« AnteriorContinuar »
of Britain; and this, too, he himself shews by a singular inconsistency, which he does not seem to be aware of. But the object here is not to ascertain the extent of Lucius' kingdom, nor yet his own existence, which is already granted, but to shew the manner in which his conversion was brought about—who were the instruments of it-the truth, at least the probable truth, of the mission to Rome, and the application to Eleutherius for baptism into the church ; and consequently the natural inference, that this (the close of the second century) was the FIRST INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY INTO WESTERN Britain.
The writer is well aware that he is now treading on delicate ground, and it is possible that he may be giving offence to some parties hostile to Rome, yet credit must be given where it is due. The opinion arrived at is neither hasty nor yet without careful examination. All the writer asks, is a patient and an unprejudiced hearing. Then let the verdict be given accordingly.
1. Venerable Bede, in his Epitome to his History, says: “cui (h. e. Eleutherius) literas Britanniæ Lucius mittens, ut Christianus efficeretur petiit et impetravit."
2. Nennius, Hist. Brit. sect. 22, Ed. Stev. “ Lucius Britannicus rex cum omnibus regulis totius Britannicæ gentis baptismum suscepit."
3. Liber Laudavensis, supposed to have been compiled about the beginning of the twelfth century : “ Hic (Eleutherius) accepit epistolam a Lucio Brit. Reg. ut Christianus efficeretur per ejus mandatum.”
4. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Paris edition, 1517, fol. 33: “Coillo successit filius ejus Lucius qui ad fidem Christianam anhelans ad summam pontificem mittit, ut ab eo baptisma sacrum recipiat una cum suis subditis."
5. So also Platina, in Vit. Eleuth., and Nauclerus, in Chronograph, and Philip Bergomensis, and Hector Boethius, all of them mention baptism, directly or indirectly, and leave no doubt in our minds as to the mission to Rome being connected with his first conversion to Christianity, and in no instance, as far as the writer's observation goes, do they assume, as Mr. Williams does, that he was a Christian long before. It is very true and a sa testimony on the side of Mr. Williams it is here mentioned—the Magdeburg Centuriators, cent. ii. fol. 6, give the following as a reason for the mission : “ Accersiti sunt plures Doctores; qui eas scintillas, quas antea habuerunt, sursus accenderent." These words, then, imply, as far as they go, that Christianity was here before. But their single testimony can never be expected to outweigh the united voice of antiquity, especially when their wellknown inaccuracy in other matters is thrown into the scale. Besides, we think we can prove, by a fair deduction, that Christianity was not in Siluria before the time of Lucius—as also how it came there—and by what means.
And it was to shew how much our proof agreed with the general voice of tradition that the quotations above were adduced, not that any assistance was expected from them further than a confirmation of the following inquiry.
The motives that induced Lucius to embrace Christianity, and to send to Rome, are differently assigned by different writers. Some, for instance Alford, as also Baronius, attribute it to Lucius' admiration
of the constancy and firmness of the martyrs under the general persecution. But how was Lucius, living in a remote and obscure corner of Britain, to know much of what was passing on in the other parts of the empire ? and most assuredly not sufficient to discriminate as to the merits or demerits of the cause of the persecution. And that he could not have been an eye-witness of it in his own dominions is certain, since Gildas assures us of the fact that there was no persecution in Britain till the time of Dioclesian. Our own Usher acknowledges that he could not find what induced Lucius to send to Rome, and so leaves the question undecided. Let us see, however, whether the following inquiry will not unravel at least some of the mystery, if not guide us to the probable truth of that story, which has been so exaggerated by different writers as to have become at once the wonder as well as the ridicule of Christendom.
The Legio Secunda Augusta entered Britain under the command of Vespasian in the reign of Claudius, (see Tacitus in Hist., lib. iii. cap. 44.) Whether it was employed by Ostorius in his battle with Caractacus, A.D. 51, or afterwards by Suetonius in his reduction of Mona, it is difficult to say; but we know for a fact that it was ordered to join the expedition against Boadicea, and that it did not arrive in time to take a share in the engagement that took place in consequence of the negligence of its commander, Pænius Posthumus, (Tacit. Annal. lib. xiv. 37.) It is probable, however, that it acted under Julius Frontinus in the year 76. In the time of Hadrian they were in Cumberland, and, says Sir R. Hoare, they had probably their share in the work of Hadrian's Vallum, A.D. 120.
