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and Priests of this country, though poor, were qualified
in all other respects to attend the debates of foreign
councils as well as those at home. Some were present

' T. iv. p. 151. = Stillingfleet. Origin. 220.

" " Causidicos Britannos."

102 BRITAIN IX 429, A. D.

at Aries in 31G, a.d. And our churches attracted the
attention of men a thousand miles distant, St. Athana-
sius, St. Chrysostom and St. Jerome. ^

In the foregoing observations, little has been said
which does not strictly apply to the time when St.
German lived and came over to Britain. To complete
the view of the political state of the covmtry, a rapid
outline of the leading events since the beginning of the
fifth century is necessary. Those who desire further
knowledge of the preceding annals of Britain must con-
sult other sources, among which, the life of St. Augus-
tine, lately published, will naturally commend itself.

By the continued aggressions of the Goths and other
barbarians upon Italy and even Rome, chiefly under the
conduct of Alaric and Kadagaisus, the Roman legions
were forced to leave Britain, about the year 401, to de-
fend the centre of the empire. ^ Thus the island was
left destitute of the chief obstacle to the invasion of the
Picts, Scots and Saxons, which last, we shall see, were
already known for their piratical exploits. Nor did
these enemies lose tlie o])})ortuuity afforded them of
plundering the northern boundary. ^ It was a proverb,
says Gildas,'* that the Britons were as little brave in
war as they were faithful in peace. He retm'ns often
to the same charge, which is j^erhaps not to be accepted
without many limitations. He himself had said that
the expedition of the usurper Maximus into Gaul some
years before had stripped Britain of her youth, which
was the first sinrnal for the attacks of the Picts and

'Alford. 401. Stillingfleet 178.

" Vide Alford ad an. 401.

3 " Britanni non sunt in bello fortes, nee in pace fideles."

* Gildas de Excidio, 15 p. also p. 25.

BRIT Am m 429, a. d. 103

Scots. ^ However, so it is that little effectual resistance
was made against the barbarians.

Opinions dilFer as to the abode of these people. It
is certain that the Picts lived in what is now called
Scotland, but whether they occupied the whole or only
the southern part is not clear. ^ Gildas clearly tells
us the Picts were to the north of Britain, the Scots
to the west (a circione), which serves to prove the
Scots to be the same as the natives of Ireland or Hi-
bernia, and such also is Usher's opinion.^ It appears
they were assisted in their incursions by Norwegians
and Danes.

In the meantime, about the year 407, A. d., Constan-
tine (whom none will confound with Constantine the
Great or his son) was raised in Britain from the rank of
private soldier to the dignity of Emperor, at the death of
one Gratianus, who had been in a similar way elevated
to the throne, and had been killed after a reign of four
months. Constantine crossed over into Gaul, which
he rapidly reduced, but was not long after conquered
himself, and put to death by the generals of Honorius,
the lawful emperor. This prince was now no longer
able to guard his distant j)rovinces, and in 409 he was
under the necessity of exhorting the Britons to defend
themselves as best they could, against their northern
foes. However, in 411, the Romans, induced by the
repeated requests of the Britons, again took the com-
mand of the island, and legions, with Victorinus the
Prefect, were sent there to protect it. Ten years after,
a fresh supply was sent by Honorius ; and an engage-

» Gildas de Excidio, p. 20. = ibid. p. 20, 21.

3 Usher Prim. Index. Chron. p. 1096, alias Alford. Annal,
quem vide 406, 407.

104 BRITAIN IN 429, A. D.

ment took place, according to Gildas, witli the Picts
and Scots, 1 in which a great number of them were
killed, the rest driven away, and the captives recov-
ered. A coin on which this victory is commemorated,
has been produced by Camden the antiquarian. It was
at this time, apparently, that the first wall was made,^
by the Romans and Britons conjointly, across the strip
of land wliich divides Edinburgh from Dunbarton, be-
tween the Frith of Forth and the river Clyde, or as it is
in the ancient descriptions between Bodotria and Glotta.
The emperor Valentinian had by this' time succeeded
to Honorius, and the Romans again were recalled to
protect him. As a matter of course, the Picts and
Scots began their depredations afresh ; they broke
down the wall, which had been made too lightly, of
mere earth and rubbish,^ and poured into the province.
Once more the Romans were entreated, once more they
returned. Aetius, the famous general of the empire,
who afterwards conquered Attila, at Chalons, and at
this time governed Gaul, sent this last succour to the
distressed Britons, with his lieutenant Gallio. The
barbarians retired, and a new wall was built, more
solid than the former, and apparently in a dilFerent line
of country, from the mouth of the Tyne to the Solway
Frith. It was then that the Romans, as Gildas tells us,^
having admonished the Britons to look to themselves
alone for defence, assisted them " in building forts at
intervals along the coast, towards the southern part
of the ocean, (meaning the English Channel) where

' Vid. Alford ad an. 428.
- Vid. Usher, Index Chron. p. 1096.

s Magis cespitc quam lapide Bed. de Sex ^t. vid. et Hist.

