Booklets and Articles Index
THE INCREDIBLE HISTORY OF GOD'S TRUE CHURCH
by Ivor C. Fletcher
(From the Back Cover)
What Happened to the Church Jesus Built?
Jesus Christ said, "I will build MY CHURCH: and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
Never has the true story of the history of the TRUE CHURCH been so
thoroughly examined, researched, and told before! You have never
read anything like it. Perhaps the strangest, most exciting story
ever told -- the true history of the Church Jesus built will
stagger your imagination. It will thrill and inspire you.
Ivor C. Fletcher sifts through ancient records, documents,
histories, and for the first time ever records what happened, in
detail, to the Church started by Jesus Christ and continued by His
The author examines and answers such intriguing questions as --
Did Jesus visit Britain?
The Glastonbury Story
Paul the apostle in Britain
The Great Conspiracy
Simon Magus and his "Christian" Church
Who was the first Bishop of Rome?
"The Lost Century"
The Legend of King Lucius
A Light in the Dark Ages
The Church in the Wilderness
Pergamos -- an era of martyrs
The work of Peter Waldo
The Amazing Life of Shem Acher
The Life and Times of Stephen Mumford
The Message Taken to Kings
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction -- About the Author
Chapter 1 -- THE SETTING
When was the British Church established? -- An analysis of
conflicting views -- Why so little early evidence?
CHAPTER TWO -- LAND OF THE CELTS
What was the racial origin of the early Britons? Were they a part
of the "Lost Ten Tribes" of Israel? -- The Scythian Connection --
Why did early British tribes trace their ancestry back to the land
between the Black and Caspian Seas?
CHAPTER THREE -- DID JESUS VISIT BRITAIN?
An examination of the legends relating to Jesus as a young man
visiting Britain -- The boyhood, education and trade of Jesus --
The trading connection between Palestine and Somerset at the time
CHAPTER FOUR -- THE GLASTONBURY STORY
Facts and fables concerning Glastonbury and Joseph of Arimathea --
An examination of "the most ancient" church building in Britain.
CHAPTER FIVE -- THE UTMOST BOUNDS OF THE WEST
Paul the apostle in Britain -- Confirmation from many ancient
sources -- Has the final missing section of Acts been discovered?
-- A Christian Princess.
CHAPTER SIX -- THE GREAT CONSPIRACY
What factors motivated the New Testament Church and stimulated
rapid growth? -- Which weekly and annual holy days were observed?
-- Did they reveal God's plan of salvation for mankind? -- Satan's
counterfeit religious system -- Simon Magus and his "Christian"
church -- The introduction of Sunday worship and Easter -- Who was
the first bishop of Rome?
CHAPTER SEVEN -- A LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES
The second century British church -- The legend of King Lucius --
True faith diminishes during "the lost century" -- A persecuted and
scattered Church -- A fourth century treasure uncovered --
Christian Art" and the pagan influence -- Sunday observance
defended and later enforced -- The Celtic Church and its doctrines.
CHAPTER EIGHT -- THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS
Pergamos: an era of martyrs -- Spiritual decline and apostasy --
Trials and opportunities for the Church of God during the Middle
Ages -- A light in the darkness -- The work of Peter Waldo -- Some
writings of the church in the wilderness -- A trial at Oxford --
The gospel preached in fourteenth century England -- False doctrine
and compromise -- More persecution.
CHAPTER NINE -- THE MAN WHO WROTE TO A KING
Theophilus Brabourne and his confrontation with King Charles --
Which day is the Christian Sabbath? -- Seventeenth century
CHAPTER TEN -- THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
The "Poor Churches of God" -- Fines and imprisonment -- The
experiences of JohnTraske and his wife -- An English martyr.
CHAPTER ELEVEN -- THE AMAZING LIFE OF SHEM ACHER
A rare biography -- The doctrines and trials of the Church of God
in seventeenth century England -- Prison experiences of Francis
Bampfield -- Anointing the sick reintroduced.
CHAPTER TWELVE -- SARDIS IN DECLINE
The interesting life of Peter Chamberlen -- Doctor and inventor --
The gospel goes to Wales -- Backsliders and eccentrics -- The
Stennett Family -- Two centuries of decline.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN -- THE NEW WORLD
The Church of God in New England -- The life and times of Stephen
Mumford -- Problems and persecution for the first Sabbath-keeping
congregation -- Debates and false ministers -- Dabbling in politics
-- Numerical growth, but spiritual decline -- An American "Feast of
Tabernacles" -- Variations in the Lord's Supper observance --
Attitudes towards Revolutionary and Civil Wars -- An evangelistic
effort -- A nineteenth century Sabbath magazine.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN -- GO YOU INTO ALL THE WORLD
The early life and calling of Herbert W. Armstrong -- His
relationship with the Sardis Church -- A growing witness on radio
and in publishing -- Ambassador College is established --
Opposition and persecution -- A worldwide work -- The message taken
If ever a man could be said to have lived up to his own "Seven Laws
of Success," that man must surely be Herbert W. Armstrong. Already
highly successful and prosperous in the field of journalism and
advertising whilst still in his twenties, Armstrong went on to
establish Ambassador College (once described by Franz Josef
Strauss, the controversial "strong man of Europe," as `Paradise')
in order to provide the world with the "missing dimension" in
In 1934, thirteen years before the founding of the College,
the "World Tomorrow" radio broadcast was started on a radio station
in Oregon, at a cost of $2.50 per week. By 1979 the programme had
grown in its scope and impact to the point that multiple millions
of people worldwide are now able to hear the message, and in some
areas witness its presentation on television.
The Plain Truth magazine, also started by Mr. Armstrong, had
similar humble beginnings. Its first edition of February, 1934,
consisted of some 175 copies of a paper that few would have
dignified with the title of "magazine." The cost of producing that
first issue was probably less than two dollars. Since it's modest
birth, a staggering 224 million copies of the magazine have been
circulated worldwide (up to January, 1979). Many in the publishing
field have admired the professional expertise used in the
production of this "magazine of understanding."
Mr. Armstrong's personal work output is truly amazing. In 45
years he has written over 750 magazine articles, some 50 booklets,
five books, and nearly 500 letters to co-workers and members of the
Worldwide Church of God, of which he is Pastor General. This is in
addition to his duties as a College Chancellor, his work with the
Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, radio and television
broadcasting, and personal meetings with heads of state and other
important political leaders around the world.
Herbert Armstrong's basic philosophy of life is based on the
principle that "it is more blessed to give than to receive," and
sees his role as a type of latter-day Elijah, preparing the way for
the return of Jesus Christ, when the government of God and the
"give" philosophy of life will be restored to the world.
His extensive foreign travel and meetings with world leaders
have earned Mr. Armstrong the title of "ambassador for world peace"
and "A builder of bridges between all peoples everywhere." In 1970
King Leopold of Belgium awarded him a special watch. This watch
was one of four which had been made from a World War I cannonball.
It was the intention of the king's father to present each watch to
the four men who had made the most significant contributions to
In 1973, Mr. Armstrong received the Order of the Sacred
Treasure -- the highest honour that the Japanese government can
bestow on a private citizen of another country. He had a personal
meeting with Emperor Hirohito the same year.
Although the Worldwide Church of God, previously known as the
Radio Church of God, has only been in existence since the early
nineteen thirties, there is evidence to suggest that this body is
merely the twentieth century continuation of a "Church of God"
which dates back to apostolic times.
Members of the Church of God were among the early colonists of
New England who came to America from England over three centuries
ago. Tracing back the spiritual roots of these people we find that
a Church of God, holding to the same basic doctrines as the modern
Worldwide Church of God, existed in Britain through the Middle and
Dark Ages -- clear back to Roman times.
The true Church, although a "little flock" as Christ described
it, has always been "worldwide" in the sense that its message has
never been confined to one single nation, but was to be taken to
"the very ends of the earth." To trace the history of the true
Church in every nation would be a monumental task and for this
reason I propose to confine this work mainly to the Church of God
in Britain and America.
So far as I am aware, the history of the Church of God in
Britain is a story which has never been told, at least not in any
detail, apart from passing references within the context of church
history in general.
Considerable research, however, has taken place relating to
the Church of God in America. My purpose in writing this book is
to tell this story, and in the telling of it, to provide a measure
of inspiration and encouragement to the present era of God's Church
living in these awesome days of the space age. This work might
also prove of interest to the five to six million readers of the
Plain Truth magazine -- in going back to the "roots" from which the
Worldwide Church of God and its broadcasting and publishing work
One of the main problems relating to books on church history
in the past has been the style in which they have been written.
Such books have often been written in a dry and scholarly manner
which has proved to be somewhat tedious reading for the average
The work of one Puritan writer of some three centuries ago was
described as follows: "This huge volume is the most tedious of all
the Puritan productions about the Sabbath. There is not a spark of
originality to animate the lump." The critic goes on to state that
but for one chapter "its dullness would be without relief."
The story of God's people is not primarily concerned with
almost endless debates and discussions over dates or doctrines. It
is above all else a story about PEOPLE. In this book I have sought
to emphasize what a modern journalist might call the "human
interest" side of the story; and why not? The story of God's people
through the ages contains all the elements that one might find in
a good novel -- adventure, romance, tragedy and mystery.
When dealing with a subject that covers nearly two thousand
years of human history, one is forced to rely on records and
sources of information that are ancient and sometimes obscure. A
great deal of controversy among scholars surrounds many of the
early writings on church history, regarding authenticity -- some
such records may well prove to be, as experts have claimed,
In the light of these facts, no absolute guarantee can be
given regarding the authenticity of all material quoted in this
book; some information given relating to the Church of God in past
ages, comes from enemies and persecutors, and as such can hardly be
regarded as objective and unbiased material -- the reader is
advised to exercise a degree of caution. Having said this,
however, I would like to point out that great care has been taken
in the selection of this data, with a view to presenting a picture
which is as accurate, fair and balanced as circumstances allow.
Daniel foretold that "many shall cleave to them (the Church of
God) with flatteries." One cannot assume that every individual
mentioned within this book who claimed to be a part of God's Church
really was a converted member -- a great many were little more than
friends and sympathizers. It is not my purpose, however, to judge
any individual in this regard.
Perhaps the greatest lesson that we can learn from a study of
this nature is that history does repeat itself and that the past is
indeed the key to the future. Although the political, economic and
social climates in which many of the events in this book took place
are entirely different from the setting of the pulsating space age
in which we live, problems relating to people and human nature are
There is much that we can learn from the failings and triumphs
of God's people through the ages.
This project would hardly have been possible without the
valuable assistance and encouragement of several organisations and
Among those to whom I wish to express my sincere thanks are
Ambassador College Press, the Seventh Day Baptist Historical
Society, British Museum Publications, and the Society for Promoting
The staff of the Bristol Public Reference Library, through
their expert knowledge, were able to produce and make available
much of the research material, some of it centuries old, upon which
this work was based. I thank them for their help. I also thank
the Covenant Publishing Company for granting me permission to quote
from their material.
Richard C. Nickels of Portland, Oregon, made available to me
the results of his own research relating to Church history in the
United States of America, for which I thank him.
Thanks should also go to Mr. Andrew Rowley for his support and
advice; and, finally, to my wife, Susan, for typing the manuscript
and providing support also for the writing of this book.
About the Author
The author was born in Bristol, England, on March 16th, 1942. He
attended a local school until the age of 16, when he left with
passes in five subjects in the Certificate of Secondary Education.
Some years later he also obtained passes in the General Certificate
of Education at Ordinary and Advanced level.
After leaving school he entered the Fleet Air Arm (a branch
the Royal Navy responsible for Aircraft carrier operations) as an
aircraft technician specializing in aircraft armament systems.
During his service he was based at several naval air stations
in the United Kingdom and spent three years on the aircraft
carriers H.M.S. Albion and H.M.S. Hermes. The latter of these
ships was, some twenty years later, to become the flagship of the
Task Force sent to recapture the Falklands after the Argentine
invasion of April, 1982.
The Navy provided opportunities for worldwide travel. The
author was able to visit many countries and cities such as
Copenhagen, Lisbon, Barcelona, Palma, Beirut, Aden, Mombasa,
Karachi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila and Tokyo. He was also able
to observe such things as African wildlife, whales, flying fish and
other wonders of the natural world.
After leaving the service in 1967, he worked in the Civil
Service, transport and shipping, and in 1975 joined British
Aerospace as an assistant to the Fixed Assets Manager. The Filton
factory, which produced the Concorde aircraft, is about three miles
from his home.
The author married in 1969, and his wife, Susan, provided
valuable assistance in the writing of this book. His interests and
hobbies include gardening, wine making, swimming and square
He began reading The Plain Truth magazine in 1961, and became
a baptized member of the Worldwide Church of God in 1968. His
interest in Church history was stimulated after reading the booklet
"A True History of the True Church" by Dr. Herman L. Hoeh.
Although giving an inspiring overview of the subject, the
booklet was very brief and seemed to leave a number of unanswered
questions. Following the advice to "seek and you shall find" the
author began an in-depth research of the subject.
He found that fragments of information were scattered like the
pieces of a jigsaw puzzle through a wide range of source material,
much of it ancient, obscure and difficult to track down. In time
the hard work paid off and resulted in a book which throws
interesting new light on a hitherto neglected subject.
CHAPTER ONE -- THE SETTING
"For mountains, bridges, rivers, churches and fair women,
Britain is past compare." Martiel.
I have before me a Bible Atlas showing the growth of the early
Christian Church to the time of Constantine. In common with other
publications of this type, it traces the establishment of the
Church in Britain back to about the reign of the Roman Emperor
Diocletian, close to the year A.D. 300.
This view is one which is also reflected by many, if not most
modern writers of this subject. Statements by earlier writers
which suggested a first century, apostolic origin of the church in
Britain, have been relegated to the realm of tradition, myth, or
plain wishful thinking.
Even the majority of churches at the present time seem to be
of this opinion, but this has not always been the case. About
three hundred years ago a massive work entitled, "The
Ecclesiastical History of Britain," by Collier, was produced. The
book, published in ten volumes, gave the generally held of leading
theologians and churchmen of the time.
On page 27, Vol. 1, Collier makes the point that: "By what
been said already, it is evident Christianity got footing in the
apostolic age: but what progress was made upon infidels; in what
parts the church was settled, and under whom; what successes or
discouragement's; what revolutions happened in the ecclesiastical
history of this island, from the apostles to King Lucius, is
It is not surprising that Collier knew nothing of the period
between the apostles and the second century King Lucius. In
Britain, as elsewhere, this represented the incredible "Lost
Century" of Church history.
For many centuries there existed two separate schools of
thought regarding church history in Britain. Many have assumed
that prior to the Reformation, the only church in Britain (apart
from the Church of God) was the Catholic Church.
There existed, however, until Saxon times, the British or
Celtic church, along with the Church of Rome. These two churches
often differed in their general approach and also on many doctrinal
points. By about the time of King Alfred, however, Catholic
influence within the Celtic church had increased to the point that
the British church as a separate body had virtually ceased to
The British Church for many centuries held the view that the
apostolic origin of the church in Britain was a point of historical
fact -- not mere tradition. Early Catholic writers such as Bede,
placed the origin of Christianity in Britain in the second century,
under King Lucius.
The Catholic position seems to have been based not so much on
theology or history as on political considerations. During the
"Holy Roman Empire" period one of the major foundations of papal
authority was the antiquity of the Roman Church.
The first century church at Rome was claimed to have been the
"Mother Church" or headquarters Church for Europe and the West.
Other churches in the West were said to have been established from
Rome. The British view, based on the statement by Gildas that
Christianity arrived in Britain during the last year of the reign
of Tiberius (A.D. 36-37), proved an embarrassment to Catholic
writers. This date is over twenty years before the arrival of the
Apostle Paul in Rome.
One of the major problems relating to the history of the
Church of God in Britain during the early centuries is an almost
total absence of local written records. Prior to about A.D. 542,
one is forced to rely on the testimony of foreign writers regarding
Christianity in Britain.
In that year, Gildas, often said to have been the first
British historian, wrote the amazing statement that "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
The words "We certainly know" is an indication that in the
time of Gildas, the date of AD. 36-37 for the establishment of
Christianity in Britain was more than just speculation or
tradition; it was the commonly accepted view of the time.
Gildas wrote primarily as a historian rather than a
theologian. Although a Catholic himself, he seems to have had
nothing but contempt for the clergy of his day. He describes them
in the following terms:
"Britain has priests, but they are foolish; a multitude of
ministers, but they are shameless; clergy, nay, crafty ravishers;
shepherds as they are called, but they are wolves, ready to slay
souls -- teaching the people, but showing them the worst examples,
vices and wicked manners."
This writer, although probably not the first British historian
was certainly the first that we have any record of to commit his
thoughts to paper. He was aware of the British identity, as part
of the "ten lost tribes of Israel."
Commenting on the Saxon invasions which were in progress at
the time he stated that the reason why God allowed such events
were: "to the end that our Lord might in this land try after His
accustomed manner these His Israelites, whether they loved Him or
Gildas was personally affected by the troubled times in which
he lived. It was said that on one occasion he was forced to seek
refuge from pirates on an island in the Bristol Channel, near the
site of the modern town of Weston-Super-Mare.
It is important to realize that before the time of Gildas the
British language (there was no "English" language prior to Saxon
times) was primarily a spoken rather than written language.
Jackson, an authority on the subject, mentions that "It would
not occur to anyone to write in British, nor would they know how to
Celtic, Pre-Roman Europe and Britain passed on law, genealogy,
story, song and myth in oral but not written form.
This does not mean that all first century Britons were
uneducated. Oral communication was considered to be superior to
the written word. Education was primarily a matter of memorizing
a vast accumulation of knowledge.
"They (scholars) are said there to learn by heart a great
number of verses; accordingly some remain in the course of training
twenty years. Nor do they regard it lawful to commit these to
Some sources state that by the time of graduation students
were expected to have committed to memory the staggering total of
20,000 verses. It is probable that such material was arranged in
allegorical or poetic form to aid the memory.
The knowledge of church history, in common with knowledge in
general, was passed on by word of mouth from teacher to student,
father to son. In process of time such information as remained
extant took the form of traditions.
There must have been a tendency, human nature being what it
is, for each generation to add a little "colour" before passing on
the story. Someone once described tradition as the "accumulated
common sense of centuries."
When the empire-wide persecution of the Christian church under
Diocletian reached Britain about A.D. 300, church buildings,
Bibles, and other written records were put to the torch. Any
records that survived almost certainly perished in the Saxon
invasions of the following centuries.
Archeologists have sometimes been puzzled by the scarcity of
remains of church buildings from the Roman occupation of Britain.
This might seem strange in the light of the comment by Chrysostom
(A.D. 347-407) that:
"The British Isles, which are beyond the sea, and which lie in
the ocean, have received the power of the Word. Churches are there
founded, and altars erected."3
The answer to this apparent contradiction lies in the building
materials used for church buildings at the time.
"The story of Patrick's work in Ireland explains the problem
which has sorely puzzled some of our archaeologists, why there are
so few remains of churches of the Roman period. St. Martin's,
Canterbury, and a few others, none of which are in Wales, contain
Roman work, and may have been used for Christian purposes even in
the Roman period, by the Roman Christians or the Romanized Britons;
but probably the majority of the churches throughout Britain, and
almost certainly the majority in Wales, were wooden.
Occasionally when wood was scarce, Patrick built a church of
earth, as at Foirrgea -- he "made a quadrangular church of earth,
because there was no forest near at hand!"4 Churches of stone were
Many modern writers have rejected early evidence of a first
century church in Britain on the grounds that the Britons living in
that age were gentiles.
The Apostles (except for Paul) were commanded to go to the
lost sheep of the house of Israel." Paul alone, a few tell us,
could have visited Britain in his capacity of Apostle to the
Gentiles, but surely none of the other Apostles.
In Chapter Two we will examine the question -- were the first
century Britons really Gentiles, or a part of Israel?
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 1
1. Do Excidio Britannica page 25.
2. Gailic War by Caesar.
3. Epist Contra Judaeos.
4. A History of the Welsh Church, E.J. Newell.
CHAPTER TWO -- LAND OF THE CELTS
Who were the Celtic peoples that inhabited Britain and much of
Europe during the time of Christ? Why did such people have Asiatic
style war chariots? And why did the Belgae of Southern England have
palm trees, of all things, on their coins?
Diodorus Siculus, writing in 60 B.C., stated: "The Britons
live in the same manner that the ancients did; they fight in
chariots as the ancient heroes of Greece are said to have done in
the Trojan Wars -- they are plain and upright in their dealings --
the island is very populous -- the Celts never shut the doors of
their houses; they invite strangers to their feasts, and when it is
over ask who they are and what is their business."
The Celts were a prosperous and industrious people. Wealth
was centered in large flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. Food
was often preserved in smoked, cured, or salted form.
International trade flourished, wine was imported from the
Mixed farming, cereal and livestock, was practiced, and a
system of crop rotation with regular manuring was followed to avoid
The Celts were a proud warrior race. After nine long years of
bitter warfare, from A.D. 43, the Romans, although employing their
finest legions and military generals, had only succeeded in
conquering a part of the island.
Even at this point the Roman position was far from secure.
Tacitus (A.D. 55-120) lamented that: "In Britain, after the
captivity of Caractacus, the Romans were repeatedly conquered and
put to the rout by the single state of the Silures alone."1
But were these people, as Gildas was to claim some four
centuries later, "Israelites"?
It would be good at this point to trace some of the movements
of the "lost ten tribes" of Israel after being taken into captivity
by the Assyrians in 721-718 B.C.
"Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and
went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years.
In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria
and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and
in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes" (II
Cuneiform tablets discovered at Khorsabad, to the north of
Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria, give the Assyrian version
of the same event, which confirms the biblical statement.
"I besieged and captured Samaria, and carried off 27,290 of
its inhabitants as booty."
The Israelites were settled in the regions around Lakes Van
and Urmia which are situated in northern Iran and eastern Turkey.
The name "Israel" took different forms in the various nations
that had contact with Israelites. Pre-captivity Assyrian records
use "Bit-Khumri" meaning "the sons of Omri." An obelisk held by the
British Museum has an illustration of Jehu paying tribute to
Assyrian king Shalmaneser and carries the inscription, "This is
Iaua (Jehu), the son of Khunui (Omri)."
The Hebrew pronunciation of "Khumri" was "Ghonui," which later
became corrupted into Gimera. People having this name began
appearing in Assyrian records a mere eleven years after the
captivity -- and in the very region where the Israelites had
Cuneiform tablets found in the ruins of ancient Nineveh tell
of the reports of Assyrian spies who in 707 B.C. witnessed a battle
between the Gimera and a tribe known as Urartians.
Assyrians records show that shortly before they settled, the
Israelite captives in the area around Lake Van, the previous
inhabitants were driven out by Assyrian troops. The indications
are that these people made an attempt some years later to recapture
their territory, being defeated in the process by the Gimera or
After several decades the power of the Assyrian Empire began
to wane and its hold over the Israelite captives weakened. In 679
B.C. some of the tribes broke away and escaped into the mountains
of Asia Minor (2 Esdras 13 vs. 40-44). At about the same time the
Gimera rose in rebellion against their Assyrian captors but were
defeated in the upper Euphrates region.
In Media, the other region where the Israelites were settled,
one finds in the Assyrian texts reports of roaming bands of hostile
In 675 B.C. we find the first report of Scythians in the
Assyrian records. In the annals of Esarhaddon we read: "I
scattered the Mannaean people, intractable barbarians, and I smote
with the sword the armies of Ishpaki, the ISKUZA; alliance with
them did not save him."
Within forty-five years of Israel`s captivity, we find the
Gimera and Iskuza in exactly the same regions where the Israelites
Iskuza is the Assyrian version of Scythian. According to
Herodotus the Persians called the Scythians "Sacae" or "Saka." In
the days of Amos the Israelites called themselves after Isaac (Amos
7:16), the word probably being "Isaaca." In Hebrew the "I" is not
emphasized as it is in English. In time it probably became lost
and was pronounced as "Sacca" -- almost identical to the Persian
"Sacae," the word for Scythians.
Much later in history we read of Saxons or "Saacs Sons." The
Babylonian version of the Persian "Sacae" was Gimiri, an almost
identical word to the Assyrian Gimera. The clear indications are
that all these names, making allowances for different languages,
refer to the same people -- the Scythians or "ten lost tribes" of
In 1947 evidence was discovered at Ziwille, about seventy
miles south of Lake Urmia, of the close relationship between the
Assyrians and Scythians. A royal treasure dating to the end of the
seventh century B.C was unearthed. Among the items uncovered, some
were of Assyrian origin, some Scythian and others a mixture of the
two cultures. It is believed that at least some of the treasure
consisted of wedding presents given on the occasion of the wedding
between a Scythian king and an Assyrian princess.
As Assyrian influence declined, that of the Scythians
increased. Herodotus relates that "A battle was fought in which
the Medes were defeated, and lost their power in Asia, which was
taken over in its entirety by the Scythians."
About 625 B.C. the Scythians began moving north. Soviet
archaeologists have discovered evidence of a Scythian attack on the
ancient fortress of Karmir Blur.
Following the defeat of their Assyrian allies in 609 B.C., the
Scythians were driven into Southern Russia by the Medes. Others
moved towards the West, and moving across Asia Minor, they were
known to the Greeks as Cimmerians. How significant it was that the
Hebrew meaning of the word Scythian was "wanderer."
For some three hundred years the Scythians prospered in
Southern Russia, but about 250 B.C. were driven out by the
Sarmatians and made their way into Westem Europe and later Britain.
About this time they became known as the Celts.
This is why Celtic influence in the third century B.C. is said
to have stretched from Southern Russia in the east to Britain and
Spain in the west.
Even as late as the time of the church historian Bede, the
Scythians were still sometimes known by that name. "Coming from
Scythia (i.e. Scandinavia) in their long boats, and, being carried
by tempest to the northern parts of Ireland" -- Bede relates that
the local inhabitants, although related to the newcomers, persuaded
them to move on and settle in Scotland.2
Another writer adds a few further details to the story: "To
which end they accustomed themselves to the sea; and so, from
thence (Scandinavia), these Scythians came into the northern parts
of Britain, whence they had the name Caledonians; and, upon new
supplies coming after the Romans had subdued the southern parts of
Britain, were then called Picts. " Explaining how Scotland received
its name, he states: "and Scotia from these Scythae."
And it is of considerable interest that a late Irish antiquary
tells us "that a part of their country, (Ireland) in their own
language, is called Gaethluighe, i.e. Gothland from the Goths or
Scythians who took possession of it."3
As the Scythians moved westwards across Asia Minor and Europe,
so the territory of "Scythia" moved West with them. This is why by
Roman times "Scythia" was located in Scandinavia. This is where
the Scythians came from immediately before their arrival in
The traditional home of the Norse god Odin was at Asgerd near
the Euxine (Black) and Caspian Seas. "The city is thought to have
been located some thirty miles north of Lake Van -- the very area
where the Assyrians had settled their Israelite captives.
One branch of the Scythian or Israelite group did not reach
Britain until after the Roman occupation -- they were the Saxons.
Along with the Saxons came the Danes and Jutes. In the Vetus
Chronicon Holsatiae, on page 54, we read that -- "the Danes and
Jutes are Jews of the tribe of Dan." The writer of this work
wrongly applied the word "Jews" to one of the ten lost tribes.
The Saxons were not only a branch of the Scythian race, but
also traced their own origins to Armenia, a Roman province, which
included the territory in which the exiled Israelites were settled.
The Saxons were a Scythian tribe, and of the various Scythian
nations which have been recorded, the Sakai, or Sakae, are the
people from whom the descent of the Saxons may be inferred with the
least violation of probability. Sakai -- Suna or the sons of
Sukai, abbreviated into Saksun, which is the same sound as Saxon.
The Sukai, who in Latin are called Sacae,4 were an important branch
of the Scythian nation."
"This important fact of a part of Armenia having been named
Sukasuna, is mentioned by Strabo in another place," and seems to
give a geographical locality to our primeval ancestors, and to
account for the Persian words that occur in the Saxon language as
they must have come into Armenia from the northern regions of
Milton too, confirms the relationship between Saxons and
"They (the Saxons) were a people thought by good writers to be
descendants of the Sacae, a kind of Scythians in the north of Asia,
thence called Sacasons, or sons of Sacae, who with a flood of other
northern nations came into Europe, toward the declining of the
The Angles who invaded England at the same time were a branch
of the Saxon race.
Nennius, writing in about AD 800, traced the Saxons back to
The Saxons recorded that the earlier Celtic inhabitants of
Britain, whom they displaced, also came from Armenia. In the
opening paragraph of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle we read: "The
inhabitants of this land were Britons, they came from Armenia, and
first settled in the south of Britain."
Bede recorded that there were "twenty eight noble cities" in
Britain during "former times" and that copper, iron, lead and
silver were all mined in ancient times. Vines were cultivated and
an abundance of fish, along with salmon, dolphins and whales were
found around the coasts.7
"It would appear, that at first the aborigines of the country
could not have been what we should now call `barbarians or
savages'. Their earliest traditions speak of the preexistence of
letters, arts, and sciences; and all the notices of the
arrangements of their policy go to prove, that their original
condition was neither ignorant nor barbarous."8
Among the earliest of all British records which relate to the
origins of the Celtic peoples are the Welsh Triads. These
interesting writings contain a mixture of history and tradition.
