Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.—Habakkuk 2.4.

 Show Menu 
Hide Banner

Patrick’s Confession.

As Written by the Apostle of Ireland,

Composed about the year A.D. 455,

And Translated by D. De Vinné.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

The following personal confession of a Christian saint, from many ages ago, is offered for the consideration and edification of all readers.  Although there may be an occasional item in which the modern Christian may find cause for disapproval, yet it is presented here for far more than its historical significance.  It is the personal experience of an authentic saint and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a testimony to Christ’s gracious work in the lives of individuals, and mighty power to bring light into the darkness of a hopeless nation.  It is also a record of the Apostolic ministry as it was carried out into the fifth century since the time of our Lord, and advanced in fulfilment of The Great Commission.  Within the short time of his ministry, 365 “bishops” were ordained in Ireland, and as many churches gathered under their care.  What has happened since is a matter of history, and, as with that of many other nations, presents man’s great incompetence to finish well or use thankfully that which the Lord has begun.  But his work is not yet done, and what was easy to him long ago is well within the bounds of his ability at the present day.  Pray.  And give him no rest. Isaiah 62.7.


As with most documents uploaded to truecovenanter.com, except those of an official character, the title of ‘Saint’ is omitted from our edition of the translation.  In this case, the translator himself informs us in his publication that the early Irish made no use of this term as a prefix or title.  It may also be noted that occasional corrections to Mr. De Vinné’s text have been made, usually in brackets.  Alternate translations, available on the internet, were used for this purpose.

2015.02.26::JTKer.

TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE TO ST. PATRICK’S CONFESSION.

AMONG the early Christians, a Confessor was one who, at the risk of his life, had openly avowed his belief in Christ, and his continued adhesion to Him.  In this sense, the word Confession seems to have been used in the time of Patrick.  Some have regarded his Confession as an autobiography; but while it contains several biographical notices, it is not properly such.  It is not a consecutive narrative; it is nearly destitute of dates and places; and it wholly omits some of the most important transactions of his life.  It is properly a written acknowledgment of the special providences of God, which he had experienced in connection with the establishment of Christianity in Ireland.  It must be viewed in this light, to be adequately comprehended.

This Confession was written in Latin, near the close of his life, or about A.D. 455.  The Latin text is carefully copied from Migne’s Patrologia (volume LIII, page 801, Paris 1847).  The Patrologia is a collection of the texts of the Christian Fathers, from the first to near the sixth century.  M. Migne procured his copy from the Ballandists and Baronius, all of whom are Roman Catholics, and scholars of acknowledged integrity, without the least leaning to Protestantism.  This we mention in support of the authenticity and genuineness of this copy.  For more than a thousand years, the Roman Catholics have proudly claimed St. Patrick as exclusively their own, and most Protestants carelessly or ignorantly have acquiesced in their claim; thus giving to error an advantage which no subsequent argument can recover.  All the Romanism of Patrick, if any, must be found in the following Confession.  That an intelligent decision may be made in the premises, we give the original text and a translation in parallel columns, that all may judge for themselves. {206}

Patrick’s Latin is not classic nor even mediæval.  It is what some good scholars have pronounced “homely.”  All this, however, is in perfect keeping with the man and his times.  The saint generally acknowledged himself indoctus, an unlearned man, which was only so comparatively.  If he had been educated in Latin, it was only the Latina rustica, spoken on the western shores of Gaul; and thirty-four years disuse of it could not have improved so poor a beginning.  It has been found very difficult to translate his Latin, and the difficulty has been increased by the lack of connection between the different sections.  It is now supposed that the leaves of the original manuscript must have been strangely transposed, as there are frequently such abrupt disconnections.

We trust however that the meaning is brought out; although it has been nearly impossible to render it in smooth pleasant English without impairing the sense, or losing the spirit and characteristic simplicity of the author.  A fair rendering of the sense is all that is claimed for it.

A few notes have been appended, which appear really necessary to make the various parts intelligible.  This Confession must be the last resort in any question concerning the Romanism of the Apostle of Ireland.  If it is not found here, it can be found no where.  Beside this Confession, the only authentic composition which he has left us is an Epistle to Coroticus, a letter of expulsion from the church, which, however, contains nothing particularly doctrinal.  Other writings have been attributed to him, but they are not allowed as genuine.  All his Romanism, if any, is here.  No one can understand Patrick, nor the church which he founded, without reading his Confession. {207}

PATRICK’S CONFESSION.

I, Patrick, a sinner, the rudest and the least of all the faithful, and the most inconsiderable among many, had for my father Calpornius, a deacon, the son of Potitus, a presbyter, who lived in the village of Banavem of Tabernia[1]—near the hamlet of Enon, where I was captured.  I was about sixteen years old.  But I knew not the true God.  And I was led away into captivity to Hibernia,[2] with a great many men, according to our deservings; for we had gone away from God and had not kept his commandments, and were not obedient to our pastors, who admonished us of our salvation.  And the Lord brought down upon us the anger of his Spirit, and scattered us among many nations to the ends of the earth, where my poverty was seen among strangers.  There the Lord opened to me a sense of my unbelief, that I might remember my sins, and that I might be converted with all my heart unto the Lord my God, who had looked upon my humility, and had compassion on my youth and ignorance; and who kept me until I was wise, or could distinguish between good and evil, and who kept and comforted me as a father would a son. {208}

