INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY INTO BRITAIN
THE objection is sometimes made that the
British are not good enough to be Gods nation. Yet many of those who put forward
that objection believe that the Jews alone constitute Gods chosen people. But are
the Jews any better than the British? The Scriptures say:
Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah - (JEREMIAH 3:11).
The idea held by some that Christianity was first brought to Britain by the Roman Catholic Missionary, St. Augustine in A.D. 597 is altogether erroneous as is proved by the following evidence.
The famous ecclesiastical historian Eusebius, who lived three hundred years before Augustine came to Britain, and who is well known as the Father of Church History, says The Apostles passed beyond the ocean to the Isles called the Brittanic Isles. This is confirmed by the early British Historian Gildas (A.D. 516-570) who states, Meanwhile, these islands ... received the beams of light that is, the Holy precepts of Christ, the true Sun at the latter part, as we know, of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. This Tiberius Caesar was the reigning Roman Emperor when Christ was crucified. Notice Gildas words as we know, of the reign of Tiberius Caesar which indicates that what he records regarding the introduction of Christianity into Britain was in his day a matter of common knowledge. Tiberius Caesar reigned from A.D. 14-37, therefore Gildas words, in the latter part of the reign of Tiberius Caesar show that Christianity was introduced into Britain before A.D. 37.
That very early, the Gospel came by the hands of Hebrew is borne out by the finding of two medals bearing the effigies of our Lord without a halo; one of these was unearthed at Cork in 1812, under the foundation of one of the very first Christian monasteries ever built in Ireland, the other under the ruin of a Druidical Circle at Bryngwin, in Anglesey about the same time. Antiquarians inform us that the Hebrew letter Aleph on the obverse side to the right of the effigy of one of these gives the date as the first year after the other Hebrew letters signifying Jesus, on the left; the word Messias is on the collar and the reverse side has an inscription in Hebrew, rendered thus, Messiah the Prince, came in peace, and man, life for man became. On the other medal, the inscription is different but also in Hebrew and reads Nought in Thee was found worthy of Divine Wrath. (British History Traced, p.132)
Polydore Vergil in the reign of Henry VII and after him Cardinal Pole (A.D. 1555) both rigid Roman Catholics, affirmed in Parliament, the latter in his address to Phillip and Mary, that Britain was the first of all countries to receive the Christian faith. The glory of Britain, remarks Genebrard, consists not only in this, that she was the first country which in a national capacity publicly professed herself Christian but that she made this confession when the Roman Empire itself was pagan and a real persecutor of Christianity.
This priority of antiquity was only once questioned on political grounds, by the Ambassadors of France and Spain, at the Council of Pisa, A.D. 1417. The Council, however, confirmed it. The Ambassadors appealed to the Council of Constance, A.D. 1419, which confirmed the decision of the Council of Pisa which was a third time confirmed by the Council of Siena, A.D. 1423, and it was again ruled at the Council of Basle in A.D. 1431 that the British Church took precedence of all others
as being founded by Joseph of Arimathaea - and then acquiesced in this decision laid down that the Churches of France and Spain were bound to give way in the points of antiquity and precedency to the Church of Britain, which was founded by Joseph of Arimathaea immediately after the passion of Christ. Robert Parsons the Jesuit, in his Three Conversions of England, admits, in common with the great majority of Roman Catholic writers that Christianity came into Britain direct from Jerusalem.
We may, therefore, accept as a general opinion of Christendom, the priority in point of antiquity over all others of the British Church. This opinion is well expressed by Sabellius; Christianity was privately confessed elsewhere, but the first nation that
proclaimed it as their religion, and called itself Christian after the name of Christ was Britain.
It is certain that the primitive British, Irish, Scottish, and Gallic Churches formed one Church, one communion, and that on the assumption of the Papacy A.D. 606-610 by Rome, this great Celtic Church, which had previously been in full communion with primitive Rome, refused in the most peremptory terms to acknowledge her novel pretensions. It is, of course, the primitive British Church, and not the Roman Church, introduced by Augustine, A.D. 597, into Kent among the Pagan Saxons, of which such priority must be understood. That such a Church existed on a national scale, and was thoroughly antagonistic to the Roman Church in its new form and usurpations in the person of Augustine, is so notorious, that we may dispense with all but a few testimonies in proof of the fact.
Britons, declares Bede are contrary to the whole Roman world, and enemies to the Roman customs, not only in their Mass but in their tonsure. (shaved hairdo) But the Britons refused to recognise Augustine or to acquiesce in one of his demands. We cannot, said the British bishops, depart from our ancient customs without the consent and leave of our people. Laurentius, the successor of Augustine, speaks yet more bitterly of the antagonism of the Scots; We have found the Scottish bishops worse even that the British (The Scots at that time only occupied Dalriada, the territory now called Argyll).