"Yet even in their imperfect state, they give us much intelligence
respecting the aborigines of Britain"9
"Whatever opinion therefore may be formed of those Welsh
records, it may be safely asserted, that the general scope of their
teaching is consistent with itself, and harmonizes with the early
traditions of almost every other ancient people."10
Several eminent scholars have supported the authenticity of
the Welsh Triads. "Their contents furnish, in my opinion, strong
evidence of their authenticity. I cannot account for them at all
upon other grounds."11
The Triads relate that all but two people, of the first
inhabitants of Britain were drowned in a great flood. A ship,
containing a man and his family, along with a male and female of
every living creature were the only ones to survive the flood.
After the flood the Triads mention the arrival of the Cymry or
Kymry. This name means "the first race." They were known to the
Greeks as Kimmerioi. The Cymry came from ancient Albania (not the
modern communist state by that name) which was situated to the
south of the Caucasus mountains and bordering the western coast of
the Caspian Sea.
"There are three pillars of the nation of the Isle of Britain.
The first was Hu the Mighty, who brought the nation of the Kymry
first to the Isle of Britain; coming from that which is called
Defrobani"; also rendered, by Thomas Wood, "more correctly
Dyffynbanu, or Dyffynalbanu, that is, the deep vales or glens of
Albania, a country between the Euxine (Black) and Caspian Seas."12
In "The Scottish Declaration of Independence," an important
official document drawn up in A.D. 1320, we find that the Scottish
people of that period traced their ancestry back to greater
Scythia," which included the territory between the Black and
The fact that the Saxons, Celts and Scots all traced their
origins to the area between the Black and Caspian Seas is of the
utmost significance. It was in this precise region that the
Assyrians settled their Israelite captives.
"The people of Israel were deported to the lands lying
immediately south of the Caucus Mountains and south of the Caspian
"According to reliable estimates there were somewhere around
7,000,000 or more people in Israel and Judah prior to their
captivity. The Northern Kingdom of Israel must have easily
contained a population of 5,000,000 or more at the time of the
beginning of the overthrow of Israel by Assyria in 741-721 B.C."14
What became of this great mass of exiled Israelites? Not a
shred of evidence exists to prove that they ever returned to the
land of Israel. Even during the time of the Jewish historian
Josephus in the late first century AD. the ten tribes had not
returned to Palestine. He mentions that "there are but two tribes
in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are
beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude and not to
be estimated by numbers."15
"Yes, just what happened to these teaming millions of prolific
Israelites? This is a question which has perplexed countless
millions down through the ages and has baffled Catholic,
Protestant, and Jewish theologians as well."16
In view of the fact that Saxons, Celts and Scots all trace
their ancestry back to the Scythians is it not significant that
"The Sacai or Scythians do not appear in history before Israel`s
captivity, but they do appear in the areas of the Black and Caspian
Seas, shortly after Israel was deported to those same general
The Behistun Rock inscription dating to the time of the
Persian king Darius the First contains vital keys to the identity
of modern European races.
This inscription lists twenty two provinces, the nineteenth of
which was Scythia. The information is given in three languages,
Scythia is mentioned in the Persian language, the Babylonian
version gives this as "in the land of the CIMMERIANS" (Gi-mi-ri).
"The ethnic name of Gimiri first occurs in the Cuneiform
records -- as the Semitic equivalent of the Arian name Saka (Sakai)
-- whether at the same time these Gimiri or Saka are really Cymric
Celts we cannot positively say -- but the Babylonian title of
Gimiri, as applied to the Sakae, is not a vernacular but a foreign
title, and may simply mean `The Tribes'."18
Terms such as "The tribes" or "Lost Tribes" have frequently
been employed in relation to the tribes of Israel.
The Behistun Rock inscription classifies the Gimiri (GHOMRI)
as the same people as the Sacae or Scythians who were the ancient
ancestors of the Saxons, Celts, Cimmerians, Cymri and several other
The Welsh, to this day, still retain the ancient name of
"The Cimmerians seeming to be the same people with the Gauls
or Celts under a different name, and it is observable that the
Welsh, who are descended from the Gauls, still call themselves
Cymri or Kymry."19
Lysons, quoting a series of ancient authorities, traces the
origin of the Cymric Celts to Armenia, adding that "it confirms the
traditions of the Welsh, the views of Nennius and the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle and all our earliest histories, and to anyone who has
studied the question seems most convincing."20
According to Sharon Turner, the Cimmerians and Celts shared a
The Welsh Triads mention that the Cymry crossed the Bosphorus
on their way out of Asia Minor. Herodotus traces the origin of the
Cimmerians to South Russia and the area of the Caucasus during the
seventh century B.C. They were driven into Asia Minor and later
moved into Western Europe. Strabo also confirmed their settlement
in the Western extremities of Europe.
Later writers identify this group with the Cimbri or Cymry.
The main body of the Cimmerians later merged with the Scyths.
"The Celts had an unvarying tradition that they came from the
Dr. Wylie in his History of the Scottish Nation, page 15,
identifies the European Celts with the Gimirrai of the Assyrian
He also states that "there exists abundant evidence to show
that all the inhabitants of Britain, from this early period
onwards, were all sprung from the same stock, though they arrived
in our island by different routes and are known by different
If the early Britons were indeed descended from the Israelites
it would be logical that a measure of similarity should exist
between the Hebrew and British languages. This is exactly what we
do find. Very few vowels are found in either the Hebrew or Welsh
languages, but the affinity between the languages goes even further
"Yet this we gather from the names attaching to the British
monuments still remaining among us, when divested of modern
corruptions, that there is a strong affinity between these British
names and that language of which Hebrew is either the original or
one of its earliest off-shoots; and therefore Hebrew, Chaldee or
some other very near cognate, must have been the language of the
first inhabitants in this island."24
"Many have remarked upon the biblical surnames in Wales.
Those are often very striking and always belong to truly Welsh
families whose origins are lost in the mists of time; obvious
examples are Joseph, Israel, Abraham, Mordecai, David and
variations of these. Scotland also has its share of biblical
surnames, like Adam, Asher, and some combining `mac' or `son' in
the name, but Scotland tends more to the use of Gaelic place names
with a Hebrew content."25
The earliest historical record of Ireland abound in references
to the Israelites, especially the "Tuatha-de-Danaan" or Tribe of
Dan. Some have tried to connect such references to the "pious
fables" promoted by Irish monks of the Dark Ages but in reality the
monks did not produce these records and denied the Israelite
connections with Ireland.26
According to the Domestic Annals of Ireland the first
settlement in Ireland was established by Nin mac Piel, whom some
have identified as the Assyrian king Ninus, son of Bel or Belus.
For about three hundred years after the Flood, Ireland remained
uninhabited, but in 2069 B.C. a group of warriors under the
leadership of Partholan founded a colony at Inis Saimer, a small
island in the river Erne, at Ballyshannon. This group was
destroyed by a plague in 1769 B.C.27
Moore states, (p. 63), that a colony of people called
Nemedians came from the Black Sea area and settled in Ireland in
1709 B.C. They were dispersed and destroyed by "African Sea Rovers"
or Formorians (who were probably Phoenicians) in 1492 B.C.
The next settlement was established by a group known as
"Fir-Bolge," and lasted for thirty to forty years. "They were
dispossessed by the Tuatha-de-Danaan."28
This group of Danaans from the Israelite tribe of Dan settled
in Ireland in about 1456 B.C., during the period that Israel, under
the leadership of Moses, wandered in the wilderness. A second
group is thought to have arrived some 250 years later.
Dr. Robert Gordon Latham, well known nineteenth century
ethnologist, saw a clear relationship between the Danaans and the
Israelite tribe of Dan."29
The second wave of Danites arrived in Ireland in 1213 BC.
during the time of Barak and Deborah when "Dan abode in ships"
Keating gives further details of the Danite adventurers and of
their arrival in Ireland.
"The Danaans were a people of great learning, they had
overmuch gold and silver -- they left Greece after a battle with
the Assyrians, and for fear of falling into the hands of the
Assyrians, came to Norway and Denmark, and thence...to Ireland." 30
"In process of time, the Tuatha-de-Danaan were themselves
dispossessed of their sway; a successful invasion from the coast of
Spain having put an end to the Danaanian dynasty, and transferred
the scepter into the hands of that Milesian or Scotic race, which
through so long a series of succeeding ages, supplied Ireland with
her kings. This celebrated colony, through coming directly from
Spain, was originally, we are told, of Scythic race."31
The Danites appear to have had an outward looking and
adventurous spirit even as early as the time of the Exodus of the
Israelites from Egypt.
Diodorus Siculus, writing in 50 B.C., but quoting from a much
earlier source (Hetataeus), mentions that a group led by Caddis and
Danes left Egypt and settled in the southern parts of Greece. He
goes on to relate that the greater part of the Israelites left
Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Diodorus also mentions that
Danaus and his company brought with them from Egypt the custom of
circumcising their male children.
Herodotus provides us with the information that the Dorian
Greeks had come into Greece from Egypt. The Spartans also claimed
a common ancestry with the Jews. In a letter from the Spartan king
Arius to the Jewish high priest Onias, he makes the point that "it
hath been found in writing concerning the Spartans and Jews, that
they are brethren, and that they are of the stock of Abraham."32
Josephus records that the Spartan seal affixed to the letter
was the Danite symbol of an eagle holding in its claws a dragon or
serpent. The Jews returned a message of greeting to "their
brethren the Spartans."
The Danites of Greece became a maritime people extending their
influence to the islands and coastal regions of Greece, and the
Black Sea, where the Danite prefix D-N is found in river names Don,
Danube and Dnieper; their ships also carried out raids on the coast
"From the records of Rameses III, as given by Hall in his
Ancient History of the Near East, it is learned that a collection
of marauding peoples, including the Danauna and Pulesti, moved down
towards Egypt from the Aegean, through Palestine. Cotterell, in
his Ancient Greeks, is prepared to accept the Danauna as Danaans.
Hall, who dates this movement about 1200 B.C. says that the Pulesti
were undoubtedly the Philistines."33
"The eponym Dan is found to be a root-name applied to some of
the most famous sections of the ancient Greeks and their leaders,
the derivations of this name include Danans, Danae, Danaans, Danoi,
Dr. R.G. Latham, well-known ethnologist makes the point that
"Neither do I think that the eponymus of the Argive Danai was other
than that of the Israelite tribe of Dan; only we are so used to
confine ourselves to the soil of Palestine in our consideration of
the history of the Israelites that we ignore the share they may
have taken in the ordinary history of the world."35
In the light of such information can it really be such a
mystery why the Danite settlers in Ireland traced their origins to
The greater part of the tribe of Dan entered the promised land
of Israel in the time of Joshua. From the beginning of their
settlement there they seemed to have played no major part in the
internal affairs of the new nation, but preferred to engage in
shipping and international commerce. Deborah complained that the
people of Dan remained with their ships rather than taking to the
field of battle in order to assist the other Israelites in the
defeat of their enemies (Judges 5:17).
Although they had been warned against it, a measure of
inter-marriage took place between the tribes of Dan and Naphtali
and the Canaanite Phoenicians.36
The Danites along with elements of Asher and Naphtali began to
share in the maritime enterprises of the Phoenicians. These "ships
of Tarshish" were to create what has been termed the "Golden Age of
During the reign of Solomon the Phoenicians assisted the king
in the establishment of an Israelite navy based near Elath on the
Red Sea coast. "And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen
that had knowledge of sea, with the servants of Solomon" (I Kings
There are indications that this maritime cooperation between
Phoenicians and Israelites continued for centuries. A trading
empire of global proportions was to develop which established
trading settlements in Spain (the Tarshish of antiquity), Britain
and many other areas. Some have even claimed to have discovered
evidence of Phoenician settlements in North and South America.
An entire chapter of the Bible is devoted to listing the
trading enterprises of the Phoenicians and the numerous nations
that shared in this commerce (Ezek. 27).
"At a time yet more remote, the Phoenician inhabitants of
Tyre, we are informed, visited the western parts of Britain, and
purchased of the inhabitants, tin and other productions from the
soil. The commence of this traffic is supposed to have been in a
year ranging between B.C. 1200, and B.C. 600 -- these events are
considered to be well authenticated."37
The chief Phoenician port in Britain and the center of the tin
trade was probably St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall, the "Ictis" of
Strabo and other writers of antiquity. The Cassiterides or Tin
Islands of the Greek records are generally held to be the Scillies.
Many ancient place names in Cornwall are thought to have had
a Phoenician or Hebrew origin. Baal Rock brings to mind the
infamous god of the Phoenicians. Other examples include Boswidden
and Chegwidden, both meaning "house of the Jews." The suffix
`Ywedhyon' is found in several place names and means `of the Jews.'
Other parts of Britain have also revealed traces of Phoenician
influence. A small trading settlement probably existed in the
vicinity of the modern port of Avonmouth near Bristol.
In his paternal blessing Jacob said that Dan would be "a
serpent by the way." A serpent leaves a trail which can be
followed. The Danites fulfilled this curious prophecy by naming
cities, towns, rivers and coastal areas "after the name of Dan
their father" (Judges 18:29).
By this means we may trace the wanderings of the Danites
across Europe. Their voyages from Greece to the Black Sea probably
led to the naming of such rivers as the Danube. Further west we
find a peninsula bearing the name of Denmark, or Danmark (the mark
In Britain the D-N prefix is found many times in coastal place
names and some inland locations, such as Dungeness, Doncaster,
Dundee and Dumbarton. Ireland, too, has its Duranore, Dundalk,
Donegal, and Danslaugh.
Few references to the Danites are found in the Bible after the
period of the Judges, a clear indication that most of them migrated
to areas outside of Palestine. In the time of Jeroboam, civil war
threatened to divide the Israelites. A 9th century A.D. Jewish
writer A.D. Eldud, informs us that "in Jeroboam's time, the tribe
of Dan being unwilling to shed their brethren's blood, took a
resolve to leave the country."
History clearly shows that they moved into the west, to "the
isles afar off" (Jer. 31) identified by Jewish scholars such as Dr.
Moses Margouliouth and Rabbi Menahem ben Jacob as Britain and
The Danite tribal symbol of an eagle with a serpent in its
talons has been found on examples of early Danish and Irish
According to The Chronicles of the kings of Briton a chieftain
named Barthlome along with thirty ships full of people settled in
Ireland -- they had earlier been driven from Spain. The chief
related to Gwrgant, an English king, that his people had originally
come from "Israel."
This group may have come to Britain from the Spanish port of
Gades or Cadiz. In this area a Hebrew-Phoenician colony was
established about 1000 B.C. The Spanish river Guadalquivir got its
name from "the river of the Hebrews."
One of the clearest and strongest promises and guarantees in
all the Bible relates to the throne and royal dynasty of King David
of ancient Israel. David stated, at the end of his life that "he
(God) hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all
things and sure" (II Sam. 23:5). The nature of this covenant was
that "thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever"
(II Sam.7:16). The promise was repeated, concerning David's son
Solomon: "I will set up thy seed after thee ... and I will
establish his kingdom" (II Sam.7:12).
This throne and royal line were to continue in existence
through the centuries and would be taken over by Jesus Christ at
His second coming (Luke 1:32).
The last recorded king of David's line to reign in Jerusalem
was Zedekiah. He was taken prisoner by the Babylonians in 585 B.C.
and died in a dungeon at Babylon. Since that time not one king of
David's line has reigned over the Jews in the Holy Land.
Does this mean, as several "higher critics" of the Bible such
as Tom Paine and Bob Ingersol have claimed, that God has broken His
"everlasting and sure" covenant with David, and that the scripture
which Christ said "cannot be broken" has indeed proved to be false
Centuries after David had died, God confirmed through Jeremiah
that His promise to David was as certain and unshakable as the
natural cycle that produced day and night, (Jer. 33:19-26).
"My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is
gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will
not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne
as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon
and as a faithful witness in heaven" (Ps. 89:34-37).
A point generally overlooked by the critics is that the Bible
NOWHERE states that David's throne would always be located at
Jerusalem. Many assume that David's royal line would have to reign
only over the Jews, but the Bible does not say this. "David shall
never want a man to sit upon the throne of the House of Israel"
(Jer. 33:17). The Jews, from the time of Rehoboam, were known as
the "House of Judah," not ISRAEL.
The "House of Israel," sometimes known as "the ten lost
tribes," had left Palestine by 718 B. C. and gone into captivity.
It was amongst these people that David's throne was to be located.
Jeremiah the prophet had a vital part to play in this mystery.
God told him that "I have set you this day over nations and
kingdoms, to pluck up and break down, to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant" (Jer. 1:9-10).
The nation of Judah and its king were indeed overthrown by the
armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Zedekiah died in
prison, at Babylon, and ALL of his sons were killed. It would
seem, to the world, that David's dynasty had come to an end and
God's promise to David had been rendered null and void (Jer.
David's line, however, had not been totally extinguished. We
read that "Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the
people that were in Mizpah, even the king's daughters" (Jer.
41:10). The KING'S DAUGHTERS, descendants of David, survived. It
was the royal house, represented by these Hebrew princesses, that
Jeremiah was to "plant." This is the reason why Jeremiah visited
Mizpah -- the princesses were there (Jer. 40:6).
Jeremiah, along with his scribe Baruch, the royal princesses
and some of the people who had survived the invasion, were later
taken to Egypt (Jer. 43:5-7).
Archaeology has uncovered evidence of "the palace of the Jew's
daughter" at Tahpanhes in Egypt, the probable temporary residence
of the princesses.
A prophecy of Isaiah mentions that "the remnant that is
escaped of the house of Judah," probably speaking of the
princesses, "shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward"
Other prophecies speak of the throne being overturned three
times (Ezk. 21:25) and of being removed from its former location
and planted elsewhere (Ezk. 17). Jeremiah, it will be recalled,
was the one who was given the task of replanting.
The location where Jeremiah "replanted" the Hebrew princess
may be identified by a careful study of Irish history. Several
references are found relating to a "Royal Sage" or "Saint" by the
name of Ollamh Fodhla who arrived in Ireland about 600 B.C.
accompanied by "Simon Brach," or "Berach," and an eastern princess.
He was described as a "celebrated personage" and "a being of
historical substance and truth," a great legislator and founder of
a college at Tara."38
The Hebrew princess, known in Irish history as Tea-Tephi,
married an Irish prince, Herremon of Ulster who later became king.
"Ollam Fodhla distinguished himself by an exquisite talent for
government. He infused health into the Irish Commonwealth by
excellent laws and customs."39
Other sources show that a large part of early Irish law was
based on "the book of the law" or the first five books of the
Bible, an indication that the one who introduced these "excellent
laws and customs" was indeed the prophet Jeremiah.
Irish writers were unable to identify the nationality of Ollam
Fodhla but were aware that he had not been born in Ireland.
The Chronicles of Eri inform us that he was "brought up
amongst the Olam (prophets)" and that "all eyes delight to look
upon him, all ears are charmed with the sound of his voice."
According to the Annals of Clonmacnoise, Ulster (Ulladh) took
its name from him and describes him as "soe well learned and soe
much given to the favour of learning." This work states that he was
also known as "Cohawyn" which in Hebrew means "The Long-suffering"
or "The Patient." How appropriate for a man of Jeremiah`s
Some of "the laws of Eri, set in order by Ollam Fola" seem to
have been taken directly from the Old Testament.
"Let not man slay his fellow.
"Let not man take the belongings of another privily.
"Let not the lips utter what the mind knoweth to be false.
"Man be merciful. "Let man do even as he would be done by."40
Some traditions mention that Jeremiah took the other princess
to Spain where she married into the royal family of Zaragossa.
Jeremiah is also said to have brought to Ireland two unusual
objects, a harp and the "Stone of Destiny" or "lia-fail."
The "harp of Tara" was later to be adopted as the national
emblem of Eire.
The princess Tephi is said to have been buried on the hill of
Tara. For centuries local Irish people have considered this to be
a sacred spot.
"Jeremiah`s tomb" is located near the ruins of Devenish Abbey,
on the Isle of Devenish in Lower Lough Erne, near Inniskillen,
Few objects in the history of Britain has attracted such an
aura of mystery and superstitious awe as the "Stone of Scone" or
"lia-fail." For two and a half thousand years the kings and queens
of Ireland, Scotland and England have been crowned sitting over
Several daring attempts have been made to illegally remove the
stone from the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey; so highly
regarded was the stone that in 1940 when enemy invasion threatened,
it was placed in a secret hiding place known only to a few in high
office; the Prime Minister of Canada was also sent a plan of the
Why such interest in a twenty-six inch long block of dull
Stones and rocks play an important part in the symbolism of
the Bible. They are often used to represent kings and kingdoms.
Jesus Christ, a future "king of kings," is described as a "chief
corner stone" (I Pet. 2:6) and a "rock of offense" (I Pet. 2:8).
His kingdom is represented as a "stone" (Dan. 2:34).
Stones or pillars have often been used in coronation
ceremonies. In ancient Israel King Jehoash "stood by a pillar as
the manner was" (II Kings 11:12-14).
In England the Saxon kings used a stone in their coronation
According to tradition the "Stone of Destiny" was the very one
upon which Jacob rested his head at Bethel. "And Jacob rose up
early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his
pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of
it" (Gen. 28:18).
Some skeptics have claimed that the stone consists of
"Scottish red sandstone." However, it should be noted that reddish
sandstone of this type is found near the Dead Sea, not far from the
spot where Jacob had his dream.
Later, if the tradition is correct, Jeremiah brought the stone
to Ireland. For about a thousand years the descendants of
Tea-Tephi and Heremon of Ireland were crowned sitting over the
stone and ruled Ireland. In the fifth century A.D. Fergus MacEarca
of the same royal line landed an army on the Mull of Kintyre in
Scotland and began a dynasty ruling in Scotland.
Until 1297 the kings of Scotland were crowned sitting over the
stone; in that year it was seized by King Edward the First of
England and placed beneath the Coronation Chair in Westminster
In 1603 the Scottish royal line in the person of James the
Sixth of Scotland inherited the English throne and thus the ancient
prophecy that the throne of David would be overturned -- three
times was fulfilled (Ezk. 21:27). It was overturned once when it
was transferred from Jerusalem to Ireland during the time of
Jeremiah, overturned a second time about a thousand years later
when the royal line was moved to Scotland and then overturned the
third and final time when James the Sixth of Scotland inherited the
throne of England in 1603.
It is to be overturned "no more, until he comes whose right it
is; (speaking of Jesus Christ at His second coming) and I will give
it to him." Yes, God has surely kept His promise to David, his
royal line does exist to this very day, ruling over a part of the
The husband of Tea-Tephi was a member of the Milesian Royal
House. The Milesians, who conquered Ireland in 1016 B.C. were of
Scythian stock and were related to the Danites who controlled
Ireland prior to the arrival of the Milesians. Keating in his
History of Ireland gives a comprehensive coverage of this subject.
Tea-Tephi was of the Pharez line and her husband was of the
Zarah branch of the "Scepter" family of Judah (Gen. 38:27-30).
This marriage healed the "breach" between the two branches of this
The symbolic "Red Hand" of Ulster could well represent the red
or scarlet thread tied around the wrist of Zerah (Gen. 38:29-30).
The flag of Northern Ireland includes both the red hand and a six
pointed "star of David."
Several marked similarities exist between the ancient
coronation ceremony used in the crowning of British monarchs and
that used for the kings of Old Testament Israel. Some have
considered the twelve jewels in the crown of St. Edward symbolic of
the twelve tribes of Israel.
A further proof of the relationship between the people of
Britain and the Israelites is that a host of tribal symbols used by
the "ten lost tribes" are found in British heraldry, and some are
even found in the national symbols of the United States of America.
A detailed study of this subject is beyond the scope of this
present work, but an adequate coverage, with many illustrations, is
given in the book Symbols of our Celto-Saxon Heritage by W.H.
English law, which many have admired and some nations have
attempted to adapt to their own use, was in its earliest form,
which dates back to about the time of Alfred the Great, based upon
the Mosaic "Book of the Law" -- the first five books of the Bible.
This civil legal code incorporated more "Mosaic" legal principles
than any other national code. Through the centuries however this
early system became greatly overlaid with a mass of man-made,
non-biblical ordinances, which in many cases contradicted the
early, but simple and effective legal system.
One of the most important keys in tracing the ethnic origins
of the early Britons is found in the Cephalic Index. This is an
accurate scientific method for determining race by examination of
skeletal remains, including the shape of the head.
"The origin of the peoples of Northwestern Europe has
occasioned much controversy! As a result, a considerable amount of
confusion has been generated over the question of the racial
affinities of the various branches of those people who inhabit
primarily the coastlands, islands and peninsulas of Northwestern
"It can further be proved beyond question that the longheaded
Scythian (or Sacae) skulls which were formerly found on the Steppes
all across South Russia and Northern Europe from the Danube to the
Don River (and even further east) are today found in type only
among North-West Europeans."42
Most authorities agree that the Scythians were of the "Nordic"
racial type. They are distinguished from the Mediterranean races
of Southern Europe by their longer limbs and larger skulls.
The modern Nordics are the English, Flemings, Dutch, North
Germans and Scandinavians. The English are of the long headed
type. Nordics produce the adventurers, explorers, sailors and
above all rulers and organizers.
Considerable evidence exists which links the Scythians with
the Celtic and Saxon peoples of Britain. Nennius, in his account
of the arrival of the Saxon leaders Hengist and Horsa in Thanet
mentions that "messengers were sent to Scythia" for reinforcements.
Several Scythian customs reveal traces of an Israelite
"The migrating Hebrews, wherever they are found, though
usually tainted by the paganism of neighboring nations, always show
some custom or almost forgotten religious rite that is a memory of
their early history. The Scythians are no exception. Herodotus
tells us that they never sacrifice swine, nor indeed is it their
wont to breed them in any part of their country.' They may have
forgotten why they were to regard the pig as `unclean', but the
One of the reasons why Israel was driven into captivity was
the excessive use of "wine and new wine" (Hos. 4:11). The prophets
spoke of the "drunkards of the tribe of Ephraim." Herodotus records
that the Scythians too, had the same reputation; other nations he
mentions used the proverb "pour out like a Scythian," which seems
to have been the equivalent of our saying "as drunk as a lord."
"The many references to the Scythian horses, during
Alexander's invasion of Asia, combined with the fact that the
Scythians were so frequently on the move that their enemies seldom
caught up with them, shows that the greatest migratory movement
took place on horseback, or with the use of wheeled vehicles. The
Scythians used `scores of chariots equipped with scythe blades' the
same type of chariot as that used by Boadicea in her battles
against the invading Romans, a strange fact if there were no
connection between the Scythians and Britons."44
The Scythians were skilled in the use of cavalry and excellent
archers. Even the Persians found them a difficult enemy to defeat.
They sometimes adopted a "scorched earth" policy, retreating into
their vast plains beyond the reach of an invading army. They were
a prosperous people and conducted an extensive trade with Greece in
such commodities as grains, furs, hides, meat, honey, salt, fish
and even slaves.
Scythian kings were often buried with their horses and various
objects, some of which were made of gold and silver. From time to
time a tomb is discovered in Siberia, where deep freeze conditions
have preserved even perishable items such as carpets.
Scyths wore baggy trousers, belts and pointed caps. They, in
common with the early Britons had a fondness for tattooing
themselves. The great majority of Scyths were long headed, a very
small number however, due to intermarriage were Mongoloid.
Evidence taken from Saxon cemeteries in Britain shows that the
Saxons were of the same long headed ethnic type as the Scythians.
As a separate race the Scythians seem to have almost vanished
by about the time of Christ. In Europe they were then known by a
variety of other names.
The apostle Paul, when listing four ethnic groups (Col. 3:11)
mentions the Scythians as being distinct and separate from the
Greeks, Jews and Barbarians. As descendants of the ten lost tribes
of Israel this is precisely what we would expect.
Scythians and Celts mixed freely with each other, giving rise
to the term "Celto-Scythians." Ancient writers always described the
Celts as being very tall, fair haired with blue or grey eyes.
According to Dinan, one Celtic tribe was called "Ombri." Could
there be any connection with "the land of Onui," the Assyrian term
for ancient Israel?
Scythian art was very similar to that of the Celts and Saxons.
"Soon after a schoolboy discovered, on St. Ninian's Island, a
rich hoard of objects inlaid with gold, silver and enamel, with
typical Celtic Zoomorphic decoration, a cache of equally wonderful
work, carried out in the very same style, was discovered in a
remote spot west of the Caspian Sea.
"It is surely more than coincidence that metal workers in
places thousands of miles apart should have been using identical
methods; apart from the remote possibility of British craftsmen
sending such a quantity of goldwork to that distant region in the
Middle East, the only conclusion is that the craftsmen themselves
migrated from east to west, bringing the skills and practicing them
in all the regions of their settlement."45
Some have assumed that because many different groups of people
have settled in Britain under different circumstances and at
different times that the people of Britain are a mixed or mongrel
race. But is this really so?
"Although this mixed race theory has long prevailed,
ethnologists declare that the various peoples who settled in the
British Isles were branches of a common stock. Thus Professor
Grunther, in The Racial Element of European History (p. 228-229),
remarks: `The racial composition of England is worthy of special
mention, for the common and wrong opinion exists about the English
people that it owes its capacity to much racial admixture
--Whatever peoples, whatever individual Viking bands may have
trodden English ground -- Kelts, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes,
Norwegian and Icelandic Vikings, Normans -- they were always
predominantly Nordic peoples ... English history is rich in
movements of peoples; in movements of races it has little to
Great confusion exists among both Jewish and Gentile
historians over the question of exactly what happened to the ten
"lost" tribes of the Israelites, although it is generally agreed
that the descendants of these people do still exist -- somewhere.
Israel was to be sifted among all nations yet not to be
destroyed (Amos 9:8-9). Although the kingdom was to be destroyed
the people were to continue in existence because of God's promise
to Abraham. The lost tribes were to ultimately return to the Holy
Land (Ezk. 11:15-17).
