ST. PATRICK WAS A BAPTIST PREACHER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Thessalonians 5
3-16-58 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us this morning the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and this is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock hour’s message. It concerns a great hero of the faith. And in our study of the life of this great evangelist and missionary, we have abundant and rich opportunity to be introduced to primitive Christianity, to the Christianity of our forefathers, not the Christianity, so-called, of the development of the middle ages and of these latter centuries, but the original faith of our fathers. And we are considering this morning that original faith, doubly interesting to us because it is the Christianity of our own race, of our own blood, of our own forefathers. We are this morning to be introduced to the primitive churches of Great Britain and Ireland. And if there is in your veins any English blood or Scottish blood or Irish blood, you will be listening this morning to a description of the churches and the Christian faith of your forefathers.
I am to speak this morning on a subject entitled Saint Patrick Was a Baptist Preacher. Just the announcement of a thing like that is very startling! But the only reason that it is startling is because you can say a thing and say a thing and say a thing and keep on saying a thing until finally everybody will believe it. Everybody will take it for granted. Nobody will question it, much less deny it.
Now, as I have opportunity this morning—and, I have slaved to encompass this address in this brief awhile—almost every sentence that I say will represent a book. And you could pause at any place in the message and stop there and discuss and probe and look for days and hours. So let’s begin. Let’s start like this.
Within the last few months, there was published another and a new life of St. Patrick. I got it. I read it. It is published under the imprimatur of Cardinal Spellman. And I read every word in it. And when I closed the book, I thought it surely is an astounding thing even to suggest, much less seek to defend, the proposition that this man, St. Patrick, could even have remotely been an evangelical or a Baptist.
Well, there is a reason for that. And we shall first look at that reason. One, you will be astonished to learn—if you read, and read with discernment, you will be astonished to read that the bishop of Rome—they call them in later years popes—Pope Celestine, in 430 AD, sent from the papal court at Rome an emissary to Ireland by the name of Palladius. This Palladius was sent to Ireland after Patrick had been there and worked there more than forty years. This emissary from the papal court was sent to Ireland to seize the converts of Patrick and to encompass the Irish Christian churches within the orbit of the bishop of Rome.
He failed ingloriously and miserably and ignominiously! Palladius failed so signally that he stayed but a brief while and left the Emerald Island in disgust. There was no other papal emissary to the Irish people until Malachi was sent there in the twelfth century!
Then, where under high heaven do you get the idea that Patrick was sent out by the bishop of Rome, that he arrived when he was sixty years of age, that he turned the entire population of Ireland to the Roman Catholic Church? I’ll tell you how it has been done. They added the name of Patrick to the name of Palladius. And they tell the story of Palladius until he gets to Ireland, then, they drop off Palladius and tell the story of the true Patrick. A thing like that is an astounding thing! Palladius had nothing to do with Patrick, and Patrick had nothing to do with Palladius. They are altogether two different and separate men. And as I say, Patrick had been in Ireland for more than forty years when the emissary of the bishop of Rome arrived in the Emerald Isle.
All right, another thing about the story; no life of Patrick was ever written until hundreds of years after his death. The first life of Patrick of which we have any knowledge was written in the seventh century. And by that time, his life was encrusted with years and centuries of fable and legend and miracle. For example, there’s not a child but that knows of the supposed miracle of Patrick in ridding Ireland of all snakes. Yet, Solinus, a Latin writer, writing hundreds of years before Patrick, makes note of this fact; the exemption of Ireland from reptiles.
In the Caribbean Sea you will find many islands where there are no snakes. That is typical of the accretions of time to the fable and the legend and the miracle-working power of Patrick. When you go back to the original documents, he had no power to work any miracle, nor did he claim to have any power. He is presented as a simple, faithful, zealous, but mighty, gospel preacher.
All right, another thing, in the seventeenth century, under King James I and under Charles I and under Oliver Cromwell, there lived a prelate of the Church of England by the name of James Ussher. James Ussher was one of the most learned and scholarly ecclesiastics of all time. When the King James Version of the Bible was made—which I hold in my hand, out of which we always read and out of which I preach—when the King James Version of the Bible was made, this learned prelate, James Ussher, because of his vast erudition, made a scheme of chronology, and it was placed in the King James Version of the Bible.