■* De Excidio, p. 24 — Alford. an. 421.

BRITAIK m 420, A. D. 105

their ships were stationed, because from that quarter
also the fierce barbarians were expected, (alluding to
the Saxons, who infested those seas) and then bid
farewell to the natives, never again to return to the
island." This last event took place not more than
tliree years, according to Usher, seven according to
Alford, before St. German came to Britain. At six
different times, had a wall across the island been built
or restored by the Romans ; first by Agricola, then
by Hadrian, afterwards by Septimius Severus, again
by Diocletian, then by Theodosius, and lastly, by the
officers of Honorius and Valerian. Henceforth the
Picts and Scots harassed with impunity the exposed
regions of northern Britain. On one occasion, how-
ever, we shall see, a severe check they met with at
the hands of the natives, at the time St. German came

In the mean time, a king of the Britons had come
into notice. Vortigern is a name wliich, like that of
king Ai'thur subsequently, stands out as the represen-
tative, so to say, of a period. In the ancient chroni-
cles, from Gildas downwards, he seems to gather
around him almost every event of importance that
happened between the departure of the Romans and
the arrival of the Saxons. If there is a special evil
spirit that brings about revolutions in states, Vortigern
would be the personification of it. The nature of the
circumstances, division within, expectation without, are
reasons merged in the odium of one individual char-
acter. Vortigern introduced the Saxons into England.
Vortigern's crimes brought down the vengeance of
heaven. Such is the theme of early historians. Vor-
tigern, in Nennius, or the work which goes by his
name, written in 858, a. d., and all those who have

106 BRIT.VIX IN 429, A. D.

borrowed from his history, is closely connected with
the name of St. German ; and as Vortigern is repre-
sented in colours which often remind us of Saul or
Ahab, so St. German seems to exemplify the opposite
traits of Samuel or Elijah. Here is a field upon which
one would naturally expect the disciples of that alle-
gorical school which has lately prevailed so extensively
in Germany and elsewhere, to find a wide range for
their fancies. It would not be surprising if the per-
sonality of Vortigern were denied altogether, (too
gross an attempt would it be to deny that of St. Ger-
man) ; or if he were supposed to be a mere type of a
divided, misettled, and decaying constitution, one gen-
eric name to represent a multitude of petty tyrants,
which would necessarily spring up when all central
government was broken up. But let us distinguish
matter of fact from matter of conjecture. There is
undoubtedly much mystery hanging about the person
of Vortigern ; but Vortigern is, nevertheless, a true
historic character. "When the Eoman government was
withdi-awn from Britain, in 4(»9, (according to Bede)^
the natives took the administrative power into their
own hands. " The hereditary lords of ample posses-
sions,"^ to borrow Gibbon's admissible inferences,
" who were not oppressed with the neighbourhood of
any powerful city, aspired to the rank of independent
princes, and boldly exercised the rights of peace and

war Several of these British chiefs might be the

genuine posterity of ancient kings, and many more
would be tempted to adopt this honourable genealogy,
and to vindicate their hereditaiy claims, which had

' Bede Epitome Eccles. Hist.

- Gibbon, vol. iv. p. 152.

BRITAIN m 429, A. D. 107

been suspended by the usurpation of the Ctesars

The public strength, instead of being united against a
foreign enemy, was consumed in obscure and intestine
quarrels ; and the personal merit which had placed
a successful leader at the head of his equals, might
enable him to subdue the freedom of some neighbour-
ing cities, and to claim a rank among the tyrants Avho
infested Britain after the dissolution of the Roman
government." Gildas and St. Jerome both inform us
that Britain at this time was a province fertile in ty-
rants. Among these was Vortigern,^ before he became
king of Britain. According to Alford, he first was a chief
among the Danmonii, and called Count of Cornwall,
and sometimes Consul of the Gevissei. He had three
sons, Vortimer, Categirn, and Pascent. About the
year 438, it should seem Vortigern was placed at the
head of the many petty kings who divided the land,
that he might oppose the united strength of the nation
against the northern invaders. Gildas, Bede, and
Nennius, are uniform in calling him the sovereign of
the country, while, at the same time, they indicate the
weight which the inferior princes, according to their
relative importance, must have had in the public coun-
cils and measures of the state.