The Israelites were prophesied to multiply rapidly (Gen.
22:17, 24:16). By the time of Joshua (1450 B.C.) two to three
million of them entered the promised land.
The children of Jacob or Israel were, according to the
prophecy, to become "a nation and a company of nations" (Gen.
35:9-12). Other prophecies speak of them spreading around the
world, becoming prosperous and of playing a dominant economic and
military role in world affairs. The Jews, who were only one
(Judah) of the twelve tribes, never fulfilled these prophecies.
The United States of America and the British Commonwealth on the
other hand have very clearly fulfilled all such prophecies.
The Bible speaks not of just the Jews but of ISRAEL and JUDAH
(Ezk. 37:15-22, Jer. 3:17-18). Israel was to be "scattered among
the heathen" and "dispersed through the countries" (Ezk. 36:16-20).
The apostle James, in the first century addressed his epistle
to "the twelve tribes scattered abroad."
Evidence exists which traces the westward migration of the
Israelites towards Europe. Many gravestones have been discovered
in the Crimea, including one belonging to a member "of the tribe of
Naphthali." The inscription mentioned that he "went into exile with
the exiles, who were driven away with Hosea, the king of Israel."47
Within a few generations the exiles seemed to have lost the
knowledge of their early history and had begun to develop a new
What of the physical appearance of the early Israelites? How
did this compare with the appearance of the modern day West
European or North American?
The early Israelites did not necessarily look like the average
Jews of today. They were more Nordic than Jewish.
Sarah was described as a "fair" woman (Gen. 12:11). The
meaning of the Hebrew word used in this case is "to be bright" or
a fair skinned person. A description of Sarah is given in the
seventh of the Dead Sea Scrolls: "Her skin was pure white; her hair
was long and lovely; her hands were long and slim."
Although some of the Jews are of swarthy appearance due to
intermarriage with Canaanites, others are of Nordic appearance.
"The famous traveller, Lady Burton, in The Inner Life of
Syria, speaks of visiting a prominent Jewish family in Damascus and
finding that `they were white with blue eyes and fair hair, like
any English people'."48
The meaning of the name Laban, a close relative of Abraham, is
"white." David was "ruddy and of a fair countenance," (I Sam.
17:42), like many a modern Western European. The subject of the
Song of Solomon is described as "white and ruddy" with black hair.
This description is very much like that of a modern Sephardic Jew.
Nazarites of Israel were described as "purer than snow" and
"whiter than milk," "more ruddy in body than rubies" (Lam. 4:7).
The ancient Israelites were not dark or olive skinned people,
but light skinned-many were blonds, others were black or brown
haired. They were "Nordic" in racial type. Some intermarried with
Pictures of Israelite prisoners have been found engraved on
the walls of the temple of Karnak in Egypt. These people are of
the blond Nordic type. A tomb painting at Thebes also shows an
Israelite (described by some authorities as "Jewish" or "Amorite"),
having white skin and light, reddish brown eyes and hair.
The word "Amorite" was used by the Babylonians, and in their
language means "Westerner." It was used to describe the inhabitants
of Palestine. Some of the latest research indicates that the
Amorites were a long headed race with blue eyes, straight noses and
thin lips much like the Northern Europeans of today.
The much earlier Biblical Amorites were dark Canaanite people
whose land the Israelites later occupied. Several sources mention
that the Amorites were Caucasian in physique and appearance,
closely related to the Celtic peoples.
Some scholars have noted similarities between the beliefs of
the Amorites and those of the early inhabitants of Europe, i.e,
including the Druids.
The religion practiced by the early population of Britain
gives a clear indication of the ethnic origins of the people.
"We cannot avoid the conclusion that our British ancestors
were devoted to that kind of worship which they brought with them
from the East, even close upon the Patriarchal times of Holy
Several early authorities mention "the remarkable similarity
which the practices of the Hebrew patriarchs bore to those of our
forefathers... the first inhabitants of our island brought with
them the religion of Noah and Abraham; they knew and worshipped the
one living and true God... and this continued, subject to various
alterations and additions, through many ages. It would be very
interesting and highly instructive, to follow the history of these
additions and corruptions."50
This early form of worship is often classified as being
Druidic. Although the word "Druid" does not appear in Greek and
Roman records until some three to four centuries before Christ, it
is clearly evident that the form of religion from which Druidism
emerged arrived in Britain some fifteen hundred years before this
Speaking of the Druids, Smith writes that "they believed that
the Deity was the source of life, and giver of good; they defined
his duration as eternal, and attributed to him omnipotence as the
measure of his power. And as they found nothing in the animal
creation or in man, which had any proportion or resemblance to God,
they had neither statues nor pictures to represent him. From which
we infer, that they regarded God as a pure Spirit."51
The Druidic definition of wisdom is almost identical to the
Biblical precepts on the subject.
"Obedience to the laws of God, concern for the welfare of
mankind, and suffering with fortitude all the accidents of life."52
The first Britons seemed to have been keenly aware of the
Creation story as given in Genesis. Early sites where worship was
conducted had marked similarities to the picture given of the
Garden of Eden.
"Hence we find everywhere, in the description of the first
sacred places, some allusions to the scene of man's temptation and
fall: a garden or grove, with one or two trees in the midst,
watered by a river, and enclosed to prevent unhallowed intrusion.
This was evidently the case with our ancestors."53
Pillars, oaks and altars of uncut stone played a significant
part in early British worship, as they had done in the form of
worship employed by Abraham, Moses, Joshua and other Old Testament
The oak tree was used as a symbol of Israel (Isa. 6:13). It
often marked a place of worship, both in the true religion (Josh.
24:26) and also the false (Isa. 1:29, Ezk. 6:13).
Druidic altars in Britain were of uncut or uncarved stone, as
was the case in ancient Israel (Ex. 20:25-26).
Excavations conducted at Stonehenge and other places of
worship in Britain have uncovered the remains of animal sacrifices,
mostly of bullocks, sheep and goats; the animals sacrificed in
Britain were the same "clean" beasts as are found listed in the
Levitical regulations of the Old Testament.
Except for a few brief periods, the religion of the Israelites
consisted of a mixture of Mosaic precepts and the paganism of the
various Canaanite cults of the surrounding nations. They were
warned in the strongest terms that such compromise would lead to
the ultimate horror -- ritualistic human sacrifice (Deut.
By Roman times the Druids had largely exchanged the simple
sacrifices of an earlier era for the gruesome and abominable
sacrifice of living people.
Caesar described great wickerwork figures, the limbs of which
were filled with human victims and then set on fire. Tacitus
records that the British Druids "deemed it indeed a duty to cover
their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their
deities through human entrails."
Druidic tradition traced their own ancestry to the Israelite
captives in Egypt. They claimed that the arrival of these
Israelite adventurers in Britain was marked by the erection of
A host of wildly conflicting theories have been expressed over
the years to determine the date of erection and purpose of the
Stonehenge monument. The evidence strongly suggests that it was
erected for purposes of both astronomy and religious observance.
Modern research tends to confirm the date given by Sir Norman
Lockyer, the astronomer, of about 1700 B.C. Egyptian glazed beads
dating to this period have been discovered at the site.
This date falls within the four hundred and thirty years that
the Israelites were in Egypt. Josephus in his Antiquities of the
Jews mentions that Abram was "skillful in the celestial science"
and that he communicated to the Egyptians arithmetic, and delivered
to them the science of astronomy." Centuries later the Egyptians
forced Abram's captive descendants to "learn all sorts of
The Israelites, after leaving Egypt, set up pillars, sometimes
around a central altar (Ex. 24:4). Moses commanded the people "thou
shalt set thee up great stones" (Deut. 27:2). Joshua ordered the
setting up of twelve stones "for a memorial unto the children of
Israel for ever" (Josh. 4:7). The site of this monument was called
Gilgal, meaning "rolling" or "circle."
Although the British stone circles such as Stonehenge and
Avebury were constructed on a much more spectacular scale than the
Biblical examples, could this not indicate some connection between
the two peoples?
A stone circle 200 yards in diameter has been discovered in
Jordan, in the vicinity of ancient Heshbon.54
According to E.O. Gordon in his Prehistoric London, the name
Avebury, which is the site of a circle of stones of gigantic
dimensions, situated about twenty miles from Stonehenge, is derived
from "Abiri" -- the name given to the Israelites by the former
inhabitants of Canaan.
Perhaps the most amazing discovery of all has been made very
recently in Scotland. In 1976 an American-led scientific
expedition armed with under-water cameras and sonar sounding
equipment began to probe the murky depths of Loch Ness, seeking
tangible evidence of the existence of the world famous "monster."
The searchers found "some indications of a carcass-like shape
with a neck-like projection about 30 feet long." This, however, was
not all that they discovered.
"To their great astonishment, the expedition members, with
their sophisticated equipment, detected quite clearly on the bed of
the loch `circles of stones ranging from 15 to 150 feet in diameter
which resembled the Stonehenge formations.'"55
Modern scholars are correct in pointing out that Stonehenge
and the other strange circles were already objects of great
antiquity when the first Druids arrived on the scene. By Roman
times such sites had been taken over as places of pagan worship.
Historians with good reason reject the ancient fables of magic and
superstition associated with these monuments, but seem at a total
loss to determine which group of ancient peoples were responsible
for their erection.
Is it not possible that the early Israelites whose custom it
was to "set up great stones" as a memorial of their arrival in a
new land, and who used stone "pillars" often arranged in circular
formations, could have been responsible for such structures?
Josephus records that the Israelites of this period were
forced by the Egyptians to build walls, ramparts and pyramids and
"to learn all sorts of mechanical arts." Several writers have noted
the similarity of building techniques in the early Egyptian and
British monuments. The same system of measurement was employed by
the Stonehenge builders as was used by the pyramid builders of the
Could not the advanced knowledge of astronomy that Josephus
attributes to Abraham have been employed by his descendants in the
design of the stone circles of Britain?
Jeremiah speaks of "scattered Israel" and "the isles afar off"
in the same verse (Jer. 31: 10). Some Jewish scholars have seen a
direct reference to Britain here.
The High Priest of the ancient British religion wore a white
robe and a golden breastplate set with twelve jewels. Such a
breastplate has been found on an ancient skeleton in a tomb near
If there were no connection between the Israelite and British
religions, why would a British High Priest or Arch Druid be wearing
a golden plate, almost identical to that worn by Aaron, the High
Priest of Israel (Ex. 28:15-21)? Why would the British breastplate
be set with twelve jewels, the same as that of Aaron, which
symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel?
The early Britons continued to follow the Israelite tendency
to mix the religion of the true God with the rites of pagan
worship. The "Golden Calf" incident is an excellent example of
This calf is supposed to have represented Tammuz the false
messiah of the Babylonian Mystery Religion. The mother of Tammuz
was Semiramis the so-called "queen of heaven" (Jer. 44:17-19). In
Egypt this calf or bull was known as Apis which was worshipped by
the Egyptians and mummified and buried with great pomp. In 1851 a
huge sarcophagi was discovered by Mariette containing no less than
sixty four such mummified bulls.
This Apis or golden calf was worshipped by the Israelites in
what they called "a feast to the Lord" (Ex. 32:1-6). Centuries
later Jeroboam gave the Israelites "two calves of gold" to worship
(I Kings 12:28). God strongly condemned this false system of
worship which included kissing "the calves" (Hos. 13:1-3).
Those calves were taken by the Israelites into captivity at
the time the people were to become "vagabonds or wanderers among
the nations" (Hos. 9:17, 10:5-6). The calves or Apis were
introduced into Britain in the form of "a spotted cow" and "astral
"The cow of Athor, however, the female divinity corresponding
to Apis, is well known as a spotted cow, and it is singular that
the Druids of Britain also worshipped a spotted cow."56
"The astral bull of milk-white hue, its horns crowned with
golden stars, became the symbol, or visible sacrament of
In Celtic Britain and Westem Europe the Druids appear to have
held a position which was almost identical in many respects to that
of the Levites in Israel.
Caesar states that "the former (Druids) are engaged in things
sacred, conduct the public and private sacrifices, and interpret
all matters of religion. To these a large number of the young men
resort for the purpose of instruction, and they (the Druids) are in
great honour among them.
"For they determine respecting almost all controversies,
public and private; and if any crime has been perpetrated, if
murder has been committed, if there be any dispute about an
inheritance, if any about boundaries, these same persons decide
it... The Druids do not go to war."58
They believed in repentance, purification and observed one day
in seven as peculiarly sanctified and made holy by the Great
Creator." One tenth of their income was dedicated to religious
Good health and public hygiene seems to have been of
particular interest to the Druids.
"Druidic physicians were skilled in the treatment of the sick;
their practice was far removed from the medicine-man cult. They
prayed to God to grant a blessing on His gifts, conscious that it
should always be remembered that no medicine could be effective nor
any physician successful without Divine help. The chief care of
the physicians was to prevent rather than to cure disease. Their
recipe for health was cheerfulness, temperance and exercise. Human
bones which had been fractured and re-set by art have been found in
"The supposed magic of the Druids consisted in a more thorough
knowledge of some of the sciences than was common -- astronomy, for
instance. Diodorus Siculus states that the Druids used telescopes
-- this evidently is the origin of the story that the Druids could
by magic bring the moon down to the earth."61
Druids also looked forward to a coming Messiah to pay the
price of human sins.
There is a darker side to the picture of the Druids -- a side
which has received by far the most publicity through the centuries.
They became deeply influenced by paganism, particularly the Baal
worship so strongly condemned by Jeremiah and other Old Testament
They believed in a pagan trinity, the immortal soul concept,
and took part in the worship of "Baal and Astarte." "The Pagan
festival of the 24th of June was celebrated among the Druids by
blazing fires in honour of... Baal." In common with some of the
Israelites the Druids probably caused human victims "to pass
through the fire unto Molech" (Jer. 32:35)."62
When all the facts are clearly examined it becomes very clear
that the early Britons were indeed a part of the "lost sheep of the
house of Israel" to whom Christ sent some of His apostles.
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 2
1. Tac. Ann. Lib. v. c. 28.
2. Ecclesiastical History of England, Bede, page 7.
3. Antiquities of the British Church, Stillingfleet.
4. The History of the Anglo-Saxons by S. Tumer,
vol. 1, p. 57.
5 Ibid., page 87.
6. History of England, Milton, Book 3, p.
7. See Bede's Ecclesiastical History, chapter 1.
8. Smith's Religion of Ancient Britain, page 22.
9. Ibid., page 6.
10. Ibid., page 10.
11. Celtic Researches by E. Davies.
12. Smith's Religion of Ancient Britain, page 5.
13. Key to Northwest European Origins, Raymond F. McNair,
14. Ibid., page 76.
15. Ant. XI., V., Sec. 2.
16. Key to Northwest European Origins, McNair, page 88.
17. Ibid., page 91.
18. Rawlinson, History of Herodotus, Bk. 4, Appendix, Note 1.
19. Our British Ancestors, Lysons, page 23.
20. Ibid., page 27.
21. History of the Anglo-Saxons, S. Tumer, vol. 1, page 23.
22. Our British Ancestors, Lysons, page 27.
23. Ibid., page 265.
24. Our British Ancestors, Lysons, page 93.
25. Division and Dispersion by G. Taylor, page 45.
27. See The History of Ireland by Geoffrey Keating and
The History of Ireland by Moore, vol. 1, page 59.
28. Ibid., page 60.
29. Ethnology of Europe, p. 137.
30. Keating's History of Ireland, page 40.
31. The History of Ireland, Moore, page 60.
32. I Maccabees, chap. 12 and Josephus, Antiquities of the
Jews, chap. 12 and 13.
33. National Message magazine, September 1976, page 268.
34. Ibid., page 268.
35. Ethnology of Europe.
36. Josephus, Ant., 3:4 and 1 Kings 7:14.
37. Smith's Religion of Ancient Britain, page 3.
38. The History of Ireland, Moore, pages 86-88.
39. Cambrensis Eversus, Lynch, written 1662.
40. Chronicles of Eri., vol. 2, pages 98-103.
41. Key to Northwest Europe Origins, Raymond F. McNair,
42. Ibid., page 45.
43. The Magnet of the Isles, G. Taylor, page 14.
44. Ibid., page 13.
45. The Celtic Influence, G. Taylor, page 19.
46. The National Message magazine, September 1978, page 246.
47. Synchronous History, vol. 3, by J. Bosanquet.
48. The Celtic Influence, G. Taylor, page 13.
49. Our British Ancestors, S. Lysons, pages 93-94.
50. Smith's Religion of Ancient Britain, pages 41-42.
51. Ibid., page 36.
52. Ibid., page 36.
53. Ibid., page 40.
54. The Celtic Influence, G. Taylor, page 27.
55. The National Message magazine, February 1977, page 50.
56. The Two Babylons, Hislop, page 45.
57. St. Paul in Britain, R. Morgan, page 12.
58. Gallic War, vi. 13, 14.
59. The `Painted Savages' of England, A. Heath, page 16.
60. Celt, Druid and Culdee, I.H. Elder, pages 57-58.
61. Ibid., page 59.
62. The Two Babylons, Hislop, pages 103, 116, 232.
CHAPTER THREE -- DID JESUS VISIT BRITAIN?
At least four entirely separate traditions exist in the West of
England relating to Jesus as a boy or young man having visited this
part of Britain prior to His ministry.
This tradition has even been set to music in Blake's famous
And did those feet in ancient time
walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
The question is, did He really visit England, and if so, for
One cannot be dogmatic about this subject because the Bible is
silent concerning the matter.
At the end of John's gospel, however, we find the intriguing
remark that most of the activities of Jesus Christ were never
recorded in the Gospels, (John 21:25). This included all of His
activities between the ages of 12 and 30.
There is nothing in the entire Bible to suggest that Jesus
could not have visited foreign parts prior to His ministry.
Indeed, it plainly states that He spent time in Egypt with His
family shortly after His birth (Matt. 2:13).
Many assume that Jesus became a world famous figure only after
His death, that His human life was lived out in obscurity, that He
was known only by a handful of followers and local officials.
History records, however, that the "historical Jesus" was well
known even in the more remote regions of the known world of His
Eusebius, writing in the early fourth century, records that
the fame of Jesus and the knowledge of His healing miracles spread
far beyond the borders of His own nation.
Being a bishop and historian of considerable reputation,
Eusebius had access to official archives and written records. He
was writing some 150 years before the fall of the Roman Empire and
during his day many original first century documents were still
He records two letters from the official archives of Edessa,
a city state in Mesopotamia. The king or ruler of the area had
heard of the healing miracles of Jesus, and being afflicted by a
disease, wrote a letter to Him requesting that Jesus should visit
him and heal the disease. Eusebius quotes the letter as follows:
"Agbarus, prince of Edessa, sends greeting to Jesus the
excellent Saviour, who has appeared in the borders of Jerusalem.
I have heard the reports respecting thee and thy cures, as
performed by thee without medicines and without the use of herbs.
"For as it is said, thou causest the blind to see again, the
lame to walk, and thou cleansest the lepers, and thou castest out
impure spirits and demons, and thou healest those that are
tormented by long disease, and thou raisest the dead.
"And hearing all these things of thee, I concluded in my mind
one of two things: either that thou art God, and having descended
from heaven, doest these things, or else doing them thou art the
Son of God. Therefore, now I have written and besought thee to
visit me, and to heal the disease with which I am afflicted. I
have, also, heard that the Jews murmur against thee, and are
plotting to injure thee; I have, however, a very small but noble
state, which is sufficient for us both."
The letter was delivered to Jesus by the courier Ananias who
also took back to the king the letter written by Jesus in reply to
the king's request. Eusebius quotes this as follows:
"Blessed art thou, O Agbarus, who, without seeing, hast
believed in me. For it is written concerning me, that they who
have seen me will not believe, that they who have not seen may
believe and live.
"But in regard to what you hast written that I should come to
thee, it is necessary that I should fulfill all things here, for
which I have been sent. And after this fulfillment, thus to be
received again by Him that sent me.
"And after I have been received up, I will send to thee a
certain one of my disciples, that he may heal thy affliction, and
give life to thee and to those who are with thee."1
Eusebius, who it seems examined the original documents, adds
the following points:
"To these letters there was, also, subjoined in the Syriac
language: `After the ascension of Jesus, Judas, who is also called
Thomas, sent him Thaddeus, the Apostle, one of the seventy."
Eusebius then proceeds to relate the various miracles and
other works of Thaddeus, including the healing of King Agbarus.
Following this the king assembled all the citizens together that
they might hear the preaching of the Apostle.
Although Eusebius considered this material authentic, the view
of some later scholars is that the letters were third century
forgeries. Although this could well be the case, it is far from
impossible that the publicity which the miracles of Jesus aroused
could have spread far from the borders of His own country.
Later in his history, Eusebius relates the fact that the
resurrection of Jesus Christ was not just an obscure event
mentioned only by the Gospel writers. He records that the event
was well known to the Roman Emperor Tiberius and the Senate.
"The fame of our Lord's remarkable resurrection and ascension
being now spread abroad, according to an ancient custom prevalent
among the rulers of the nations, to communicate novel occurrences
to the emperor, that nothing might escape him, Pontius Pilate
transmits to Tiberius an account of the circumstances concerning
the resurrection of our Lord from the dead, the report of which had
already been spread throughout all Palestine.
"In this account he also intimated that he ascertained other
miracles respecting him, and that having now risen from the dead,
he was believed to be a God by the great mass of the people."2
It was said that Tiberius was so impressed with the report
that he tried to have Jesus ranked among the Roman gods. The
Senate, however, rejected his proposition.
It must be remembered that the Roman Empire was still in
existence when Eusebius wrote. Had he been in error in his
writings the facts would have been exposed by reference to the
official Roman archives. The Romans took great care over the
preservation of official records.
At the time of the crucifixion we read that "there was a
darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour" (Luke 23:44).
In far off Ireland, Conor Macnessa, king of Ulster, who died
in A.D. 48, is said to have inquired of his Chief Druid as to the
meaning of the event. The Druid, after consulting the Druidic
prophecies relating to the Messiah then gave the king a correct
explanation for the darkness. 3
It might seem strange that the Irish Druids should have
prophetic knowledge of Christ until we realize that the Druids were
closely related to the "Magi" or "wise men" who visited Jesus
shortly after His birth.
The word "Magi" is merely the Latin equivalent of "Druid." In
many Celtic records the word Magi is used instead of Druid. In
some early Irish histories Simon Magus (Acts 8:9) is known as
"Simon the Druid."
The impact that Druidism had on the ancient world is often not
fully realized. Because of the influence that this religion had on
the early generations of the Church of God in Britain, it will be
dealt with in some detail in a later chapter. It would be good at
this point, however, to note the following point concerning
"Westward of Italy, embracing Hispania, Gallia, the Rhenish
frontiers, portions of Germany and Scandinavia, with its
headquarters and great seats of learning fixed in Britain, extended
the Druidic religion. There can be no question that this was the
primitive religion of mankind, covering at one period in various
forms the whole surface of the ancient world."4
Other sources show that the Druidic religion stretched from
India in the East to Britain in the West, including the territory
of the "wise men" of Matthew chapter 2. Interestingly, one of the
meanings for the word "Druid" is "wise men."
Some have speculated that when they "departed into their own
country another way" (Matt. 2:12) they returned via Britain.
The darkness at mid-day which occurred at the time of Christ's
crucifixion was not only observed in Britain; the third century
"Church father" Tertullian, a native of North Africa, in addressing
his pagan adversaries, makes the point that "at the moment of
Christ's death, the light departed from the sun, and the land was
darkened at noonday; which wonder is related in your own annals,
and is preserved in your archives to this day."5
West Country traditions associate several sites with a visit
from Jesus. Among these are St. Michael's Mount, St.
Justin-Roseland, Redruth, Glastonbury, and Priddy. The tradition
appears to have been the inspiration for naming districts of Jesus'
Well in Cornwall, and Paradise in Somerset.
Across the English Channel in Brittany the same tradition has
lingered for many years. The source of the French version is not
difficult to trace. Following the Saxon invasions of Britain from
the fifth century onwards, many Britons fled from the Western parts
of Britain to nearby Brittany, taking much of their history in
written and spoken form with them. The stories relating to Jesus
appear to be of considerable antiquity.
As Jesus spent most of His early life in Galilee, one would
expect that the people of that area would have retained some
information relating to a local man who later became famous.
Indeed, this is exactly what has happened. Among the
Marionite and Catluei villagers of Upper Galilee lingers the
tradition that Jesus as a youth became a shipwright on a trading
vessel from Tyre, one of the biblical "ships of Tarshish."
According to the story, He was storm-bound on the Western
coasts of England throughout the winter. The location of the visit
is given as "the summerland," a name often used in ancient times
for the modern county of Somerset. A district associated with this
visit to Somerset is known as "Paradise." This place is sometimes
found on old maps of the area.
In the book of Isaiah from chapter 41 onwards, one of the
major themes is the first and second comings of Christ. An
interesting point relating to this section is that no fewer than
SEVEN references are made to "the isles" and "the isles afar off."
Ancient Indian writers employed similar terminology when
writing of Britain. They used terms such as "isles of the West"
and "isles of the sea."
During Roman times, at least some of the Jews believed that
Isaiah was speaking not of "isles" in general but a specific group
of islands, i.e. Britain.
In the "Sonnini Manuscript," an ancient document translated
from the Greek, we read that "certain of the children of Israel,
about the time of the Assyrian captivity, had escaped by sea to
`the isles afar off,' as spoken by the prophet, and called by the
On one occasion Isaiah links "the isles" with "the ships of
Jeremiah also mentioned "the isles afar off" in his writings.
The Jewish scholar, Dr. Margouliouth, made the point in his
History of the Jews that:
"It may not be out of place to state that the isles afar off
mentioned in the 31st Chapter of Jeremiah were supposed by the
ancients to be Britannia, Scotia and Hibernia."
That Jeremiah had these areas in mind when he wrote seems
likely, as early Irish records indicate that he probably visited
Ireland -- the ancient name for this country being Hibernia --
towards the end of his life.
The gospels relate that Jesus followed the profession of his
legal father Joseph and became a carpenter. Nowhere are we
informed of the exact nature and extent of such training. It is
entirely possible that at least a part of that training could have
involved work as a shipwright or ship's carpenter.
The fact that Phoenician trading vessels visited Britain in
ancient times is beyond question. The existence of the tin trade
between Britain and Phoenicia is often mentioned by classical
writers such as Diodorus Siculus and Julius Caesar.
Herodotus, writing about 445 B.C., speaks of Britain as the
Tin Islands or Cassiterides. Some authorities believe that this
trade existed as early as 1500 B.C. Creasy, in his History of
England, writes: "The British mines mainly supplied the glorious
adornment of Solomon's Temple."
Ancient pigs of lead bearing official Roman seals have been
discovered in the West of England dating from the time of the first
century emperors Claudius and Nero.
An interesting point indicated by the gospel writers is that
Jesus was more relaxed and confident at sea, the Sea of Galilee
incident, than the disciples who were trained fishermen (Mark
This could be a further indication of his experience at sea if
He had been to sea prior to His ministry.
A man who, according to the traditions, had experienced
sailing in the Mediterranean Sea and Bay of Biscay, would have
considered a storm on a mere "lake" to be a matter of no great
In many of the traditions relating to Jesus coming to Britain,
He is brought by Joseph of Arimathea. According to Eastern
tradition, Joseph was an uncle of the Virgin Mary and thus a
relative of Jesus.
The gospel record of Joseph burying the body of Jesus in his
own sepulchre strongly supports this tradition. A casual reading
of the account would lead one to assume that Joseph claimed the
body from Pilate on the grounds of being a friend or follower of
the dead man.
This is far from being the case, however. The chief priests,
with the permission of Pilate, had made special arrangements
regarding the security of the body of Jesus for the express purpose
of keeping it out of the hands of His followers (Matt. 27:62-66).
We are told that Joseph did not reveal at that time that he
was a follower of Jesus. He was a disciple "secretly for fear of
the Jews" (John 19:38).
If Joseph did not approach Pilate on the grounds of being a
disciple, what exactly was his status?
The only grounds which he could have had, which would be in
agreement with Jewish and Roman law and at the same time avoid
giving offence to the chief priests, would be as the nearest
relative of the dead man.
Under both Jewish and Roman law it was the responsibility of
the nearest relatives to dispose of the dead, regardless of the
circumstances of death.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, would clearly be in no fit
emotional state for such a task, which would have been considered
"man's work" anyway. The brothers of Jesus as young men or
teenagers would have lacked the maturity to perform such a duty,
leaving Joseph (according to tradition the uncle of Mary) the next
Unless Joseph had had strong legal grounds, as described, for
claiming the body, the Jews would have resisted the idea of a man
whom they hated and had caused to be executed given the honour of
being buried in a private sepulchre, instead of the official burial
place for criminals.
The last time that Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, is
mentioned in scripture is when Jesus is twelve years old (Luke
2:44-52). From then on the Bible speaks only of His mother and
brothers. The clear implication is that Joseph died when Jesus was
a young man or teenager. The people of His home town of Nazareth
asked the question, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?"
(Mark 6:3). A son would only be spoken of in this way if the
father were dead.
Under Jewish law the nearest male relative would have the
clear responsibility to assist the widow and her children. As we
saw earlier, this role would almost certainly be taken up by Joseph
Luke records of Joseph that "he was a good man, and a just"
(Luke 23:50). Someone who was likely to go far beyond the letter
of the law in this matter, especially as he was also rich (Matt.
27:57), and in a strong position to aid the bereaved family.
In the Latin Vulgate version of the gospels Joseph is
described as "Decurio," and in Jerome's translation as "Nobilis
Decurio" -- the noble decurio.
