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same night Edilburga was delivered of a daughter: Edwin returned thanks to his gods' for her favourable delivery. Paulinus was present, and ventured to tell the King, that it was not to those idols, but to the God of the Christians, and his prayers, that he was beholden for this propitious event. The skilful missionary had chosen his time well, while the impression of his providental preservation was fresh, and when the King's heart was softened by the birth of his child. Yielding to these feelings, and to the mother's wishes, he permitted Paulinus to baptize the infant, and twelve of the royal household. The child was named Eanfleda ;(among the Anglo-Saxons, the fashion never obtained of introducing scriptural or religious names ;) she was the first who received baptism in the kingdom of Northumbria. The King promised also for himself, that if the same God to whom he gave this pledge of his intentions, would preserve him, and favour him with victory in the war which he was about to make on Cwichelm, in vengeance for the late murderous attempt, he also would be baptized.
The expedition was successful, and his vengeance was complete: all who were concerned in the intended assassination were either slain in battle, or delivered into his hands for punishment. From that day, Edwin never offered sacrifice to his idols, but he hesitated concerning the new faith ; his mind was perplexed and troubled ; he was a man of strong understanding, in middle age, when the intellectual faculties are mature, and least liable to be led astray: he conversed often with Paulinus, and with the most intelligent persons of his court, upon the truth of Christianity; and often retired to meditate upon the awful subject in solitude.? At this time, there came letters and presents for him and the Queen, from Pope Boniface, whom Paulinus had made acquainted with the state of his mind. The Pope said to him, that although the wonders of Divine power could never be adequately explained by the words of man, being incomprehensible by human wisdom, it had pleased God, in his mercy, to infuse into mankind a saving knowledge of Himself;
· Cressy says, that he intended to sacrifice the child to those idols, I know not on what authority he states it, for, contrary to his usual practice, he has given no reference here. But it is not mentioned by Bede, and is so inconsistent with Edwin's character, and with the condition of his marriage, that it may safely be rejected as fabulous.
? Beda, 1. ii. c. 9.
and, through the influence of that redeeming mercy, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, were now worshipped as One Trinity from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, all powers and empires being subject to that Holy Name. He held out to him the example of Eadbald, with whom he was allied by marriage; spake of his Queen as one who, by baptism, had been born again, and thereby made heiress to a glorious immortality; and in the earnestness of paternal love, admonished him to cast away his idols, and rejecting their vain worship, and the superstition and deceits of their augurs, to believe in the Father who created, the Son who had redeemed, and the Spirit who would enlighten him. The gods which he had served had neither sense nor power of motion; they were mere images, made by man, and it behoved him to demolish and destroy them. But he possessed a living spirit ; and the Pope invited him to the knowledge of that God who had created him, had breathed into him an immortal soul with the breath of life ; and had sent his Son to redeem him from the effects of original sin, and from the Powers of Evil, and to reward him with everlasting happiness. In his letter to the Queen, the Holy Father expressed his regret that her husband, who was a part of herself, should still remain in the darkness of Heathenism; and he exhorted her to pray earnestly, and persevere in praying, that they might be joined together in faith as in marriage, that so their union might continue after this perishable life. The presents for the King consisted of a camisia, or under garment, with an ornament of gold, and a certain vesture, called lena anciriana; those for the Queen were a silver mirror, and an ivory comb, inlaid with gold.'
One day, when Edwin had retired alone, as was his manner, to brood over the momentous question which these letters had pressed upon his immediate attention, Paulinus entered the room, and laying his hand upon the King's head, asked him if he remembered that token? Startled at the appeal, as if a spirit were before him, the King fell at his feet. “Behold,” said Paulinus, raising him up," thou hast, through God's favour, escaped from the enemies of whom thou wert in fear! Behold, through God's favour, thou hast recovered thy kingdom, and obtained the precminence which was promised thee! Remember now thine own
Beda, 1. ii. c. 10, 11.
promise, and observe it; that He who hath elevated thee to this temporal kingdom, may deliver thee also from eternal misery, and take thee to live and reign with Himself eternally in heaven. Edwin,' overcome as if by miracle, hesitated no longer. He called his chiefs to council, that if they could be persuaded to think and believe as he did, they might be baptized at the same time: and when they were assembled, he required them each to deliver his opinion concerning the new religion which was preached among them, and the propriety of receiving it.
