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church, which had been burnt; it is styled mater sanctorum-tumulus sanctorum, quam ab ipsis discipulis Domini edificatem, “ the mother and burying-place of the saints, founded by the very disciples of our Lord;" and adds, venerabilis habet antiquorum, auctoritas, “it has the venerable authority of the ancients ;” and elsewhere, in the same charter, he adds, quæ fons et origo totius religionis Angliæ pro certo habetur, « which is incontrovertibly acknowledged to be the fountain and origin of the whole religion of England." This church was the head of all ecclesiastical authority in these nations, till the year 1154, when Pope Adrian IV. transferred that honour to St. Albans.

It is stated by several authorities, that when the church built by Joseph of Arimathea, was decayed by time, Deni, a Welsh or British bishop, erected a new one in the same place; that this also in time falling to decay, twelve men came from North Britain, and put it in good repair. And, lastly, King Ina, donor of the Peter-pence, pulled down the old one, and built a stately church, to the honour of Christ, and St. Peter and St. Paul, filletted under the highest coping, with heroic verses in Latin, celebrating the memory of the founder and the saints to whom it was dedicated. But afterwards, this church was, by the renowned Dunstan, converted to a monastery of Benedictine Monks, himself being sometimes abbot there ; and so it continued till the reign of Henry VIII. when it shared in the downfall of abbies. a

The story of Lucius, king of Britain, who, in A. D. 156, is said by the venerable Bede, to have embraced the Christian faith, and who is called the first Christian king, is generally known. Historians say, that

• Will. Malmesby. Camb. and Matt. West. Aug. 727.

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this king sent Elwan and Medwin to Eleutherus, the twelfth bishop of Rome, praying that he might be instructed in the Christian faith ; which was accordingly done. The words of Bede are, “that, in the year 156, in the time of Marcus Antonius Verus, and Aurelius Commodus, when Eleutherus presided over the Roman see, Lucius, king of the Britons, sent a letter to that bishop, requesting that, by his mandate, he might be admitted into the Christian church. His pious request, (adds the Anglo-Saxon historian,) was presently granted him; and the faith, thus received, was maintained inviolate among the Britons, in profound peace, until the time of Dioclesian."

It is singular, that neither Irenæus, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome, Sulpitius, Severus, Theodoret, Prosper, Orosius, nor Cassiodorus, though learned and inquisitive men, who have reported what they knew concerning the propagation of the Christian religion ; nor even Gildas, though a Briton, who wrote in the sixth century, nor probably any other author, before the eighth century, should mention this circumstance! And the writers who have copied from Bede, differ very much as to the time of his conversion; the Burton Annals placing it A. D. 137, being the last year of the Emperor Adrian, and John Harding reckons it to be in the year 190, in the reign of Commodus,-a distance of 53 years! Neither do they agree as to the person by whom he was converted, nor as to the place where he reigned, whether in the north or south parts of the island.— The truth seems to be this, says Dr. Adam Clarke, that although Christianity was introduced into Britain long before the time of Lucius, yet, he knowing the Christian religion, and finding the means of propagating it in his own district were very inadequate, might send to Eleutherus for additional help: and from this the zealous Romanists might take occasion to say, that King Lucius was converted by Roman missionaries.

It is stated, that Archbishop Usher found in an old Saxon Chronicle, that Lucius was king of the Britons in Wales, in fact, a Silurian prince, beloved by his people, and on good terms with the Romans. The countenance he gave to religion, and his being supposed to be the first who established public worship among the Christians, procured him, in a subsequent period, the appellation of Lleuver Mawr, or the Great Light; so that the Welsh monks called him Lucius. His territory extended ,not beyond the present county of Monmouth, and a part of Glamorgan. Being descended from a race of princes, who had in former ages been elected to exercise sovereign power over the confederated Britons, he might, perhaps, among his own people, be honoured with the style and title of king of the Britons.

Such an account of the patronage given to the Christian faith, by a devout prince, says Mr. Hughes, carries with it no air of improbability. Lucius, when convinced of the truth himself, and being confirmed therein by the preaching of some persons well versed in the doctrines of Christianity, took on him the profession of that religion, and used his influence for the promotion of it among the people, with whom his example must have considerable weight. Idolatry hitherto prevailed among the Silurian Britons ; but now the religion of Christ was publicly sanctioned, and the idolaters became ashamed of their practices. The ministers of the true religion were poor and obscure men, and they had no regular places set apart for divine worship, and their adherents were in a forlorn and unprotected state. This generous prince raised the Christians from their low condition,

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erected suitable places for the celebration of religious services, and thus became a nursing-father to the church,

Other testimonies might easily be produced, to show the early introduction of Christianity into this country; but as these fully prove the point, others are not necessary. We conclude, therefore, that the gospel was established here, as early as even our traditions state ; and, very probably, by the apostles themselves, or by persons immediately deputed by them; for, the primitive disciples of our Lord received his command in the most literal sense, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."

It would be highly gratifying to us, if we had authentic documents giving an account of the progress

and extension of the Christian religion in Britain, at this early period; but, alas! we have very few remains of the first Christians in this island. Gildas assigns this reason for it. He says, “ the monuments of our country, or writings, if there were any, appear not; they were either burnt by the fire of enemies, or carried far off by our banished countrymen.” He also states, “ that though the precepts of Christ were received but lukewarmly by the inhabitants, yet they remained entirely with some, less sincerely with others, until the nine

years

of

persecution under Dioclesian."

Dioclesian, who had risen from being a common soldier to the rank of general, on the death of Numerian, in the year 284, was chosen emperor.

In about two years after, he made choice of Maximian Herculius, of low rank in the army, for his associate in the empire. Five years after this, each of the two emperors fixed on a vicegerent, to enable them better to bear the ponderous weight of the civil and military affairs of government. Galerius Maximian, originally a shepherd in Dacia, afterwards a soldier, who had quelled a violent insurrection among the Gaulish shepherds, and Constantius Chlorus, who had obtained victories in Germany and Britain, were constituted Cæsars; and the highest honours, next to the imperial sovereignty itself, were attached to their title, along with the right of succession, on the demise of the reigning emperor.

The emperor Dioclesian, during the course of a prosperous reign, had favoured the Christians for the space of nearly twenty years, in which time they had considerably sunk into a state of lukewarmness. On his coming to the city of Nicomedia, in Bithynia, Cæsar Galerius, who hated the Christians, prevailed on him, in the year 303, to issue orders for demolishing the cathedral church there, built opposite the imperial palace. He also published an edict, commanding the Christian churches to be demolished, the Holy Scriptures to be burned, the persons who had obtained any office in the magistracy to be degraded, and the meaner sort to be sold for slaves. But these proceedings were only the commencement of the persecution; for, soon after, Dioclesian, with the consent of his colleague Maximian, published an edict, ordering the Christian bishops to be bound with chains, and forced, by all manner of torture, to sacrifice to idols. This injunction was so rigorously executed, that, in the space of one month, it is stated, seventeen thousand Christians were put to death, exclusive of the multitudes that were banished.

This was the tenth general persecution of the Christians, and exceeded in violence and duration any former

Bede says, “ Dioclesian commanded the churches to be spoiled, the Christians to be tormented and killed : which persecution was both longer and also more cruel than all the other; for ten years together, it continued

one.

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