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vicinity, for agriculture was nowhere pursued in the spirit of trade. The parochial Priest kept a register of his poor parishioners, which he called over at the church door from time to time, and distributed relief to them according to his means and their individual necessities. But in that stage of society the poor were not numerous, except after some visitation of war, which the minister suffered with his flock; while villanage and domestic slavery existed, pauperism, except from the consequences of hostile inroads, must have been almost unknown. The cost of hospitality was far greater than that of relieving the poor. The manse, like the monastery, was placed beside the highway, or on the edge of some wide common, for the convenience of the pilgrim and the stranger.'
The ecclesiastical government was modelled in many respects upon the established forms of civil policy; and as, among the Anglo-Saxons, the tithing-men exercised a salutary superintendence over every ten friborgs, so in the Church, Deans, who were called Urban or Rural, according as their jurisdiction lay in the city or country, were appointed to superintend a certain number of parishes. At first they were elected by the clergy of the district, subject to the Bishop's approval : the Bishops subsequently assumed the power of appointing and removing them, and sometimes delegated to them an episcopal jurisdiction, in which case they were denominated Chorepiscopi, or Rural Bishops. They held monthly Chapters, corresponding to the Courts-Baron, and quarterly ones, which were more fully attended. The clergy of the deanery were bound to attend, and present all irregularities committed in their respective parishes, as also to answer any complaints which might be brought against themselves. At these Chapters, all business which now belongs to the Ecclesiastical Courts was originally transacted, personal suits were adjusted, and wholesome discipline enforced, by suspending the offending clergy from their functions, the laymen from the sacraments. But as society became more complicated, and the hierarchy more ambitious, these ancient and most useful courts were discountenanced, and finally disused.?
The attainments of the clergy, in the first ages of the Anglo
Saxon Church, were very considerable. King Ina sent for Greek masters from Athens; Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherburn, was versed in Hebrew; and Charlemagne was advised by Alcuin to send students from Tours to improve themselves at York. But a great and total degeneracy took place during the latter years of the Heptarchy, and for two generations after the union of its kingdoms. It began from natural causes. In the beginning none but the best and finest spirits engaged in the clerical profession; men who were actuated by the desire of intellectual and spiritual advancement, ... by the love of God and of their fellow-creatures. But the way of life which they had thus chosen was taken up by their successors for very different motives. Mere worldly views assuredly operated upon a great proportion of them; no other way of life offered so fair a prospect of
power to the ambitious, of security to the prudent, of tranquillity and ease to the easy-minded. Moreover, in the beginning the vital truths of Christianity were in full action, because the clergy were labouring to establish a religion essentially true : after they had succeeded, the gross corruptions with which it was mingled began to work.
These causes of deterioration were inevitable in the order of events; moreover, the location of the parochial clergy upon their cures tended to the dissolution of manners and decay of learning; they were thus removed from superintendence, from the opportunities of learning and improvement, and in great measure from professional restraint. But the Danes brought on a swifter ruin. Their fury fell always upon the monasteries, whither they were attracted by the certainty of finding large booty, and little or no resistance; perhaps also by hatred of a religion so strongly opposed in all things to their own ferocious faith and abominable actions. There they found not only the churchplate, and the abundant stores of the community, but the moveable wealth of all the surrounding country, brought thither in vain hope of miraculous protection. The annals of those disastrous times record nothing so minutely as the destruction of these extensive edifices, and the slaughter of their unoffending inhabitants. Scholars and teachers, for the monasteries were then the only schools, were indiscriminately massacred; books which were then so rare as to be almost above all price, were
consumed in the same flames with the building: and this cause, were there no other, would be sufficient to explain the total decay of learning in the Anglo-Saxon Church.
When Alfred succeeded to the throne, there was not a single priest, south of the Thames, who understood Latin enough to construe his daily prayers, and very few in other parts of the kingdom. The monastic establishments throughout the island had been broken up. As the best means of restoring them he sent for a colony of Monks from France, and their pupils with them, who were training for the same profession. It was not, however, till many years after his death that monachism again began to flourish, through the growing ascendency of the Benedictine order, and the exertions of Dunstan, one of the most ambitious, and least ambiguous characters in ecclesiastical history. The spirit of that corrupt church, which enrolled him among her Saints, is manifested no less in the course of his undoubted actions, than in the falsehoods wherewith they have been embellished and set forth; there is, therefore, no individual in English history whose life more clearly illustrates the age of monastic imposture.
Dunstan was born near Glastonbury, in the reign of Edward the Elder; one of his uncles was Primate, another Bishop of Winchester, and he was remotely allied to the royal family. A short time before his birth, his parents, Heorstan and Cynethryth, were at church on the festival of the Purification, known in this country by the name of Candlemas, because all who attended it carried lighted candles, with which they walked in procession after the service. In the midst of mass, the lamps and tapers were suddenly extinguished; the church, though at mid-day, was filled with a preternatural darkness; and while the whole congregation, in fear and trembling, wondered what this might portend, a fire descended from heaven, and kindled the taper in Cynethryth's hand, thus miraculously foreshowing how great a light should from her be born into the world.'