II. But I am not able to hold my peace; neither to show forth properly all the blessings and the grace which the Lord has vouchsafed to show me in the land of my captivity.  This was our gracious recompense, that after our amendment and acceptance with God, we were exalted and allowed to profess his marvellous works before every nation which is under Heaven. For there is no other God, neither ever was, or ever will be after this, except God the Father Almighty, who is without beginning, and from whom is every beginning, upholding all things, and that we may make known His Son Jesus Christ, as we have have always testified, who was before the beginning of the world, spiritually with the Father, inexpressibly born before every beginning, through whom everything visible and invisible were made; and being made man, and having died, was received into the heavens with the Father.  And to him is given all power, above every name that is in heaven or on the earth, or that is beneath, that every tongue may confess that Jesus is the Lord God, in whom we believe, and for whose coming we are waiting; who soon will be the judge of the living and the dead, and who will render to every one according to his deeds, and will pour out upon us abundantly the gift of the Holy Spirit and the pledge of immortality; who will also make those who believe and are obedient to become the sons of God the Father and joint heirs with Christ, whom we confess and adore one God, in the Trinity of that sacred name.  For he himself spoke by the prophet, “Call upon me in the day of your trouble and I will deliver thee, and thou wilt magnify me.” [Jer. 29.12.  Psalm 80.8.][3] {209} And again, it is said, It is honorable to reveal and announce the works of God. [Tob. 12.7.]

III. Notwithstanding in many things I am imperfect, I desire my brethren and relatives to know my state, that they may be able to understand the vow of my soul.  I am not ignorant of the testimony of my Lord, who in the Psalms, testified “Thou wilt destroy those who speak lies.” [Psalm 5.7.] And again, “The mouth that lies kills the soul.” [Wisdom 1.11.]  And again, the Lord, in the Gospel, says “The idle word which men speak, they must give a reason for it in the day of judgment.” [Matt. 12.36.]  Hence I ought, with fear and trembling, to be extremely careful of this sentence in that day, where no one is able to withdraw or to hide himself, but every one of us must render an account of even the smallest of our sins before the judgment-seat of Christ the Lord.  On this account, for a long while I have thought to write, but until this time I have hesitated.  For I have feared lest I should fail in human language, because I have not read, as others have, who have so abundantly drank in both civil and sacred learning, and who, from infancy, have never changed their speech, but rather who have been always adding to it, unto its perfection.[4] {210}

IV. Now my speech and conversation have been changed to a strange tongue, so that he who is instructed and learned can easily prove by the style of my writing of what kind I am; because by our speech, Wisdom says, our feelings, opinions, and doctrinal truths are distinguished. [Eccl. 4.29.]  But what does an apology profit, by the side of reality, especially by anticipating how much I have obtained in my old age of that which, in youth, I did not get, because my sins hindered it, so that I was not established in what I had read?  But who credits me?  Although I will say what I had said before: that being young, a mere boy, and beardless, I was captured before I knew what to ask or what I should avoid.  Hence, to-day, I am ashamed and greatly fear to expose my inexperience; for, being in want of words, I am unable to explain myself; but the spirit bears out the meaning, and shows at once both the sense and the accomplishment.  But if it had been given to me, as to others, yet I would not have been silent on account of the retribution to me.  So it may seem that, to some extent, I am placed, with my dull and tardy speech, as it is written: “The tongue of the stammerer has learned to speak peace readily.” [Isa. 32.4.][5]  Now, therefore, we who are said to be the epistles of Christ, ought to strive the more earnestly to send his salvation to the ends of the earth; not going back, but being epistles known and strongly written in your hearts, not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God. [II Cor. 3.2,3] {211}

V. And again, the spirit bears witness: that the Most High has established the condition of country life. [Eccl. 7.16.]  Whence I was at first, a home-bred boy, a runaway, who was unlearned; I did not know to foresee the result of things.  But I knew this certainly, that I should be first brought down.  I was like a stone laying in the deep mire, which came up and fell down: but the mercy of the Lord sustained me; indeed, he raised me up and placed me in a large house.  Hence I ought mightily to acknowledge it, and to return also something to the Lord for so many of his benefits, here and forever, which the mind of man is not able to estimate.  Hence let all, the great and small, all who fear God, adore him [Rev. 19.5]; and you, too, orators, who are ignorant of God.  Hear, therefore, you also, who speculate, and out of your midst call me a fool; who seem to be wise, skilled in the law, powerful in speech, and in everything.  And he, too,[6] who stirs up others against me, as the detestable one of the world; now, although I should be such, yet, while with fear and veneration, and without complaint, I should be very profitable to that nation to which the love of Christ has brought me, and through life has given me the privilege, should I be deemed worthy, to serve them in truth and humility to the last.

