THE APOSTLE PAUL IN BRITAIN
by R.W.Morgan (published in 1860)
CHRISTIANITY IN BRITAIN - Part Two
The tomb of Joseph was inscribed with the following epitaph,
touching from its spirit of faith, peace, and humility:--- 23
"AD BRITANNOS VENI POST CHRISTUM SEPELIVI. DOCUI. QUIEVI."
Of the perpetual exemption of the twelve ploughs of land
conferred by Arviragus on the Arimathaean Church, the Domesday
Survey of A.D.1088 supplies curious confirmation. "The Domus Dei,
in the great monastery of Glastingbury, called the Secret of the
Lord. This Glastingbury church possesses, in its own villa, xii.
hides of land which have never paid tax."
After A.D.35--36 Joseph disappears from the Scripture
The Greek and Roman menologies and Martyrologies commemorate
with scrupulous jealousy the obituaries and death-places of all
the earlier Christian characters of mark who died within the pale
of the Roman empire. They nowhere record those of Joseph. Now we
know from Tertullian that Britain was Christian before it was
Roman. The Dove conquered where the Eagle could make no progress.
"Regions in Britain which have never been penetrated by the Roman
arms," are his words (A.D.192) "have received the religion of
Christ." If this statement were correct, after the war between
Rome and Britain had raged for a century and a half, from A.D.43
to A.D.192 and in a national point of view it is impartial
testimony, for Tertullian was an African - it is obvious that the
23 Hearne's Antiquities of Glastonbury; Leland, ibid.; John of
Tynemouth, Ad Josephum Arimath.
1 "Domus Dei in magno Glaston. monasterio quod secretum Domini
vocatur, Ecclesia Glaston. habet in ipsa villa xii. hydas quae
nunquam geldaverunt." - Domesday Survey, fol., p.449.
Arimathaean mission must have been founded in the heart of
independent Britain, quite out of the pale, therefore, of the
Roman empire. And this inference tallies with the rest of the
evidence. Joseph died in these "loca inaccessa Romanis." His
death, therefore, could not be chronicled by Greek or Roman
Lazarus is asserted to have accompanied Joseph. The only
record we possess of him beyond the Scripture narrative 2 is in a
very ancient British Triad: "The Triad of Lazarus, the three
counsels of Lazarus: Believe in God who made thee; Love God who
saved thee; Fear God who will judge thee." 3 It is difficult to
explain how the name and counsel of Lazarus could find their way
into these peculiarly British memorials except by his presence
and teaching in Britain.
Finally, were there any other eminent converts, besides
those of the Silurian family, made at this very early date in
Britain? Three are particularly mentioned - Beatus, whose first
name was Suetonius, Mansuetus, and Marcellus. Beatus, born of
noble parents in Britain, was there also converted and baptized.
He became the founder of the Helvetian Church. He fixed his
mission at Underseven, on the lake of Thun, disposing of all his
property to ransom prisoners of war. His death occurred in the
cell still shown at Underseven, A.D.96. 4
Mansuetus, born in Hibernia, converted and baptized in
Britain, was sent afterwards from Rome with St.Clement,
afterwards the second bishop of Rome, to preach the Gospel in
Gaul. He founded the Lotharingian Church.
2 The tradition of the Church of Lyons makes him return with
Martha and Mary to Marseilles, of which town he became the first
bishop, and there died.
3 Triads of Primitive Britain.
4 Theatr. Magn. Britan., lib. vi. p.9.
fixing his mission at Toul, where, after extending his labours to
Illyria, he suffered martyrdom, A.D.110. 5 Marcellus, a noble
Briton, became bishop of Tongres, and afterwards founder-bishop
of Troves - the diocese which for centuries exercised the chief
influence in the Gallic Church. The conversion of Linus, the son
of Caractacus, is attributed to him. 6
Before, therefore, the incorporation of Britain with the
Roman empire, whilst the war of invasion raged, we have before us
these remarkable facts:- 1. A .young and vigorous Christian
Church, direct from Jerusalem and the East, and which had never
touched or passed through Rome, was in full and successful work
in the heart of independent Britain, under the protection of the
very sovereign, and family that conducted the war against Rome.