Several inscriptions found in Scotland prove that in the time of Antonine they were employed in the building of the wall from the mouth of the Esk to that of the Tweed. Antonine died A.n. 160. At what time they reached Caerleon.on-Usk it is difficult to ascertain, but it is certain that they were here in the time of Severus, from the following inscription found at Caerleon : “ Pro salute Augustorum nostrorum Severi et Antonini et Getæ Cæsaris, Publius Saltienus Publii filius Mæcia [Tribu] Thalamus Hadrianus Præfectus legionis secunde Augusta Caio Vumpeiano et Luciliano [consulibus.]” It would appear that this was written about 210.
The probability, however, is, that they took up their station at Caerleon previous to the reign of Severus, especially if one considers the turbulent spirit of the Silurians, (the main cause of their being stationed here at all,) and their presence in the north not being wanted, as the rabid incursions of the Picts bad been effectually stopped by the two great walls. On their way from the north they left in Westmoreland the following inscription : « Caius Varronius ... essus legionis Vicesimæ Valentis victricis Elius Lucanus Tribunus Legionis secunde Auguste C."
However, it is pretty clear from the account here given, and the in. scriptions, that at all events their station could not have been taken up at Caerleon before the time of Antonine, however soon it might have been after. And also, it is clear that they were here at the time of Severus, who assumed the purple at the close of the second century. There is,
Vol. XXVII.- March, 1845.
then, a period, say thirty years, from the death of Antonine to the reign of Severus, left to conjecture as to the time of their first settling at Caerleon. If it be conceded that their station was taken up in this interval, considerable light, amounting almost to positive truth, will be thrown on the history of Lucius' conversion, as well as a reconciliation of the general tradition.
Usher has cited a great number of authorities as to the year of the mission to Rome, varying from A.D. 137 to 199, most of them, how. ever, agreeing that it was in the latter half of the century. If this be correct, the concession already asked for is not wanted, as it connects us immediately with the ascertained fact of the time when the legion was actually at Caerleon, or, at all events, very near it.
The object, the reader will observe, is to connect the conversion of Lucius with the settlement of this legion.
If Welsh pedigrees be allowed to have a voice in the matter, we approach still nearer to certainty; and the writer sees no reason why their authority should be rejected, especially when it is considered that, by comparing their dates with the general voice of antiquity, an agreement is found, as is the case in the present instance. Thus, in ancient pedigrees, Lucius is placed in the third generation after Caractacus. This, then, would be a.d. 160. But this is exactly the average of the various dates assigned by the various writers enumerated by Usher. Surely there must be some truth in this remarkable, and no one will call it intentional, coincidence. Usher never saw these pedigrees, otherwise he would have adduced them as wit
On the other hand, the writers of the pedigrees never saw Usher, for they were written long before his time.
Let the reader, however, take the matter in what light he pleases. Let him trace, as is here done, the progress of the legio secunda throughout the island, with a view of ascertaining its settlement at Caerleon-on-Usk. Let him then ascertain, by reference to those authorities cited by Usher, the year of Luciús conversion. Let him compare the average of these with the account given in the Welsh genealogies, allowing thirty years, the usual period, to each generation, and he will find that it is difficult to arrive at any other conclusion than a coincidence between the time of Lucius' conversion and the first settlement of the legion at Caerleon-namely, a coincidence so far as it is possible for things to coincide at so remote a period of ancient his. tory. Now, what does this coincidence imply? Why, simply this that the legion was the instrument through which Lucius was converted that it accounts for the truth of the mission to Rome—that it will explain a dark point in history—and so far soften down the extravagance of Roman writers, as to induce protestants not to reject it altogether as a mere fable. Whieh may be shewn in this way :
Lucius was a chieftain of that part of Wales known afterwards by the name of Gwent and Morganwg. This comprised Caerleon-onUsk. About this period, from A.D. 160 to A.D. 190, the supposed time of Lucius's conversion, and the settlement of the legion at Caerleon, the Roman armies were recruited with many Christians. The well-known story of the Thundering Legion proves, if not a miracle,
at all events, the fact of Christians being employed as soldiers. These Christians, when settled in an idolatrous country, would be anxious, from the nature of their religion, to propagate the faith. They would begin, then, in their immediate neighbourhood. By degrees the leaven would spread, and at length reach the ears of Lucius, the petty chieftain, whose residence could not be far from Caerleon. This may be proved from the circumscribed locality of the four churches dedicated to the four saints, who played so conspicuous a part in the history of King Lucius—namely, Medwy and Elwy, Dyvan and Fagan. For if the extent of their sphere had been wider, local tradition would have assigned to it a wider influence, as also a wider extent of kingdom to King Lucius. The truth having in this casual manner reached the ears of the king, he would, perhaps, apply to the Roman soldiers personally for further enlightenment, and a more substantial knowledge of the tidings he had heard of.
