William Chambers.

The Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral online

. (page 9 of 37)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersThe Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral → online text (page 9 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

phesying that lona should be held in honour far and near.
He went down to his litde hut, and pushed on at his task of
transcribing the Psalter. The last lines he wrote are very
familiar in those of our churches where God's praise has its
proper place : they contain the words of the beautiful anthem
which begins * O taste and see how gracious the Lord is.' He
finished the page : he wrote the words with which the anthem
ends : ' They that seek the Lord shall want no manner of
thing that is good : ' and laying down his pen for the last
time, he said, ' Here, at the end of the page, I must stop : let
Baithene write what comes after.'

Having written the words, he went into the church to the last

48 Sf Gi/es' Lectures.

service of Saturday evening. When this was over, he returned
to his chamber, and lay down on his bed. It was a bare flag :
and his pillow was a stone, which was afterwards set up beside
his grave. Lying here, he gave his last counsels to his brethren :
but only Diormit heard him. ' These, O my children, are the
last words I say to you : that ye be at peace, and have unfeigned
charity among yourselves : and if then you follow the example
of the holy fathers, God, the Comforter of the good, will be
your Helper : and I, abiding with Him, will intercede for you :
and He will not only give you sufficient to supply the wants of
this present life, but will also bestow on you the good and
eternal rewards which are laid up for those that keep His
commandments.' The hour of his departure drew near, and
the Saint was silent : but when the bell rung at midnight, and
the Lord's Day began, he rose hastily, and hurried into the
church, faster than any could follow him. He entered alone,
and knelt before the altar. His attendant, following, saw the
whole church blaze with a heavenly light : others of the
brethren saw it also ; but as they entered the light vanished
and the church was dark. When lights were brought, the
Saint was lying before the altar : he was departing. The
brethren burst into lamentations. Columba could not speak :
but he looked eagerly to right and left, with a countenance
of wonderful joy and gladness : seeing doubtless the shining
ones that had come to bear him away. As well as he was
able, he moved his right hand in blessing on his brethren ; and
thus blessing them, the wearied Saint passed to his rest : St
Columba was gone from lona. The church was filled with
the lamentations of the bereaved brethren. But the face
of the Saint remained glorified by the heavenly Vision he
had last seen.

He died on the Ninth of June, 597 a. d. 'I did not feel
sorrowful,' said a good man, telling how he had stood by the
open grave of a great Evangelist of later days : ' for he was
weary, weary in the work.' Even so, looking on that still face.

Early Christian Scotland. 49

They carried the mortal part of St Columba back to the
chamber from which a Httle before he had come alive : and
his obsequies were celebrated with all reverence for three days
and nights. But only the inhabitants of the island he had
ruled laid him in his honoured grave. Long before, a simple
brother had said to the Saint that so great a multitude would
flock to his burial that the island would be entirely filled. But
St Columba said : ' No, my child, it will not be so. None but
the monks of my monastery will perform my funeral rites, and
grace the last offices bestowed upon me.' Sure enough, a storm
of wind without rain made the Sound impassable through the
three days and nights : and the sea grew calm whenever
the Saint was laid to his last sleep ; ' to rise again,' as his
kindly biographer St Adamnan says, truly if the words were ever
said with truth of any, 'with lustrous and eternal brightness.'
Some days after, messengers from lona came to a place in
Ireland where Columba was held dear ; and the question
was eagerly put to them, 'Is he well?' 'Yes,' was the
answer, ' he is well : he has departed to Christ.'

Yet, touched though. we be by the beautiful picture of his
end which Adamnan has given us, Adamnan the Ninth Abbot
of the monastery of which Columba was the first, we cannot
but acknowledge that the Saint left a memory not equally dear
to all. He was a masterful man. He would have his way, and
he had it : and there were those who did not like him at all.
Others there were who could not speak too warmly of him.
' Angelic in appearance, graceful in speech, holy in work,
with highest talents and perfect prudence ; ' such is their
strain. There is but one account of his wonderful voice :
wonderful for power and sweetness. In church, it did not
sound louder than other voices ; but it could be heard per-
fectly a mile away. Diormit heard its last words : the
beautiful voice could not more worthily have ended its
occupation. With kindly thought of those he was leaving :
with earnest care for them : with simple promise to help


5° iS/ Giles' Lectures.

them if he could where he was going ; it was fit that good St
Columba should die.

