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freely embraced and entertained the knowledge and service of the only true God, the great Creator of the world, whom they worshipped according to the rites and rules of that Divine and wisely contrived religion which our Saviour had introduced. In the third book of his Evangelical Demonstration, having named Romans, Persians, Armenians, Parthians, Indians, and Scythians, as people among whom the apostles preached the gospel of Christ, he mentions particularly, that some of them passed over the ocean to the British islands. That some of the apostles preached the gospel in the British islands, he was probably informed by Constantine himself, to whom he was well known; or received it from some of the emperor's countrymen, who were then in his court; or of the British bishops, summoned to the council of Nice, where, in all likelihood, some of them made their appearance.
At what precise period of time, and by what means, the Christian religion was first introduced into Britain, are matters which have often engaged the pens of historians; but whose records do not always agree,
and sometimes plainly contradict each other. We shall collect from various and the best sources of information, what appears the most authentic, both as to dates and instruments.
Some writers state, that St. Paul was the first instrument employed in converting the Britons to Christ. The testimony of Theodoret, a learned and judicious church historian, is important; for among the nations converted by the apostles, he expressly names the Britons. Having mentioned Spain, he affirms, that St. Paul brought the gospel to the islands that lie in the ocean, that is, to the British islands. And St. Jerome says, that St. Paul, after his imprisonment, preached the gospel in the western parts. That by these western parts, the British islands were chiefly understood, will appear from the testimony of Clemens Romanus, who writes, that St. Paul preached righteousness through the whole world, and in so doing went to the utmost bounds of the west. This passage will necessarily take in Britain, if we consider what, among the ancients, was meant by the bounds of the west. Plutarch, speaking of Cæsar's expedition into Britain, says, he was the first that brought a fleet into the western ocean, that is, the British ocean. Eusebius several times calls this ocean the western; and, elsewhere, he mentions Gaul, and the western parts beyond it; by which he means Britain. And Theodoret reckons up the inhabitants of Spain, of Britain, and Gaul, (who, says he, lie between the other two) as those, who dwell in the bounds of the west. And among these, the Britons must be the utmost bounds, because the Gauls lie in the midst.
a Hist. Eccl. lib. ii. cap. 3.
Though these testimonies may, in the opinion of some, be deemed sufficient to prove that there was a church planted here by some of the apostles, and that St. Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles, was probably the individual employed in this great work ; yet, we may notice some circumstances that will add weight and evidence to the above-mentioned authorities. It is certain, therefore, in the first place, that St. Paul wanted neither leisure nor opportunity to come over into Britain, and preach the gospel. For Eusebius, St.Jerome, and others of the ancients agree in this, that he suffered martyrdom at Rome, in the fourteenth year of Nero. Now
he was sent to Rome, when Festus was made procurator in Judea, in the room of Felix, which was, according to the same authorities, in the second of Nero. But considering the circumstances of his voyage, we will, with Massutius, allow, that he could not come to Rome till the third of Nero. We know, from St. Luke, that he abode there two years. So that in the fifth year set at liberty, probably on occasion of favours showed to prisoners and exiles, on the murder of Agrippina. From this time till his returning to Rome, where he suffered, (which was about eight years,) he went to various parts preaching the gospel. Sure we are, from Scripture, that he did not return to the East. For in the last of his three peregrinations, related in the Acts of the Apostles, at Miletus, we find him sending for elders of the church, taking his solemn leave of them, and telling them, that they should see his face no more. Which words do not only concern the church of Ephesus, but all the other churches planted by him in the East: and this he speaks, not in the way of conjecture, but from certain knowledge.
Agreeable to this divine testimony, we have all the ancient fathers unanimously affirming, that from the time of his being set at liberty to that of his suffering, he continually preached the gospel in the western parts only. We have showed before, that Britain is contained in, if not the principal place meant by, the western parts. And we know from Gildas, that the gospel was received here before the fatal defeat of the Britons by Suetonius Paulinus, which was, according to Petavius, in the eighth year of Nero; so that St. Paul, being at liberty the fifth year, had time and convenience enough to found a Christian church in Britain.
That St. Paul had encouragement and invitation to visit Britain, will not be denied, if we consider not only the vast numbers of people mentioned by Cæsar, and the new settlements that were daily made by the Romans, after their first success under Claudius; but, also, the particular inducements he might have at Rome to come hither, from Pomponia Græcina, and Claudia Ruffina, both Christians, and probably converted by himself. These are supposed to be of the saints that were in Cæsar's household. However, we learn from Tacitus, that Pomponia was a Christian; and it is more than probable that not only Claudia, but Pudens her husband, are mentioned by St. Paul, in his second Epistle to Timothy. That these two Christian ladies would excite the apostle to come over into this island to preach the gospel, we have reason to believe, because one of them was wife to Aulus Plautius, the first Roman governor of Britain, and the other a Briton born, celebrated by Martial for her admirable beauty and learning a This account of the first planting of a Christian church in Britain, even by St. Paul himself, appears very probable. b
The case of the brave, but unfortunate Caractacus, a renowned king of the ancient British people called Silures, inhabiting South Wales, is not unworthy our attention. Whether the refusal of the tribute which Cæsar had appointed the Britons to pay to the Romans, was the motive for the expedition of Claudius to Britain, or not, -the army sent hither, in the year A. D. 43, under the command of Aulus Plautius, an able general, made it necessary that the whole strength of the island should be immediately collected to oppose this invasion. The celebrated Caractacus was appointed to the chief command. Such were the views the Britons entertained of his ability, his wisdom, and courage, that when this hero went to battle, says the Triad 79, “none would stay at home. They followed him freely, and maintained themselves at their own expense. Unsolicited and unsoliciting, they crowded to his standard.” The justice he did to the choice and appointment; displayed itself in the noble stand he made in the defence of the liberty of his country. He maintained an obstinate resistance, and the Romans made but little progress against him, till Ostorius Scapula was sent over, in A. D. 50, to command their forces. After valiantly defending his country for the space of seven years against the Romans, he was at length defeated ; and, flying to Cartismunda, queen of the Brigantes, (inhabitants of Yorkshire,) was by her treacherously delivered up to the Romans, and, with his family, brought captive to Rome, to grace the triumph of Claudius over the subjugated Britons, and so made a spectacle to the citizens; where his noble behaviour, and heroic but pathetic speech, obtained him not only his liberty, but the esteem of the Emperor, A. D. 52.
a The learned Archbishop Usher states, that Claudia was the daughter of Caractacus. It follows, says Mr. Hughes, that Claudia was the first native Briton who embraced Christianity; that by her means the rest of her family were converted; and that these, in company with certain other disciples of St. Paul, were the instruments of planting the Tree of Life in Britain.
• Much of this information may be found in a voluminous work, entitled, Magna Britannica.