Elizabeth Rundle Charles.

Sketches of Christian life in England in the olden time ; Sketches of the United Brethren of Bohemia and Moravia online

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Online LibraryElizabeth Rundle CharlesSketches of Christian life in England in the olden time ; Sketches of the United Brethren of Bohemia and Moravia → online text (page 1 of 32)
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T I B B A L S & W H I T I N (t ,











T I Ji B A L S & W H I T I N (t ,






T. — Lights and Sh.u)ows of the Early Dawn. . 7

II. — The Two Martyrs of VERULAii 23

III. — Annals of an Anglo-Saxon Family through
Three Generations. Part I. — The Con-
version OF N'orthumbria 71

TV. — Annals of an Anglo-Saxon Family through
Three Gp:nerations. Part II. — Saxon

Schools and Homes 117

V. — Annals of an Anglo-Saxon Family through
Three Generations. Part III. — Saxon

Minsters and Missions. 161

VI. — Alfred the Deliverer and the King.

Part I. — The Deliverer 211

VII. — Alfred the Deliverer and the King.

Part II.— The King 251

VTTI. — Saxon and Norman : a Story of the

Conquest 299

IX. — A Story of the Lollards 349

X. — Annals of an Abbey 409


fights mn\ Muhm of the (Bmixj §m\i



)]SrE Midsummer Eve, more than seventeen cen-
turies ago, the red gleams of a huge bonfire
contended with the pale moonbeams in cloth-
mg with fantastic light and shade the gigantic piles
of granite which crest, as with a natural fortress, that
point of the Cornish coast now called Trerhyn Castle.
The wild flickerings of the flames leajDcd high enough
at times even to touch with their fiery glow the edges
of the mysterious Logan Rock, which cro'UTis the

That it was no mere bonfire of merry-makers might
be easily seen in the earnest faces and grave move-
ments of the men gathered round it. They were not
mingled in a confused throng, nor scattered in irregu-
lar groups, but moved solemnly round the fire from
east to west, following the course of the sun, now
hidden from their gaze beneath that shoreless ocean
whose waves thundered ceaselessly against the base
of the cliff on which they were assembled.

Their steps were the slow and measured movements
of a sacred mystic dance ; and as they circled round
the blaze they sang a wild monotonous chant, to
which the minor intervals gave, not the plaintive


tenderness of a major melody broken by a minor fall,
but rattier tlie abrupt and savage restlessness of a
combined wail and war-cry.

From time to time the song rose witli tlie flames
into a defiant shout, and then sank again into the
low crooning of a dirge; the steps of the singers
changing with the music from a rapid march to the
slow tramp of a funeral procession. The sacred
music of that old British race resolved itself into no
calm, restful, major close.

Theirs was the worship of a conquered race, and
of a proscribed religion. Driven by the Romans
from their temples in the interior of the island —
temples, whose unhewn and gigantic grandeur not
even the persistency of Roman enmity could ruin —
this little band of the old lords of the land had met
in that remote recess not yet trodden by the conquer-
or's feet, to celebrate the rights of their ancient faith,
under the guidance of one of their own proscribed
Druid priesthood.

There, under the shadow of that grand natural
fortress, to us so like one of their own Druid temples,
they had kindled on May Day the sacred " Fire of
God ;" and there on Midsummer Eve they now gath-
ered round the " Fire of Peace."

At length the rites, endeared to them as the last
relics of their national existence, were finished ; the
wild chant was silent, succeeded by the ceaseless roar
of the breakers ; and the torches were kindled at the
sacred fire, to relight once more, from a sacred source,
the household fires that night, according to their
custom, extinguished.

One by one the little British company dispersed,
and could be traced along the clifi's, or inland across


the unbroken moorland, by the glare of their

The Druid was left alone. A solemn, solitary-
figure, he stood on the deserted space by the decay-
ing fire, his fine form still erect, although the long
beard, characteristic of his priestly office, was snow-
white with age. The fitful glow of the expiring
embers threw a mysterious light on the folds of his
white robe, and gleamed on the rays of the broad
golden circlet which bound his brow. Turning from
the fire, he looked across the sea, scarcely more soli-
tary or wild than the rugged shore on which he lin-

It was always a dreary moment to him when the
solemn rites were over, and the worshippers were
gone. A few minutes since he had stood before the
awe-stricken throng as one altogether apart and
exalted, a medium of intercourse with the unknown
supreme powers, a representative of the majesty so
dimly understood, so vividly dreaded ; and their
faith had thrown back a reflected reality on his.
But now he stood alone, a mortal man to whom the
unseen was indeed as unknown as to the meanest of
those worshippers : and he felt he would have gladly
borrowed from the meanest and most credulous
among them that faith in the invisible which his
presence inspired in others, but which he found it
so hard to maintain in himself. His people looking
mth dim and longing eyes into the mfinite, at least
saw Mm ; whilst he saw only a blank infinity.

