THE APOSTLE PAUL IN BRITAIN #9
by R.W. Morgan (published in 1860)
THE TRACINGS UP OF THE ANCIENT ROYAL CHURCH OF BRITAIN TO ITS
APOSTOLIC FOUNDATIONS. ST.PAUL IN BRITAIN. HIS CONNECTION WITH
THE ROYAL SILURIAN FAMILY OF BRITAIN.
TWO cardinal reasons, we have seen, each of national weight
and extent, inclined the British mind to accept Christianity--the
first, its identity in many important points with Druidism; the
second, its uncompromising antagonism to the whole system of the
Roman state mythology. The Roman persecution of both religions
identified them still further in the popular mind. Nowhere, then,
in Asia, Africa, or Europe, could the apostles find richer or a
better prepared soil for the Gospel. If we add that Britain was
the only country in these ages where the Christian could profess
and practise his religion free from persecution, we reasonably
and antecedently conclude that a strong Christian current must
have set in from both Jerusalem and Rome to this island from the
first or Pentescostal days of the Church.
We shall better estimate the force of the following
testimonies if we keep steadily in mind the fact that the great
British Church which Augustine found A.D.596 established in
Britain and Ireland, was essentially Eastern, proclaiming by
every usage in which she differed from Rome her direct and
independent birth from Jerusalem and the apostles themselves in
the first throes of Christianity. It is, indeed, an absurdity to
go about explaining the existence of such a Church, abounding in
all the characteristics of an ancient institution, deeply fixed
in the native mind and soil, in any other way than by a frank
accceptance of its apostolic origin. Every other attempt at
solution fails us. How came these archbishoprics, bishoprics,
dioceses, Christian colleges, parochial churches and endowments,
royal Christian houses, genealogies of saints, immense and
opulent monasteries, a whole nation of believers, to be in
Britain? How came they, on their first meeting with the
missionary of the Bishop of Rome, to proclaim with one voice, "We
have nothing to do with Rome; we know nothing of the Bishop of
Rome in his new character of the Pope; we are the British Church,
the Archbishop of which is accountable to God alone, having no
superior on earth." 1
This is one of those tremendous facts which rise before us
like a huge mountain in the plain of history. Rome found here a
Church older than herself, ramificions of which struck into the
very heart of the Continent, the missionary triumphs of which in
Italy itself in the life of Augustine were greater than his own
among the British Saxons; for Columba and his associates from the
primitive colleges in Ireland were the evangelizers of the
barbarian conquerors, the Lombards
1 The continental Churches admitted, for the most part, a Primacy
when they rejected the Supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. The
British Church admitted neither; it knew nothing of the Bishop of
Rome, except on an equality with any of its own British bishops,
or any other bishop in the Christian Church. The further we go
back into British history, the clearer shines forth in all our
laws the entire independence of the British crowns, Church, and
people, of all foreign authority. All our great legal authorities
concur on this point. "The ancient British Church," writes
Blackstone, vol. iv. p.105, "by whomsoever planted, was a
stranger to the Bishop of Rome and all his pretended
authorities." "The Britons told Augustine," writes Bacon,
Government of England, "they would not be subject to him, nor let
him pervert the ancient laws of their Church. This was their
resolution, and they were as good as their word, for they
maintained the liberty of their Church five hundred years after
his time, and were the last of all the Churches of Europe that
gave up their power to the Roman Beast, and in the person of
Henry VIII, that came of their blood by Owen Tudor, the first
that took that power away again."
of Northern Italy. The Gallican Church was entirely one with the
British in this opposition to Roman assumptions. The archbishops
of Treves were, as we learn from the Tungrensian Chronicles,
always supplied from Britain. Treves and Rheims became the
headquarters of Gallic liberties, and here rose, under Hincmar,
as powerful a resistance as in Britain to Italian supremacy. The
Briton could never understand why, because Rome professed certain
truths, she should arrogate spiritual despotism over all who held
the same. He does not appear to have troubled himself about her
errors and corruptions; these he regarded as her own matters,
with which, as not belonging to him, he did not interfere.
Cadvan, Prince of Wales, expresses himself thus to the Abbot
of Bangor: "All men may hold the same truths, yet no man thereby
be drawn into slavery to another. If the Cymry believed all that
Rome believes, that would be as strong reason for Rome obeying us
as for us to obey Rome. It suffices for us that we obey the
truth. If other men obey the truth, are they, therefore, to
become subject to us? Then were the truth of Christ made slavery
unto men, and not freedom."
