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Century XI, Chapter III


The Propagation of the Gospel in this Century.

THE* work of christian piety, which had been successfully carried on in Hungary, was now crowned with still greater prosperity. Stephen the king, who had been baptized by Adalbert bishop of Prague, and who began to reign in the year 997, showed himself a zealous patron of the gospel. Under his auspices, Astricus came into Hungary, opened a school, and educated ministers, while Boniface, one of his disciples, preached the word in Lower Hungary. The zeal of Stephen, indeed, was much stimulated by his pious queen Gisla, daughter of the emperor Henry II. He often accompanied the preachers, and pathetically exhorted his subjects. He suppressed barbarous customs, and restrained blasphemy, theft, adultery, and murder. His kindness to the poor, and, indeed, his whole moral conduct was admirable. His excellent code of laws are to this day the basis of the laws of Hungary. It is inscribed to his son Emeric, whom he exhorts to cultivate sincere humility, the true glory of a king. He forbids in it all impiety, the violation of Sunday duties, and irreverent behaviour in the house of God. This monarch defeated the prince of Transilvania, who had invaded his dominions, and took him prisoner; but restored him to liberty, on condition that he should allow the gospel to be preached to the Transilvanians, without molestation. Stephen was a prosperous monarch, but found afflictions at home in the loss of all his children. His mind was, however, improved in divine things by his sufferings. He laboured three years under a complication of diseases, and died in the year 1038.1 He had lived to see all Hungary become externally christian, though christianity ex

• Cent. Magd. cent. jci.

+ Alban Butler.

istcd there, adulterated, or clouded at least by papal domination, and by the fashionable superstitions.

Gerard, a Venetian, had been much employed by king Stephen, as bishop of Choriad, a diocese of which two thirds of the inhabitants were idolaters. In less than a year, they, in general, had received the forms of Christianity from the pious labours of Gerard. The power of Stephen had seconded the views of the bishop; but the prospect changed on the king's decease. His nephew and successor Peter, persecuted Gerard: he was, however, expelled by his subjects in the year 1042, and Abas, a nobleman, was made king of Hungary, who being slain after two years, Peter was recalled, but was once more banished. Andrew, the son of Ladislaus, the cousin of king Stephen, was appointed king, on the condition of restoring idolatry. Gerard and three other bishops endeavoured to divert him from the design. But they were assaulted on the road by duke Vathas, a zealous pagan. Andrew himself came up to the spot, and rescued one of the bishops: the other three, of whom Gerard was one, had fallen by the arm of the barbarian. It is probable, however, that divine providence permitted their atrocious villany for the good of the church. The heart of Andrew was moved: he had seen of what idolatry was capable: he examined christianity, received it, repressed idolatry, and reigned successfully. After the Hungarians had seen such a prince as Stephen, and had felt the good effects on society resulting from the establishment of christianity, that they could still prefer idolatry, is a deplorable proof of the native power of human depravity! What long continued exertions are necessary, to establish genuine goodness in a country!

In * Denmark, Othingar, a bishop of that country, extended the pale of the church by his labours; and Unwan, the bishop of Hamburg, under the patronage of the emperor Henry II. cut down the idolatrous

• Cent. Magil. cent. xi.

groves, which the people of his diocese frequented, and erected churches in their stead. ,

Godeschalcus,* duke of the Vandals, revived among his subjects the regard for the gospel, which they had once embraced, and which they had afterward neglected. It is not easy to know precisely, what were the limits of his dominions. But I find Lubeck, Mecklenburg, and Sclavonia mentioned as belonging to, or as, at least, contiguous to his dukedom. Much has been said in praise of this prince, and of the success of his labours, f He is reported to have, in person, exhorted his people with much affection in the public assemblies; and John a Scotchman, the bishop of Mecklenburg, baptized great numbers of the Sclavonians. Yet this last people, together with the Obotriti, whose capital town was Mecklenburg, the Venedi, who dwelt on the banks of the Vistula, and the Prussians, continued pagans, in a great measure, throughout this century. Boleslaus, king of Poland, attempted to force these nations into a profession of christianity; and some of his attendants used methods to evangelize them, which were better adapted to the nature of the gospel. Boniface, in particular,J and eighteen other persons, set out from Germany, to labour among the Prussians, and were massacred by that barbarous people. They seem to have been among the last of the European nations, who submitted to the yoke of Christ. In the zealous attempts made, however, for their conversion, though unsuccessful, we see abundant proofs, that the spirit of propagating the gospel, which was the brightest gem of these dark ages, still existed.

