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S. THOMAS OP CANTERBURY..! GILBERT Becket was one of those who went over from Eng. land to Jerusalem in the first crusade. Now this crusade set
forth, in order to drive out the wicked men who had taken possession of Jerusalem, and who sadly persecuted the pitgrims, who went into the holy city to visit the spots where Jesus preached, was betrayed, was crucified, was buried, and from whence he ascended up into heaven. This expedition was called the holy war; and there was again another in the reign of Richard the Third. The soldiers wore a red cross upon their shoulders in order to typify the justness and holiness of their cause;
"--- A blood red cross he bore
Well, Gilbert Becket, as I said before, went forth to aid his brethren in the Holy Land; and when fighting was made prisoner, and sent away to be a slave to a chieftan of the hostile party. But the chieftans daughter loved him, and contrived means for him to fly. So he escaped, and fled to his native country. And now that she was without him, she was sorry that she had let him go, and made up her mind, although the attempt seemed almost an hopeless one, to try and find him again. But here was another difficulty; after she had left her native land no one would understand her; for the only English words with which she was acquainted were “ London," and “ Gilbert." However, she resolved at least to try, and, having wandered to the sea shore, found there a ship, which she at once perceived belonged to some one of the nations who had joined the crusades. And in truth it was an English ship, when she went up to the captain and repeated
several times the word “ London,” he took pity upon her and allowed her to accompany him. At last she arrived at London; and there the captain left her, for he could do no more for her. And what then was she to do? Alone, and without a home ! and where was she to go where there were so many streets? And how was she to find Gilbert where there were thousands of people walking up and down? For she could not tell them what she wanted, and they took no notice of her, But at last she thought of a plan, and began to wander up and down the streets, crying out Gilbert! Gilbert !" But the case seemed hopeless; and how was she to find Gilbert there? But one day, to the great astonishment of Gilbert and herself, as she was walking down a street calling out “Gilbert, Gilbert,” she met him for whom she bad been searching so long. Then she told him how she loved him; and how that she had come over all the way from Palestine in search of him; and how she was without home or friends ; and had incurred her father's displeasure for his sake, so that she could not go back to him. Then he told her that he would marry her, but not unless she would give up her false religion, and become a member of the Holy Catholic church ; for men thought much more about such things in those days, than they do now.
So she repented of her former errors, and was baptized : and they gave her a Christian name, calling her “ Matilda.” Such were the father and mother of Thomas à Becket. Thomas was born in the year 1119, and was educated at Merton, in Surrey, and afterwards at Oxford and Paris. He was made chancellor by King Henry II. in 1158, in which capacity he joined in all the gaities and luxuries of the court. Soon afterwards he was elected to the vacant Archbishoprick of Canterbury; and then he became an altered man; for, contrary to King Henry's expectation he refused to sacrifice the church's luterest for his own, and fearlessly resisted all undue aggression. Becket had been so great a favourite of the King, that Henry expected he would relax the discipline of the church in order to suit his wishes. But he was mistaken ; for, whereas Becket had been his servant, now he was in a higher station; and knew that, as he was the servant of Him, who is the King of Kings, and whose Kingdom ruleth over all ; so he was bound to uphold to the uttermost all the privileges of the Holy Catholic Church. King Henry wished that the clergy should, if guilty of any offence, be tried as laymen before lay courts; for the church was not so treated in those days, but had a jurisdiction of her own. This jurisdiction, however, King Henry wished to abolish; and an opportunity soon presented itself. A clergyman in the county of Worcester committed the crime of murder. Becket desired that he should be tried by a jury of priests ; but the King thought otherwise, and wished him to be tried by a lay court. In order to settle this, his Majesty summoned a council at Clarendon, at which council a series of statutes were drawn up, and these statutes were called the Constitutions of Clarendon. The bishops and the. others present all signed these constitutions, except Becket; but he was afterwards prevailed upon to do so too. These statutes considerably infringed upon the privileges and authority of the church, and took out of her hands the administration of justice to the clergy. King Henry sent them to the Bishop of Rome, and desired him to sanction thom ; but he would not; and Becket had by this time repented of having given his sanction to statutes of which he did not approve; and so withdrew it again. This vexed the king, and he forced himself into a quarrel with Becket about some money, which the king said he had lent Becket; but he had never received any. Nevertheless Becket paid the king the money which he demanded, because he did not wish to quarrel with his majesty about a trifle. When Henry saw this, he resolved to make another attempt, and called a second council at Northampton,
when he requested him to give in the accounts for the time he was chancellor, and to pay a large sum into the treasury.
Becker came forth before the council, clad in his episcopal vestments, and holding aloft in his hand the crozier. He immediately appealed for protection to the Bishop of Rome ; and secretly left the country. The King of France sided with him, and he commenced excommunicating the bishops who had allowed the church to be trampled on. At last Henry gave up, and Becket returned to England. When he arrived he found that the Archbishop of York had consecrated the Prince of Wales king, conjointly with his father. Him therefore, he excommunicated, and also the Bishops of Salisbury and London. The three bishops were much enraged at this, and knowing the disposition of Henry towards Becket, went over into Normandy, where the king then was, to demand redress. King Henry was at supper when they arrived, and after they had made their complaint, the king exclaimed,”“ Is there none of my followers who has either courage or gratitude to rid me of this troublesome prelate?” Then four wicked and sinful knights who were present at the time determined to go forthwith and kill the archbishop. So they started with that intent, and went with all speed to Canterbury. But when they were gone the king was sorry for what he had said, and sent messengers to call back the knights; but they were too late. These wicked knights, the day after they arrived in England, went to Becket's Palace, and having obtained an interview with him, told him that they were deputed by the king to insist upon his receiving into the communion of the church, the bishops whom he had excommunicated. But Becket told them that, although in all secular matters he was ready to obey the king, yet he could not disobey God; and so he would not yield up the priivileges of the church.
The KNIGHTS then went away, and Becket went into the north transept of the Cathedral, (which is now called « the Martyrdom," and of which you will find a notice in the August number of The Church Warder,) and there, he and they which were with him commenced the chanting of vespers. Presently they, the knights, were heard cleaving asunder with axes a stone parclose: the companions of Becket hurried him on towards the altar, and when they had reached it, they heard the knights outside the church door, demanding admittance. Those who attended Becket would have kept them out, but he said that the House of God should not be used as a fortress against carnal enemies, and ordered the door to be opened.
HIS ATTENDANTS now fled, and left him alone before the altar. The knights attacked him, and he was slain that night, the twenty-ninth day of December, 1170. And now that the deed was done, king Henry was very sorry, and feared the vengeance of the Bishop of Rome, for he could have excommunicated the king; and put the whole land under an interdict, which is a very fearful thing; for when that punishment is inflicted, all churches are shut up, and every species of spiritual instruction denied to the people. King Henry went, therefore, and did penance at the shrine of Saint Thomas, (for Saint we must call him now,) and was whipped by the monks, that as the commination service of the church expresses it: he being punished in this world, his soul might be saved in the day of the LORD. And celebrated indeed was the shrine of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, and many thousand pilgrims came to see it, even from afar off. And the bones of S. Thomas were taken up, and laid in a glorious shrine, at the end of the great cathedral, and the chapel is even now called “Becker's Crown." Thus have I given a brief account of the life and death of S. Thomas of Canterbury : he counted not his life dear unto him, so as he could protect the rights of the church; and as he died in her defence so has he been rightly canonized, and rightly esteemed “A MARTYR." This chapter is intended to be a supplement, as it were, to the very