« PredošláPokračovať »
AN ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST INTRODUCTION OF THE GOS
PEL INTO BRITAIN. BY THE REV. W. RICHARDS. *
prior to the Roman invasion, or the first introduction of christianity, is a point upon which antiquaries and historians have entertained very different opinions. While some have represented them as a nation of babarians and savages, scarcely. superior to the Esquimaux, the Caffres, or the New Hollanders ; others again have maintained, that they were really an enlightened people, who had arrived at an advanced state of civilization and improvement, under the direction of a numerous and respectable order of instructors, whose maxims and precepts would have suffered no degradation by a comparison with those of the celebrated sages of Greece or Rome. This latter opinion seems not ill founded.
The instructors here alluded to were the Druids, or more properly speaking, the Beirdd, or Bards; for the Druids were in fact only a particular class of that order. The very language of the Britons appears to have been formed, improved, and brought to its utmost state of perfection by these men. It does not appear to have been materially amended or improved since their time. " It carries in itself,” (says 'a respectable modern writer) " the evidence of being free from intermixture, being so constructed, as not to assimilate with foreign words, except such as are mere simple sounds; and there could hardly be a case where any of this descrip could be wanted; and should words have been adopted, they are very easily discriminated. There are many traits in it, beside its regularity, that are worthy of investigation, and
A few copies of the “ Account" have been printed but not published. The Author has now corrected and prepared it for the Monthly Repository. It will be followed by a Sketch of the History of Pelagius, and a View of the state of Chris. tianity among the Britons, from the time of Pelagius to that of Wickliffe. VOL. II.
which will not permit us to ascribe its formation to a nation of savages, or to an age involved in barbarism. Beyond all doubt there has been an era when science diffused its light among the Britons, beyond what will be now readily acknowledged, and that too in a very carly period of the world.” To that period we must attribute the institution of Bardism (or Druidism, as it is most commonly called) among our ancestors, which, according to the above mentioned writer, embraced all the leading principles which tend to spread liberty, peace and happiness among mankind. And it has been affirmed to have been no more inimical to christianity than the religion of Noah, Job or Abraham. Be that as it might, it is not to be supposed that it could bear any comparison with christianity, as taught by its blessed founder and his apostles, which doubtless is, to adopt the words of the late Dr. Franklin, in a letter to a friend, a litile before he died, “ the best religion the world ever saw, or is likely to see.”
At what time this best of all religions was first introduced into this island, is a question upon which our ecclesiastical historians have been much divided. Most of them, however, seem to agree in fixing that event before the expiration of the first century; and the testimonies of the ans, cients have been produced in support of this opinion. Both Tertullian and Origen speak of christianity as having made its way into Britain : nor do they represent it as a recent event, but rather the contrary ; so that it may be presumed to have taken place long before their time, and even as early as the first age. The former says, “ there are places of the Britons which were inaccessible to the Romans, but yet subdued by Christ* :" meaning, probably, North Britain, or Scotland, some parts of which the Romans, it seems, could never entirely subdue; but the gospel cannot well be supposed to have penetrated into that country till some time after it had been received in the southern parts of the island. The latter
says, power of God our Saviour is even with them in Britain, who are divided from our world f.” Eusebius is more explicit : speaking of the pious labours of the apostles, he positively declares, that some of them “had passed over the ocean, and preached in the British Isles.” . From his
* Tert. Adv. Judæos, cap. 7. | Orig. in Luc. cap. i. hom. 6. It was usual with the ancients long before Origen's time, to speak of Britain as divided from the world. Even King Agrippa, in his speech to the Jews at Jerusalem, about the beginning of the revolt, uses a similar language. See Virg. Eclog. I. Hor. Od. i. 35. Josephus Jewish War, ii. 16. 4.
connection with the imperial court, and his known intimacy with the emperor himself, who was a native of Britain, he may well be supposed to have possessed the best information; and, as much of his reasoning depends upon the truth of the above allegation, it may be presumed he had taken care to be well assured of the fact. Theodoret also, another ancient and respectable ecclesiastical historian, expressly names the Britons among the nations whom the apostles (or the fishermen, publicans and tent-makers, as he calls them), had persuaded to embrace the religion of him who was crucified *.
To the foregoing testimonies may be added that of Gildas, the earliest of all our British historians. According to him, the gospel began to be published here about the time of the meinorable revolt and overthrow of the Britons under Boadicea, which seems to have happened about the year 60 or 61, and was followed by a long interval of peace, which could not fail of proving favourable to the introduction of the new religion, as well as to the general success of its publishers : speaking of the said revolt, together with its disastrous termination and consequences, Gildas adds, “ In the meantime Christ, the true sun, afforded his ravs, that is, the knowledge of his precepts to this island, benumbed with extreme cold, having been at a great distance from the sun, not the sun in the firmament, but the eternal sun in heavent." Upon what authority Gildas places that event at the time above specified, he does not say. From domestic or British records he appears to have derived no assistance; and he was of opinion that no documents of that kind remained then in the country. And if there ever had been any such, he thought they had either been burnt by the enemy, or carried into foreign parts by our exiled or emigrated countrymen: so that he had not been able to discover any of them, which he looked upon as a matter of serious regret. He must therefore have relied upon the authority of some foreign records, which he owns he had occasionally made use of; or he might in this instance venture to follow the common and prevailing tradition of the country. However that was, his statement appears to be, upon the whole, just and correct, and is remarkably supported by the Triades *, which are ancient British documents of undoubted credit (as also by the Bonedd y Saint, another very ancient record), though but little known till lately, except to a few who had access to the remaining depositories of ancient Cambrian records, From these Triades we learn that the famous Caractacus, after he had been overthrown in the wars which he had carried on for nine years ir. defence of the liberties of his country, and afterwards basely betrayed and delivered up to the Romans by Aregwedd Foeddig (the Cartismandua and Boadicea of Roman authors), was, together with bis father Brân, and whole family, carried captive to Rome, about the year 52 or 53, where they were detained seven years or more. In the mean time Rome enjoyed the preaching of the gospel, and Brân, with others of the family, became converts to christianity. After the expiration of seven years they had permission to return, and were the means of introducing the knowledge of Christ among their countrymen; on which account Brân was long distinguished as one of the three blessed sovereigns, and his family as one of the three holy lineages of Britain. At the return of these earliest British converts, it might be expected that some of the christians with whom they had associated at Rome, would be solicited and prevailed upon to accompany them back to their native country. Many of the eminent disciples of Christ, whose names are recorded in the New Testament, were probably at Rome when they quitted that city; but it does not appear that any of
* Theodoret, Tom. iv. Serm. 9. p.610.
