Chapter 24

CHAPTER XXIV: CONVERSION OF THE BARBARIANS;
CHRISTIANITY IN BRITAIN.

As the old empire of Rome disappears, the modern kingdoms of Europe
begin to come to view; and we may now look at the progress of the
Gospel among the nations of the West.

The barbarians who got possession of France, Spain, South Germany,
and other parts of the empire, were soon converted to a sort of
Christianity; but, unfortunately, it was not the true Catholic
faith. I have told you (p 93) that Ulfilas, "the Moses of the
Goths," led his people into the errors of Arianism. As it was from
the Goths that the missionaries generally went forth to convert the
other northern nations, these nations, too, for the most part,
became Arians; while some of them, after having been converted by
Catholics, afterwards fell into Arianism. It is curious to observe
how opposite the course of conversion was among these nations from
what it had been in earlier times. In the Roman empire, the Gospel
worked its way up from the poor and simple people who were the first
to believe it, until the emperor himself became at length a convert.
But among the nations which now overran the western empire, the
missionaries usually began by making a convert of the prince; when
the prince was converted, his subjects followed him to the font, and
if he changed from Catholicism to Arianism, or from Arianism to
Catholicism, the people did the same. In the course of time, all the
nations which had professed Arianism were brought over to the true
faith. The last who held out were the Goths in Spain, who gave up
their errors at a great council which was held at Toledo in 589; and
the Lombards, in the north of Italy, who were converted in the early
part of the following century.

Our own island was little troubled by Arianism, and St. Athanasius
bears witness to the firmness of the British bishops in the right
faith. But Pelagius, as we have seen (p 124), was himself a Briton;
and, although he did not himself try to spread his errors here, one
of his followers, named Agricola, brought them into Britain, and did
a great deal of mischief (AD 429). The Britons had been long under
the power of the Romans; but, as the empire grew weaker, the Romans
found that they could not afford to keep up an army here; and they
had given up Britain in the year 409. But after this, when the Picts
and Scots of the north invaded the southern part of the island (or
what we now call England), the Britons in their alarm used to beg
the assistance of the Romans against them. And it would seem as if
the British clergy had come to depend on the help of others in much
the same way; for when they found what havoc the Pelagian Agricola
was making among their people, they sent over into Gaul, and begged
that the bishops of that country would send them aid against him.

Two bishops, German of Auxerre, and Lupus of Troyes, were sent
accordingly by a council to which the petition of the Britons had
been made. These two could speak a language which was near enough to
the British to be understood by the Britons, it was something like
the Welsh, or the Irish, or like the Gaelic, which is spoken in the
Highlands of Scotland (for all these languages are much alike).
Their preaching, had a great effect on the people, and their holy
lives preached still better than their sermons; they disputed with
the Pelagian teachers at Verulam, the town where St. Alban was
martyred (p 37), and which now takes its name from him, and they
succeeded for the time in putting down the heresy.

It is said that while German and Lupus were in this country, the
Picts and Saxons joined in invading it; and that the Britons,
finding their army unfit to fight the enemy, sent to beg the
assistance of the two Gaulish bishops. So German and Lupus went to
the British army, and joined it just before Easter. A great number
of the soldiers were baptized at Easter, and German put himself at
their heads. The enemy came on, expecting an easy victory, but the
bishops thrice shouted "Hallelujah!" and all the army took up the
shout, which was echoed from the mountains again and again, so that
the pagans were struck with terror, and expected the mountains to
fall on them. They threw down their arms, and ran away, leaving a
great quantity of spoil behind them, and many of them rushed into a
river, where they were drowned. The place where this victory is said
to have been gained is still pointed out in Flintshire, and is known
by a Welsh name, which means, "German's Field." Pelagianism began to
revive in Britain some years later, but St. German came over a
second time, and once more put it down.

But soon after this, the Saxons came into Britain. It is supposed
that Hengist and Horsa landed in Kent in the year 449; and other
chiefs followed, with their fierce heathen warriors. There was a
struggle between these and the Britons, which lasted a hundred
years, until at length the invaders got the better, and the land was
once more overspread by heathenism, except where the Britons kept up
their Christianity in the mountainous districts of the
West,--Cumberland, Wales, and Cornwall. You shall hear by-and-by how
the Gospel was introduced among the Saxons.