Musing thus, he gazed on that restless, boundless
ocean, the broad sweep of whose waves measured the
long path of moonlight, with their perspective of
diminishing curves. Could it be possible, he thought,


that at tiie end of that radiant pathway human eyes
(were they but pure enough) might see the silvery
outlines of that " Isle of the Brave," where he taught
his people the spirits of their dead were resting?
Could it be that the waves which broke with that
wild and wistful music at his feet might sound in
human ears (were they but worthy to hear) the echoes
of those deathless shores in the- far west, where per-
haps they had received their first impulse ?

Thus he stood musing, until his reverie was broken
by the sound of footsteps close at hand. Turning
hastily round, he saw between him and the fii'e a
dark form wrapped in a Roman mantle.

"Who art thou," he asked abruptly, "that hast
tracked us thus to our last refuge ? Thou hast
lighted on what may prove to thee a treasure better
than any of the mines thy people grudge us. Doubt-
less thou seest," he added bitterly, " that I am one of
that proscribed Druid priesthood whom, unarmed
and defenceless, your Roman armies so much dread.
Denounce me to the rulers if thou ^vilt. I will follow
thee without a struggle. Of what avail to me is life ?
And who knows what secrets 'death may teach?"

" I am no Roman," said the stranger sadly. " On
my people also the wrath of those irresistible legions
has fallen. I also am one of the priesthood of a pro-
scribed religion, and of a conquered race. Far in the
East my people had once a city beautiful beyond all
on earth, and a temple where white-robed priests,
mitred with gold, ministered and sacrificed to Him
whose name must not be uttered. Our temple is
burned with fire, our city is laid waste, and trodden
under foot of strangers; our people are scattered
east and west, and I among them. I had lost mv


way to-niglit on this wild coast, as I was journeying
to the port near this, whither of old our fathers came
to traffic, when seeing the unusual gleam of this fire,
I came to learn what it meant. Thou seest no ally
of the Romans in me."

The Druid was appeased, and laying aside his
X3riestly vestments, he appeared in the ordinary Celtic
plaid worn by his tribe. The two men found a strange
link in their isolation from other men ; and, piling
up the scattered logs on the dying embers, they agreed
to remain together there until the dawn should throw
sufficient light on their ^jatli to enable them to travel
safely along those rugged cliffs against which the
waves, now hidden in the shades of night, seemed to
roar and chafe, like raging and disappointed beasts
of prey.

" Your priestly vestments remind me strangely,"
said the Hebrew, when they were reseated by the fire,
" of the sacred robes my forefathers wore of old.
Whence did your religion come ?"

" The sources of sacred things are hidden in night,"
replied the Druid. " Some say our religion was
taught direct from heaven ; some, that it was brought,
before the memory of man, from a land in the far
East, whence after the great flood the father and
mother of our race came forth."

" In those distant ages," said the Jew, " doubtless
your forefathers and ours were one. Since you had
a priesthood, had you then also a temple and sacred
rites ?"

"We had many temples," was the reply; "gigantic
circles of stone, as unhewn and as enormous as these
amidst which we stand. Huge fragments of the
solemn cliflFs and mountains, set up in unrivalled


majesty on the solitary sweeps of our great inlaud
plains; roofed by the heavens, and floored by the
bare unsmoothed earth. I laugh when I see the
pigmy temples in which these Romans bow down
before their little men and women gods."

" You had, then, no graven images ?"

" Of old we had none ; and never any in our tem-
ples. We have but one image of the highest; if,
indeed," he added, in a low and awed voice, " he is
only an image ! Our worship is directed to the sun.
Following his eternal course from east to west our
sacred dances move. At his rising we rejoice. When
in flowery May his beams once more begin to make
the earth, fruitful, Ave kindle in his honor the Fire of
God, and begin our year anew. Wlien he has risen
in midsummer to his highest seat in the heavens,
and reigns in his fullest might, we kindle the sacred
' Fire of Peace,' as to-night, in honor of his peaceful
and consummated dominion."