VI. It becomes me, in my measure, to distinguish in my belief in regard to the Trinity, and without the apprehension of danger, to make known the gift of God, and his eternal consolation; and also, without fear, boldly and everywhere to explain the name or the character of God, that after my {212} death I may leave my testimony to my Gallic brethren, and to my sons whom I have baptized in the Lord, so many thousands of men.  Now, I was not worthy that the Lord should concede to his little servant so much honor.  After sufferings and so much trouble, after my captivity, after so many years, in that nation, that so much favor should be given to me, which, in the times of my youth, I had not hoped for nor thought of.  But after I arrived in Ireland; there every day I fed cattle, and frequently through the day I prayed; more and more the love and fear of God burned, and my faith increased and my spirit was enlarged, so that I said a hundred prayers in a day, and nearly as many at night.  And in the woods and on the mountain I remained; and before the light I also arose to my prayers, in the snow, in the frost, and in the rain, and I experienced no evil at all, nor was there any sluggishness about me, for then I felt that the spirit was fervent within me.  And here on a certain night, in sleep,[7] I heard a voice saying to me: “Blessed youth, soon you are about to return to your country.”  And again, after a little time, I heard a response saying to me: “Behold, thy ship is ready.  But it is not near, but perhaps two hundred thousand paces,” where I never had been, and where I knew none of the men.

VII. Then, after my conversion, in my departure I left the man with whom I had been six years.  And I came, in the strength of the Lord, who had directed my way to that which was good, and I feared nothing until {213} I had come through to that ship.  And on the day that I arrived the ship was finished, and ready for its place.  I asked that I might have a passage with them.  The captain was displeased, and answered sharply, with indignation: “By no means do you apply to go with us.”  Now when I heard this I left them, and when I had come to a tugurolium [shed], there I was hospitably received.  Now, in my coming, I began to pray, and before my prayer was finished, I heard one of them cry out mightily after me, “Come quickly, because these men call you,” and immediately I returned to them, and they began to say to me: “Come, now, because in good faith we receive thee.  Make friends with us just as you will.”  Thus, in the very day that I was forced to fly, because of the fear of God, and had separated myself from them, that very night they say to me: “Come, in the faith of Jesus Christ, although we are Gentiles;” and thus forthwith I obtained a passage with them.

VIII. After three days we reached the land.[8]  And we made our journey through the desert in twenty-eight days.  Our food failed us, and famine prevailed over us.  On a day the captain began to say to me: “What, Christian, do you say?  Is your God great and omnipotent?  Why, therefore, are you not able to pray for us, that we should not be endangered by famine?  This is a difficulty that some {214} men of us can never see.”  I then said plainly to them: Do you be converted to the faith, and with your whole heart unto the Lord our God, for nothing is impossible with him, [Luke 1.37,] so that food may be sent to you this day on our journey until you are satisfied, for there is an abundance with him.  And now, God sustaining, so it was done.  Behold, a herd of swine appeared in the way before our eyes.  Many of them they killed, and being well refreshed they remained there two nights.  By the flesh of these they were raised up, for many among them were about fainting, or otherwise they would have been left half dead on the way.  After this, the highest thanks were given to God, and I was honored in their eyes.

IX. From that day they had an abundance of food, and they also found wild honey and offered a part of it to me.  One of them, however, said, This is an offering, a thanksgiving to God, therefore I did not taste it.[9]  Now the same night, while I was sleeping, Satan mightily tempted me; the memory of it will exist as long as I am in this body.  It fell upon me like a great stone, and prevailed over my limbs.  But whence came it to me?  Not knowing the spirit, so I called out, Elias.[10]  At this moment I saw the sun to arise in the sky, and then again I called out with all my strength, Elias! Elias!  And behold, the splendor of the sun fell upon me, and shook from me all sense of weight.  I believe that it was from Christ the Lord: I was assisted by his spirit from that instant.  He called for me; and I hope that I shall be so, in the day of my necessity, as it is said in the Gospel (in that day), the Lord testified.  It is not you who speak, but the “spirit of your Father who speaketh in you.” [Matt. 10.20 .] {215}

X. And some time [not long] after this, I was again seized.  The first night that I remained with them, I heard the divine response saying to me, “For two months you will be with them,” and so that took place; for [in] sixty days from that night the Lord delivered me out of their hands.  And behold, through our journey the Lord provided for us food, fire, and dry lodgings every day, until the fourteenth day, when we came through to the men: As before mentioned, we made our journey through the desert in twenty-eight days, and on the night in which we arrived, our food gave wholly out.  And again, after some time, I was with my parents in Brittany, who received me as a son, and confidently entreated me, that after so many years of tribulation through which I had passed, that I never again would go away from them.  Now it was here, in the vision of the night, that I saw a man, [whose name was Victorious,] coming, as if out of Ireland, with a very great number of letters, and gave one of them to me.  I read the beginning of the letter, which contained these words: vox Hiberionacum. [The Voice of the Irish.]  When I had read the principal of the letter, I thought that at that very moment I heard the voice of those who lived near the woods of Flocut, which is near the Western Sea.  And thus they cried out, as with one voice: “We entreat you, holy youth, that you come here and walk among us.”  Then I felt extremely touched in my heart, and I could read no more.  And then I awoke.  Thanks be unto God, because the Lord, after so many years, was ready to answer them according to their cry.