So great and learned was this evangelical preacher, James Ussher, that King James made him Primate of All Ireland, head of all the churches in Ireland. After James I, Charles I greatly honored him. And to the amazement of any reader of history, when Oliver Cromwell came, beheaded [Charles I], overthrew the kingdom, established a commonwealth, this man, James Ussher, was no less exalted by the Commonwealth. And when he died, he was buried by Oliver Cromwell with great magnificence in Westminster Abbey.
Now this man James Ussher was born in Ireland. And in the early years of his great research, he gave himself, encouraged by King James, to the research of discovering the nature of those early British and early Irish churches. And, of course, that brought up an exhaustive and extensive study of Patrick, the founder of the churches in Ireland. And James Ussher, in the seventeenth century, brought to the world and revealed to the world this great Christian preacher for what he was: a simple, humble, but dynamic and zealous preacher of Jesus, teacher and missionary, and, under God, the instrument for the conversion of the Irish people. This has been known since the seventeenth century. You say a thing and you say a thing and you say a thing, until finally the truth is absolutely buried alive.
Now ultimately, we must go to the extant documents written by Patrick himself to find the man himself. As you’ll see after a while, practically all of the literature of those ancient churches were destroyed. But two extant pieces by Patrick are still with us. One of them is called The Confessions of Patrick. It was written in his old age, just before his death. There were somebody, either in Britain or in Gaul, who made the accusation that Patrick was presumptuous in the task he assigned himself and that he was unqualified for that great mission. In defense of his life and his ministry, Patrick wrote his Confessions. I would say they are about fifteen pages long.
The other piece that we have is a letter that he wrote to a British brigand by the name of Coroticus. Coroticus was the conqueror of Wales. And being a man of blood, he ravaged the eastern seacoast of Ireland, and in those forays, he had slain some of the converts of Patrick who were dressed in white robes to be baptized, like you baptize your converts, like we do every night. We have white robes, and I like that—white robes for the candidates. This man Coroticus had seized upon some of those converts of Patrick, while they were preparing to be baptized in their white robes, and had slain them. And others of the members of the churches, he had taken captive and sold into slavery. When Patrick sent a deputation to Coroticus to ask for the return of his Christians, Coroticus scoffed at the deputation. It was then that Patrick wrote the letter, and we have it today.
All right, with that introduction to the man, let us look at him and find out what kind of a preacher he was, what kind of a faith he preached, and what kind of churches he established. Now, to do that, I must look—we must look at the early British churches, and at the early Irish churches, and at the country and civilization in which they flourished. So first we shall consider the Great Britain of Patrick. Patrick was born in 360 AD, a very important date: 360 AD. He was born at the mouth of the Clyde River, about fourteen miles from Glasgow, the present Glasgow. It is now Scotland. It was then a part of England, of Britain. He was born in a little town named Dumbarton, and that was a little town in the kingdom of Strathclyde—the Strathclyde Britons.
His grandfather was named Potitus and he was the pastor of the church. His father was Calpurnias and he was a deacon in the church and a magistrate in the town. Every one of these little things is significant. Do you notice the pastor of the church is a married man and has children? Do you notice the deacon in the church is a married man and has children? They were just like all of those early Christian preachers. Peter was married. All of the disciples were married, Paul says. This thing of the celibacy of the clergy is a man’s invention of later times. His grandfather was the pastor of the church. His father was a deacon in the church.
Now, let us look at those early British churches, so we can find out what kind of a Christian faith Patrick was reared in. Britain was invaded by the Romans under Julius Caesar in 50 BC. And when the Roman legions crossed over the channel into England, they found there the country inhabited by Belgic Celts. The Celts were a people, possibly the first Aryans who entered into Western Europe. And these Belgic Celts crossed over the mainland into what we know as England. Up above them was another Celtic tribe, or clan, named the Caledonians. The Romans called them Picts because they painted their bodies. Now the Romans subjugated these Celts that they called Britons, but the Caledonians, the Picts, they never were able to subjugate, they were so fierce warriors.