Nor was the zeal for propagating the gospel, with which our ancestors had been so eminently endowed, evaporated in this century. In the year 1001, at the desire of Olaus II. king of Sweden, some English priests were sent over into the north by king Ethelred. Of Uiese Sigefrid, archdeacon of York, was one. His labours were very successful, and he was appointed

• Cent. Magd. cent. xi. t Crantzius in Vandalia.

% Moslieim, cent. xi. chap. i.

bishop of Wexia, in East Gothland. Having established the churches there, he preached to the infidels in West Gothland, leaving his nephews to govern his diocese, while he was absent. But they were murdered by the pagan nobility of the country. A melancholy proof, how strong the spirit of idolatry still remained in these northern regions! The same kind of family pride, which, at this day, preserves the remnants of popery in protestant countries, preserved the existence of paganism in Sweden. Sigefrid, however, returned into his diocese, died there a natural death, and was buried at Wexia.

This man is said to have finished his course about the year 1002; an account inconsistent, as to the order of time, with that which has been already given. But not to trouble the reader with such niceties of chronology, as at this distance of time are impossible to be adjusted, it is more material to observe, that he appears to have been an apostolic person; that on his first arrival in Sweden, he was obliged, chiefly, to preach by interpreters; that he prevailed on the king to spare the murderers of his nephews; and, that though he was very poor, he refused to touch the fine, which had been exacted on those murderers, and which had been offered to him as a present by the Swedish monarch.* Gotebald, another English missionary, was appointed bishop in Norway, and preached in Schonen.

Ulfrid, a learned and virtuous Englishman, preached the faith, first in Germany, afterwards in Sweden, under the patronage of king Olaus; where he was an instrument of converting many, till, in the year 1028, preaching against the idol Thor, and hewing it down with an hatchet, he was slain by the pagans. See Adam of Bremen, who wrote his history of the church in

1080. '

Canute, king of Denmark, natural son of Swein IIwhose great uncle Canute had reigned in England, was carefully educated by his father, who had no legi

* Olaus magn. B. 17. C. 20. Collier's Ecc. Hist. Alban Butler, vol ii.

timate issue. He became king of Denmark by election, warred against the turbulent barbarians his neighbours, and planted the profession of Christianity in Courland, Samogitia, and Livonia. His zeal for the maintenance of the clergy having disgusted his subjects, he was deserted and murdered. His brother Olaus succeeded, whose successor Eric III. restored the authority of the clergy. The life of Canute was written by ^Elnoth, a monk of Canterbury, who lived twenty-four years in Denmark, and \vho«wrote in 1105. He tells us that the first preachers of the faith in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were English priests; that the Danes embraced the gospel with zeal, but that the Swedes were more obstinate in their idolatry, among whom Eschil, an Englishman, was martyred, while he was preaching Christ to some savage tribes. That Sweden, however, was chiefly evangelized by AngloSaxon missionaries, is the remark of Stiernman in his treatise on the state of learning among the ancient Swedes. Alban Butler, vol. ii.

Olaus, king of Norway, assisted the Danes against Ethelred of England, and, in his return from England, carried over several priests; one of whom, named Grimkele, was appointed bishop of Drontheim, the capital of king Olaus. This prince abolished idolatrous customs in Norway, Orkney, and Iceland. He used to travel with zealous preachers, exhorting his subjects, and destroying temples. The pagans, at length, aided by Canute of England, defeated and slew him in the year 1030. His son Magnus was called home from Russia, and became king of Norway in 1039. Alban Butler, vol. vii.