And the protest of the British Church itself, signed on its behalf by the Archbishop of St. Davids, six bishops, and the abbot of Bangor, who conducted the conference with Augustines Oak, A.D. 607, places in still clearer light the gulf which the change of the primitive Roman Church into the Papacy formed between the Churches hitherto in full communion. It ran as follows:
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 byword and in deed, in becoming the children of God. But as for any other obedience, we know of none that he whom you term the pope or Bishop of Bishops, can demand....
As late as the twelfth century, no instance could be produced of a British metropolitan receiving the pall from Rome.
The two British metropolitans of London and York, Theon and Tediac, had retired from their sees into Wales A.D. 586, ten years only before the arrival of Augustine.
In the Diocletian persecution (A.D.. 303-313) the British Church supplied the following remarkable list of martyrs; Amphibalus, Bishop of Llandaff; Alban of Verulam; Aaron and Julius, Presbyters of Caerleon; Socrates, Archbishop of York; Stephen, Archbishop of London; Augulius, his successor; Nicholas, Bishop of Penrhyn (Glasgow); Melior, Bishop of Carlisle, and above 10,000 communicants in different grades of society
Its religious institutions were on an immense scale. William of Malmesbury describes the ruins of Bangor Iscoed Abbey in his days as those of a city - the most extensive he had seen in the kingdom. Two other British foundations in England retained their superiority over all others of a later date, under every change of rulers until the Reformation - St Albans and Glastonbury. Of all the monasteries these continued the most popular and highly venerated.
Tracing our course back from the Diocletian era a concensus of authorities fixes the national establishment of Christianity in Britain somewhere about the middle of the second century. From A.D. 33, then to A.D. 150, we have in round numbers a space of 120 years left for the propagation of the faith and the gradual conversion of the nation.
All accounts concur in stating that the person who baptised Lucius, or Lleeuer Mawr, the monarch who thus established the Church, was his uncle St. Timotheus, the son of Pudens and Claudia, who was brought up on knees of the Apostles (St Paul in Britain, pp 112-117).
The above data clearly prove that the year A.D. 597 was the date of introduction not of Christianity, but of Roman Catholicism into Britain, Christianity itself having been brought into the British Isles just after the crucifixion of Christ, more than five hundred years earlier.
The first six hundred years of Church History in the British Isles is very briefly but well summarised by John Scott of Glasgow, as follows:
Christianity came direct to the islands from the East shortly after the death of Christ in the first century A.D..
The vigour of its early converts may be gauged by the fact that missionaries from the British Church founded the Churches of Gaul (France) Lotharingia (Lorraine) and Helvetia (Switzerland). It was 5-1/2 centuries later that the first papal emissary in the person of Augustine set foot on these shores. His claim of supremacy for the Roman Catholic Bishop was rejected by the then
British Church, but his ministry amongst the Angles, Jutes and Saxons, who had recently immigrated from the Continent, and who, although of the same stock as the Britons, were still pagan, enabled him to gain a footing and establish a Church on the Island. This nation was the last and least influenced by the Papacy.
Not only did God lead the forerunning sections of Israel to the British Isles in BC times, centuries before the main body arrived during the early part of the Christian era, but even the Druidic religion which these ancient Britons held before accepting Christ was a preparation for Christianity. It is now well known that the Romans were notorious for falsifying history in order to magnify themselves and belittle others, especially those who opposed them.
In no instance was this practice more disgustingly carried out than in the case of their writings concerning the Ancient Britons and the Druids. Unfortunately these perversions have even found their way into British School books and the children are taught to believe the trash that the Romans said about the Druids. Regarding these falsifications we quote from Early English History, by John Pym Yeatman (Barrister at Law) p.1 04, The stories of the atrocities of the Druids were mere inventions of the Romans to cover their own cruelty, and to excuse it. The religion of a people who were so mild and merciful not even to imprison their debtors, as did the Romans, could not be bloody.
In Religions of
Britain, p. 37 Charles Hulbert states, The charge of staining their
consecrated places with human blood and offering upon the altar of Cor-Gawr or
Stonehenge, human victims, hath no real foundation in fact; an accusation as wicked as
On examination, Druidism is found to be but a perversion of the true religion of the Hebrews, linked up with some of the ritual of the Baal worship. On this point we quote again from Religions of Britain p.41, So near is the resemblance between the Druidical religion of Britain and the Patriarchal religion of the Hebrews, that we hesitate not to pronounce their origin the same. Again on page 42 of the same work, Next to the Jewish in purity, we consider the ancient religion of Britain. Robert Stukely, also quoting ancient authors, tells us that the Druids represented their God by means of an old Oak selected with two arms ... He also, in common with Henry and others, says that no images were found in Britain before the Romans introduced them. (Druidism in Britain, p.15)
The following account of Druid worship is from Hulberts Religions of Britain. The dress of the druids was white, and that of the druid in his habit of ceremonial judgement was very grand. On his head he wore a golden tiara and his neck was encircled by a breastplate of judgement. Their meetings were held in conspicuous places in the open air, and while the sun was above the horizon, for their laws forbade their performing these ceremonies in his absence. The premier bard stood in the centre, by the side of a large stone.
