by Rev. Professor-Emeritus Dr. Francis Nigel Lee
According to Britain’s oldest Historian, the North-Brythonic Celtic Christian Gildas,1 the Gospel arrived in Britain before 37 A.D. According to Eusebius, Maelgwyn, Isidore, Freculph, Nenni, Baronius, Cressy, Hearne, Rev. Dr. James Ussher, Rev. Dr. John Owen and Rev. Dr. H. Williams—there is some evidence that Joseph of Arimathea preached (and was also buried) in Somerset’s Glastonbury.2
Also according to the American Rev. Dr. A. Cleveland Coxe in the Ante-Nicene Fathers,3 there is strong reason to conclude that the great Anti-Roman British General Caradog became a Christian—perhaps even while still in the West of Britain before his exile therefrom in 52 A.D. Too, from A.D. 75 onward, his relative the apparently-Christian Prince Merig is said to have ruled over the Britons from near my own birthplace Kendal in Cumbria’s Westmorland.4
Merig’s Christian descendants Coell and Llew alias Lucius, as well as the latter’s descendants Helen(a) and Constantine,5 are all reputed to have ruled over Cumbria as the World’s first Christian State—within the Romano-British province of Britannia. Indeed, it was precisely from Christian Cumbria that Prince Ninian went forth to evangelize Scotland’s Picts—and Padraig or Patrick went forth to evangelize the Scotic and Pictish inhabitants of Ireland.
In fact, according to the 195 A.D. Tertullian of Carthage in Africa,6 even before his own day some of the northernmost “haunts of the Britons” had already been “subjugated to Christ.” And by A.D. 220, Sabellius of Rome in Italy was conceding7 that “the first nation which called itself ‘Christian’ after the name of ‘Christ’—was Britain.” Indeed, as the Early Church’s greatest Scholar Origen of Caesarea in Palestine pointed out,8 perhaps the reason why “the divine goodness of our Lord and Saviour is equally diffused among the Britons”—is because their “druids” had demonstrated a “resemblance between their traditions and those of the Jews.”
Remarkable background of the Brythonic Cumbrian Christian Padraig
The writer of the medieval Irish Chronicle—there collating many very much earlier records—first deals with the history of Ireland before and soon after Christ’s incarnation. Then he goes on to declare:9 “I pass to another time—and ‘He Who Is’ [namely Jehovah] will bless it! January 6th [A.D. 357]. In this year, Patrick was born.”
Later, continues the Irish Chronicle, “Patrick was carried a captive into Hibernia…. Patrick [went] to Germanus” alias Garmon. “Niall of the Nine Hostages reigned twenty-seven years…. From the beginning of the World, according to the Hebrews, 4481 years…. From the incarnation of the Lord, 432 years”—viz. till the beginning of the adult Patrick’s mission of Christianizing the Irish nation.
Rev. J.A.M. Hanna, in his book A History of the Celtic Church,10 shows that Padraig was a child of the covenant. His real name was the Brythonic Succat. He was baptized, apparently in infancy, by the British Culdee Minister Rev. Caranog. According to the celebrated celtologist Rev. Dr. John A. Duke,11 Padraig is calculated to have been born about the year 389 A.D.
The home into which he was born—as Padraig himself tells us—was Christian. There he was nurtured just a few years before his fellow-Briton, his somewhat older fellow-Cumbrian Ninian, started out with his missionary work in Scotland. Padraig’s father Calpurn was a Deacon. His mother was Conch(essa), the sister of St. Martin of the Gallo-Celtic Church.
Also Rev. Professor Dr. G.T. Stokes, the famous twentieth-century Church Historian of Early Ireland, explains12 that the father of Padraig was a Deacon. His grandfather was a Presbyter. His father, married, was both a Clergyman and a Town Councillor. This and many other factors—such as his strict adherence to Holy Scripture and its glorious doctrines of absolute predestination and Christ-centred postmillenialism—help establish that Padraig and his ancestors were all Proto-Protestants alias Primitive Presbyterians.
Padraig himself tells us that his father Calpurn was a Deacon; and his grandfather Pottitt was a Presbyter. Padraig says Calpurn was also a Decurion—alias a minor local magistrate or headman over ten families. Cf. the ‘rulers of tens’ in Exodus 18:21. An eleventh-century chronicler gives Padraig a great-grandfather Odiss, who too was a Deacon. Padraig’s mother, who was indeed the wife of a Deacon (First Timothy 3:8-12), may or may not herself also have been a Deaconess (First Timothy 5:9f).
Was Padraig from Caledonia’s Clyde or Britannia’s Strathclyde?
It needs to be remembered that, apart from isolated colonies in the Hebrides and also in Argyle, there were no (Iro-)Scots to speak of in Scotland—until their migrations there from Ireland, well after the birth of Padraig. Before that time, Scotland consisted of: Picts in her Northeast; Brythons in her West and Southeast; and Niduari Pictish colonies (from Ireland) in her extreme Southwest. Such were the groups evangelized by Padraig’s older contemporary Prince Ninian the Cumbrian, after his moving to Whithorn in Scotland’s Galloway.
We must first try to determine exactly where Padraig was born and raised. One might expect, and we so believe, that he was born in Christian Cumbria—just as Ninian had been. Padraig’s own disciple Fiech states he was born at Nemthur. However, there is no indication at all as to where among the Brythons that place might have been.
A Scottish Academic, Rev. Professor Dr. John Foster, rightly cites13 the seventh-century testimony of Padraig’s Irish Biographer the Churchman Rev. Muirchu. The latter insists that Padraig originated “not far from our Sea”—viz. the Irish Sea.
Consequently, concludes Foster, “three estuaries seem to be most likely—the Clyde, the Severn, and the Solway.” Of those three, it is the latter—the Solway (between what is today Southwest Scotland and Northwest England)—that is the closest to Ireland.
Now Padraig himself wrote an Epistle to Coroticus (alias King Ceretic of Brythonic Strathclyde). Even the Scot Foster concedes that throughout the mediaeval period, it was assumed that in Padraig’s Epistle his words “my fellow-citizens” and “my own [people]” and “my own country” meant that Padraig himself belonged to that kingdom. Eighth- and tenth-century Gaelic-language notes claim that “his origin was from the Strathclyde Britons.”
But Strathclyde was then not Gaelic or Pictish, but wholly Brythonic or Early-North-Welsh. It then included not only the central part of what is now Southwestern Scotland, but also the entirety of the present Cumbria (and even a considerable area to the south of that). It is true that the above-mentioned eighth- and tenth-century Gaelic notes on the life of Padraig do claim, in Gaelic, ‘Ail-Cluade’ (alias ‘The Rocky Clyde’ or ‘The Rock of the Clyde’) as Padraig’s birth-place. But even if those late notes are accurate in this—exactly where is that rocky or mountainous Ail-Cluade? Today, some regard that Ail-Cluade as being the rock near or upon which Dumbarton (alias Dunn Breatann) was built. Yet even then, as now, that means not ‘Fortress of the Gaels’ but ‘Fortress of the Britons.’
Two miles upstream from there, still in Dumbarton County, lies a place called ‘Old Kilpatrick.’ On the other hand, there is also a ‘Port Patrick’—far to the south, in Wigtown.
Interestingly, there is also a place called ‘Kirkpatrick’—in County Dumfries, adjacent to Cumbria, and just five miles north of the Solway. The latter is the westernmost point of the present Scotland’s border with Cumbria. Even today, Cumbria extends also to the north of Hadrian’s Roman Wall—as far as the Cheviot Hills to the north, and as far as the Pennine Chain to the east.
Now the very words ‘Ail-Cluade’ in those eighth- and tenth-century Gaelic notes, could easily apply to the more rocky territory of Southern Strathclyde—alias that area of Cumbria south of Hadrian’s Wall. Indeed, it is linguistically certain that it is this area of Cumbrian Strathclyde where Padraig grew up—namely in the extreme northwest of what was then still Roman Britannia. Too, any really penetrating study of Padraig’s own works Profession of Faith (alias his Confession) and his Letter to Coroticus—will point to the same conclusion.
The significance of Cumbria’s Brampton to Padraig’s birthplace
As even the Scot Foster also concedes, Padraig’s words are often taken as being of wider reference—namely that he was a Brython. Consequently, the other likely site of Padraig’s birth—which he himself tells us was ‘Bannauem Taberniae’ (or Banna Venta Berniae)—is, even according to Foster, “on the Solway.”14
There, continues Foster the Scot, the place-name Banna is thought to have belonged to the western end of Hadrian’s Wall. On the Solway, and not on the Clyde.
An ancient church, St. Martin’s—named after Padraig’s mother’s brother—stands in farmland one mile east of Brampton near the River Eden. Too, it was in Brampton that Ninian -4 – himself had founded a congregation15—seventeen miles from Bowness at the western end of Hadrian’s Wall; thirteen miles east of the Solway; twelve miles south of Scotland; and ten miles east of Carlisle, in Cumbria.
Brampton is on a river which empties itself into the Solway five miles west of Carlisle. It is forty-five miles north of Kendal. That latter is the administrative centre of the first-century’s Prince Caradog’s kinsman the Christian King Arvirag’s son Prince Merig’s Cumbria—in which his second-century Christian descendants King Coill and King Llew and his third-century Christian descendants King Coel and Princess Helen and even the Christian Constantine the Great are all rooted.
The Canadian-American Rev. Professor Dr. J.T. McNeill, author of the famous work The History and Character of Calvinism, in his book The Celtic Churches discusses16 certain Latin terms used by Padraig himself to describe his own birthplace—vicus, villula, and decurio. These concepts are said to be inapplicable to Dumbarton in Scotland (to the north of the then-Roman province of Britannia).
A location in Cumbria, within the region called Rheged in the Welsh documents, has therefore been proposed—east-southeast of Carlisle and near the Irthing River within what was then still Britannia (just before the Romans pulled out of Britain completely). McNeill suggests some sparsely inhabited part of Cumbria (in Greater Strathclyde) just south of the Solway.
McNeill concludes that Padraig’s royal kinsman the Free Briton Corotig was apparently one of the princes called Ceretig in Cymric genealogies—probably Ceretig Wledig of Strathclyde. Consequently, a Brythonic Cumbrian cradle (between northeast ‘Wales’ and southwest ‘Scotland’) is again suggested—also by his very own writings—as the birth-place of Padraig himself.
Padraig’s writings not in Erse or Gaelic or Brythonic but in Dog-Latin
Furthermore, Padraig did not pen his writings in Scottish Gaelic, nor in the cognate Irish Erse (which he never really mastered). Nor did he record them in his own native tongue Brythonic, the popular language of Ancient Britain. But he rather wrote in a coarse Latin, as the official language of his own province within Britannia (south of the Solway)—and indeed also of the Roman Empire of which his Britannia had till just then been part.
