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speak of this conversion, in terms peculiarly honourable to AUSTIN ; and it is worthy of attention, that this great man availed himself of no other
powers than those becoming his holy office; he explained the superlative advantages of Christianity with eloquence, and proved by his conduct, that he practised what he taught; not any means of coercion were resorted to; these were rejected as contrary to the doctrines he strove to inculcate : “ the service of our Saviour,” said he,
: “must be voluntary ; all attempts at force will be contrary to the divine intention, and must prove fruitless!"
Austin landed in the year 597, at Ebbs Fleet, in the Isle of Thanet; a place memorable, therefore, not only from the importance to be attached to his exertions, but from its having also been the precise spot where the first Saxons landed, the conversion of whose descendants was the pious object of his mission : and we are informed by the Chronicles, that Austin first set his fout on English ground on the very day that MAHOMET was born. Immediately that his arrival was made known, ETHELBERT, king of Kent, assigned to him, as a place of residence, DOROVERNUM, since denominated CANTERBURY, and soon after admitted him to a personal conference; though, lest “ ENCHANTMENTS" might be employed, he received him, says our historian, in the open air, where the force of magic was thought to lose its power.
The eloquence of the address of Austin, and the doctrines he urged, through his interpreters, had a sensible effect upon the monarch ;-He was however too cautious and circumspect, readily to adopt a new religion: “ Your words and promises,” said the king, “ are fair; but because they are new, and uncertain, I cannot entirely yield to them, and relinquish the principles which I and my ancestors have so long maintained. You are welcome, to remain here in peace; and, as you have undertaken so long a journey, solely, as it appears, for what you believe to be for our advantage, I will supply you with all necessaries, and permit you to deliver your doctrine to my subjects.”
BERTHA, the consort of ETHELBERT, who was the daughter of Caribert, king of Paris, had at her marriage stipulated that she should freely enjoy the exercise of the Christian religion, in which she had been educated; and the virtuous conduct of this princess, joined to the exertions of LuIdHARD, a Gaulish prelate, whom she had brought with her, made powerful impressions on the minds of the king, and of his subjects, and prepared the way for Austin's laudable endea
The mild tenets of the Gospel, displayed by Austin in their full force, at length wrought the much-desired conversion of the wary monarch, who then became equally zealous for its promotion, as at first he had been cautious of admitting an innovation upon his former belief: :
* Let us," said he, "come also to the King of kings, and Giver of kingdoms; it may redound to our shame, that we which are first in authority, should come last to Christianity; but I do beseech that true King, that he would not respect
precedence in time, but devotion of mind.” The principal part of the nobles and people followed the example of the king; particularly as they found their antient customs and recreations were no further infringed upon, than was absolutely necessary for destroying paganism. The heathen temples were changed to places of Christian worship, but their altars were left entire: AUSTIN, though he removed the idols, as directed by GREGORY, felt it prudent not to change the place in which the people had been used to assemble; custom, he knew, had endeared those temples to them, and he was desirous of acquiescing as much as he could, in deference to the influence of habit: his good sense secured him from any dread of contamination by the use of these walls, and he placed no superstitious belief of inherent sanctity in any other buildings. A similar motive of sound policy, caused him to continue the usual festive meetings of the inhabitants; on their anniversary days they were permitted to erect booths, and feast for their own refreshment, instead of sacrificing to their idols; for Austin denied them not such relaxations, which he assured them were innocent in themselves, unless carried to excess, or originating in erroneous principles.
GREGORY, to whose advice these prudent regulations are chiefly to be ascribed, recommended that the Christian worship should be accommodated, as much as possible, to the Pagan ideas; and he urged, “ that on festival days they should be permitted to devour as many oxen to the glory of God, as they had used to consume in reverence to the Devil.” Much acute reasoning has been occasioned by these indulgencies of GREGORY; but, upon the whole, it would appear
that the advantages derived from that toleration, far exceeded the ill consequences that ensued; for although many errors sprang from that
from that cause, it is scarcely disputed that a more speedy conversion was thereby made of those Idolaters.
Kent, where ETHELBERT reigned, was the first part of Britain which received the benefit of the Christian religion, and Essex soon followed. Mellitus was deputed by Austin to preach the Gospel in London, then the metropolis of Essex: and he not only induced Sabert, the nephew of ETHELBERT, to embrace the doctrines he taught, but created in him a most zealous advocate for the cause. SABERT built St. Paul's, in the city of London, and St. Peter's, in the city of Westminster, on the site of which former stands the present St. Paul's, and on the latter, Westminster Abbey.
Austin, who chiefly resided at CANTERBURY, was made the FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF THAT SEE; hence it became the METROPOLITAN CHURCH of
England, and the bishops whom he appointed, aided by his associates, who spread themselves over the whole country, completed that happy conversion which he so ably began.
It was Austin who introduced CHAUNTING in the divine service, still continued in our cathedrals; his desire was to induce converts; and he strove not only by argument to effect his object, but by every other laudable means he could devise; hence he endeavoured to render the divine service interesting, as well as instructive. This practice of chaunting, or singing, made rapid increases : our Sason forefathers were so enthusiastically fond of it, that one continued strain was kept up night and day, by a succession of priests; even their penances could be redeemed by the singing of a certain number of Psalms, or by a frequent repetition of the Lord's Prayer!
Austin died on the 26th of May, but in what year is uncertain: Bede places it in. 604; MatTHEW of WESTMINSTER in 608; HOVEDEN in 610; TRIVET and P. VERGIL in 611; and WILLIAM of MALMSBURY in 612: while the general received opinion is in favour of that event having taken place in 605. The observation of his festival was first enjoined by a synod held under CUTHBERT, archbishop of Canterbury, and confirmed by a subsequent bull issued by Papal authority, in the reign of EDWARD the Third.