The true storie of the forenamed king Oswald, his desire to restore christian religion, Cormans preaching taking small effect among the Northumbers, persuadeth him to depart into his owne countrie, he slandereth them before the Scotish clergie, Aidan a godlie man telleth the cause of the peoples not profiting by Cormans preaching, Aidan commeth into England to instruct the people in the faith, he varieth in the obseruation of Easter from the English churches custome, the Northumbers haue him. & his doctrine in reuerence, Oswalds earnest zeale to further religion by Aidans preaching and ministerie, 15000 baptised within 7 daies; Oswald hath the Britains, Scots, Picts, & Engblish at his commandement, his commendable deed of christian charitie, the Westsaxons conuerted to the faith by the preaching of Birinus, king Kinigils is baptised, he maketh Birinus bishop of Dorcester, Penda king of Mercia maketh war against the christian kings of the Westsaxons, both sides after a bloudie battell fall to agrement, Ercombert the first English king that destroied idols throughout the whole land, he ordeineth Lent; why English men became moonks, and English women nunnes in monasteries beyond the seas; why Penda king of Mercia enuieth vertuous king Oswald, he is assaulted, slaine in battell, and canonized a saint after his death.
The Xxix. Chapter.
NOW will we (after all these differing discourses of the British chronologers) approch and draw as néere as we can to the truth of the historie touching Oswald king of the Northumbers,
Oswald meaneth to be thankefull to God for his benefits. Beda li. 3. cap. 3. 5. 6. Heclor Boet.
of whom we find, that after he had tasted of Gods high fauour extended to himwards, in vanquishing his enimies, as one minding to be thankefull therefore, he was desirous to restore the Christian faith through his whole kingdome, sore lamenting the decay thereof within the same, and therefore euen in the beginning of his reigne, he sent vnto Donwald the Scotish king (with whome he had béene brought vp in the time of his banishment the space of 18 yéeres) requiring him to haue some learned Scotishman sent vnto him, skilfull in preaching the word of life, that with godly sermons and wholesome instructions, he might conuert the people of Northumberland vnto the true and liuing God, promising to interteine him with such prouision as apperteined.
At his instance, there was sent vnto him one Corman, a clerke singularlie well learned, and of great grauitie in behauiour: but for that he wanted such facilitie, and plaine vtterance by waie of gentle persuading, as is requisite in him that shall instruct the simple, onelie setting foorth in his sermons high mysteries, and matters of such profound knowledge, as the verie learned might scarselie perceiue the perfect sense and meaning of his talke, his trauell came to small effect, so that after a yéeres remaining there, he returned into his countrie, declaring amongst his brethren of the cleargie, that the people of Northumberland was a froward, stubborne and stiffe-harted generation, whose minds he could not frame by anie good meanes of persuasion to receiue the christian faith: so that he iudged it lost labour to spend more time amongst them, being so vnthankfull and intractable a people, as no good might be doone vnto them.
Amongst other learned and vertuous prelats of the Scots, there chanced one to be there present at the same time called Aidan, a man of so perfect life, that (as Beda writeth) he
taught no otherwise than he liued, hauing no regard to the cares of this world, but whatsoeuer was giuen him by kings or men of wealth and riches, that he fréelie bestowed vpon the poore, exhorting other to doo the like. This Aidan hearing Cormans woords, perceiued anon that the fault was not so much in the people as in the teacher, and therefore declared, that (as he thought) although it were so that the people of Northumberland gaue no such attentiue eare vnto the preaching of that reuerend prelate Corman, as his godlie expectation was they should haue doone, yet might it be that his vttering of ouer manie mysticall articles amongst them, farre aboue the capacitie of the vnderstanding of simple men, was the cause why they so lightlie regarded his diuine instructions, whereas if he had (according to the counsell of Saint Paule) at the first ministred vnto their tender vnderstandings, onelie milke,
S. Paules counsell.
without harder nourishments, he might happilie haue woone a farre greater number of them vnto the receiuing of the faith, and so haue framed them by little and little to haue digested stronger food. And therefore he thought it necessarie in discharge of their duties towards God, and to satisfie the earnest zeale of king Oswald, that some one amongst them might be appointed to go againe into Northumberland, to trie by procéeding in this maner afore alledged, what profit would thereof insue.