To this church Dunstan, while yet a child, was taken by his father, to pass the vigil of some great holiday in devotional exercises; and falling asleep, he saw in a vision a venerable old man, with a heavenly countenance, in garments white as snow, who,
Osbern, Acta SS. Mai. t. iv. p. 360.
telling him that building must be enlarged and elevated, led him over it, and measuring the ground with a line, impressed upon his mind ineffaceably the plan and dimensions of the work which he was appointed to accomplish.' Glastonbury was a spot which real history might even then have sanctified to every feeling and imaginative mind; but churches and monasteries had begun to vie with each other in promoting a gainful superstition, by all the arts of falsehood. The probable and undisputed belief that the first church which had been consecrated in Britain was upon this site was not sufficient; already it was established as a traditionary truth, that the edifice had not been built by human hands, but that Joseph of Arimathea found it miraculously placed there to receive him: and after a lapse of nine centuries, the church itself, though composed of no firmer materials than basket-work, was shown as still existing. St. Patrick had chosen it for a place of retirement, and had learnt, from a writing miraculously discovered there, that whosoever should visit the near Tor in honour of St. Michael, would obtain thirty years' indulgence ; in confirmation of which his left arm was withered, till he made it known that our Lord had chosen that eminence for a place where men might acceptably invoke the Archangel. St. David came to Glastonbury with the intent of consecrating its church to the Holy Virgin ; but our Lord appeared to him in a vision, and told him the ceremony must not be profaned by any man’s repeating it, for he himself had long ago performed it to the honour of his Blessed Mother : and then perforating the Bishop's hand with his finger, in proof of the reality of the vision, left him, with an assurance that during mass on the ensuing day the wound should be closed as suddenly as it was inflicted, a promise which did not fail to be fulfilled. The monastery had been founded by King Ina, whose memory was deservedly
1 Osbern, Acta SS. Mai. t. iv. p. 360. ? Ibid. p. 347. Cressy, b. ii. ch. 3. § 49. This author, when he repeats the story, assures the reader that the writing in which St. Patrick thought fit to give this account to posterity, is approved not only by ancient and modern catholic authors, but by protestants also,
Cressy, b. ii. ch. 5. Ý 2. William of Malmsbury, Antiq. Glaston. quoted. “ This miracle, says F. Serenus Cressy, is not forgotten nor contemned even by some protestant writers; though in repeating it, they willingly omit the name of mass, which having banished from their own churches, they are loath it should appear of so great antiquity, and which is more considerably dignified by our Lord's mentioning it, and working a wonderful miracle during the celebration of it,” p. 26.
honoured in Wessex. A stone oratory had been added, which was dedicated to Christ and St. Peter; and St. David, because of the increasing number of visitants, built a chapel to the Virgin. There were cemeteries in Ireland which were believed to ensure the salvation of all whose bodies were deposited there; this was too much for common English credulity; nevertheless it was asserted that one who was buried in the sacred ground of Glastonbury could hardly be condemned. It was the undoubted burialplace of Arthur, the hero of British romance, whose monument was respected by a brave enemy; and there was a tradition that Joseph of Arimathea was interred in some unknown spot, deep under the hill, where, according to his own desire, two vessels filled with the real blood of our Saviour were placed in the sepulehre with him ; in the fulness of time these precious relics would be discovered, and such numerous and splendid miracles would then be wrought by them, that the whole world would repair thither for devotion.
The Anglo-Saxon monasteries had never been under any uniform discipline; each followed its own rule, independent of all others. Glastonbury at this time was mostly filled with monks from Ireland ; it was favourite ground with them for St. Patrick's sake; and as they had no large endowments, they contributed to their own support by educating the children of the nobles. Dunstan was one of their pupils. In such a school local associations would produce and foster ardent enthusiasm, or audacious craft, according to the disposition of the individual. A feeble body and a commanding intellect predisposed him for both in turn. He was of diminutive size from his birth, and by severe application to study brought on a disease, in which, after having been delirious for many days, he was thought to be at the point of death. But feeling at night a sudden excitement as if health was restored, he rose from his bed, and ran towards the church to return thanks for his recovery.
The doors were closed, but he found a ladder left there by workmen, who had been repairing the roof; by this he ascended, and in the morning was found asleep in the church, unconscious how he had come there. They who larded the history of his life with miracles, assert that as he was going there the Devil beset him
* Usser. Ecc. Ant. c. 2. p. 9. Brit. p. 28. Cressy, b. iii. ch. 13. ^ 2. p. 32.