The Legacy of the True Historical Patrick
by Richard Bennett
Patrick was born in 373A.D.
in a town on the River Clyde in Roman Britain, now a part of Scotland.
When he was sixteen years old, Patrick was captured by a band of pirates
who sold him to a chieftain in what is now county Antrim in Northern Ireland.
For six years he tended flocks. In
his testimony he says, “I was taken captive before I knew what I should desire
and what I should shun.”
It was during the time of his captivity that he, being convicted that he
was a sinner, turned from his careless ways and came to a saving knowledge of
Christ Jesus. He writes,
“before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and He
that is mighty came and in His mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up
and placed me on top of the wall. And
from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for His great favours
in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.”
Patrick, like so many of the godly men of history, found God’s favor in
the riches of the grace of Christ, a theme echoing throughout the testimony of
Patrick, in his own words “I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me
so much grace.”
He then grew in the
grace of God. Having believed on
“the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” he
directly received “of his fullness…grace for grace.”
“More and more did the love of God, and my fear of Him and faith
increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a
hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in
the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in
the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any
slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that
relates how, after six years, he escaped and after a difficult journey on land
and sea returned to his people in Scotland, “I was again in Britain with my
family, and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the
great tribulations I had endured I should not go any where else away from
Like the Apostle Paul, Patrick received a clear and personal call from
the Lord to preach the Gospel in the land of his former captivity.
“I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with
innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the
letter: ‘The Voice of the
Irish’, and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that
moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is
near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice:
‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among
us.’ And I was stung intensely in
my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke.
Thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them
according to their cry”
He speaks of being called again in dream another night, but makes it
clear how he interpreted what was happening by the Scriptures.
He wrote, “‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we
know not how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with
sighs too deep for utterance.’” And
again, “‘The Lord our advocate intercedes for us.’”
Thus, Patrick relies on Scripture to understand his experience and to see
that it was the Lord Himself who was calling him, “‘He who gave his life for
you, He it is who speaks within you.’”
He understood that Christ
Jesus, who had died for his sins, was the One who was calling him to work as an
evangelist in the very island where he had been held captive.
A second historical document from Patrick’s own hand is his letter to
Coroticus. In it he explains his
assignment from God to a foreign nation for the glory of eternal life that is in
Christ Jesus, “Thus I am a servant in Christ to a foreign nation for the
unspeakable glory of life everlasting which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This is a major factor in understanding Patrick.
He knew himself as a sinner and found salvation where only sinners find
it, “in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The first words of his
testimony read, “I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of
all the faithful and most contemptible to many.”
Likewise, in the beginning of his letter to Coroticus he states, “I,
Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland”. Quite clearly Patrick saw himself as a sinner.
He did not look to some spark of life from within himself or to some
ritual; rather, he looked unto Christ Jesus.
Patrick’s words, “unspeakable glory of life everlasting which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord” shows his distinct and personal comfort and courage in
Christ. Totally unlike religion
that looks to rituals, Patrick had his eyes set on the Lord.
Catholicism now, and to some extent even in Patrick’s time, looks to
sacraments as necessary for salvation.
Patrick saw himself only as a sinner saved by grace in Christ Jesus.
Patrick’s message is that salvation is totally in Christ alone--a
message utterly diverse from that of Roman Catholicism then and now.
the Christian Evangelist, being about 30 years old and together with some
brothers in the Lord, set out for Ireland.
He arrived in or about the year 405.
This fact of history is authentic and verified.
For example, Marcus, an Irish Bishop, who lived at the beginning of the
ninth century, states that Patrick came to Ireland in the year 405 AD and
Nennius, who lived about the same time, repeats the statement.
This date is of great
importance because many centuries later there was an attempt made to confuse
Patrick with Palladius, who had been sent out by Pope Celestine as a missionary
to Ireland. When news of
Patrick’s Christian success had reached Rome, Pope Celestine then sent
Palladius as a bishop to bring the churches under the control of the Papacy. It
was in 432,
least 27 years after Patrick’s commission from God, that Palladius from Rome
came on the scene. When Palladius
did come to Ireland, it was to an Ireland that had many Christian churches and
that did not accept his message of subservience to the Bishop of Rome.
In actual fact, Palladius was greatly discouraged by his lack of success.
To quote from the historian Philip Schaff, “Palladius was so
discouraged that he soon abandoned the field, with his assistants, for north
Britain, where he died among the Picts….The Roman mission of Palladius failed;
the independent mission of Patrick succeeded.
He is the true Apostle of Ireland, and has impressed his memory in
indelible characters upon the Irish race at home and abroad.”
The work of Patrick and his associates in Ireland
was extremely difficult. He came up
against the old pagan religion of the Druids.