The bishops hearing the opinion of Aidan, and therewith knowing Cormans maner of preaching, iudged the matter to be as Aidan had declared, and therevpon not onelie allowed his woords, but also willed him to take the iournie vpon him, sith they knew none so able with effect to accomplish their wished desires in that behalfe. Aidan, for that he would not
Aidan commeth into England to preach to gospell.
seeme to refuse to take that in hand which he himselfe had motioned, was contented to satisfie their request, and so set forward towards Northumberland, and comming thither, was ioifullie receiued of king Oswald, who appointed him the Ile of Lindesfarne, wherein to place the see of his new bishoprike.
This Aidan in one point varied from the vse of the new begun church of England, that
Beda li. 3. ca. 3. Hector Boet.
is to say, touching the time of obseruing the feast of Easter, in like maner as all the bishops of the Scots and Picts inhabiting within Britaine in those daies did, following therein (as they tooke it) the doctrine of the holie and praise-woorthie father Anatholius. But the Scots that inhabited the south parts of Ireland, alreadie were agréed to obserue that feast, according to the rules of the church of Rome. Howbeit Aidan being thus come into Northumberland, applied himselfe so earnestlie in praier and preaching, that the people had him within short while in woonderfull estimation, chiefelie for that he tempered his preachings with such swéet and pleasant matter, that all men had a great desire to heare him, insomuch that sometime he was glad to preach abroad in churchvards, hicause the audience was more than could haue roome in the church.
One thing was a great hinderance to him, that he had not the perfect knowledge of the Saxon toong. But Oswald himselfe was a great helpe to him in that matter, who being desirous of nothing so much, as to haue the faith of Christ rooted. in the harts of his subiects,
Beda. Oswald an interpretor to the preacher.
vsed as an interpretor to report vnto the people in their Saxon toong, such whole sermons as Aidan vttered in his mother toong. For Oswald hauing béene brought vp (as ye haue hard) in Scotland during the time of his banishment, was as readie in the Scotish, as he was in the Saxon toong. The people then seeing the kings earnest desire in furthering the doctrine set foorth by Aidan, were the more inclined to heare it: so that it was a maruelloas matter to note, what numbers of people dailie offred themselues to be baptised,
insomuch that within the space of seuen daies (as is left in writing) he christened 15 thousand persons, of the which no small part forsaking the world, betooke themselues to a solitarie kind of life.
Thus by his earnest trauell in continuall preaching and setting foorth the gospell in that countrie, it came to passe in the end, that the faith was generallie receiued of all the people, and such zeale to aduance the glorie of the christian religion dailie increased amongst them,
Oswalds zeale to aduance religion.
that no where could be found greater. Heerevpon were no small number of churches built in all places abroad in those parties by procurement of the king, all men liberallie consenting (according to the rate of their substance) to be contributorie towards the charges. By this meanes the kingdome of the Northumbers flourished, as well in fame of increase in
Beda lib. 5. ca. 6.
religion, as also in ciuill policie and prudent ordinances: insomuch that (as Beda writeth)
Oswald had in estimation with his neighbours.
Oswald atteined to such power, that all the nations and prouinces within Britaine, which were diuided into foure toongs (that is to say) Britains, Picts, Scots, and Englishmen, were at his commandement. But yet he was not lifted vp in anie pride or presumption, but shewed himselfe maruellous courteous amd gentle, and verie liberall to poore people and strangers.
It is said, that he being set at the table vpon an Ester day, & hauing bishop Aidan at diner then with him, his almoner came in as the bishop was about to say grace, and declared to the king that there was a great multitude of poore folks set before the gates to looke for the kings almes. The king héerewith tooke a siluer dish, which was set on the table before him with meate, & commanded the same meate streightwaies to be distributed amongst the poore, & the dish broken into small péeces, and diuided amongst them: for which act he was highlie commended of the bishop, as he well deserued. By the good policie and diligent trauell of this king, the prouinces of Deira and Bernicia, which hitherto had béene at variance, were brought to peace and made one.
Beda lib. 3. ca. 7. Birinus conuerteth the Westaxons to the christian faith. Kinigils king of Westsaxon becommeth a christian. Polydor.