' Vid. Gild. p. 15 et p. 33. Alford, ad. ann. 438 ; vid.
NenniuS; p. 39.



Pelagianisni in Brita'm.

"We must now pass on to consider the state of the
British Church in the fifth century with that signal
departure from its purity in the heresy of Pelagianism.
What the consequences of the cessation of Diocle-
tian's persecution proved to be to the British Church, as
well as to the rest of Christendom, are explained in the
following words of Gildas : " The Britons raised again
their Churches Avhich had been levelled to the soil ;
they laid the foundations of sacred edifices in honour
of the holy martyrs, constructed, achieved and exhibited
them in every quarter as trophies of victoiy. They
celebrated the days of Festivals, and with pure hearts
and mouths received and administered the sacrameMs ;
as cliildren at the breast of their mother, so did all the
sons of the Church exult in her bosom." ^ It is well
known that under the government of Constantius, the
father of Constantine the Great, Britain and the western
provinces in general sufi"ered much less than the eastern
empire from the Edicts of persecution. ^ But it was
some time before the clemency of that prince found
occasion to exert itself. AVliile IMaximian, the col-
league of Diocletian, reigned in the west, the fire of
persecution raged vehemently in the provinces of his
administration. The cruel minister of the t}Tant's fury,
Rictiovai'us, ^ filled Gaul with the blood of INIartyrs ;

' P. 19. - Vid. Euscbius ad fin. Hist.

^ Vid. Anquetil, torn. i.


Bale and Treves were amongst the most suffering cities ;
in the latter town so many were put to death, that they
ever after went by the name of the Innumerable. We
have had occasion already to advert to this persecution
in the case of the youth St. Justinus, whose death by
some mistake apparently has been coupled with the
names of both Rictiovarus and St. Amator, the former
of which lived nearly a hundred years before Amator.
It was in this persecution that St. Alban also received
the crown of martja-dom in Britain. Under Constan-
tius, whose wife, Helena, was a Christian, the Church
enjoyed peace. This prince having come to the dignity
of Augustus, was enabled to desist from all harsh mea-
sures enjoined by the decrees of the other Emperors ;
and favour took the place of toleration which he had
always shown. However, it was not tiU the edicts of
persecution were repealed, that Britain, like other parts
of the empire, fully recognized the claims of the Chris-
tian religion. Before that time, says Gildas, " the pre-
cepts of Christ were but lukewarmly espoused by the
inhabitants, though some accepted them in their entire-
ness, and others gave their assent less strongly."^ But
an important accession to the triumph of the Church
took place in the elevation of Constantine to the empire,
and in Britain, as elsewhere, the conquering Labarum
brought over the world to the spouse of Christ.

As a general fact the Arian heresy received less en-
couragement in the Latin Church than in the Greek, and
though many barbarian nations introduced it in the fifth
century, yet it was never long supported by the lawful
Roman governors of the west, and uniformly repudiated
by the ancient population. ^ Still it had its votaries in

' P. 16. 2 Vid. Salvian Gub, Dei.


every country, and Britain did not altojrether escape
the infection. ^ But a more i)ernicious influence was in
reserve for this land, which began to be felt in the be-
ginning of the fifth century in the propagation of
Pelagius' principles. In the meantime the external as-
pect of tlie British Church might on the whole answer
to the following biassed description : " The British
Church, says Gibbon with his usual irony, might be com-
posed of thirty or forty Bishops, with an adequate pro-
portion of the inferior clergy ; and the want of riches
(for they seem to have been poor) would compel them
to deserve the public esteem, by a decent and exemplary
behaviour. The interest as well as the temper of the
clergy was favourable to the peace and union of their
distracted country : those salutary lessons might be
frequently inculcated in their popular discourses ; and
the episcopal synods were the only counsels that could
pretend to the weight and authority of a national as-
sembly. In such councils, where the princes and ma-
gistrates sat promiscuously with the Bishops, the im-
portant affairs of the State, as well as of the Church,
might be freely debated, diifcrences reconciled, alliances
formed, contributions imposed, wise resolutions often
concerted, and sometimes executed ; and there is reason
to believe, that in moments of extreme danger, a Pen-
dragon or Dictator was elected by the general consent
of the Britons. These pastoral cai'es, so worthy of the
episcopal character, were interrupted however by zeal
and superstition, and the British clergy incessantly
laboured to eradicate the Pelagian heresy which they
abhorred as the peculiar disgrace of their native coun-
try."2 This political as well as ecclesiastical importance