The soldier who interrogated Augustine at the oak of
Conference seems, in like manner, to treat the question between
them as one quite apart from doctrine.
"Does Rome possess all the truth?"
"And you say we do - our usages only differ. Now of two men, if
both have all their limbs and senses complete, both are equal.
Because the Romans have noses and we have noses, must we either
cut off our noses to be Romans? must all who have noses be
subject to the Romans? Why, then, should all who hold the faith
be subject to Rome because she holds the faith?"
This rough, broad reasoning allowed almost identity in
doctrine and practices to be maintained by any Christian with
Rome, or any other Church, without in the most remote degree
admitting any claim Rome might advance on the ground of such
The Briton thus had his festivals, processions, floral
decorations, antiphonal choirs, cathedrals - an immense deal in
common with Rome--but he had had them for centuries before Papal
Rome was ever heard of. And he would have ridiculed the notion
that he was to give up a good thing because Rome also had it, as
he scorned the idea that a community in such things constituted
the shadow of a title on the part of Rome to his allegiance. His
position, in fact, was a very strong one, thoroughly Catholic,
thoroughly anti-fanatical, and at the same time thoroughly
anti-papal: and he knew its strength, resting on historical
monuments which could neither be ignored nor destroyed: around
him rose hoary cathedrals, churches, abbeys, colleges,
imperishable stones of witness "that his Church was the primitive
apostolical Church of Britain, that the Papacy, with all its
claims, was a novelty, an intrusion, an invention, a fable; that
there never was a time when the eyes of the Christian pilgrim did
not rest in this island on vast evidences bespeaking a Church
subject to no other Church on earth, built on its own apostolic
foundations, and recognising the apostolic Scriptures alone for
its rule of faith. 2
2 Bede's testimony as to the pure Scriptural character of the
teaching of the British Church is full and explicit, and he
contrasts, with feelings of shame and reluctance, the apostolic
lives of the British missionaries with those of his own Papal
Church. Of Columba he writes, "He taught only what was contained
in the prophetic, evangelic, and apostolic writings, all works of
piety and charity being at the same time diligently observed." -
Lib. iii. c. 41. Of Aidan: "All who resorted to him applied
themselves either to reading the Scriptures or to learning
Psalms." - Lib. iii. c. 5. Of Adamnan: "He was most admirably
versed in the knowledge of the Scriptures." - Lib. iii. c. 15.
How entirely the British Church rejected human authority in
matters of faith may be collected from the saying of Columba,
"Except what has been declared by the Law, the prophets, the
evangelists, and apostles, a profound silence ought to be
observed by all others on the subject of the Trinity."--Lib. iii.
The general conclusion arrived at by the writers who have
previously investigated this final part of our question may be
given in the words of Capellus: " I scarcely know of one author,
from the times of the Fathers downwards, who does not maintain
that St.Paul, after his liberation, preached in every country in
Western Europe, Britain included." 3 "Of St.Paul's journey to
Britain," writes Bishop Burgess, " we have as satisfactory proof
as any historical question can demand." 4 The same view is
substantially maintained by Baronius, the Centuriators of
Magdeburg, Alford or Griffith, next to Baronius the most erudite
of the Roman Catholic historians; Archbishops Parker and Ush,
Stillingfleet, Camden, Gibson, Cave, Nelson, Allix, etc.
Let us preface the 'catena authoritatum' on this point with a few
general Testimonies from widely different quarters.
"The cradle of the ancient British Church was a royal one,
herein being distinguished from all other Churches for it
proceeded from the daughter of the British king, Caractacus,
Claudia Rufina, a royal virgin, the same who was afterwards the
wife of Aulus Rufus Pudens, the Roman senator, and the mother of
a family of saints and marrtyrs." 5
"We have abundant evidence that this Britain of ours received the
Faith, and that from the disciples of Christ Himself, soon after
the crucifixion of Christ." 6
3 Hist. of the Apostles.
4 Independence of the British Church.
5 Moncaeus Atrebas, the learned Gallican divine, "In Syntagma,
6 Sir Henry Spelman's "Concilia," fol., p.1.
"Britain in the reign of Constantine had become the seat of a
flourishing and extensive Church." 7
"Our forefathers, you will bear in mind, were not generally
converted, as many would fain represent, by Roman missionaries.