The term "decurio" was commonly used to designate an official,
under Roman authority, who was in charge of metal mining. The
office seems to have been a lucrative and much coveted one. Cicero
remarked that it was easier to become a Senator of Rome than a
Decurio in Pompeii. The office is also known to have existed under
the Roman administration in Britain.
In the Greek, Mark 15:43 reads "Joseph -- of rank a senator;"
a further indication of him holding office under the Romans.
To go "boldly" (Mark 15:43) to Pilate, the highest authority
in the land, and to obtain immediate access and agreement to the
request put forward is further proof of the man's position and
Virtually all early records and traditions concerning Joseph
associate him with the mining activities of Cornwall and the
Mendips. Is it really so incredible that he may have had
commercial interests in this part of the world?
For centuries the Hebrews and Phoenicians were trading
partners, and in Solomon's time shared the same navy (I Kings
10:22). Among the merchandise imported by these traders was tin
and lead (Ezk. 27:12).
The British mines were a major source of these metals, and in
Roman times, because tin was used in the making of alloys, the
metal was in great demand. it is entirely possible that Joseph
obtained his wealth from this trade.
A large community of Jews existed in Cornwall during ancient
times, called by the local people "Saracens." They were engaged in
the trade of extracting and exporting metals.
In a work published in 1790 by Dr. Pryce on the origin of the
Cornish language, he states that "Cornish and Breton were almost
the same dialect of a Syrian or Phoenician root."6
Modern historians who tend to be sceptical of the origin of
the tradition relating to Joseph, will readily admit that a wealthy
Jewish merchant could more easily have traveled from "Palestine to
Glastonbury" during the thirty years following the Crucifixion than
at any later time until well into the nineteenth century. It
should also be noted that trading links between the two areas
existed long before the Roman invasion of Britain in A.D. 43.
According to local tradition, Joseph taught the boy Jesus how
to extract Cornish tin and purge it of its wolfram. Is it not
perhaps significant that in his prophecy and analogy of Jesus, the
prophet Malachi casts Him in the role of a refiner of metals (Mal.
3:2-3)? The prophet mentions silver, and interestingly enough
silver was often extracted from Mendip lead during the time of
The common factor it seems in almost all the West Country
sites which involve the tradition is the metal mining industry.
Priddy, for example, with its quaint proverb "as sure as our Lord
was at Priddy," was the centre of the Mendip mining district in
Roman times and even before.
A point not commonly realized is the extensive use that was
made of metal in its various forms in the construction of both
buildings and ships during the time of Christ.
In the houses of the wealthy, plumbing involving the use of
pipes and valves was commonplace.
If Joseph had assisted the family of Jesus after the death of
His legal father, the education of the eldest son of the family
would have been a point of considerable importance.
A man with Joseph's wealth could have provided a fine
education for the young man, including foreign travel.
The gospels make it very plain that Jesus did not begin His
ministry as a penniless vagabond. He conducted His ministry on a
full-time basis for three-and-a-half years. His disciples too
were, for the most part, full-time students.
The cost of maintaining thirteen people for this period of
time must have been considerable. Although the disciples and
probably some of His other followers contributed to the common fund
from time to time, it is likely that the bulk of this fund was
provided by Jesus. Although Judas was treasurer for the group,
Jesus was the one who determined how the money was to be spent.
He paid taxes, contributed to the poor, may have owned His own
house, and attended banquets along with the social elite of His
day. One of His own parables showed the necessity of wearing
clothing appropriate to the occasion. His wardrobe must have been
an adequate one.
In order to do all these things, Jesus must have been a
successful and prosperous young man. He must surely have been more
than just an ordinary tradesman. The occupation of "carpenter"
given in the gospels probably obscures the fact that He was closer
to the modern equivalent of a general contractor, involved in the
total construction of buildings.
Britain, during the first century A.D., would have been an
ideal place to study and develop skills in various aspects of the
Eumenius states that British architects were in great demand
on the Continent during his day. Several writers mention the
skills of British craftsmen, especially in the metal working
The enameling process was invented in Britain. A superb
example of the local "La Tene" art is the famous Glastonbury bowl
which was produced about the time of Christ. There is little doubt
that Jesus could have developed many skills from British craftsmen.
As a public speaker Jesus had a tremendous impact on the
crowds that gathered around Him. The primary reason for this was
clearly His teaching, which was utterly unlike anything that the
people had heard before. Another important factor was His style of
public speaking. In the Greek, Mark 1: 22 reads: "And they were
struck with awe at his mode of instruction."
He was also an educated speaker. It is recorded that the
people of His home town of Nazareth were astonished at His
preaching. "And all bare him witness and wondered at the gracious
words which proceeded out of his mouth" (Luke 4:22).
It is very clear that not all of His formal education and
public speaking training had been received at Nazareth. If His
training had been merely the product of a local school or college
then the people would not have been so astonished.
It is unlikely that higher education of that calibre was even
available in a provincial town such as Nazareth. Nathaniel implied
this in his remark: "Can any good thing proceed from Nazareth?"
Jerusalem was the academic headquarters of the nation, yet
Jesus had not trained among the professional public speakers here
either. Mark relates that: "he taught them, as possessing
authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22).
The Jews were deeply puzzled by this very fact. They asked
the question: "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?"
The Weymouth translation renders this: "How does this man know
anything of books," they said, "although he has never been at any
of the schools?"
Here was an educated man and superb public speaker who had not
received any such training within any college of Galilee or Judea.
If such training had been received by Jesus they would have known
about it and not remarked, "having never learned."
Although such training may not have been obtained in
Palestine, it most certainly could have been in Britain. If Jesus
had visited Britain, according to the traditions, as part of His
education He would have found forty colleges or universities.
The educational standards were such that students came not
only from the British nobility but also from several foreign
nations. It is said that even Pontius Pilate, as a young man,
studied in Britain.
A very high standard in oratory or public speaking was often
attained by first century Britons. Tacitus records on a word by
word basis the speeches of several high ranking Britons of his day.
Such speeches were often colourful, stirring and inspiring,
much like, in some ways, the speeches of Jesus.
A few hundred years before the time of Christ, the Greek
writer Strabo described an educated Briton of his day, Abaris, as
follows: "He was easy in his address; agreeable in his
conversation; active in his dispatch and secret in his management
of great affairs; diligent in the quest of wisdom; fond of
friendship; trusting very little to fortune; yet having the entire
confidence of others, and trusted with everything for his prudence.
He spoke Greek with a fluency that you would have thought that he
had been brought up in the Lyceum."7
It may be mere coincidence but Jesus had far more of the
qualities and talents of an educated Briton than He ever did of an
educated Jew of the same period.
One might wonder if Jesus would have had a language problem in
Britain. He almost certainly spoke Greek in addition to His local
Aramaic. The Greek renders John 7:35 "is he about to go to the
DISPERSION OF THE GREEKS? and to teach the GREEKS?"
The Jews would obviously not have made this remark unless they
were aware that He spoke the language.
Mark relates a conversation that Jesus had with a woman in the
region of Tyre and Sidon, adding the point that "the woman was a
Greek" (Mark 7:26).
The disciples or students of Jesus when writing the New
Testament wrote in Greek, a clear indication that their "teacher"
also understood the language.
Julius Caesar stated that the Britons used Greek in their
commercial transactions. Many of the educated classes in Britain
spoke the language fluently. A few, such as Pomponia Graecina,
were among Europe's leading scholars in the language.
If Jesus had visited Britain He would have had no language
barrier to overcome.
A final indication that Jesus may well have been abroad for
some years prior to His ministry is the curious relationship that
He had with John the Baptist.
In comparison to the intimate rapport that Jesus had with His
own disciples, His relationship with John was somewhat formal
and distant. A clue to the reason for this is given by John when
he mentioned: "And I did not know him" (John 1:33).
Although the two men were related and their mothers seem to
have been close friends (Luke 1:36-45), they appear to have had
little or no contact as adults. Is this an indication that Jesus
had been absent from the area for several years prior to His
Having related the traditions of Jesus' visit to Britain to
the considerable circumstantial evidence from the gospels and other
sources, one could well say that there may indeed be a gram of
truth in the idea that those feet in ancient times did "walk upon
England's mountains green."
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 3
1. The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius Pamphilius, Book 1,
2. The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, Book 2, chapter 2.
3. Chronology of the Olympiads, Phlegon, Book 13.
4. St. Paul in Britain, R.W. Morgan, chapter 1, page 9.
5. Tertunian, Apologia c. 21, emphasis mine.
6. Archaeologia Cornu-Britannica.
7. Hecant. ab. Diod Sicul, Lib III Avienus.
CHAPTER FOUR -- THE GLASTONBURY STORY
There can be few places in the whole of Britain so steeped in
folklore, superstition and mystery as the little town of
Glastonbury, tucked away in the heart of rural Somerset.
A place of pilgrimage for thousands even in this scientific
age of the late twentieth century, a strange magnetic attraction
seems to draw people to this spot, be they Christian, mystic, or
Through the centuries some have regarded Glastonbury was none
other than the fabled "Avalon" of antiquity, the "many-towered
Camelot" where King Arthur and his beautiful Queen Guinevere held
Although many modern writers regard the story of Joseph of
Arimathea coming to Glastonbury as mere pious fables fabricated by
the local monks, some of the most eminent early authorities
consider this in an entirely different light.
According to Archbishop Ussher: "The Mother Church of the
British Isles is the Church in Insula Avallonia, called by the
Sir Henry Spelman in his Concilia writes: "It is certain that
Britain received the Faith in the first age from the first sowers
of the Word. Of all the churches whose origin I have investigated
in Britain, the Church of Glastonbury is the most ancient."
Fuller, in his evaluation of the testimony of early writers on
subject, states "If credit be given to ancient authors, this Church
of Glastonbury is the senior church of the world."
It should be mentioned that Fuller, in this context, was
talking of the church building known as "the old church" made of
wattle and daub, that survived until destroyed by fire in 1184.
Although Christian converts met together at Jerusalem and
elsewhere in Palestine from an earlier date than that given for the
construction of the wattle church at Glastonbury, these meetings
took place in private houses or the synagogue.
If the construction of the wattle church was begun in the last
year of the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 36-37), as
ancient writers claim, then it would indeed be "the first
above-ground church in the world."
The fact that the story of Joseph at Glastonbury was regarded
as historical fact from the earliest times is evident by the
enormous importance and prestige that the Abbey attracted.
The Abbey was built on the site of the wattle church but bore
no resemblance in size or design to the earlier structure which
measured 60 ft. by 26 ft.
The "old church" was sometimes also called the "church of
boughs," by virtue of its construction, which was of timber pillars
and framework doubly wattled inside and out with clay, and thatched
It was probably more than coincidence that the measurements of
the church agreed almost exactly with those of the Tabernacle
erected by Moses in the wilderness. Christianity was brought to
Britain by men of Hebrew rather than Roman extraction.
The Catholic writer Robert Parsons in his "Three Conversions
of England" admits, as do many other early Catholic writers, that:
"It seems nearest the truth that the British Church was
originally planted by Grecian teachers, such as came from the East,
and not by Romans."1
The fact that for centuries the British churches followed
Eastern rather than Roman usages confirms this point. Even as late
as the time of Augustine the British bishops were reluctant to
change the customs which they had received from the churches in
Asia. When confronted with demands brought by Augustine from the
Pope, they replied:
"We cannot depart from our ancient customs without the consent
and leave of our people."2
In a book published by William Camden in 1674 we read:
"The true Christian Religion was planted here most anciently
by Joseph of Arimathea, Simon Zelotes, Aristobulous, by St. Peter,
and St. Paul, as may be proved by Dorotheus, Theodoretus and
The fact that many other historians shared this view is
evident by noting the comment of Stillingfleet that:
"It is the opinion generally received among our later writers,
as one of them tells the world, `That the conversion of the British
nation to the Christian faith was performed towards the latter end
of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,' i.e. about thirty seven years
after Christ's nativity."4
The same writer mentioned the general view of British church
historians concerning the Glastonbury story: "Who took it for
granted, and believed that it is grounded on the testimony of
Why, it might be asked, in the light of such records, do
modern authorities relegate the story of Glastonbury to the realm
of "pious fables" having little if any historical validity?
One reason is that few such "ancient records" are still
extant. For centuries the church library at Glastonbury housed
what was probably the finest collection of material on church
history in Britain. This unique collection of rare documents was
totally consumed by the fire of 1184. As this was the era of
handwritten books and documents, prior to the invention of
printing, it is probable that in many cases only single copies
existed and thus vital evidence was destroyed.
There is some evidence to suggest that the monks, in order to
raise funds for the rebuilding of their Abbey, attempted to
reproduce some of these documents from memory; passing them off to
the gullible pilgrims as the ancient originals.
It is likely that the monks, many of whom were poorly
educated, had only a hazy understanding of the exact content of
much of the material which they were reproducing, or as some would
put it, "forging."
An example of this is "St. Patrick's Charter." Although
Patrick could well have visited the Glastonbury church in the mid
fifth century, the charter which bears his name was very clearly
written some seven to eight centuries after his death.
The language and terminology used in the charter is beyond
doubt mediaeval. Indulgences are also mentioned which were not
used in the context of the charter until the eleventh century.
In spite of the fact that so much mediaeval superstition has
clouded the true history of the Glastonbury church, it would be
simply untrue to claim that no genuine records of great antiquity
existed prior to the fire of 1184.
William of Malmesbury, possibly the leading historian of his
day, visited Glastonbury in about 1125 and after examining the
early records, mentions his findings:
"Since this is the point at which I must bring in the
monastery of Glastonbury, let me trace from its very beginning the
rise and progress of that church so far as I can discover it from
the mass of source material."
Concluding his evidence of a second century work in the area
he continues the narrative:
"As a result, missionaries sent by Eleutherius came to
Britain, whose labours will bear fruit for evermore, even though
the rust of ages has eroded their names. These men built the
ancient church of St. Mary of Glastonbury, as faithful tradition
has handed the story down through decaying time.
"However, there are documents of no meagre credit, which have
been found in certain places, saying thus: `No other hands than
those of the disciples of Christ erected the church of
Glastonbury.' Nor is this totally irreconcilable with truth, for if
the Apostle Philip did preach to the Gauls (as Freculfus says in
the fourth chapter of his second book), then it is possible to
believe that he broadcast the seed of the Word across the sea
For a hundred years and more after William wrote this, various
"revised" versions of his work were produced by the monks.
Five years after the fire, which destroyed the old church and
all the later buildings in the vicinity, Richard I came to the
throne and all available funds were diverted to his crusade. The
monks, in common with advertising men in later ages, decided to add
colour to the product that William had provided.
The scholarly though cautious work of William needed something
extra that would appeal to the superstitious pilgrims and visitors,
and induce them to donate generously to the ambitious new building
To his simple statement that the Glastonbury church was "the
first church in the kingdom of Britain, and the source and fountain
of all religion," the monks added miracles, visions and a personal
visit by no less a personage than the angel Gabriel who instructed
the builders of the old church to dedicate it to "the Blessed
In 1191 the monks proclaimed to an astonished nation that they
had uncovered the remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in the
vicinity of the old church. Visitors flocked to Glastonbury and
the building fund swelled -- the age of the Glastonbury legends had
In their day the legends were more popular that many a
Holywood film epic of our present age. In time were added to the
earlier story the "Holy Grail," the "Holy Thorn" and the thrilling
adventures of Arthur's Knights of the Round Table.
To come to a more realistic study of the subject one needs to
go back beyond the time of William of Malmesbury and look at the
known history of the area.
The fact that "the old church" did indeed exist is clear
historical fact and no fable. Direct references to this building,
many made by writers who visited and examined the structure, are
There is also clear evidence that the building was erected in
antiquity and was pre-Saxon in construction.
Even a writer who was unconvinced of its association with the
first century church admitted that: "I do not, then, deny that
there was an ancient church before Ina's time, which after the
Western Saxons became Christians, grew into mighty reputation".6
The Domesday Book, published in 1088, from existing Saxon
records provides the information that:
"The Domus Dei, in the great monastery of Glastonbury, called
the secret of the Lord. This Glastonbury church possesses, in its
own villa, twelve hides of land which have never paid tax."
The land grant, according to tradition, was made by the local
ruler to Joseph of Arimathea and his companions. Further grants of
land were made to the church by Saxon kings. The exact extent of a
"hide" of land is now unknown but is thought to have represented a
plot of land sufficient to support one family.
This grant was obviously made at a very early period, as it is
clear that even in 1088 the exact circumstances relating to the
grant were no longer known.
By the time of the Saxon king Ina, who erected a church
building of stone near the wattle church in 725 A.D., the earlier
structure had already become "a thing of untouchable mystery and
One of the reasons for the superstitious awe that surrounded
the old church was that during the Dark Ages, prior to the
conversion of the Saxons to the Catholic faith, the Glastonbury
church was one of the very few, perhaps even the only church
building, to survive from the Roman period.
A belief developed that the church was under some form of
divine protection, and the history of the period would seem to bear
this out. Time and again the violent tide of war seemed about to
engulf the wattle church but always it came through intact.
In 577 A.D. the invading Saxons reached Glastonbury after
looting and slaughtering their way across England. Within sight of
the Tor, however, they halted, for some unknown reason, and the old
church was preserved.
In 658 A.D. the church was the location chosen for the signing
of a peace treaty between the Britons and Saxons. "Here, for the
first time, the English treated the Britons with respect as
potential members of a larger fraternity," commented the historian
The Danes attacked Glastonbury in 878 A.D. They set fire to
several of the later buildings which surrounded the old church but
the ancient wattle structure escaped unscathed.
Great stress was placed on the preservation of the original
fabric of the building. In 630 A.D. the entire structure was
encased in lead.
About a hundred years before this a pillar was erected bearing
a brass tablet, the purpose being to define the exact limits of the
church. As several other buildings had been erected over the years
in the vicinity of the church this precaution was taken in order to
prevent future possible confusion.
The pillar survived for about a thousand years -- its base was
discovered in 1921. The brass tablet bore the inscription: "The
first ground of God, the first ground of the saints in Britain, and
the burial place of the Saints."7
Traces of monastic buildings and military encampments have
been discovered in the vicinity of Glastonbury dating to the "Dark
Ages" period, following the withdrawal of the Roman legions from
Britain in 410 A.D.
St. Patrick is said to have established the first monastic
community in the area and to have been buried there in 472 A.D. The
location of his burial is given in one work as "by the right side
of the altar in the `old church.'"
Other authorities, as one might have expected, deny this and
claim that he was buried in Ireland. Regardless of the
identification of the personalities involved, the evidence of
archaeology is that a community of Irish monks did settle in the
area either during or shortly after the lifetime of Patrick.
Fragments of the buildings erected during this period may be
inspected at the museum which has been set up near the site of the
old church. It should be noted that the monks never claimed to
have erected the old church, indeed the presence of this structure
seems to have been the primary reason for their settlement in this
The monks, in addition to erecting several buildings of their
own, seem to have carried out some restoration work on the old
church. The first Saxons to reach the area reported that by their
day the church was in a state of decay, patched up with boards and
having a lead roof, replacing the earlier thatch. Four windows had
also been made in the side and end of the building.
William of Malmesbury makes it clear in his A Life of St.
Dunstan that "Glastonbury had already passed under ecclesiastical
authority long before the time of St. Patrick, who had died in A.
In 1966, excavations carried out at Cadbury Castle and the
nearby Glastonbury Tor established the existence of the "historical
Arthur" or an "Arthur type figure." The former site seems to have
been his base camp and the latter a military look-out post.
The real or historic Arthur was a far cry indeed from the King
Arthur of mediaeval legend. Recent evidence indicates that the
Glastonbury Arthur (even this name is by no means clearly
established) was a local Romano-British warrior king, or even a
country gentleman turned soldier, who led his forces against the
Several of the final last-ditch battles of the Britons against
the Saxons took place in Somerset. The evidence of recent
archaeological findings strongly point to Cadbury Castle as the
headquarters of the real King Arthur.
Over the centuries the story of Arthur's desperate struggles
with his enemies developed into a make-believe fantasy world of
intrepid knights engaged in seemingly hopeless struggles against
not only human military foes, but an impressive array of giants,
monsters and wizards; a romantic world of knights in shining armour
setting off to rescue beautiful damsels in distress.
The history of the Glastonbury church is almost a total blank
during the third and fourth centuries -- the site could well have
been abandoned during this period.
William of Malmesbury picks up the story again with the visit
to Glastonbury of the second century bishops sent out by King
Lucius. William believed that they were the builders of the wattle
Other sources, however, indicate that they did not build the
church but merely carried out restoration work to an already
"The church dedicated to St. Mary at Glastonbury repaired and
raised out of the ruins by Faganus and Davianus, where they lived
with twelve associates A.D. 187."8
Churches are also said to have been established by Lucius in
London (A.D. 179) Gloucester and Winchester (A.D. 180) and Bangor,
Dover and Canterbury.
Traces of buildings, thought to have been churches and dating
from the Roman period, have been discovered at Dover and
Although some later writers have doubted the very existence of
Lucius, the fact remains that for many centuries the establishment
of churches at these sites during the second century was treated as
historical fact. As the dates given for these churches are earlier
than the visit of the bishops to Glastonbury, it is evident that
the building work carried out there involved the restoration of an
already existing structure.
There is no record that any of the second century British
churches challenged the greater antiquity of the Glastonbury
There was a foreign challenge to this claim, however, and R.W.
Morgan, the Victorian author, mentions the outcome of this:
"This priority of antiquity was only once questioned, and that
on political grounds, by the ambassadors of France and Spain, at
the Council of Pisa, A.D. 1417. The Council however, affirmed it."
A further Council at Sena reached the same decision:
"This decision laid down that the Churches of France and Spain
were bound to give way in the points of antiquity and precedency to
the Church of Britain, which was founded by Joseph of Arimathea
immediately after the passion of Christ."9
Traces are found in the early records of a college or school
that existed at Glastonbury during the first half of the second
century for the training of ministers and others involved in
preaching the gospel.
There can be little doubt that the work being done by these
people, about which very little is known, was a small scale
operation. As a noted archaeologist has recently pointed out,
Christianity in Britain during the second century represented a
The most noted scholar of the college, and indeed the only one
of whom any record has survived was Elvanus Avalonius (Elvanus of
Avalon or Glastonbury). He was also known as Elfan in Welsh
"Bale saith that Elvanus Avalonius was a disciple to those who
were the disciples of the Apostles, and that he preached the Gospel
in Britain with good success ...."10
It is significant that Glastonbury seems to have been the
headquarters, within a generation or two of the Apostolic age of
"the disciples of the Apostles."
Welsh authorities mention that Elfan presided over a
congregation of Christians at Glastonbury. This, one would assume,
must have taken place after the generation that had known the
Apostles had died out.
The Book of Llandaff records that Elfan was appointed second
Bishop of London in A.D. 185. About this time he wrote a book on
the origin of the British church.
One of the "disciples of the Apostles" may have been
Aristobulus (Romans 16:10). According to Cressy: "St. Aristobulus,
a disciple of St. Peter or St. Paul in Rome, was sent as an Apostle
to the Britons, and was the first Bishop in Britain, he died in
Glastonbury, A.D. 99."
The Greek Martyrologies mention that:
"Aristobulus was one of the seventy disciples, and a follower
of St. Paul the Apostle, along with whom he preached the Gospel to
the whole world, and ministered to him. He was chosen by St. Paul
to be the missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a
very warlike and fierce race. By them he was often scourged, and
repeatedly dragged as a criminal through their towns, yet he
converted many of them to Christianity. He was there martyred,
after he had built churches and ordained deacons and priests for
The style of building and method of construction employed by
the builders of the Glastonbury church reflects the general
building styles used in Britain during the first century of the
Christian era; this is particularly true of buildings erected prior
to the Roman invasion of A.D. 43.
The church had little if anything to distinguish it from other
buildings of the period used as public meeting places.
Architecture of a distinctly ecclesiastical style is not known to
have existed earlier than the third or fourth centuries.
"There is no clear example of a separate building set apart
for Christian worship within the limits of the Roman Empire before
the third century," wrote Lightfoot.
Churches erected by Constantine in the early fourth century
and later were said to have been styled after the plain basilical
halls of pagan antiquity. As early as the second century
anti-Jewish feeling within the professing Christian church had
become so intense that it is unlikely that a church building such
as the one erected at Glastonbury could have been permitted, whose
measurements coincided with those of the Hebrew tabernacle set up
The Glastonbury church lacked even a baptistry, at its
original construction, although this feature was one of the
earliest to find its way into church architecture. It seems
probable that the first converts were baptized in a local river or
other natural water source.
This building, in common with other very early churches, faced
towards the west. The builders could well have had in mind the
strong warning given in Ezekiel 8:16 against pagan worshippers
carrying out their devotions with "their faces toward the east."
In 1957-8 the remains of a wattle and daub structure with
thatched roof, similar in construction to the Glastonbury church,
was discovered near the site of the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum
(Silchester) in Hampshire. It has been dated to A.D. 25-43, the
same period given by ancient writers for the construction of the
Since the Second World War, excavators have uncovered the
remains of much of the first stages of construction of the Roman
City of London dating from the time of the destruction of the city
by Boadicea in A.D. 61. Evidence has come to light that most of
the buildings from the period were of daub and wattle construction.
The clear indications from this and other Roman sites are that
stone buildings of Roman building styles began to rapidly replace
the earlier daub; and wattle structures during the second century.
By the latter part of this century few buildings of the earlier
type were being erected.
Fuller, in his Church History of Britain, mentions the
Glastonbury church as a place "where at one view, we may behold the
simplicity of primitive devotion, and the native fashion of British
buildings in that age, and some hundred years after, it had a
During the sixth and seventh centuries the native Britons,
along with the incoming Saxons, no longer having the advanced
building techniques of the Romans available to them, reverted to
wattle and daub construction methods. There can be little doubt,
however, that the erection of the Glastonbury church took place
during the earlier period. By the second phase of this style of
building the church was already surrounded by mystery and
superstitious awe, and was of such great antiquity that major
restoration work was required to preserve the original fabric of
Moving on to non-British sources, we are able to pick up the
story of Joseph in the Ecclesiastical Annals of the sixteenth
century Vatican librarian, Cardinal Baronius. A historian of great
integrity, Baronius relates how he discovered a document of
considerable antiquity in the Vatican archives. The manuscript
related that in the year A.D. 35 a group of Christians including
Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Joseph of Arimathea, and several
others were cast adrift in a boat from the coast of the Holy Land
by persecuting Jews.
"In that year the party mentioned was exposed to the sea in a
vessel without sails or oars. The vessel drifted finally to
Marseilles and they were saved. From Marseilles Joseph and his
company passed into Britain and after preaching the Gospel there,
According to the Recognitions of Clement, which is thought to
have been written about A.D. 150-200, the group lived for a time at
Caesarea prior to their voyage. This work has been described as a
"kind of religious novel" containing a vast amount of theological
speculation." Much of the historical framework in which it is set,
however, bears a close relationship to known facts of the period.
Caesarea was the major port in Palestine. It was a
cosmopolitan city and a home for many foreign seamen and merchants.
As such, a much greater measure of religious freedom existed there
than at Jerusalem. It would have proved an ideal place of
temporary refuge for those fleeing from the persecutions recorded
in the Acts of the Apostles.11
It is recorded in Acts 11:19 that many Christians were driven
by persecution into Phoenicia. Caesarea lies on the route between
Jerusalem and Phoenicia. As the city is mentioned several times in
the book of Acts the indications are that a Christian community of
some size existed there.
This city was also the home of Philip the evangelist (Acts
21:8), a man closely associated with Joseph in the early records.
According to tradition he was the man who ordained Joseph and
supervised much of his later work.
According to Isidorus Hispalensis, this Philip who was
formerly "one of the seven deacons" carried the Gospel first to the
Samaritans and later to Gaul (France).12
Elsewhere he states: "St. Philip preached to the Gauls, and
persuaded the neighbouring and savage tribes on the borders of the
ocean to the light of knowledge and of faith."13
No trace of Joseph in Palestine is found after about A.D. 35,
no record of any martyrdom and no reference to his movements
outside of the areas of Britain and France. The information given
by Baronius relating to the enforced voyage to Marseilles of Joseph
and his companions seems the most likely and logical account of his
A great many local traditions have been handed down in the
Marseilles area relating to the arrival and later work of Joseph
and his companions. It is a clear historical fact that Southern
France was one of the first areas in the west to receive the gospel
It was here that some of the earliest and most severe
persecutions took place.
The earliest records relate a simple narrative rather similar
in style to that of the book of Acts, stories of incredible
miracles associated with the group seem to have been added at a
One local tradition mentions the boat drifting to the coast of
Provence, and after following the Rhone, arriving at Arles. The
first Jewish settlers in the area are said to have "come in a boat
which had been deserted by its captain."
A Spanish version of the story leaves the group in Aquitaine
"as the histories of the Gauls and the local traditions plainly
Several of the Rhone Valley churches traced their origins back
to Lazarus and other fellow travelers of Joseph. In the annals of
the mediaeval writer Roger de Horedon we read:
"Marseilles is an episcopal city under the domination of the
King of Arragon. Here are the relics of St. Lazarus, the brother
of St. Mary Magdalene and Martha, who held the bishopric here for
seven years after Jesus had restored him from the dead."
Recognized trade and military routes existed during the first
century A.D. from Marseilles, across France to the Channel ports
and from these into Britain. The Emperor Claudius for example
traveled from Marseilles to Boulogne and from there to Colchester
in Britain, returning by the same route to Rome.
Traces of Joseph of Arimathea are found in the local
traditions of Limoges and Morlaix, both located on the trade route
to Britain. The first bishop of Treginer is said to have been
Drennalus, a disciple of Joseph. It is significant that even
critics of the Glastonbury legends admit that Christianity came
into Somerset "via Brittany."
