THE BRITISH (COVENANT) CHURCH
David JonesBEFORE we can study the history of the true British Church, we should first understand the real meaning of the words 'British' and 'Church'. In all matters concerning Christianity the one true authority is, of course, The Bible. It may be useful at this stage to confirm that the word 'British' actually means 'Covenant man'- but more of that statement later
If we look at the word 'church', we see that this comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is translated in the New Testament as 'church'. The Greek word ekklesia means 'the called out ones'. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word qahal describes the same people - God's assembled people.
The 'called out ones', are God's chosen ones, His elect or those whom God has predestined to be His. These people God 'called out' of the world, to be His own. Only one people can fit this description in Biblical times and today. The Hebrew/Greek words translated as 'church' do not refer to modern church denominations or their members.
Jesus Christ said, as recorded in Matthew 21:43, that The Kingdom was to be given to another Nation. Do we know anything of this Nation or people 'called out' by God over the last 2000 years since Jesus Christ used these simple, but quite definite words that cannot be misconstrued? Which people, above all others, has done most to spread God's Word? Are we too ashamed to admit that no Nation or people has 'brought forth the fruits' to the extent that Britain has over the past 2000 years?
Concerning the modern usage of the word 'church', it is no longer a well known fact that the first church was established here in Britain within a few years of the ministry of Jesus Christ in Palestine. Yes, the first church! Many think that the first churches were established in the Middle East but this is not so. The persecutions that took place immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, ensured that any such assemblies were small and secret, especially when the Jews and later the Romans started to fear the so-called new religion.
If, as Jesus Christ confirmed; a Nation rnade up of God's church or elect, would 'bring forth the fruits', we should surely be able to see such a Nation in the early years following Jesus Christ's ascension. What can we learn, in this respect, from the writings of the early authorities? *
Tertullian. A.D. 155-222. He was Christianity's first genius after the apostles, and he wrote, 'The extremities of Spain, the various parts of Gaul, the regions of Britain which have never been penetrated by Roman arms have received the religion of Christ'.
Eusebius. A.D. 260-340. He was Christianity's first great historian, and he wrote 'The Apostles passed beyond the ocean to the isles called the Britannic Isles'.
Dorotheus. The Bishop of Tyre in A.D. 303 said 'Aristobulus, whom Paul saluted, writing to the Romans (Romans 16:10) was Bishop of Britain'. He also mentions by name another disciple as visiting Britain. 'Simon Zelotes preached Christ through all Mauretania, and Afric, the less. At length he was crucified at Britannia, slain and buried'.
Theodoret the Blessed. He was the Bishop of Cyrus in Syria, and writing in A.D. 435, said, 'Paul, liberated from his first captivity at Rome, preached the gospel to the Britains and others in the west. Our fishermen and publicans not only persuaded some Romans (i.e. Roman citizens, just like Paul) and their tributaries to acknowledge the Crucified and His laws, but the Britains also and the Cymry (the Welsh)'.
Chrysostom. The Patriarch of Constantinople A.D. 347- 407 wrote, 'Though thou shouldest go by the ocean to the British Isles, there thou shouldest hear all men everywhere discoursing matters out of the Scriptures with another voice, but not another faith, with a different tongue but the same judgement.'
Gildas the Wise. A.D. 425-512 the early British historian wrote, 'Christ the True Sun afforded his light, the knowledge of his precepts, to our Island in the last year of Tiberius Caesar.' This was in A.D. 37, only four years after the Crucifixion!
In the Diocletian Persecution. In A.D. 300, there were martyred in Britain by Rome, Stephen and Argulius, both Bishops of London; Socrates, Bishop of York; Arnphibalus, Bishop of Llandaff; Nicholas, Bishop of Penryn (Glasgow); Melior, Bishop of Carlisle; St. Alban; Julius and Aaron, elders of Caerleon; and 889 communicants in different grades of society.
The British Bishops. Eborius of York, Restitutus of London and Adelfius of Caerleon were present at the Church Council of Aries in A.D. 314. British Bishops were also present at the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325, Sardica in Illyria, A.D. 347 and Ariminium in Italy, A.D. 359.
It is important to know that it was over FIVE CENTURIES after the founding of the early British Church that the first representatives of the so-called Rornan Christianity came to these islands. The rnonk, Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory arrived in Kent in the year A.D.597 - please reflect on the dates mentioned above!
This same Augustine, writing to Pope Gregory about the early British Church in A.D. 600 said, 'In the western confines of Britain, there is a certain royal island of large extent, surrounded by water, abounding in all the beauties of nature and necessities of life. In it the first neophytes of catholic law, God beforehand acquainting them, found a church constructed by no human art, but by the hands of Christ himself, for the salvation of His People'. This was Glastonbury's church, originally built with wattle.