The heralds of salvation who planted Christianity in most parts
of England were trained in British schools of theology, and were
firmly attached to those national usages which had descended to
them from the most venerable antiquity." 8
"The Christian religion began in Britain within fifty years of
Christ's ascension." 9
"Britain, partly through Joseph of Arimathaea, partly through
Fugatus and Damianus, was of all kingdoms the first that received
the Gospel." 10
"We can have no doubt that Christianity had taken root and
flourished in Britain in the middle of the second century." 11
7 Soames' Anglo-Saxon Church, Introd., p.29.
8 Soames' Bampton Lectures, pp.112-257. This statement is so
true, that sixty-three years after the landing of Augustine, that
is, A.D.66o, when all the Heptarchy, except Sussex, had been
converted, Wini, Bishop of Winchester, was the only bishop of the
Romish communion in Britain, and he had purchased his first
bishopric of London from Wulfhere, King of Mercia: all the rest
were British. And the cause is patent: Maelwyn or Patrick, the
apostle of Ireland; Ninian, the apostle of the southern Picts;
Aidan of the Northumbrians; Paul Hen his successor; Columba of
the Scots; Finan of the East Angles; Cad or Chad of the Mercians;
were all native Britons, educated in the native colleges. The
Romish succession had died down to one prelate, and Saxon
Christianity was kept alive or refounded by British Christians.
The succession of Augustine in Canterbury and Rochester expired
in Damianus. A.D.666.
9 Robert Parsons the "Jesuit's Three Conversions of England,"
vol. i. p.26.
10 Polydore Vergil, lib. ii.
11 Cardwell's (Camden Prof.) Ancient History, p. 18, 1837.
"It is perfectly certain, that before St.Paul had come to Rome
Aristobulus was absent in Britain, as it is confessed by all that
Claudia was a British lady." 12
"The faith which was adopted by the nation of the Britons in the
year of our Lord 165, was preserved inviolate, and in the
enjoyment of peace, to the time of the Emperor Diocletian." 13
Let us now trace our way back from the time of Venerable
Bede, A.D.740, step by step, to the apostolic era and the
In the seventh century we have a galaxy of Christian bishops
in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, whose names alone would
make a considerable catalogue.
In the year A.D.596 we have the Augustine mission landing in
Kent, followed by three conferences with the bishops of the
British Church. In A.D.600, Venantius Fortunatus, in his
Christian Hymns, spake of Britain as having been evangelized by
In A.D.542, Gildas writes: "We certainly know that Christ,
the True Sun, afforded His light, the knowledge of His precepts,
to our island in the last year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar."
In A.D.500-540, we have various productions of Christian
bards, such as TaIiesin and Aneurin, emanating from the courts f
the Christian sovereigns Britain---one of the latter, "The
Crowned Babe" (i.e., Christ), interesting as the earliest
European specimen, of any length, of rhyme in poetry: it is
composed in the ancient British tongue.
1In the yea A.D.408 Augustine of Hippo asks, "How many churches
are there not erected in the British isles
12 Alford's "Regia Fides," vol. i. p.19. 1
13 Bede, lib. i. c. 4.
14 " Transit et oceanum vel qua facit insula portum. Quasque
Britannus habet terras atque ultima Thule."
15 "De Excidio Britanniae," p.25.
which lie in the ocean?" 16 And about the same time
Arnobius writes: "So swiftly runs the word of God that though in
several thousand years God was not known, except among the Jews,
now, within the space of a few years, His word is concealed
neither from the Indians in the East nor from the Britons in the
Theodoretus in A.D.435 testifies: "Paul, liberated from his
first captivity at Rome preached the Gospel to the Britons and
others in the West. Our fishermen and publicans not only
persuaded the Romans and their tributaries to acknowledge the
Crucified and His laws, but the Britons also and the Cimbri
To the same purport in his commentary on 2 Timothy iv.16:
"When Paul was sent by Festus on his appeal to Rome, he
travelled, after being acquitted, into Spain, and thence extended
his excursions into other countries, and to the islands
surrounded by the sea."
More express testimony to Paul's preaching in Britain could
not be delivered, nor from a more unexceptional quarter.