One objection that has been raised to the point of Joseph
arriving in Britain as early as the last year of the reign of
Tiberius (a mere five to six years after the crucifixion of Christ)
is that Eusebius records an ancient tradition "that our Saviour
commanded his Apostles not to depart from Jerusalem within twelve
years after his ascension."
Even if this tradition reflected an accurate point of
historical fact, as it could well have done, the evidence is
considerable that the instructions applied to the Apostles -- and
only the Apostles.
Other members of the church driven by persecution traveled to
Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch (Acts 11:19). The restrictions put
on the movements of the Apostles do not appear to have applied to
the church in general, nor on the activities of Joseph of
Some have mentioned that the Christian message, at this early
period, was taken only to the Jews, or as Rabanus, the eighth
century writer, puts it, to "the twelve tribes of the Hebrews."
The West of England about this time, however, supported many
who were of Hebrew or Eastern Mediterranean extraction. Several
artifacts have been discovered in Somerset which originated in the
Many involved in the Cornish mining operations had a Jewish
background. "The Jews appear to have called themselves or were
called by the Britons of Cornwall `Saracens.'"14
Joseph, if he restricted his preaching to those of his own
race, would have found many of his fellow countrymen trading in the
West of England.
Archbishop Ussher records that "from Juvenal indeed it appears
that Arviragus became king of the Britons while Domitian was
Emperor, since our Joseph is said to have died under Vespasian in
the year 76."
Cressy in his Church History of Brittany writes:
"Joseph was buried near the little wattle church he built.
The lid of the sarcophagus said to have contained his remains bore
the simple inscription: "To the Britons I came after I buried the
Christ. I taught, I have entered my rest."
John Bloom of London, conducting excavations under a license
granted by Edward the Third, claimed to have discovered Joseph's
body at Glastonbury in 1345.
The point made by Bishop Godwin in his Catalogue of Bishops
seems to adequately sum up the story of Joseph: "The testimonies of
Joseph of Arimathea's coming here are so many, so clear, and so
pregnant, as an indifferent man cannot but discern there is
something in it."
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 4
1. Vol. 1, page 15.
2. Ecclesiastical History of England by Bede.
3. Remains of Britain, page 5.
4. Antiquities of the British Churches, page 1.
5. De Gestis Regum Angliae, second edition.
6. Antiquities of the British Churches, Stillingfleet.
7. Concilia, Sir Henry Spelman.
8. Antiquities of the British Churches, Stillingfleet.
9. St. Paul in Britain, R.W. Morgan, page 64.
10. Antiquities of the British Churches, Stillngfleet.
11. Greek Men., ad 15 March.
12. Isidorus Hispalensis, vol. vii, 392.
13. Vol. V, 184.
14. Polwhele's History of Cornwall.
CHAPTER FIVE -- THE UTMOST BOUNDS OF THE WEST
Of St. Paul's journey to Britain, a point of great importance in
the history of the gospel, and of the Protestant church, we
fortunately possess as substantial evidence as any historical fact
"Some of our most valuable Ecclesiastical historians have no
scruple in acceding to the general testimony of the Fathers that
the Gospel was preached in Britain by some of the Apostles soon
after the middle of the first century."
So wrote Bishop T. Burges in 1815.1 Burges was not alone in
his view; many other authorities could be cited which uphold this
Even the most cautious of writers feels compelled to admit
that "whether any apostle or companion of an apostle, ever visited
Britain, cannot be determined; yet the balance of probability
rather inclines towards the affirmative."2
William Cave presents the case in more positive terms when he
relates that "Theodorat and others tell us that he (the apostle
Paul) preached not only in Spain, but that he went to other
nations, and brought the gospel into the isles of the sea, by which
he undoubtedly means Britain; and therefore elsewhere reckons the
Gauls and Britons among the nations which the apostles, and
particularly the tent-maker, persuaded to embrace the law of
The actual statement of Theodorat made in A.D. 435 is as
follows: "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 [Cymry, i.e. Welsh].
"When Paul was sent by Festus on his appeal to Rome, he
traveled, after being acquitted, into Spain, and thence extended
his excursions into other countries, and to the islands surrounded
by the sea."4
Venantius Fortunatus in A.D. 560 mentions that "St. Paul
passed over the ocean to the Island of Britain, and to Thule, the
extremity of the earth."
It is significant to note that almost all early authorities
relating to Paul's visit to Britain are non-British in origin,
largely coming from a Greek or Latin background. There can be no
possibility that the visit was a mere fabrication of British
writers who were seeking an apostolic foundation for the British
church on patriotic or political grounds.
Perhaps the most important of all sources concerning Paul's
movements after leaving Rome is the epistle of Clement of Rome to
In an attempt to encourage the Christians at Corinth to remain
firmly established in the true faith, he relates firstly how Peter,
and then Paul met their deaths:
"Let us set before our eyes the Holy Apostles: Peter by unjust
envy underwent not one, or two but many sufferings; till at last
being martyred, he went to the place of glory that was due to him.
For the same cause, did Paul in like manner receive the reward of
his patience. Seven times he was in bonds; he was whipped, was
stoned; he preached both in the East and in the West; leaving
behind him the glorious report of his faith.
"And so having taught the whole world righteousness, and for
that end traveled even to the utmost bounds of the West; he at last
suffered martyrdom by the command of the governors."5
This epistle was written in A.D. 95-96. Clement was not
writing centuries after the events described, but was in fact a
contemporary of Paul, writing less than thirty years after Paul's
Iranaeus in the second century speaks of Clement, "who also
has seen the blessed Apostles and conversed with them and had the
preaching of the Apostles still ringing in his ears and their
tradition before his eyes." Origen in the third century mentions
"Clement the disciple of the Apostles" and "the faithful Clement to
whom Paul bears testimony."
Not only Origen, but Eusebius and many other early writers
identify Clement with "Clement also, and with other my fellow
helpers, whose names are in the book of life" (Paul's epistle to
the Philippians, 4:3).
"The tradition that he (Clement) was the disciple of one or
both of these Apostles (Peter and Paul) is early, constant, and
definite; and it is borne out by the character and contents of the
Some controversy has surrounded the question of what precisely
Clement meant by his statement "the utmost bounds of the West." Was
he thinking of Spain or Britain?
In ancient times the term was used to define both Spain and
Britain. The Greeks considered Spain to be the western extremity
of the known world. When Clement was writing, Britain was commonly
known as the western extremity or boundary of the Roman empire.
According to T. Burges, "This is not a rhetorical expression,
but the usual designation of Britain. Theodoret speaks of the
inhabitants of Spain, Gaul and Britain as dwelling in the utmost
bounds of the west.
"Nicephorus says, that the Britons inhabited the utmost parts
of the West. St. Paul therefore in going to the utmost bounds of
the West went to Britain.
"According to Jerome, 'Between Spain and Britain there was a
The most logical conclusion must surely be that had Clement
wished to specify one particular country, and one alone, he would
have named it. By using a more general term, however, he could
include Spain, Gaul (France) and Britain.
A work conducted in these regions would have been quite in
keeping with Christ's command to His apostles to take the Gospel to
"the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Paul spoke of those, including himself, who would spread glad
tidings "unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:18)
The warning given in Revelation that nothing should be added
to, or taken from, "the things which are written in this book"
(Rev. 22:19) might lead some to assume that all of the inspired
writings of the New Testament Church are included in the canon of
Internal evidence from the New Testament itself, however,
clearly disproves any such assumption. Luke records that many
accurate and authentic accounts of the life of Jesus Christ were in
circulation at the time that he began his narrative (Luke 1:1-2).
Paul mentions in his "first" epistle to the Corinthians that
"I wrote to you in that letter" proving that at least one other
epistle had been written to the Corinthian church before his
so-called "first" epistle (I Cor. 5:9).
An epistle was also sent to the Laodiceans (Col. 4:16) which
is not included in the canon of the New Testament.
Several commentators have expressed their surprise at the
obviously "unfinished" state of the book of Acts. It stops in the
middle of the story, with some seven years of Paul's life yet to be
covered. Luke, although an experienced and polished writer, does
not even end with the usual "Amen."
Some scholars feel that Luke had intended writing a third
volume covering the remaining years of Paul's life. Perhaps a more
logical view would be that he would write a continuation and
conclusion to Acts.
Paul mentions that Luke was still with him about A.D. 67,
shortly before Paul was martyred (II Tim. 4:11). The clear
implication is that Luke remained with Paul for at least a part, if
not all, of the remaining years between the conclusion of Acts in
A.D. 61 and Paul's martyrdom in A.D. 68.
It would seem hardly logical that Luke would not fail to
complete his narrative; the question should perhaps be asked, if
the book of Acts was completed what became of the final section,
and why was it left out of the New Testament canon?
Daniel records that some information relating to the history
of the nation of Israel and the "holy people" or Church of God was
to be "closed up and sealed" -- that is kept secret -- until "the
time of the end" or our modern generation. The concluding section
of Acts could well have been deliberately omitted, under God's
inspiration, from the New Testament canon only to be "discovered"
at a later time in history, near the time of the end of this age.
A Greek manuscript has indeed been discovered in the archives
of Constantinople which purports to be the concluding portions of
Acts, and reads like a continuation of it. Its origin is uncertain
but it was translated into English in 1801 by C.S. Sonnini.
The fact that the M.S. was discovered at Constantinople could
well be significant. Jerome records that Luke's remains were
brought to this city in A.D. 357 and buried there. The Monarchian
Prologue also seems to imply that Luke spent the later part of his
life in this general vicinity. "He never had a wife or children,
and died at the age of seventy-four in Bithnia full of the Holy
Constantinople, also known at times as Byzantium and Istanbul,
lay at the border between the provinces of Thrace and Bithynia
(sometimes spelled Bithnia).
It was also at Constantinople that a great many New Testament
manuscripts were preserved, at least from the fourth century
onwards. It was upon this Byzantine text that the later English
versions were largely based.
Although one cannot be dogmatic regarding the authorship of
Sonnini's translation of what has been called "The long lost
chapter of the Acts of the Apostles," it should be said that there
is a great deal of information contained in this M.S. which can be
verified by reference to other independent sources.
The terminology and style of writing in the M.S. is very
similar, if not identical to that used by Luke in Acts.
The text of the M.S. begins at the point that Acts finishes,
and reads as follows:
"And Paul, full of the blessings of Christ, and abounding in
the spirit, departed out of Rome, determining to go into Spain, for
he had a long time purposed to journey thitherward, and was minded
also to go from thence into Britain.
"For he had heard in Phoenicia that certain of the children of
Israel, about the time of the Assyrian captivity, had escaped by
sea to `the isles afar off,' as spoken by the prophet, and called
by the Romans Britain.
"And the Lord commanded the gospel to be preached far hence to
the Gentiles, and to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
"And no man hindered Paul; for he testified boldly of Jesus
before the tribunes and among the people; and he took with him
certain of the brethren which abode with him at Rome, and they took
shipping at Ostium, and having the winds fair were brought safely
into a haven of Spain.
"And much people were gathered together from the towns and
villages and the hill country; for they had heard of the conversion
of the apostle, and the many miracles which he had wrought.
"And Paul preached mightily in Spain, and great multitudes
believed and were converted, for they perceived he was an apostle
sent from God."
Commentators have noted with interest the special attention
that Luke, in Acts, gives to sea-itineraries and ports of arrival
and departure. A similar tendency is found in the text of the M.S.
Ostium was the port used by sea travelers from Rome during the
It was Paul's stated intention to visit Spain after leaving
Rome (Rom. 15:24 and 28), and not only Spanish tradition but also
the testimonies of many early writers confirm that Paul did indeed
visit that area after leaving Rome.
The "haven of Spain" mentioned in the M.S. was almost
certainly the port of Gades or Cadiz. A colony of Israelite and
Phoenician peoples was established here from very ancient times.
This was probably the port of Tarshish (Spain) that Jonah was
heading for centuries earlier, when he tried to escape from God.
"Cadiz was the commercial centre of Western Europe, and was no
doubt the place St. Paul had in mind when, writing to the Romans,
he spoke of his `journey into Spain.'"
"His journey into Spain is mentioned, as if it were a well
known historical fact by Jerome, Chrysostom and Theodoret... There
was ample opportunity for St. Paul to visit Cadiz, and to found a
church there, during the six years that elapsed between his first
and second imprisonment at Rome; and among his Spanish converts
there could hardly fail to be some who traded with the British
There was nothing in the least unusual about a sea voyage
between Rome and Cadiz during the first century; "the commercial
and passenger traffic with Gades was intimate and constant."9
Anyone who visits Cadiz and the surrounding countryside can
readily equate this area with the "haven of Spain" and its nearby
"hill country" described in the M.S.
The commission given by Christ to Paul was to take the gospel
to "the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts
9:15). When Paul left Rome the first two parts of this task had
already been completed, the people of Cadiz and the surrounding
area were largely of Israelite and Phoenician stock who had settled
in the region for commercial reasons over a period of centuries.
They (the Israelite element) represented a small part of the "lost
ten tribes" of Israel.
The Muratorian Fragment, which is part of a document dating
back to the second century, mentions Paul's work in Spain but gives
few of the details.
A generation later, in about A.D. 200, Tertullian mentions
that "the extremities of Spain, the various parts of Gaul, the
regions of Britain which have never been penetrated by the Roman
armies, have received the religion of Christ."10
The M.S. continues the story of Paul's travels: "And they
departed out of Spain, and Paul and his company finding a ship in
Amorica sailing into Britain, they went therein, and passing along
the South coast they reached a port called Raphinus.
Amorica is identified as follows: " In Caesar's time, the
whole district lying along the north-western coast of Gaul, tall
afterwards narrowed down to modern Brittany."11
Several writers affirm that the gospel came into Britain by
way of Brittany. Dr. Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History relates:
"The independence of the ancient British churches from the see
of Rome, and their observing the same rites with the Gallic
churches, which were planted by Asiatics, and particularly in
regard to the time of Easter, show that they received the Gospel
from Gaul, and not from Rome."
A number of early writers mention that churches were
established in France, known anciently as Gaul, during apostolic
times. Not only Paul but also Luke and Crescens are said to have
had a part in this work.
"In the second century (A.D. 179) Iranaeus speaks of
Christianity as propagated to the utmost bounds of the earth, by
the Apostles, and their disciples; and particularly specifies the
churches planted in Spain and the Celtic nations. By the Celts
were meant the people of Germany, Gaul and Britain."12
Trophimus is said to have preached and established a church at
Arles; a cathedral was later built over the site of his tomb.
Epiphanius (A.D. 315-407) relates:
"The ministry of the divine word having been entrusted to St.
Luke, he exercised it by passing into Dalmatia, into Gaul, into
Italy, into Macedonia, but principally into Gaul, so that St. Paul
assures him in his epistles about some of his disciples --
`Crescens,' said he, `is in Gaul.' In it must not be read in
Galatia as some have falsely thought, but in Gaul."
Several other authorities support this interpretation of II
Timothy 4:10, including the Codex Sinaiticus, which translates
Galatia as `Gallia.'
The exact location of the port of Raphinus, mentioned in the
"Sonnini Manuscript" is uncertain. Some identify this as the Roman
name of Sandwich in Kent. A port in this vicinity is known to have
been used by the Romans during the first century A.D. An old house
is said to have existed at Sandwich until Saxon times which was
known as "The House of the Apostles."
Roman roads linked this part of the coast with London. The
text of the M.S. continues as follows:
"Now when it was noised abroad that the apostle had landed on
their coast, great multitudes of the inhabitants met him, and they
treated Paul courteously, and he entered in at the east gate of
their city, and lodged in the house of an Hebrew and one of his own
"And on the morrow he came and stood upon Mount Lud; and the
people thronged at the gate, and assembled in the Broadway, and he
preached Christ unto them, and many believed the word and the
testimony of Jesus.
"And at even the Holy Ghost fell upon Paul, and he prophesied,
saying, Behold in the last days the God of Peace shall dwell in the
cities, and the inhabitants thereof shall be numbered; and in the
seventh numbering of the people, their eyes shall be opened, and
the glory of their inheritance shine forth before them. And
nations shall come up to worship on the Mount that testifieth of
the patience and long suffering of a servant of the Lord.
"And in the latter days new tidings of the Gospel shall issue
forth out of Jerusalem, and the hearts of the people shall rejoice,
and behold, fountains shall be opened, and there shall be no more
"In those days there shall be wars and rumours of wars; and a
king shall rise up, and his sword shall be for the healing of the
nations, and his peacemaking shall abide, and the glory of his
kingdom a wonder among princes.
"And it came to pass that certain of the Druids came unto Paul
privately, and showed by their rites and ceremonies they were
descended from the Jews which escaped from bondage in the land of
Egypt, and the apostle believed these things, and he gave them the
kiss of peace.
"And Paul abode in his lodgings three months, confirming in
the faith and preaching Christ continually.
"And after these things Paul and his brethren departed from
Raphinus, and sailed unto Antiurn in Gaul."
The "Mount Lud" mentioned in the M.S. can probably be
identified as the modern day Ludgate Hill, located in the City of
London. A variety of objects dating to the first century have been
unearthed in this area showing that it was a spot used by Romans
and the local Britons during Paul's day.
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Lud-Gate was built by King
Lud in 66 B.C. Several early writers confirm the existence of this
ruler of pre-Roman Britain.
Holinshed states that "Lud began to reign in 72 B.C. He made
a strong wall of lime and stone and fortified it with divers fair
towers, and in the west part of the same wall he erected a strong
gate which he commanded to be called after his name, `Ludgate,' and
so unto this day, it is called Ludgate."13
Another spot where Paul, according to tradition, is said to
have preached is the district of Gospel Oak, a part of Hampstead
A charter given by King Canute in 1030 would also seem to
confirm the story of Paul's visit. It reads: "I, Cnut, king of the
English, grant lands for the enlargement of the Monastery of the
blessed Apostle Paul, teacher of the peoples, and situated in the
City of London."
Critics of the M.S. have seen as too good to be true the
obvious reference to St. Paul's Cathedral given in the prophecy,
said to have been made by Paul, under inspiration of the Holy
It should be said that the prophecy, if genuine, does not
relate to the history of the Church of God, but to a place of
national worship, the exact nature of which is not specified; the
entire context is one of national history rather than church
It can hardly be denied that the former Mount Lud did become
the site of a national place of worship. One only has to witness
a state occasion such as the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 to
realize that the representatives of several nations do come to
worship on this spot. This great cathedral does indeed bear Paul's
name and in a sense testifies of his visit and preaching.
The reference to Paul's meeting with the Druids is probable
enough. Although they suffered persecution at the hands of the
Romans, it is likely that at this early stage in the Roman
occupation they still had great influence with the people and by
means of their very efficient system of communications were made
aware of Paul's arrival.
It was Paul's policy to establish friendly relationships with
civil and religious leaders, whenever this was possible, in order
that the progress of the gospel would not be hindered. Although he
probably noted with interest the similarities between the Druidic
and Jewish religions, he would certainly not have approved of or
condoned the many elements of paganism that had influenced the
religion of the Druids by this period.
The mention of a visit to Britain by Paul lasting three months
is a point of some interest as it seems to have been Paul's policy
on several occasions to visit an area for this period of time (Acts
19:8, 20:3, 28:11).
It is also quite possible that he paid more than one visit to
Britain. The six years which elapsed before his final arrest and
death would allow adequate time for two or more visits.
An old history of the Isle of Wight speaks of Paul arriving
"with several other Christians, some of whom had been in personal
contact with our blessed Lord Himself. He landed at Bonefon in the
Isle of Wight. The exact spot is now Sandown Bay, which was a
mouth of the harbour of Brading. He passed to the mainland from
Rhydd, the ferry or passage now called Ryde, to Aber Deo, the port
of God, or Godsport -- Gosport."
"This is not so fantastic as it may seem, for nearby
Paulsgrove, north of Portsmouth, is said to be named because St.
Paul visited there."14
The exact dates for these visits cannot be determined but, if
they did take place, would almost certainly have been made between
Paul's release from Roman captivity in A.D. 61 (some authorities
place this event a year later, in A.D. 62), and his arrest in A.D.
Some early writers insist that his first visit must have taken
place before the war between Boadicea and the Romans (A.D. 60-61).
In the absence of any conclusive evidence, however, one can only
admit that our knowledge of chronology relating to first century
Britain is incomplete.
The final section of the "Sonnini Manuscript" concludes the
story of Paul's travels as follows:
"And Paul preached in the Roman garrisons and among the
people, exhorting all men to repent and confess their sins.
"And there came to him certain of the Belgae to enquire of him
of the new doctrine, and of the man Jesus; and Paul opened his
heart unto them, and told them all things that had befallen him,
how be it that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;
and they departed, pondering among themselves upon the things which
they had heard.
"And after much preaching and toil Paul and his fellow
labourers passed into Helvetia, and came unto Mount Pontius Pilate,
where he who condemned the Lord Jesus dashed himself down headlong,
and so miserably perished.
"And immediately a torrent gushed out of the mountain and
washed his body broken to pieces into a lake.
"And Paul stretched forth his hands upon the water and prayed
unto the Lord, saying, O Lord God, give a sign unto all nations
that here Pontius Pilate, which condemned thine only-begotten Son,
plunged down headlong into the pit.
"And while Paul was yet speaking, behold there came a great
earthquake, and the face of the waters was changed, and the form of
the Lake like unto the Son of Man hanging in an agony upon the
"And a voice came out of heaven saying, Even Pilate hath
escaped the wrath to come, for he washed his hands before the
multitude at the blood shedding of the Lord Jesus.
"When, therefore, Paul and those that were with him saw the
earthquake, and heard the voice of the angel, they glorified God,
and were mightily strengthened in the Spirit.
"And they journeyed and came to Mount Julius, where stood two
pillars, one on the right hand and one on the left hand, erected by
"And Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, stood up between the
two pillars, saying, Men and brethren, these stones which ye see
this day shall testify of my journey hence; and verily I say, they
shall remain until the outpouring of the spirit upon all nations,
neither shall the way be hindered throughout all generations.
"And they went forth and came unto Illyricum, intending to go
by Macedonia into Asia, and grace was found in all the churches;
and they prospered and had peace. Amen."15
Eusebius confirms the suicide of Pilate, although he does not
record where this event took place.
"It is also worthy of notice that tradition relates that that
same Pilate, he of the Saviour's time, in the days of Caius ...
fell into such great calamity that he was forced to become his own
slayer and to punish himself with his own hand. These who record
the Olympiads of the Greeks with the annals of events relate
There is one tradition, perhaps the one to which Eusebius
referred, which tells that Pilate, falling out of political favour
during the reign of Caligula (Caius) went to Helvetia (Switzerland)
where he spent his remaining days in great sorrow on Mount Pilatus
(called Mount Pontius Pilate in the M.S.). He is said to have
taken his own life by plunging into the dismal lake at the base of
the mountain -- Lake Lucerne.
Some of the Waldenses, a church of the Middle Ages which
probably can be identified as the Thyatira era of the Church of God
(Rev. 2:18), traced their origin to the Apostle Paul's preaching in
Eusebius also confirms Paul's journey through Illyricum. "Why
should we speak of Paul, spreading the gospel of Christ from
Jerusalem to Illyricum, and finally suffering martyrdom at Rome,
As Paul was a citizen of Tarsus and spent most of his life in
the eastern Mediterranean, one is tempted to speculate that the
material relating to his visit to Britain could perhaps be
categorized as nothing more than legend and mere wishful thinking.
Was Paul even aware of the existence of Britain?
The Apostle was an educated man, having read widely, even
taking in the writings of foreign poets. He knew as much, if not
more, of world affairs as the average educated man of his day.
The bulk of Paul's ministry took place during the reigns of
the Roman emperors Claudius and Nero (A.D. 41-68). During this
period, one of the major concerns of the empire was the invasion
and conquest of Britain.
This war, which dragged on for decades (Wales was not subdued
until about A.D. 79, some thirty-six years after the initial
invasion), absorbed some of Rome's finest legions and most
competent military leaders.
Tacitus relates that "When Britain, with the rest of the Roman
world, fell to the lot of Vespasian, the ablest officers were sent
to reduce the island; powerful armies were set in motion ...."18
So important was the campaign in Britain to the Romans that
Claudius named a son Britannicus in recognition of his victories.
News of the progress of the war spread throughout the empire;
Josephus relates that during the battle which led to the fall of
Jerusalem in A.D. 70 the Romans, in an effort to discourage the
Jews, boasted of their victories in Britain.
Who can doubt that if the Jews in Jerusalem were aware of
events in Britain, Paul, who spent at least two years in Rome,
would have been even more aware of these things? The Romans gave
great publicity to their military campaigns, especially those in
It is probable that Paul had personal contact with at least
one British Christian during his visit to Rome.
Plautius, the commander of the Roman forces in Britain,
married the sister of Caractacus, the famous warrior king of the
Britons, at the time of the first peace treaty about AD. 45. Some
two years later, his military service in Britain completed, he
returned to Rome with his wife.
Tacitus records that an unusual thing happened following their
arrival at Rome:
"Pomponia Graecina, a woman of illustrious birth, and the wife
of Plautius, who, on his return from Britain, entered the city with
the pomp of an ovation, was accused of embracing the rites of a
foreign superstition. The matter was referred to the jurisdiction
of her husband. Plautius, in conformity to ancient usage, called
together a number of her relations, and in her presence, sat in
judgment on the conduct of his wife. He pronounced her
There is general agreement among scholars that the "foreign
superstition" mentioned by Tacitus is a direct reference to
Christianity. Suetonius, another Roman writer of the period,
mentions the Christians as holding a "novel and mischievous
The charges could well have been brought by a political enemy
of Plautius, in order to damage his political career.
"As Judaism was a religion recognized by Roman law, and as
Christianity was not yet distinguished from Judaism Pomponia was
entitled to an acquittal on the purely religious grounds. But
rumours were already abroad which accused the Christians of
flagitious and impure orgies in secret, and the participation in
these was the matter referred to the domestic tribunal. The
domestic court was charged with the cognizance of this very class
of crimes, more especially of the violation of the marriage vow."20
The charge of taking part in orgies was commonly leveled at
the Christians in Roman times; although true Christians were well
aware of God's law relating to sexual sins, many references can be
found to prove that Simon Magus and his followers did indeed
indulge in such activities; as these people, although not true
Christians, called themselves "Christians" it is easy to see how
such rumours began.
E. Guest in his Origines Celticae adds another important point
relating to Pomponia:
"For all are agreed that by the `foreign superstition' was
meant Christianity ... Moreover, as Pomponia had been charged with
the crime of Christianity, and acquitted only by her husband's
verdict, she would naturally live in the strictest seclusion, if it
were merely to save her husband from dishonour, and we can thus
explain the fact that she is never mentioned in St. Paul`s
Pomponia could well have been a member of Paul's congregation
during his visit to Rome. As one of the very few Christians of
noble or royal birth, she could well have been one of those that
Paul was thinking of when he wrote that "not many noble are called"
(I Cor. 1:26).
It is possible that Pomponia gave Paul some encouragement to
preach in Britain. She had been, prior to her marriage, a princess
in Siluria (South Wales), her former name being Gladys. Theodoret
wrote that Paul preached, not only to the Britons, but also to the
Cymry or Welsh.
"And St. Paul might have some particular encouragement at Rome
to come hither from Pomponia Graecina, wife of A. Plautius, the
Roman lieutenant under Claudius in Britain; for that she was a
Christian, appears very probable from the account Tacitus gives of
In 1867 the noted archaeologist, De Rossi, discovered amazing
proof of the existence of Pomponia. He uncovered in the catacomb
of Callistus at Rome a sepulchral inscription to "Pomponius
Graecinus" who was probably a male relative of Pomponia.
J.B. Lightfoot gives more details of the discovery: "The
earliest portion of the catacombs of Callistus, the so-called crypt
of Lucina, shows by the character and construction that it must
have been built in the first century of the Christian Church. In
this crypt a sepulchral inscription has been found belonging to the
close of the second or beginning of the third century,
unquestioningly bearing the name Pomponius Graecinus ...
"It is clear therefore that this burial place was constructed
by some Christian lady of rank, probably before the close of the
first century, for her fellow-religionists within a generation or
two a descendant or near kinsman of Pomponia Graecina was
She is thought to have died in about A.D. 83.
Perhaps the strangest and most interesting story to come from
the records of the early British Church concerns Claudia and
The tale of this enigmatic pair has been classified as legend
by some but thought by others, noted scholars among them, to have
been based on historical fact.
Their story has all the elements of a fairy tale romance.
Claudia, the beautiful and talented British princess, meets and
falls in love with Pudens, wealthy young Roman aristocrat and
officer in the Roman army, during the invasion of Britain. The
happy couple marry and move to Rome where they become Christians
and close friends of the apostle Paul. Sadly, the story ends with
their children all dying as Christian martyrs.
In 1723 a remarkable inscription was discovered at Chichester
which mentioned one "Pudens." The inscription which dated to about
A.D. 50, was at one time part of a Roman building, and later became
known as "the Chichester stone." It reads as follows:
"The College of Engineers, and ministers of religion attached
to it, by permission of Tiberius Claudius Cogidunus, the king,
legate of Augustus in Britain, have dedicated at their own expense,
in honour of the divine family this temple to Neptune and Minerva.
The site was given by Pudens, Son of Pudentinus."