" Since, then, you had temples, had you also sacri-
fices ?"

" We had," was the solemn reply ; " but not such
as those of the Romans ; not only the white steer
from the herd, or the spotless lamb from the flock.
We ofiered to our gods costlier sacrifices than these,
and dearer life."

" What life, then ?" said the Jew, in horror.

" The only life worthy to be accepted for the life
of man," was the reply ; " the only life worthy to be
oflFered to the Immortal."

"Your altars were stained with human blood!"
said the Jew, with a shudder; "your people had
indeed, then, a different law from mine. But to


wlioin," he continued, after a pause, " did you offer
these terrible offerings ?"

" The various tribes of our race had various names
for him," said the Druid, in a low voice. " Some
called him Hu, and some Dhia or Dhe, and some
Be'al, the life of all life, the source of all being,"

The Jew started as the name, denounced by his
prophets, and abhorred by his race, fell on his ear,
yet strangely blended with a word like the incom-
municable name he might not utter, the mysterious

" It is very strange !" he said at length. " Your
words sound to me like an echo of the utterances of
the prophets of my people, resounding through the
ages as the waves through one of these ocean caverns,
broken as they rebound into strange discords and
wild confusion. Had you then no sacred writings ?"

" We have none," said the Druid. " Our aged
priests teach the sacred words in solemn chants to
the priestly neophytes, and initiate them in the sacred
rites. So we were taught ; so shall we teach those
that follow, if the world or our race is to endure."

" But," said the Jew, " did you never shrink from
the sufferings of the victims as you sacrificed them,
or think whether there might not be some pity in the
Eternal, which might revolt from such rites ?"

" Am I not a man ?" was the reply. " Doubtless
my heart often ached at the sufferings of those we
sacrificed, especially at first. But the sufferers were,
for the most part, criminals, or captives taken in war;
and what w^as I to be wiser than the aged mIio taught
me ?"

The remembrance of the sacred name, revealed to
the lawgiver of his nation, rushed in on the heart of



tlie Jew — of " Jehovah Jehovah Elohim," the eternal
and the mighty, " merciful and gracious, long-suffer-
ing, abounding in goodness and truth, yet by no
means clearing the guilty j" and with it came the
recollection of that ritual so stern in its demands for
the acknowledgment of sin, and of the forfeited right
of the sinner to life, yet so jealous in its guard over
that human life it declared forfeit.

" Are you sure that your god hears you when you
thus invoke and sacrifice to him ?" he said, after a

" We assure the people of these things," was the
evasive reply ; " and also of rewards and punishments
in the world beyond. The people need the barriers
of such belief to keep them from crime."

"But you do not teach what you do not believe?"

" Belief is not so easy for the instructed," was the
reply. " Who that has looked into the depths of life
can rest and believe like the ignorant ?"

" Our faith," said the Jew mournfully, "was a faith
for all ; our most sacred truths were for the peasant
as well as the priest. Among us the seers revealed
what they had seen, and the prophets believed what
Aey taught."

The Bruid listened long with grave interest as the
Hebrew spoke of that God who was revealed to his
people as at once so awful and so near ; before whom
the prophet said, " The holy hosts above veil their
faces," and yet of whom their shepherd-king could
say, " He is my Shepherd."

At length he said —

" But since you had such revelations, and such a
faith, and were a nation so honored by the Hio-hest
how can it be that you are a banished man like me ?


Did you not speak of the city of your people as ]aid
waste, and their sanctuary as desecrated ? What does
this mean ?"

" I know not, or, at least, I can only iDartly conjec-
ture," was the sad reply. " Our people had sinned,
and our God is one who will not clear the guilty.
Once before, our fathers were driven from their homes
into that yet further East whence first they came, and
our holy and beautiful house was burned with fire.
Yet then, in their exile, they had prophets and prom-
ises, and a limit fixed to their disgrace, at the end of
which they were indeed restored. But now, alas !
we have no prophets, nor any who can interpret.
Scattered hither and thither, we lose the records of
our lineage. Our glory is all in the past. In all the
future I can see no vision of hope. It seems to me,
sometimes, as if our nation had made shipwreck, in
the night, on some unknown sunken rock. Around
us and before us is no shore, nor any light in view,
save in that distant past to which the blazing ruins
of our temple warn us we may not return."