This circle was denominated Cylch Gyngrair, or the circle of the federation; and the middle stone, Mean Llog, or the stone of the covenant. Upon the stone altars, before which the priests officiated, occasionally blazed a large fire, the sacred emblem of that true God who once manifested his presence by a bush and a pillar of fire, whose tremendous voice once issued out
of the midst of the fire, who prescribed a perpetual fire to be kept on the altar of burnt offerings in Jerusalem, and whom an holy apostle designates with the appellation of consuming fire.
Wylies History of Scotland, p.71 states: There is one fact which throws a pleasing light on these remote times of our country - no idol or graven image has even been dug up in our soil ... In the lands of Greece and Italy, Syria and of India long buried deities are ever and anon cropping up and showing themselves in the light of day, but no such phenomenon has ever occurred on the soil of Scotland. Relics of all sorts have been found in our soil, but never idol of British manufacture, nor is one such to be found in any of our Museums.
On page 110 There are others who are equally confident that Caledonia was nearly as brightly illuminated as Judaea itself, and place the priesthood of the Druids only a little way below the priesthood of the Hebrews.
Cassells History of England states: The Druidical rites and ceremonies in Britain were almost identical with the Mosaic ritual. McDermot, in his History of Ireland, gives thirteen specimens of identical customs of the Celtic and Hebrew races.
Then we have the evidence of Hoares Wiltshire which states that the facsimile of a Hebrew breastplate, the same nearly as that originally worn by the Hebrew high priest, was found in a cist, dug up at Stonehenge, and upon the breast of a skeleton of a British Druid. (Druidism in Britain, p.9, also Crania Britannica)
This essay written by John Pryce, was entitled The Ancient British Church, carried off a prize at the National Eisteddfod in 1876 and in it we read these words: In this distant corner of the earth, cut off from the rest of the world, unfrequented except by merchants from the opposite coast of Gaul, a people, who only conveyed to the Roman mind the idea of untamed fierceness, was being prepared, ready for the Gospel. It would be difficult to conceive Christianity being preached to any people, for the first time, under more favourable circumstances. There was hardly a feature in their national character in which it would not find a chord answering and vibrating to its touch.
Theirs was not the sceptical mind of the Greek, nor the worn out civilisation of Rome, which even Christianity failed to quicken into life, but a religious, impulsive imagination - children in feeling and knowledge, and therefore meet recipients of the good news of the kingdom of heaven. To a people whose sense of future existence was so absorbing, that its presentment was almost too deeply felt by them, the preaching of Jesus and the resurrection would appeal with irresistable force. There was no violent divorce between the new teaching and that of their own Druids, nor were they called upon so much to reverse their ancient faith, as to lay it down for a fuller and more perfect revelation.
Not only was the ancient British Race the first nation to recognise Christianity, but all available evidence also goes to show that Glastonbury (in Somersetshire) was the first Christian Church building in the world and that it was built by Joseph of Arimathaea and his associates. The famous Vatican Librarian, Cardinal Baronius, discovered an ancient MS in the Vatican telling of Joseph of Arimathaea, Lazarus, Martha and Mary landing at Marseilles in A.D. 35. This is in agreement with the early records of English historian William of Malmesbury, who states that Joseph of Arimathaea (who took care of our Lords body after the Crucifixion) accompanied by eleven missionaries under his charge came to Britain from France, having been sent by Phillip the Apostle, and that the British King gave them Ynys- vitrin or Glastonbury and twelve Hides of land. Confirmatory of this the Doomsday Book contains the following entry:
The Church of Glastonbury has in its own yule twelve Hides of Land, which have never paid tax. (Doomsday Survey, folio p.249b).
The old Glastonbury Chronicle gives the following quaint record of the meeting of Joseph of Arimathaea and Arviragus, the British King:
Joseph then counselled the King to believe in Christ: King Arviragus refused this, nor did he believe in Him. Arviragus the King gave him twice six hides at Glastonia. Joseph left the rights with those companions in the XXXI year after the Passion of Christ. These men, with praises built a church of wattles.
In J.W Taylors work, The Coming of the Saints, the journey of Joseph of Arimathaea is followed place to place from Palestine through Gaul, via Marseilles into Britain (The Early British Church, p.9, by Rev. L.G.A. Roberts). Furthermore the early Welsh writer, Maelgwyn of Llandaff (circ. A.D. 450) informs us that Joseph of Arimathaea is buried at Glastonbury
(Avalon). That Joseph of Arimathaea was the first to preach the Gospel in Britain is also confirmed by foreign writers, e.g, St. Gregory of Tours in his History of the Franks, and Haleca, Archbishop of Saragossa in his Fragments.