2. This native Church, though so young, does not limit its
operations to Britain. It ramifies from Britain to the Continent,
and becomes, through native-born missionaries, the mother-Church
of Gaul, Lotharingia, and Helvetia. Providence, for the most
part, works in a very noiseless way, by natural means. Nothing
could be more natural than that Joseph and his companions - for
whom, as Christians, there was neither peace nor safety among
their own countrymen; for whom, as Christians and Jews, there was
no assurance of their lives in any Roman province - should seek
refuge in the only independent kingdom of the West, whose
national religion, like their own, was marked for destruction on
the Continent; for, as we have seen, the decrees of Augustus,
5 Pantaloon, De Viris Illus. Germaniae, pars. L; Guliel.
Eisengren, cent. 2, p.5; Petrus Mersaeus, De Sanctis German.;
Franciscus Guilliman, Helvetiorum Historia, lib. i. c. is; Petrus
de Natalibus, Episcop. Regal. Tallensis.
6 Marcellus Britannus, Tungrorum episcopus postea Trevirorum
Archiepiscopus," &c. - Mersaeus, De Archiepiscopis Trevirensium.
Claudius constituted Druidism a capital offence. 7 Nothing could
be more natural than that Guiderius and Aviragus, on the
intercession of influential Druids, should receive and protect
such refugees, and in accordance with their own Druidic
principles, leave whatever religion they professed to the
voluntary acceptance or rejection of their subjects. All this, we
repeat, was very natural, yet we may well affirm that Providence
was working in the wheel of Nature. If the stoker was Nature, the
engineer was Providence. Under this reflection lies another.
Whatever the errors of Druidism were, it was, in its main truths,
a grand religion, forming grand and truthful characters. Its
foundation-maxim was, "Truth against the world"; literally,
against "all being." 8
Now, if we just cast one eye on Britain, on a Druidic
Caractacus, Arviragus, or Claudia, listening from their thrones
to a Christian missionary, because he professed to bring and to
preach truth, and Christ as the Truth, the Way, and the Life;
then cast the other on a Pilate, asking, in the profoundest
disbelief in all virtue and goodness, 'What is truth,?' We shall
see at a glance that Britain was prepared, and the Roman empire
not prepared, for Christianity. The British and Roman minds were
different. Druidism, therefore, dissolved by the natural action
of its own principles into Christianity. No persecution until the
tenth, under Diocletian, touched Britain, for Christianity had
become nationality. And the Diocletian was stopped in two years,
on his own responsibility, at the hazard of civil war, by
Constantius. Then rose Constantine, with a British army sworn to
put down the persecution of
7 " Penitus religionem Druidarum abolevit Claudius." - Suetonius,
in Vitd Claud.
8 St.Paul's maxim, "We can do nothing against the truth,"
breathes a kindred spirit, and would at once conciliate a Druidic
Christianity for ever., The clue is a national, a British one.
The next missionry after Joseph was Simon Zlotes the
apostle. There can be little doubt, we think, on this point. One
Menology assigns the martyrdom of Zelotes to Persis in Asia, but
others agree in stating he suffered in Britain. Of these the
principal authority is Dorotheus Bishop of Tyre, in the reigns of
Diocletian and Constantius (A.D.300). His testimony, we consider
decisive:-- "Simon Zelotes traversed all Mauritania, and the
regions of the Africans, preaching Christ. He was at last
crucified, slain, and buried in Britain." 9 Crucifixion was a
Roman penalty for runagate slaves, deserters, and rebels: it was
not known to the British laws. We conclude Simon Zelotes suffered
in the east of Britain, perhaps, as tradition affirms, in the
vicinity of Caistor, under the prefecture of Caius Decius, the
officer whose atrocities were the immediate cause of the
Boadicean war. Two things strike the investigator of early
Christian history: the marvellous manner in which Christian seed
is found growing and fructifying in unheard-of places; the
indifference of the sowers to perpetuating their own name and
labours. They seem to have been quite satisfied and blest in
sowing Christ, and then resting. The epitaph of Joseph of Avalon
would express the feelings of all:---Docui, Quievi, 'I taught, I
have entered on my rest.' Beautiful as is this in fact and faith,
it is very unsatisfactory in history. As Christians we feel its
propriety; as writers we desiderate more of that yearning for
immortality on earth which inspires the Greek and Latin authors,
and inspires us also in reading them. Yet the effects of the
Christian principle are undoubtedly greater: for the principle it
is which meets us face to face. It is Christ or self. We come on
a field: the sower has inclosed it, built round it strongly,
sowed proved seed in it, entrusted it to a few like-minded men,
and he vanishes.