His prediction held true for many years as to the greatness
and honour of lona. Columba's monastery long retained the
primacy of all the churches and monasteries he had founded
in Scotland. But after his death, the succession breaks down ;
as it does still when a great man goes. You fill up his office ;
but you cannot fill his place. In a certain sense, no man is
necessary. In a very true sense, there are those, there have
been those, who will be missed at many turns till all are dead
who knew them. Still, the work at lona went on, with the
impetus of its first outset and of its singular success. In due
time they carried over the red granite from Mull : they chose
out from the rocks of the island itself such material as might
serve, the hornblende, the clay-slate, the gneiss : the marble
altar-piece came from a more genial clime : the severely beauti-
ful buildings rose : chapel, nunnery, monastery, and chief of
all, what was the Cathedral Church of the Bishops of lona, a
church which was dedicated to St Mary. Good men and wise
men ruled ; but there was never another Columba.

The Columban Church spread into Northumbria. The first
missionary-preacher was a severe man, who returned with the
complaint, common to workers lacking in temper and judg-
ment, that the Northumbrians were so peculiar a race that
nobody could make anything of them. A wiser and more politic
successor lived to tell a quite different story. St Aidan
preached with great success ; and he founded a see at Lindis-
farne, which twice a day becomes an island as the tide rises,
and is known as Holy Island. But the fame of the first
Bishop of Lindisfarne is lost in the light which surrounds the
great name of St Cuthbert. Twenty-seven years after St
Columba died, in 624 a.d., Adamnan was born, who ruled
lona as the ninth abbot, and repaired all the monastery, bring-
ing for that purpose oak-trees from Lorn. But evil days came.
Sea rovers, caring nothing for Columba or his work, time after

Early Christian Scotland. 51

time plundered the settlement. And the time came, early in
the eighth century, when the little ways which the Columban
monks had kept as their own could be permitted no longer.
The Roman tonsure must be adopted : no doubt far liker the
Crown of Thorns than that hitherto used. And the Roman
fashion of reckoning the day on which Easter should fall gained
general acceptance : general, but not unanimous. Not fre-
quently, in Scotland, has any ecclesiastical change been made
with unanimity. And the lifting up of a testimony has not
been confined to post-reformation times. The Columban
monks refused to give up the ways which had come down to
them from their predecessors. The upshot was that the whole
of them were expelled from the Pictish kingdom, including
probably those of St Andrews; and the primacy of lona ended.
We pass to another great name. In the kingdom of Strath-
clyde, among its Cumbrian population, towards the close of
the sixth century, a Christian church was founded, the great
agent being St Kentigern. After the battle of Arthuret, on the
border of what is now Cumberland and Dumfriesshire, in 573
A.D., a certain chief, Rydderch Hael, bearing a designation in
after ages to become familiar, for he is called The Liberal, be-
came king of Strathclyde. The story of St Kentigern's life is
not so well known as is the story of the life of St Columba :
for five hundred years passed before he found a biographer,
and marvellous fables had gathered round his personality. He
was the son of Thaney, or Teneu, or Thenaw : for in all these
ways his mother's name is given : a name which has passed
through a singular modification. The people of Glasgow are
familiar with a church which they call St Enoch's. It need not be
said to the least instructed in such matters, that there is no
such saint in the Calendar : nor that it would be contrary to all
rule if one who lived so long before Christ as the patriarch
who ' walked with God ' were recognised as a Christian saint.
The church was St Thenaw' s : and good folk who never heard
of St Thenaw, but who were accustomed to pronounce the name

52 Sf Giles' Lectures.

of Enoch in a fashion which I can remember as still surviving in
my student days, fell into a not unnatural error. The error,
not creditable to Scotch hagiology, is likely to abide. For not
merely has a remarkably handsome railway station at Glasgow
assumed the erroneous name, but the builders of a beautiful
church in Dundee thought the name so pretty, that they called
their church by it ; to the wonder of some.