For a long time Glastonbury (Isle of Avalon) was regarded as the most sacred spot in all Britain. The original Church erected by Joseph of Arimathaea and his companions was built of wattles. At the present day, the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey stand on the site of the old wattle Church. That spot has thus been a place of Christian worship from Christs day to the present time. Regarding its antiquity as such, note the following extracts from the various authorities:
Sir Henry Spelman: It is certain Britain received the faith in the first age from the first sowers of the Word. Of all the Churches whose origin I have investigated in Britain, the Church at Glastonbury is the most ancient.
Archbishop Ussher: The British National Church was founded A.D. 36, 160 years before heathen Rome confessed Christianity. The Mother Church of the British Isles is the Church in Insula Avallonia, called by the Saxons, Glaston.
Fuller: If credit be given to ancient authors, this church at Glastonbury is the senior church of the world.
Publius Disciplius: The church of Avalon in Britain had no other hands than those of the disciples of the Lord themselves built.
Theodore Martin (Lovar), in A.D. 1517 states; It is not too much to say that the site of St. Marys church in the abbey grounds at Glastonbury is the site of the first known above-ground church in the world.
Glastonbury has been called the Bethlethem of Britain.
The study of the circumstances which led up to Joseph of Arimathaea choosing Britain as his final place of residence is interesting. There exists a number of entirely independent traditions both in France and Britain that Joseph of Arimathaea was a well-to-do tin merchant. The richest tin mines in the world at that time were in Comwall. Whilst in the Mendip Hills in Somerset nearby were rich deposits of copper and lead, which form useful alloys with tin. It is of course well known that a metal trade between Britain and the near East existed for many centuries and that merchants from Phoenicia and Palestine came regularly to
Cornwall and Somerset for tin lead and copper. This is mentioned by such classical writers as Herodotus, Homer, Pytheas and Polybius, whilst Diodorus Siculus gives the details of the trade route. After the tin was mined it was shaped into slabs or blocks, taken to a small island, Ictis, which at low tide was connected to the mainland by a narrow path. This little island is now known as St. Michaels Mount (near Marazion, Cornwall). The tin and other metals were taken by boat from the Isle of Ictis to Morlaix, thence transported across France to Massilia, (now Marseilles) and then shipped to Tyre, close to the Palestine border. Stories of Joseph of Arimathaea exist at separate places all along this ancient trade route.
The story is still told at Marazion in Cornwall of St. Joseph coming there to trade with tin miners (Glastonbury - Her Saints, page 66 by the Rev. Lionel Smithett Lewis, MA). In the Guide to Penzance (Ward, Locke and Co.) it is stated; There is a tradition that Joseph of Arimathaea was connected with Marazion when he and other Jews traded with the ancient tin miners in Cornwall. Marazion means bitter Zion. Its other name is still Market Jew. The origin is said to be
derived from the fact that it was a colony of Jews, who traded in tin. Jews houses, Jews tin, Jews leavings, Jews pieces are still common terms in the Cornish tin mines. The oldest pits containing smelted tin are called Jews houses. (Glastonbury Her Saints, page 66). Amongst the old tin workers, who have always observed a certain mystery in their rites, there was a moment when they ceased their work and started signing a quaint song beginning Joseph was a tin Merchant;. (Joseph of Arimathaea at Glastonbury, pp 23-24)
It is agreed by most authorities that the Virgin Mary was widowed while Jesus was just a youth. It is also generally considered that Joseph of Arimathaea was the uncle of Mary, and took special care over Jesus. Naturally Jesus would be interested in the accounts which his uncle would give of Britain - a land free from the oppression of Rome, and free from ecclesiastical fanatacism such as was prevalent in his own country. It is not altogether surprising therefore to find in different parts of Somerset and Cornwall four independent ancient traditions that on one of his visits Joseph of Arimathaea brought the boy Jesus with him to Britain. These are summarised as follows in the Revd C.C. Dobsons wonderful little book, Did Jesus Visit Britain as they say in Cornwall and Somerset?.
1) The first is found in Cornwall and is recorded in Baring Goulds Book of Cornwall where he writes;
Another Cornish story to the effect that Joseph of Arimathaea came in a boat to Cornwall, and brought the boy Jesus with him ....
2) The second is found in Somerset of the coming of Christ and Joseph in a ship of Tarshish, and how they came to the Summerland (Somerset) and sojourned in a place called Paradise.
3) The third tradition is to be found in the little village of Priddy on the top of the Mendip Hills to the effect that Jesus and Joseph stayed there.
4) Finally, traditions associate Jesus with Glastonbury.
The accompanying map shows the route taken by Jesus and Joseph of Arimathaea, as indicated by the coordination of all available data. In connection with Paradise mentioned above, and shown on the map, it is illuminating to observe that on an old ordinance survey maps the district around Burnham in Somerset was still called Paradise. Even at Burnham today there is a Paradise Farm. The old well close to the shore of the fine natural harbour at the mouth of the Camel (in Cornwall) at which the boat conveying Jesus called, is still known as Jesus Well. In bygone days it was regarded as a holy well, and traces of the Chapel erected over it remain to the present day.
