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At this point his career becomes interesting, and one would like to follow it step by step. But unfortunately the record does not allow of it. Vague generalities again meet the reader, where every matter of detail, however insignificant it seemed at the time, would now be counted precious as gold. The reader, however, receives unmistakably the impression of a grand success.
Natives who previously had no knowledge of the truth, and who had worshipped unclean idols, were induced by his influence to become the children of God. Sons of Scots, and daughters of chieftains, he says, became monks and virgins of Christ. Even to the poor as well as to the rich the work extended; women held in slavery were stedfast in their attachment to the faith, in defiance of perils and threats; and, through the grace of God granted to His servants, others, in spite of opposition, were enabled courageously to follow their example.
It would betray ignorance of human nature to suppose that such a great religious revolution could have been accomplished in the island without toil and without sufferings. The converts were persecuted by their Pagan neighbours; and the ‘Letter to Coroticus,' is a remonstrance with some rude marauder, who, notwithstanding that he professed Christianity himself, assailed some of Patrick's spiritual children the very day on which they were baptized, slaying some and selling others into slavery. Even the missionary himself was in some instances harshly treated. The Irish chiefs of that time somehow did not appreciate the service which Patrick thought he rendered to them when he persuaded their sons and daughters to become Christians. Along with bis companions he was seized; he was robbed; he was cast into chains ; but he adds that on the fourteenth day, through the intervention of some useful friends, their property was restored, and themselves set at liberty. Suffering for Christ's sake was what the ardent missionary did not dread. That morbid love of martyrdom, so unintelligible in cold and quiet times, but which meets us so often in the Christians of the post-apostolic age, still survives in him, for he prays fervently that God would grant that he might shed his blood with his converts, and with those who suffer for Christ's sake, even though his carcase might be torn asunder by the dogs and wild beasts, or eaten by the birds of the air. He holds himself ready to resign life at the call of Christ, and to drink the same cup
which others who loved Him had drunk. His, indeed, is the martyr spirit which conquers nations. The country and the times in which he lived demanded all the faith and courage which he had. Pagan Ireland did not surrender at the first summons. Traces of a struggle are clearly visible. Even after the labours of a lifetime, when the old missionary is nearing the end of his journey, he speaks of some who still worshipped idols ; nor is the
new faith so much in the ascendant as to raise him above the expectation--we cannot say fear- of a violent death. Even after St. Patrick there were Pagans in the land. Here, as well as everywhere else, time was needed before Christianity was able to stand at the grave of the last of her enemies. But this detracts nothing from the merits of the Apostle of Ireland. His claims to greatness do not rest on his learning, his piety, his office, or even upon the wonders which tradition so lavishly ascribes to him ; but upon this, that he conceived a grand plan for the glory of God and the good of humanity, and turned his theory into practice by working it out. The merit of Patrick is, that he was the instrument in converting a nation from Paganism to Christianity; and this merit no man can take from him. Others may have completed the task; he showed them how.
No ministry was ever more unselfish than his. He appeals in the confidence of truth, and in the sincerity of his heart, to the converts with whom he had associated from his youth. The influence that he acquired over them was never used to promote private or personal ends. So scrupulous was he in this respect that when Christian brethren and virgins of Christ brought their personal ornaments and laid them as gifts upon the altar, he refused to accept them, and returned them to the givers. Some blamed him for being in this way generous overmuch, but he acted thus cautiously that no man might be in circumstances to impugn his motives, or to bring his memory into disrepute. On the contrary, it was his custom to give, rather than to receive. 6 When the Lord,' says he, ordained clergy through my ministry, I distributed freely to them. If I asked from any of them the price of my shoe, tell it—tell it against me, and I will restore it to you. Rather was I at expense for you as much as I could afford,' &c. But it does not grieve him to think that he has been at expense for them; nay, he still means to spend for their good. He calls God to witness that he does not write to them from vanity, or from avarice, or from expecting to receive honour from them. Enough for him, he thinks, is the honour that is not seen, but believed in the heart; for the Faithful, who has promised, never lies. God had in this world exalted him beyond measure, yet he was conscious of his unworthiness, and was well aware that poverty and misfortune were better suited to him than pleasure and riches. Christ the Lord was poor for him; and what need could there be of riches to a wretch who was daily expecting to be murdered, or to fall into a trap, or to be reduced to slavery, without any cause whatever? But he did not fear this, owing to the heavenly promises, for he had cast himself on the protection of an Almighty and Omnipresent God.
It does not appear that Patrick ever left Ireland, after coming
to it as a missionary. Often indeed had he desired to return to the Britains, as he calls his native country, and to his parents, as well as to visit the brethren of Gaul, and to see the face of the Lord's saints; but he was too much interested in his work to leave. The fruit of his toil might be periled in his absence. The Spirit would not suffer him to depart. He who sent him hither, commanded him to spend the remainder of his days in Ireland among the people who, through his ministry, were begotten to God. That he did so, there can be no doubt. But like the time and place of his birth, the time and place of his death are unknown. The legendary writers can of course tell every thing about it, but unfortunately their statements are too late in making their appearance to be of any value as testimony. History is utterly silent on the subject; its scanty records enable us to do little more than draw the inference that the ministry of Patrick fell within a period whose extreme limits are 431 and 496 A.D.