So, the Romans built a wall across the narrowest part of England, and up above were the barbarian Picts, or Caledonians, whom the Romans never subdued. But, south of that wall, across the neck of England, were what the Romans called Britons. And they ruled those Britons for more than three centuries, until finally Britain came to be a part of the Roman Empire, spoke the Latin language, and the authors wrote in Latin. When Patrick writes, he writes in Latin.
Now, how did Christianity ever get up there into Britain? Who converted those Celts up there in what we now call England? Nobody knows. Nobody knows. You remember that. When you read in your history like I did, that certain, certain emissary was sent up there and converted England, there’s not a truth in that in any syllable of it, or in any letter of it, or in any part of it, or in any sentence of it! Nobody knows. These great evangelists and missionaries who converted the Celts, the Britons, and England are absolutely unknown.
So, we can surmise how it came to pass. First, it came through traders, through commercial people. For centuries, back into the dim ages, the Tyrian Phoenicians had traded with Britain. They had tin and lead, precious metals there, and hides and skins. And when Alexander the Great destroyed Tyre, the Carthaginians, a colony of the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians inherited the British commerce. And when Carthage was destroyed, the Greeks, who had been rivals with the Carthaginians, inherited that commerce from the Carthaginians. And the Christianity that came to Britain was not west, out of Rome, ever, but it was east. It came from the eastern part of the Roman Empire. It was Greek.
All right, another thing, Christianity came to Britain not only through commercial traders, but it came through the presence of the Roman legionnaires. Rome had a rule. No legion was ever recruited in the country in which the legion was stationed. The legionnaires were always recruited from afar and brought into the country where they served duty. Consequently, there were Britishers—there were Britons—maybe in a legion stationed in the heart of Asia Minor. And in the legion stationed in Britain, there were men who were recruited out of Asia Minor. Consequently, in the legion stationed in Britain, there could easily have been converts of the apostle Paul from Ephesus, from Pisidian Antioch, from Philippi, from Corinth, from all of the cities and towns of the eastern Mediterranean world.
Wherever the Roman army went, of course, colonists went and civilians went. And it has been estimated that as early as the latter part of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, who died in 63 AD, that the gospel light reached first the great isle of Britain. Nobody knows. But it came there, and it came in the purity of the message as you read it here in the New Testament.
All right, let’s look at those British churches in which Patrick grew up. First, let’s look at their loyalty to the Word of God. They accepted no authority but the Book! Their great appeal was always, “What does the Book say?” Now here let me digress to describe something to you that greatly troubled me. In my reading of those ancient British and Irish churches, I came across everlastingly this nomenclature: a bishop, a bishop, a bishop; and a monastery and a monastery and a monastery; and a monk, a monk, a monk. Well, that nearly ruined me. I couldn’t put the thing together, and a primitive Christianity like you have here in the Book and bishops and bishops and monks and monks and monasteries—I was lost in it.
And finally, as I continued to read and to study, the thing dawned on my soul, and I saw it just clearly, like a flash. Dumb me, why didn’t I see it to begin with? This is what those words refer to: they were using the word “bishop” in the New Testament sense. In the New Testament sense, there are three words to describe the office of your preacher: episkopos, presbuteros, and poimen. Episkopos is translated “bishop” in our language; presbuteros is translated “elder”; and poimen is translated “pastor” [1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:5; Ephesians 4:11]. And here in the New Testament, all three of those words refer to the same office, to the same man. He’s a bishop. He’s an elder. He’s a pastor. Now, I found that those early British churches were referring to the same thing. A bishop in those early British churches was the pastor, the settled pastor of a congregation, just as it is here in the Bible.
All right, another thing; that word monastery, that bothered me no end; every church, practically, had a monastery by the side of it. I found out that they used the word “monastery” to refer to a Bible school, and that was all. The students who went to that Bible school lived around in the countryside or close by. They had their own homes. They had their own families. They raised their own children. They owned their own property. And they attended what they called “monasteries,” but they were Bible schools. When the preacher made converts and baptized them, why, they needed to be taught, so they built by the side of the churches what they called monasteries. And the people, the new converts were instructed in the Word of the Lord in those monasteries. And they were used for evangelization of all the country round about.
