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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 346



340 PENITENTIAL SYSTEMS. [XIII. cision. This sort of literature, belonging especially to ages and nations brought into close contact with heathen abominations, was very important in the last converted countries of East and West; Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury, the Venerable Bede, Egbert of York, and among the Celts Columbanus, Cummian, Vinniaus, and Adamnan, founded the penitential system here : from them the Frank and German churches adopted their rules, and by and by, when Anglo-Saxon literature was borrowing from the Continent, our scholars translated back with interest the developed systems which their predecessors had sent abroad. These rules of penance continue to be elaborated in England to the time of the Conquest; and bear some analogy to the early laws of the Anglo-Saxon kings, which consist so largely of definitions of crimes and penalties. It is to be remembered, however, that the Penitentials were private compilations, the authority of which depended on the estimation or dignity of their authors, and not on any legislative sanction ; but, notwithstanding that, there is sufficient harmony amongst them to show that they incorporate the rules on which the episcopal jurisdiction pure and simple generally proceeded ; they were a sort of customary church law for their own province. But over and above these there were the canons, or authorised church law; and of these also there was a series of important collections. I am unable to say how far the collection of Dionysius Exiguus was received in England and Ireland at first : but from the beginning of the Church History of United England, a series of new canons began to be added to the early collections : Theodore himself added the decisions of Roman and Byzantine councils to the resolutions of his own national synods : a great and important succession of Anglo-Saxon councils issued canons which were received with great respect in all the Western churches, as we know from S. Boniface's letters and the remains of the


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