Century VII, Chapter II

Chap. II n.

The Propagation of the Gospel in Germany and its Neighbourhood.

The northern parts of Europe had still remained in the darkness of idolatry. In this century they were visited by the Most High. The Britons, Scots, and Irish were honoured as the principal instruments in the work, and this circumstance affords an additional evidence to the account already given of the genuine spirit of godliness, which prevailed in the British isles. The French had also their share in the blessed cause. I shall throw together the very imperfect hints which are preserved to us of these important transactions. Though the first instance more properly relates to France than to Germany, it may with no great impropriety be mentioned in this chapter. Omer, bishop of Tarvanne, the old metropolis of the Morini in Artois, laboured with success in the cultivation of a wilderness. Vice and idolatry were very predominant in his diocese; but by the assistance of Bertin a Swiss, his kinsman, he was enabled to eradicate inveterate evils and to civilize a race of barbarians.

The erection of many convents in Germany for the Scotch and Irish, some of which are still extant, is to be accounted for from the ecclesiastical connexions of their ancestors. Many persons travelled from Great Britain and Ireland with the laudable purpose of preaching Christ in Batavia, Belgium, and Germany.* And however superstition might tarnish their labours, there must have been a nobler principle to have induced men to undergo so much danger, with hardly any possible prospect of lucre or of fame. Mere philosophers are generally but too liberal in censure and raillery: we seldom however hear of them engaging in any work of so disinterested a nature. The love of God in Christ alone can support the spirit of men in such enterprises.

Colomban, an Irish monk, distinguished from him of the same name, spoken of before, who was called " the Ancient," toward the close of the foregoing century had extirpated the remains of expiring paganism in France. He also passed the Rhine, and evangelized the Suevi,f the Boii4 and other German nations. He laboured in the cause to his death, which happened in the year 615. Gal, one of his companions, laboured with much zeal about the lakes of Zurich and Constance. Near the latter lake, at a little distance from Bregent, he erected a monastery, which still bears his name. In fortitude and laboriousness he was inferior to none of the missionaries of this age. But we find very little worthy of being recorded concerning him.

* Mosheim, cent. 7th, c. I.

f This people inhabited the places between the Rhine and the Elbe. J Now Bavarians.

The account of Kilian, another Irish missionary, is somewhat more satisfactory. He received a commission from the bishop of Rome toward the end of the century, to preach to the infidels; and with some of his disciples he came to Wirtzbourg upon the Mayne, where a pagan duke called Gosbert was governor. The duke received the gospel, was baptized, and many followed his example. But he had married his brother's wife. The missionary united discretion with zeal, and deferred his admonitions on this head, till he found that his pupil the duke was firmly settled in the faith.* Kilian at length ventured to act the part of John the Baptist, and the event was in a great measure similar. Gosbert promised to obey, but delayed the execution of his promise till he should return from an expedition. The mischief of procrastination against the light of conscience was never more strongly illustrated. In his absence Geilana, for that was the name of the German Herodias, procured the murder of Kilian and his companions. They were engaged in devotional exercises, and died with the patience of martyrs in the year 688. Gosbert was prevailed on by the artifices of Geilana to suffer the murderers to escape with impunity. But all the actors in this tragedy, Gosbert among the rest, came to an unhappy end; and there is no doubt but that in this case, as well as many others, the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church. Numbers of the eastern Franks had embraced christianity, and sealed the ministry of Kilian. Barbatus, born in the territory of Benevento in Italy, in the beginning of this century, was also a great ornament to it. Meditation on the scriptures was his chief delight. He was looked upon to excel in preaching. He acted as curate of Morcona near Benevento, and gave great offence by his faithfulness. By the malice of the people he was obliged to retire to Benevento. This town was possessed by the Lombards who were chiefly arians; many of them were indeed idolaters, though some were of the general

• Fleury, b. si. 37.

church with their duke Arichis, a friend of Gregory I. Barbatus labouring there found the christians so called very idolatrous. They worshipped a golden viper, and a tree on which the skin of a wild beast was hung. He preached and prayed a long time: at length the emperor Constans besieging Benevento, the wicked inhabitants were intimidated so far, as to repent of their idolatry. Barbatus was allowed to cut down the tree, and to melt the golden viper of which he made a sacramental chalice. This man was appointed bishop of Benevento in 663, and destroyed every vestige of idolatry in the whole state. He lived afterwards to bear a testimony by his presence in the council of Constantinople against the monothelite heresy, and died in 682. See Butler's Lives.