And then I found what the word “monk” referred to. The word monk refers—in those early British churches and our churches, the word monk refers to a student in the seminary. We call them seminaries or Bible schools. A monk is a student who has given his life to the study of the Word of God and is being instructed there in the monastery, in the Bible school. He was married. He had his family. He preached to the countryside, just like our young preachers do today.
All right, what kind of a doctrine did they hold to? Beside the government of the churches, each one had its own pastor. No episcopacy at all. “Well, how do you know that, preacher?” Well, this is how I know that. In the fifth century, the papal court at Rome sent a deputation to Britain in order to get those British churches in the Catholic Church, and they had long discussions. And you can read those discussions for yourselves.
And here was the attitude of those British Christians. They said to the papal annuncios and prelates and emissaries, they said, “We do not believe in diocesan episcopacy, the ruling of churches by other men, by prelates, by a hierarchy.” Second, they refused any other outside human authority. We do according to the Word of God. And third—and this was an amazing thing to me—the history books say, who describe those discussions—and you can read them—those British Christians believed in humility and simplicity in worship. And they were affronted and appalled by the bigotry, and pride, and worldliness, and contumacious contumely of the emissaries from the papal court at Rome!
And with one accord and unanimously, every one of those British churches and every one of those bishops, pastors, turned aside from the invitation to amalgamate their faith and their churches in the papacy located in Rome. What kind of doctrine did they have? Well, you can get it from discussion. When they discussed baptism, those early churches, they didn’t discuss, “Shall we sprinkle? Shall we take a baby?” There was nothing like that. They never heard of anything like that. Immersion was the only baptism they knew. And when they discussed immersion back there, they discussed it like this: “Shall we immerse one time, or shall we follow triad immersion, three times?” Baptize, immerse, in the name of the Father, one time; in the name of the Son, two times; in the name of the Holy Spirit, three times. That was the discussions that they had concerning baptism.
Well, now, to conclude it, that part of it, this British Christianity, what became of it? In 423 AD, the Roman legions were withdrawn and never returned. Rome never taught the native population to fight. They knew nothing of the implements of war. They had been untrained in battle and defense. So when Rome withdrew her protecting hand of those Britons, in 449 [AD] there began the ravages of the Anglo-Saxons, a Teutonic tribe who crossed the channel. And the Britons, being unable to defend themselves, the Anglo-Saxons destroyed those Christians by the thousands and the thousands.
They have an early historian named Gildas, the only man whose writings have come down to us except Patrick’s. And Gildas describes the martyrdom of the British Christians. The Anglo-Saxons destroyed them and slew them and drove them back as refugees, hunted like animals in the confines of Cornwall and Wales. And the Anglo‑Saxons in Britain destroyed the early British churches and destroyed their schools and destroyed their seminaries, their monasteries.
All right, now, we take up Patrick and Ireland, born in 360 AD, in the little British town of Dumbarton, at the mouth of the Clyde River, close to present-day Glasgow. While he was there, we know nothing at all of his infancy or of his boyhood. All he says is this—you can read all of this for yourself; I’m just reading it for you. He says in his Confessions that the only thing about his boyhood was that he was taught to read the Bible, but he loved pleasure instead. He was warned of his salvation, but heeded not the warning. He was taught the commandments of God, but he didn’t keep them. He did not know God savingly, he says, and he turned aside from the preaching of his grandfather and from the fine example of his deacon father. That’s all he speaks about his boyhood.
When he was sixteen years of age, there came one of those raiders, a piratical raid, an incursion from Ireland. That was a thing constantly done up and down the coast of Britain. And this boy, Patrick, sixteen years of age, was taken captive, he and two hundred other people. And they were taken in small boats across the Irish Sea and were sold as slaves in Ireland.