Padraig wrote his mundane Latin quite intelligibly, though in a mediochre way. This shows he was not very fluently acquainted with that language of the Romans. It also shows that his was a kind of ‘Dog-Latin’—and certainly not his mother tongue. This is seen too in his clumsy-looking latinized names for the obviously-Brythonic members of his family and other persons. Thus, he latinizes his own name Padraig to Patricius etc.
Hence Padraig himself remarked:17 “I had a father Calpornius, a Deacon (Diaconus).” He was the “son of Potitus the son of Odissa, a Presbyter (Presbyterus). He [Calpornius] had a farm nearby where I was taken captive…and…led into captivity in Ireland.”
Thus, Padraig grew up in Britannia—and probably within Greater Strathclyde. The site was certainly close to Ireland—once again suggesting Cumbria. For the latter is just as close to Ireland as is Dumbarton. Also F.F. Bruce insists18 that Padraig was a native of the Roman province of Britannia (and therefore not from Caledonia).
Above, Padraig used the word Presbyterus (meaning ‘Elder’) rather than Sacerdos (meaning ‘Priest’) for the word here transliterated as “Presbyter.” This shows that Padraig was a Proto-Protestant Presbyterian rather than a sacerdotalized sacramentalist. His father Calpornius (the latinization of the Brythonic Calpurn) and grandfather Potitus (the Brython Pottitt) were both non-celibate clerics. His mother’s name he says was Concessa (the latinization of the Brythonic Conch or Conches).
This too shows Padraig was certainly no Roman Catholic. Though celibacy was a regular feature of certain later Celtic clerics, it was never obligatory. Married clergy dominated the Ancient Celtic Church—whether as early as the Christian Cumbrian Prince’s son Ninian before A.D. 397, or whether even as late as 1040 A.D.
Right down till the days of Padraig and beyond, the law of mandatory clerical celibacy was unknown in Britain and Ireland. In fact, the married clergy there successfully resisted the denunciations of later Romish popes and their councils on this as on other matters even during the next six hundred years. Also, even as late as the Council of Winchester in A.D. 1076, it was decreed that “married Pries-ts [or Presbyters] living in castles or villages should not be compelled to abandon their wives.”19
Padraig himself states20 his parents lived not among the Romans but “among the Britannians”—’in Britanniis’—alias among the native Brythonic inhabitants of Rome’s Province of Britannia. Indeed, the Romans had already withdrawn from Cumbria from 330f A.D. before he was born – and from the whole of Britannia in 398 during his lifetime.
In his Letter to Coroticus (also known as his Epistle)—Padraig adds21 that his father was a “Decurio.” That means a headman in charge of ten other persons, and hence a local Elder in the Church over ten other families (cf. Exodus 18:21f); or alternatively a Cavalry Commander; or even a Village Councillor. Yet in all three cases, Padraig’s father would still have functioned within the Roman province of Britannia.22
Padraig the Celt’s home language was Britonnic, the immediate predecessor of Cumbrian. He wrote in rather poor Latin. He wrote in the latter also, if not chiefly, in order that he might gain the widest possible readership. He gave latinized forms of his birthplace (‘Bannauem Taberniae’ or ‘Banna Venta Berniae’). He also gave a latinized name (‘Calpurnius’) to his father the Deacon (‘Diaconum’) Calporn, and to his grandfather the Presbyter Pottitt (‘Potiti…Presbyteri’). Indeed, Padraig further stated that his father was also a Decurio alias an ‘Elder-over-ten-families’ or a ‘Ruler-of-ten.’
These are all very strong indications that his birthplace Bannauem Taberniae (or Banna Venta Berniae) was not in Non-Roman Iro-Gaelic Northwestern or Western Scotland, nor in Niduaric-Pictish Southwestern Scotland, nor in Non-Roman Brythonic Caledonia, nor in Non-Roman Pictavia in Northeastern or Eastern Scotland—but somewhere in what at the time of his birth was still the Roman-occupied province of Britannia. For almost certainly, it is only in the solidly-evangelized and Proto-Presbyterian Britannia alias South Britain (and indeed probably only in the extreme northwest of South Britain in Cumbria) that a person such as Padraig—a self-confessed child of the covenant for no less than at least four generations—could have been born.23
Padraig hardly fits at all into the almost-pagan Pre-Ninian Scotland alias Pictland in North Britain. Nevertheless, both the Strathclydian saga and the Greater-Cumbrian tradition surrounding Padraig strongly militate against an original environment in either Wales or Cornwall—and still less in European Brittany.
Once more, Padraig’s struggle to learn Irish—itself so close to Scots-Gaelic—militates against Dumbarton (near the western coast of what is now central Scotland) being his home town. For Dumbarton is contiguous with and just east of Argyle (‘The Land of the Gaels’), which from far more ancient times had been colonized by Gaels from Ireland.
Consequently, Padraig could hardly have been raised in the Scottish part of Strathclyde outside of Britannia—to the north of Cumbrian Strathclyde within Britannia. A home town nearer to Cumbria’s Carlisle (a later anglicization not of the Gaelic Caithar Luail but rather of the Britonnic Caer Leill), seems far more likely.
Padraig from neither Scotland nor Southwest Britain but Cumbria
It is well-known that the Strathclyde Britons then included both those in Roman-occupied Cumbria immediately south of the Solway—as well as those Brythons immediately north of that firth.24 For Hadrian’s Wall ran from the Solway (from west to east), and bisected Strathclyde (to the north and to the south of it).
Even today, Hadrian’s Wall runs through Cumbria and Northumberland—south of the Solway and south of the Cheviots. It does not really run further to the north—on the border between modern England and modern Scotland. Still less does it run within modern Scotland itself.
Furthermore, the Irishman Muirchu—who around A.D. 675f wrote a biography of Padraig—there claimed25 that Padraig was “a Briton by nation.” Muirchu’s book about Padraig further claims that the latter was “born in Britannia”—his Latin actually reading: “in Britannia.” The Irishman Muirchu then further adds: “not far from our sea”—i.e., not far from the Irish Sea (with its Iro-Scotic Isle of Man mid-way between Ulster and Cumbria).
The Irish Hymn of Fiacc was composed about A.D. 800. Apart from Padraig’s Confession and his Letter to Coroticus (written by Padraig himself)—and also apart from Muirchu’s Life of Patrick—this Celtic Hymn of Fiacc is the earliest document relating to Padraig which has come down to us. The opening words of the Hymn of Fiacc are: “Patrick was born in Nemthur (Genair Patraicc inNaemthur).” A scholiast of the eleventh century has appended to these words the following Irish gloss: cathir sein feil imBretnaib tuaiscirt (“a city in North Britain”).
The great Elizabethan Chronicler and Historian Holinshed wrote:26 “This Patrick was born in the marches between England and Scotland, in a sea-side town called Eiburne.” This clearly points to the Solway, just south of the northernmost border between Cumbria and Dumfries.
This again places Patricius together with his father and grandfather with their standardly-latinized names—not in Scotland but clearly in the Roman province of Britannia. It further places them all in north-central Cumbria—and nearby to Carlisle “in the marches between England and Scotland in a sea-side town called Eiburne.”
This ‘Eiburne’ is indeed within ten miles of Brampton in Cumbria, and within five miles of Kirkpatrick in the extreme south of Scotland. Indeed, even Kirkpatrick itself may at that time well have been regarded—by the Romano-Britons themselves—as falling within the province of Britannia near its rather fluctuating border with what only later became known as Scotland.
So it seems almost certain that Padraig was raised in Greater Cumbria, alias Southern Strathclyde. As the BBC’s Historian Michael Wood declares in his 1987 book In Search of the Dark Ages,27 Padraig’s father owned a small villa in the west (perhaps in the region of Carlisle).
We conclude, then, that also Padraig the circa A.D. 385-461f British Missionary to Ireland—was born in the strongly-evangelized territory of Brythonic Cumbria, and probably just south of the border with Scotland. In this, then, he was just like Ninian the circa A.D. 360-432 Brythonic Missionary to Caledonia shortly before him. For both were raised apparently in Christian Cumbria.
That was the region earlier colonized by the great Prince Caradog’s contemporary kinsmen the Christian King Arvirag’s son Prince Merig of Cumbria—and his descendants Prince Coill and King Llew. It is also the region where Llew’s descendants King Coel and Princess Helena and even Constantine the Great apparently had their roots. Indeed, it is the region which also produced, after Padraig, the A.D. 516-70 oldest Brythonic Church Historian Gildas—and Kentigern or Mungo, the A.D. 518-603 Brythonic Missionary to the Picts.
Charles Thomas on Padraig as a native of Greater Cumbria
In his well-researched book Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500, Charles Thomas says 28 that Padraig himself called his father “Calpurnius” and tells us that the latter was or had been both “Diaconus” and “Decurio”—a Christian Deacon, and the holder of an obligatory Civil Office. Calpurnius would thus have owned land, and had servants. Padraig further says his grandfather “Potitus” had been a “Presbuteros” alias a Presbyter—and that Padraig himself was successively a Deacon and a “Bishop” alias an Overseer.
Padraig wrote in Dog-Latin. He knew his Bible, and had a limited range of patristic texts. He would have spoken Early-British—the vernacular [Britonnic-Cumbrian] of his home region.
We are told by Padraig (in his Confession) he was taken captive [by pirates from Ireland] when he was at his father’s “villula” or small country-estate. This was in Rome’s Britannia.
It lay south of Hadrian’s Wall. It was nearer to the west rather than to the east coast of Britain; and was approximately opposite that part of Ireland with which Padraig was involved initially and even principally—viz. Armagh in Ulster.
The villula which Calpornius owned, was near (prope) a place called Vicus Bannaventaburniae. This vicus or village was somewhere Calpornius “used to live.” It was also not unthinkably far from a larger town which would have handled the civil administrative structure of the region.
Regarding the latter, in the northwest at this period the only possibility would be Carlisle (Luguvallium). It is very appropriately near the western coast (and the indicated regions of Ireland). Irish slave-raids inland would accord with what we can infer.
The particular reading of the vicus or village as “Bannaventaburniae” is established from a comparison of surviving manuscripts. A division into the known forms banna, venta and berniae/burniae at once suggests itself.
Banna is a Britonnic word—and in place-names indicates a notable ‘horn’ or ‘spur’ or promontory of rock. Venta seems to be the Latin ‘forthgushings’ (of mountain-streams).
One can make the informed guess that it would include also a local meeting-place or centre or market-place, not far from the mountain-streams. The third element, bern-iae, will be discussed below.