The people believed in the Druids as pagan priests who mediated for them
in the things of the spirit. When
Patrick preached Christ Jesus in his own words he said,
“I am greatly God’s
debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would
be reborn in God, and soon after confirmed, that clergy would be ordained
everywhere for them, and the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew
from the ends of the earth. As He
once promised through His prophets: ‘To
you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our
fathers have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which there is no
profit.’ And again, ‘I have
set you to be a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the
uttermost ends of the earth.’ And
I wish to wait then for His promise which is never unfulfilled, just as it is
promised in the Gospel.”
He wrote of baptizing many thousands of believers
after they had professed faith.
He also wrote about anxious journeys, difficulties, and disappointments,
and of combatting the powers of darkness in the priesthood of the Druids.
He relied on Christ Jesus and the glorious Holy Spirit given to convict
people of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
He understood grace to be entirely from God when he declared,
“I, alone, can do
nothing unless He Himself vouchsafes it to me.
But let Him search my heart and [my] nature, for I crave enough for it,
even too much, and I am ready for Him to grant me that I drink of His chalice,
as He has granted to others who love him. Therefore
may it never befall me to be separated by my God from His people whom He has won
in this most remote land. I pray
God that He gives me perseverance, and that He will deign that I should be a
faithful witness for His sake right up to the time of my passing.”
Over the course of sixty years, Patrick went the length and breadth of
Ireland preaching the Gospel and, like Timothy and Titus before him, he ordained
elders and established churches. It
is reckoned that at the end of his days there were 365 churches across the
island. These were established, as
were the churches in Biblical times, with the people served by a pastor or
elder. The authority of the pastor was one of service, rather than lording it over
the people. It was like that which
was established in the pages of Scripture.
the monasteries set up by Patrick, were totally unlike the monasteries that were
established under the Church of Rome. These
monasteries were quite like those of the Vaudois and other early Christian
churches of northern Italy and southern France, whereby men came aside for some
years to be trained in the Scriptures and to learn how to evangelize and to
bring the Gospel to others. Later
in their lives these men married and had families.
These men were not forsaking the world for some retreat of inner
holiness; rather, they were men who saw light and life in Christ Jesus and
wished to evangelize others with the true Gospel.
Because of these monasteries and the churches that Patrick founded
in Ireland, Ireland became known as the “Isle of Saints and Scholars”.
The clarity of the Gospel message cherished by Patrick and those who
worked with him was to live on for many years after him. There were many famous
missionaries like Patrick such as Columba and his companions who set out for
Scotland in 563. Then there was
Columbanus with his companions that went to evangelize France and Germany in
612. Kilian and the brothers that
accompanied him went as missionaries to Franconia and Wurzburg in 680.
Forannan and twelve brothers with him set out to bring the Gospel to the
Belgian frontier in 970.
more than six hundred years, the Gospel was
carried by Irish missionaries with the same truthfulness as Patrick’s to
Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and beyond.
Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries. The
Dark Ages had begun and the Roman Church, having gained rulership through
intrigue and persecution, now held most of Europe in her iron grip.
Even so, in those dark centuries, the Irish missionaries continued to
spread the true Gospel, seed which for centuries to come would bear much good
all across Europe.
the coming of the Danes in the ninth century, however, the Celtic Church in
Ireland began to loose its Biblical clarity.
Too, Papal Rome began to unleash military power to
bring Ireland under her control. It
began with the decree of Pope Adrian IV issued to King Henry II of England in
1155. The Pope authorized the
invasion of Ireland and sent the king a ring of investiture as Lord of Ireland,
calling upon the him “to extirpate the vices that have there taken
root…[thereby] saving to St. Peter and the holy Roman Church the annual
pension of one penny from each house.”
King Henry carried out the Papacy’s will in 1171 and with a strong
military force subdued the whole Irish nation.
In 1172, he received from every Archbishop and Bishop at the Synod of
Cashel charters whereby they confirmed the Kingdom of Ireland to him and his
heirs. The King sent a transcript
of these charters to Pope Alexander III, who, according to the letters of the
Archbishops and Bishops, was extremely gratified by the extension of his
dominion, and in 1172 issued a bull confirming the Papal decree of Pope Adrian.
Further rulings were sent from Rome to Henry II, to the princes and
nobles of Ireland, and to the bishops of Ireland to establish the hierarchy over
the people and pastors and enjoin obedience of both Ireland and England to the
Heritage of Patrick lives on!
The heartbeat and the soul of Patrick was the Gospel of Christ.
He wrote in his testimony,
“I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless, I want my brethren and
kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s
desire. I am not ignorant of what
is said of my Lord in the Psalm: ‘You destroy those who speak a lie and a
lying mouth deals death to the soul.’ Likewise
the Lord says in the Gospel, ‘In the day of judgment, men shall render an
account for every idle word they utter’’
So it is that I should fear mightily, with terror and trembling, this
judgment on the day when no one shall be able to steal away or hide, but each
one shall render account for even our smallest sins before the judgment seat of
words of Patrick are as a prophetic trumpet of the Lord.