This Pudens has been identified as the second in command of
the Roman forces in Britain, under Aulus Plautius. It was quite a
common occurrence for high ranking officers to be present at the
dedication of public buildings, including, as in this case, a pagan
"Here, then, we have a Pudens connected with Britain and
joining with a Romanized British prince in forwarding the erection
of a public building in that province, and at the same time a
British prince, whose Roman name of Claudius would, according to
Roman custom, necessitate the adoption of the name Claudia by his
Other sources indicate the more probable view that Claudia was
the daughter not of Claudius Cogidunus, but of Caractacus. As
these two British princes were probably related it is likely that
she at least knew Cogidunus, even if not being directly related to
Pudens could well have been present at the wedding of his
commanding officer Plautius and Pomponia Graecina. Claudia, as
daughter of Caractacus and niece of Pomponia, was most likely
present at the same event; although probably being no more than a
young girl or teenager at the time.
Tacitus, although mentioning this event, gives no details
regarding the location of the wedding. This marriage, which took
place around A.D. 45, could well have had some political
significance. Pomponia was a princess of the Silures, a tribe
which controlled a part of South Wales. A peace treaty was signed
at about the time of the wedding between the Silures and the
Romans; peace treaties in ancient times were often accompanied by
a marriage between the leader of one side in the conflict
(Plautius) and the daughter, or in this case, the sister, of the
opposing military leader.
Gloucester, which stood at the border between Siluria and
Roman occupied Britain, could well have been the location where the
wedding took place.
"While much has been said of Claudius founding Gloucester, it
has been confirmed by the discoveries made of recent years at that
town, and the greater abundance of the coins of Claudius discovered
there, than at almost any other town in Britain."25
Lysons speculates that the apostle Paul visited Gloucester and
preached there. Although there is no clear evidence of this, it is
reasonable to assume that because of the political and military
significance of the town during the reigns of Claudius and Nero,
Paul could well have at least heard of it.
Pompania has been seen by some as the source of Claudia's
introduction to Christianity.
Several writers on the subject of British history have seen
Pomponia and Claudia as the first Christian converts in Britain.
It should be noted that these names came from their associations
with the Romans; among their own people both ladies were known by
the name of Gladys; this was quite appropriate as the name, in the
Celtic or Welsh language, means princess and both were indeed
princesses in the royal family of Siluria. In a recent trip to
Cwmbran the writer noticed that a modern road has been named
"Caradoc's Way" after the famous Caradoc (known to Tacitus and
other Roman writers as Caractacus), of the first century A.D.
These people were probably the remote ancestors of the Tudor
kings of England who also came from Wales, and as such were
probably related to the present Queen, Elizabeth the Second.
"Whether it was by the piety of these ladies, or other
individuals, that the doctrine of Christianity was first introduced
among the Britons, it proceeded with a silent but steady pace
towards the extremity of the island."26
During this period the Christian Church in Britain was small,
consisting of scattered individuals and perhaps a few
"But though the name of Christ was not altogether unknown in
Britain, in this very early period, yet the number of Christians in
this island was then certainly very small."27
Although the Roman writers Tacitus and Martial mention that
these ladies both went to Rome, and as the chronology of the period
would place their arrival shortly before Paul's arrival, as
recorded in Acts, the Welsh records imply that they could well have
been converted to Christianity prior to leaving Britain.
Llan Ilid in Glamorganshire (Gwent) is the site, according to
the Welsh Triads, of the first Christian church in Wales. This
place name means "consecrated enclosure" or "church of Ilid." It is
located within the ancient territory of Sauria where Pomponia and
Claudia spent the early years of their lives.
It was said that Princess Eurgain, known in some sources as
the eldest daughter of Caractacus (which would make her a sister of
Claudia, or perhaps this is simply another name for Claudia),
"founded and endowed the first Christian Cor," or choir in Britain.
From this Cor-Eurgain issued many of the most eminent teachers and
missionaries of Christianity down to the tenth century. Of the
saints of this Cor, from Ilid in succession, there are catalogues
in the Genealogies of the Saints of Britain.28
Claudia was a woman of considerable literary ability and
culture, several volumes of her poetry and hymns were still extant
as late as the thirteenth century. The Iolo M.S. describes Ilid as
a man "of the land of Israel." "This Ilid is called in the lections
of his life Joseph. He became principal teacher of the Christian
faith to the Welsh, and introduced good order into Cor-Eurgain,
which Eurgain had established for 12 Saints near the church now
Some identify Ilid as Joseph of Arimathea. The M.S. relates
that after working in Wales for a time he went to Glastonbury
"where he died and was buried, and Ina, king of that country raised
a large church over his grave."29
As intimate contact existed at this time between Somerset,
where Glastonbury is located, and South Wales, it does seem
probable that the first churches in Wales were established by men
The family records of the eleventh century Prince of
Glamorgan, Jestyn ap Gwrgant, speaking of this period, mention:
"Cyllin ab Caradog, a wise and just king. In his days many of the
Cymry embraced the faith in Christ through the teaching of the
saints of Cor-Eurgain, and many godly men from the countries of
Greece and Rome were in Cambria."30
One of these "godly men ... from Rome" was almost certainly
the apostle Paul; Theodoret in the fifth. century mentions his
association with Wales.
"There are six years of St. Paul`s life to be accounted for,
between his liberation from his first imprisonment and his
martyrdom at Aquae Salviae in the Ostian Road, near Rome. Part
certainly, the greater part perhaps, of this period, was spent in
Britain -- in Siluria or Cambria, beyond the bounds of the Roman
Empire; and hence the silence of the Greek and Latin writers upon
A collection of writings in the ancient British language have
been handed down which may relate to Paul's preaching in Britain
and have always been known as "the Triads of Paul the Apostle."
A Triad was the traditional style of writing and public
speaking in Britain in ancient times and probably could be defined
as "three main points."
Ministers and other speakers in the British Churches of God to
this day often arrange their sermons or other lectures around three
main points. Perhaps Paul, wishing to be "all things to all men"
used the traditional style of public speaking in Britain, and that
form has been handed down through the generations since that time.
These Triads of Paul are based almost entirely upon the
principles that are expounded in his New Testament epistles. A
few, taken at random, are reproduced as follows:
"Three kinds of men are the delights of God: the meek; the
lovers of peace; the lovers of mercy."
"The three chief considerations of a Christian: lest he should
displease God; lest he should be a stumbling block to man; lest his
love to all that is good should wax cold."
"Three persons have the claims and privileges of brothers and
sisters: the widow; the orphan; the stranger."
As there is no attempt made to introduce false doctrine or
superstition in these writings and the style is simple and direct,
they could well be what the title suggests: "the Triads of Paul the
Tacitus relates that for nine years, the Britons, under the
leadership of Caractacus (Caradoc), bravely resisted the Roman
advance in Britain. One Roman division which penetrated as far
west as Caerleon was cut to pieces. In A.D. 52, however, the
British leader was betrayed and along with his family (including
Claudia) was captured by the Romans in Shropshire.
Some three million citizens of Rome thronged the streets of
the capital when this great warrior king was brought in chains to
appear before the emperor Claudius. Perhaps in recogmtion of his
outstanding military leadership Caractacus was pardoned by the
emperor, although he was required to remain in Rome, under a sort
of "house arrest," in order that he would cause the Romans no
Summing up the situation following the arrest of Caractacus
and his family, Tacitus records that:
"In Britain, after the captivity of Caractacus, the Romans
were repeatedly conquered and put to the rout by the single state
of the Silures alone."32
Had the various tribes in Britain set aside their own
differences and presented a united front against the Romans, there
can be little doubt that the Roman occupation would have been very
Caractacus and his family took up residence in the Palatium
Britannicum (Palace of the British) at Rome. As a hostage of the
state he was required to remain at Rome for seven years.
Pudens, the Roman Senator and former aide-de-camp to Aulus
Plautius, commander of the Roman forces in Britain, completed his
army service at about this time and returned to Rome.
It seems that Pudens and Claudia had met in Britain, as
Claudia's aunt Pomponia had married Pudens' commanding officer
Plautius. They, Pudens and Claudia, married in about A.D. 53.
The Roman poet Martial, a friend of the couple, wrote some
poetry on the occasion of the wedding. He also makes it evident
that Pudens had served in Britain prior to his marriage. He speaks
of Pudens suffering from the cold of "the Scythian (North) pole."
A clear indication of his army service in Britain.
The poetry also strongly suggests that the couple were both
converted Christians at the time of their marriage. Martial
describes Pudens as the "sainted husband" of Claudia whom he writes
of as having "sprung from the painted Britons."33
Elsewhere he asks, "Since Claudia wife of Rufus (Pudens) comes
from the blue-set Britons, how is it that she has won the hearts of
the Latin people."
The bright blue eyes of the Britons is also noted by Seneca.
"The British lady, Claudia, to whom Martial addressed two or
three of his epigrams, and others to Linus and Pudens, is supposed
to be the very Claudia mentioned with Pudens and Linus, in Paul's
second Epistle to Timothy. She is believed by Cambrian writers to
be of the family of Caractacus, and, perhaps the first British
Llin, described in Welsh records as a son of Caractacus, is
thought by some to be the Linus mentioned by Martial and Paul, the
brother of Claudia.
Roman writers mention the fact that Linus was ordained by Paul
as the first bishop of Rome in A.D. 68. The significance of this
event will be discussed in a later chapter.
"And he (Martial) addresses two or three of his epigrams to
Linus, proving the connection of the three."35
The connection between the Pudens, Linus and Claudia mentioned
by Martial, with their links with Britain, and a group of three
related individuals having the same names described by Paul (II
Tim. 4:21) has been noted by several authorities on the subject of
"That there was a Pudens and Claudia living at Rome, both
Christians we have it from ... St. Paul himself. That this Claudia
mentioned by St. Paul, then living at Rome, was the same Claudia,
a Briton born, mentioned by Martial is the opinion and probable
conjecture of many modern writers."36
We learn from Monocaxius: "That Claudia, mentioned by St.
Paul, was Caractacus's daughter, and turned Christian, and after
married to Pudens, a Roman Senator; whose marriage is celebrated by
Martial in his noted epigrams to that purpose."37
There are several indications in the epigrams of Martial that
the lifestyles of Pudens and Claudia were Christian rather than
pagan. The poet, who seems to have been a family friend of the
couple, does not mention their religion directly, and with good
reason; during the later part of Nero's reign a Christian could be
arrested and executed as an enemy of the state.
Roman poets often used the occasion of a wedding as an excuse
for coarse jesting but Martial's poems relating to this couple are
lacking in this type of humour.
`Claudia, the fair one from a foreign shore,
Is with my Pudens joined in wedlock's band.'38
O Concord, bless their couch for evermore,
Be with them in thy snow-white purity.
Let Venus grant, from her choicest store,
All gifts that suit their married unity,
When he is old may she be fond and true,
And she in age the charms of youth renew.'39
A little later, when children had been born to Claudia, he
Grant, O ye gods, that she may ever prove
The bliss of mother over girl and boy,
Still gladdened by her pious husband's love,
And in her children find perpetual joy.40
Martial, although perhaps having several friends amongst the
Christians of Rome, was not himself of this faith, as is clearly
demonstrated by his use of pagan terminology in his writings.
"But without insisting strongly on this argument, we may be
able to infer, that the Claudia of Martial was connected with a
circle at Rome, the members of which were imbued with Christian,
rather than Roman principles."41
The epithet "Sanctus" or sainted applied by Martial to Pudens
is much more likely to have been used in relation to a Christian
than a non-Christian. The Apostle Paul uses similar terminology in
his epistle to the Romans, written only a short time before
Martial's epigrams, when he speaks of Christians at Rome "called to
be saints" (Rom. 1:7).
Some have objected that because the epigrams were published
during the reign of Domitian, who became emperor in A.D. 83, they
could not have been related to individuals who were prominent
during Nero's time some twenty to thirty years earlier.
"There is however reason to believe, as was remarked by
Ussher, Collier and others, that many of the epigrams were written
long before they were published, and consequently that the
publication of the book was no test, of the age of the epigrams."42
Martial took up residence in Rome in A.D. 49 and left the city
for Spain in A.D. 86. He would have been about thirty-eight years
old when Paul wrote his second epistle to Timothy. There is
nothing in the chronology of the period to indicate that the
Claudia, Pudens and Linus of Martial were not the same individuals
mentioned by Paul in his epistle.
Both writers were writing at about the same time, of
individuals living in the same city. It is hardly likely that more
than one group of three individuals having a close relationship
with each other and having these names would have been living in
the same city at the same time.
J. Williams in his comprehensive thesis on this subject
"It is therefore possible that the first Epigram to which I
have alluded might have been written by Martial in the year 67,
eighteen years after his arrival in Rome; being the same year in
which the Apostle is generally supposed to have written the second
Epistle to Timothy. And a broad margin of two or three years, on
either side, may be allowed without interfering with the
Bale, and later Camden, identify Pudens and Claudia of II
Timothy with the writings of Martial. The writings of the poet
reveal that he had an intimate knowledge of events that took place
in Nero`s reign.
Williams also makes the point that:
"If the Pudens of St. Paul was the Pudens of Martial, and
since the Pudens of Martial had married a British maiden, also
called Claudia, it seems to me something more than probable that
the Pudens of the inscription (Chichester Stone) was also the same
"... there is no doubt that Pudens the husband of Claudia is
mentioned in the Scriptures, for both are there, together with
Linus, the brother of Claudia, in one sentence in II Timothy 4:21.
The odds against the three being mentioned together, if they were
not the members of the exiled family of Caractacus, must be very
The residence of the couple at Rome, known as the Palatium
Britannicum, seems to have been a regular meeting place for
Christians. The high political and social status of Pudens and
Claudia seems to have given them, for a time at least, a measure of
freedom from persecution.
A series of Christian churches later occupied this site. The
first was known as Titulus, the next Hospitium Aposolorum and
finally St. Pudentiana, so named in honour of the martyred daughter
According to Cardinal Baronius: "It is delivered to us by the
firm tradition of our forefathers that the house of Pudens was the
first that entertained St. Peter at Rome, and that the Christians
assembling formed the Church, and that of all our churches the
oldest is that which is called after the name Pudens"46
The Jesuit Robert Parsons in The Three Conversions of England
mentions that "Claudia was the first hostess or harbourer both of
St. Peter and St. Paul at the time of their coming to Rome."
Roman tradition also relates that Pudens and Claudia retrieved
the body of the apostle Paul following his martyrdom in about A.D.
68 and buried it in what was perhaps a family cemetery in the Via
In later years the lives of this couple and their four
children were clouded by sorrow. Claudia seems to have been the
only member of the family to have died a natural death, in A.D. 97.
Pudens and all of the children died as martyrs at various times
during the closing years of the first century or the first half of
A manuscript entitled "The Acts of Pastor and Timotheus,"
probably dating to the second century, describes some of the sad
details: "Pudens went to his Saviour leaving his daughters
strengthened with chastity and learned in all the divine law.
These sold their goods and distributed the produce to the poor and
persevered strictly in the love of Christ ... They desired to have
a baptistry in their house. Many pagans came thither to find the
faith and receive baptism." The record mentions that their house
"night and day resounded with hymns of praise."
When one of the young women was martyred, probably along with
several other Christians, the manuscript relates: "Then Pudentiana
went to God. Her sister and I wrapped her in perfumes, and kept
her concealed in the oratory. Then after 28 days we carried her to
the Cemetery of Priscilla and laid her near her father Pudens."
Some sources give the date of her death as A.D. 107.
Several years later, a further wave of persecution claimed
many more lives. The manuscript mentions that "That blessed
Prassedis collected their bodies by night and buried them in the
Cemetery of Priscilla ... then the virgin of the Saviour, worn out
with sorrow, only asked for death. Her tears and her prayers
reached to heaven, and fifty-four days after her brethren had
suffered she passed to God. And I, Pastor, the priest have buried
her body near that of her father Pudens."
The two sons of Pudens and Claudia also died as martyrs during
the first half of the second century. Timotheus is said to have
been named after the evangelist Timothy, to whom Paul wrote two of
There are indications that other Apostles and members of the
New Testament Church, apart from Paul, also preached in Britain,
and possibly Ireland, too.
Eusebius recorded that "Some of the Apostles" (not just one
single Apostle) "preached the Gospel in the British Isles."47
Church leaders from Britain attended several of the church
councils convened during the fourth century. Eusebius, himself a
Catholic Bishop, probably found opportunities to obtain information
from such men on matters relating to church history.
Much of the detail concerning the early British church does
not appear in the records until quite a late date, the early Middle
Ages and later, and for this reason modern scholars often reject
the material as being unreliable. A fact all too often overlooked,
however, is that these writers probably had access to much earlier
material now no longer extant.
William Cave, quoting from the writings of Nicophorus and
Dorotheus, mentions that Simon the Zealot (one of the twelve
apostles) "directed his journey toward Egypt, then to Cyrene and
Africa... and throughout Mauritania and all Libya, preaching the
gospel... Nor could the coldness of the climate benumb his zeal, or
hinder him from whipping himself and the Christian doctrine over to
the Western Islands, yea, even to Britain itself. Here he preached
and wrought many miracles ...."48
Dorotheus is said to have written that "At length he was
crucified at Brittania, slain and buried."49
The traditional site of his martyrdom is Caistor in
Lincolnshire, where he is said to have been condemned to death in
A.D. 61 during the prefecture of Catus Decianus whose atrocities
were largely responsible for the Boadicean war.
A number of authorities, Roman, Greek and British, record that
Aristobulus, who is mentioned by Paul in his epistle to the Romans,
preached and eventually died in Britain. Hyppolytus describes him
as "Bishop of the Britons." The Greek Martyrologies speak of him
converting many of the Britons to Christianity and add that "He was
there martyred after he had built churches and ordained deacons and
priests for the island."
An alternative version to this is given by Cressy, who states
that he died of natural causes at Glastonbury in A.D. 99.
Scotland too seems to have received the gospel at an early
"The antiquity of the Irish and Scottish churches is without
question. The Scottish church claims an Apostolic foundation which
would account for that branch of the Celtic Church possessing
eastern traditions. In an old Scottish history entitled History of
Paganism in Caledonia is the passage, `During the reign of
Domitian, disciples of the Apostle John visited Caledonia and there
preached the word of life'."50
Some have linked this reference to a strong local tradition
which relates that "the three wise men" came to Sutherland. A fact
of perhaps greater significance is that the first Catholic monks to
reach the islands to the North of Scotland, including Iceland and
the Faroes, reported that a much earlier generation of Christians
had at one time settled in those parts and that books that had been
abandoned revealed that they had adhered to "Judaism," almost
certainly a direct reference to the seventh day Sabbath.
James, son of Alphaeus, another of the twelve, is sometimes
associated with Ireland.
"The Spanish writers generally contend, after the death of
Stephen he came to these Western parts, and particularly into Spain
(some add Britain and lreland) where he planted Christianity."51
As regular commercial traffic passed between Spain and Ireland
in ancient times, a visit to Ireland from Spain by James is not an
Although little is known of the church in Ireland during the
Roman period there seems to be general acceptance among scholars
that a church was established there long before the arrival of
Patrick, the "Apostle of Ireland." According to Ussher the church
in Ireland was established soon after the death of Christ by
disciples from the Asian churches.
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 5
1. The Ancient British Church, page 21.
2. Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History.
3. Lives of the Apostles, William Cave, vol. 1, page 290.
4. Theodoret, De Civ. Graec. off, lib. i.x.
5. Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 3:12-14.
6. The Apostolic Fathers, J.B. Lightfoot, vol. i.
7. The Ancient British Church, T. Burges, pages 48, 117-118.
8. Origines Celticao, E. Guest, page 121.
9. The Apostolic Fathers, J.B. Lightfoot, Vol. 2, page 31.
10. Tertullian, Def. Fidei, page 179.
11. See the marginal notes, page 7 in Bede's Ecclesiastical
History of England.
12. The Ancient British Church, Burges, page 26.
13. London Through the Ages, page 13, Covenant Books.
14. Our Neglected Heritage, page 67, G. Taylor.
15. The M.S. was reproduced by kind permission of The
Covenant Publishing Co. Ltd., of London.
16. The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, Book 2.
17. The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, Book 3.
18. Life of Agricola, chapter 17.
19. Annals of Tacitus, 13:32.
20. The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, vol. 1, page 30.
21. Ibid., p. 128.
22. Antiquities of the British Churches, Stillingfleet,
23. The Apostolic Fathers, J.B. Lightfoot, page 30.
24. Origines Celticae, E. Guest, page 124.
25. Claudia and Pudens, Samuel Lysons, M.A.
26. Lingard's History of England, vol. i, Chap. 1, page 65.
27. Dr. Henry`s History of Great Britain, page 187.
28. St. Paul in Britain, R.W. Morgan, pages 83-84.
29. Iolo M.S.S. page 7.
30. Gwehelyth lestyn ap Gwrgant.
31. St. Paul in Britain, R.W. Morgan, page 118.
32. Epig 6 v. 58.
33. Epig 11-53.
34. Claudia and Pudens, Samuel Lysons, M.A.
35. Sir Richard Phillips' Million of Facts, pages 872, 1835.
36. Fuller's Church History of Britain, page 9.
37. Antiquities of the British Churches, Stillingfleet.
38. Epigram 4:32.
39. Epithalamium 4:13.
40. Epigram 11:53.
41. Claudia and Pudens, J. Williams, page 35.
42. Origines Celticae, E. Guest, page 124.
43. Claudia and Pudens, J. Williams, page 9.
44. Ibid., p. 24.
45. Our Neglected Heritage, G. Taylor, page 24.
46. Annales Ecclesias.
47. Evangelical Demonstrations, book 3, chapter 7.
48. Page 203 of Cave's Antiq. Apost.
49. Synopsis de Apostol
50. Our Neglected Heritage, G. Taylor, page 48.
51. Cave's Antiq. Apost. page 148.
CHAPTER SIX -- THE GREAT CONSPIRACY
It was said of the first Christians that they were people who
"turned the world upside down." The respected Roman writer Tacitus
records that within a mere thirty-three years of the execution of
its founder, the new religion had spread like wildfire through much
of the civilized world.
Even at Rome, the capital city of the empire, "vast
multitudes" had embraced the new faith, and were even ready to die
in Nero's reign of terror rather than renounce their newly
There were several reasons for the phenomenal success of the
new movement. Firstly, it offered the adherent a reason for
living, beyond mere physical survival into old age. It added a new
dimension in living which transcended the "bread and circuses"
concept of the Roman "man in the street."
Apart from providing practical, living principles for success
in this present life, which would promote physical health and peace
of mind, material prosperity and happy family relationships, the
new faith offered the prospect that an individual could attain the
age-old goal of overcoming man's final enemy -- death, and of
It offered human beings something which no other religion had
come remotely near to offering -- the possibility that flesh and
blood people could become children of God (Gen. 1:26; Rom.
8:14-17), and that through the means of a resurrection from the
dead, the human body, subject to weakness, decay and death, could
be transformed into a glorified spirit body, like that of the
resurrected Christ (Phil. 3:20-21).
As a member of the God Family, an actual brother of Jesus
Christ (Rom. 8:29), the "born again" Christian is given the
opportunity of rulership not only on this earth (Rev. 2:26) but
ultimately over a part of the vast universe (Heb. 2:5-8).
It is small wonder that the early Christians, faced with the
prospect of such an awesome future, were more than willing to pay
the price necessary to qualify; that price being their willingness
to obey the laws of God and, with the assistance of His Holy
Spirit, develop the very mind and character of God.
The plan of salvation which was revealed to the early church
was universal in its scope and application; it was not confined to
one race or religious sect or group. The plan was open to all
people of all races, including all who had lived in the past, and
will live in the future; although not all people were granted the
opportunity to understand the plan at the same time.
In order to keep the true church constantly aware and reminded
of God's plan, the first Christian observed the Old Testament holy
days or Sabbaths; but in a new spirit and with an expanded level of
Many people have assumed that the weekly and annual Sabbaths
(Feast Days) of Israel were done away by Christ and perhaps "nailed
to the cross," that new days such as Sunday, Easter and Christmas
were introduced to take their place.
History clearly reveals, however, that these days, classified
by some as "Jewish," were observed by the true Church of God for
centuries, not only in Palestine and Asia Minor but even in remote
Britain and Ireland.
Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, kept these days and
instructed his Gentile converts to do likewise. He even refused
valuable opportunities to preach the gospel at times saying that "I
must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I
will return again unto you, if God will" (Acts 18:21).
Luke speaks of sailing from Philippi "after the days of
unleavened bread" (Acts 20:6), and of Paul making haste to be at
Jerusalem to observe Pentecost (Acts 20:16).
Gentile Christians at Corinth were urged to "Purge out
therefore the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as ye are
unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with
the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread
of sincerity and truth" (I Cor. 5:7-8).
The annual Sabbaths were not a part of the law of Moses, but
were observed before the ritualistic ordinances contained in that
law were given.
Formerly pagan, Christian converts at Colosse were criticized
by false teachers in respect of their observance of these days
(Col. 2:16). Paul makes the point that it is the leaders within
the Church of God, not unauthorized outsiders, who should determine
how these days should be kept.
There is no mention of the abolition of these days but simply
guidance as to how they should be kept.
During the first three centuries of the Christian era a
controversy raged, sometimes leading to bloodshed and death, over
which weekly day of worship Christians should observe. Should they
keep the Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) or Sunday?
There is no shred of evidence that the first century Church of
God kept any other day than the Sabbath as a day for weekly church
meetings. Even some leading theologians of Sunday-keeping churches
have agreed that not one single verse in the entire Bible
authorizes Sunday observance.
A few New Testament passages have been used as giving sanction
for church services on Sunday; but an examination of the context of
these passages gives an entirely different picture.
In Acts 20:7 we read: "And upon the first day of the week,
when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto
them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until
Some have imagined this to have been a Sunday morning
communion service, but it was no such thing. At the time that this
was written, each day was counted from sunset to sunset. A meeting
which ended at midnight on the first day of the week must have
started Saturday evening. The first day of the week ended at
sunset on Sunday. This was a Saturday evening meeting. On the
Sunday morning Paul set off to walk to Assos, where a ship was
waiting for him.
A second important point regarding this verse is that the term
"break bread" is used here to denote the taking of a communal meal,
not the Sunday communion service. The New Testament church
observed the Passover or "Lord's Supper" once a year, not every
week on Sunday morning. Verse six of this passage plainly states
that this service had already been held about two weeks earlier.
I Cor. 16:2 is also sometimes used as an example of a Sunday
service. It reads: "Upon the first day of the week let every one
of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be
no gatherings when I come."
Even a casual reading of the earlier verses of this chapter
indicates that this instruction, given by Paul, has nothing
whatever to do with church services, but rather a gathering of farm
produce and other foodstuffs, which was to be sent to the church
members at Jerusalem who were suffering from a severe food
The Weymouth translation adds the important point that this
collection of food, which certainly was to take place on a Sunday,
was to be done by each individual Christian "at his home." These
people were not meeting together for a church service on this day
but rather gathering food in their own individual homes.
A reference in Rev. 1:10 to "the Lord's day" is also taken to
promote Sunday observance. At least one translation renders this
"the day of the Lord," and as the entire context of the book of
Revelation is one of revealing future world events, including the
prophesied "day of the Lord" (the time of God's direct intervention
in world affairs), this is clearly the true meaning of the verse.
Yet again we find that this has nothing to do with religious
services on a Sunday.
Jesus Christ, the ultimate authority on which day is the true
"Lord's day," made the revealing statement that "the Son of Man is
Lord even of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28).
Quite late in the New Testament period when the book of
Hebrews was written, the entire Church of God was still observing
the seventh day Sabbath: "Therefore a Sabbath rest remains for the
people of God" (Heb. 4:9).
From a very early date it was claimed by some that Sunday
observance was introduced in recognition of the resurrection of
Christ, which they said took place on a Sunday. But is this really
In John 19:31 we read that "The Jews therefore, because it was
the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross
on the Sabbath day" obtained permission from Pilate to hasten the
deaths of the two men who were crucified with Jesus.
It would seem from the first part of this verse that Christ
really did die on "Good Friday." John, however, adds vital
additional information which proves that the "Sabbath" following
the crucifixion was not the weekly Sabbath (Saturday) but an annual
holy day Sabbath, ("for that Sabbath was a high day").
This particular high day Sabbath was called by the Jews "the
great Sabbath" and is also known as the first day of the Feast of
Unleavened Bread in which a "holy convocation" (Lev. 23:7) was
Eusebius relates that Polycarp, a leader of the true Church of
God in Asia Minor, was taken for trial and execution on a great
Sabbath day." The marginal notes explain that "The great Sabbath
was the feast of unleavened bread ...."1
The fourteenth verse of John nineteen explains that the
crucifixion took place on a "preparation" day. Not the preparation
for the weekly Sabbath, but "the preparation for the Passover."
The Jews always killed the Passover lambs on the day before
"the great Sabbath." This was the very day on which Christ was
crucified. Jesus Christ, "the lamb of God," was sacrificed as "our
Passover ... sacrificed for us," as Paul puts it, at about the time
that the Jews killed the physical lambs.
In A. D. 31, the year of the crucifiction, this day fell on a
Wednesday, not a Friday.
The only sign that Jesus ever gave of His Messiahship was that
He would be in the grave for "three days and three nights" (Matt.
12:39-40). He died shortly after "the ninth hour" (Luke 23:44)
between 3 p.m. and sunset. The resurrection took place at the same
time of day, three days later. This brings us to a Saturday
Mark records that at about dawn on the following Sunday, the
next morning, the angel informed the women who had come to the
sepulchre that "he is risen." He did not say, "he is rising." The
resurrection took place at the same time of the day as the death --
the late afternoon. This is why at dawn the next day (Sunday) He
was already risen.
The resurrection took place on the Sabbath -- not Sunday.