St Thenaw was the young daughter of a Pagan king, who
ruled somewhere in the Lothians. Her son, afterwards to be
so renowned, was born at Culross, on the north side of the
Frith of Forth : then a wild solitude. Here the mother and
child were found by herds, attending on their cattle ; and were
brought by them to Servanus, a Christian evangelist who was
preaching near. Servanus was prepared for their coming.
That morning, at the hour of Kentigern's birth, he had
heard the Gloria in excelsis sung, far above him, by a choir of
angels : and in joy that one was born who was to do a good
work for Christ, Servanus had burst, with a thankful heart,
into that great hymn, now so familiar in our churches (thank
God), in which Christian folk through many centuries have
lifted up their hearts in supremest thanksgiving. We know it
by its first words : as verses dear to Scotland are known by
their last. It is the Te Deiim. Servanus welcomed mother and
child : exclaiming, at first sight of the infant, ' He shall be my
dear one:'' which in the language of his country is Munghu : in
Latin, the biographer tells us, Karissimus Amicus: Dearest
Friend. He baptised the two by the names of Taneu and
Kentigern. But the short pet name would not go. It
supplanted the grander : as Homer has Melesigenes : for
Homer means merely Blind Man. And as Joceline, in his
Life of St Kentigerti, says that ' by this name of Munghu even
to the present time the common people are frequently used to
call him, and to invoke him in their necessities,' so it is still.
The great city with which his name is linked has many times
been called The City of St Mungo ; never (in my hearing) of St

Early Christian Scotland. 53

Kentigern. The beautiful church, which has seen every other
building in Glasgow rise, and which will probably be standing
in glory when every other building in Glasgow is in the dust,
bears the Saint's homely pet name : not a Christian name at all.
Not very many among the hundreds of thousands who live
round Glasgow Cathedral know what is indeed the church's
name. If the stranger in Glasgow were to ask his way to St
Kentigern's Church, he might find it as difficult to gain the
information desired, as if in Westminster he asked his way to
St Peter's.

Kentigern grew up : and it does not sound unnatural when
we are told that one who was so special a favourite of Servanus
was regarded with some jealousy by his fellow-students : for
Servanus was teaching a school of young divines. In divers ways
they testified their ill-will : and though Kentigern easily held his
own against them, yet he gradually found that for their sake, and
his own, and his master's, it was better he should go elsewhere.
The day came when he parted from the kind protector of his
infancy and childhood, with deep regret and with mutual bless-
ing : and they met no more. In a new wain, drawn by two
untamed bulls, Kentigern made his journey, knowing that he
would be guided to the place where God needed him. Straight
as an arrow, through the wild region without a path or road, his
singular team bore him : till they stopped, in a fashion that
signified that here they were to stop, at a spot called Cathures,
beside a burying-place which had been consecrated long
before by St Ninian. The name of Cathures yielded to
another which is likely to abide while the Empire stands : the
place became Glasgow. Here Kentigern dwelt for a while
with two brothers, who had inhabited the spot before his
arrival. One brother was Kentigern's friend, the other his
enemy : the friend, and his descendants for generations, were
richly blest of God : the enemy speedily came to a violent end.
Gradually, Kentigern's character matured, in wisdom and
holiness ; and his fame spread wide : so that the king and clergy

54 Sf Giles' Lectures.

of that thinly-peopled Cambrian region discerned in him the
man who could restore their failing Church, and with one con-
sent elected him their Bishop. Kentigern resisted the eleva-
tion, alleging his youth and his desire to give himself to holy
contemplation : but he yielded in the end to their importunity,
after the manner of ministers called to a larger sphere of useful-
ness : and a solitary Bishop having been brought from Ire-
land, after the fashion of the Britons and Scots of that day, he
was consecrated to the episcopal dignity. His consecration
was in several respects irregular : yet the judgment of the
Church admitted it as sufficient.

There had been an earlier Church at Glasgow, of St Ninian's
foundation : and Kentigern restored it. Fixing here his
Cathedral seat, he gathered to himself a family of earnest and
self-denying men, who lived without private property, in holy
discipline and service. Gradually, he extended his diocese to
the limits of the Cambrian Kingdom. He lived for a while peace-
ably at Glasgow, practising severe austerity. His food was the
sparest : mainly bread and milk : and even this only on each third
day. He was clad in the roughest hair-cloth : but over this he
always wore priestly robes, to remind him of his ministry. It is
curious to read in Dr Liddon's Life of the last Bishop of Salis-
bury that he too in his earlier work at Sarum wore his cassock
all the forenoon till he went forth for his daily walk, with the
like intention. So across the ages do the fancies of good men
meet. St Kentigern's pastoral staff was not gilded and
gemmed, but of simple wood, and merely bent. And in his
hand he always bore his Manual-Book, ready to exercise his
ministry whenever needful. As for his bed, he lay in a hollow
stone, having a stone in place of a pillow, like another Jacob.
Even this rigour did not suffice. When he lay down, he cast in
a few ashes : and taking off his sackcloth, he took his snatch of
sleep upon these. ' Verily,' says his biographer Joceline, ' he
was a stanch combatant against the flesh, the world, and the
devil.' At the second cock-crowing he arose, and stripping him-