Hassall has now proposed that Banna is Birdoswald—where a stone inscribed by the Venatores Banniess(es) alias ‘the Banniensan Hunters’ provides some confirmation. That is 15 miles east-northeast of Carlisle. The Vicus Banna (Venta Berniae) would then allude to a civilian settlement—such as that which appears to have existed in the area [to the south]east of the fort on Hadrian’s Wall.
The element ‘bern-iae’ [in Padraig’s own ‘Banna Venta Berniae’] has been discussed by [the renowned celtologist Prof. Dr.] Kenneth Jackson. It enters into the names Bern-accia and Bern-icia, and would be from a Britonnic stem of the form berna—meaning, like the Old-Celtic bern, a ‘gap’ or a ‘mountain pass.’ As for the “bern-” itself—the Greenhead pass, between the upper North Tyne at Haltwhistle and the upper gorge of the river Irthing naturally suggests itself.
Calpornius’ villula was near the vicus. It would have been a Romano-Britonnic estate of Highland Zone character, perhaps on the south side of the Irthing between Birdoswald and Lanercost. What Padraig tells us about his later life, suggests that he then returned to this first home of his. That district forms the most probable background for his early ecclesiastical training and advancement. Thus Charles Thomas.
Padraig’s grasp of the Ancient-Britonnic Bible
The British Christian Padraig was born, baptized in infancy, and raised as a faithful child of the covenant. As such, he early learned the ‘Great Book’ of the Ancient-Britonnic Church.
Rev. Professor Dr. John Foster explains29 that Padraig’s Confession fills twenty-one pages; and his Letter, six. Each page averages twenty-eight lines. Now in those twenty-seven pages, are 189 Bible quotations—seven to a page, one on every fourth line.
It was in fact quite usual at that time for clerics to memorize the Psalter. Yet Padraig quotes far more widely than that. He quotes from many of the books of the Old Testament, and from fully 23 of the 27 books of the New. For he cites from the Epistles, 79 times; from the Gospels, 29 times; from Acts, 21 times; from the Psalms, 21 times; from the Prophets, 17 times—and also from 22 other passages of Holy Scripture.
The conclusion is inescapable. Padraig must have known great stretches of the Bible by heart. He is so much a man of one book, that he also even writes in biblical language. The same is true of his later fellow-Strathclydean Gildas the Wise, the Britonnic writer of the oldest extant ‘Church History’ on Ancient Britain.
As the Canadian-American Calvinist Rev. Professor Dr. J.T. McNeill observes in his book The Celtic Churches,30 Padraig lived with and from the Bible. He had also read some of the Church Fathers—notably the Gaulic Brythons Irenaeus, and Victorian; and also the great Africans Cyprian and Augustine. Yet it is upon the Bible that he relied—to a very remarkable degree.
Padraig’s capture by the Irish and his servitude in Ireland
The Irish Historian Haverty chronicles31 that, when sixteen, Padraig was carried captive into Ireland in a plundering expedition by Niall of the Nine Hostages. There, as a slave in Antrim, he was in the habit of praying to God a hundred times in a day—and as many times at night.
The records state further that the boy Padraig was carried off from the west coast of Britain by Irish raiders when but sixteen years old in A.D. 405. He did, however, later redeem himself after six years of servitude, in 411 A.D. During his captivity, he evangelized many a youngster—in unfluent Irish. Indeed, according to the old Gaelic manuscript Betha Patriac or ‘The Life of Padraig’—he himself was there given in “fosterage” and further educated, as a typical country boy, in Ireland.32
After Padraig’s later departure from Ireland, he studied at Lerins and at Auxerre under the renowned Celto-Brythonic Christians Garmon and Lupus. Padraig—writes his seventh-century Biographer Muirchu—relished his association with the “most holy Bishop Germanus at Auxerre, with whom he stayed no little time.”33 Thereafter he returned to his native Britain—before then returning to Ireland, as a Missionary.
For, as the Canadian-American Professor Dr. J.T. McNeill points out in his fine book The Celtic Churches,34 the Bible-believing Padraig was extremely conscious of the situation in the ‘far west’—and viewed Ireland as his mission field. It was for him, as for some classical writers, the outermost west of the habitable World. For Padraig tells us that he had been “predestined to preach the Gospel even to the ends of the Earth.”35 Acts 1:8!
Padraig the Briton was a Proto-Protestant
The Calvinist McNeill concludes of Padraig that his Scripture-based eschatology—matched the geographical uniqueness of his mission. From Matthew 28:19-20 and parallel passages drawn from both Testaments, he saw his work as helping to culminate the expansion of the faith begun by the Apostles. Padraig thanked God Who heard his prayers for him to undertake “such a holy and wonderful work, imitating those who [were sent to] preach the Gospel for a testimony to all nations”—before history could end.
Significantly, both of Padraig’s parents were British Christians. Indeed, both his father and his grandfather were Culdee Clergymen—thus proving that primordial pastors in the Early British Church were non-celibate.
A fortiori, Rev. Dr. Duke rightly deduces36 that Padraig held no commission from Rome and that Padraig constituted himself as the “Apostle of Ireland.” Indeed, Padraig had not—like a Romish Missionary—first been consecrated by Rome, and then sent to Ireland (as indeed later falsely alleged about him).
For Padraig himself admitted:37 “I say (fateor) that I am a Bishop (Episcopus) appointed by God (a Deo) in Ireland (Hiberione).” The Latin Episcopus is derived from the Greek episkopein (meaning ‘to oversee’). By “Bishop” or ‘Overseer’ the Proto-Presbyterian Culdee Padraig simply means: Presiding Elder. Cf. Acts 20:17’s equating of “Presbuterous”—with “Episkopous” in 20:28. See too Titus 1:5’s “Presbuterous”—which in 1:7 is equated with “Episkopon” (the singular of Episkopous).
Now “in” Padraig’s Ireland (Hiberione), there were then no Romanists and still less any Romish Prelates who could have been able there to have made him a Bishop. Nor did he have any contact with Romanist Prelates in Gaul who could have commissioned him. Indeed, Britain herself was still totally devoid of Romanists. So too would she remain—for at least a couple of centuries more.
So it is clear that Padraig here means it was only God Himself directly, without any human agency, Who appointed him as a ‘Bishop’ in Ireland—and after he had arrived there again (when now an adult), as a Missionary. Yet probably, this occurred only after being commissioned thereunto by a British Presbytery in his native Cumbria—before his departure to Ireland, and after being trained by Garmon the Celto-Brythonic Overseer. Compare Acts 13:1-5f.
Rev. Professor Dr. Hugh Blair rightly states38 that Padraig’s writings indicate no connection whatsoever with Rome. At sixteen, he was taken captive in Britain by marauders from Scotic Ireland—where he was enslaved. After six years, he was released from captivity—and went home to Britain.
Linguistic and other considerations suggest he received his theological training either in Britain among his fellow British Culdees—or in the kindred Gaulo-Brythonic Culdee Church of Ancient France. Blair goes on to argue that Padraig’s non-celibate father Calpurn was a Deacon, who in turn was the son of Pottitt a Presbyter.
Padraig returned to Ireland about A.D. 432. For the next thirty years, he had a considerable influence on the Irish Chieftains. He had special links with Tara, Croagh Padraic, and Armagh. There is no doubt that, under the Triune God, it was he who made Ireland into a Christian country—and that his teaching was Scriptural and Evangelical. The Church which he founded there, was independent of Rome. Thus Rev. Professor Dr. Blair.
Holinshed and Hanna on the life of the Missionary Padraig in Ireland
The famous Elizabethan Historian Raphael Holinshed explains39 that the young Padraig after a six years’ term of forced and unjust slavery in Ireland, redeemed himself with a piece of gold which he found in a clod of earth. He later sought out his uncle Martin in France, by whose means he was placed with Garmon—the Bishop of Auxerre. He continued with him as his scholar or disciple, for a period of several years—all of which time he bestowed on similar study of the Holy Scriptures.
Then, in the year of our Lord 430, Padraig again landed in Ireland—but this time sufficiently speaking her tongue! King Laoghaire (or Leary), son of Niall the great monarch, although he did not himself receive the Gospel—yet permitted all who so wished, to embrace it. From thence, Padraig took his way to Conill, Lord of Connaught. Connill honourably received him, and was converted—together with all his people. Thereafter, Connill sent Padraig to his brother Logan the King of Leinster—whom Padraig likewise converted.
Also in Munster, Padraig found great friendship and favour—by means of the Earl of Daris. He honoured Padraig highly, and gave him a dwelling-place in the east angle of Armagh called Sorta.
Rev. Hanna indicates that after returning to Ireland when forty, Padraig preached to King Laoghaire, son of Niall and ancestor to the Ulster O’Neills. Alleged to have explained the Trinity from God-created shamrocks alias three-leaf clovers, Padraig won many of the nobles of the Ard-Ri alias the Irish ‘High King’ and many of his druids to Celtic Culdee Christianity.
Ireland was still a confederacy of independent states. Padraig indeed won much of the family of the Irish High-King, and most of Ireland’s under-kings and the chieftains of her independent states and regions, for Christ—and so too many of the druids. Indeed, he also christianized and codified Irish Law—and ordained especially from the converted druids at least one Minister of the Word and Sacraments for each of the hundreds of congregations he established.
After many years, soldiers of the Brythonic King Corotig cruelly kidnapped some of the Christian Irish whom Padraig had converted—and attempted to sell them to the then-still-pagan Gaelic Scots and Ancient Picts in what is now Scotland. Padraig protested, in his Epistle to Coroticus.
In his famous Hymn of the Deer’s Cry, Padraig’s Christonomic Trinitarian Theology and Proto-Puritan Piety is clearly set out. This is also seen in the ‘Patrician Poem’ of his nephew the Presbyter Sechnall (alias Secundinus).
This is seen further, in the ancient Irish morning prayer known as the Lorica, taught by Padraig to his followers. Finally, Padraig’s autobiography or Confession—apparently written just before his death at a very old age—discloses the divinely-donated discipline of this godly Trinitarian.
Padraig’s great theodicy- his Letter to King Coroticus
Even after his work zenithed in Ireland, there were disappointments for Padraig. Soldiers of the Brythonic King Corotig would cruelly kidnap some of the Irish Christians whom Padraig had converted. The plan of those kidnappers was to sell those kidnapped—to certain then-still-pagan or by-then-apostate Brythons and pagan Scots in Northern Strathclyde within what is now Western Scotland, and also to certain pagan and/or by-then-apostate Ancient Picts in what is now Northeastern and Southwestern Scotland.
Many years earlier, Padraig had himself been kidnapped from Southern Strathclyde alias Cumbria in Britain—by Iro-Scots from Ireland. They had then sold him into slavery to the then-pagan Irish. So now, after many years as a successful Missionary in Ireland, in his Epistle to Coroticus Padraig vehemently protests against these fresh kidnappings—as follows:40
“I, Patricius, an unlearned sinner—resident in Ireland—declare that I am a Presiding Elder [Episcopus alias a Bishop]. Most assuredly, I believe that what I am, I have received from God. And so I live…[as] a stranger and an exile, for the love of God.