XI. In another night, I know not, God knows, whether in me or near me, I heard one in the most skilled words that I had ever heard; but I was not able to understand, until at the last of the speech, he thus spoke: “Who has laid down his life for my sake?”  Then I awoke, and I was {216} exceedingly happy.  And again I saw in myself, while I was praying, and I was as if in my body, and I heard over me, that is, over the interior man; and there I prayed mightily, with groanings; and after this, I was stupefied, and wondered; then I thought who this should be which thus prayed within me.  But at the last of the prayer, it spoke that it was the spirit.  So then I became awake, and I remembered what the apostle says: “The spirit helpeth the infirmities of our prayers, so that what we ought to pray for, we do not know, but the spirit itself asks for us with groaning that is unutterable.” [Rom. 8.26], because by words they are not able to be expressed.[11]  And again, the Lord our advocate asks for us. [Rom. 8.34.]  And when I was tempted by some of my seniors, who came against me on account of my sins, and in opposition to my laborious episcopate, so that at a time I was strongly driven to think that I would fall here and forever; but I was benignly spared to the heathen and the stranger for his name’s sake; and he exceedingly assisted me in treading down that which had brought this depression and opprobrium upon me, so that no evil befell me.  I pray God that this matter may not be reckoned a sin against them; for after thirty years they found me, and laid this complaint against me, which I had confessed before I was a deacon. {217}

XII. On account of anxiety, when oppressed in mind, I feigned myself in a most friendly manner, and when in my boyhood I behaved myself at one time only for an hour as I ought not to have done.[12]  I know not, God knows, whether I had then been fifteen years old, and I did not yet believe in the living God, neither had I from my infancy; but I remained still in death and unbelief, until I was truly chastised and humbled by hunger and nakedness.  I never went to Ireland of my own free will, but was every day against it, until I was brought down.  But this was rather good for me, for from this time, by the help of God, I began to amend, and he prepared me that day for what I should be; but which before had been far from me; to wit, That I should have a care and a great anxiety for the salvation of others.  Then after this, I did not think of myself.  In the day in which I was blamed by the mentioning of former words, in that night I saw an appearance written opposite to my face, without repute.  And after this, I heard the divine response, saying to me: We see a face—a naked name, badly designed.  But it does not predict so; you have seen what was evil done: but we have also seen it; as if it were joined to ourselves.  But thus it said, “he who toucheth you toucheth as if it were the apple of my eye.” [Zech. 2.8.]  Therefore I give thanks unto him, who has comforted me on all occasions, so that nothing has hindered me from the accomplishment of that which I had laid down to do, and also of my work, which I had learned of Christ.  But rather on account of it, I have felt myself strengthened not a little, and my faith has been proved before God and man.

XIII. Therefore I speak boldly: my conscience does not reprove me, for {218} the present or the future.  I have God for a witness, that I am not false in the words to which I have referred you; but rather, I grieve on account of my too friendly manner; but why for this should we deserve to hear such replies from one to whom I confided my mind?  I have learned from some brethren, before this defence, that I had no difference with any, nor, when I was in Brittany, did any rise up against me! but that he, in my absence, was beaten on my account.  Now he said to me with his own mouth, “The episcopal office [rank] must be given to you, for which I am not worthy.”  But afterward when he came here, then, in the presence of all the good and the bad, he publicly disparaged me, and that also which before he had freely and joyfully delighted in.  The Lord is he who is greater than all.  I say enough.  But I ought not to hide the gift of God, which was so bountifully bestowed upon us in the land of my captivity, because then I mightily sought him, and then I found him, and he has kept me from all iniquity.  So I believe he will, on account of his indwelling spirit, which has wrought so fully in me to this day; but, on the other hand, God knows.  If man should have spoken to me, perhaps I should have been silent; but for the love of Christ I have spoken.

XIV. Hence I render unceasing thanks to my God, who has kept me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that to-day I may confidently offer unto him a sacrifice, as an offering, a living victim, unto Christ my Lord, who has saved me from all my distresses, so that I may say “who am I, O Lord, and what is my calling, that thou hast covered me with much of the divine glory?”  So that this day, among the Gentiles, I may constantly exult and magnify thy name wherever I am; not only in favorable times, {219} but in those of trouble, that whatsoever may happen to me, whether good or bad, equally I ought to accept them, and always to give thanks to God who has showed me that I should believe in him with unwavering faith to the end.  And who has also heard me, that I may be unconscious of this devout and wonderful work when I shall approach my last days,[13] so that I may resemble some of those whom our Lord had long ago foretold should be the first promulgators of the Gospel, for a testimony unto all nations before the end of the world, so that therefore we might see that it was completed.  Behold, we are witnesses, because what was predicted in the Gospels is true, that it has gone where no one was before.

XV. It would take long to narrate singly the whole of my labors, or even parts of them.  I will speak briefly and in the most devout manner.  God very often delivered out of servitude, out of twelve perils in which my life was hazarded, besides many snares which I am unable to express in words, or to make known to the readers my injuries.  But while I am the founder, I knew before what has taken place, that I was a poor little destitute boy; therefore, of this, the divine response often admonished me; hence this wisdom that was in me, was not mine, neither had I known many days, nor had I been wise toward God; but afterward, when the great and salutary gift was given me, that I might acknowledge and delight in God.  But I left my country, my parents, and the many rewards which had been offered to me, and with tears and weeping I displeased them, and some of those who were older than myself; but I did not act contrary to my vow.  And so God directing, I consented to no one, nor yielded to them, nor to what was grateful to myself.[14]  God had overcome me and restored all {220} other matters; so that I went to Ireland to heathens, to preach the Gospel to them, to bring them from unbelief and increditable reproach.  And thus I brought upon myself the opprobrium of a sojourner, many persecutions unto bonds, and also, I gave up my condition as a freeman of birth, for the benefit of others.