This boy Patrick, sixteen years of age, was sold to an Irish petty chieftain by the name of Miliucc, and Miliucc lived in the valley of the Braid River in County Antrim. That’s the top county on the right, on the east, north and east. And on a hill called Slemish, he was sent to herd swine. And for six years this captive British boy lived in servitude, in slavery, in misery, in hunger, and dirt, and filth, and cold. His condition was deplorable. He says in his Confessions that he was like a stone stuck in the mud.
All right now, we must look at Ireland to see the kind of a country in which he lived and to which, after he returns in freedom, he is going to preach the gospel. What kind of country was Ireland? When the Romans were introduced to Ireland, it also was inhabited by a branch of the Celtic race, or Gaelic race, and they called them Scots and the country Scotia. Those Celts were Gauls, and the Franks came and conquered them from the Romans and gave it the name of France. They were Iberian Gauls. They were Britons. They were Caledonians, or Picts. They were Irish.
The Romans described the Celtic race like this. The Romans said they were tall and big. They were fair-skinned. They were yellow-haired. They were blue-eyed, and they were very volative in their disposition. When you are in France and see a blond French woman, or in Spain and see a blond, she inherited that from the Celts. They even migrated into Asia Minor. And the Romans hemmed them in into the province of Galatia, to which Paul wrote one of his letters. Well anyway, the Irish are about the only unmixed Celts in the world today. And they still speak the Gaelic, or Celtic, language, that is, when they speak in native tongue.
Now, they were organized there under a government like this. There were four kingdoms, and a fifth made, Meath, in the center of the island, by taking territory from the other four. And the social organization of the Irish Celtic people was in tribes. It was in clans, and a chief over each tribe and a chief over each clan, and then the king over that province, and then the central king over them all. And in this study you’ll find poetry—poetry, how much poetry will you find in Ireland, about everything of it, the country, the king, the chief, the clan, everything. Here is one written by Thomas Davis, long time ago on a true Irish king:
The Caesars of Rome have a wider domain,
And the great King of France has more clans in his train;
The scepter of Spain is more heavy with gems,
And our crowns cannot vie with the Greek’s diadems;
But kinglier far before heaven and man
Are the Emerald fields, and the fiery-eyed clan,
The scepter, and state, and the poets who sing,
And the swords that encircle A True Irish King!
For, he must come from a conquering race—
The heir their valor, their glory, their grace:
His frame must be stately, his step must be fleet,
His hand must be trained to each warrior’s feat,
His face, as the harvest moon, steadfast and clear,
A head to enlighten, a spirit to cheer;
While the foremost to rush where the battle brands ring
And the last to retreat is A True Irish King!
[“A True Irish King,” Thomas Davis]
Don’t you like the lilt they’ve got? Boy, I do! I like it! The Irish king was not chosen by heredity. He was chosen by a vote. Had to be out of the royal family, but the Irish king was a mighty monarch and a true warrior, and Rome never attempted the conquest of Ireland.
Now, their religion was Druid, D-r-u-i-d, Druid. That word “Druid, Druidism” is a Roman word referring to all of the religion of the Celtic race. It comes from the Greek word druz which means “oak.” The Druids were a caste of priesthood like the Parsee, the Magi of Zoroastrianism, and they had unlimited power. A Druid priest could whisper in the ear of an Irish king and have any man slain. They themselves chose a chief priest by election, and his powers were unlimited.
This is the way they worshiped. To them, the oak was sacred, and they worshiped in oak groves. And whatever grew on an oak was sacred and an augur of good. For example, to kiss under the mistletoe was an augur of good, and that custom has come down—no, I mean that idea has come down today. Under the mistletoe, you got that from Druidism, from the Druid religion. Don’t want to give anybody ideas as we go along. Trying to keep this thing holy; the mistletoe especially was considered sanctified, holy. So when they worshiped, the Druids would bring their worshipers, and they would take a golden knife and cut down the mistletoe. And where it fell on the ground, there they built the altar, and there they made their sacrifices, usually human victims.
The Latin poet Lucian has described these Druids in these brief lines:
Through untold ages past, there stood a deep, wild, savage, awful wood. Its interwoven boughs had made a cheerless, chilly, silent shade. There, underneath the gloomy trees, were all performed the mysteries of barbarious priests, Druid priests, who thought that God loved to look down upon the sod, where every leaf was deeply stained with blood from human victims drained.