There were two Sabbaths in the week that Christ died. The annual
holy day Sabbath on the Thursday and the weekly Sabbath on the
Saturday; the women purchased and prepared their spices on the day
between, the Friday.
The true church continued to observe the Passover on the 14th
day of the first month (Nisan) as a memorial of the death of Christ
for several centuries. The church historian, Bede, records that
Christians in Scotland were still keeping the Passover as late as
the 7th century A.D.2
This day pictures the shedding of Christ's blood, the Lamb of
God without spot or blemish, to pay the penalty for human sins. He
who never sinned was able, as God in human form, to fully pay the
price of all human sins, and to take the death penalty which we
have incurred upon Himself. This sacriflce wipes the slate clean
and gives those who repent of sin and wish to accept His sacrifice
access to God.
The seven days of unleavened bread which follow the Passover
picture the newly converted Christian coming out of sin (leaven is
used as a type of sin), as the Israelites, in the Exodus, came out
of Egypt, immediately after the first Passover. The Christian,
like the Israelites coming out of Egypt, has to learn how to keep
the Commandments of God. Sin, the thing which he has to come out
of, is defined as the breaking or transgression of those very same
laws (I John 3:4).
The next holy day, Pentecost, symbolizes the coming of the
Holy Spirit (Acts 2), which gives a fleshly human being the
spiritual power to keep a spiritual law -- the law of God. It
pictures the flrstfruits, a small called-out body of Christians,
called to do the work of preaching the gospel to the world as a
witness (Matt. 24:14), and to qualify as individuals by overcoming
"the world, the flesh and the devil" in order to have a part in the
world-ruling Kingdom of God, to be set up at the return of Christ.
This group of holy days, kept during the early part of the
year, portrays the calling and training of the "Firstfruits" of
God's Plan of Salvation. The true Church of God, called by Christ
a "little flock," is called to an understanding of God's plan in
advance of the broad majority of the earth's population, in order
to prepare to assist Christ in the administration of God's
government on earth (Rev. 2:26).
The later group of festivals held in the autumn (fall) of the
year picture God's dealings with the world as a whole.
The first festival in this second group is the "Feast of
Trumpets" defined as "a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets,
a holy convocation" (Lev. 23:23-25).
It pictures the historical event, yet future, of the return of
Christ to earth as a King and Ruler, to take over the government of
the entire world, and set up the Kingdom of God on earth (Rev.
It is the time when true Christians who died in the past will
be resurrected to glorified spirit life, and those still living at
that time will be changed or transformed into the same form (I Cor.
The next holy day, the Day of Atonement, is observed as a day
of fasting. It looks forward to the time when Satan, the devil
"which deceiveth the whole world" (Rev. 12:9) is bound and
imprisoned for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). As the live goat in
the Old Testament observance of this festival, in a symbolic sense,
took the sins of the Israelites into the wilderness (Lev.
16:20-26), so Satan will carry away with him his part in all human
sins (Christ has already paid the penalty for our part in our sins
when we repent).
With our human sins now paid for and forgiven, and Satan no
longer able to deceive human beings, those who desire God's
salvation are now At-one with God. Atonement means At-one-ment --
human beings finally "at one" with God.
Christians were still keeping this festival in A.D. 58 when
Paul took his sea voyage to Rome. In Acts 27:9 it is recorded that
"when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already
past ...." The "fast" mentioned here was the Day of Atonement.
Shortly after this festival, Christians observed the seven day
long Feast of Tabernacles. This pictures the thousand year reign of
Christ on earth, also known as the Millennium. This doctrine of
the Millennium was believed, as looking forward to a literal
thousand year reign of Christ on earth, for centuries.
During the second century Papias of Hierapolis stated that
"There will be a period of some thousand years after the first
resurrection of the dead, and the kingdom of Christ will be set up
in material form on this very earth."3
Other "church fathers" of the second and third centuries such
as Iranaeus and Tertullian held similar views relating to this
This amazing and yet future period of human history will be
the time when "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26). At this
time spiritual understanding will be available to all, and human
beings, no longer having their minds confused by Satan's
deceptions, will become converted in large numbers. It will also
be a time of great material prosperity and abundance.
A prophecy relating to a time, after the second coming of
Christ, gives clear evidence that the observance of this Festival
was not something which was "nailed to the cross" and done away
"And it shall come to pass that every one that is left of all
the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year
to year to worship the king, the Lord of hosts and to keep the
Feast of Tabernacles" (Zech. 14:16).
Immediately following this festival the seventh and final holy
day was observed. This is called "the last day, that great day of
the feast" (John 7:37). On this day Jesus preached that "If any
man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink" (same verse).
This holy day pictures the event, yet in the future, which is
sometimes termed the "White Throne Judgment" (Rev. 20:12) when "the
dead, small and great, stand before God." It is the time when the
vast majority of human beings who lived and died without having any
understanding of salvation will be resurrected to human life and
given their first opportunity to grasp the true gospel and plan of
It is only those who knowingly reject God's ways and plan of
salvation, probably a tiny minority of the earth's population, who
will be destroyed in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). This is the
second death from which there is to be no resurrection.
The people who repent of their own ways and accept God's plan
of salvation will all ultimately be changed from human to glorified
spirit form, as the very children of God. They shall witness the
creation of "a new heaven and a new earth" where "there shall be no
more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any
more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:1-4).
The newly born sons of God, no longer restricted by the
limitations of the human body, but now sharing the very power of
God, will assist God in the development and rulership of the
universe for all eternity.
When one considers the awesome magnitude and wonder of God's
plan for human beings, it becomes plain why the early church
continued the physical observance of the holy days which picture
these events on a year by year basis.
It was only when people began turning away from "the faith
once delivered to the saints" to "another Jesus" and another
gospel" (II Cor. 11:2-15), that the concept came into being that
these holy days had been done away with or "nailed to the cross."
From the very beginning of human life on earth, Satan, the
devil, had opposed God and His plan for human beings. He offered
Eve (Gen. 3:4) and all other humans an alternative to God's plan of
salvation, a counterfeit of the real thing.
The one thing that would disqualify people from receiving
salvation was sin -- disobedience to the laws of God. Satan "sold"
the idea to Eve that a person could sin, live in whatever manner he
wished, contrary to God's law, and yet still receive the gift of
The city of Babylon became the headquarters of Satan's
counterfeit religion. Nimrod, "a mighty one in the earth" (Gen.
10:8), built the city and exerted an immense influence over the
early descendants of Noah.
His great political power was used to turn people's minds away
from God. The phrase "a mighty hunter before the LORD" (Gen. 10:8)
could well have been rendered "against the LORD." It was said that
he caused all the people to rebel against God.
He was also a priest in Satan's counterfeit religious system.
This system, called in the Bible "Mystery, Babylon the great" (Rev.
17:5), continued to deceive millions of people long after the
actual city of Babylon was destroyed (Isa. 13:19-22; Jer. 51:62).
This system not only instigated the large number of pagan
religions of the world but also, amazingly, much of the world's
"Christianity" (II Cor. 11:2-15).
Alexander Hislop's thoroughly documented work, The Two
Babylons, goes into great detail to explain the doctrines of this
system, and how it has continued to exert a profound influence upon
millions in the Western world of professing Christianity to the
Herodotus, the world traveler and noted historian of
antiquity, studied this mystery religion at work in the various
countries of the ancient world which he visited. He mentioned that
Babylon was the primeval source from which ALL systems based on
The Apostle Paul expressed great concern that in his day "the
mystery of iniquity" was still at work and that its adherents were
attempting to gain a following amongst members of the true Church
of God (II Thes. 2:7).
The high priest, or spiritual leader of this system at that
time, has been identified by some as Simon Magus or Simon the
Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-24).
Simon was a Samaritan, and the Bible points out that salvation
was of the Jews -- not the Samaritans (John 4:22). The book of
Revelation speaks of a synagogue, or church of Satan, the members
of which claimed to be Jews, when they were not (Rev. 2:9). The
Samaritans, when it suited their purposes, claimed to be Jews, but
in fact they were largely Babylonian by race.
The Samaritans had been settled in the area some seven
centuries before the time of Christ, and had been brought from
Babylon and the surrounding areas (II Kings 17:24, Ezra 4:9-10).
They took their Babylonian mystery religion with them into Samaria.
Although Simon was baptized by Philip, his subsequent career
proves that he never really repented. He tried to buy the power to
confer the Holy Spirit on his followers. There are no indications
that he ever intended abandoning his former religion. Simon wanted
extra spiritual power to enhance his own reputation and influence
over his followers.
Peter, however, correctly perceived his motive and strongly
rebuked him, pointing out that his heart was "not right in the
sight of God" (Acts 8:21).
Although Simon did not repent and become a humble and
converted member of the true church, he did clearly recognize the
immense power of the new religion and saw in it an opportunity of
extending his own spiritual influence far beyond the borders of
Samaria. The new religion offered possibilities which would appeal
to people everywhere -- why not a universal church with himself as
Early writers often referred to Simon as "the father of the
Gnostics" and Gnostic writings mention that in order to become "all
things to all men" he claimed to be God the Father, in Samaria; God
the Son, in Judea; and God the Holy Spirit among the Gentile
peoples. Simon, it seemed, really believed in a "holy trinity."
Perhaps the most damaging and far reaching of Simon's new
"Christian" doctrines was that the grace or free pardon of God gave
a person the license to continue in sin.
The epistle of Jude speaks of "certain men" who "crept in
unawares" and turned "the grace of our God into lasciviousness ..."
(Jude 4). Simon had been dead for some time when this was written,
but Jude almost certainly had in mind Simon's followers when he
wrote this, who were attempting to introduce this doctrine into the
"At the head of all the sects, which disturbed the peace of
the church, stand the Gnostics, who claimed ability to restore to
mankind the lost knowledge of the true and supreme God... even in
the first century, in various places, men infected with the Gnostic
leprosy began to erect societies distinct from the other
William Cave gives further details concerning the progress of
this insidious attempt to subvert the true Church:
"The first ringleader of this heretical crew was Simon Magus,
who not being able to attain his ends of the apostles, by getting
a power to confer miraculous gifts, whereby he designed to greatly
and enrich himself, resolved to be revenged of them, scattered the
most poisonous tares among the good wheat they had sown, bringing
in the most pernicious principles; and as the natural consequence
of that patronizing the most debauched villainous practices; and
this under a pretense of still being Christians.
"But besides this, Simon and his followers made the gate yet
wider, maintaining a universal license to sin; that men were free
to do whatever they had a mind to; that to press the observance of
good works was a bondage inconsistent with the liberty of the
gospel; that so men did but believe in him and his dear Helen."6
Helen was Simon's mistress, and it was said that his
relationship with her was used by his followers as an example,
which they followed in their own grossly immoral lifestyles.
Justin Martyr says of her that "A certain Helen, also, is of
this class, who had before been a public prostitute in Tyre of
Phoenicia, and at that time attached herself to Simon, and was
called, the first idea that proceeded from him."7
The second century writer Iranaeus adds that "they lived in
all lust and filthiness, as indeed whoever will take the pains to
peruse the account that is given of them, will find that they
wallowed in the most horrible and unheard of bestialities."
These obscene orgies of Simon and his followers soon attracted
the attention of the Romans, who rarely took the trouble to
distinguish between the true Christians and the false. Tacitus and
other writers of the period relate that Christians brought to trial
were often accused by the authorities of taking part in secret
Peter seems to have had this in mind when he wrote that "many
will follow their impurities; on account of whom the way of truth
will be reviled" (II Pet. 2:2).
Towards the end of the second century a work known as "The
Clementine Homilies" was produced, which gave a long and detailed
account of Simon and his activities. This bizarre record contained
a confusing mixture of truth and error and has been described as "
a kind of religious novel." It speaks of a visit which Simon made
to Egypt, at which time he embraced the doctrine of the immortal
In an alleged conversation with Simon Peter the point was made
that "For the soul even of the wicked is immortal, for whom it were
better not to have it incorruptible. For, being punished with
endless torture under unquenchable fire, and never dying, it can
receive no end of its misery."8
This doctrine gained a following at Rome. Mosheim's history
of the early church mentions a sect of Christians who met on
Sundays and who sang songs in honour of the sun and moon. They
taught that Christ was in both and that the souls of the dead went
to these heavenly bodies to be cleansed, after which they flew out
to the stars to shine for evermore.
An inscription on the tomb of a martyr found in the Roman
catacombs tends to support this view. The victim had died in the
Antonine persecution which began about A.D. 160. It reads:
"Alexander dead ... `is not'; but he lives above the stars, and his
body rests in this tomb. He ended life under the emperor Antonine,
who foreseeing that great benefit would result from his services,
returned evil for good, for while on his knees and about to
sacrifice to the true God, was led away to execution. Oh, sad
times! in which, among sacred rites and prayers, even in caverns,
we are not safe. What can be more wretched than such a life? And
what than such a death? When they cannot be buried by their friends
and relations. At length they sparkle in heaven. He has scarcely
lived, who has lived in Christian times."9
Eusebius relates that after visiting Antioch, around A.D. 42,
and being resisted by Peter (Gal. 2:11), Simon Magus went to Rome.
Satan "seizing upon the imperial city for himself, brought thither
Simon, whom we mentioned before. Coming to the aid of his
insidious artifices, he attached many of the inhabitants of Rome to
himself, in order to deceive them."10
Several New Testament passages state that two of the most
prominent practices of this counterfeit system were fornication and
A further passage from the work of Eusebius mentions that
Simon's followers "prostrate themselves before pictures and images
of Simon himself and of Helena, who was mentioned with him, and
undertake to worship them with incense and sacrifices and
Justin Martyr records that Menander a disciple of Simon
"persuaded those who followed him that they would not die." This
man, in common with Satan (Gen. 3:4), deceived people into
accepting the idea that a person could live a life of continual sin
and yet not suffer the inevitable consequences.
Another of Simon's followers, Nicholas of Antioch, is said to
have founded the sect of the Nicolaitanes (Rev. 2:15) and promoted
"the doctrine of promiscuity."
The doctrine of "antichrist" was also expounded by Simon
"For it is manifest, from all the accounts which we have of
him, that after his defection from the Christians, he ascribed to
Christ no honour at all; but set himself in opposition to Christ,
and said that he was no other than the supreme power of God.
"They (Simon and his followers) could not, indeed, either call
him God, or a real man. True deity was inconsistent with their
notion, that he was, although begotten of God, yet every way far
inferior to the Father."12
This evil man set himself up as "another Jesus," and gladly
welcomed the actual worship of other human beings.
The religion of this movement represented a bizarre blend of
Christianity and pagan, oriental philosophy. Iranaeus records that
not all of Simon's followers followed him openly, but some did so
in secret, appearing to the world as true Christians. It was this
group who secretly infiltrated the Church of God (Jude 4).
Simon's movement had a distinct anti-Jewish bias, and rejected
almost all of the Old Testament teachings. One of their methods
was to allegorize teachings (such as those against idolatry and
paganism). Iranaeus states that Simon taught "that the Jewish
prophecies were inspired by the creator's angels; therefore those
who had hope in him and Helen need not attend to them, but freely
do as they would."
The law of God, which Paul described as holy, just and good
(Rom. 7:12) was, according to Simon's perverted reasoning, a
sinister tyranny which would enslave human beings. Simon honoured
the "eighth" day of the week (Sunday) rather than the Sabbath."13
This arch heretic died, according to Eusebius, during the
reign of Claudius (A.D. 41-54), but others say during the time of
Nero (A.D. 54-68).
Although Simon was dead his movement did not die with him.
Even though the name of his sect (Simonians or Samaritans) was
rarely used by his followers after the second century, the
doctrines of the group gained an ever widening following. These
people now called themselves simply "Christians."
Even though the conspirators had been at work almost from the
beginning of the New Testament church, the presence and energetic
activities of the apostles had, to a large extent, kept them on the
outside of the church looking in.
When Peter wrote his second epistle around A.D. 66, he was
able to predict -- as a future event -- that "there will be false
teachers among you" (II Pet. 2:1).
Jude, writing a decade or two later, saw the actual
fulfillment of this prophecy. Events during this period were
moving very rapidly.
By A.D. 68 when Nero died, Peter, Paul and many other leaders
and members had been martyred. The following year saw the flight
of the headquarters church from Jerusalem to Pella, beyond the
Direct persecution against the church and the upheaval caused
by the Jewish wars created a leadership or power vacuum within the
church, which ambitious men were ready to exploit. By the closing
years of the first century only John remained of the original
twelve apostles, and even he was in exile for a time on the island
of Patmos (Rev. 1:9).
The influence of false ministers within some local
congregations had by this time become so great that even John was
rejected by at least one congregation (II John 9-10) in Asia Minor.
Clement of Rome, writing at about the same time, A.D. 95-96,
expressed deep concern over a similar situation which was
developing at Corinth. The Corinthian church, less than thirty
years after the apostle Paul's death, was ejecting from the
ministry men who had been ordained by the apostles.
Clement, writing as a spokesman for "The Church of God which
is at Rome," urges the Corinthians to "walk by the rule of God's
Commandments." He laments that "It is a shame... to hear that the
most firm and ancient church of the Corinthians should, by one or
two persons, be led into a sedition against its priests.
"But we see how you have put out some, who lived reputedly
among you, from the ministry, which by their innocence they had
"Your schism has perverted many, has discouraged many: it has
caused diffidence in many, and grief in us all. And yet your
sedition continues still."
He calls upon the ringleaders to repent: "Let us with all
haste put an end to this sedition."14
It was said that the conspirators had been guilty of
attempting to "violate the order of public services," primarily the
Lord's Supper or Passover.
Clement's intervention may have checked the conspiracy for a
while but by the time that Dionysius visited the Corinthian church
in A.D. 170, the church which in Paul's day had been keeping the
Sabbath was now meeting for services "Sunday by Sunday."
After the generation which had been converted through Paul's
ministry had died, inspired leadership within that local church
seems to have quickly faded from the scene. With fewer converted
members left with each passing year the false ministers were
ultimately able to take over the entire church at Corinth.
Following Clement's death around A.D. 101 major doctrinal
changes began to be introduced at Rome. The abolition of the
Sabbath and annual Holy Days seems to have been the first objective
of those who, at Rome, had "crept in unawares."
The introduction of Easter in place of the Passover took place
according to one authority in A.D. 109; other sources put the date
some ten to twelve years later, during the time of the Roman bishop
Sixtus, or Xystus. Easter was observed at a different time
compared to the Passover and was based on the unscriptural Good
Friday-Easter Sunday tradition. Many of its features were taken
directly from paganism.
Easter, according to Alexander Hislop,15 "bears its Chaldean
origin on its forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one
of the titles of Beltis, the queen of Heaven ... The introduction
of this festival was a gradual process and in its earliest (second
century) form still retained the name of Passover.
"The festival, of which we read in church history, under the
name of Easter, in the third or fourth centuries, was quite a
different festival from that now observed in the Romish Church, and
at that time was not known by any such name as Easter. It was
called Pascha, or the Passover, and ... was very clearly observed
by many professing Christians."16
This major doctrinal change had received no approval
whatsoever either from any apostle or from any who had been
ordained by an apostle.
Polycarp, who had known several of the apostles, and had been
ordained by John, strongly resisted the introduction of this new
festival. He visited Rome in A.D. 154 to discuss the matter with
Anicetus, the Roman bishop.
Iranaeus described the outcome of the meeting: "For neither
could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe it (the Passover)
because he had always observed it with John, the disciple of our
Lord, and the rest of the apostles, with whom he associated; and
neither did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, who said that
he was bound to follow the customs of the presbyters before him."17
The church of Rome by this time was determined to follow its
own customs and traditions, even when these were in direct conflict
with the teachings and examples set by the apostles of Christ.
A series of epistles and other writings appeared during the
second century which supported the introduction of new doctrines.
Many, if not most, of these works could be classed as spurious, in
the sense that the individuals named as the writers of these
documents were not the true authors, who had probably been dead for
several decades when these works were written.
These writings do, however, reflect, with some degree of
accuracy, the changes which were taking place at Rome during the
second century A.D.
The observance of Sunday as a day of worship appears to have
started at Rome around A.D. 120. The so-called "Epistle of
Barnabas" which was written about this time mentions that "we
observe the eighth day with gladness" (chap. 13 v. 10).
This work contains a strong anti-Jewish bias and the writer
goes to great length to supposedly "prove" that the health laws of
the Bible, primarily those relating to clean and unclean meats, had
been written as an allegory and as such did not apply to
Christians. He concludes by stating: "Wherefore it is not the
command of God that they should not eat these things ... (Chapter
The "Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians" is another attempt
to justify Sunday observance. "Wherefore if they who were brought
up in these ancient laws came nevertheless to the newness of hope;
no longer observing Sabbaths but keeping the Lord's Day ... (Chap.
By A.D. 200 the Roman church, far from calling the Sabbath "a
delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable" (Isa. 58:13) had made
this a day of fasting.
"The Roman church regarded Saturday as a fast day in direct
opposition to those who regarded it as a Sabbath. Sunday remained
a joyful festival in which all fasting and worldly business was
avoided as much as possible, but the original commandment of the
decalogue respecting the Sabbath was not then applied to that
The antagonism of the church of Rome was not confined to the
weekly Sabbath but was extended to include the annual Sabbaths
which pictured God's plan of salvation for mankind.
About A.D. 140 a Jew named Trypho challenged Justin Martyr, a
leader in the Roman church, to explain why the Christians were not
observing "festivals or Sabbaths." Justin replied that "the new law
requires you to keep a perpetual Sabbath, and you, because you are
idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this
has been commanded you: and if you eat unleavened bread you say the
will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take
pleasure in such observances."19
It is also noted in the above work that "Justin never
discriminated between the Sabbath of the Lord and the annual
sabbaths ..." Justin mentions the attitude of the Roman Christians
to those of the True Church of God who continued to observe the
Sabbath. They "do not venture to have any intercourse with, or to
extend hospitality to, such persons; but I do not agree with them."
By the middle of the second century the few who continued to
obey God, and as such constituted the True Church (Rev. 12:17) were
being ejected from any fellowship with the professing Christian
Church, which had substituted its own traditions in place of
obedience to God.
The time predicted by Christ when "They shall put you (the
true Christians) out of the synagogues" (John 16:2) had arrived.
Not only did the Roman church regard the Sabbath as a fast day
but, in time, even the feast of unleavened bread began to be
regarded in the same light.
The Roman congregation was instructed to "keep your nights of
watching in the middle of the days of unleavened bread. And when
the Jews are feasting, do you fast and wail over them, because on
the day of their feast they crucified Christ ... Do you therefore
fast on the days of the Passover ..."20
The changes being introduced by the Roman church did not take
place without opposition. In Asia Minor, where several churches
had been raised up by the apostles, Christians continued to observe
the festivals which had been handed down to them by the apostles
and, their immediate followers, such as Polycarp.
Church members continued these festivals even when visiting
Rome, which only served to emphasize the growing differences
between the church of Rome and churches from other areas.
The Roman church needed something more than the tradition of
its own bishops upon which to place the seal of authority upon its
A letter was circulated at Rome shortly after Polycarp's visit
of A.D. 154. The letter, probably a forgery, purported to have
come from the Roman bishop Pius, who had died shortly before this
time, in which his brother Hermas is said to have received
instructions from an angel that the Passover should be observed on
a Sunday. This, it seems, gave fresh impetus to the growing Easter
About A.D. 160 Tatian, a disciple of Justin Martyr, produced
the "Diatessaron" in which it was said (by Dionysius of Corinth)
that he "selected from the gospels and patched together and
constructed a gospel which is called Diatessaron." This work
appeared to produce evidence in the form of direct quotations from
the gospels to support the "Good Friday" tradition.
An honest examination of the real gospels, however, produces
no such "evidence." Few in Rome, it seems, bothered to check the
source of Tatian's statements.
At about this point in history a discovery was made at Rome
which was to have tremendous significance for the local church.
Workmen, digging the foundations for a new building on Vatican
Hill around A.D. 160-170, uncovered something which inspired the
Roman bishop Anicetas to erect a shrine on the site of the
discovery which was dedicated to the apostle Peter.
Extensive excavations which started in 1939 and continued for
several years beneath the high altar of St. Peter`s have
established beyond reasonable doubt that this shrine to Peter, also
known as "the Andicula," was erected during the third quarter of
the second century A.D.
The unknown "something" which the workmen uncovered during the
second century could well have been some of the bodily remains of
one, or more, of the victims of the Neronian persecution of the
Christians in A.D. 64.
The site of the shrine was located only a short distance from
Nero's Circus, where the Christians suffered martyrdom. A second
century will of one Gaius Popilius Horacia stipulated that he was
to be buried "on the Vatican Hill near the Circus."
Bishop Lightfoot described in lurid detail the ghastly events
of that time.
"The refined cruelty of the tortures -- the impalements and
the pitchy tunics, the living torches making night hideous with the
lurid flames and piercing cries, the human victims clad in the
skins of wild beasts and hunted in the arena, while the populace
gloated over these revels and the emperor indulged his mad orgies
-- those were scenes which no lapse of time could efface. Above
all ... the climax of horrors ... were the outrages, far worse than
death itself, inflicted on weak women and innocent girls."21
Although there is no way of knowing for certain whether or not
the workmen really did uncover the remains of Peter's body, or
indeed of any body, the fact is clearly established that Peter was
venerated at this shrine from about A.D. 160 onwards.
Dionysius of Corinth was the first to mention that both Peter
and Paul had died at Rome (A.D. 170).
Eusebius records the statement of the Roman priest Gaius, made
about A.D. 200, that:
"I can show you the trophies of the Apostles. For if you go
to the Vatican or to the Ostian Way, there you will find the
trophies of those who founded this church."22
From the time of Constantine onwards Catholic churches erected
on this site were built in such a manner as to incorporate the
shrine within the finished building.
An interesting reference in the "Liber Pontificalis" would
seem, on the face of it, to place the construction of the shrine
some eighty years earlier than the evidence of archaeology would
It was said that Anacletus, a shadowy figure about whom almost
nothing is known, "built and set in order a memorial ... shrine to
the blessed Peter, where the bishops might be buried." This event
is dated to about A.D. 80.
So far as is known, only one shrine to Peter existed at Rome
during the first few centuries of the Christian era, and intensive
recent investigations have dated this to about A.D. 160. The most
probable solution to this problem is that the sixth century scribe
who compiled this work, probably from earlier sources, almost
certainly confused the two names of Anacletus and Anicetus (the
Bishop of Rome in A.D, 160).
A bizarre twist to this story is that Anacletus did indeed
dedicate a shrine to the first bishop of Rome in A.D. 80 -- but
that man was NOT Peter. The shrine of memoria of Anacletus was
dedicated to the genuine first bishop of Rome. The man's name was
LINUS. He was ordained by the apostle Paul (not Peter) as the
first elder or bishop of the Church of God at Rome.
One of Paul's functions as an apostle was to ordain elders, or
bishops in the towns and cities where churches had been
established. Sometimes an assistant was delegated to handle this
task (Titus 1:5). What very few have realized is that Paul also
performed this task at Rome.
Several early writers mention this ordination and link the
individual concerned with the Linus mentioned in II Tim. 4:21.
Jerome gives the date of this event as A.D. 68, probably no more
than a few months or weeks before Paul's martyrdom.
Of all the local bishops ordained by Paul, the bishop of Rome
was not the first but the last to be ordained. This ordination
could well have been his final official duty prior to his death.
Linus died, possibly martyred, in A.D. 80. His tomb has been
discovered in the Roman catacombs. The amazing facts relating to
this discovery are as follows:
"In the Catacomb of St. Priscilla is a memorial chapel known
as the Memoria of Anacletus. This, we are told, was built by
Anacletus after the death of Linus. Dr. Spence-Jones gives an
interesting account of the discovery of the Memoria and what it
contained. It was evidently built in honour of Linus and as a
fitting resting place for this first Bishop of Rome, who suffered
martyrdom. Part of the Vatican was built over this catacomb, the
oldest in Rome.
"No doubt it has been explored thoroughly in the hope of
finding St. Peter`s tomb, but none has been discovered with any
inscription pointing to Peter. In the Memorial of Anacletus, a
number of plain stone coffins were found grouped around the floor.
Only one bore an inscription and it was the simple word LINUS.
This was in the centre of the floor and was clearly the one for
which the chapel was built."23
Iranaeus, who was born only forty years after the death of
Linus, confirmed his position in the early church.
"The blessed Apostles, then, having founded and built up the
church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the
episcopate. Of this Linus Paul makes mention in his Epistles to
Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus and after him, in third place
from the Apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric."24
One can only wonder why these important facts have remained
hidden for so long.
Very little is known of the movements of Peter apart from the
few brief references to him given in the New Testament. These
speak of him working at Jerusalem, Joppa, Caesarea, Samaria and
His task was to preach to the Jews, not the gentile Romans
(Gal. 2:7-8). Paul, not Peter, was sent to establish the church at
Rome (Rom. 15:16).
At the end of his epistle to the Romans, Paul lists a
considerable number of his "fellow labourers in Christ," but makes
no mention of Peter. No doubt he would have been the first on the
list had he been the "bishop of Rome" at the time.
Some time later, probably in A.D. 59, when Paul arrived in
Italy on the way to Rome he was met by some Christian brethren, but
Peter was not among them (Acts 28:15).
At the time that Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, while
recognizing the existence of a Christian congregation, he speaks
throughout as though this were practically a virgin soil in which
he was called to sow the seed of the Gospel." "The first Apostle
visited Rome about A.D. 60.25
None of the "Prison Epistles" written by Paul about this time
make any mention of Peter.
William Cave mentions Peter working in Northern Asia Minor,
along with his brother Andrew.