Early Christian Scotland. 55

self of his raiment, he plunged into the cold and rapid stream :
and then, with eyes and hands lifted up to heaven, he chanted
on end the whole Psalter. Wonderful health, both of body and
soul, followed this severe discipline. And sometimes, minister-
ing at the altar, when he said the Sursiim Corda, and sought to
lift up his own heart to Christ, a glory gleamed upon his face
and form, so that he seemed like a pillar of fire.

His story must be briefly told. His growing influence at Glas-
gow stirred the Avrath of a pagan king, one Morken. Morken
seems to have been a specially unmannerly soul : and not with-
out some power of metaphysical argument. When St Kentigern
applied to him for temporal means, towards the support of
the staff of Glasgow Cathedral, the king said to him : ' Is it
not a favourite rule with you, " Cast thy care upon God, and
He will care for thee ? " Now,' he continued, * here am I,
who do not regard God at all, and yet riches and honours are
heaped upon me, which are denied to you. Your doctrine is
false.' The Saint endeavoured to make the king discern that
worldly trial might be sent as a blessing, and that worldly
wealth was no sure mark of the Divine favour. But the truth,
it need not be said, was high above Morken's comprehension.
The king understood better when a miraculous flood swept all
his grain away, and laid it beside the little river Molendinar
ready for Kentigern's service. His temper, however, was none
the better for this experience of St Kentigern's power : and,
beaten in argument and in practice, in an evil hour for himself
the monarch kicked the Saint. Speedily judgment followed.
The king's feet fell off, and he died : and something resembling
gout was sent upon his descendants for generations. It is not
quite clear why Kentigern, leaving Glasgow for a while, took
refuge in Wales : he ought to have been safe anywhere. But
he went to Menevia, now known as St David's. He founded a
monastery at St Asaph's, in a valley which bore some resem-
blance to the Vale of Clyde. And when, after the Battle of
Arthuret, and the accession to the throne of Rydderch, The

56 Sf Giles' Lectures.

Liberal, Kentigern was recalled to Glasgow, he brought with him
no fewer than six hundred and sixty-five monks. It was at
Hoddam, in Dumfriesshire, that Rydderch met him : and there
he abode for a while : but Revelation indicated Glasgow as his
proper seat Hence he converted Galloway : Alban (which
means the North- East portion of Scotland): and even the
Orkneys. Traces of the Saint's sojourn in Wales remain in
certain Welsh names in the district which lies between the
Mearns and Deeside — a wild and picturesque tract, not
known as it deserves to be : and where doubtless the gospel
had been preached by monks who came from St Asaph's.

Of the miracles wrought by St Kentigern after his return to
Glasgow it would be unprofitable to speak. One may be named,
the memory of which is perpetuated in the arms of the great
Scotch city. A certain Queen, of small desert, besought the
Saint's aid in respect of a ring which she had given away, and
which her husband had demanded back from her, it having
been cast into the water by himself. And a certain great fish,
called a salmon, taken in the Clyde, was found to contain the
ring. The Queen was saved from imminent destruction,
thenceforward to live a better life. For the heaviest rain and
snow, which probably in those days as in the present fell in
even excessive measure on Glasgow, St Kentigern needed no
protection : his garments remained untouched. A recent
Anglican Bishop, being offered a pastoral staff by some zealous
folk, is recorded to have greatly discouraged them by saying he
would rather they gave him an umbrella : Not so with St
Mungo. And an instance in which certain rams, stolen from
the Saint, had their heads converted into stone, seems to be
commemorated in the curious name long borne by one of the
City Churches of Glasgow. Many can remember when St
David's was generally called The Rafnshorn Kirk.

