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                                              (Scoll down to read of Alfred the Great)

                          Columba Comes To Scotland To Convert Souls To God In About 563 to 597A.D.

             

                            Columba was born in present day Northern Ireland on Dec 7, 521 A.D. and was by most accounts a young man of strong frame and handsome looks, something of a temper, a good speaking voice and singing voice - and a natural leader.  He became involved in the church early on in his life.  In his earlier adulthead he became a priest and also formed several monasteries in Ireland.  He might have lead a fairly quiet life there, but a dispute arose.  He took a psalter without permission from a former mentor - a man named Finnian who had once ordained him as an officer in the parish - to copy it by hand.  Finnian found out and was angry, demanding it back.  Columba would not return it, and the matter went to the King, Dermott, who ruled in favor of Finnian.  Columba still did not return the book, and this lead to a military conflict between the King and the clan of Columba.  A great many men died, and Columba's clan, the Ui Neills, prevailed.  But around 2000 men were dead.

              This weighed very heavily on the soul and conscience of Columba, and in counsel with his spiritual peers and mentors, it is said he decided that he must bring as many souls to Christ as had been lost in the battle.  He went with twelve helpers to the present day Island of Iona (though some say he went to another Island for a few years first) and built a monasterial living and teaching community on that harsh bare Island.  It was close to the Scottish coast, and it was mostly there on the mainland among the Scotts and the Picts that he and his men spread the word of Christ.  But few men seemed so be attended by so many deeds of God as they spread the word of Jesus.

              Among the dozens of prophesies, miraculous occurrences, and manifestations that confirmed this man in his purpose for and authority with God, here are a few:             

Columba Opens King Brude's Castle Gate With A Prayer

             

              In 565 A.D. Columba left Iona and he travelled up the Great Glen to a fortress of a certain King of the Picts named Bridei (more popularly known as King Brude).  News of Columba's coming reached the fortress of the King, who viewed Columba with suspicion, since Coloumba was actually related by blood to to the Delriad Scotts whom Brude had recently beaten in battle.  Scotts and Picts were to have a long history of conflict as the nation of Scotland matured.

              When Columba arrived with disciples to visit King Brude on God's business he found that the gatemen had been instructed to leave the gate shut and bolted.  Columba simply prayed, made the sign of the cross upon the large folding gate and touched it with his hand.  Witnesses inside reported that the heavy bolts flew backwards with great force and the gate folded open on its own.  King Brude's startled men raced to tell him what they had seen and upon hearing the news the King became greatly alarmed.  Quickly gathering his officials they hurried down to greet Columba as a highly welcome and honored guest of the King and a now somewhat venerated ambassador of God.  This word raced quickly among the Pictish peoples and opened their hearts greatly towards the Lord, despite the strong hold which the Druids tried to maintain among the Picts.

             

The Loch Ness Monster Meets It's Match

             

              Travelling in the Kingdom of the Picts, much of which was near Loch Ness, Columba and his companions came upon a small and mourning group of Picts at the mouth of the River Ness there at the Loch.  Their companion was recently mauled by a large lake creature and had died of his wounds.  They had just buried him.  Columba needed to cross the River Ness and across on the opposite bank were boats that could be used if someone would swim to bring one. 

              Columba assigned his companion Mocumin to swim for the boat, and despite the danger, Mocumin had faith in his spiritual brother Columba, so he jumped in and began to swim.  This same creature, attracted by the noise, rose to attack Mocumin.  It surfaced and swam swiftly to overtake him, but as it was almost upon him, Columba, from the river's bank, raised a hand and commanded it to stop (probably in the Lord's name as Columba was never in doubt from who these miracles came).  This terrified the beast, which turned suddenly and undulated away, bellowing.  Mocumin, cold and shaking, returned safely with the boat.                 

The Druids Just Can't Match Up To God

             

              To observe people in this modern day returning at all to the sad religion of the Druid's seems unfortunate, because it was once a strong and dominant religion with a powerful hold on it's people.  But so strong were the evidences of Jesus's superiority in all ways to the spirits invoked by the Druids that the people simply turned away from them over the years.  They received what is greatly better:  the good teachings of Christ.  After all, they were so manifestly endorsed by God through the many miracles He supplied.  Each people and nation in their turn received such signs when His son Jesus was first introduced to their culture.

              The Druids were just one in a long line of false religions refuted among the sons of Ham, Shem, and Japheth throughout the world.  There were many confrontations in Columba's mission, but for example:

              Columba and his friends were singing Vespers outside of the Pictish King Brude's royal home with the King listening.  (Brude would come to feel ever growing friendship and regard for this Christian missionary from Ireland.)  The Druids, losing favor and feeling threatened no doubt, assembled in opposition on this particular day, and sought to make enough noise to drown out the sound of these Christian Vespers being sung.  When they tried this, it is recorded that Columba's singing voice was suddenly supplied with unearthly strength and volume - enough power to startle and frighten the King and his court listeners as he began to sing out the 45th Psalm from the Bible.  The Druids hurried away, shamed and outmatched.

