The Scriptorium

Fearless

Patrick boldly preached both Law and Gospel.

Sechnall, “Audite Omnes Amantes” (6)

Boldly he announces the Lord’s name to the pagans,
giving them the eternal grace of the bath of salvation,
praying daily to God on account of their sins,
offering sacrifices for their sake, as befitting to God.

He rejects all the world’s glory for the sake of divine law,
considering it all mere scraps at its table;
nor is he disturbed by the hurtling lightning of this world,
but rejoices in hardships since he suffers for Christ’s sake.

Translation John Carey, King of Mysteries

These two quatrains contain a wealth of information about Patrick’s work of evangelism. Note first of all that Patrick was fearless in proclaiming the Gospel. He did so “boldly”, not flinching at the threats against him and pains (“lightning of this world”) inflicted on him – including slavery, again – by those who opposed him. Patrick knew why he’d come to Ireland, and he would not be deterred. Nothing the world could do to hinder or harm him could keep Patrick from carrying out his ministry.

Evangelism begins in prayer. Patrick prayed for his pagan neighbors, that they might see, and presumably repent, of their sins. Be sure that his preaching included the “divine law”, for by the Law, as Paul reminds us, comes the knowledge of sin (Rom. 7.7). He eschewed all earthly methods, means, or rewards (“the world’s glory”) and stuck with the Law and the Gospel as his message and method. These days we prefer to “market” the Gospel or to “friend” people into the Kingdom. Patrick would have regarded these as the “world’s glory” – the world’s way of doing business. He considered these as “scraps” before the banquet of grace and truth encoded in the Law. The Law blasted bare the souls of unbelievers; the Gospel poured the Balm of Gilead on the stricken soul, preparing it for the “bath of salvation” in baptism.

Patrick bore his sufferings and deprivations without complaint, for he knew he was simply following in the footsteps of Christ. This, plus – as we’ve seen – his blameless character gave credibility to his message. We note that Patrick had a message to proclaim. The Gospel must be preached; people must hear the Good News and not just see it in our lives. The Gospel as Patrick preached it amounted to nothing more or less than the name of Jesus – Who He is, what He did, what He’s doing now, and that He is coming back again. Patrick offered Jesus to pagans as a “sacrifice”, which an ancient gloss tells us is the meaning of the last line in the first quatrain. Patrick did not offer the “sacrifice” of the mass, but the blood and forgiveness of Jesus, to be received, embraced, and obeyed, as the key to entry into the household of faith. Baptism – the “bath” of salvation – was only available to those who professed faith and proved their profession by lives of repentance in line with the Law of God. Salvation is by the “eternal grace of God”; but it is unto eternal obedience to Him, beginning with His Law.

With this kind of ministry as its foundation and cornerstone, it’s little wonder the Celtic Revival was able to make such an impact for nearly four centuries.

T. M. Moore

Want to learn more about Patrick and the impact of his ministry? Order T. M.’s book, The Legacy of Patrick, from our online store.

 

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.