Century XII, Chapter VII


The Propagation of the Gospel.

The pale of the visible church was still farther extended in this century among the idolatrous nations; and, though the methods of propagating divine truth were too often unchristian, some missionaries seem to have been actuated by an apostolical spirit. The articles under this head are only few, but will deserve the reader's attention.

Boleslaus, duke of Poland, having taken Stetin the capital of Pomerania, by storm, and laid waste the country with fire and sword, compelled the remaining inhabitants to submit at discretion. What right he had to make war on the Pomeranians at all, and if he had a right, how far he confined himself within the bounds of justice and humanity, are inquiries not easy to be answered, on account of the scantiness of our information. From such inauspicious beginnings, however, Pomerania was introduced to an acquaintance with christianity. The conqueror endeavoured, for three years, to procure pastors and teachers from his own dominions, to instruct his new subjects; but could find none. He then engaged Otho, bishop of Bamberg, in the work. The duke of Pomerania met the bishop on his approach, and received him with much respect. The savage inhabitants, however, were with difficulty prevented from murdering him. Otho was firm, and by christian zeal, patience, and meekness, laboured to efface the disadvantageous impressions, which the military executions of Boleslaus could not fail to make on their minds. The dutchess of Pomerania, with her female attendants, received the gospel. So did the duke with his companions, and he gave this evidence of sincerity, that he was prevailed on by the instruc. tions of Otho to dismiss his concubines, who were twenty-four in number. This missionary was after

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wards fiercely assaulted by sonic of the inhabitants, and escaped with great difficulty. But he bore the injury so meekly, and still persevered in his labours with such evident marks of probity and charity, that he at length established the form of christianity among them. He* had entered on his mission in the year 1124, and from his success was styled the apostle of the Pomeranians, f After he had carried the gospel into Noim and other remote districts, he returned to the care of his own flock at Bamberg, where he died in 11394 That the work, however, was very slight among this people, appeared too plainly by the event. The Pomeranians soon after ejected the christian pastors, and reestablished the idolatry of their ancestors.

The inhabitants of Rugen, an island which lies in the neighbourhood of Pomerania, were remarkable for their obstinate opposition to christianity. Eric, king of Denmark, subdued them, and, among other conditions of peace, imposed on them the necessity of receiving his religion. But they soon relapsed into the idolatry of their ancestors. At length Waldemar, king of Denmark, having subjected them again by his arms to the Danish crown, obliged them to deliver up to him their idol, called Swanterwith, an account of which we have seen in the history of the tenth century. Waldemar ordered it to be hewn in pieces, and burned. He compelled the vanquished also to deliver to him all their sacred money, he released the christian captives whom they held in slavery, and converted the lands, which had been assigned to the pagan priests, to the support of a christian ministry. He did also something, which was of a more salutary nature and tendency, whatever were his own motives of conduct. He furnished the ignorant savages with pastors and teachers. Among these shone Absalom, archbishop of Lunden, by whose pious labours, at length, the gospel received an establishment in this island:

* Cent Majjd. cent. xii. p. 16. f Baronius, cent. xii. See M»gd. cenv 1 Butler, vol. vii.

which had so long baffled every attempt to evangelize it. Absalom* ought to be classed among those genuine benefactors of mankind, who were willing to spend and be spent for the good of souls. Even Jaremar, the prince of Rugen, received the gospel with great alacrity, and not only taught his wayward subjects by his life and example, but also by his useful instructions and admonitions. Sometimes he employed menaces, but to what degree, and with what circumstances, I know not. Certain it is, that the people of Rugen from that time were in some sense, at least, evangelized. No people had ever shown a more obstinate aversion to the doctrines of christianity. Nor were the military proceedings of Eric and Waldemar calculated to soften their animosity. In this article, however, as in the last, the characters of the missionaries ought to be distinguished from those of the princes; for, in the accounts of both the missionaries there appears very good evidence of a genuine propagation of godliness. These events in Rugen took place about the year 1168.f When I distinguish the character of the princes, from that of the missionaries, I am by no means certain, that the conduct of the former was unjustifiable. The people of Rugen were a band of pirates and robbers; and it is not improbable, but that the right of selfpreservation might authorize the Danish expeditions.

The Finlanders were of the same character with the people of Rugen, and infested Sweden with their incursions. Eric, king of the last mentioned country, vanquished them in war, and is said to have wept, because his enemies died unbaptized. As soon as he was master of Finland, he sent Henry, bishop of Upsal, to evangelize the barbarians. The success of the missionary was great, and he is called the apostle of the Finlanders, though he was murdered at length by some of the refractory people. How far the censure of Mosheim, on his severity to them, may be well founded, I cannot decide. The man seems, however.

to have been pious and to have had good intentions. The laudable conduct of his sovereign also deserves to be celebrated. Eric was excellent both as a christian and a king. His piety provoked the derision of some impious malcontents, by whom he was attacked, while employed in public worship. The remainder of the festival, said he, I shall observe elsewhere. It was the feast of the ascension, which he was celebrating. He went out alone to meet the murderers, that he might prevent the effusion of blood, and he died recommending his soul to God. He was slain in 1511; and his tomb still remains, at Upsal, undefaced.* It may be proper to add, that Henry was an Englishman, who had taken considerable pains among the barbarous nations, before the period of his labours in Finland, and that he was stoned to death at the instigation of a murderer whom he had endeavoured to reclaim by his censures. His death happened in the same year as that of his royal master, f This person is highly extolled by John Olaus, in his work, De rebus Gothicis. J

The Sclavonians were remarkably averse to the gospel of Christ, and much exercised the patience and charity of Vicelinus, who preached thirty years in Holsatia and the neighbouring parts. He was at length appointed bishop of Oldenburg, which see was afterwards transferred to Lubec: and the fruits of his ministry were solid and glorious.^ He died in 1154. All the accounts of antiquity are full of the praises of Vicelinus; and his character is briefly, but very strongly celebrated by Mosheim, with such unqualified commendations, that I cannot but wish that very learned historian had favoured us with an abridgment of his life and actions, taken from the sources of information, which he quotes, but which seem to us inaccessible. I have consulted the centuriators, and find matter there sufficient to excite, but not to satisfy our curio

• Mosheim, cent. xii. 552. Butler, vol. v.

i His life was written by Benzelius Monum. Suec. p. 33. Butler, vol. ii t B. 19. c. 3. See Baron. cent. xii. § Baron- cent. xii

sity. The little to be collected from them shall be meiv tioned in the next chapter. And here is an instance of that, which I have had but too frequent occasion to remark, namely, an extreme scantiness of information on subjects most worthy of our researches. How willingly would the evangelical reader have excused the omission of many pages in Mosheim, if he had gratified us with an orderly account of one of the best and wisest christian missionaries of the age.*

The propagation of religion in Livonia will not deserve any detail. It took place in the latter part of this century: violent and secular methods were principally used, and the wretched inhabitants were compelled to receive baptism; but I know no fruits that appeared in this century worthy of the christian name.