This statement refers to the tradition that between the ages of 12 and 30, during which period the Gospels make no mention of Him (compare St Luke 2:42 & 49 with 3:23), Jesus Christ Himself visited these Islands with Joseph of Arimathea. Traditionally, Joseph was the uncle of the Virgin Mary, and came to Ynis-witrin, later called the Isle of Avalon, now Glastonbury, Somerset. Tradition and history further assert that when Joseph of Arimathea returned here after the Resurrection and Ascension, he and the eleven Disciples, who came with him built a wattle church. This was The First Church building above ground and it stood where the Norman Chapel of St. Mary stands in the Abbey grounds.
William of Malmesbury. A.D. 1080-1143, who was the best British historian of his day and who was asked by the monks of Glastonbury to write their history, says that after the Crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea came here with eleven missionaries and that the King Arviragus gave them twelve Hides of land.
The Doomsday Book has the following entry which lends support to the above words of Augustine and of William of Malmesbury; 'The Church of Glastonbury has its own ville, twelve Hides of which have never paid tax'.
Maelgwyn of Llandaff. Circa A.D. 450. He was Lord of Anglesey and Snowdonia, and Uncle of St David of Wales, who forswore his realm in order to become a monk. He has left these words: 'Joseph of Arimathea, the noble decurion, entered his perpetual sleep with his eleven Companions in the Isle of Avalon'.
Polydore Vergil, a learned Italian historian in England, A.D. 1470-1555, wrote, 'Britain, partly through Joseph of Arimathea was of all kingdoms the first that received the Gospel'.
Superior dignity and antiquity was claimed for the British Church at the Roman Catholic church Councils of Pisa 1409, Constance 1417, Sienna 1424 and Basle 1434. This was on the grounds that 'the churches of France and Spain must yield in points of antiquity and precedence to that of Britain, as the latter Church was founded by Joseph of Arimathea immediately after the passion of Christ'.
After studying the above facts, can anyone say that the Roman Catholic church is the first true apostolic church? The Roman Catholic church was not even represented in these British Isles, over five centuries after the British Church was founded. To place this fact in perspective, this is like comparing the present date with AD. 1492, when Columbus had just landed in America and Henry VII ruled in England.
How can it be that many in this country still believe that Augustine brought Christianity to this land? Why do the Archbishop of Canterbury and other church leaders still speak of this lie whenever they have the opportunity? This, of course, is the 'unity' of ecumenism! We should know that true Christian unity is not the same as conformity!
When Augustine arrived here in A.D. 497 (incidentally he never travelled much beyond the area which we now know as Kent) he was met by the British Church representatives and he was told by them:
'Be it known and declared that we all, individually and collectively, are in all humility prepared to defer to the Church of God, and to the Bishop of Rome, and to every sincere and godly Christian, so far as to love everyone according to his degree in perfect charity and to assist them all by word and in deed in becoming the children of God. But as for any other obedience, we know of none that be, whom you term the Pope, or Bishop of Bishops can demand. The deference we have mentioned we are ready to pay to him as to every other Christian, but in all other respects our obedience is due to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Caerleon, who is alone under God our ruler to keep us right in the way of salvation'.
The Synod of Whitby in A.D. 664, marked the First entry of Roman Catholic influence into the native British church, which was now of both British and Celtic origin. Here, it was agreed that Roman Catholic usage on three points was to be followed. This was the first British ecumenical movement - just as wrong then as now! One far reaching result was that the native Church, distinguished for its evangelistic zeal and piety, was now controlled centrally under increasing Roman Catholic encroachment.
The first notable resistance to Roman usurpation was made by Williarn the Conqueror, when Pope Gregory demanded of him homage for William's realm of England. King William replied 'Fealty I have never willed to do, nor will I do it now. I have never promised it, nor do I find that my predecessors did it to yours'. Later, he refused to allow Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, to go to Rome at the summons of the Pope to answer for his conduct.
In later years, King Edward III in refusing to give homage and to pay the tribute to the See of Rome, asked parliament for their advice. The Bishops, Lords and Commons after full deliberation gave it in these words, 'That any king, could bring himself, his realm and people under such subjection without their assent and that if done, it was without the consent of parliament and contrary to his Coronation oath, and that in case the Pope should attempt to constrain the King and his subjects to perform what he lays claim to, they would resist and withstand him to the uttermost of their power'. Compare this statement with the compromise and cant of today's church leaders and politicians!
The continuity of our British Church is seen in Archbishop Cranmer's statement to Parliament in 1549 that the Prayer Book, then being authorised, contained the same prayers that had been in use in Britain for over 1500 years - that is from the days of Joseph of Arimathea and the Apostles. The breach with the foreign Roman system was made absolute in the words of Article 38 of the British Church's Articles of Religion contained in the Book of Common Prayer. To these Articles, all clergy of the Church of England are still required to subscribe. Article 38 reads, 'The King's Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England and over his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction ... The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.'