The triumphs of the gospel in Denmark were, upon the whole, very conspicuous in this century. Hear the account of Adam of Bremen, who wrote concerning the situation of this country in the year 1080. " Look," says he, " at that very ferocious nation of the Danes. For a long time they have been accustomed, in the praises of God, to resound alleluia. Look at that piratical people. They are now content with the fruits

of their own country. Look at that horrid region, formerly altogether inaccessible on account of idolatry— they now eagerly admit the preachers of the word."* From this very imperfect account, for which I am obliged to Gibbon, and which he candidly admits to be true, we may collect, what a blessed work it is, to propagate the gospel of Christ; that no men deserve better of mankind than faithful missionaries; and, that the allegorical descriptions of the effects of real Christianity, which ,we meet with in the prophets, have a deep and solid meaning, f To see Danes and Englishmen enjoying together, in mutual confidence and charity, the blessings of true religion, must have been surprising to those, who had known, with what savage barbarity the former had desolated the habitations of the latter. In truth, that religion which could mollify, transform, and rectify the heart of an ancient Dane, must indeed be divine. These are the triumphs of the gospel. It was the preaching of the cross, attended with the energy of the holy Spirit, which effected this salutary change of manners in the north of Europe. Denmark had inflicted much evil on her southern neighbours, and they requited her with spiritual blessings. It is remarkable, that, to this day, no nation has exceeded the Danes in labours for the propagation of the gospel, in proportion to their abilities and opportunities. And it must be confessed, that they owe much to mankind on the score of gratitude, for the favours of the same kind, which their ancestors received.

I cannot, for want of materials, dwell on the particulars of the conversion of this people.J But the du

• Gibbon, vol. v. c. 55.

f Isaiah, xi. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.

i One instance, however, is recorded, that wilt deserve to be mentioned. William, an English priest, attended Canute the great, in one of his voyages from England to Denmark. Moved with pity on account of the idolatry of the Danes, he desired to be left as a missionary. His labours were successful, and he was appointed bishop of Roschild, in Zealand. King Swein having put to death some persons without a legal trial, William forbade his entrance into the church. Several courtiers drawing their swords, the bishop offered them his neck. Swein submittted, conformed

rable change of their manners intimates, that their country must have been blessed with one of those gracious " effusions" of the holy Spirit, the consequences of which are commonly felt for ages after. Toward the close of this century, the northern nations ceased to invade the southern intirely. The last attempt was made by Magnus, king of Norway, on the isle of Anglesea; but he was repulsed by Hugh earl of Shrewsbury,* in the eleventh year of William Rufus. " That restless people seem about this time to have learned the itse of tillage, which thenceforth kept them at home, and freed the other. nations of Europe from the devastations spread over them by those piratical invaders. This proved one great cause of the subsequent settlement and improvement of the southern nations."

I quote the words of Hume, which represent in a very perspicuous manner the advantages resulting from the civilization of the north, not only to the Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes, but also to the south of Europe. It is in assigning the cause of this happy change, that I am obliged to dissent from the elegant historian. He thinks that the effect is sufficiently accounted for by these northern people having learned the use of tillage. But, besides, that he has no histor cal evidence of this fact, and supports it by mere conjecture, it is fair to ask, how came they to be so docile and tractable, as to submit to the arts of agriculture? Does a nation, habituated to arms and to idleness, easily give itself up to industry, and the arts of peace? If we can answer this question aright, we shall know to what is to be ascribed the happy transformation of the north. Scanty as my materials have been, I have yet shown, that the gospel had now been, for three centuries, preached in Scandinavia. To this, doubtless, as the principal cause, we must attribute the happy alteration of manners in those barbarous re

to the rules of penance imposed by William, and ever after concurred with his views. The bishop of Koacbild died in the year 1067. Alban Butler. • Hume, vol. i. c. v.

gions. Christian godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as cf that which is to come. While it conducts enslaved souls into liberty, and, turning them from the power of Satan to God, invests them with the garments of salvation, it also meliorates their condition in this life, and diffuses, through the world, the most salutary precepts of peace, order, and tranquillity. Let not men expect the general civilization of the globe by any other methods. When the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, then will the nations learn war no more. We enjoy, at this day, the advantages of society derived to Europe, from the propagation of the gospel, while we ungratefully depreciate the labours of those christian missionaries, through which, under God, those advantages were conveyed to us. Our Saviour has directed us, to pray to the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest; and every one who breathes the genuine spirit of the gospel, will devoutly obey the precept.

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