9 Dorotheus, Synod. de Apostol.; Synopsis ad Sim Zelot.
He is crucified a thousand miles off, leaves no memoir of
himself, no message to posterity, no foot-mark on the geology of
the Church. In perusing the Apostolic: Epistles we are struck by
the maximum of censure, the minimum of approval conveyed to the
Churches. We are apt to think they had little force or vitality.
But when we extend our survey to the whole empire of Rome, we are
almost terrified at the subterraneous shocks with which these
Churches are everywhere bringing Pagan temple and tower to the
ground. We try to calculate and value this power. We fail in
doing it. The Roman government failed also. It is an unknown
power, the source of which is from above.
3. Next to Joseph and Simon Zelotes came Aristobulus. "It is
perfectly certain," writes Alford, 10 "that before St.Paul had
come to Rome Aristobulus was absent in Britain." We have seen
he was not at Rome when Paul wrote his Epistle. Now Aristobulus
must have been far advanced in years, for he was the
father-in-law of St.Peter. His wife was the subject of the
miracle recorded by St.Matthew. His daughter, bore Peter a son
and a daughter. We have the following evidences that he preached
the Gospel and was martyred in Britain :--
The Martyrologies of the Greek Churches:-- "Aristobulus was
one of the seventy disciples, and a follower of St.Paul the
Apostle, along with whom he preached the Gospel to the whole
world, and ministered to him. He was chosen by St.Paul to be the
missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a very
warlike and fierce race. By them he was often scourged, and
10 Alford's Regia Fides, vol. i. p.83. Alford, whose proper name
was Griffiths, and who assumed the name of Alford on entering the
Society of Jesuits, is, next to Baronius, the most learned of the
Roman Catholic historians. His Regia Fides is a wonderful
monument of erudition and research.
dragged as a criminal through their towns, yet he converted many
of them to Christianity. He was there martyred, after he had
built churches and ordained deacons and priests for the island."
Haleca, Bishop of Augusta, to the same effect:-- "The memory
of many, martyrs is celebrated by the Britons, especially that of
St.Aristobulus, one of the seventy disciples." 12
Dorotheus, A.D.303:-- "Aristobulus, who is mentioned by the
Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans, was made bishop in
Adonis Martyrologia,: -- "Natal day of Aristobulus, Bishop
of Britain, brother of St.Barnabas the Apostle, by whom he was
ordained bishop. He was sent to Britain, where, after preaching
the truth of Christ and forming a Church, he received martyrdom."
The British "Achau," or Genealogies of the Saints of Britain
:-- "These came with Bran the Blessed from Rome to
Britain--Arwystli Hen (Senex), Ilid, Cyndaw, men of Israel; Maw,
or Manaw, son of Arwystli Hen." 15
According to the genius of the British tongue, Aristobulus
A district in Momeryshire, on the Severn, perpetuates by its
name (Awystli) the scene of his martyrdom.
The Britons must have had Arwystli in person among them;
they must have been struck by the age of the venerable
missionary, or the epithet "Senex" would not have become amongst
them part of his name.
There are several points here to be noted. The first is,
11 Greek Men., ad 15 March.
12 Halecae Fragmenta in Martyr.
13 Synopsis ad Aristobulum.
14 In Diem Martii i7.
15 Achau Saint Prydain.
that Aristobulus was sent into Britain by St.Paul before St.Paul
came himself to Rome, and even before the Epistle to the Romans
was written, for Aristobulus, when St.Paul wrote it, had left for
his mission. The large space given by the Roman historians to the
wars in Britain demonstrates the interest felt in them by the
whole empire. Britain was a familiar term in every household.
Upon it the whole military attention had for some years been
concentrated. The name of Arviragus had by this time attained as
great a celebrity as that of his cousin Caractacus - it was in
every one's mouth; and Juvenal could suggest no news which would
have been hailed by the Roman people with more intense
satisfaction than that of his fall: ---
"Hath our great enemy Arviragus, the car-borne British king,
Dropped from his battle-throne?"
