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of the same age, our countryman Joceline, a Cistercian monk, of the Abbey of Furness, in Lancashire, has left us this saint's life in great detail. He tells us that about three score other writers had preceded him in this subject, but that he had particularly made use of the four histories of St. Patrick's life, which had been drawn up by four cotemporary authors, his disciples, SS. Luman, Mel, Benignus, and Patrick
There is another life of this saint still extant, composed by Probus, who lived in the seventh century, and a pretty long account of him by our British annalist Nennius, who flourished also in the seventh century. Our saint's name occurs, and on the same day, March 17, in all the ancient martyrologies extant, namely, in the Roman, in that of venerable Bede, in those of Usuard, Rhabanus, and Notker, to say nothing of the Chronicle of Sigebert, the Saxon Chronicle, that of Addo, Erric of Auxerres, Giraldus Cambrensis, William of Malmsbury, Marianus, Scotus, and a great number of other ancient writers, from the eighth to the twelfth century; all which authorities shew that St. Patrick was acknowleged by the whole Church in ancient times, as well as by the Christians of Ireland, for the apos
Such is the date assigned to this writer by the profoundly learned Bollandus. His work formerly passed for that of Bede.
+ Historia Britonum. The learned editor of this author, Gale, says of him, "Claruit Nennius Anno post Christum 620." Some authors, however, bring him down to the tenth century.
tle of the latter. Not only do all ecclesiastical histories, but also the civil or Brehon laws of Ireland, record the merits of this saint *. In short, we have an hymn still in being, composed in his honour, by one of his converts and disciples, St. Fiech, which is generally allowed by the learned to be genuine t. We have, moreover, the acts of two councils held by St. Patrick, and even a circumstantial account of his life, called a Confession, drawn up by himself, together with a letter addressed to King Corotic, which all the best critics admit to be his real composition §.
But there are not only written documents which prove the existence of St. Patrick, but likewise all other kinds of monuments by which the memory of personages who heretofore lived can be recorded. The churches which he built, the dioceses which he formed, the monasteries which he founded, the havens where he landed, the places in which he dwelt (most of which edifices and places have preserved his name from time immemorial), the very conversion of the Irish nation, and the universal tradition, not
Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, by General Vallancey, vol. iii. pp. 95, 108.
+ Colgan. In Vita S. Pat. Ware, Harris, Usher, Nicholson's Irish lib. Ledwich, by way of discrediting the antiquity of this hymn, makes the poet appeal to Old Historians for certain particu lars of the saint's life. This is a wilful literary fraud. The original words are barely, Ut refertur in Historiis.
See Spelman's Councils, also those of Labbe. § Tillemont, Fleury, Butler, Usher, Ware, &c.
only of our islands, but also of the whole Christian continent, are all so many monuments of this illustrious saint, and have preserved his memory fresh and untainted till the very hour in which Dr. Led wich wrote his book, as he himself acknowledges*. In a word, I have no difficulty in saying, that the proofs of there having been such a man as Romulus, or Alexander the Great, are not so numerous and convincing, as are those for the existence of St. Patrick, and that the latter cannot be rejected without establishing a universal historical scepticism. Supposing for a moment that St. Patrick did not convert the Irish, the question then is: Who did convert them? It would be strange if they alone were ignorant of what all other nations are acquainted with, namely, who was their apostle ! if they alone had no tradition to inform them by whom they had been taught to abandon idolatry, to abhor human sacrifices, to renounce the gratification of their passions, and to worship one Eternal Being, by the observance of his pure and sublime precepts t!
* Antiq. p. 59:
A late tourist, whose wit becomes him better upon every other subject than upon those of religion, says, that "St. Patrick
was canonized for teaching the Irish to believe in the Trinity by means of a shamrock."--The Stranger in Ireland. It is plain this writer has a very inadequate idea of the benefits of Christianity in elevating the mind, and purifying the heart, independent of its future promises. But leaving all this out of the question, Dr. Ledwich should have informed him that St. Patrick was never canonized and that there is no foundation for the story of the shamrock.
The apostle of Ireland being thus insolently attacked, it was not to be expected that its peculiar patroness, that saint's cotemporary and spiritual daughter, St. Bridget, would escape from insult. But in this instance it seemed adviseable to adopt a different kind of warfare for annoying the ancient religion, from that which was used in the former instance. The existence of this female saint, though resting upon the same sort of evidence as that of St. Patrick and his fellow missionaries from Rome, is by no means denied it is even admitted on this occasion, and to answer the present purpose, that they also had an existence but it is pretended that they had an accommodating spirit," in making an incongruous mixture of Christianity and Paganism. In short, it is maintained that St. Bridget and her sister nuns of Kildare, were a continuation of
heathen Druidesses, who preserved from the "remotest ages an inextinguishable fire † ;" or "priestesses of Vesta +." This is asserted on no better grounds, than because the nuns of Kildare used to keep a fire always lighted in their convent, whilst other Catholics extinguished theirs previously to the paschal solemnity §.
* Antiquities of Ireland, p. 76.
See Gordon and Carr.
$ Apud Kildariam occurrit Ignis Sanctæ Brigidæ quem Inex "tinguibilem vocant, non quod extingui non possit, sed quod tam "solicite moniales et sanctæ mulieres ignem, suppetente materia,
But first, if the sixty-six hagiographers who wrote the life of St. Patrick are not to be believed for the existence of this apostle of Ireland, upon what rational ground is Cogitosus, with a comparatively small number of the same hagiographers, to be credited for the existence of St. Bridget? 2dly, Upon what authority is it asserted that "Druidesses kept up an inextin
guishable fire from the remotest ages;" or that there were Druidesses or priestesses of Vesta in Ireland at all during the sixth century? Dr. Ledwich, after all his enquiries, has not been able to produce any such authority, (which, indeed, if it existed, would overturn his system concerning the conversion of Ireland previously to that century.) But lastly, it is plain that Dr. Ledwich and his followers, in representing the preservation of a constant fire as a practice essentially connected with paganism, have overlooked a divine ordinance to this purpose, of earlier date than either Celtic Druidism or the worship of Vesta: I speak of the law in Leviticus, c. vi. v. 12. The fire upon the altar (of the tabernacle) shall be burning in it, and shall not be put out. It was for contemning this inextinguishable fire, and using a profane fire instead of it in their censers, that the Levites, Nadab and Abihu, were miraculously burnt to death, Levit. vi. 12. To
-"fovent et nutriunt ut à tempore virginis per tot annorum curricula semper mansit inextinctus."
Girald. Camb. de Mirabilibus Hibern. Dist. ii. c. 34