XVI. And so if I should be deemed worthy, I am ready willingly and unchangeably, for his name sake to spend my life unto death, if the Lord should thus indulge me.  For I am exceedingly a debtor unto God, who has given to me such an amount of grace, that so many through my instrumentality have been born again unto God, and already established: and that also the ministry is everywhere ordained for a people who have so recently come from unbelief, whom the Lord has taken from the ends of the earth, and of whom long ago he promised through the prophet, “To thee the Gentiles shall come from the ends of the earth, and shall say: Thus our fathers procured for themselves false idols; and there was no profit in them.” [Jer. 16.19.]  Again, I have placed thee a light for the Gentiles, that thou mayest be for a salvation to the ends of the earth. [Isa. 49.6.]  And for thee I will wait: for thy promise never fails.  So in the Gospel, he has promised: They shall come from the East and the West, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. [Matth. 8.11.]  And so we believe that believers are about to come from all the world.

XVII. Therefore it becomes us to be good and diligent fishers.  So the Lord premonished us, saying, come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. [Matth. 4.19.]  And again, I will send many fishers and hunters, saith the Lord. [Jer. 16.16.]  Therefore it very much becomes us to stretch {221} our nets, that we may take for God a copious and crowded multitude; that wherever the clergy [ministers] are they may baptize and exhort the needy and willing people; thus the Lord in the Gospel admonishes and teaches us, saying, going into all the world, baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: behold I am with you every day unto [the] consummation of the world. [Matth. 28.19,20.]  And again he said, go therefore into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature: he who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who believes not shall be condemned. [Mark 16.15,16.]  And again, this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [Matth. 24.14.]  So the Lord by the prophet has previously announced, saying: In the last days saith the Lord, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your sons shall see visions and your elders shall dream dreams, and truly upon my servants and upon my hand-maidens in those days I will pour out of my spirit, and they shall prophesy. [Joel 2.28,29.]  And Hosea says, I will call those who were not—my people; and those who had not sought for mercy, shall have mercy. [Hos. 2.24; Rom. 9.25; 1 Pet. 2.10.]  And it will be in the place where it was said, you are not my people, there shall be called the sons of the living God. [Hos. 1.10; Rom. 9.26.]

XVIII. Therefore the Hibernians, who never had the knowledge of God, but who always until now worshiped idols and impurities, have now lately become the people of the Lord, and are now publicly constituted the sons {222} of God.  Sons of the Irish and daughters of the minor kings, monks and virgins of Christ are to be seen.  There was one, a blessed Irish lady, noble by birth, beautiful and amiable, whom I baptized.  After some days, a certain event occurred among us.  There was one who persuaded us to receive the divine response [or assurance] from a messenger of God.  He taught us that a virgin of Christ, might approach very near to God.  Thanks be unto God: Six from that day, with eagerness and avidity, seized this, to wit: that all virgins of God might become such without willingly leaving their fathers, but that they should be patient in persecution and in the false reproaches from their parents.[15]  Nothing more increased the number, than our own offspring who were born with us; we do not know their number, except by the widows and the continents; but these chiefly were those who labored, or who were hand-maidens held in servitude, and who assiduously persevered against terrors and threatenings.  God gave grace to his handmaidens, for although they were forbidden, the firmer they stood fast.

XIX. And although I should be desirous to leave these, and was prepared most willingly to go into Brittany to see my country and my parents: and not that only, but when there to visit my Galacian brethren, and that I might see the faces of the saints of my Lord, which, if God pleases I exceedingly desire; but I {223} am bound by the spirit who protests against me, that if I should do this, I would be marked in future as an accursed one.  And I fear that I should lose the labor which I have begun, and not only I, but Christ the Lord, who commanded me; that if I went, I should be with them the residue of my life.  If the Lord will, and should keep me from every evil way, so that I do not sin before him: I believe I was bound to do this.  But I do not confide in myself as long as I am in this body; because there is a power, which strains itself every day to turn me away from the faith of Christ my Lord, and from my designed chastity until the end of my life.  The flesh is inimical and always draws to death, that is, to the accomplishment of illicit allurements.  I know in part why I do not lead a perfect life, and also of others who are believers.  But I confess to my Lord, and I am not ashamed in his sight, because I lie not; from the time I knew him, from my youth, the love of the God, and his fear, have increased in me, until now, by the help of God I have kept the faith.

XX. He[16] may return and behave insolently if he will: I will not however be silent, nor hide the signal and marvelous things which the Lord has done through my ministry during these many years: he knows all these things, because they have taken place during the present age.  Therefore I ought without ceasing give thanks unto God who has so often bore with me, for my want of wisdom.  It was not in any one place that he was so angry with me, because I did not quickly acquiesce in the help that had been offered to me, according to that which he had shown me.  But so the spirit suggested, and the Lord pitied me in thousands of instances, for he saw in me, that I was ready, but that in my situation I did not know what {224} I should do, for in this case they very wrongfully kept back my message, and behind my back, among themselves they told over and said: The reason is, he placed himself in danger among strangers who knew not God.  Now this was not a case of maliciousness, but it was that which did not seem wise to them; so I myself being a witness, understood that it was on account of my rusticity.  I did not at once recognize the grace that was in me: now it seems wise to me that I did that which I was bound to do.

