist. of Ireland, chap. iii.
used to warn us for our salvation.” Captivity proved a profitable discipline spiritually. While tending the cattle of the chief to whom he had been sold, Patrick felt his heart drawn out in prayer to God, and experienced the consoling sense of His presence. At length, after six years of exile and slavery, Providence prepared his deliverance. Following the direction of a voice which seemed to assure him in his sleep that the ship was ready which was destined to restore him to his own country, he hastened toward the coast, and made good his escape.
After a series of years, he felt a burden laid upon him to return to the land of his captivity and to labor for the salvation of its benighted people. His friends endeavored to dissuade him from such a project; but the Macedonian call sounding in his heart was too imperative to be neglected. “In the dead of night,” he says, “I saw a man coming to me from Hiberio, whose name was Victoricus, bearing innumerable epistles. And he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of it which contained the words, “The voice of the Irish.' And, whilst I was repeating the beginning of the epistle, I imagined that I heard in my mind the voice of those who were near the wood of Fochlut, which is near the Western Sea. And thus they cried : We pray thee, holy youth, to come, and henceforth walk amongst us.' And I was greatly pricked in heart, and could read no more; and so I awoke.” 1
According to some quite early accounts, Patrick entered upon the Irish mission under the authority of the Roman bishop. But the evidence for this theory is un
satisfactory. In neither of the genuine writings referred to is there any mention by the missionary of a communication with Rome; whereas, especially in case of the Confession, there was a distinct occasion to refer to such a communication had it taken place. In this writing he mentions his call to the Irish mission, and defends himself against the charge of presumption in having entered upon so great a work. How natural in such a relation to have quoted the sanction of the Roman bishop, if that had been among the antecedents of his enterprise! An equal silence respecting any connection with Rome is also observed by some of the earliest productions relating to Patrick, such as the Hymn of St. Secundinus, the Hymn of St. Fiacc, and the Life in the Book of Armagh. There is ground, therefore, to hold under suspicion, if not positively to deny, the theory of Roman patronage in connection with the mission. As Dr. Todd suggests, certain facts belonging to the history of Palladius may have been transferred by uncritical and interested biographers to the life of Patrick. But, whatever the relations of Patrick himself may have been, the relations of the early Irish Church with the Roman see do not appear to have been very intimate ; for we find the Irish, like the Britons across the channel, cherishing non-Roman customs.
Ireland, with its Druids and its turbulent and war
1 W. D. Killen calls attention to the fact that in all the correspond. ence of Leo the Great, who was a contemporary of Patrick, there is no mention of Ireland. He adds: “It is acknowledged that for one hun. dred and fifty years after the death of Leo, the Church of Ireland continued to be in a very flourishing condition; and yet there is not a shadow of evidence that meanwhile any bishop of Rome addressed to any of its ministers so much as a single line of advice, warning, or commendation." (Eccl. Hist. of Ireland, i. 8, 9.)
like tribes, was a difficult field to bring under Christian cultivation. On more than one occasion the missionary found his life imperilled. Great success, nevertheless, attended his labors; and in his own person he accomplished much for that religious and intellectual regeneration of Ireland, which made this island a chief light in Europe in the period immediately following:
Authentic history says but little concerning Patrick, but it says enough to indicate the prominent traits in his character. We see in him a man distinguished by humility, simplicity, unselfish devotion, and large practical efficiency; a man very different from the pious monstrosity into which his image has been distorted by many ancient legends, and by some modern biographers who have overlooked the distinction between legend and history. A miscalculating fancy has clouded his fame in the attempt to magnify it by a list of ill-begotten marvels. So much the more, however, should the tribute be paid to him which is required by genuine history.
I. - CAUSES AND FEATURES.
EVEN general church history must take considerable note of the doctrinal controversies of this period. They entered too deeply into the life of the age, were too large a factor in the great events of the Christian Empire, that they should be left entirely to the history of doctrine. However, we shall endeavor to observe the distinction between the two branches, and without dwelling upon the minutiæ of doctrine, or the arguments adduced in their support, shall consider the controversies mainly as factors in the life and public events
of the age.
The reign of Constantine inaugurated, almost of necessity, an era of theological activity, if not of theological strife. That the Church, when relieved of the strong outward pressure, should apply itself with great zeal to the deeper problems of the faith, was a very natural turn of events. Where there is mental life, there is always speculation in some department or other, always philosophizing, always endeavors after the exact definition and the satisfactory defence of truth. In the centuries following Constantine, philosophizing was drawn by an irresistible attraction into the theological