There is however, evidence that Jesus came to Britain twice by the same route. On the second occasion he came not as a boy but as a young man, and not as a mere visitor, but as a resident at Glastonbury in the Isle of Avalon for a considerable period. That Jesus built for himself a little wattle house for prayer and meditation, near a well at the foot of the hill known as Glastonbury Tor, and that it was subsequently used by Joseph of Arimathaea and his associates as a private chapel (as distinct from the church they erected beside it for public worship) is confirmed by the following extract from the report which Augustine sent to Pope Gregory during the mission to Britain at the end of the sixth century:
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 necessaries of life. Regarding this, the Revd C.C. Dobson, MA has
beautifully commented; Having been taken as a boy by Joseph on this voyage and visited Glastonbury, Jesus noticed the beauty and quiet of this island. Seeking a quiet retreat in which to spend years alone before his ministry he returned here as a young man, erected his own small abode ... and then in prayer and meditation prepared for his work. (Did Jesus Visit Britain? pages 26-27). This absence of Christ from Palestine no doubt explains the Bibles silence
regarding the early manhood of Jesus.
In that great authority, The Doomsday Book (A.D.1088) there is recorded The House of God in the great Monastery of Glastonbury, called the Secret of the Lord. But even many centuries before the Doomsday Book was compiled Taliesin, the Prince-Bard and Druid, wrote Christ, the Word from the beginning our Teacher and we never lost His Teaching. To quote C.C. Dobson again;
Here is an island unconquered by the Romans, and remote from Roman influence and authority. The attempt to conquer it by Julius Caesar had proved abortive. Here was a faith propagated by profound oral teaching, enshrining the truth of the coming Christ, under the very name Jesu, and the principle of the Atonement. Do we wonder that Jesus came to reside in a land ripe to receive his truth? In Britain He would be free from the tyranny of Roman oppression, the superstition of Rabbinical misinterpretation and the grossness of pagan idolatory, and its bestial, immoral customs. In Britain He would live among people dominated by the highest purest ideals, the very ideals He had come to proclaim. This forcefully brings to our mind the words of Jesus near the very end of His Ministry, The Kingdom of God shall
be taken from you (in Judaea) and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof, - (MATTHEW 21.43.
So when Arimathaea subsequently came to Britain to proclaim the Saviour under the very name Yesu or Jesu familiar to every Druid, and as having fulfilled in the Atonement their basic principle, we do not wonder that he received a welcome at the hands of the Druids. It is a remarkable fact the Druidism never opposed Christianity, and eventually became voluntarily merged in it.
In view of the above facts, we can understand why, after his expulsion from Palestine in A.D. 35, Joseph of Arimathaea was eager to bring the Gospel to Britain and take up residence at Glastonbury already hallowed by the home of Jesus there. Here Joseph lived for the remainder of his life. The Welsh poet, Maelgwyn of Llandaff (A.D. 450) records that on Joseph of Arimathaeas grave at Glastonbury the epitaph reads as follows:
(Translation) I came to Britain after I buried Christ. I taught. I rest.
Maelgwyn also describes the exact position of the grave with meticulous care.
In the instructive little work Did Jesus visit Britain pp 31-32, Revd C.C. Dobson gives the following interesting account of Josephs body: The Vicar of Glastonbury tells us that Josephs body remained buried here until A.D. 1345, when Edward III gave his licence to John Bloom of London to dig for it, and the Abbot and Monks consented. There is the statement of a Lincolnshire Monk in 1367 that his body was found. They placed it in a silver casket let into a stone sarcophagus, which was placed in the east end of Josephs Chapel, and it became a place of pilgrimage. There is a written record of the sarcophagus being still in position in 1662 when the Chapel had become partially ruined. Owing to fear of Puritan fanaticism prevalent at the time it was secretly removed by night into the Parish Church Churchyard, and its identity was concealed by the pretence that the initials on it, J.A., stood for John Allen. In 1928 the present Vicar of Glastonbury found it half buried in the soil, and had it removed into the Church, and its construction bears out the accounts of a silver casket which could be raised and lowered, and shows other marks of identity.
After Joseph of Arimathaea, the next well known missionary to Britain was Simon Zelotes, one of the twelve apostles. Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre (A.D. 303) informs us that Simon Zelotes preached Christ all along the North Coast of Africa and then crossed to Britain. (Synopsis de Apostol 9, Simon Zelotes) Next came Aristobulus. The historian Alford (Regia Fides, Vol 1, p.&3) states, It is perfectly certain that before St. Paul had come to Rome, Aristobulus was absent in Britain.
Haleca, Bishop of Augusta also informs us as follows: The memory of many martyrs is celebrated by the Britons, especially that of St. Aristobulus, one of the seventy disciples. Aristobulus, Cyndav and his son, Mawan, men of Israel, came from Rome with Bran the Blessed to teach the faith of Christ to the race of the Cymry. (lola MSS.) Again, Dorotheus of the fourth century says, Aristobulus, who is mentioned by the Apostle in his epistle to the Romans, Romans 16:10 was made Bishop in Britain.