XXI. I have not ingratiated myself to my brethren or companions in regard to what they may believe of me; except that what I have said, I will say again, for the strengthening and confirmation of your faith.  I wish you to imitate a greater and a mightier pattern; but this will be my glory, that a wise son is the glory of the father, [Prov. 11.1; 15.20.]  You know and God knows, what kind of behavior I have had with you from my youth, in the belief of the truth and in the sincerity of my heart.  Moreover in every nation among whom I have lived, I have made known my faith to them and will make it known.  God knows that I have defrauded none of them; I think and plan for God and his church; nor have I stirred up any one against them through all our persecutions, lest, through me, the name of the Lord might be blasphemed, for it is written: Woe to that man through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed. [Lev. 24.16; Rom. 2.24.]  Although I am inexperienced in many things, yet I try so that in some way I may be serviceable to my Christian brethren, to the virgins of Christ and to the holy women who have willingly given me small gifts, and often have laid some of their ornaments on altar.  But I have returned them; they might have brought a reproach against me.  Why did I do this?  I did this, in the {225} hope that by constantly doing it, I might thus cautiously keep myself from every suspicion, so that the unbelievers should not catch me in any pretext, or that the administration of my service might not give any place to the unbelievers for evil insinuations or detraction. [2 Cor. 11.12.]

XXII. Now when I had baptized so many thousands of men, I might perhaps have expected from some of them a half scruple.  Tell me of it, and I will pay it back: or, when the Lord ordained ministers, through my management and ministry, I distributed among them [freely], if I have asked from any of them even the price of a pair of shoes, tell me; tell this against me, and I will return to you more than I paid[17] for you, so that your charge may not be a trial to me wherever I go; even to distant parts where no one had been before;[18] where none had ever come who had been baptized, or where the clergy had been ordained, or where the people had been received into communion.  The Lord having helped me, I have diligently and willingly suggested or planned everything for your salvation.  Again I have given rewards to minor kings, besides that I have given wages to their sons who have walked with me; they provided nothing for me, or my companions.  At a certain time they even desired to kill me, but the time had not come; everything which they found with us they seized at once, and bound myself with fetter; but on the fourteenth day the Lord delivered me out of their power, and whatsoever was ours, was returned to {226} us, for the Lord’s sake: and as before we provided for them as our indispensable friends.

XXIII. Now you, who are experienced, may therefore judge concerning the amount I have laid out for them in all the regions which I have so frequently visited.  I have taken a list, not at the lowest prices, of what I have distributed to the fifteen men.  So that you may receive enjoyment from me and I from you; I always receive enjoyment in God; I do not repent, neither am I satisfied yet; I spend, and will spend more: the Lord is able; so that he may give me shortly, that I may spend my life for your souls. [2 Cor. 12.15.]  Behold! God is my witness, whom I call upon my soul, that I lie not; that it was not for the cause of praise, or of avarice, that I wrote unto you, neither did I hope for your honor.  Sufficient to me is the honor that is not seen, but is believed in the heart: faithful is he who promises, and never lies.  But I see now in the present time, that the Lord has exalted me beyond measure.  I am not worthy of it, neither of this kind, that it should be presented to me; while I know certainly that poverty and calamity are more becoming for me than delicacies and riches.  For Christ the Lord was poor for us.  I too would be very miserable and unhappy if I desired riches.  But now I have them not; neither do I think them becoming me; for I wait daily, either to be killed, defrauded, or to be driven back again into bondage, or any other occurrence you please.  But I fear none of these things, on account of the promise of heaven; because I have thrown myself into the hands of the omnipotent God, who reigns everywhere, who, by the prophet, said “Cast your thoughts upon God and he himself will nourish you.” [Psa. 54.23. LXX; or Psalm 55.22.] {227}

XXIV. Behold! now I commend my soul to my God, who is most faithful, for whom in reproach I perform this mission. [2 Cor. 5.20.]  For he did not accept the mere person; he chose me to this office that I might be one of the least of his ministers; hence I will repay him for all that he has distributed to me. [Psalm 115.12. LXX; or 116.12.]  Or what shall I say, or what shall I promise my Lord? For I have no strength, unless he himself should give it to me.  He may search my heart and reins, for I cannot desire too much.  I am ready, that he should give to me his cup to drink, so only that I may be indulged with all the others who love him.  Why nothing can happen to me from my God, that I should ever leave his people, whom he has got in the ends of the earth.  I pray God that he may give unto me perseverance, and that I may be deemed worthy, that I may return to him a faithful testimony until my transition to my God.  And if I, like some others of the good, at any time am to imitate them [suffer martyrdom] for my God whom I love, I beseech him, that he will allow me with these converted from among the heathens and the captives, that I may pour out my blood for his name’s sake, and that he may either bury my flesh, or my poor dead body may be divided in single pieces by dogs, or by wild beasts, or that the birds of heaven may eat it.  Surely I think, if this should befall me, I will gain my soul with my body; because, without any doubt, in that day we will arise in the splendor of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer; sons of the living God and co-heirs of Christ, we who are conformed [Rom. 8.17,] to his future image [Rom. 8.29,] will hereafter reign by him and through him and in him.