It will thus be evident that Patrick was a very different man indeed from what he appears to be in the popular imagination. Instead of a grand ecclesiastical dignitary, marching through the land in triumph, working miracles, confounding magicians, and bearding kings, he is, by his own account, a humble, earnest Christian missionary, who, under a Divine impulse, or what he regards as such, leaves his own country to preach the Gospel, and to seek the salvation of the pagan Irish. He makes no pretensions to learning, nay, he apologises for the want of it; and his writings carry on their face the proof that in this respect his modesty was no affectation. But it is no less clear that he is richly endowed with the moral qualities which fit him for his work; and with a tenacity that clings like life, he prosecutes that work to the close in defiance of all that enemies can do. He toils, and suffers violence; his converts are attacked by marauders, and either murdered or sold as slaves, while he has to stand helplessly by, the witness of a havoc which he can neither avert nor remedy; but, in despite of all, Christianity triumphs, and the venerable missionary sits down in old age to tell bow all this happened to the glory and the praise of God. This, indeed, is the very spirit of his tracts. Humility, unselfishness, zeal for God, burning love for human souls, and a courage that does not quail in sight of death, show themselves everwhere throughout the writings of this fine old Christian missionary.
THE THEOLOGY OF PATRICK. The materials now extant are too scanty to enable us to present in full detail an enumeration of his doctrinal principles, but their main features are clearly visible in his tracts.
According to him, there is one God, the Father, unbegotten, without beginning, from whom all beginning takes its rise, Omni
present and Almighty. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was with the Father from before the foundation of the world, begotten before all beginning, by whom all things were made, visible and invisible, who became man to conquer death, who was afterwards received into heaven to the Father, and was clothed with power, and who will come hereafter to judge the living and the dead, and to render to every man according to his works. The Holy Spirit shed by Christ on his people is a gift and a pledge of their immortality, and His office is to make men believing and obedient, sons of God the Father, and joint heirs with Christ, Whom,' says he, we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the sacred Name.' Sin in man is displeasing to God; the temporal afflictions that men endure in this world being the just rewards of their disobedience. Christ was crucified, and gave His life for His people. On the grace and providence of God, Patrick is specially strong and clear. He has learned to see the Divine hand in everything. When he was a poor slave in Ireland, it was God who had compassion on his youth and ignorance, and cared for him before he knew Him, and comforted and consoled him as a father does
'I was,' says he, ' as a stone which lies in the deep mud, but ‘He who is mighty came, and in His mercy lifted me. Amid all his trials, he is sustained constantly by faith in Providence. However humble he may be, he is a subject of His constant care, and the smallest return he can make for God's goodness to himself personally, is to work for His glory. He denounces sin with all his might, selecting, as Coroticus gave him good reason to do, robbery, avarice, and murder, for special denunciation ; but he holds along with this that, even by a late repentance, the most hardened sinner may become worthy (the word is his) to live with God, and may become sound and whole bere and hereafter. Prayer is the voice of God's child, when he comes to a sense of his condition and desires to speak to his Father, and, when combined with fasting, it is the ever ready instrument for averting danger, and for the supply of all wants. Satan is the tempter of God's people; the sinner is ensnared by him, is his servant and son, and will be subjected with him to penal suffering hereafter. The saint's faith is strong in the resurrection of life : “Most certainly,' says he, on that day we shall arise in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ our Redeemer, sons of the living God, and 'joint beirs with Christ, and conformed to His image.
The judg'ment day is a day when no man shall be able to conceal or to
diminish anything he has said or done, but all shall give account even of their smallest sins before the tribunal of Christ. The sin
ners will perish from the face of God, they will be subjected to the “everlasting punishment of hell, will be consumed with inextinguishable fire. The saints, on the other hand, will reign with apostles
and prophets and martyrs ; they will feast perpetually with Christ;
they will judge the nations, and lord it over unjust kings for ever; 6 and the wicked will be as ashes under their feet.'
Had Patrick ever suspected, that fourteen centuries after he had gone to his grave, every religious expression in his treatises would have been minutely examined for the purpose of reconstructing his theological system out of the scanty and scattered material, he might bave brought out some features of his creed which now are unknown to us, and he might have given greater prominence to others. The person and work of Christ would probably have been dwelt upon at greater length. That Christ was the theme of his preaching, and that he cherished the deepest attachment to the Saviour, is certainly the impression the Saint communicated to the generations which immediately followed him. No matter who was the author of the “Armour,' it was believed for ages to be the work of Patrick, and here are the sentiments about Christ that he is represented in it to have held :
• Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ in the poop.
Christ in every ear that hears me.' The hymn from which these words are taken, was supposed so early as the period 550-700 A.D., when Fiacc's hymn was written, to be the composition of Patrick himself; modern investigations do not bear out that opinion ; but the very fact that these sentiments were ascribed to him in the ages nearest to bis own, is not by any means an indistinct indication that the Redeemer of men held a prominent place in the theology and in the preaching of the apostle of Ireland.
In regard to the Holy Scriptures, it is evident to every reader that Patrick recognizes their importance, and is familiar with their contents. His Confession’and Letter,' taken together, would scarcely exceed in length the Epistle to the Hebrews in our New Testament, yet in that short space be quotes the Old Testament nineteen times, the New Testament thirty times, and the Old Testament Apocrypha six times. Besides these he quotes no other book-indeed one could not gather from his writings that he ever had read a page in any other. He quotes invariably with the greatest reverence; and while his citations from the Apocrypha show, that in common with many of the early Christians he was