“He is witness that this is so…. I am impelled by a zeal for God…. The truth of Christ has wrung it from me, out of love for my neighbours and sons for whom I gave up my country [Britain], and parents, and my life, to the point of death…. For my God, I live—in order to teach….
“I have written and composed these words—to be given, delivered, and sent to the soldiers of Coroticus…, allies of the [infidel] Scots and the apostate Picts. Dripping with blood, they wallow in the blood of innocent Christians—whom [by and from the Holy Spirit] I have regenerated into the number for God, and confirmed in Christ…. I ask them to let us have some of the booty, and the baptized they have made captives….
“Those whom the devil has mightily ensnared [the soldiers of Corotig themselves]…will be slaves in Hell in an eternal punishment. For he who keeps on committing sin, is a slave; and will be called ‘a son of the devil.’
“Therefore, let every God-fearing man know that they are enemies of me and of Christ my God, for Whom I am an Ambassador. Patricide! Fratricide! Ravening wolves that eat the people of the Lord as they eat bread! As I said, ‘The wicked, O Lord, have destroyed Your Law’—which but recently He had [theonomically!] excellently and kindly planted in Ireland, and which had established itself by the grace of God….
“I share in the work of those whom He called and predestinated to preach the Gospel amidst grave persecutions ‘unto the end of the Earth.’ Even if the enemy [Satan] shows his jealously through the tyranny of Coroticus—a man who has no respect for God nor for His Presbyters whom He chose and to whom He gave the highest…and sublime power so that whom they should bind upon Earth would be bound also in Heaven….
“You who are holy and humble of heart, it is not permissible to court the favour of such people nor to take food or drink with them nor even to accept their alms—until they make reparation to God…through repentance with shedding of tears, and set free the baptized servants of God and handmaids of Christ for whom He died and was crucified.
“The All-Highest disapproves the gifts of the wicked…. It is written: ‘The riches which he has gathered unjustly, shall be vomited up from his belly’….
“The angel of death drags him away…. By the fury of dragons he shall be tormented. The viper’s tongue shall kill him. ‘Unquenchable fire keeps on devouring him.’ And so—’Woe to those who keep on filling themselves with what is not their own!’ Or: ‘What does it profit a man, that he gain the whole World—and suffer the loss of his own soul?’
Padraig’s Letter to King Coroticus (continued)
“It would be tedious to discuss and set forth all in detail, to gather from the whole Law, testimonies against such greed. Avarice is a deadly sin. ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods!’ [Exodus 20:17]. ‘You shall not murder!’ [Exodus 20:13].
“A murderer cannot be with Christ. ‘Whosoever hates his brother, is accounted a murderer’ [First John 3:15]. Or: ‘He that does not love his brother, abides in death’ [First John 3:14]. How much more guilty is he who has stained his hands with the blood of the sons of God, whom He has of late purchased in ‘the utmost part of the Earth’ [Psalm 2:8 & Acts 1:8] through the call of our littleness!
“Did I come to Ireland without God?…. I am bound by the Spirit…. I was freeborn according to the flesh. I am the son of a Decurion [alias a Ruler-over-ten-households]! But I sold my noble rank—I am neither ashamed nor sorry—for the good of others. Thus I am a servant in Christ to a foreign nation, for the unspeakable glory of everlasting life which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“And if my own people do not know me—’a Prophet has no honour in his own country!’ Perhaps we are not of the same fold—and do not have one and the same God as Father. As it is written: ‘He who is not with Me, is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters’…. ‘One keeps on destroying; another keeps on building up.’ I do not seek the things that are mine.
“It is not my grace, but God Who had given this solicitude into my heart—to be one of His hunters or fishers whom God once foretold would come…. What shall I do, Lord? … Your sheep around me are being torn to pieces and driven away…by these robbers, by the orders of the hostile-minded Coroticus.
“Far from the love of God is a man who hands over Christians to the Picts and Scots! Ravening wolves have devoured the flock of the Lord, which in Ireland was indeed growing splendidly with the greatest care…. I cannot count the number of the sons and daughters of their kings who were…of Christ….
“You [Coroticus] prefer to kill and sell them [the Irish Christians] to a foreign nation [Scotland’s then-still-pagan Picts] that has no knowledge of God. You betray the members of Christ, as it were into a brothel! What hope have you in God, or anyone who thinks as you do, or converses with you in words of flattery? God will judge! For Scripture says: ‘Not only they that do evil are worthy of condemnation, but they too who consent to them’….
“Scripture says: ‘Weep with them that weep!’ And again: ‘If one member be grieved, let all members grieve with it!’ Hence the Church mourns and laments her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were removed and carried off to faraway lands where sin abounds….
“Perhaps they do not believe that we have received one and the same baptism…. It is written: ‘Have you not one God? Have you, every one of you, forsaken his neighbour?’
Padraig’s Letter to King Coroticus (concluded)
“Therefore I grieve for you [the first-enslaved and some of the then-deceased Irish Christians]. I grieve, my dearly beloved. But again…, thanks be to God that you have left the World and have gone to Paradise as baptized faithful!
“I see you. You have journeyed to where ‘night shall be no more; nor mourning; nor death.’ But ‘you shall leap like calves loosened from their bonds. And you shall tread down the wicked, and they shall be ashes under your feet!’ [cf. Malachi 4:3].
“You will reign with the Apostles and Prophets and Martyrs. You will take possession of eternal kingdoms. As He Himself testifies, saying: ‘They shall come from the East and from the West, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven.’ ‘Outside are dogs [or sodomites] and sorcerers and whoremongers and murderers and idolaters and whosoever loves lies’ [Revelation 22:15].
“Perjurers and ‘liars shall have their portion in the pool of everlasting fire’ [Revelation 21:8]. Not without reason does the Apostle say: ‘Whereas the just man shall scarcely be saved—where shall the sinner and ungodly transgressor of the Law find himself?’
“Where then will Coroticus with his criminals, rebel against Christ? Where will they see themselves, they who distribute baptized women as prizes? In a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment!
“‘As a cloud or smoke that is dispersed by the wind, so shall the wicked perish at the presence of the Lord!’ ‘But the just shall feast with great constancy’– with Christ! ‘They shall judge nations’—and rule over wicked kings for ever and ever. Amen.
“‘I testify before God and His angels’ that it will be so…. It is not my words that I have set forth…but those of God and the Apostles and Prophets who have never lied. ‘He who believes, shall be saved; but he who does not believe, shall be condemned.’ God has spoken!
“I ask earnestly that whoever is a willing servant of God, be a carrier of this letter—so that on no account it be suppressed or hidden by anyone, but rather be read before all the people and in the presence of Coroticus himself. May God encourage them at some time to recover their senses for God—repenting, however late, of their heinous deeds!
“They are murderers of the brethren of the Lord. May they set free the baptized women whom they took captive—in order that they may…live to God, and be made whole—here, and in eternity! Peace be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit! Amen.”
The testimony anent Padraig of his own nephew Sechnall
The above is Padraig’s own testimony—his own Christonomic Theodicy. The same kind of testimony is seen also in the poem of his own nephew, the Presbyter Sechnall (Secundinus). The latter wrote41 that Padraig was “steadfast in his faith” and that “the gates of hell will not prevail against him.”
Sechnall also wrote of his uncle Padraig that “he gives the good—an apostolic example and model…. He encourages, by good conduct…. Humble is he of mind and body, because of his fear of God…. In his holy body, he bears the marks of Christ….
“He preserves his body chaste, for love of the Lord. This body He has made a temple for the Holy Spirit…. He keeps it such, by purity in all his actions. He offers it as a living sacrifice, acceptable to the Lord….
“He frees captives from a twofold servitude. The great numbers, he liberates from bondage to men. These countless ones, he frees from the yoke of the devil.
“He sings hymns and the Revelation and the Psalms of God—and explains them for the edification of God’s people. He tells them he believes in the Trinity of the Holy Name—and teaches them that there is only one Substance, in Three Persons.”
Padraig’s Christonomic and Trinitarian Daily Morning Prayer
Padraig’s dynamic Christonomic and Trinitarian Faith is seen also in his Morning Prayer, known as the Lorica (or Hymn of the Deer’s Cry).42 This, Padraig got also his disciples to sing—outside the sabbath times of official worship to the Triune God. It commenced with the by-now-familiar Ancient-Irish words Atomriug indiu niurt tren. Thus Padraig taught them: “Today I arise through God’s great strength and draw close to my Lord Triune. By grace through faith, I know He’s One—Jehovah—ere time began. Yet there’s Three Who create—even Elohim: the Father and Son and Spirit.
“Today I arise, through the baptism of Christ—His cross; and His grave; resurrection; ascension; and final descent, for the judgment of doom.
“Today I arise, while God’s angels serve—I heed all His heralds, through reading His Word. He makes His saints pure, in labours and love.
“Today I arise, before the sun’s flame; before the winds rush; before lightning strikes. For God’s sea is deep; and His land like a rock!
“Today I arise, through God’s strength to guide me. God’s might shall uphold me; God’s wisdom shall lead me; God’s eye looks before me; God’s ear shall hear for me; God’s Word shall speak through me; God’s hand shall protect me—God’s way is before me.
“God’s hosts shall defend me against snares of devils; against tests of vices; against lusts of nature; ‘gainst all who would harm me; from far or from near—with few, or with many.
“Christ now protects me ‘gainst poison; ‘gainst burning; ‘gainst drowning; ‘gainst wounding; and even ‘gainst falling—that I may receive an abundant reward.
“For Christ now is with me, before, and behind me; Christ is within, and beneath, and above me. Christ’s on my right; and Christ’s on my left. Christ’s where I sit; and Christ’s where I sleep.
“Christ’s where I rise, each day I get up. Christ’s in the hearts of all who recall me. Christ’s in the mouth of all who address me. Christ’s in the eye of all who behold me. Christ’s in the ear of all who do hear me.
“Today I arise in the strong Name of God, to the Triune Jehovah I come! I pray every day, to Elohim strong—to my God Who is Three but yet One.
“From Him all of nature has had her creation by Father; by Spirit; by Word—O praise to Jehovah the God of salvation! For I’m saved by Jesus, the Lord!”
Rev. Professor Dr. Lee’s rendition of Padraig’s Daily Morning Prayer
Both the 1927 Presbyterian Scottish Psalter and Church Hymnary43 and the 1987 Australian Presbyterian songbook Rejoice!44 have hymnodized the above. Beyond those attempts, here is Dr. F.N. Lee’s own effort to get Padraig’s Lorica to rhyme in English, set to St. Petersburg or Melita (or any other 88.88.88 melody)—and titled “Padraig’s Daily Morning Prayer.”
