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in burning the churches, in banishing the innocent, in murdering the Christians, and never ceased.” It did not become general till the 17th year of Dioclesian ; but, previous to that time, Maximian had raised a grievous persecution in the East. And even Constantius officially persecuted the Christians in Spain and Gaul, out of compliance with the injunctions of the emperors; for the Cæsar being only vicegerent of the imperial court, as such, was entirely subject to their controul. In Spain and Gaul, the persecution raged to that degree, that the emperors flattered themselves that they had utterly extirpated the Christian religion, as appears from certain monuments, the inscriptions on which are preserved in Gruterus, containing these words : NOMINE CHRISTIANORUM DELETO; on another, SUPERSTITIONE CHRISTI
That is, The very Name of Christian is destroyed—The superstition of Christ is every where abolished.
The Christians in Britain were, for a short time, great sufferers. It is said, that Maximian almost rooted out the Christian religion from Britain, and they who suffered martyrdom were almost without number. Gildas says, " That their churches were thrown down, and all the books of the Holy Scriptures that could be found were burnt in the streets, and the chosen priests of the flock of our Lord, together with the innocent sheep, murdered; so that, in some parts of the province, no footsteps of the Christian religion did appear. How many did then flee, how many were destroyed, how many different kinds of sufferings some did endure, how great was the ruin of apostates, how glorious the crown of martyrdom!" Bede adds, “ It made Britain to be honoured with many holy martyrs, who firmly stood and died in the confession of their faith.”
Owing to the usurpations of Carausius and Alectus, the British Church escaped the provincial persecutions raised by Galerius; and there the amiable disposition of Constantius contributed much to check and abate the storm, so as to prevent its fury from being spent here. In the year 304, on the resignation of Dioclesian and Maximian, Constantius succeeded to the purple; and then having full power to act according to the mildness and equity of his disposition, he immediately put å stop to persecution in the western provinces. And as he was not more than two years in Britain previous to his possessing sovereign power, the Christians here had but for a short space to drink the bitter cup, not much longer than a year. This good prince, who continued the latter part of his life in Britain, would not permit any man to suffer death in his dominions on account of his religion. *
The Christians, who had fled into woods and caves, to hide themselves from the destructive scourge
persecution, now resuming courage, appeared openly, and boldly professed their faith in Christ. Under the auspices of the emperor, they began to rebuild their demolished churches, and flourished to a great degree both in peace and unity. This excellent prince died at York, and was interred there, in the year
306. Constantius having declared his son Constantine his successor in the Western empire, he received the imperial purple, and evidently appeared favourable to Christianity. Being always friendly to the Christians, he secured to them the free exercise of their religion, even before he himself publicly professed the faith of Christ, which he did after he had overcome his rivals in the empire. As Christianity advanced, some of the temples of idols
were destroyed, and others were dedicated to the worship of the one only living and true God.
After this remarkable change, the Christians multiplied exceedingly, and the island abounded with churches. There were three British bishops present at the Council of Arles, held A. D. 314, supposed to be those of London, York, and Caerleon. There is good reason to believe, that there were some British bishops present also at the famous Council of Nice, held A. D. 325; and that there were several at the Council of Ariminum, held A. D. 359; but so poor, that it is said their expenses were paid by their brethren. It is evident, therefore, that there was not only Christianity in Britain, at all these early periods ; but, also, that there was a regulated church, with its bishops, who were thought of sufficient consequence to be summoned to foreign councils, where matters of vital importance to Christianity, were discussed and determined.
The great design of the Council of Nice, convoked by the emperor Constantine, and to which all the bishops throughout the provinces were summoned to send their representatives, was to establish the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son, in opposition to the doctrine of the Arians, who asserted that the Son was created. The creed, drawn up at Nice, has been considered as one of the main bulwarks of the Church of Christ, in defence of the Catholic doctrine, or that generally received by orthodox Christians, concerning the Divine Nature; and especially the eternal divinity of the Son, who is here spoken of as “the only begotten Son of God; begotten of the Father before all worlds ; God of God; Light of Light; very God of very God; begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father ; by whom all things were made.” The Nicean fathers considered the Son, the second Person in the Divine essence or Godhead, as existing equally from eternity with the Father ; and therefore equally entitled to divine worship as God, in conjunction with the Father and the Holy Ghost.
The Rev. Professor White judiciously remarks: “ If we trace the Christian religion through the various revolutions of the Church, we shall observe two doctrines, which, beyond all the rest, mark with a distinguishing lustre the creed which justly deserves the appellation of Catholic. Explications of those doctrines may vary ; but the grand essentials of them seem to be interwoven with the original texture of Christian faith ; I mean the doctrines of the Divinity and Atonement of Christ : doctrines alike unknown to the Koran of Mahomet and the creed of Socinus.” a Though an enemy to evangelical doctrines, yet even Faustus Socinus, however reluctantly, by the force of irresistible evidence, is compelled to acknowledge, “ That from the infancy of the Church, there had been very many pious, learned men, martyrs too, who had embraced this grievous error, namely, that Jesus Christ is that one God, who created all things, or certainly begotten of his proper substance." b
This confession, whether extorted by the force of truth, or the result of temporary conviction, is conceding the point, and virtually admitting the essential Divinity of Christ.
The introduction of the Saxons into Britain, forms an important epoch in the ecclesiastical history of this country; and was occasioned by the Romans withdrawing from it. They had not much intercourse with Britain, except in the way of commerce, from the period of Cæsar's last departure, which was nearly sixty years
before the birth of our Saviour, till the reign of Claudius, being an interval of about one hundred years. The Roman armies finally left Britain, in A. D. 446; being 501 years from the time of their first descent on the island, and 403 years after their settlement in the country. This last departure, was occasioned by the Goths and Vandals being at the very portals of their magnificent metropolis ; so that it was with them far more a matter of necessity than choice, for the loss of it was afterwards pathetically lamented by an orator, when addressing the emperor, in these words : “ It was no small damage to the commonwealth, to lose the very
bare name of Britain, to forego a land so plentiful in corn, so rich in pasture, so full of mines, and veins of metals, so accommodated with havens, and for circuit so large and
The Romans being gone, Britain was left almost in a defenceless state: and the Picts, knowing this, entered on a scene of new ravages and devastation. The Britons, being too weak to oppose immediate resistance, had recourse to the desperate measure of calling in one barbarous nation to protect them against the invading power of another.
The Saxons being invited by the Britons, Hengist and Horsa, two brothers, sons of Witigisel, general of the Saxons, and chiefs, on account of their valour and nobility, embarked their troops in three vessels, and landed at Ebbsfleet, in the isle of Thanet, in the year 449, and in the second year of the reign of Vortigern. Being joined by the British forces, they met the Picts and the Scots, who had advanced as far as Stamford, in Lincolnshire, and, after a sanguinary conflict, finally defeated them. They were first settled in Thanet, as a residence
a Samnes's Antiq. of Ancient Britain, p. 5.