Then came St. Paul to Britain. Theodoretus says Paul preached the Gospel to the Britons and others in the West (De Curandis Graecorum Affectionibus Lib.IX). After investigation Capellus states, I scarcely know of one author, from the time of the Fathers downward, who does not maintain that St. Paul, after his liberation, preached in every country in western Europe, Britain included (History of the Apostles). Bishop Burgess writes Of St. Pauls journey to Britain we have as satisfactory proof as any historical question can demand. (Independence of the British Church).
There is an ancient MS at Oxford which refers to St. Pauls residence in Siluria (South Wales). In North Wales, the foundation of Bangor Abbey is ascribed to the Apostle Paul; its doctrine and discipline were known as the Rule of Paul and over each of its four gates was inscribed his precept, If any man will not work neither shall he eat. According to lingering tradition Paul journeyed and preached as far north as the banks of the River Clyde.
We must also call attention to the remarkable gift of a Greek MS given to a French traveller, C.S. Sonnini, who was a member of the Society of Agriculture in Paris, and had it presented to him by the Sultan of Turkey in 1801. This document asserts that the Apostle, after visiting Spain, came to Britain and preached upon the Mount Lud (Ludgate Hill, London) and that the Druids came to Paul and showed him that their rites and ceremonies were descended from the Jews, and the Apostle accorded them a kiss of peace (Druidism in Britain, p.18). Furthermore, we have the old British Triads of Paul the Apostle handed down to us in ancient Welsh; these are as follows:
(THREES) OF PAUL THE APOSTLE
There are three
sorts of men: the man of God, who renders good for evil; the man of men, who renders
good for good and evil for evil; and the man of the devil, who renders evil for good.
Three kinds of men are the delights of God: the meek; the lover of peace; the lovers of mercy.
There are three marks of the children of God: gentle deportment; a pure conscience; patient suffering of injuries.
There are three chief duties demanded by God: justice to every man; love; humility.
In three places will be found the most of God: where He is mostly sought; where He is mostly loved; where there is least of self.
There are three things following faith in God: a conscience at peace; union with heaven; what is necessary for Life.
Three ways a Christian punishes an enemy: by forgiving him by not divulging his wickedness; by doing him all the good in his power.
The three chief considerations of a Christian; lest he should displease God; lest he should be a stumbling block to man; lest his love to all that is good should grow cold.
The three luxuries of a Christian feast: what God has prepared; what can be obtained with justice to all; what love to all may venture to use.
Three persons have the claims and privileges of brothers and sisters: the widow, the orphan and the stranger.
What a contrast between the evangelical simplicity of these precepts and the monkish and mediaeval inventions and superstitions!
It is interesting to note that the names of a British prince and princess who had become Christians, are mentioned in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul. Linus and Claudia, named in Timothy 4:21 were the son and daughter of British King Caractacus. The verse reads:
Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, (and Pudens mentioned in the verse was the husband of Claudia) and Pudens, and Linus and Claudia, and all the brethren.
Pudens was a Roman Noble. At the time that verse was written all three of them were living in Rome. Pudens has the distinction of being the only name mentioned in the Bible recorded in stone of ancient date in Britain. Our Great Heritage, p.193f.
remains at Chichester, there was dug up in 1723 a stone bearing an inscription in which
Pudens is mentioned in connection with the erection of the Roman Temple there. This stone
is now exhibited outside the Council House at Chichester, and is known as the Pudens
Stone. The incident recorded on it, of course, occurred before Pudens accepted
Christianity. Pudens was a Roman officer stationed at Chichester during the earlier part
of the Roman occupation of Britain, and it was during his stay here that he won the
affections of the British Kings daughter, Claudia. Pudens and Claudia were
subsequently married in Rome in A.D. 53. It is remarkable too, that when the Apostle Paul
came to Britain he should also land on our shores in the region of Chichester Reach and
St. Pauls Grove at Porchester. On this we quote E. Wilmshurst (St. Paul and
Britain p.11), In Chichester Harbour, then navigable, in the hamlet of
Creed, in the parish of Boshem was a spot known as Pauls Wharf, the traditional
landing place of the Apostle, (Sussex Archaeological Collections, Vol XXII 1871) about
From the foregoing evidence it is clear that Christianity was introduced into Britain immediately after the Crucifixion, history informing us that the first Christian Church to be erected in the world was Joseph of Arimathaeas Wattle Church at Avalon (Glastonbury) England, and that it was built by none other than the hands of the disciples of Christ. After about a century and a half of faithful preaching the ancient British nation, in A.D. 179, in the reign of good King Lucius, acknowledged Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and was the first nation to do so; accordingly, Origen, born at Alexandria in A.D. 185 wrote in the beginning of the following century, The land of Britain has received the religion of Christ. Thus the early British Church was originally Hebrew, not Papal!
Fuller gives a list of institutions founded by this King Lucius:
1) St. Peters Cornhill in London,
circa A.D. 179.