“Today I rise, and now commune with my Creator God Triune. He’s One, by grace through faith I know—Jehovah God, from long ago! He’s also Elohim. Thus Three from, and until, eternity!
“Today I rise, and with my eyes I see how John did Christ baptize—His cross and grave I clearly see. I know He went there, all for me. Because He rose up from His tomb, my sin no longer means my doom!
“Today I rise, while angels serve I’ll pray with every ounce of nerve. I’ll heed God’s heralds; read His Word; then I will very gladly gird His Spirit’s sword for works of love. His saints must be: pure as a dove. “Today I’ll rise before the sun its daily rising has begun—before the rushings of the wind, or thunderbolts have loudly dinned. For God’s deep sea is in His hand, and rock-firm is His promised land.
“Today I rise. God’s strength me guides; His might all day with me abides. His wisdom leads; His eye shall guard; His ear shall hear; His Word bombard my foes. His gentle hands protect and keep me on His road correct.
“God’s angels guard me ‘gainst all snares; against all vicious trials and scares; against all of my carnal lusts; against all nature’s stormy gusts; against all harm, both far and near. Against all foes, I have no fear.
“Christ shelters from each harmful wound no matter what my foes impugned. ‘Gainst burns and drownings, ‘gainst all falls. Against all poisons, and all brawls Christ guards me with His mighty sword. So I’ll yet get His good reward.
“My Christ is with me, and before, behind, beneath, above—and more. Christ’s on my left, Christ’s on my right—there when I sit, and when I fight. Whatever I may take to hand, Christ’s there—when I’m asleep, or stand.
“Christ’s where I rise, when every day I read His Word and to Him pray. When I’m discussed, He’s in the heart—He’s in the mouth, right from the start. He’s in the eye of all who see and hear the actions done by me.
“Today I rise, in God’s strong Name, the great Jehovah to proclaim. The Lord is always One and Three—my God, for all eternity! Yes, Elohim is always One and Three—my Lord, for all eternity!”
Padraig’s own autobiographical Confession or Profession of Faith (I)
At the very end of his long life, Padraig wrote down his autobiographical Confession (or Profession of Faith). There, he records:45
“I am Patricius, a sinner—most unlearned; the least of all the faithful…. My father was Deacon Calpornius, son of Presbyter Potitus of the village Banna Ventaburniae. He had a country-seat nearby, and there I was taken captive.
“I was then about sixteen years of age…. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people—and deservedly so, because we had turned away from God and did not keep His Commandments and did not obey our Presbyters who used to remind us of our salvation. So the Lord brought over us the wrath of His anger, and scattered us among many nations—even unto ‘the utmost part of the Earth’ where my littleness is placed among strangers.
“There, the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief—so that I might at least remember my sins, and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God. He had regard to my abjection, and had mercy on my youth and ignorance.
“He watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil. He guarded and comforted me as a father does his son.
“Hence I cannot be silent—nor, indeed, is it expedient—about the great benefits and the great grace which the Lord designed to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity. For this we can give to God in return, after having been chastened by Him—to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation that is anywhere under Heaven!
“Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be—than God the Father unbegotten; without beginning; from Whom all beginnings exist. He is, as we have been taught, the Lord of the Universe….
“His Son Jesus Christ [the Spirit-anointed]…we declare to have been always with the Father—spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the World, before all beginnings…. By Him all things visible and invisible have been made.
“He was made man and, having defeated death, was received into Heaven by the Father…. He [the Father] has given Him all power over all names in Heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth—and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God.
“We believe in Him Whose advent…we expect. Judge of the living and of the dead, Who will render to every man according to his deeds….
“He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the Gift and Pledge of immortality—Who makes those who believe and obey, sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ…. Him do we confess and adore—one God in the Triunity of the Holy Name.
“For He Himself had said through the Prophet: ‘Call upon Me in the day of your trouble, and I will deliver you; and you shall glorify Me!’ And again, He says: ‘It is honourable to reveal and confess the works of God’….
“I know well the testimony of my Lord Who in the Psalm declares: ‘You will destroy them that speak a lie.’ And again, He says: ‘The mouth that lies, kills the soul.’
“And the same Lord says in the Gospel: ‘Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment!’ And so I should dread exceedingly, with fear and trembling, this sentence on that day when no one will be able to escape or hide—but we all, without exception, shall have to give an account even of our smallest sins before the judgment seat of the Lord Christ.”
Padraig’s Confession or Profession of Faith (II)
“I long had in mind to write…. I have not studied like the others who thoroughly imbibed Law and Sacred Scripture, and never had to change from the language of their childhood days, but were able to make it still more perfect. In our case, what I had to say, had to be translated into a tongue [Irish] foreign to me….
“This betrays how little instruction and training I have had in the art of words. For, as Scripture says, ‘by the tongue will be disclosed—the wise man; and understanding; and knowledge; and the teaching of truth’….
“Now, in my old age, I strive for something that I did not acquire in youth. It was my sins that prevented me from fixing in my mind what before I had barely read through….
“Almost as a boy not able to speak, I was taken captive…. Today, I blush and fear exceedingly to reveal my lack of education…. [Yet] I would not be silent—because of my desire to give thanks!… After all, it is written: ‘The stammering tongues shall quickly learn to speak peace’….
“We earnestly strive to do this—we who are, as Scripture says, ‘a letter of Christ for salvation unto the utmost part of the Earth’ (although not yet an eloquent one)…, ‘written in your hearts not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God’…. Again, the Spirit witnesses that ‘even rusticity was created by the All-Highest’….
“Before I was humiliated, I was like a stone lying in the deep mire…. He Who is mighty came, and in His mercy lifted me up and raised me aloft….
“Therefore, then, be astonished—you great and little who fear God, and you men of letters!… He encouraged me—me, the outcast of this World, before others to be the man…who with fear and reverence and without blame should faithfully serve the [Irish] people to whom the love of Christ conveyed and gave me, for the duration of my life….
“In the light therefore of our faith in the Trinity, I must make this choice…. I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation. Without fear and frankly, I must spread everywhere the Name of God—so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord, so many thousands of people.”
Padraig’s Confession or Profession of Faith (III)
“I was not worthy…that the Lord should grant this to His servant. That…, after my captivity, after the passage of so many years, He should give me so great a grace in behalf of that nation….
“After I came to Ireland [as a slave], every day I had to tend sheep and many times a day I prayed. The
love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened….
“My spirit was moved, so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers—and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods I used to get up for prayer before daylight—through snow, through frost, through rain…. I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in me—as I now see, because the Spirit within me was then fervent….
“One night, I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: ‘It is well that you fast! Soon you will go [back] to your own country [Britain]…. Your ship is ready’….
“It was not near, but at a distance of perhaps two hundred miles [in Wicklow]…. I had never been there.
“Nor did I know a living soul there…. Then I took to flight, and I left the man with whom I had stayed for six years [cf. Exodus 21:2]. And I went in the strength of God….
“As I went, I began to pray. And before I had ended my prayer, I heard someone shouting behind me: ‘Come, hurry, we shall take you on in good faith! Make friends with us!’…
“And so, on that day I…hoped they would come to the faith of Jesus Christ, because they were pagans. And thus I had my way with them….
“After three days, we reached land…. We travelled through deserted country…. The next day, the captain said to me: ‘Tell me, Christian—you say that your God is great and all-powerful? Why then do you not pray for us? As you can see, we are suffering from hunger!’….
“I said to them full of confidence: ‘Be truly converted with all your heart to the Lord my God! Because nothing is impossible for Him; so that this day He may send you food’….
“Suddenly a herd of pigs appeared on the roads before our eyes…. They killed many of them…. They also found wild honey, and offered some of it to me….
“Thanks be to God! … I was upheld by Christ my Lord…. His Spirit was even then crying out on my behalf….
“It will be so, on the day of my tribulation. As is written in the Gospel: ‘On that day,’ the Lord declares, ‘it is not you that speak—but the Spirit of My Father Who speaks in you!'”
Padraig’s Confession or Profession of Faith (IV)
“Once again, after many years, I fell into captivity [in Gaul?]…. On the sixtieth night thereafter, the Lord delivered me…. Then again, after a few years, I was in Britain with my people—who received me as their son and sincerely besought me that now at last, having suffered so many hardships, I should not leave them and go elsewhere.
“But there I saw in the night the vision of a man…coming as it were from Ireland…. I heard their voice…. They [the Irish] did cry out as with one mouth: ‘We ask you, boy—come and walk among us once again!’….
“I woke up, and remembered the Apostle saying: ‘The Spirit helps the infirmities of our prayer. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought.
“But the Spirit Himself asks for us, [and in us,] with unspeakable groanings which cannot be expressed in words.’ And again: ‘The Lord our Advocate asks for us!'”
Padraig’s Confession or Profession of Faith (V)
“When I had been fifteen years old, I did not trust in the living God. Nor did I do so from my childhood….
“I lived in death and unbelief. Until I was severely chastised and really humiliated by hunger and nakedness—and that, daily….
“I did not go to Ireland of my own accord—not until I had nearly perished! But this was rather for my good. For thus was I purged by the Lord, and He made me fit. So that I might be now what was once far from me—so that I should care and labour for the salvation of others….
“Therefore I give thanks to Him Who has strengthened me in everything…. He did not frustrate the journey upon which I had decided, and the work which I had learned from Christ my Lord…. I rather felt, after this, no little strength—and my trust was proved right, before God and men….
“I must not, however, hide God’s gift which He bestowed upon me in the land of my captivity. Because then, I earnestly sought Him. And there I found Him, and He saved me from all evil—because…of His Spirit Who keeps on dwelling in me….
“I give unwearied thanks to God Who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation [or test], so that today I can confidently offer Him my soul as a living sacrifice. To Christ my Lord, Who saved me out of all my troubles.
“Thus I can say: ‘Who am I, O Lord, and to what have You called me—You who assisted me with such divine power that today I constantly exalt and magnify Your Name…not only in good days but also in tribulations?’ So indeed I must accept with equanimity whatever befalls me, be it good or evil, and always give thanks to God Who taught me to trust in Him always, without hesitation.”
Padraig’s Confession or Profession of Faith (VI)
“He must have heard my prayer. So I, however ignorant I was, in recent days dared to undertake such a holy and wonderful work—thus imitating somehow those who, as the Lord once foretold, would preach His Gospel for a testimony to all nations [cf. Matthew 28:19f], prior to the end of the World….
“It would be tedious to give a detailed account of all my labours, or even a part of them. Let me tell you briefly how the merciful God often freed me from slavery, and from twelve dangers in which my life was at stake—not to mention numerous plots, which I cannot express in words….