" Yet," resumed the Druid, " had it been otherwise
with your nation, scarcely would your prosperity
have brought hope to the world, to other races, or to
mine. You say it was to your nation only God spoke ;
to your nation alone those promises were made, which
in some incomprehensible way you have lost. Tlie
world, then, has lost little in your fall."

" I know not," replied the Jew. " Our prophets
spoke of the veil being rent from all peoj)le, and of
all nations coming to the brightness of the rising of
a King vdio was to reign over ours."

" Did this king, then, never come ?"

" How can he have come ?" said the Jew, with a


strange impatience. " How should I then be here, an
exile without a counti-y ? And was not our King to
come as a Conqueror and a Redeemer for our nation, —
as a Sun, flashing his unquestionable glory on all
nations. There is, indeed," he added, " a fanatical
sect who sprang from our race, who assert that our
King has come, and that it is for rejecting him we
are rejected. But who can believe this ?

" It would be terrible, truly, for your people to be-
lieve it !" said the Druid. " Tho-e amongst you who
think thus must be a mourning and wretched com-

" Nay," was the answer, " they are not. Their de-
lusion leads them to profess themselves the most
blessed of men. They think that he whom they call
King and Lord, who not much more than a hundred
years ago was crucified by the Romans in our city,
has arisen from the dead, and lives in heaven. And
they say they are glad to die to depart to him."

" Their hope extends, then, beyond death," said
the Druid abstractedly. " There are then some who
think they know of one who has visited the ' Isle of
the Brave,' and has come back to tell what he saw !"

As they spoke, the dawn began to break over the
green slopes of the shore on a promontory of which
they sat. One by one the higher points of that mag-
nificent series of rock-bastions which guard our
country from the Atlantic, like a fortress of God,
caught the early sunbeams. Soon the ocean also was
bathed in another ocean of light, broken only by the
shadow of the cliffs, or by the countless purple cups
of shade, which gave an indi^ddual existence to every
one of those wonderful translucent green waves.

The two priests of the two religions moved slo^Aiy


across the pass between the rocks which separates the
natural castled bulwark, where they had passed the
night, from the green slopes of the coast within.

" See," exclaimed the Druid, "how the lire which
during the hours of darkness was all our light, now
lies a faint red stain on the daylight ; whilst the
waves, which all night roared around us like angry
demons, quietly heave in the sunshine. The earth
has her dawns renewed continually. Will no new
sun ever rise for man ? Must the golden dawn for us
be always in the past ?"

Too deep a shadow rested for the Jew on the glo-
rious predictions of his prophets for him to give an
answer ; and silently they went along the cliffs.

When they had walked inland thus for some time,
they saw before them a laborer in an earth-stained
and common dress, going to his work in one of the
mines which of old had tempted the Phoenicians to
those very shores.

This miner was evidently young, and had the lithe
grace of the South about his form and movements.
As he walked he sang, and the tones of his rich
Southern tenor rose clear and full through the clear
morning air. The cadence was different from any
music the Druid had ever heard. There was a repose
about the melody, quite foreign to the wild wails or
war songs of his people. And as they drew near, the
language was to him as strange. They stepped on
softly behind the singer, and listened.

" Strange words to hear in such a place," mur-
mured the Jew at length. " They are Greek — the
language of a j)eople who dwelt of old, and dwell
still, in the East, near the home of my forefathers."

They drew near and greeted the stranger. There



was a gentle and easy courtesy in liis manner as he
returned their salutations, which, in a son of the
North, would have betokened high breeding, but in
him might be merely the natural bearing of his acute
and versatile race. He willingly complied, when the
Jew asked him to rej^eat his song, which he translated
thus to the Druid : —

Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace,

Good-will among men.

We praise Thee,

We bless Thee,

We worship Thee

For thy great glory,

O Lord, heavenly King.

O God the Father ruling all,

O Lord the only-begotton Son,

Saviour, Messiah,

With the Holy Spirit.