XXV. Now this sun which we see, by the help of God will rise for us {228} every day, but he will never reign, neither will his splendor be lasting, but all who worship him will miserably descend into punishment.  But we believe in and worship the true Sun, Christ, who will never pass away, who made all things by his own will, [and we] will remain forever, as Christ will remain forever, who reigns with God the Father omnipotent, and with the Holy Spirit, before the worlds were, and now, through all ages of ages. Amen.  Behold! again I briefly set forth these words of my Confession.  I bear witness in truth and in the exultation of my heart before God, and his holy angels, that I have now had an opportunity, besides the Gospel and its promises, to say: That I will never return to that nation from which with difficulty I left.  But I beseech all who believe in God and fear him, whatever their rank may be, to examine and regard this writing which Patrick, a sinner and unlearned, has written in Hibernia: and let no one ever say, that I, through my ignorance, carried forward some little matter; but whether I have shown, that what has been done, was done according to the pleasure of God.  But do you decide, that the gift of God is to be most assuredly credited for what has been done.  And this is my Confession before I die.


Footnotes:

1. Some copies, according to the Ballandists and Abbe Migne, add, the son of Odissus, and instead of Potitus, as in the text, they have Photius.  In the early History of Patrick, nearly all the names are of Greek, rather than of Latin derivation.  Was the Irish Church of Greek origin?

2. Dr. Lanigan, the Catholic ecclesiastical historian, thinks that Banavem was the ancient name of the present Boulogne, in France, and consequently the place where Patrick was born.  This account of the saint’s captivity synchronizes remarkably with the Irish annals that record the predatory excursions of the Irish chieftains, particularly with those of Niall of the Nine Hostages.

3. Patrick appears to have been a great lover of the Scriptures.  In this short narrative he quotes and appeals to them no less than twenty-five times, although three of them are from what we now call the Apocrypha, which, however, was then incorporated with the Greek of the Seventy, which seems to have been the version, or at least a translation from it, which he used.  And here it is especially worthy of notice, that in this Confession, or his other composition, Patrick never appeals to any other authority than the Scriptures.  He never even mentions the Pope, nor appeals to any of the apostolical fathers, nor to any foreign council or church.  When, as on the expulsion of Coroticus, he was required to avow his authority, he simply said, he “was a bishop constituted in Ireland,” and that “what he was, he had received of God.”  Constitutum episcopum à Deo accepi id quod sum.—Patrologia, vol. LIII, p. 801.  Here is no appeal to Rome, or any other authority; to any ordination or commission, other than from God.

4. All through his writings Patrick frequently refers to his deficiency in learning.  This deficiency is very apparent in his Latinity, in the great simplicity of his style, and in the inartistic arrangement of his ideas.  This acknowledgment of rusticity and want of education is also in perfect keeping with himself, his position, and history.  But it does not harmonize with the account of his mediaeval biographers, who, to supply scanty materials, assert that he studied with St. Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre; that he accompanied Lupus to put down the Pelagian heresy in Britain; that he went to Rome, and that he spent several years in a monastery on an island in the Mediterranean.  His Confession abounds with internal evidence of the falsity of these statements, and of their inventions in regard to his movements in other instances.

5. It is here worthy of remark, as is asserted by Bishop Ussher, that the quotations of the early Irish writers are all from the Greek Septuagint, which they translated, or received from a translation, into Latin.  This seems to be an evidence, among many others, that there was a greater affinity and intercourse, at that time, between the Irish and the Greek Church, than there was between it and the Latin Church of Rome.  Indeed, we do not recollect that Patrick ever spoke, or even alluded to the popes, Rome, or any of the peculiarities of that church.

6. Throughout this Confession there are frequent allusions to a certain unnamed accuser, who appears to have come from Gaul.  He is not named, nor are his accusations fully stated; but from what we can learn from the saint’s defence, they appear to have been something that he had done in boyhood before his conversion, and from some supposed assumption of power in Ireland, and from the reception of gifts for professional services.  All these charges, however, he met and refuted not only with courtesy, but with ability, and in the most amiable spirit.

7. Young Patrick, at this time, was in a heathen country, probably without the Scriptures, without a Christian friend, or any means of grace.  Spirit can communicate with spirit without the external senses.  God did so in olden times, and may have done so in this instance.  Dreams are not always of “evanescent stuff.”  They seem to be significant:  1. When they are consecutive and complete in themselves.  2. When they make a deep and abiding impression in regard to a warning or to duty.  3. When there are outward providences in perfect agreement with the dream, so as to guard us from danger, and to open the way for us to duty.

8. But he does not tell us where.  He appears, however, to have reached the coast somewhere in the present County of Antrim.  In returning home, he may have crossed to some part of North Britain, and the “desert” [or, wilderness,] of which he speaks may have been across that island to the East or German Sea.  It is more probable that he may have coasted down to Wales, or the Bristol Channel, and then crossed the island at the south.  In this journey, when his company fell short of bread, he exhorted them to seek the Lord, and soon they found food.  In all this there was nothing superstitious; no angelic agency; nothing but what has occurred a thousand times since.  After this he was honored in the eyes of his companions, and then, that very night, he was wonderfully tempted—a great blessing followed by a great trial—a common case with experienced Christians.  He was again captured, but it is not stated whether before or on reaching the eastern shore, nor by whom; but the Lord delivered him out of their hands, and this seems to have been the object in speaking of this captivity.