“I do not want to bore my readers. But God is my witness, Who knows all things even before they come to pass…. He used to forewarn even me, poor wretch that I am, of many things, by a divine message.
“How did I come by this wisdom which was not in me? I knew neither the number of my days nor what God was!
“Whence was given to me afterwards the gift so great, so salutary—to know God and to love Him? Although at the price of leaving my country and my parents!…. “I came to the people of Ireland to preach the Gospel and to suffer…. I am prepared to give even my life…most gladly for His Name. And it is there that I wish to spend it, until I die….
“I am very much God’s debtor—Who gave me such great grace that many people were born again in God, and afterwards confirmed through me…. Ministers were ordained…everywhere, for a people just coming to the Faith.
“The Lord took them ‘from the utmost parts of the Earth’—as He once had promised through His Prophets: ‘To You the Gentiles shall come from the ends of the Earth’…. And again: ‘I have set You as a light among the Gentiles, so that You may be for salvation unto the utmost part of the Earth!’
“And there I wish to wait for the promise of Him Who surely never deceives. As He promises in the Gospel: ‘They shall come from the East and the West, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob’—as we believe the faithful will come, from all the World. “For that reason therefore we ought to fish well and diligently…. The Lord exhorts in advance, and teaches, saying: ‘You must come after Me, and I will make you to be fishers of men!’ And again He says through the Prophets: ‘Behold, I send many fishers and hunters’….
“The Lord in the Gospel states, exhorts, and teaches, saying: ‘Even while going, you must teach all nations—baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit—instructing them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you all days—even to the consummation of the World!’ [Matthew 28:18f].
“And again He says: ‘You must therefore go into the whole World, and preach the Gospel to every creature! He who believes and is baptized, shall be saved; but he who does not believe, shall be condemned.’ And again: ‘This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole World for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the end come!’
“And so too the Lord announces through the Prophet, and says: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days,’ says the Lord, ‘I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions: and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids, I will pour out of My Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.’
“And in Hosea, He says: ‘I will call “My people” that which was not My people…. And her that had not obtained mercy, [I will call] “one that has obtained mercy!” And instead of where it was said: “You are not My people”—they shall be called “the sons of the living God!”‘”
Padraig’s Confession or Profession of Faith (VII)
“Hence, how did it come to pass in Ireland, that those who never had a knowledge of God…have now been made a people of the Lord and are called ‘sons of God’? … [How did it come to pass] that sons and daughters of the kings of the Irish—are seen to be…born again there, so as to be of our kind? I do not know….
“I could have wished to leave them and go [back] to Britain. And how I would have loved to go to my country and my parents—and also to Gaul in order to visit the brethren and to see the face of the saints of my Lord! For God knows I much desired it.
“But I am bound by the Spirit Who would give evidence against me, were I to do this—telling me I would be guilty. And I am afraid of losing the labour which I have begun—nay, not I, but Christ the Lord Who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life….
“This, I presume, I ought to do! But I do not trust myself, as long as I am in this body of death…. From the time I came to know Him in my youth, the love of God and the fear of Him have grown in me—and up to now, thanks to the grace of God, I have kept the faith…. He knows everything, even before the times of the World!
“Hence I ought unceasingly to give thanks to God Who often pardoned my foolishness…and on more than one occasion spared His great wrath upon me who was chosen to be His helper—and who was slow to do as was shown me, and as the Spirit suggested. But the Lord had mercy on me, thousands and thousands of times….
“Would that you too would strive for greater things, and do better! This will be my glory. For a wise son is the glory of his father.”
Padraig’s Confession or Profession of Faith (VIII)
“You know, and so does God, how I have lived among you from my youth in the true faith and in sincerity of heart…. I have been faithful…, for fear that through me the Name of the Lord be blasphemed. For it is written: ‘Woe to the man through whom the Name of the Lord is blasphemed!’
“For although I be rough in all things, nevertheless I have tried somehow to keep myself safe…. When I baptized so many thousands of people—did I perhaps expect from any of them as much as a tiny coin? Tell me, and I will give it back!…
“On the contrary, I spent money for you—so that they might receive me. And I went to you and everywhere for your sake in many dangers, even to the farthest districts…. May God powerfully grant me afterwards, that I myself may be spent—for your souls!
“Indeed, I call God to witness upon my soul—that I do not lie…. Sufficient is the honour that is not yet seen but is anticipated in the heart. ‘Faithful is He Who promised!’ For ‘He never lies!’
“But I see myself exalted even in the present World, beyond measure, by the Lord. And I was not worthy, nor such that He should grant me this….
“Poverty and misfortune behooves me better than riches and pleasures. For Christ the Lord too was poor, for our sakes. And I, unhappy wretch that I am, have no wealth—even if I wished for it. “Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity—or whatever it may be. But I fear none of these things, because of the promises of Heaven.
“I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty, Who rules everywhere. As the Prophet says: ‘Cast your thoughts upon God, and He shall sustain you!’….
“So now, I commend my soul to my faithful God, for Whom I am an Ambassador…. God accepts no person, but chose me for this Office—to be, although among His least, one of His Ministers.
“Hence let me give back to Him, because of all He has done for me! But what can I say or what can I promise to my Lord—as I can do nothing that He has not given me?
“May He search the heart and reins!… I pray to God to give me perseverance, and to deign that I be a faithful witness to Him—to the end of my life, for my God!
“And if ever I have done any good for my God Whom I love, I beg Him to grant that I may shed my blood with those exiles and captives for His Name. Even though I should be denied a grave; or my body be woefully torn to pieces limb from limb by hounds or wild beasts; or the fowls of the air devour it.
“I am firmly convinced that if this should happen to me, I would have gained my soul—together with my body. Because on that day, without doubt we shall rise in the brightness of the sun.
“That is, [we shall rise] in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as sons of the living God and joint-heirs with Christ—to be made conformable to His image. For of Him, and by Him, and in Him—we shall reign!
“For this sun which we see, rises daily for us—because God commands this…. We believe in, and worship, the true Sun—Christ—Who will never perish. Nor will he who does His will. But he will abide for ever, even as Christ abides for ever Who reigns with God the Almighty Father and the Holy Spirit—before time; and now; and unto all eternity. Amen!”
Padraig’s Confession or Profession of Faith (IX)
“Behold, again and again would I set forth the words of my Confession. I testify in truth and in joy of heart, before God and His holy angels, that I never had any reason except the Gospel and its promises [as to] why I should ever return to the [Irish] people—from whom once before I barely escaped.
“I pray those who truly fear God, whosoever begins to look at or receive this writing which Padraig, an unlearned sinner, composed in Ireland—that no one should ever say it was my ignorance if I did or showed forth anything however small according to God’s good pleasure. But let this be your conclusion and let it so be thought that—as is the perfect truth—it was the gift of God! This is my Confession, before I die.”
Padraig’s christianization and codification of Irish Common Law
According to the Colloquy of the Ancients, the Christian Missionary Padraig of Britain once asked an Irish Leader about their Pre-Christian customs. Asked Padraig: “Who or what was it that maintained you in your life?” Caoilte replied, on behalf of the Pre-Christian Irish: “Truth was in our hearts; strength in our arms; and fulfilment in our tongues.”
After his principial christianization of the Irish Chieftains, Padraig was invited by King Laoghaire to take part in the codification of the Senchus Mor [or ‘Moral Code’] of Ancient Ireland. Padraig’s participation was requested—precisely in order to represent the interests of the new Christian communities in Ireland, anent that code. Apparently, the Chief-Druid Dubhthach dictated it—and Padraig refined and recorded it.
Now Padraig himself noted also the native literacy of that Chief-Druid Dubhthach O’Lugair—before the latter’s christianization. Indeed, Padraig even supervised the burning of some 180 volumes of unacceptable writings.46
Yet the fact that Padraig updated the Senchus Mor alias the Irish Common Law, clearly suggests that it too had been inscripturated long before his own time. After all, if 180 volumes of writings were rejected—it stands to reason that there must have been also many other volumes of Pre-Patrician Irish writings which were not only not rejected but which were indeed eagerly acclaimed by Padraig. It is from those latter Pre-Patrician Irish writings, then, that Padraig now updated written Irish Common Law.
It is very important to grasp that it was Padraig himself who then approved the overwhelming bulk of druidic Irish Law and then ordered it further to be preserved – and indeed once again in writing—because in harmony with the Law of God in Nature Revelation as well as in Holy Scripture. All books not then destroyed, themselves formed the continuing basis of a christianized Ireland’s incipient literature and laws (in the Senchus Mor and other writings).
It remains a great tragedy that the later pagan Vikings, during their many attacks against the Celts, destroyed so many of those writings of Ancient Ireland. That occurred during the course of the ninth and tenth centuries A.D.
According to Barrister Lawrence Ginnell,47 in Ireland’s famous old document The Annals of the Four Masters, it is said:47 “[In] the age of Christ 438, the tenth year of Laeghaire [the Irish King in the time of Padraig], the Senchus Mor [or Common Law] and Feinachus of Ireland were purified and written.”
That (re-)inscripturation of these works must have extended over several years. Those from A.D. 438 to 441, appear the most probable.
“St. Patrick,” declare the Annals, “requested the men of Erinn to come to one place to hold a conference with him. When they came to the conference, the Gospel of Christ was preached to them all….
“And when they saw Laeghaire and his druids overcome by the great knowledge of Patrick, they bowed down in obedience to the will of God…. It was then that Dubhthach [the Chief-Druid] was ordered to exhibit every law which prevailed amongst the men of Erinn—through the Law of Nature and the Law of Seers, and in the judgments of the island of Erinn, and in the poetry.
“Now the judgments of true nature, which the Holy Spirit had spoken through the mouths of the Brehons [or Irish Judges] and just poets of the men of Erinn from the first occupation of the island down to the reception of the [Christian] Faith, were all exhibited by Dubhthach to Patrick. What did not clash with the Word of God in Written Law [alias the Old Testament] and in the New Testament, and with the consciences of believers—was confirmed in the laws of the Brehons by the Ecclesiastics and the Chiefs of Erinn. For the Law of Nature was quite right—except [it needed to be supplemented by] the Faith and its obligations, and by the harmony of the Church and the people. And this is the Senchus Mor.”48
As regards the compilation of the Senchus Mor under Padraig’s supervision, adds Barrister Ginnell,49 the Christian spirit—breathed through the whole Law—was important. But the actual changes were few—and, substantially, the laws remained the same as they had existed for centuries before.
This is a most significant statement as to the vast amounts of divine supervision operative in producing Ancient Irish Law especially in its Pre-Christian phases! This also evidences much common revelation present therein. Indeed, it further points to the harmonious relationship between Ancient Irish Common Law on the one hand—and, on the other, the special revelation which the Irish now received via the Celto-Brythonic Missionary Padraig of Britain.