[quoted in The Story of St. Patrick, Joseph Sanderson, 1895]
That’s the country, that’s the priesthood, that’s the religion, that this British boy Patrick found when he was sold into slavery in Ireland. After he had been a slave for six years, at about twenty-two years of age, there came to him visions in the night, and he dreamed he was returning home. Finally a dream that his ship was ready—he fled from his captors down to the coast, found a ship for Britain, and went back home. He was received with gladness by his family, but as the days passed, having learned in those six years the Irish language, there came to his heart a great, great longing for the conversion of those Irish people, because he had found the Lord in those days of misery and slavery in Ireland.
I read now a little piece from his Confessions.
I was sixteen years old and knew not the true God. But in that strange land, the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes; and although late, I called my sins to mind and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children.
The love of God increased more and more in me. The Spirit urged me to such a degree that I poured forth as many as a hundred prayers in a day.
And even during the night, in the forest and in the mountains, where I kept my flock, the rain and snow and frost and sufferings which I endured excited—
that Latin word eccitatore means to boil up—
excited me to think after God. The Spirit fermented—
he uses the word ferveo, “to glow, to flame”—
fermented in my heart.
When he was saved there in slavery, the Holy Spirit greatly moved in him. When he returned home, that moving of the Spirit of God called him back to the lost, and the idolatrous, and the heathen of Ireland. He saw a vision. A man of Ireland—isn’t this unusual?—a man of Ireland named Victorious, who came to him in dream after dream, saying, “Thou holy youth, come, come, and walk henceforth among us.” So he made his announcement that he was going back to Ireland. His family sought to dissuade him, but he set himself to the task. And in the few years before he was thirty, he prepared for that great missionary journey.
All right, what kind of a man was he? He was uncouth, and untaught, and unlearned. When he gave himself to that commission, nobody licensed him to preach, and nobody ordained him, and nobody sent him. He was like Charles Haddon Spurgeon. All the days of his life, Spurgeon was, “Mr. Spurgeon.” Like Dwight L. Moody, all the days of his life, he was “Mr. Dwight L. Moody.” So it was with this young man, Patrick.
He went out at the call of God, and in these confessions he speaks with greatest lowness of mind. He refers to himself as being rustic and untaught and not able to write in fine, fine language. And the confessions are like that. They are crude, and rude, and rustic, and ungrammatical, just like the preaching of Dwight L. Moody. But God was in him, and he crossed over into Ireland and began that incomparable ministry.
Now I wish I had three or four or five hours. As he landed there, he must have had a tremendous presence. The fire and the glory and the fever of God must have burned in his soul. When the Druid priests came to slay him, they were like men standing in the presence of the Son of God. When he landed, Dichu the [chieftan] came down, thinking it was a pirate, to destroy him. Patrick stood there, and in the unction and the power of the Holy Ghost, preached the gospel to Dichu. And there, about fourteen miles southeast of Ireland, he built his first church; and possibly about fifty years later, he died there and was buried in the realm and in the kingdom of [Dichu].
I referred a while ago that the central kingdom was named Meath. The capital of the kingdom was Tara. And the king’s residence had in it a great banquet hall. It was seven hundred and fifty-nine feet long. It was ninety feet wide, and it had fourteen entrances. And Patrick went to Tara and preached the gospel there to Laoghaire, the king of all Ireland!
He had a missionary, strategist intuition. If he could win the king and the chief and the head of the clan, he’d win the whole country! And that’s exactly what Patrick did. He went to the king’s court, he went to the chief clansman, he went to the head of the tribe, and he preached the gospel in power, and they were converted! And all through the life of Patrick, there are recorded baptisms by the thousands and the thousands and the thousands!
Now, in just the few seconds that I have left, may I describe his Baptist principles? And then I’m through. “What makes you think he was a Baptist? What makes you think he was a gospel preacher?”
All right, first: because of his appeal to the Word of God; He never appeals to canons. He never appeals to ecclesiastical authorities. He never takes orders from some hierarchy, but he stands there preaching the Word of God!