  These are a few of the preserved deeds of Columba, the famous Scottish Saint.                               

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   . 

                          

Alfred the Great Becomes King in England 

                             (b. 849 A.D., King of West Saxons 871 A.D. to 899 A.D.)

                            

               Can you imagine a king so devout that he prays to God for a painful lasting illness so that he can, through great suffering, stay constantly mindful of God?  Such a King was Alfred.  He was the fifth son of his father and had no reason to expect he would ever be the king.  Even as a boy he seemed more suited to religious and academic matters - it was his lifelong habit to attend church once or often twice a day.  But upon the death of his fourth brother, King Aethelred, he became the King. 

            In England's long and fairly well recorded history, there is much said of it's many kings.  But one and only one was ever given the name "the Great".  It was Alfred, the son that was never expected to be king. 

              On the night of his wedding as a young man he received from God a sort of abdominal illness that stayed with him until his mid-forties.  It replaced the 'piles' he had first received as an even younger man.  His chronicler, a Welsh monk named Asser, said that the new illness was so painful that he was constantly either suffering from it, or living in fear of its next return.  Alfred had prayed God, it is recorded, for a second illness to replace his first illness.  He felt he needed an illness that would allow him to more readily exercise his role as king, yet would remind him constantly to remain humble before God. 

              In view of the needs of the coalescing nation of England it seems as if God purposely matched the most demanding of times with the most providing of men.  It is hard to imagine God choosing a more suited man for the needs of his land at that time. 

              He was large and athletic, a robust man.  He loved to hunt.  He was a brave fighting king, leading his men into many great battles.  And he had an earnest regard for learning and scholarship, bringing top religeous scholars from countries all around to start schools to try to revive learnedness in Britain.  As he held court he dealt with the days business while constantly being read to out loud by one or another court scholar from the scriptures, or the writings of church fathers, or other useful writings.  Apparently it was used like background music in his court.  He learned to decipher some languages, and actually translated some scripture into English for the first time himself it is said.

              He became king during a period of intensifying Viking invasions of Britain. And through out his long reign they did not stop for long.  He fought the Danes and he fought the Nords. He fought them on land, and in naval battles.  He custom designed fighting boats that would be effective against the Viking ship design.  Regardless of the type of battle, he more often won.  But sometimes he lost decisively. 

              In 487 A.D. his land was ambushed by invading Viking forces while Alfred celebrated Christmas at Chippenham, and he was caught so unaware that he had to flee to hiding in the Somerset marshes.  He lived for a time in the hut of a swine herder.  They did not even visually recognize him as their king, being poor and untravelled, and Alfred, having lived wretchedly off of the land prior to arriving to them, probably did not bear a very royal appearance.  And he did not tell his humble hosts who he was, for fear that word would get out to the Vikings who were searching for him everywhere.  He considered this a time of testing, as was given to Job in the Bible, because of the sins of himself and his nation, and he determined to bear it humbly. 

              While living in the swineherd's hut he was once roundly scolded by the woman of the house for letting the bread overcook after she had asked him to turn it when it was time.  She said he was happy enough to eat their food, but couldn't seem to bring himself to do a little bit of work to help get it to the table.  His response was to watch it more closely.  Not every King is so disrespectfully treated by his own subjects!  But he rallied his people while hiding out here, reorganized his army, and laid seige to those same Vikings at their new defenses in Chippenham.  So heavy was the seige that the Vikings gave in, surrendered hostages without asking for hostages in return (formerly unheard of, Asser the Chronicler says) and the leader of these Vikings - Guthrum - became baptised into Christianity with Alfred as his sponsor.

              His desire to be just, fair, and righteous was so well known that rival kings from all around placed themselves willingly under his kingship to join forces against these Vikings, and he became the first king able to unite the majority (though never all) of Britain.  He was the first great king of the combined Angles and Saxons.  He fought Vikings off and on for most of the years of his reign, while all along building his nation spiritually on all fronts.  The scriptures were nearly all in Latin in his kingdom at that time, and learning had so declined that allegedly no man spoke and read Latin south of the Thames River (in Wessex) at the time Alfred's reign began.

              Though the Scandinavian lands came to be Christian through a great many sources, Alfred was one small influence.  And though Britain was a Christian land in Alfred's time it had grown lax in living it through the spread of violence and the atrophy of education.  Alfred had a rejuvenating and invigorating effect on his nation in a time of great crisis.  Christianity was to spread to a many nations from England, but how would history have changed if the Vikings had taken over all of the island, instead of just the portion that became known as Danelaw?  King Alfred's reign seems to me to be an act of God.
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