It is certain, therefore, that St.Paul, who travelled
everywhere, mixing with every kind of society, must have been as
well acquainted with Britain, and the events passing therein, as
any other intelligent Roman citizen. There was everything to
attract his eye to it as a field for Gospel labour and
But have we any Scripture evldence that St.Paul at this time
thought at all of Western Europe? Undoubtedly we have.
Commentators and writers of his life generally refer to his
visit to Spain as contemplated after his first imprisonment at
Rome. A reference to the passage in the fifteenth chapter of the
Epistle shows, on the contrary, that his journey to Spain was
meditated not only before he came to Rome, but that it was his
principal object in leaving the East, his call at Rome being
simply on the way. "Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I
will come to you, for I trust to see you on my journey, and to
be brought on my way thitherward by you." 16 He speaks of the
journey as a thing decided upon, taking Rome by the way.
Literally, in the original it is, "I hope in passing through
to see you." It was the West of Europe, then, beyond Rome, not
Rome itself, which was the Apostle's mark, even at this
comparatively early date. All the incidents and delays which
occurred between this date (A.D.56), and the termination of his
first imprisonment at Rome, were interruptions of his original
plan of operations. His destination was the extreme West, and
this was in accordance with the command of Christ, "I will send
thee far hence to the Gentiles." According to the Scriptures,
therefore, and the view we have therein of Paul's own mind, we
think we are justified in concluding that having already sent
Aristobulus into Britain, he intended to traverse Spain himself,
and thence join his fellow-labourer in our island; for it is
plain that Aristobulus acted as wholly under Paul's instructions
in Britain as Titus in Crete or Timothy in Asia Minor. "He
preached the Gospel with St.Paul to the whole world, and
ministered to him." 17
It appears that Bran left Rome with Aristobulus, his son
Manaw, Ilid, and Cyndaw, before Caradoc. He was accompanied also
by Eurgain, the eldest daughter of Caradoc, and her husband
Salog, lord in her right of Caer Salog (Salisbury), a Roman
patrician. Ilid established his mission under the protection of
Bran, his grandson Cyllinus (eldest son of Caradoc), Salog and
Eurgain, in the centre of Siluria, on the spot in Glamorganshire
known from that period till the present as Llan-Ilid. At this
Llan, or 'consecrated inclosure,' the Princess Eurgain founded
and endowed the first Christian cor, or choir, in Britain. From
this Cor-Eurgain issued many of the most eminent
16 Rom. xv. 24.
17 Greek Menology, ad Diem Martii 17.
teachers and missionaries of Christianity down to the tenth
century. Of the saints of this cor, from Ilid in succession,
there are catalogues in the "Genealogies of the Saints of
Eastern and Western testimonies concur in thus proving the
Aristobulian mission to Britain under the Sanction of Bran and
his family. We complete the chain with the two following, from
"The three blessed sovereigns of the isle of Britain: - 1. Bran,
son of Llyr Llediaith, who first brought the faith of Christ to
the Cymry from Rome, where he had been seven years a hostage for
his son Caradoc, whom the Romans put in prison, after being
betrayed by the plotting, deceit and enticement of Areddig. 2.
Lleuver, or Leirwig (Lucius), son of Coel, son of St.Cyllin, son
of Caradoc, son of Bran, son of Llyr Llediaith, called Lleuver
the Great, who founded the first church of Llandaff, and first
gave the privileges of the country and nation to all who
professed the faith in Christ. 3. Cadwalladr the Blessed, who
gave protection within all his lands to the Christians who fled
from the pagan Saxons who wished to slay them." 19
"The three priorities of the Cymry:-- 1. Priority as the first
colonizers of Britain; 2. Priority of government and
civilization; 3. Priority as the first Christians of Britain." 20
18 Achau Saint Prydain. In these Achau, or genealogies, Eurgain
is commemorated as the first female saint of the isle of Britain.
Her conversion, therefore, preceded that of her sister Claudia.
Ilid was a Hebrew :-
"Hast thou heard the saying of Ilid, One come of the race of
Israel? 'There is no mania like passion.'" British Proverbs.
19 Triads of the isle of Britain.
20 Triads of the Cymry.
To be continued