Chapter 25


The only thing which seems to be settled as to the religious history
of Scotland in these times, is that a bishop named Ninian preached
among the Southern Picts between the years 412 and 432, and
established a see at Whithorn, in Galloway. But in the Year of St.
Ninian's death, a far more famous missionary, St. Patrick, who is
called "the Apostle of Ireland," began his labours in that island.

It is a question whether Patrick was born in Scotland, at a place
called Kirkpatrick, near the river Clyde, or in France, near
Boulogne. But wherever it may have been, his birth took place about
the year 387. His father was a deacon of the church, his grandfather
was a presbyter, and thus Patrick had the opportunities of a
religious training from his infancy. He did not, however, use these
opportunities so well as he might have done; but it pleased God to
bring him to a better mind by the way of affliction.

When Patrick was about sixteen years old, he was carried off by some
pirates (or sea-robbers), and was sold to a heathen prince in
Ireland, where he was set to keep cattle, and had to bear great
hardships. But "there," says he, "it was that the Lord brought me to
a sense of the unbelief of my heart, that I might call my sins to
remembrance, and turn with all my heart to the Lord, who regarded my
low estate, and, taking pity on my youth and ignorance, watched over
me before I knew Him or had sense to discern between good and evil,
and counselled me and comforted me as a father doth a son. I was
employed every day in feeding cattle, and often in the day I used to
betake myself to prayer; and the love of God thus grew stronger and
stronger, and His faith and fear increased in me, so that in a
single day I could utter as many as a hundred prayers, and in the
night almost as many, and I used to remain in the woods and on the
mountains, and would rise for prayer before daylight, in the midst
of snow and ice and rain, and I felt no harm from it, nor was I ever
unwilling, because my heart was hot within me. I was not from my
childhood a believer in the only God, but continued in death and in
unbelief until I was severely chastened; and in truth I have been
humbled by hunger and nakedness, and it was my lot to go about in
Ireland every day sore against my will, until I was almost worn out.
But this proved rather a blessing to me, because by means of it I
have been corrected of the Lord, and He has fitted me for being what
it once seemed unlikely that I should be, so that I should concern
myself about the salvation of others, whereas I used to have no such
thoughts even for myself."

After six years of captivity, Patrick was restored to his own
country. It is said that he then travelled a great deal; and he
became a presbyter of the Church. He was carried off captive a
second time, but this captivity did not last long, and he afterwards
lived with his parents, who begged him never to leave them again.
But he thought that in a vision or dream he saw a man inviting him
to Ireland, as St Paul saw in the night a man of Macedonia, saying
to him, "come over into Macedonia and help us" (Acts xvi. 9). And
Patrick was resolved to preach the Gospel in the land where he had
been a captive in his youth. His friends got about him, and
entreated him not to cast himself among the savage and heathen
Irish. One of them, who was most familiar with him, when there
seemed no hope of shaking his purpose, went so far as to tell of
some sin which Patrick had committed in his boyhood, thirty years
before. It was hoped that when this sin of his early days was known
(whatever it may have been) it would prevent his being consecrated
as a bishop. But Patrick broke through all difficulties, and was
consecrated bishop of the Irish in the year 432.

There had already been some Christians in that country, and a
missionary named Palladius had lately attempted to labour there, but
had allowed himself to be soon discouraged, and had withdrawn. But
Patrick had more zeal and patience than Palladius, and gave up all
the remainder of his life to the Irish, so that he would not even
allow himself the pleasure of paying a visit to his native country.
He was often in great danger, both from the priests of the old Irish
heathenism, and from the barbarous princes who were under their
influences. But he carried on his work faithfully, and had the
comfort of seeing it crowned with abundant success. His death took
place on the 17th of March, 493.

The greater number of the Irish are now Romanists, and fancy that
St. Patrick was so too, and that he was sent by the Pope to Ireland.
But he has left writings which clearly prove that this is quite
untrue. And moreover, although the bishops of Rome had been
advancing in power, and although corruptions were growing in the
Church in his time, yet neither the claims of these bishops, nor
the other corruptions of the Roman Church, had then reached anything
like their present height. Let us hope and pray that God may be
pleased to deliver our Irish brethren of the Romish communion from
the bondage of ignorance and error in which they are now unhappily

The Church continued to flourish in Ireland after St Patrick's
death, and learning found a home there, while wars and conquests
banished it from most other countries of the West. In the year 565,
the Irish Church sent forth a famous missionary named Columba, who,
with twelve companions, went into Scotland. He preached among the
Northern Picts, and founded a monastery in one of the Western
Islands, which from him got the name of Icolumbkill (that is to say,
the Island of Columba of the Churches). From that little island the
light of the Gospel afterwards spread, not only over Scotland, but
far towards the south of England, and many monasteries, both in
Scotland and in Ireland, were under the rule of its abbot.

For hundreds of years the schools of Ireland continued to be in
great repute. Young men flocked to them from England, and even from
foreign lands, and many Irish missionaries laboured in various
countries abroad. The chief of these who fall within the time to
which this little book reaches, was Columban (a different person
from Columba, although their names are so like). He left Ireland
with twelve companions, in the year 589, preached in the East of
France for many years, and afterwards in Switzerland and all Italy,
and died in 615, at the monastery of Bobbio, which he had founded
among the Apennine mountains. One of his disciples, Gall, is styled
"The Apostle of Switzerland," and founded a great monastery, which
from him is called St. Gall.

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