2) A chief Cathedral Church in Gloucester.
3) A Church at Winchester, circa.A.D. 180.
4) A Church and College of Christian Philosophers at Bangor-on-Dee.
5) A Church dedicated to St. Mary in Glastonbury, said to be repaired and raised out of the ruins of a former Church, circa A.D. 187.
6) A chapel in honour of Christ in Dover Castle.
7) The Church of St. Martins, Canterbury, understand it thus: that after ages was new named and converted to the honour of that saint.
Bishop Fuller tells us that Lucius converted the three Arch-Flamens and the 28 Flamens of the Druids, into so many Archbishops and Bishops of the Christian Church. He could not have done this unless the Druids had generally accepted Christianity as a National Religion. (The Early British Church p.12). The three Arch-Flamens referred to were located at Caer Troia otherwise known as Caer Lud (London), Caer Ebroc (York) and Caer Leon (St. Davids).
How deep a root Christianity had taken in the British Isles during the centuries immediately following the time of Christ may be judged from the following extract from Chrysostum, Patriarch of Constantinople, A.D. 347-407: The British Isles which are beyond the sea (the Mediterranean) and which lie in the Ocean (the Atlantic) have received the virtue of the Word .... Though thou shouldest go to the ocean, to the British Isles, there thou shouldest find all men everywhere discoursing matters out of the Scriptures, with another voice indeed, but not another faith; with a different tongue, but the same judgement. (Chrysostomi Orat)
The Ancient Britons of the British Isles thus being the first race to recognise Christ, became the pioneer nation in missionary work. In this connection the great work done by the Irish section of the early Celtic Church must not be overlooked. The noble part played by Ireland in missionary work earned for it the title Isle of Saints, during the early centuries before Roman
Catholicism came to its shores. At that time, swarms of devoted missionaries went out from Ireland to every part of Europe, so much so that Dr Johnson states that Ireland was the School of the West (The Early British Church, p.13 - Roberts).
Beatus, a noble Briton, converted and baptised in Britain, converted Switzerland. His cell, where he died A.D. 96, is still shewn at Unterseen on Lake Thun (Theatre. Magnae Britain, Lib. VI, p.9). Mansuetus, born in Ireland, converted and baptised in Britain, was sent in company with S. Clement of Rome, a friend and pupil of the Apostles (afterwards the third bishop of Rome) to preach the Gospel in France. He founded the Church in Lorraine and then penetrated to lllyria in the East of Europe, East of the Adriatic, where he was martyred in A.D. 110 (Franciscus Guillman, Helvetiorum Historia, libl, c. 15. Mersaeus De Sanctis German, etc.). Marcellus, A Briton, became third Bishop of Tongres and founded the Archbishopric of Treves ... Almost all the Archbishops of Treves were Britons. He lived and died, it is stated, as a martyr in A.D. 166 (see Mersaeus, De Archiepiscopis Trevir ensium, and Pantalion De Viris. Illus. Germaniae. Part 1). Cadval, a British Missionary founded in A.D. 170, the Church of Tarentum in Italy and the Cathedral of Taranto is dedicated to him(MS Vellum of the Church of Tarentum). (The Apostolic Church of Britain, pp.39- 40, Rev. L.S. Lewis). Nor let us forget the work at home
- St. Peiran, an Irishman in Cornwall; St. Patrick, a Scotsman in Ireland; St. Ninian in Scotland; Keby, a Prince in Cornwall; and Fastidius, Bishop of London; and many others. (The Early British Church, p.13, Roberts).
The early Church in the British Isles was known as the Culdee Church and it was not until the coming of Roman Catholics at the end of the sixth century that it became more generally known as the British Church in order to distinguish it from the Roman Church.
Attached to many of the early Culdee Churches were monasteries, that is colleges (for the mode of life in them was altogether different from that of most of the monasteries in Roman Catholic times with which we are more familiar). The reason that there have not been more records of the ancient Culdee Church handed down to us is that the ruthless destruction by the Roman Emperors and later by Roman Catholicism was directed not only at Christians who faithfully maintained their Christian liberty, but also at the records of their Church.
At the time of the Anglo-Saxon Invasions and settlement, the ancient Celts and Iberians were as everybody knows, driven mainly to the mountainous regions of the west and north of the country, while a few escaped to Brittany. Strangely enough, the
Christians of the bulk of these pagan Angles originated from the small Scottish island of Iona, then known by the older name of Icolmkill, which means the island of Columba of the Church. Synchronous with the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons the Scots came over from Ireland and settled in Argyll and the Hebrides. When this Scottish kingdom had been established in the north-west of Britain, the saintly Columba (born A.D. 521) crossed over from his native Scotia (as Northern Ireland was then called) to Iona and settled there on 12th May, 563 with a view to making it his headquarters for preaching the Gospel to the pagan part of Britain. His great work and personal influence extended over Scotland and much of northern England, and as early as A.D. 588 a continental mission scheme was formed. (The Early Scottish Church, page 216 McLauchlan).