Toward the conclusion of the century Willibrod, an English missionary, and eleven of his countrymen crossed over the sea into Holland, to labour among the Friezelanders. But being ill treated by the king of Friezeland, who put one of the company to death,* they retreated into Denmark. Returning however into Friezeland in the year 693, they propagated divine truth with success. Willibrod was ordained bishop Of Wilteburgf by the Roman prelate, and laboured in his diocese to his death; while his associates spread the gospel through Westphalia and the neighbouring countries. J

It was in this century, the former part of it, according to the researches of one author,^ the latter part, according to those of another,)] that Bavaria received the gospel from the ministry of Rupert, or Robert, bishop of Worms. He was invited by Theodo, duke of Bavaria. His ministry prospered, and he was appointed bishop of Saltzburg. The increasing harvest

* Mosheim, cent. vii, c. I. | Non Utrecht.

j Disen, an Irish monk, taught the posnel in Ireland, France, and Germany. His labours were most remarkably crowned with success in the neighbourhood of Mentz. A. Butler.

§ Velserius Rerum Boirarum, b. iv.

|| Fleury, b. xli, 31. If Fleury's chronology be right, the greatest part of the narrative before us will belong to the next century.

required more missionaries: he therefore returned to his own country, and brought twelve assistants: from that time christianity was established in Bavaria. Corbinian, another Frenchman, watered, where Rupert had planted. Duke Theodo received him gladly. His son and successor Grimoald was induced to part with his wife whom he had married contrary to the levitical laws of matrimonial consanguinity; and so far as can be judged from very imperfect accounts, the gospel was received with great sincerity in this country.*

Somef time after, Emmeram an Aquitanian Frenchman, leaving his country and his large possessions, travelled to Ratisbon, to spread the gospel. He was well received by another Theodo, duke of Bavaria. He observed, that the Bavarians were, many of them at least, still addicted to idolatrous rites, which they mixed with christianity. The old inhabitants were particularly guilty of these things. He laboured among them three years, preaching in all the towns and villages, and reserved for himself only the bare necessaries of life. His success was great, and his end was worthy of his profession. Lambert, a son of the duke, murdered him at length with savage barbarity. He had been offered a large revenue, and a settlement at Ratisbon by Theodo, which he had refused, declaring that he only wished to preach Christ crucified.

Marinus and Anian, two Egyptians, came into Bavaria, and were very successful in the same cause. But the excessive austerity, which they brought with them from the east, must have been detrimental to their work. The former at length was murdered by

• This missionary was remarkable for private devotion, as well as public labours, and reserved to himself a considerable portion of time every day, for prayer ami meditation. But from Alban Butler's account: I learn, that Grimoald persecuted Corbinian on account of his faithfulness, and that Biltrude the relict of Grimoald's brother, hired assassins to murder him. Both Grimoald and Biltrude perished miserably. If the former was induced to repentance at all, he seems to have relapsed. After the deaths of his persecutors Corbinian returned to Frisingcn, and laboured till his death, which happened in the year 730. £

tVelser. id.

robbers; the latter died a natural death. Eloi, bishop of Noyon, carefully visited his large diocese, especially the pagan parts of it, and was very successful among the Flemings, the Antwerpers, and the Frisons. At first he found them fierce, and exceedingly obstinate. But God was with him both in life and doctrine. Every Easter he baptized great numbers, who had been brought to the knowledge of God in the preceding year. Very aged persons, amidst crowds of children, came to be baptized, and there is the fairest evidence of his evangelical success. This is all that I can find, with certainty, of the propagation of the gospel in the seventh century in Germany and the neighbouriHg countries. The censures of Mosheim, as if the greatest part of the missionaries were not sincere, or as if many of the monks covered their ambition with the cloke of mortification, appear to me illiberal and unfounded,* and would have been more worthy of a modern sceptic. Superstition and an excessive attachment to the Roman see is very visible among them. But the little account of facts, which we have, bears testimony to their uprightness. Where is that charity which hopeth all things, if we are to suppose men to be wrong, against all appearances? If ecclesiastical historians had delighted as much in recording good as they have in recording evil, it is probable a more ample refutation of the inconsiderate aspersions of this author might have been exhibited to the reader.

• Mosheim, id. I find no just reason to suspect any of them except. Wilfrid, bishop of York, mentioned in the last chapter.