' See Bede Lib. i. c. 8. and Gildas 19. - Vol. Iv. p. 154.


of the clergy in the fifth century, wliich was indeed a
prominent feature in the condition of Britain, resembled
in many respects that which was afterwards witnessed
in Spain ;^ and about the time that St. German flou-
rished at Auxerre, it was frequently brought into notice
by the repeated synods which were convened to stop
the progress of Pelagianism.

There has been much discussion about the birth-place
of Pelagius. Yet it seems pretty clearly established
that he was a Briton. Bede has expressly declared
this, and he is supported by St. Jerome, St. Augustine
and St. Prosper, contemporary writers. ^ But from
which of the British provinces he came is not so cer-
tain. The early historians of monasteries make him
Abbot of Bangor, in Wales ; and his original name is
supposed to have been Morgan, which signifies Sea
Born, and which he dropped for that of Pelagius an-
swering to it,^ when he went to Rome. There is like-
Avise some uncertainty with regard to the exact date of
his birth. Probably he went abroad early in life, after
having for some time studied in the retirement of Ban-
gor ; for he undoubtedly was reputed a Monk in his
own time.* Enquiring and ingenious men generally
went to Rome to sharpen their natural talents ; and
Pelagius, among the number, repaired tliither. He
lived a long time in comparative obsem'ity, though ac-
quainted with St. Augustine. For many years he ad-

' See Guizot's Europe, 6ieme Le90n, p. 116, &c.
2 Bed. Lib. i. c. 10. August. Ep. 106, ad Paulam Hier ad
Ctesiph. p. 256, torn. ii. See Alford. ad an. 404.
" Stillingfl. Orig. 187.
* Bede. Lib. i. ch. 10. Isidore of Pelusium wrote to Pelagius
the Monk, and St. Chrys. called him Monachus. Cellier, Stil-
lingfleet and Collier.


hered with zeal to the Orthodox Faith. Had this not
been the case, St. Augustine would not have written to
him in the following manner : " I return you many-
thanks for endeavouring to please me with your corres-
pondence, and for conveying to me such certain proof
of your somidness in doctrine. May the Lord reward
you. Ever remain the same. And live with Him to
eternity, beloved and longed-for brother, &c."^

Wliile at Rome, Pelagius superintended the studies
of several young men, among whom were Celestius and
Julianus, who afterwards became conspicuous as leaders
of the new Sect. Jacobus and Timasius were also his
disciples and subsequently were restored to the Church.
During this residence, Pelagius wrote his short Com-
mentaries on St. Paul's Epistles and Letters to Melania
and Demetrias. He was still considered orthodox, and
his reputation was now rapidly increasing. " A man of
learning and sense, and what is more, a very pious man
and a Cliristian of no ordinaiy rank :" — such are the
epithets which were applied to him.- But we may
question the foundation, or rather sincerity of his pro-
fession of piety, when we consider that he is repre-
sented on other occasions as a sensual and voluptuous

Prosper Aquitanus determines the year 413 as the
time when he first gave publicity to his errors, about
five years before German was elected Bishop. Hono-
rius and Ai-cadius then divided the empire between
them. " Pelagius, says Bede,* was seconded by Julia-

» August, in Gestis Palaestinae in causa Pelag.
2 Aug. de Gest. Palest. Collier, B. i.

» Isid. Pelus Orosius Apol. c. 27. Apud Stilling.

•• Collier's transl.


nus of Campania, an ambitious man, and who thought
himself mortally disobliged by the loss of a Bishopric.
St. Augustine, and the rest of the Catholic Fathers,
appeared vigorously against this dangerous novelty.
However, their answers were not successful enough to
silence Pelagius and his adherents ; but on the other
hand, the distraction seemed to rise upon opposition,
and gain ground by being confuted and exposed."