Coifi, the Chief Priest of Northumbria, was the first who spake : “ As for what the religion is, which is now propounded to us,” he said, “O King, see thou to it! For my part, I will assert what I certainly know, that that which we have hitherto held is good for nothing. For among all thy people, there is no one who has given himself more diligently to the worship of our gods than I; and yet many have received greater benefits, and obtained higher dignities, and prospered better in whatever they undertook. But if these gods had possessed any power, they would rather have assisted me, who have endeavoured so carefully to serve them. If, therefore, after due examination, you have perceived that these new things, of which we are told, are better and more efficacious, let us, without delay, hasten to adopt
Another speaker delivered an opinion, more creditable to his disposition and understanding than that which had been given by the Chief Priest : “O King, the present life of man, when considered in relation to that which is to come, may be likened to a sparrow flying through the hall, wherein you and your chiefs and servants are seated at supper, in winter time, . . the hearth blazing in the centre, and the viands smoking, while without is the storm and rain or snow; the bird flies through, entering at one door, and passing out at the other ; he feels not the weather during the little minute that he is within ; but after that minute, he returns again to winter, as from winter he came, and is seen
Such is the life of man; and of what follows it, or what has preceded it, we are altogether ignorant. Wherefore, if thi new doctrine should bring any thing more certain, well deserves to be followed.” The rest of the assembly signified their 1 Beda, 1. ii. c. 12.
2 Beda, 1. ii, c.
assent to the change; and it was then proposed by Coifi, that Paulinus should fully explain to them the nature of the new religion which they were called upon to receive. When the prelate had concluded his discourse, the Chief Priest exclaimed, that he had long understood the vanity of their old worship, because the more he sought to discover its truth, the less he found; he proposed, therefore, that the altars and temples of the idols, and the sacred enclosures in which they stood, should be overthrown and burnt. The King demanded of him who ought to set the example of violating them ? and the priest himself offered to begin. He asked the King accordingly for arms and for a horse; girt a sword to his side, mounted, and took a lance in his hand. When the people beheld him, they thought that he was seized with madness, because in bearing arms, and riding on a horse, he broke through the prohibitions attached among them to the sacerdotal office. He however rode resolutely towards the temple, and at once desecrated it, by throwing his lance within the inclosure; his companions then, as he exhorted them, set fire to it. The scene of this memorable event was a little east of York, upon the river Derwent, at a place then called Godmunddingaham, the home of the protection of the gods.' The village which now stands upon the site, retains the name, with no other change than that of a convenient abbreviation from five syllables to three, Godmundham.
The new converts acted with indiscreet zeal in thus destroying what appears to have been the most noted place of heathen worship in Northumbria. It had been the wise advice of Gregory? to Mellitus, that the Anglo-Saxon temples should not be demolished; but that he and his fellow-missionaries should cast out and consume the idols, and then purify the buildings themselves with holy water; and erect altars and place relics there, in order that the people might be better disposed to receive the new religion, seeing its rites performed in the fanes which they were wont to frequent. Godmunddingaham having been destroyed, a wooden oratory was hastily erected in York, for the ceremony of the King's baptism, which was performed there on Easter-day, A. D. 627. A church, of stone, was immediately commenced upon the same spot, inclosing the oratory. It was conferred upon Paulinus, ' Beda, 1. ii, c. 13.
2 Beda, 1. i. c. 30.
as his See, and he superintended the building. The King's example was readily followed by the people; and Paulinus is said to have been employed six-and-thirty days,' from morning till evening, in baptizing the multitudes who flocked to him at Yevering. Oratories had not yet been built, nor baptisteries constructed ; the converts, therefore, were baptized in rivers by immersion, according to the practice of those ages. The ceremony was performed in the river Glen in Bernicia; and in Deira, where he usually resided with the court, in the Swale, near Catterick.
The influence of Edwin's example was not confined to his own dominions. By his persuasions, Eorpwald, the son and successor of Redwald, established Christianity in East Anglia. But after having obtained an acknowledged ascendency over all the AngloSaxon kingdoms, Kent alone excepted,... after subduing great part of Wales, and the isles of Man and Anglesey, ... Edwin, while he maintained order through his dominions by means of a vigilant police, and endeavoured to civilize, as well as to convert, his subjects, ... unhappily fell in a battle against the combined Kings, Cadwallon of Gwynedd, and Penda, who had erected a new Anglo-Saxon kingdom in Mercia.
Penda was still a Heathen; but the British King was the more ferocious of the two: he boasted, now that he had defeated the most powerful of the invaders, that he would exterminate the whole race from Britain ; and in pursuance of this threat, his army spared neither sex nor age; the common religion which the Northumbrians professed, had no effect in mitigating the inhumanity of the conquerors; and the enormous cruelties which they perpetrated were long remembered with horror. Deira and Bernicia were now again divided, and Paganism was restored in both, by the two sons of Ethelfrith, who ventured to assert a claim to their perilous thrones. Both were slain by the terrible Cadwallon. The Britons now fondly believed that the predictions of their bards were about to be fulfilled, in the recovery of their country by a hero who had been victorious in fourteen great battles and sixty skirmishes; but the last reasonable hope of that fulfilment was destroyed when Cadwallon and the flower of his army were cut off by the Bernicians under Oswald, third son of that Ethelfrith whom Edwin had slain.
1 Beda, 1. ii. c. 14.