Padraig’s alleged argumentations from three-leaved shamrocks, seem to have helped win the nobles of the Irish High-King and his country for Christianity. For the God Who created the triune shamrock of Ireland—and who also sustained the triune insights of Pre-Christian Brythonic and Irish Druidism—must obviously Himself be Triune. Indeed, infinitely so.
Padraig compared British Christians with the Ancient Israelites
The waywardness of some of the Ancient British Christians was well compared with that of some also in Ancient Israel—in the mind of Padraig. For in his Confessions,50 he wrote:
“I was taken into captivity to Ireland, with many thousands of [British] people—and deservedly so, because we [Britons had] turned away from God and did not keep His Commandments and did not obey our Presbyters who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of His anger, and scattered us among many nations—even unto the uttermost part of the Earth.”
By the latter expression, the Briton Padraig seems to have meant Ireland. Compare Acts 1:8 & 13:47. For it was precisely in Ireland that he and his fellow youth from Britain had been scattered—after having been captured and enslaved by the then-still-pagan Irish.
Ireland, to both Padraig and the Ancient Israelites, was the westernmost edge of their then-known World. To them, it was indeed the outermost or “the uttermost part of the Earth.” Psalm 2:8.
Padraig lamented that—through that early abduction to and enslavement in Ireland—he had been unable to complete the thorough training to which British Christian children of the covenant were then subject. Thus he stated: “I have not studied like the others, who thoroughly imbibed Law and Sacred Scripture—and [who] never had to change from the language of their childhood days, but were able to make it still more perfect. In our case, what I had to say [in Ireland]—had to be translated into a tongue foreign to me.”
Nevertheless, as T.W. Rolleston remarks,51 the attitude of the early Celtic Christians in Ireland seemed to preclude the idea that at the time of the conversion of Ireland its pagan religion was associated with cruel and barbarous practices. Indeed, Bertrand points out that soon after Ireland’s christianization, non-celibate druidic colleges were transformed en masse into monasteries of a similar character—for the new Irish Christians.52
Dr. A.G. Richey (LL.D. & Q.C.)—Sometime Deputy Regius Professor of Law in the University of Dublin—has insisted53 in his Short History of the Irish People that the increasingly celibate Romish form of church government was “utterly unfit” for clannish Ireland. There, it was inevitable that Christian monasteries would necessarily need to contain whole families.54
Also Hall’s Early Christian Ireland points out55 that these Celtic ‘monasteries’ were later effective defences against marauding Vikings. There, all the families in them would fight to defend themselves.
They were all ‘abbeys’—in which not only men but also women dwelled and worked together with their children. They included the whole Christian population of the area—and kept them all devoted to learning and to agriculture.
The British Christian Padraig was a ‘Primitive Presbyterian’
In his A.D. 1902 work A History of the Irish Presbyterians, Rev. W.T. Latimer declared56 of Padraig that although unmarried himself, he did not impose any yoke of celibacy on the Irish Church. He ordained Fiach Finn, a man of one wife, as a Bishop alias an Overseer. Cf. First Timothy 3:1-2f.
For many centuries afterwards, the law and practice of the Celtic Church in this respect remained the same. An ancient canon relates to the apparel of a Minister and his wife when in public. And even so late as the end of the eleventh century, the renowned Ecclesiastical Leader Malachy O’Morgair himself was born the son of an Irish Clergyman.
The Old-Irish Church was pure in doctrine and Presbyterian in government. Hence, it permitted unmarried but marriageable monks and nuns to dwell chastely in Culdee Monastic Societies together with married monks and nuns and their children. Matthew 27:55-61; Luke 8:2-4; Acts 1:13-15; 6:1-7; 21:8-9; First Corinthians 9:1-6; First Timothy 2:8-15; 3:1-5; 4:1-6; 5:1-14; Titus 2:2-6.
This was also a continuation of the customs which had prevailed among the Pre-Christian Druidists. The Culdee Monks of Padraig were engaged chiefly in the work of education.
They generally used the neighbouring churches for their classroom. And their unmarried and well as their married scholars and their children, erected wooden huts around them in which they resided.
So successful were these Irish Culdee-Christian Theological Seminaries, that before long they became celebrated throughout Europe. Scholars and their families flocked to them from distant countries.
Ireland was called the ‘Isle of Saints.’ And many of her sons came to occupy distinguished positions also in foreign seats of learning.
Padraig ordained 365 Bishops or Overseers in Ireland. These Bishops were Teachers of the people—not Rulers of the Clergy.
There were then less than three hundred thousand inhabitants in the country. Therefore, at least one Bishop for every two hundred families.
This clearly means one married or marriageable Bishop for each congregation of two hundred households, each assisted by a number of Presbyters or Elders-over-ten (one for every ten households). Exodus 18:12-25 cf. First Timothy 5:17-22. Indeed, these Bishops were just Parish Ministers whose duty it was to preach the Gospel within their local charge.
Consequently, in the Early Irish Church, the 365 Bishops were “all founders of churches”—alias one Bishop or Preaching Elder per congregation, and every congregation with its own Preaching Overseer (who co-governed it together with a group of Ruling Elders). Hence, the Eldership parity of Presbyterianism—and not the sacerdotal hierarchy of later Episcopalianism!
Moreover, the Early Irish Church exhibited—and in some cases still exhibits – bishoprics of qualified male Christians. Such were usually also heads of households. For there was no celibate sacerdotal priesthood only of some men alone. Instead, there was a universal priesthood of all believers—regardless of age or gender.
Up to two hundred families lived together in each of those local social groupings. Even during the later times of the Viking raids, themselves stretching over several centuries, the above-mentioned family-communities of Irish Christians continued right down till the twelfth century.
Men and women in groups of families worked together. They did so, often behind high monastic walls—erected not to segregate a man from his wife, but to defend those groups of holy families against the secular scourges from Scandinavia.
Padraig came, a Missionary sent by God, to Ireland in 432—and established there a Christian apostolic and independent Celtic Church which for almost seven centuries had no allegiance nor subservience to Romanism. Indeed, it was not till A.D. 590f that even the Bishop of Rome was ever called ‘Sole Pope.’
In 1152, a papal legate came to Ireland. This was John Paparo, the first visitor from the Pope’s Rome ever to do so. He managed, in March of that year, to form a Synod for the purpose of gaining control over the Church in Ireland. He succeeded partially—but only partially.
So, twenty years later (in A.D. 1172), Pope Adrian IV—the only English Pope which Rome has ever had—wrote from Rome to King Henry II of England. Adrian said he would be very pleased if Henry would invade Ireland, and bring the rebellious people there under Rome’s control. Henry obeyed, and conquered.
One must here add the following postscripts to the work of the Briton Padraig in Ireland. They are taken from the noted Irish Roman Catholic Historian R.C. O’Driscoll, in his books Views of Ireland57 and History of Ireland.58
O’Driscoll presents a true picture of the early Irish Church. He states59 that the Christian Church of Ireland, as founded by Padraig, existed for many centuries free and unshackled. For about seven hundred years, this Church maintained its independence. It had no connection with England, and differed on points of importance from Romanism.
The first work of England’s King Henry II was to reduce the Church of Ireland into obedience to the Romish Pontiff in 1172. The ancient order of the Culdees had existed in Ireland even prior to Padraig.
All their institutions proved the Culdees were derived from a different origin than Romanism. The Church-discipline of the Culdees seems to have afforded the model for the modern Presbyterian Establishment of Scotland. Thus the Romanist O’Driscoll.
Rev. Dr. Duke60 gives the following gripping description of Pre-Columban Christianity in Ireland (460-560 A.D.). He says at a time when everywhere else on the Continent the waves of barbarian invasion were sweeping over everything and submerging in destruction all culture and civilization—the Church in Ireland, removed from these distresses in its island-home, was enabled to devote itself peacefully to the cause of learning. Its great marital monasteries or Christian centres of common learning—those of Aran, Bangor, Clonard, Clonfert, Clonmacnoise, and Moville—became Universities of European fame to which students flocked in thousands from all countries. Greek and Hebrew were also studied.
The beautifully-transcribed and richly-illuminated copies of the Psalter and of the Gospels which have come down to us from these Irish monasteries, speak of the artistic ability of those old Irish monks and of the love and reverence which they had for the Holy Scriptures. There was nothing anywhere at the time—and certainly not in Rome itself—to surpass or to equal the standard of culture which was to be found in the great monastic schools of Ireland—from which the Irish Scots migrated into Scotland especially from the fifth century A.D. onward.
In Ireland, the nation consisted of groups of tribes connected by kinship and loosely held together under a graduated system of tribal government. The Church which grew up under such a system, was organized exactly like a lay society. When a chief became a Christian and bestowed his dun (or castle) and his lands upon the Church, he at the same time transferred all his rights as a chief. Yet these still remained with his sept or clan.
In this new sept or clan (within the Irish Church), there was consequently a twofold succession. The religious sept or family consisted in the first instance not only of the ecclesiastical persons but of all of the celi or vassals, tenants and slaves connected with the land bestowed upon the Church. The head was the comarba (compare the coarba)—the co-heir or inheritor both of the spiritual and temporal rights and privileges of the founder. He in his temporal capacity exacted rent and tribute like other chiefs. The ecclesiastical colonies went forth from a parent family. The comarba of the chief family of a great spiritual clan was called the Ard-Comarba or ‘High Co-Heir.’
From the beginning, the Church of Padraig among the Scots in Ireland was monastic, as is proved by a passage in his Confession. There, speaking of the success of his mission, he says: “The sons of Scots and daughters of chiefs appear now as monks and nuns of Christ.” It must be remembered, however, that such could marry—and usually did. Indeed, Padraig himself was the son of a Presbyter Calporn and his wife Conch—and also the grandson and great-grandson of clergy.
Hence the early Irish monasticism was unlike that known at a later period. An Irish monastery of the earliest type was simply an ordinary sept or family, whose chief had become a Christian. He, making a gift of his land, either retired (leaving it in the hands of a comarba)—or remained as the religious head himself. The family went on with their usual avocations.
This was also the period of the great Missionaries to the Continent—Columbanus, Gall, Killian and many others. Besides St. Brendan with his reputed voyage to America, Columba’s disciple Cormac visited the Orkneys and discovered the Faroe Islands and Iceland long before the Norsemen set foot on them. Other Irishmen followed in their tracks, and when the Norsemen first discovered Iceland they found there books and other traces of the Irish of the Early Church. Indeed, also the real work of the conversion of the Germans was the work of Irishmen.
The missionary zeal of Padraig’s Irish Culdee Christians
So these Irish Culdees were great Missionaries. Dr. Duke observes61 that either singly or in little companies generally of three or seven or twelve, some of them went to Gaul and Germany and Switzerland and Italy—carrying the light of their learning and the influence of their purer faith into lands which were lapsing again into barbarism.