The Sovereign, by virtue of his position, undertakes even today in the Coronation Oath 'to the utmost of his power to maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel; to the utmost of his power to maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by Law. And to maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government thereof, as by Law established in England'.
Furthermore, in contradistinction to the headship of a Pope, the appointment of the Sovereign to the headship of the Church of England marks an exact following of Scriptural precedent. 'We give not to our Princes the ministering of either God's word or of the Sacraments but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in Holy Scriptures by God himself, that is that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoers.'
The British Isles can claim that, from the days when the first wattle church was built at Glastonbury, it has never lacked a Church, subject to no other church on earth. This Church recognising the apostolic Scriptures alone for its rule of faith, and its form of Government. This British Church has not only received its faith direct from the Apostles but may also claim that Jesus Christ visited the place of its foundation.
What can we learn if we now look at the word 'Covenant'? In Britain, we look on the Bible as two separate books known as the Old and the New Testarnents. This is quite wrong. The Bible when correctly translated contains no word for 'Testament'. The Hebrew word 'berith' means Covenant. There can be no argument over this fact; reference to any Hebrew dictionary or lexicon easily and quickly proves this point. Therefore, the Bible is correctly divided into two parts the Old and the New Covenants. God made these Covenants with man. It is important to remember that God not man made the Covenants! In both instances, Old and New, the Covenants were made with the same people - God's chosen people, the Israelites.
It is of vital importance that all should realise that the people we today refer to as the Jews are not Israelites; but proselytes from many nations to the Talmudic Jewish religion. This religion, Judaism, is not the religion of the Old Covenant (Testament) Israelites and people should not give the impression that the two faiths have a common inception or intent.
Jesus Christ said, speaking to the Jews as recorded in Matthew 21:43, 'Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof'. Jesus Christ told the Jews, who had attempted to usurp The Kingdom from God's chosen people, the Israelites, that they would not inherit The Kingdom. The Kingdom was to be given to another Nation - an Israelite Nation, just as promised by God in the Old Testament Covenants.
1) Whom did God 'call out' in Genesis? It was Abraham. Genesis 12:1.
2) Whom did God 'call out' in Exodus? It was the Israelites, Abraharn's descendants. Exodus 3:16-17.
3) With whom did God make all His Covenants? It was the Israelites alone.
4) With whom did God make the New Covenant? It was with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. Hebrews 8:8.
5) Whom alone did God say He had called? It was Abraham. Isaiah 51:2.
6) To whom alone did Jesus Christ say that He was sent? It was to the House of Israel, Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob (renamed Israel by God Himself). Matthew 15:24.
The Israelites alone comprise God's true Church as defined by Scripture itself.
When we consider the Hebrew words for 'covenant' and 'man' we see 'berith' and 'ish' respectively. The word 'ber-eeth' and the word 'ish' is pronounced as'eesh'. If we place the two words together to mean 'Covenant Man', we see that the pronunciation is 'ber-eeth-eesh'. Now after approximately 4000 years usage and allowing for ever so slight a change, 'ber-eeth-eesh' is extremely close to British!
When one considers that the old English word 'ain' means land, we have 'ber-eeth' plus 'ain'; that is Britain! Alternatively, more simply the Covenant Land. To confirm this point further we can deliberate upon the word 'Britannia'. How many know the meaning of this word? Well, the word 'annia' comes from the Hebrew word 'oniyah' which is pronounced 'onee-yaw' and means, 'ship'. Therefore, the Hebrew words pronounced as 'ber-eeth- on-ee-yaw', actually means Covenant Ship! Co- incidence? God made the Covenants with our ancestors for their benefit. These same Covenants are here today for our benefit - spiritual and secular! When will we return to The Faith of our fathers? When will we stop trying to fill our churches, rather than fill our minds with the love and knowledge of God?
'Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, but they said, we will not walk therein'. Jeremiah 6:16. When will we listen?
We are commanded to, 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness'. Matthew 6:13. When will we listen?
God's promise is sure to those that accept The Faith (His Word) and try to carry out His commandments. Our ancestors knew this, as did our early British Church. When we listen, repent and trust The Word, we too shall understand; 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him'. I Corinthians 19.
We should ask ourselves which Nation, descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) was to be called 'Great', as noted in Genesis chapter 12:2? 'And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great'.
It is quite apparent that History over the last 4000 years since God gave His promise to Abraham records only one - 'Great Britain'!
*With acknowledgement to Revd G. M. Nicholson for the information concerning the early authorities.
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