Theodoret was Bishop of Cyropolis, attended both the General
Councils of Ephesus (A.D.431), against the Nestorians, and of
Chalcedon, A.D. 451, consisting of 600 bishops. As an excellent
interpreter of Scripture, and a writer of ecclesiastical history,
he deservedly ranks high.
Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, supplies (A.D.402)
cumulative evidence of the existence of pure British Christianity
"The British Isles," he writes, "which are beyond the sea, and
which lie in the ocean, have received the virtue of the Word.
Churches are there founded and altars erected. Though thou
shouldst go to the ocean, to
16 Opera, fol., Paris Edit., p.676.
17 Arnobius, Ad. Psalm cxlvii.
18 Theodoret, De Civ. Grcec. Off., lib. ix. Nicephorus seems to
have followed Theodoretus (Niceph., lib. ii. c. 40); and Eusebius
Pamphilus, lib. iv.---
the British Isles, there thou shouldst hear all men everywhere
discoursing matters out of the Scriptures, with another voice,
indeed, but not another faith, with a different tongue but the
same judgment." 19
From India to Britain," writes St.Jerome (A.D.378), "all
nations resound with the death and resurrection of Christ." 20
In 320, Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, speaks of apostolic
missions to Britain as a matter of notoriety: The apostles passed
beyond the ocean to the isles called the Brittanic Isles." 21
The first part of the fourth century is the era of
Constantine the Great and his mother Helena. Gibbon, with that
perversity which beset him as a mania in dealing with the leading
facts of Christianity, strives to persuade himself that
Constantine and Helen were not Britons, but natives of some
obscure village in the East 22; his sole support for such a
supposition being the fragment of an 'anonymous author,' appended
to Ammianus Marcellinus. "The man must be mad," states Baronius,
"who, in the face of universal antiquity, refuses to believe that
Constantine and his mother were Britons, born in Britain." 1
19 Chrysostomi, Orat.
20 Jerome, "In Isaiam," c. liv.; also, "Epistol"., xiii. ad
21 Eusebius. "De Demonstratione Evangehi," lib. iii.
22 Naissus. Colchester, the birth-place of Helen of the Cross,
has, from time immemorial, borne the cross with three crowns for
1 Baronius, ad ann. 306: "Non nisi extreme dementiae hominis."
Until the reign of Constantine the Roman Christians had no other
church than the Titulus to worship in: "Ante Constantini imperium
templa Romae non habuerint Christiani," observes Bale (Scriptores
Britan., p.17.) The Pope, it is well known, claims the
sovereignty of the States of the Church by right of the decree of
the British Emperor Constantine making them over in free gift to
the Bishop of Rome. That this decree was a forgery no one doubts;
it was, however, confirmed by Pepin. By the papal Church's own
showing, it is infinitely more indebted to the ancient British
Church and sovereigns than they ever were to it. Without the
benefactions of the Claudian family and Constantine, it would
never have risen above the character given it by Pius the First,
the brother of Hermas Pastor - "Pauper Senatus Christi." For its
earthly aggrandisement it is mainly indebted to ancient British
Archbishop Usher delivers a catalogue of twenty continental
authorities in the affirmative - not one to the contrary. The
Panegyrics of the Emperors, the genealogy of his own family, as
recited by one of his descendants; Constantine Palaeologus,
native records and traditions, all the circumstances of his
career, demonstrate Constantine a Briton, bred in the strongest
British ideas. "It is well known," states Sozomen, "the great
Constantine received his Christian education in" 2
"Helen was unquestionably a British princess," writes Melancthon.
3 "Christ," declares Pope Urban in his Brief, "Britannia,"
"shewed to Constantine the Briton the victory of the cross for
his sceptre." "Constantine," writes Polydore Vergil, "born in
Britain, of a British mother, proclaimed Emperor in Britain be-
yond doubt, made his natal soil a participator in his glory." 4
Constantine was all this and more by his mother's side he
was the heir and representative of the royal Christian dynasty of
The policy of Constantine, in carrying out which for twenty
years with admirable wisdom and inflexible purpose he was
supported by armies levied for the most part in his native
British dominions, consisted in extending to the whole Roman
world the system of constitutional Christianity which had long
been established in Briatin.
2 Sozomen, "Eccles. Hist"., lib. i. c. v. So Eumenius, in his
Panegyric on Constantius to Constantine: " He begot thee in the
very flower of his age." - Pan. 9.
3 "Epistola," p.189.
4 "Historia Brit"., p.381.
To be continued