Such Avere the general features of Pelagianism abroad,
but the promulgators of it in Britain come more within
the present purpose. Neither Pelagius nor Celestius vis-
ited Britain after they had obtained notoriety. This at
least is the general opinion. Pelagius, it is said, was
an old man before he became famous. However, that
his heresy spread far and wide in the island is positively
asserted by Constantius and Bede, two good authori-
ties.^ Agricola, son of Severianus, a Pelagian Bishop,
was the first public advocate of it in Britain. ^ About
the time when he spread his tenets, edicts had been
issued, first by Honorius in 418, and afterwards by
Valentinian in 425, proscribing the Pelagian heresy,
and they had been carried into execution with great
severity in Gaul.^ Popes Zozimus and Bonifacius had
armed the secular power ; they are not however respon-
sible for the excesses committed. It was in consequence
of these edicts that Agricola fled from Gaul and came
over into Britain.* He did not obtain a hearing at

' Bede, Lib. i. ch. 7- Constant, ad locum. Prosper Chron.
2 Usher. Primord. 319. Carte's Hist. p. 182. vol. i. Ed. Fol.
3 Stillingfl. 190. Alford. annos. 418-19. (The latter date is

■• Agricola has been confounded erroneously with a certain
Leporius who was in Gaul in the South. See Alford. Usher.
Still. Collier.



first. The Britons were ever good Catholics. Little
encouragement had been given to Arianism ; and now
Pelagianisni met with no ordinary difficulties. But so
subtle and plausible were the arts emjjloyed, that by
degrees tliey succeeded in si)i'eading it almost over the
whole island. 1 Whether it was received by so great a
number of persons as might correspond with the extent
of country it occupied is not jierfectly clear. On one
hand it Avas much countenanced, on the other it was
vigorously opposed. One may safely affirm tlie Bishops
in general fought against it ; and conjecture that many
of the rich and of the enterprizing youth undertook its
defence.^ Several synods were convened to stop the
progress of the disease. But there was need of some
special instrument to reach the roots of the canker.
Against common and temporary heterodoxy the Church
could find resources in lier mere constitutions and tra-
ditions ; but for deep and philosophic heresy she re-
quired the aid of those doctors and shining lights which
are raised up for one special purpose and perhaps for
that only. Pelagianism in its gi'osser form would at
once revolt serious and religious minds. But Semi-
Pelagianism, which approached nearer to the language
of the Church, though it concealed a dangerous mean-
ing, naturally imposed upon many and perplexed some
of the most zealous and eminent men in Christendom.
Its success, which was extensive, was moreover due in
a great measure to the extravagant opinions of the Pre-
destinarians, wlio, apparently snatcliing up hastily some

' " Totam fere Britanniam Pclagianam pcsteni occupavisse."
St. Lupi. Vit. apud Bolland. ct Usserium, 319. See Tillem.
torn. XV. 16.

- Compare Constantius's remarks, and Bede Lib. i. c. 17.


principles of St. Augustine without observing their con-
nexion with others of the same Father, built up a struc-
ture of Fatalism very opposite to the intention and dis-
tinct statements of the Bishop of Hippo. ^

As the limits of a heresy can seldom be defined, and
one runs into another when fully drawn out, and none
has any absolute existence, as being founded solely
upon a negative of the truth, the clearest notion which
can be given of the outward character of Pelagianism
in the world, will be derived from the language of
those who represent the general impression it pro-
duced. Sigebert, the historian, who compiled from
early sources, tells us that Pelagius asserted, " That
every man, by his own merits, can be saved without
grace ; every one is directed to righteousness by his
own will ; infants are born without original sin, and
are as guiltless as Adam was before his fall ; therefore,
they are to be baptized, not in order to be loosed from
sin, but to be admitted by adoption into the kingdom
of God ; and should they not be baptized, still they
will obtain a blessed eternity, apart from the kingdom
of God."2 St. Prosper, who was a theologian as well
as a historian, confirms this view as a whole. " Pela-
gius the Briton," he says, "published the doctrine
which goes by his name, against the grace of Christ,
teaching that every one is directed to rigliteousness by
his own will ; and receives grace in proportion to his
merits ; that Adam's sin hurt himself but did not bind
his posterity ; that those who will may be free from
all sin ; that all little children are born as innocent as
the first man was befoi-e his transgression, and are to

' Consult Guiz. France, Stillingfleet Orig.
- Sigebert. Chron. ad an. 404, apud Alford.


be baptized, not in order to be delivered from sin, but
to be honoured with the siierament of adoption." ^

The necessity of grace, then, was the leading point
concerning which Pelagius erred. Accordingly, Bede,

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