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educated, he enquired whether they had ever been told who were the first founders of the university.
The children answering in the negative, Mr. Wilmot proceeded to tell them that it was founded in the year 886*, in the second year after St. Grimbald's coming over to England. Its first regents and readers in divinity were, St. Neot, an abbot and eminent professor of theology; and St. Grimbald, an eloquent and most excellent interpreter of the Holy Scriptures: grammar and rhetoric were taught by Asser, a monk of extraordinary learning; logic, music, and arithmetic, by John, a monk of St. David's; and geometry and astronomy by another John, a monk and a colleague of St. Grimbald, a man of acute wit and immense erudition. "These lectures," says the annalist, "were often honoured with the presence of the most illustrious and invincible king Alfred, whose memory, to every judicious taste, shall be sweeter than honey." From this small beginning arose this now celebrated university, which is at once the ornament and pride of the land.
A few observations made by Mrs. Spencer, who had joined the party, led Mr. Wilmot to
"See Camden's Britannica.
give the following sketch of the progress of Christianity, from its first introduction into this country, together with the origin and establishment of the protestant religion.
"Various are the opinions," said he, "entertained respecting the precise period when, or by whom, Christianity was first introduced into this happy island. Nor can it tend to our improvement, though it might gratify our curiosity, to know, whether St. Paul, when he visited the 'western isles,'included England; or whether his immediate predecessors, or followers, preached the ' glad tidings of salvation' to the natives. It is sufficient for us to know, that the gospel found its way hither some time in the first century; since, in the persecution of the Christians, by the cruel and tyrannical Nero, in the year 64, many of them fled hither for an asylum. Its progress in Great Britain, during the three first centuries, is certainly involved in some obscurity; though it probably increased during the fourth century, as we find three English bishops present, at the council held at Arminium, respecting the Arian controversy.
"About this period the Saxons, having subdued the country, pursued, with unrelenting cruelty, the Christians: multitudes of whom were put to death, and thousands sought and found a refuge in the mountains of Wales. History has stamped the character of our countrymen in this age with infamy. From the sovereign to the meanest of his subjects, licentiousness and gross immorality abounded; and it is cheering to turn from this darkened era, to the labours of the celebrated St. Augustine, and forty other monks, who, having been sent from Rome, for the purpose of converting our island to the faith, succeeded in persuading the Anglo Saxons to embrace Christianity, about the year 590. On Christmas-day, king Ethelbert and ten thousand of his subjects were baptized; and though, amongst this crowd of professed converts, there is reason to fear that few possessed more than the name of Christian, we may yet believe there were some on whom the 'daystar' had not risen in vain.
"In the seventh century our island had almost universally received the Christian religion: popish superstition had, however, unhappily mixed itself with the pure faith, and increased rapidly. One great source of corruption in the clergy, was the practice that now prevailed of persuading people to relinquish their property to them, and go on pilgrimage.
"On the death of Augustine, who had been consecrated the first archbishop of Canterbury, Laurentius succeeded to the vacant see; and, through his instrumentality, king Edbald was not only converted, but promoted the gospel by every means in his power.
"The first Saxon king who completely cast all his 'idols to the moles and to the bats,' was Ercombert, the son of Edbald, who reigned in 640.
"It is impossible to contemplate this era of our national history, without regretting the superstitious, and even idolatrous rites, which were interwoven with the profession of the gospel made by our forefathers: yet there is no doubt that genuine religion was possessed by many, and Great Britain, at this period, was allowed the honour of enlightening several of the neighbouring northern nations.
"In the eighth century, the pope had obtained such influence, that he exalted himself not only above every created being, but laid claim to prerogatives and powers which belong to Omnipotence alone. The distinguishing doctrines of the gospel were hid under a mass of ceremonious observances: pardon for sin was to be purchased at the hands of the priests; and immense sums were raised, by paying for masses, to deliver the souls of the dead from purgatory.
"Still more lamentable was the state of religion in the ninth century. But Divine Providence, at this melancholy season, raised up a 'nursing-father' to the English church, in the person of king Alfred, who seems to have 'feared the Lord from his youth,' having early habituated himself to prayer. He was remarkable for his learning, as I have before told you. He died in the year 900, and was buried at Hyde Abbey in Winchester.
"Historians are all agreed that, in the tenth century, scarcely a vestige of true piety could be found. It was called 'an iron age, barren of all goodness—a leaden age, abounding in all wickedness.' 'Christianity,' to borrow the words of Melancthon, 'during the middle ages, was become a mere compound of philosophy and superstition.' 'What religion did survive,' says an admirable author, 'was confined to a few— was immured in cloisters—was exhausted in quibbles—was wasted in unprofitable subtleties —was exhibited with little speculative clearness, and less practical clearness., Yet, even in this dreary age, one faint spark of light is discoverable. Bernard and Guthebald, two of the natives of Britain, went as missionaries to Norway,