These were private men, lay Christians, people not much acquainted with the fundamentals of Christianity, just like the officers and privates of the household troops in the nineteenth century, though a little more earnest in their professions than the latter are, speaking generally. They would, however, advise him to send messengers by the next convoy that left the Severn for Rome, to consult their bishop in the eternal city. Tradition says that he sent two natives, Medwy and Elwy. Eleutherius, being a wise and good man, was rejoiced to find that a chieftain from a remote and barbarous country had sent to him for admission into the faith. He determined that two missionary priests should start on this journey, Dyvan and Fagan. But, first of all, let us follow the tradition whereever we can ; knowing what an advantage it would be to have native teachers, understanding and speaking the native tongue, he set about teaching Medwy and Elwy the principles of Christianity. When this was done, they were baptized, and (the tradition again, they were ordained into the ministry. They return to Britain. Lucius is satisfied. The truth takes possession of him, and he and his whole family are baptized by Fagan, Dyvan, Medwy, and Elwy. Hence the germ of that which has been the wonder of Christendom—a king and his whole kingdom converted to the faith.
This late introduction of Christianity, be it remembered, is applicable only to Wales; for the fact is certain that Christianity was in the British isles previous to the close of the first century.
If, then, it be objected that, as Christianity was in the island some time previous, it is probable, therefore, it would have had an earlier transmit from east to west, and that, consequently, in the conversion of Lucius we are not indebted to Rome at all; a sufficient answer to this appears to be the inaccessible and turbulent state of the principality, the long war with the Silures who were not nominally subdued till A.D. 76, by Julius Frontinus-one must use the word nominally -as it was nothing else; for had they been finally subdued the presence of the legion at Caerleon would not have been required a century afterwards,—the absence of this legion, as has been seen, in the north of the island till after the building of the Vallum Antoninum, as also
the improbability of Christians being soldiers much previous to the time under consideration; granting that the legion, as Camden says, settled at Caerleon under Julius Frontinus, which, (by the way, Camden cannot prove,) all these circumstances combined render it almost impossible for Christianity to have entered Siluria previous to the time here assigned to it. Besides, there is another fact, and one which must have weight-namely, the almost incredibly slow progress of Christianity in Wales during the first four centuries.
This consideration must diminish the weight, if any, attached to the previous objection. For there is a tradition current in the Principality, authenticated by Dr. O. Pughe, and confirmed by a triad, whose antiquity cannot be doubted, that Brychan, a chieftain of Brecknockshire, living within a few miles of Lucius, did educate and bring up his children to teach the nation of the Cymri, who were without the faith. This Brychan, Mr. Williams says, died A.D. 450, in which the pedigrees bear him out-that is, two hundred years after the conversion of his neighbour Lucius. Surely, then, this slow progress of the Gospel is incompatible with any weight which might attach itself to the foregoing objection. At the present day the writer knows of nothing that can be compared with it, saving the advance of Christianity in India. The circumstances, too, are not anomalous. There are many things in Druidism not very dissimilar to Hindooism, and it is well known what a barrier this is to the progress of the Gospel. Besides, let it be remembered that in those days there were none of the advantageous elements which we now possess to forward Christianity. The Druidical priests had full possession of the vulgar mind. They swayed it as they pleased. The Romans, it is true, endeavoured with all their might to put Druidism down. But the connexion which the legends concerning Taliesin, the chief Druid, obtain in reference to the wilds of Cardiganshire, proves very clearly how little was their success, even as far down as the latter half of the sixth century, and consequently tell as much for the slow progress of Christianity. It cannot be questioned that Druidism had lost but very little of its old leaven in this part of the Principality at this period. Taliesin may have died a Christian, but the writer doubts much if ever he was born so, or even lived half his time as such. These things may be grating to our feelings as Christians, but there is no remedy for it. They must be known. An impartial review of the state of the Principality at this period will, it is certain, lead the inquirer after truth to no other conclusion. It is therefore absurd, not to say sinful, to represent the church in the Principality “ as a grand national establishment,” “ independent of the church of Rome in all ages,” self-constituted, and self-ruled. That she was independent of Rome for a long period is certain ; but then let us have her real condition at that period. Let us not deceive confiding strangers, lest one of them, more wily than the rest, should examine, judge for himself, and finding her otherwise, should lose all sympathy for her, and leave her in a worse plight (if possible) than she was before, and Mr. Williams knows well what that is. It does, moreover, suit the hour well to talk about “ catholicity" and “ catholic times. It