ABOUT the same time, the Westsaxons were conuerted to the christian faith, by the preaching of one Birinus a bishop, who came into this land at the exhortation of pope Honorius, to set foorth the gospell vnto those people which as yet were not baptised. By whose diligent trauell in the Lords haruest, Kimgils or Kinigils, one of the kings of that countrie receiued the faith, and was baptised about the fiue & twentith yéere of his reigne. K. Oswald that should haue had his daughter in mariage, was present the same time, who first yer he became a sonne in law, was made a godfather vnto Kinigils (that should be his father in law) by receiuing him at the fontstone, in that his second birth of regeneration. To this Birinus, who was an Italian, king Kinigils (now that he was become a conuert or christian) appointed
Dorcester ordeined a bishops sée.
and assigned the citie of Dorcester, situat by the Thames, distant from Oxford about seuen miles, to be the sée of his bishoprike, where he procured churches to be built, and by his earnest trauell & setting foorth the woord of life, conuerted much people to the right beliefe. In the yéere following, Quichelmus the other king of the Westsaxons, and sonne to Kinigils was also christened, and died the same yéere, and so Cinigilsus or Kinigils reigned alone.
In this meane while Penda king of Mercia that succéeded next after Ciarlus, being a man
This chanced in the yéere 620, as Matth. West. saith.
giuen to séeke trouble in one place or other, leauied warre against the kings of Westsaxon, Kinigils and Quichelmus, the which, gathering their power, gaue him battell at Cirenchester, where both the parties fought it out to the vttermost, as though they had forsworne to giue place one to another, insomuch that they continued in fight and making of cruell slaughter till the night parted them in sunder. And in the morning, when they saw that if they shuld buckle togither againe, the one part should vtterlie destroie the other, they fell to agréement in moderating ech others demands.
After this, in the yéere of our Lord 640, Eadbald king of Kent departed this life, after
Beda lib. 3. cap. 7. Matth. West.
he had reigned 24 yéeres, leauing his kingdome to his sonne Ercombert. This Ercombert was the first of the English kings, which tooke order for the vtter destroieng of all idols throughout his whole kingdome. He also by his roiall authoritie commanded the fast of
Lent first ordeined to be kept in England. Segburga. Aimoinus.
fortie daies in the Lent season to be kept and obserued, appointing woorthie and competent punishment against the transgressors of that commandement. He had by his wife Segburga, that was daughter vnto Anna king of the Eastangles, a daughter named Eartongatha, a professed nunne within the monasterie of Briege or Cala in France: for in those daies, bicause there were not manie monasteries builded within this land, a great number of Englishmen, that tooke vpon them the profession of a religious life, got them ouer vnto abbeies in France, and there professed themselues moonks: and manie there were which sent their daughters ouer to be professed nuns within the nunneries there, and speciallie at Briege, Cala, and Andelie: amongst other, there were Sedrike the lawfull daughter, and Edelburgh the bastard daughter of the said king Anna, both which in processe of time were made abbesses of the said monasterie of Briege.
Ye haue heard alreadie, how Oswald king of Northumberland bare himselfe in all points like a most woorthie prince, not ceasing to releeue the necessitie of the poore, aduancing the good, and reforming the euill, whereby he wan to himselfe excéeding praise and commendation of all good men, and still his fame increased for his vertuous dooings; namelie, for the ardent zeale he had to the aduancing of the christian faith. Herevpon Penda king of Mercia, enuieng the prosperous procéedings of Oswald, as he that could neuer abide the good report of other mens well-dooings, began to imagine how to destroie him, and to conquere his kingdome, that he might ioine it to his owne. At length he inuaded his countrie by open
Penda inuadeth the Northumbers. Beda lib. 3. cap. 9. King Oswald slaine. Matt. Westm. saith 644.
warre, met with him in the field at a place called Maserfield, and there in sharpe and cruell fight Oswald was slaine on the fift day of August, in the yeare of our Lord 642, and in the 38 yeare of his age, after he had reigned the tearme of eight or nine yeares after some, which account that yeare vnto his reigne, in the which his predecessors Osrike and Eaufride reigned, whome they number not amongest kings, because of their wicked apostasie and renouncing of the faith which before they had professed. Such was the end of that vertuous prince king Oswald, being cruellie slaine by that wicked tyrant Penda. Afterwards, for the opinion conceiued of his holinesse, the foresaid Oswald was canonized a saint, and had in great worship of the people, being the first of the English nation that approoued his
vertue by miracles shewed after his departure out of this life.