O Lord God,

Lamb of God,

Son of the Father,

Who takest away the sins of the

Receive our prayer.
Thou who sittest at the right

hand of the Father,
Have mercy on us.
For Thou only art holy —
Thou only art the Lord,
Saviour and Messiah —
To the glory of God the Father.


" Ask him if he has any other such sacred songs,"
said the Druid ; " the words sound to me beautiful
and true, like an echo of half-forgotten music, heard
long ago in some former life from which perchance
my soul came into this."

" I will chant you our evening hymn," said the
miner ; and he sang again —

Joyful light of heaveiflj' glory,

Of the immortal heavenly Fa-

The holy and the blessed

Jesus Christ !

We, coming at the setting of the

•Seeing tlie evening light.

Hymn the Father and the Son,

And the Holy Spirit, God.

W'orthy art Thou at all times to
be praised

With holy voices. Son of God,

Thou who givcst light,

Therefore doth the world glo-
rify Thee.

*' Wondei'Cul words," said the Jew, after translating


them. " They seem almost like a response from
heaven to what you said ; like the promise of the
dawn for man for which you longed. Friend," he
said to the miner, "how camest thou hither? Thy
learning is above thy calling."

" Not so," replied the other meekly. " I was
never other than a poor man. These truths are com-
mon to the most unlettered among us."

" To whom does he allude by ' us ?' " asked the
Druid when he understood.

" We are the Christians, the men of Christ," said
the stranger, replying to the Druid's question in his
own native Celtic language, although with a foreign
accent. " I was a vine-dresser on the sunny hills
near Smyrna. My father learned the faith from the
Apostle John, the Beloved ; and I was exiled hither
to work in the mines in the far West because I could
not deny my Lord."

" Bitter change," said the Jew, " from those vine-
clad southern hills to toil in the darkness on these
cold northern shores."

'' Where I am going, there will be no need of the
sun," was the calm reply ; but the ominous hectic
flush deepened on his hollow cheek.

" How, then," said the Druid, " is your faith main-
tained in this life of exile and bondage ? Here you
can have no temple and no priest."

" We have a Temple !" was the joyful reply, " not
made with hands ; and a Priest, though not seen
now by mortal eyes."

" He speaks in parables," said the Druid.

" I speak no parables," said the Christian, " bat
simply matters of fact, of which we are all assured."

" Have you then also sacrifices ?" asked the Druid.


" We have a Sacrifice," was the low and reverent
reply ; " One, spotless and eternal, never more to be
repeated. The Highest gave his Son. The Holy-
One yielded uj) himself. God has 'provided the Lamh.
The Lamlo of God and the Son of God are one."

" He speaks of the promise made to our Father
Aljraham," exclaimed the Jew.

" Life for life," munnured the Druid, '' life of
man for life of man."

" Nay, it was not man who made the sacrifice,"
said the Christian, " but God. Not the sinner's life
was required ; the Son yielded up his own."

" You have then no sacrifices to offer noM'," said the

" Not so," said the Christian joyfully ; " we have
a daily, ceaseless sacrifice to offer — a living sacrifice,
accej)table to God through Jesus Christ ; even our-
selves^ to do and suffer all the holy will of God, — we
ourselves, body, soul, and sjDirit, to fulfil the will of
Him who loved us and redeemed us with his precious
blood to God."

" But," resumed the Druid, " is that holy life,
which you say was mllingly yielded up for man,
extinct for ever ? Shall the holy j^erish and the
guilty live ?"

" Nay," was the reply, in a tone of concentrated
fervor, "that immortal life could not perish. The
Son of God is risen from the dead, and dieth no more.
And now," he continued, speaking eagerly, as one
who has good news to tell, " He sitteth enthroned at
the right hand of God, the Sun of the City above."

" Have you then also a sacred city ?" said the Jew
in a tone of surprise.

" It lieth toward the sun-rising," replied the Chris-


tian in the words of an early martyr, " Jerusalem the
heavenly, the city of the holy."

" Your golden age, your holy city, are then in the
future, not in the past," said both.

" You speak of an immortal life for each man,"
added the Druid," " but is there never to be a good
time for mankind ?"

" It is written that the King, the Christ, will come
again in glory, to judge the wicked and to raise the

Online LibraryElizabeth Rundle CharlesSketches of Christian life in England in the olden time ; Sketches of the United Brethren of Bohemia and Moravia → online text (page 1 of 32)