Now, you look at this. In those little, brief pieces that I have read, all of the works extant from his hand, in the little brief pieces, he quotes from the Old Testament sixty-one times, from eighteen different books; and he quotes from the New Testament one hundred sixty-one times, from twenty-two books of the New Testament. And when he’s not quoting a passage of Scripture, his language is the language of the Bible. He was like Apollos; mighty in the Word of God. And his appeal always is to the Book. What does the Book say? What does the Bible say? What does God say?
All right, second thing about him: when he organized churches, he organized them exactly like this church is organized and like all of our other Baptist churches are organized. He organized himself more than three hundred sixty-five churches, and they ordained their own pastors. No outside hierarchy. They ordained their own pastors. And each church had a bishop, they called him; had a pastor. And when Patrick died, there were seven hundred churches in Ireland with seven hundred bishops, seven hundred pastors. And they had a population of about two hundred thousand. What would you do with seven hundred modern bishops in a population of two hundred thousand? Each church had its own pastor, and they called it a bishop. And those churches were built by wells.
And now, the funniest thing in the world; I came across my name. I have often wondered where did my name come from, and I came across it. Why, you wouldn’t believe it; I came across it. In those early British churches and in those early Irish churches, they built those churches by streams of water, or by wells. By a well, so they could bring it up, make a basin for a baptistry; or by a stream, so they could make a basin there for baptizing.
And they looked upon those wells as sacred, and they were called Christ’s well. Christ’s well. And finally, one of my ancestors couldn’t read or write or spell, and so he called it Criswell. But the word originally was “Christ’s well.” There, there did Patrick build his church, where they could baptize converts. And they dressed them in white robes and immersed them, and all of them were adults.
Patrick preached the way of salvation like we preach it: repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 20:21]. And upon that confession of faith, he baptized his converts, just like we do today! [Romans 6:3-5]. Exactly like it. Exactly like it. They had the Lord’s Supper in both kinds, and to Patrick it was an emblematic, memorial service. This represented His body, and they broke bread. And this represented His blood, and they drank of the cup, just like we do today [Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26].
Now, isn’t it a shame? I make one comment, and then we’re through. What became of it? What became of it? Ah, listen, my friend, by the side of that well where stood the church, Patrick built those monasteries, and he taught the Word of God! And his successors taught the Word of God. And those schools were so evangelical that there streamed out from those schools missionaries to the Picts, and to the Britons, and the Anglo-Saxons, and to the Gauls of Northern Europe, and they turned that whole earth up there to the Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s the denomination that has in its train William Carey, and Adoniram Judson and our missionaries today. What a pity it was overthrown and overwhelmed and destroyed. It could have been one of the greatest, mightiest, missionary, evangelical, soul-saving movements in the earth! But in 795 AD, the Danes and the Scandinavians poured into Ireland; men who worshiped Wotan and Pharm and Hildebrandt. And those fierce Danes and Scandinavians cut down the Christians; destroyed the churches, every one of them; destroyed the Christians; put them to the edge of the sword. There’s not a fragment of the literature that has remained, and no churches at all. Ah, in what blood, and in what tears, and in what sacrifice did our forefathers preach the gospel, and proclaim the faith, and organize the church. May He give us grace to follow in their train.
Now we must sing our song. And while we sing it, somebody you, give your heart to the Lord, “Today I take Him as my Savior.” Somebody you, put your life in the church, a family you, one you, would you come? In those stairwells at the back, in these stairwells at the front, in the great throng of people here on the lower floor, into the aisle, down to the front, “Here I am.” May nobody leave. We’re going to be dismissed in a minute, and all of our people are going to abide here for a church conference, a vital church matter. Something great God’s done for our people, so nobody leave while we prayerfully make this appeal, while we sing this song. Somebody next to you, maybe debating in his heart, “Shall I follow the Lord or not? Shall I be baptized like He said? [Matthew 28:19-20]. Shall I put my life in the church?” Pray and sing, and if that somebody for whom we make appeal is you, would you come by faith or to put your life in the church? [Ephesians 2:8-9]. And make it now, on the first note of the first stanza, while we stand and while we sing.