It is most serious to steal the legacy from the people of the nation,
particularly when that heritage was life and light in Christ Jesus!
Many Irish have grown up engrossed in the rites and rituals of Roman
Catholicism. Many of us, turning
from those dead things and having drunk deeply of the Biblical
grace of God that is in Christ Jesus, now stand with Patrick for the true
Gospel. To publish abroad the
Gospel of God’s chosen
in Christ “before the foundation of the world”
is our longing now, as it was Patrick’s then.
The wonder of Patrick’s life was
simply God’s grace in Christ Jesus. The
divine call to the true Gospel went forth from Ireland for more than six hundred
as Patrick expected the power of God’s grace to overcome the priesthood of the
Druids, we now stand for the same Biblical Gospel that he preached to evangelize
even those in the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy. The battle is the Lord’s and the victory will be His.
“Fear not, little flock; for it is
your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
The frightening words of the Lord ring in the ears of those who
spend their lives in man-made religion, “Not every one that saith unto me,
Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will
of my Father which is in heaven.”
No person by merely
acknowledging Christ through a priesthood and sacraments shall have any part
with God in Him, but only the one who does the will of His Father.
The Lord made the will of the Father abundantly clear when He said, “this
is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
“Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts….”
As Christ Jesus’ Gospel stands, so also is His call on your life.
cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Believe on Him alone for, “this
is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his
Son. He that hath the Son hath
life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”
Then you will stand
where before you Patrick stood immoveable, and this is how it will be for all
eternity. “Therefore if any
man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old
things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”
“Come out of her, my
people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her
is given by the author to copy this article if it is done in its entirety
without any changes.
Richard Bennett was born in Dublin. He was educated in Belvedere College. He then received eight years of theological instruction and
preparation for the priesthood in the Dominican Order, completing his education
at the Angelicum University in Rome in 1964.
He spent twenty-one years as a Roman Catholic parish priest in Trinidad.
After a serious accident in 1972, in which he nearly lost his life, he began to
study seriously the Bible. After
fourteen years of contrasting Catholicism to Biblical truth, he was convicted by
the Gospel message in 1986. He was
saved by God’s grace alone, and formally left the Catholic Church and its
priesthood. He has founded an
evangelistic ministry to Catholics called “Berean Beacon”.
Many of his writings maybe seen on his WebPage: www.bereanbeacon.org
the best authorities, Patrick was born about A.D. 373; and Lanigan has
adduced good evidence to prove that he died in A.D. 465 (Apud Lanigan, Vol.
4, p. 112). The Book of
Armagh furnishes corroborative evidence of the same fact.
It says, ‘From the passion of Christ to the death of Patrick there
were 436 years.’ The
crucifixion took place about A.D. 30; and adding these thirty years to the
436 that intervened between the crucifixion and the death of Patrick, we
arrive at A.D. 466 as the year of his demise.
Traditions of the highest authority attest that he spent sixty years
in preaching the Gospel to the Scoto-Irish.” From, “St. Patrick: Apostle
of Ireland” in History of the Scottish Nation by J.A. Wylie
(London: Hamilton, Adams &
Co. Andrew Elliot, Edinburgh 1886) Vol. II, Ch 9.
Confession of Patrick,
 Ibid., p. 2.
 Ibid., p. 5.
Confession of Patrick,
Confession of Patrick,
 Ibid., p. 3.
p. 2; posted 1/30/2003 at: http://prayerfoundation.org/st_patricks_letter_to_coroticus.htm
“…that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own
righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of
Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith..” Philippians
“The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are
necessary for salvation.”
(italic in the original). Catechism
of the Catholic Church, Second ed., (United States Catholic
Conference, 1997) Para. 1129.
historian, J A Wylie goes to great lengths of demonstrate the fact that
Patrick came to Ireland to evangelise in 405.
Among others, he quotes Dr. Killen as saying “‘Its [i.e., this
fact] claims to have been acknowledged by the best critics of all
denominations,’ by Usher, Ware, Tillemont, Lanigan, and Neander….He [Dr.
Killen] thinks that Patrick arrived in Ireland immediately after the death
of Nial, or Nial of the Nine Hostages, in the year 405.’”
From “St Patrick: Apostle of Ireland” by J.A. Wylie in History of the
Scottish Nation, Vol. II, Ch. 13, endnote No. 4.
Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 4, Ch. 2, Sect. 14,
“The Conversion of Ireland”.
Confession of Patrick,
Ibid., p. 2.
 Ibid., p. 8.
 For a more complete list,
Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 4, Ch. 2, “Conversion
of Northern and Western Barbarians”, Sect. 15, “The Irish Church after
St. Patrick. The Missionary
text of the Papal Bull of Pope Adrian IV that empowered King Henry II to
conquer and subdue Christian churches to Rome was posted 2/1/2003 at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/medieval/bullad.htm
Confession of Patrick,
I John 5:11-12