There are traces of friendly intercourse between Kentigern
and his great contemporary St Columba. It is recorded that
they met, and exchanged crosiers. The meeting was at

Early Christiati Scotland. 57

Glasgow : but the record of it is brief. For several days, we
are told, they conversed in kindly fashion, on the things of
God and on what concerned the salvation of men. Then
saying farewell with mutual love they returned to their homes,
never to meet again.

The years of Kentigern's episcopal rule passed on, and he
attained a great age. Tradition would make him live to a
hundred and eighty-five : and Bishop Forbes suggests that
temperance and sweet temper do much to lengthen life. But
Kentigern's maceration of his bodily nature went far beyond
healthful temperance : and though his disposition was gracious,
it seems as if the eighty-five years, lacking the century, were a
long span to one who had so toiled and so afflicted himself.
On the octave of the Epiphany, January 13, 612 a.d., St Kenti-
gern died. One of his last doings was the setting up of a great
Cross of stone in the burying-ground of the Church of the Holy
Trinity, which was his cathedral. The present name, it need
not be said, would have been unseemly while the Saint lived.
He had perceived, by the failure of the earthly tabernacle, that
the end Avas at hand : he prepared himself by Holy Com-
munion for the great change : and he told his brethren he must
soon leave them. Great sorrow fell upon them, as they knelt
before him, receiving his last farewell. But some among them
were lifted up to the thought of the supreme blessing, named in
the unforgettable words In death they were not divided ; and
they asked Kentigern if they might not all go together, the shep-
herd leaving not one of his flock, the father accompanied by
all his children. ' God's will be done,' said the saint. And as
his brethren watched by him through the night, expecting his
departure, an angel appeared and promised that it should be
even so. ' Because thy whole life in this world,' said the
heavenly messenger, 'hath been a continual martyrdom, it
hath pleased God that thy manner of leaving it should be easier
than that of other men.'

The day dawned, a day ou which yearly he had been wont

58 Sf Gilei Lectures.

to baptise many into Christ : and the brethren, following the
instructions the angel had given, prepared a bath filled with
warm water, and gently placed their master therein. Then
they stood around, expecting. Lifting his hands and eyes to
heaven, and bowing his head as if to calm sleep, St Kentigern
was gone. They lifted out his body, and one after another
eagerly hastened to lie down where he had lain : where each,
as peacefully, died. All had passed before the water grew
cool. But there remained, there, or hard by, brethren enough
to wrap the Bishop's body for the tomb, and to lay it, with all
honour, at the right side of the high altar in Glasgow Cathe-
dral : not the present great church, but a humbler one ; yet
honoured by the presence in life and in death of the best
and greatest in the long line of the Bishops and Archbishops
of Glasgow. In the cemetery of his church, they said, in old
days, six hundred and sixty-five rest, each entitled to the good
name of Saint : ' And all the great men of that region,' says his
biographer, ' for a long time have been in the custom of being
buried there.' A church rose, in due time, on the hallowed
ground, far nobler and more beautiful than St Kentigern had
ever imagined : but his shrine is there ; and his name will
abide while church and city remain. It became needful that
what had been a beautiful country stream when the spot was
fixed on, should be hidden away from sight. The next gene-
ration will know only from hearsay how the Molendinar used
to flow under the East end of the Cathedral Church of Glasgow.
But still, as in past centuries, it is the way to bury hard by the
place where so many of Christ's saints sleep for the Great
Awaking. And in a solemn burying-place, that awes one by
its wide extent, with terraced walks and green slopes and rocky
graves, a very City of the Dead, the good and wise of the vast
City of the Living, and many of its fair and young no less, are
laid, as of old, beneath the shadow of the great church of St

No record remains of his successors. But the cause pros-

Early Christian Scotland. 59

pered ; and twenty-five years after St Kentigern's death the
nation of the Angles was brought over to Christianity by
Paulinus, who on Easter-day at York baptised their king.
Aidan, of Lindisfarne, whose diocese reached to the Frith of
Forth, established in Scotland two monasteries, one at Colding-
ham, one at Melrose. It was from this latter that the famous
Saint and Bishop originated, to whom the Church of Durham is
in a great degree indebted for its special pre-eminence. I
mean, of course, St Cuthbert. His parentage is unknown.
We first hear of him as a shepherd-boy in Lauderdale. A

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersThe Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral → online text (page 9 of 37)