The remaining Picts in the northwest of Ireland were christianized and gaelicized. The great Irish Culdee Columba himself was trained by a Christian Pict. Then these Irish Culdees went off—and finished off the christianization of the Picts in Scotland.
The Irishman Brendan went off to Iceland and, it would seem, even to America. On his return from his great voyage, Brendan is said to have visited Gildas in Wales.
From the plains of Lombardy in the South to Iceland in the far North, and from Austria in the East to America in the West, one comes across traces of these wandering Missionaries from Ireland. In the decadent age of the Romish Church, Ireland ‘the Isle of the Saints’ kept the light of the Gospel burning brightly. It became the great missionary centre for the diffusion of Christianity.
As Alice Stopford Green declares in her book Irish Nationality, 62 mediaeval Irishmen never adopted anything of Romish methods of government in Church or State. The Romish centralized authority was opposed to the whole habit of Celtic thought and genius. Round the Celts’ little monastic church, gathered a group of huts. Monastic ‘families’ branched off from the first house that got converted.
Professor John Richard Green rightly remarks in his Short History of the English People63—before the landing of the Anglo-Saxon English in Britain in A.D. 435f, the vigour of Christianity in Italy and Gaul and Spain was exhausted in a bare struggle for life. Ireland, which remained unscourged by invaders, drew an energy from its conversion. Christianity had been received there with a burst of popular enthusiasm; and letters and arts sprang up in its train. The science and knowledge of the Bible which fled from the Continent, took refuge in famous schools which made Durrow and Armagh the great Universities of the West.
The new Christian life soon beat too strongly to brook confinement within the bounds of Ireland itself. Padraig as the first real Missionary to visit Ireland, had not been dead half a century—when Irish Christianity flung itself with a fiery zeal into battle with the mass of Heathenism which was rolling in upon the Christian World. Irish Missionaries laboured among the Picts of the Highlands and among the Frisians of the northern seas.
An Irish Missionary, Columban, founded monasteries in Burgundy and the Apennines and then south into Italy itself. The canton of St. Gall in Switzerland still commemorates in its name another Irish Missionary, before whom the spirits of flood and fell fled wailing over the waters of the Lake of Constance. For a time, it seemed as if the whole course of the history of the World was to be changed—as if the older Celtic race that Roman and German had swept before them, had turned to the moral conquest of their conquerors; as if Celtic and not Latin Christianity was to mould the destinies of the Churches of the West. Thus Professor Green.
Even today, the Neo-Culdee Presbyterians still constitute the largest religious group in Ulster. Together with other Protestants, they yet make up the overwhelming majority of the population there. Indeed, estimates suggest one-sixth of the entire population of the American colonies at the outbreak of the War for Independence in 1776, was of Ulster stock.
We see, then, that the Old-Irish Church was essentially Presbyterian and not Prelatical in its form of government. Moreover, it did not acknowledge the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome (even after he was proclaimed sole ‘Pope’ for the first time around 600 A.D.). For, other than Christ the Sole Head in Heaven, there was and is no supreme head of Christ’s Church here on Earth with the function of exercising metropolitan jurisdiction.
Not only was there no diocesan episcopacy. In Padraig’s writings there is also no allusion to Mary-worship; or to purgatory; or to transubstantiation. Those writings contain no prayers to saints; and they appeal to the Scriptures as the only standard of faith and of morals. In one sentence: Padraig was a Presbyterian.
The Cumbrian Briton Padraig’s impact on all of Europe and the West
In conclusion, we summarize the impact of Padraig not just upon Ireland but also upon the whole World. Appropriately, we can do so under five main points. First, the Brythonic Padraig was the descendant of a long line of Proto-Protestant Culdees in what is now Cumbria. Such were ‘Primitive Presbyterian’ Christians.
Second, Padraig regarded Britain as a bastion of Biblical Christianity. Indeed, he sought to export that Faith also into Ireland—as “the uttermost part of the Earth” (Acts 1:8).
Third, the Briton Padraig greatly expanded and consolidated the Pre-Romish Christian work already undertaken to a very small extent also in Ireland. To that end, he converted also many knowledgeable druids—and then ordained them as Ministers of the Word and Sacraments in the new congregations he formed in Ireland.
Fourth, Padraig’s theology was consistently Trinitarian. It was steeped in the Holy Scriptures; strongly predestinarian; thoroughly theonomic; clearly postmillenial; and consistently Christocentric.
Fifth, Padraig had high regard also for much of the traditional Irish Common Law. Much of it he regarded as good and worth preserving—God having supervised it since its inception.
Sixth, in the light of Holy Scripture, Padraig helped purify and codify it. For use in the Ireland he helped christianize.
Seventh, Padraig’s views soon spread across Europe eastward into Austria; southward into Italy; northward into Iceland; and ultimately westward into America. Yes, even into Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and all the World.
None of this precious Theology of the Cumbrian Padraig would ever be lost. It would later be summarized by Ireland’s Archbishop and Puritan Professor Rev. Dr. James Ussher—the late Bishop of Carlisle in Britain’s Cumbria!—in his 1615 Irish Articles. Indeed, the latter would then be expanded and preserved—in the 1647 Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith.
- Gildas: Ruin of Britain 8.
- See chs. 10-12 of our book Roots and Fruits of the Common Law, Vol. 1.
- See Ante-Nic. Fath. III pp. 105 & 108; cf. Tacitus’s Annals 12:31-37.
- Thus The Old English Chronicle and The Scottish Chronicles—so Holinshed’s Description of Britain I:197f; his History of England I:503; and his History of Scotland V:72f.
- See chs. 13-14 of our book Roots and Fruits of the Common Law, Vol. 1.
- Tertullian: Against the Jews ch. 7 (cf. his Apology ch. 37).
- Enno, VII:5.
- Origen’s Against Celsus I:18, and his Homily VI in Luke.
- Chronicon Scotorum, Longmans, London, 1866 ed., pp. 17,21,33.
- Op. cit., Edwards, Ann Arbor, 1963, p. 20f.
- J.A. Duke’s The Columban Church, University Press, Oxford, 1932, pp. 145f.
- In his Ireland and the Celtic Church, S.P.C.K., London, 1907, pp. 39f.
- In his They Converted Our Ancestors—A Study of the Early Church in Britain, S.C.M., London, 1965, pp. 42f & 39f.
- Ib., pp. 43 & 33 n. 2 (cf. n. 28 below).
- Enc. Amer. 1951 ed. & Enc. Brit. 15th ed., art. Ninian.
- Op. cit., pp. 54 & 57 & 61 (cf. n. 29 below).
- Padraig’s Confession, I & XXIII.
- See his book The Spreading Flame: The Paternoster Church History, Paternoster, Exeter, 1978, I pp. 372f & 395 n. 4.
- See D. Wilkins: Councils of Great Britain, from the 446 A.D. Synod of Verulam until the 1717 A.D. Synod of London, London, 1737, I p. 367.
- Padraig’s Confession, I & XXIII.
- Padraig’s Letter to Coroticus alias his Epistle 10.
- See Sir W. Smith’s A Smaller Latin-English Dictionary, Murray, London, 1947: decurio.
- See n. 28 below, and also Duke’s op. cit. p. 149.
- See the maps opposite pp. 16 & 48, in J.S. Brewer’s The Students’ Hume: A History of England, Murray, London, 1883.
- Muirchu’s Life of St. Patrick, in W. Stokes’s Tripartite Life [of Padraig], 1887, pp. 146f.
- Op. cit., VI:83f.
- Op. cit., Facts on File, New York, 1987, p. 42. -35 –
- C. Thomas: Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500, London, Batsford, 1985 pp. 307-313.
- Op. cit., pp. 39f.
- Op. cit., pp. 63f.
- Op. cit., pp. 61f.
- Concannon: op. cit., p. 55.
- J. Foster: op. cit. pp. 36f.
- Op. cit., pp. 54,57,61.
- Padraig: Confession, 58.
- Op. cit., p. 44 n. 7-9, p. 135 n. 1-2, & p. 136 n. 1-2.
- Padraig: First Epistle to Coroticus.
- See art. Padraig of Ireland, in ed. Douglas’s op. cit., p. 752.
- Holinshed: op. cit., VI pp. 83f. See too n. 10.
- Text of Padraig’s Letter to Coroticus, can be found in P. Gallico’s Patrick.
- Text of Sechnall’s biographical notes on Padraig, can be found in Gallico’s op. cit.
- Text of Padraig’s Lorica can be found in Gallico’s op. cit.
- Scottish Psaltery and Church Hymnary, Revised Edition, Oxford University Press, London, 1929, pp. 603-10, No. 506.
- Rejoice! A Collection of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Presbyterian Church of Australia, G.P.O. Box 100, Sydney, 1987, No. 93.
- Text of Padraig’s Confession can be found in Gallico’s op. cit.
- Jocelyn of Furness’s Life of Patrick; O’Flaherty’s Ogygia III:30; MacGoeghegan & Mitchel’s op. cit., p. 41.
- Op. cit., p. 28.
- Thus the Annals of the Four Masters; as cited in Ginnell’s op. cit., p. 31.
- Op. cit., p. 32.
- Cited in G. Taylor’s The Hidden Centuries, Covenant, London, 1969f, pp. 34f; see too J.W. Taylor’s The Coming of the Saints, Covenant, London, 1969 rep., pp. 163 & 238.
- Op. cit., p. 145.
- See Bertrand’s Religion of the Gauls.
- A.G. Richey: A Short History of the Irish People, Hodges & Figgis, Dublin, 1887, p. 71.
- Ib., pp. 80 & 100.
- Op. cit., pp. 3f, 141 & 151f.
- W.T. Latimer: A History of the Irish Presbyterians, Cleeland & Mullan, Belfast, 1902, pp. 4 & 6.
- R.C. O’Driscoll: Views of Ireland, II, p. 84.
- R.C. O’Driscoll: History of Ireland, pp. 26f.
- I.H. Elder: Celt, Druid and Culdee, Covenant, London, 1938, pp. 129-31.
- Op. cit., p. 52.
- Ib., pp. 53f.
- Op. cit., pp. 32f. 63) Op. cit., p. 23.
Dr. Lee (d. 2011), author of NPI book God’s Ten Commandments, was Professor-Emeritus in Systematic Theology and Church History at the Queensland Presbyterian Theological College in Brisbane, Australia. His widow is a fulltime Christian Homemaker. Their elder daughter Johanna teaches English, German and History at Parkridge High School; and their younger daughter Annamarie was Secretary/Librarian at the Queensland Presbyterian Theological College, and teaches at Earnshaw College in Brisbane.
Used by permission © 2012