9. This passage is a little obscure.  Why did Patrick not taste the honey?  Two possible explanations both require a slightly modified translation.  First, it is possible that Patrick partook of the Honey in thanksgiving to God, but thereafter refrained from all eating of honey, in memory of God’s goodness on this particular occasion.  This sort of “sacrifice” would not be characteristic of Christian thanksgiving, and would resemble too much the “touch not, taste not” religious service rejected by Paul in Colossians 2.  An alternate translation does render the text, “From then on I tasted none of it.”  Secondly, what is more likely, and also supported by the said alternate translation, is that the “God” here referred to was not the Christian God, but an idol of him who first made the sacrifice of thanksgiving.  In that case Patrick’s obligation was to abstain from partaking in the sacrifice, as a testimony of his rejection of the idol, and belief in the Lord as the only true God.  Paul’s instruction on this is very plain in 1 Corinthians, chapter 8.—JTKer.

10. Dr. Todd, in his recent Life of St. Patrick, Dublin, 1864, says the true reading is “Eli,” which, he thinks, was some form of the name of God in the Bible that the saint used; or, as our Lord exclaimed on the cross, “Eli,” or “Eloi.” [Mark 15.34.]  [Additional Note: The original word in the Latin text is “Heliam.”  Accordingly, some suggest the translation of “Sun,” as “Heliam” may have been intended as a Latinized form of the Greek “Helios,” meaning the “Sun.”  Given the context, this makes good sense.  Patrick was under a Satanic spiritual trial in the night: it prevailed over him and deprived him of his rest.  The Lord was his strength to endure the trial, but the end of the trial was the thing he would gladly be at.  Expecting that a night trial would depart with daybreak, he longed for the rising of the Sun, and called for the Sun. In his narration he tells us that then the Sun, or Latin “solem,” arose, and it was then that he rejoiced, Sun! Sun! and was thereby comforted in the Lord’s awaited providence.—JTKer.]

11. In the tenth and eleventh sections there are recorded two remarkable dreams, or divine communications.  The imagery in them is consecutive and complete, and they so deeply impressed him that he ever afterward regarded them as a direct call from God that he should preach the Gospel in Ireland.  He passed through a struggle, such substantially as most divinely-called ministers pass through in regard to their call to preach.  He “prayed mightily with groaning,” and at first hardly knew “what was praying in him.”  He found it was the spirit.  Whether Patrick had ever been episcopally [or otherwise] ordained, or had ever been sent by any church or council, of which there is no reliable account whatever, this direct and divine call he received and relied upon as his commission to evangelize Ireland.  When once speaking of his episcopate he said, “From God I have received what I am” [à Deo accepi, id quod sum].—Epis. ad Coroticus, in Patrologia, vol. LIII, p. 810.  In his Confession, section fifteen, Patrick says, “Sed gubernante Deo, nullo modo consensi neque acquievi illis, ut ego venirem ad Hiberniam.”  “God directing me, I agreed or consented with no one in coming to Ireland.”  This does not look like a papal commission, but one directly from God as it indubitably was; and this is the only view that quadrates with all of Patrick.

12. This must have been done in Brittany some thirty years before.

13. Another translation here reads, “However ignorant I am, he has heard me, so that in these late days I can dare to undertake such a holy and wonderful work.” Which is a more simple thought, and more easily explained, but the Latin is “inscius,” capable of meaning ignorant, unaware, unconscious, etc. A third translation renders the text with more of the complexity of the original Latin, and again contemplating ignorance as the confessed defect of Patrick, which makes the Lord’s working by him the more admirable.—JTKer.

14. This does not look like receiving a commission from Rome.

15. These, properly, were neither monks nor nuns, in our present meaning of the words.  Monachism did not appear in Europe till some time in the fourth century, and could not have reached Ireland at this time.  There were Ascetics in almost every country, one class of whom abstained from all pleasant food, and the other from marriage; but still they lived in society as other Christians.  Asceticism sprang from the Essenes or the Gnostics in the first century.  Many of the best Christian fathers partially imbibed some of their notions, and it has always, more or less, troubled the Christian churches; but it was not then peculiar to the Roman, or to any particular church.  Those referred to here were comparatively very few, and not cloistered monks, for there were none such in Ireland for some centuries afterward.

16. Probably this was the unnamed accuser, who appears to have come from Gaul.

17. This reminds us of the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 12.3).  This appeal of Patrick, after a residence of at least thirty years among the Irish, is an evidence of his purity and noble disinterestedness.  During his mission he had not lived for himself, but for his people, and, as he said in another place, “he wished to die with them,” which he afterward did, in the 78th year of his age, and the 34th of his ministry.  What a pity that this great and successful missionary of the fifth century is so little known among Protestants.

18. The translation of De Vinne, provided above, connects the ideas of these several phrases differently than what is suggested by other translators. Another alternative, leaves out the idea of a “trial,” relating to former payments, reading simply: “I spend myself for you, so that you may have me for yours.  I have travelled everywhere among you for your own sake, in many dangers, and even to the furthest parts where nobody lived beyond, and where nobody ever went,” etc.  The Latin “periculis” is thus rendered “dangers” and unrelated to a “charge” or payment.  De Vinne seems to have forced the plural term into the singular form, in order to fit his translation. But it is beyond the present editor to ascertain the full accuracy of his translation—JTKer.