+ Gild. Epist. c. i. Gildas was the son of Caw, a northern chieftain, and grandson of Geraint ab Erbin, prince of Dyfnaint, or Devon. He was born about A. D. 500, in the north, among either the Cumbrian Britons, or those of Stratclyde, whose Chief city was Caeralcluid, or Dunbarton; hence he is sometimes called Gildas Albanicus. Toward the middle of the sixth century, the Saxons made so very considerable and alarming a progress in their encroachments upon the Britons of Cumbria and Stratelyde, as well as those of Northumberland and the Lothians, that Caw and his family were obliged to remove from those parts, and take refuge in Wales. The father settled in Anglesey, where he passed the remainder of his days. Most of the children, it is said, went to Siluria, where they were hospitably received by king Arthur, whose capital and favourite residence was Caerleon upon Usk. Many of them embraced a religious life, and Gildas himself was of that number. He joined himself with the congregation of Catwg in Glamorgan, (an institution which owed its origin to the zeal and policy of St, Germans and his anti-pelagian adherents), where he resided for some time. In 555 he is said to have opened a school at Caerbaddon, or Bath, whence he is sometimes denominated Gildas Badonicus : for there seems to be no good foundation for thinking that there were two Gildases. He has been thought, by good judges, the same person with Aneurin Gwawdrydd, the celebrated bard : if so, he fell at last by the hand of an assassin, a chieftain of the name of Eidyn, in revenge, probably, for the freedom and severity of his censures upon the men in power, whose characters he had exhibited in a very un, favourable light. His son Cennydd was at the head of a congregation or college at Cor-Cennydd now Llangennydd in Gwyr. Cennydd had possessions, it seems, at Caerphilly, which from him was also called Seingbenydd. Its present name may probably be traced to his son Fili, who was also a religious man, and lived about the beginning of the seventh century,
The Triades of the Isle of Britain are some of the most curious and valuable fragments preserved in the Welsh language. 'They relate to persons and events from the earlicst times to the beginning of the seventh sentury. See Preface to Llywarch Hen's Poems.
them did at that time visit Britain. We find, however, that some christians from Rome did actually accompany those liberated and converted captives hither ; but of their exact number we are not informed. The names of three only of them have been preserved. One was called lid, and is said to have been an Israelite ; of the other two, the names of one was Cyndav, and of the other Arwystli Hên, both of them probably of Gentile extraction. What their Roman names were it is now impossible to say. They are supposed to have been all preachers, and are said to have been instrumental (the former especially) in turning great numbers of the Britons from the error of their ways, and persuading them to believe in Christ.
As Brân and Caradoc (otherwise Brennus and Caractacus) were Silurian princes, we may safely conclude that christianity made its way into Wales as early as into any part whatever of this kingdom ; so that it appears to have existed there now no less than 1740 years. When Brân returned to his native land, some of his family, it is thought, staid behind and settled at Rome. Of these Claudia, mentioned along with Pudens and Linus, in Paul's 2d Epistle to Timothy, is deemed to have been one, and supposed to be the same with that Claudia, the wife of Pudens, mentioned by Martial the poet, who lived in those times, and who spoke of her as a Briton of extraordinary virtue, wit, and beauty. To this indeed it has been objected, that Martial, living in the reign of Trajan, cannot be supposed to speak of Paul's Claudia, who flourished in the reigns of Claudius and Nero. But it might be urged in reply, that though he lived in Trajan's reign, he lived also and resided at Rome in the reign of Vespasian, if not in that of Nero; and the epigram in which he mentions Claudia, might be written in his younger years, when she was yet in the prime and bloom of life. Some have made her to be the daughter of Caractacus: it is not at all unlikely that she was, at least, one of his kindred. Her Roman name can be here no objection, as one of Caractacus's sons is known to have borne the name of Octavius. Pomponia Græcina, the wife of Aulus Plautius, Claudius's lieutenant, and the first Roman governor here, has also been thought a Briton and a christian, and one of the very earliest British christians. Of her Tacitus says, “ Pomponia Græcina, an illustrious lady, married to Plautius, who was honoured with an ovation or lesser triumph, for his victories in Britain, was accused of having embraced a strange and foreign superstiLion; and hér trial for that crime was committed to her husband.