In the same year that Columba died on Iona, that is 597, the Roman Catholic emissary Augustine landed in Kent. While at first some converts, including King Edwin of Northumbria, were made to the Roman Church, on the east coast of Britain, yet Boyd Carpenter in his History of the Church of England states, within forty years of the arrival of Augustine, the only place in which his followers held their own was in the kingdom of Kent. In 637 when the Northumbrian King, Oswald, desired to establish Christianity in his kingdom he did not apply to Kent for Missionaries, but to Iona. Accordingly Aidan was sent and he established a missionary centre on the Island of Lindisfarne, subsequently known as Holy Island, close to the coast of Northumberland. Here Aidan and later Cuthbert from Melrose did a great work. The Norseman, however, called Iona by the name of Holy Island (Eyin Helga). The Gaelic name of Iona was Innis man Druidhneah (The Island of the Druids) which shows that this little island was a sacred place even before the advent of Christianity.
A similar missionary centre to these of Iona and Lindisfarne was also established on the rugged Shetland Island of Foula in the far North and Lindisfarne in the south, to that the northern half of Britain was indebted for receiving Christianity. This is significant in view of the fact that the Stone which Jacob used as a pillow at Bethel (the Stone of Destiny) found its resting
place on Iona at the very time that Colubaands associates established there the headquarters of their great and widespread Christian work.
In the age of darkness Ireland was the bearer of many torches, and Iona, her fairest daughter, more than any other, stood for all that was luminous and spiritual, pure and unworldly. The missionaries of Iona left their mark upon almost every corner of Europe, and some of their most precious manuscripts rest to this day in European libraries - Norseman in Alban, p.23 Robert Lock Bremner. In the eighth century the library at Iona contained one of the most valuable collections of manuscripts in the world. For two hundred years Iona was the lighthouse for the western nations, whence missionaries went forth in all directions. - Celt, Druid and Culdee, p.110 (I.H. Elder).
The account of how the influence of Iona even reached the far north island of Iceland in the ninth century is given in Norseman in Alban (Scotland). The Norseman Orlyg was fostered by Bishop Patrick in the Sudreys (ie the Sougherton Isles of Hebrides, as distinguished from the Nordrieys, i.e. the Northern Isles which comprised Orkney and Shetland). Orlyg wished to go to Iceland. Patrick gave him Kirkwood and an iron bell, a plenarium and hallowed earth, which he should lay under the corner posts. Patrick told him to land where there were two fells visible from the sea, and settle under the southern one, and in a dale between the two mountains he should build the kirk (the church) and dedicate it to St. Columba.
Orlyg landed eventually on the great North-West Peninsula of Iceland at a creek subsequently called Orlygs Haven, within a large firth known thereafter as Patricks Firth (Patreksfjorour) to the present day. He wintered there, thence coasted southward and lost the bell overboard, finally he sighted the fells on the peninsular of Kjalarnes near Reykjavik answering the subscription given by Patrick. There he found the bell amongst the seaweed, and so built the church as instructed and worshipped under the mantle of St. Columba.
From the mass of foregoing evidence it is clear that Britain was the leading nation in the pioneering of Christianity, and today, we are still the foremost race on earth in regard to the spreading of Gods Holy Word-the Great Bible Societies which were founded last century have done an enormous work in this respect. It is interesting to note that the extending influence of Britains Sea Power and the impulse to exploration during the sixteenth century were accompanied by an impulse to spread the Gospel. On this point the Encyclopaedia Britannica, under the caption Modern Missions states:
The development of the Maritime power of England which the Portugese and the Spanish monarchies noted with fear and jealousy was distinguished by a singular anxiety for the spread of the Christian Faith. Edward VI in his instructions to the
navigators in Sir Hugh Willoughbys fleet, Sebastian Cabot in those for the intended voyage to Cathay and Richard Hakluyt, who promoted many voyages of discoveries in addition to writing their history, agree with Sir Humphrey Gilberts chronicler that the sowing of Christianity must be the chief intent of such as shall make any attempt at foreign discovery, or else whatever is built upon other foundation shall never obtain happy success or continuance.
It is also a remarkable fact that the phenomenal growth of Bible Societies and Foreign Missions and the rapid expansion of the British Empire have been simultaneous.
Today more than 90% of the funds for Foreign Protestant Missions are subscribed by Anglo-Saxons.
During the year 1931 the Scriptures distributed by the American Bible Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the National Bible Society of Scotland, to mention only three, reached the colossal total of over twenty-eight millions. Allowing for inter-sales this figure would still be well over twenty millions. It is translated into more than a thousand languages. The total distribution of Scriptures by all other nations combined for the same period is only a few thousands. Verily He has found His witnesses in Anglo-Saxon Israel. (Is Civilisation Doomed? pp.4-5) How evident that Anglo-Celto-Saxondom is Gods nation Israel doing His work!
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