"He [Andrew] next came to Sinope, a city situated upon the
same sea (Black Sea) where he met with his brother Peter with whom
he stayed a considerable time."26
As Peter's own first epistle, written about A.D. 65, is
addressed to Christians in this area, the fact that he laboured for
a time along this Black Sea coast is highly probable.
The final years of Peter's life are shrouded in mystery, and
scholars have rightly treated statements from early writers
relating to this period with considerable caution.
Cardinal Baronius, the Vatican Librarian, quotes the tenth
century writer Simon Metaphrastes, who mentioned that "Peter spent
some days in Britain, and enlightened many by the word of grace;
and having established churches and elected Bishops, Presbyters and
Deacons, came again to Rome in the twelfth year of Nero ..." "This
ancient account is highly probable."27
Although some point out that "Metaphrastes is an author of no
credit" (Fuller's Church History of Britain, p. 9), a tradition
relating to Peter's visit to Britain seems to have started at a
very early date.
Gildas, in the sixth century, refers to Britain as "St.
Peter's Chair." A church building, dedicated to Peter, is said to
have been erected in London as early as A.D. 179 (St. Peter's of
Although the tradition which relates to Westminster Abbey
being built on the spot where Peter once slept and had a vision
seems too good to be true, and could well have been a fabrication
of the Dark Ages, the fact that a church dedicated to Peter
occupied the site of the Abbey from ancient times is well
According to Lactantius, "St. Peter came not to Rome till the
reign of Nero, and not long before his martyrdom."
The twelfth year of Nero's reign is given by several early
writers as the date that Peter first arrived at Rome. As this
date, A.D. 66, is the year before tradition asserts that he was
martyred at Rome, there is a strong possibility that the traditions
are based on a measure of historical fact.
Paul, in his final epistle, the second to Timothy, makes no
mention of Peter and makes it clear that "only Luke is with me" (II
Tim. 4:1 1). Peter could well have been dead when this was
Dionysius, in the second century, mentioned that both Peter
and Paul suffered martyrdom in Italy. His remarks are recorded by
A little later, about A.D. 200, Tertullian relates that Peter
was crucified at Rome, and Origen records that he was crucified
As the Apostle to "the circumcision," Peter could well have
had an interest in the Jewish community that resided in Rome at
that time (Acts 28:17).
Although Peter may well have briefly visited Rome towards the
end of his life, and may even have died there, this possibility in
no way proves that he was the first bishop of Rome in the
traditional sense of the term.
Peter was as much a "Hebrew of the Hebrews" as was Paul, and
in no way would have sanctioned or authorized the doctrinal changes
that the Roman church began to introduce from the second century
Christ, not Peter, was the Head of the Church (Eph. 5:23) and
He was the one who should be followed (I Pet. 2:21).
Peter, who was a married man, not a celibate priest, kept both
the weekly and annual Sabbaths, and would, no doubt, had he lived,
have strongly resisted any moves to change or abolish the
observance of these days. Peter cannot in any way be used as an
authority by those who seek to move away from "the faith once
delivered to the saints."
The period immediately following the deaths of Peter and Paul
have, with good reason, been called "The Age of Shadows" and "The
Lost Century." For some fifty years, up to the earliest writings of
the church fathers around A.D. 120, church history is almost a
Several historians have made the point that the church which
we read of during the second century was in many vital respects
quite different from the church which had been established by
Christ and the Apostles.
By the closing years of that century, Christians who
faithfully continued in the teachings handed down to them by the
immediate followers of Christ were rapidly finding themselves to be
in a minority position.
Mosheim, in his church history, relates that: "Christian
churches had scarcely been organized when men rose up, who, not
being contented with the simplicity and purity of that religion
which the Apostles taught, attempted innovations, and fashioned
religion according to their own liking."
Paul, in his epistle to the Roman church, expressly warned
them against boasting of their position and exalting themselves
over the largely Jewish churches of the east (Rom. 11:18-21).
By the closing years of the second century, however, the Roman
bishop Victor attempts to "excommunicate" the churches of Asia
Minor for refusing to abandon practices handed down to them from
"A question of no small importance arose at that time. For
the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the
fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to
sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the
Saviour's Passover ... the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates,
decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself
in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the Church of Rome,
set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down
"`We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away.
For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise
again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with
glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these
are Philip, one of the twelve apostles ... and, moreover, John, who
was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined on the bosom of the
Lord ... and Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr ...
these observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the
Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of
Victor, not content to enforce the observance of Easter, with
its many pagan features, upon his own local congregation,
determined to press its observance on other churches far from Rome.
J.B. Lightfoot, the noted scholar and historian, describes the
fundamental change in the office of the bishop of Rome that took
place during the century that separated Clement from Victor.
Although theologians of later centuries classified Clement as a
Pope, Clement himself makes no mention in his writings of any such
"The language and silence alike of Clement himself and of
writers in his own and immediately succeeding ages are wholly
irreconcilable with this extravagant estimate of his position.
"In Clement's letter itself -- the earliest document issuing
from the Roman church after the apostolic times -- no mention is
made of the episcopacy so called.
"There is all the difference in the world between the attitude
of Rome towards other churches at the close of the first century...
and its attitude at the close of the second century, when Victor
the bishop excommunicates the churches of Asia Minor for clinging
to a usage in regard to the celebration of Easter which had been
handed down to them from the Apostles."29
"Towards the latter end of the second century, most of the
churches assumed a new form, the first simplicity disappeared; and
insensibly, as the old disciples retired to their graves, their
children, along with new converts, both Jews and Gentiles, came
forward and new modeled the cause."30
The Roman view on Easter and Sunday observance, which was
later to gain almost universal acceptance in the Christian
professing world, was summed up by Justin Martyr around the middle
of the second century: "But we meet together on Sunday, because it
is the first day, in which God, having wrought the necessary
changes in darkness and matter made the world; and on this day
Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead. For he was crucified
on the day before that of Saturn; and on the day after that of
Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to the
Apostles and Disciples, he taught the things which we now submit to
Scholars recognise that the first Christians continued to
observe the "Jewish" Sabbath. By Justin Martyr`s time, however,
the large numbers of gentile converts coming into the church
wrongly assumed that the Sabbath was a part of the ritualistic law
of Moses. Genesis 2 shows that it was instituted long before the
time of Moses.32
Soon a new "gospel" began to be preached which extolled Christ
and His virtues but denied His all-important message that He would
return and set up the Kingdom of God on earth.
When the Roman or Latin form of Christianity became the state
religion of the empire under Constantine, men saw less need for the
return of Christ and sought to establish their own ecclesiastical
empire, with Rome, not Jerusalem, as its headquarters.
The "little flock" which constituted the true Church of God
were now classified as "heretics" by Constantine's "Christian"
empire and true to prophecy (Dan. 12:7, Rev. 12) were forced to
flee into the wilderness or die as martyrs for their faith.
To those who continued to keep the Passover, in the form that
it was handed down to them from the apostles and their successors,
Constantine wrote the following:
"Forasmuch, then, as it is no longer possible to bear with
your pernicious errors, we give warning by this present statute
that none of you henceforth presume to assemble yourselves
together. We have directed, accordingly, that you be deprived of
all the houses in which you are accustomed to hold your assemblies:
and forbid the holding of your superstitious and senseless meetings.
Not only the Passover but the Sabbath too was to be abolished
by the state, at the Council of Laodicea in A.D. 364.
Pryne records that "the seventh day Sabbath was ... solemnized
by Christ, the apostles and primitive Christians till the Laodicean
Council did, in a manner, quite abolish the observance of it. The
Council of Laodicea ... first settled the observation of the Lord's
Those who wished to continue to keep the Commandments of God
were now forced to flee for their lives into remote wilderness
areas beyond the reach of their persecutors.
The new state religion, a bizarre blend of Christianity and
paganism, now began to dominate Europe for over a thousand years,
leaving the true Church in "a place prepared of God" (Rev. 12:6) --
the remote mountains and valleys of central Europe.
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 6
1. The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius.
2. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation.
3. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., book 3, chapter 39.
4. Herodotus` History, bk. 2, page 109.
5. Mosheim`s Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 1.
6. Antiquities Apostolicae, William Cave.
7. The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, book 2, chap. 13.
8. The Clementine Homilies, chap. 11.
9. The Catacombs at Rome, B. Scott, page 84.
10. The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius; book 2, chap. 3.
11. Eccl. Hist., Eusebius, book 2.
12. Mosheim`s Ecclesiastical History, page 121.
13. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, page 379.
14. The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.
15. The Two Babylons, page 103.
16. The Two Babylons, page 104.
17. Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, book 5, chapter 24.
18. History of the Sabbath, Andrews.
20. The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, book 5.
21. The Apostolic Fathers, J.B. Lightfoot, vol. i, page 74.
22. H.E. 11, 25, 6, 7.
23. Our Neglected Heritage, G. Taylor, page 45,
24. Adv. Haer. iii, 3.
25. TheApostolicFathers, J.B. Lightfoot, vol. 1.
26. Cave's Antiquities Apostolicas, page 138.
27. The Ancient British Church, T. Burges, page 43.
28. Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, book 5.
29. The Apostolic Fathers, J.B. Lightfoot, pages 68-70.
30. Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches, chap. 6, page 5 1.
31. The Apology of Justin Martyr.
32. See the writings and opinions of Justin Martyr, by John,
Bishop of Lincoln, 1836.
33. Eusebius's Life of Constantine, book 3.
34. Dissertation on the Lord's Day, 1633, page 163.
CHAPTER SEVEN -- A LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES
The period immediately following the apostolic age was one of
flagging zeal and diminishing works; a time when the task of
preaching the true gospel seems to have been virtually abandoned.
Almost no written material has survived which relates to this "Lost
Century," as it has been termed. The "Ephesian" era of the true
Church of God lost its first love (Rev. 2:4) and like the ten
virgins of Christ's parable "they all slumbered and slept."
In Britain, the situation was much the same as it was
elsewhere in the Roman world. Gildas, writing during the sixth
century, had access to at least one very early work on the history
of the British church, which is no longer extant. He made the
point that "Christ's precepts, though they were received but
lukewarmly of the inhabitants, yet they remained entirely with
some, less sincerely with others, even until the nine years
persecution under Diocletian."1
The apathy and indifference with which the majority of the
inhabitants greeted the gospel may well have contributed to a rapid
decline in the zeal and enthusiasm of British Christians. William
of Malmesbury in his researches into the history of the church at
Glastonbury, noted a distinct slackness among British Christians
during the early second century.
Another early source on church history quoted by Stillingfleet
is Bale, who mentions one Elvanus of Avalon (known in Welsh records
as Elfan), who "was a disciple to those who were the disciples of
the Apostles;" it was said that "he preached the gospel in Britain
with good success."
Pitsaeus in his Relationes Historicae de Rebus Anglicis
written in 1619, mentioned that Elvanus studied at a college or
school at Glastonbury. This college, if such existed, seems to
have been established for the training of ministers, perhaps during
the first century, and continued during the early part of the
second by the immediate disciples of the Apostles.
Almost nothing is known of this institution but it seems to
have been abandoned by the middle of the second century. Elvanus
is the only student of whom any record has survived. William of
Malmesbury records that by the closing years of that century the
site had become overgrown with vegetation and a haunt of wild
In about A.D. 180 Elvanus wrote a book called Concerning the
Origin of the British Church, an indication that even at this early
date knowledge relating to the activities of the first Christians
in Britain was becoming hazy, and that a source of information on
that subject was by that time required.
Sadly, this work, which would have been of immense value to
later historians, became lost at a very early date, probably even
before the close of the Roman period; with the loss of this work
and others from the early centuries of the Christian era, we are
left with material which can only be described as scanty and
Bede and several later writers attribute to the second century
church the shadowy and bizarre figure of King Lucius. This
monarch, so the story relates, is supposed (with the assistance of
Pope Eleutherius) to have made Christianity the state religion of
Most of the Lucius material, as modern scholars have correctly
determined, consists of little more than fables probably concocted
during the Dark Ages. The terminology used is that relating to a
church much later than that of the second century.
The latest evidence from the field of archaeology indicates
that the second century British church, far from being a state
religion, was, in the words of one expert, a "minority sect."
So numerous, however, are the references to Lucius in early
literature (Ussher records no fewer than twenty-three authorities)
that it seems probable that at least a few fragments of factual
information lie at the root of the Dark Age legends concerning
According to Bale, the preaching of the Gospel by Elvanus
brought a strong reaction from the Druids. As Elvanus had received
this "Gospel" from the immediate followers of the Apostles, he was
almost certainly preaching the same message of the Gospel of the
Kingdom of God that had been preached by the Church of God in the
The Druids took the matter to Lucius in order to receive a
settlement of the controversy. Lucius is then said to have
contacted Eleutherius, the Bishop of Rome, in order to receive
Lucius (Lleuver Mawr -- Lucius the Great in Welsh records)
could not have been a king in the modern sense of the word, as
Britain was then a province of Rome. Although a treaty was
concluded in A.D. 114 which gave the Britons a measure of self
government, the total freedom of religion which Lucius is supposed
to have granted all British Christians is improbable in the
Lucius, if he existed at all, was probably, as Collier points
out, a local British chieftain or governor, under the authority of
the Roman administration, in the territory of the Regni, which
probably comprised of the counties of Surrey and Sussex.
Collier also mentioned two coins which had been discovered,
one of gold and the other silver, which bore the letters L.U.C.
This, Collier and several other authorities of the time, took as
additional proof of the existence of Lucius.2
The view of Dr. Mosheim on this point is worthy of
"As to Lucius, I agree with all the best British writers, in
supposing him to be the restorer and second father of the English
churches, and not their original founder. That he was a king is
not probable; because Britain was then a Roman province. He might
be a nobleman, a governor, of a district. His name is Roman."3
According to one tradition Lucius was baptized in the Chalice
Well at Glastonbury in A.D. 137 by Timotheus, the son of Rufus
Pudens. In common with much of the Lucius material, however,
little real evidence exists to support this tale.
There are some indications that during this period, the late
second century, the Druids, who had suffered persecution at the
hands of the Romans, began to take an increasing interest in
Some sources imply that Lucius gave encouragement to a
blending together of the two religions.
"All the rights previously held by the Druidic hierarchy were
now conferred on the Christian ministry. The Gorseddall, the
various high courts of the Druids, became bishoprics, while the
headquarters of the Arch-Druids at London, York and Caerleon became
Speaking of this period, Stillingfleet adds that "it is
generally agreed, that, about this time, many Pagan temples in
Britain had their property altered, and the self-same were
converted into Christian churches."5
Some Catholic writers such as Bede trace the introduction of
the Catholic faith into Britain to this period. The only real
evidence put forward to support this view is a letter said to have
been written by Eleutherius, a second century bishop of Rome, and
sent to Lucius. Few modern scholars accept this letter as genuine,
however, and many valid arguments have been put forward which
indicate that it was almost certainly composed in an age much later
than that of the second century.
The third and fourth centuries provide more positive evidence
of the spread of Latin or Catholic Christianity in Britain.
Some sources speak of Lucius sending out bishops to establish
churches in London, Gloucester, Winchester, Dover and Canterbury.
He is also said to have restored the "Old Church" at Glastonbury,
which by that time (A.D. 187) was in a state of disrepair.
Although much of this second century material seems to have
been somewhat distorted by legend and superstition during the Dark
Ages, the clear implication must surely be that the remnants of the
earlier pure apostolic faith had, by the end of the second century,
all but disappeared in Britain. A new and different church was
starting to emerge.
During the third century converted and zealous followers of
Christ increasingly found themselves in a minority position.
The decadent condition of most professing Christians and
ministers in Europe at this time is described as follows:
"Each was bent on improving his patrimony: forgetting what
believers had done under the Apostles, and what they ought always
to do, they brooded over the arts of amassing wealth. The pastors
and deacons equally forgot their duty, works of mercy were
neglected, and discipline was at the lowest ebb.
"Luxury and effeminacy prevailed. Meretricious arts in dress
were cultivated. Fraud and deceit were practiced among brethren.
Christians could unite themselves in matrimony with unbelievers,
could swear, not only without reverence, but without veracity ...
even many bishops, who ought to be guides and patterns to the rest,
neglecting the peculiar duties of their stations, gave themselves
up to secular pursuits; deserting their places of residence and
their flocks, they traveled through distant provinces in quest of
gain, gave no assistance to the needy brethren, were insatiable in
their thirst of money, possessed estates by fraud, and multiplied
It was during this period that foreign writers began to take
note of developments in Britain.
"The extremities of Spain, the various parts of Gaul, the
regions of Britain which have never been penetrated by the Roman
Arms have received the religion of Christ," wrote Tertullian about
Some thirty years later Origen wrote that "The divine goodness
of Our Lord and Saviour is equally diffused among the Britons, the
Africans, and other nations of the world."8
The church in Britain suffered its first large scale
persecution during the reign of Diocletian. It was predicted to be
a time of trial and distress to the "Smyrna" era of the Church of
God which at this time was mainly confined to the Eastern Roman
Empire. Using the "day for a year" principle (Num. 14:34), it
lasted for ten years, A.D. 303-313 (Rev. 2:10).
This persecution, which in some provinces virtually eliminated
all traces of Christianity, fell with equal severity on true and
false Christians alike.
Gildas records that some ten thousand died as martyrs in
Britain. Bede also described some of the events of the period: "At
the same time suffered Aaron and Julius, citizens of Chester,
(other writers give this location as Carlisle or Caerleon) and many
more of both sexes in several places; who, when they had endured
sundry torments, and their limbs had been torn after an unheard of
manner, yielded their souls up ...."9
In 1975 an amazing discovery was made at Water Newton, near
Peterborough, which illustrates the increasingly important position
that Latin or Catholic Christianity was beginning to play in
Britain by the early fourth century.
"Mr. A.J. Holmes found by remarkable coincidence ... within
the site of the Roman town of Durobrivae, a fourth century early
This treasure consisted of one gold, and twenty-seven silver
vessels and plaques. There is a strong possibility that the hoard
was buried, for safe keeping, during the persecution of Christians
during the reign of Diocletian.
"There is evidence that the vessels were not abandoned but
were put away with the intention of being recovered ... but the
evidence seems clear that he did destroy property, and this sort of
action or even the fear of it, would have been good reason to hide
the Water Newton Treasure, no matter whether the concealment was at
this precise time in the fourth century or not."11
"In character the treasure is religious and not secular ...
The three major inscriptions and the use, fifteen times, of the
Chi-Rho device demonstrate that the whole Water Newton Treasure is
religious and Christian ... The treasure seems likely, therefore,
to have been in the possession of, and being used by, a practising
Christian group, perhaps for refrigeria or for baptism or for
Various inscriptions are found on the vessels such as the
alpha and omega symbol and personal messages such as "O Lord, I,
Publianus, relying on you, honour your holy sanctuary."
The increasing influence of paganism in that branch of
Christianity which Constantine was soon to elevate to the position
of an official state religion is also illustrated in the Water
"The wording of the inscription on the Water Newton bowl is
notably reminiscent of phrases in the traditional Mass, such as
"sublime altare tuum" in the "Supplices," a prayer which is
accompanied by the kissing of the altar. The kissing of the altar
at various points in the Mass, of which the meaning was later
enlarged by the idea that the altar built of stone represented
Christ himself, began as a ceremony borrowed from ancient culture.
The custom of greeting holy places with a kiss was continued in
Christendom, with only a change of object."13
"The Water Newton silver is not later than the fourth century
A.D. The group includes religious plaques which are pagan in type
and vessels which are ordinary secular types used for Christian
religious purposes. The objects throw light on areas of the
history of Christianity of which we know almost nothing. The Water
Newton treasure is the earliest known group of Christian silver
from the whole Roman Empire.14
During the fourth century the Chi-Rho monogram, which the
pagans used as a numerical symbol, appeared in large numbers in
various examples of "Christian Art."
"Archaeologists have been amazed to discover, in recent years,
a large number of Chi-Rho monograms in Romano-British buildings.
This symbol, consisting of the first two letters of the name of
Christ in Greek, is quite distinctive and unmistakable. The most
striking example was found in a beautifully preserved mosaic floor,
at Hinton St. Mary, in Dorset.
"At the centre of the design is a head with the Chi-Rho behind
it. It could well be a portrait of the owner of the house with the
symbol which would show him to be a Christian. In Canterbury
Museum is a silver spoon with the Chi-Rho engraved on it, dated by
the experts as the second century.
"A number of lead tanks have been found, leading to the
conclusion that they may have been used for adult baptism. The
missionaries regarded a baptistery as essential, that converts
might be baptized immediately."15
Inscriptions of a Christian nature in the Greek and Latin
languages have been discovered on drinking vessels and other
objects. They include such statements as "May you live in God ...
Hail, sister! may you live in God! " "In God is hope."
As the Roman period drew to its close in Britain the influence
of paganism within Christian art increased. A "Christian" mosaic
discovered at Frampton includes the ocean god Neptune and also a
cupid -- well known in pagan art as a symbol of souls in paradise.
The male bust in the Hinton St. Mary mosaic is thought by some
authorities to represent Christ, having a Chi-Rho monogram behind
the head. The panel also contains a picture from pagan antiquity
-- Bellerophen on Pegasus slaying the Chimaera.
The first Christians, in common with the Jews, had a horror of
anything which came even close to breaking the second commandment
which expressly forbids the use of images of any kind in the
worship of the true God (Ex. 20:4-5).
Religious pictures, including those used in pagan cultures,
were definitely included in this ban. The Israelites, at the time
of their invasion of Canaanite territory, were ordered to "destroy
all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite
pluck down all their high places" (Num. 33:52).
As late as the time of Constantine we find Eusebius outraged
with a request from the sister of Constantine that he send her a
portrait of Christ. He pointed out that such pictures were not to
be found in churches and were forbidden among Christians.
By about A.D. 400 the influx of pagan influence led to a trend
towards the increased use of pictures for worship. In A.D. 691 the
Catholic Council of Constantinople officially sanctioned the use of
images and pictures in churches.
The professing Christian church which received the official
sanction and approval of the Roman state during the time of
Constantine, began persecuting and driving from the empire those
who refused to conform to the new laws which promoted Sunday
observance and prohibited the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath.
The "little flock" which constituted the true Church of God
was driven, as prophesied, into the wilderness. For nearly two
centuries after the Roman legions left Britain in A.D. 410, the
country was almost entirely free from both the political and
ecclesiastical domination of Rome. It proved a suitable haven for
many of God's people.
The church historian, Jones, gives an interesting account of
the scattering of God's Church:
"Multitudes, however, fled like innocent and defenseless sheep
from these devouring wolves. They crossed the Alps, and traveled
in every direction, as Providence and the prospect of safety
conducted them, into Germany, England, France, Italy, and other
countries. There they trimmed their lamps, and shone with new
luster. Their worth everywhere drew attention, and their doctrine
formed increasing circles around them. The storm which threatened
their destruction only scattered them as the precious seeds of the
glorious reformation of the Christian Church."16
The factors which led to the promotion of Sunday observance at
Rome were present long before the time of Constantine.
In the apocryphal "Gospel of Peter," dating to the late second
century, the first reference is found to the "Lord's day." Regular
Sunday meetings for church services are mentioned in the apology of
Justin Martyr, written around the middle of that century.
Several writers have noted the early abandonment of the
Sabbath at Rome. Clement in his epistle to the Corinthians (A.D.
95-96) not only fails to even hint at Sunday services but speaks of
the "sacrifices and services" which were "offered at the appointed
times" in the temple at Jerusalem as "things the Master has
commanded us to perform."
"On the other hand, a few decades later we find in Ignatius,
Barnabas and Justin not only the opposite attitude toward Jewish
institutions, but also the first timid references to the
resurrection, which is presented as an added or secondary reason
for Sunday worship."17
The Jewish war of A.D. 66-70 provoked an outburst of
anti-Semitism among the Roman population, which was to last until
well into the second century. This led to a contempt for all
things associated with the Jews -- including the Sabbath.
"The introduction of Sunday worship in place of `Jewish'
Sabbath keeping -- the latter being particularly derided by several
Roman writers of the time -- could well represent a measure taken
by the leaders of the Church of Rome to evidence their severance
from Judaism and thereby also avoid the payment of a discriminatory
"... anti-Judaism has emerged as a primary factor which
contributed to the introduction of Sunday observance in place of
A second important reason for Sunday observance was the great
popularity of sun worship among pagan Romans.
"The two different designations ("the day of the sun" and the
"eighth day") could well epitomize two significant factors which
contributed to the change of the Sabbath to Sunday, namely,
anti-Judaism and paganism. We might say that while the prevailing
aversion towards Judaism in general and towards the Sabbath in
particular caused the repudiation of the Sabbath, the existing
veneration for the day of the Sun oriented Christians towards such
a day both to evidence their sharp distinction from the Jews and to
facilitate the acceptance of the Christian faith by the pagans."20
New Testament Christians observed the DEATH but NOT the
resurrection of Christ (I Cor. 11:26). The resurrection was not
observed on a Sunday, or indeed on any other day of the week.
It is unlikely that Sunday observance in any form was
practised by the Jewish Christians of Palestine prior to the
Barkokeba revolt of A.D. 135. Many Christians in Asia Minor and
other eastern regions followed the example of the Jewish church
The Church of God people who arrived in England after fleeing
as refugees from the persecution in Continental Europe could hardly
have experienced a quiet or easy life in their new country.
Although the papacy had obtained political power and great
authority in Europe, by this time a reverse situation prevailed in
England. No longer protected by the Roman legions, after their
withdrawal in A.D. 410, the land became a prey to merciless
invaders: Angles (who gave their name to England), Saxons and
They swept through the island like a forest fire, burning
churches (mainly Catholic by this period), cities and towns.
Altars were smashed and the shattered bodies of the worshippers
left to become food for birds and wild animals.
Bede records the depressing events that had occurred by about
"Public as well as private structures were overturned; the
priests were everywhere slain before the altars; the prelates and
the people, without any respect of persons, were destroyed by fire
and sword; nor was there any to bury those who had been thus
cruelly slaughtered. Some of the miserable remainder, being taken
in the mountains, were butchered in heaps."21
In the following century civil war among the Britons increased
the misery of the population. According to Gildas even the
legendary King Arthur was considered by many of his own countrymen
to be a rebel and tyrant.
The western extremities of Britain, along with Wales, Ireland
and Scotland enjoyed a greater measure of stability and peace
however, and in these regions the pre-Catholic Christianity that
had survived from Roman times continued to flourish.
The Celtic church of this period often termed itself "the
Church of God." How many of its members were really converted
Christians, however, is difficult to determine. In some respects
this group was similar to "the church in the wilderness" described
by Stephen in Acts 7:38. As we have seen in an earlier chapter the
Celtic peoples were the descendants of those Israelites in the
wilderness, having migrated westwards after their Assyrian
captivity and then settled in Britain and other parts of Europe.
In areas of Britain where the Celtic church was able to exert
political influence, the laws and statutes contained in the first
five books of the Bible -- the "book of the law" -- formed the
basis of civil law as had been the case in ancient Israel. Even as
late as the time of King Alfred, English law was heavily influenced
by a wide range of legal precepts taken directly from the Old
Testament. No other system of law so completely adopted the
principles of the Mosaic Law.
The Bible formed the basis of doctrine and lifestyle for the
Celtic Christian. Great stress was placed on obedience to the Law
"The Scriptures were supreme. Literally interpreted, rigidly
obeyed, biblical regulations lay at the foundation of Celtic
Christian belief and life."22
"But while the Celtic theologian was keenly interested in the
whole of the scriptures, his preoccupation with the Ten
Commandments was even deeper."23
The seventh day Sabbath was observed by Celtic Christians.
They began their Sabbath at sunset each Friday. "The Sabbath was
held to be a day of blessing in Wales as well as in Ireland and
other Celtic lands."24
Sin was defined as the transgression of God's Law. "Adamnan
invariably employed the original biblical name, Sabbath, for the
seventh day of the week, and spoke of it in a manner betokening a
respect which is not detected in writers two centuries later."25
The Passover was observed on the fourteenth day of the first
month (Nisan). Bede records that some Christians in Scotland
continued this practice until the seventh century A.D.26
The footwashing ceremony instituted by Christ (John 13:4-12),
was also carried out. Some sources indicate that the Celtic
Christians observed Pentecost and perhaps some of the other Hebrew
Repentant adults were baptized by immersion for the remission
of their sins and any practice or belief found to be at variance
with the Scriptures was rejected.
The Celts believed in a literal interpretation of the Genesis
account of the creation of man and the universe. Free moral agency
was stressed, salvation could not be forced on anyone. Obedience
of the Ten Commandments was a vital requirement for one wishing to
obtain salvation, but even so, the Celtic Christian did not believe
in salvation by works. Salvation was granted by the grace of God
Prayer and Bible study were considered to be of great
importance. Sincere prayer was advocated as vain repetition was
There was no invocation of saints, angels or martyrs in the
early Celtic Church. It was believed that Satan along with one
third of the angels had rebelled against God and had been cast down
to the earth; following this event Satan's main objective was to
influence human minds.
Several of the most well-known ministers of this period were
"There is strong incidental evidence that Columba, the leading
minister of his time among the Culdees, was an observer of the
ancient Sabbath of the Bible." His dying words as preserved by
Gilfillan are as follows: "Today is Saturday, the day which the
Holy Scriptures call the Sabbath, or rest. And it will be truly my
day of rest, for it shall be the last of my laborious life."27
Even Patrick, "the apostle of Ireland," is believed by several
authorities to have kept the Sabbath.
"In the Senchus Mor, ancient Irish laws believed to have been
framed with the help of Patrick ... These Christianized Brehon laws
required that `every seventh day of the year' should be devoted to
the service of God. This code also mentions the payment of tithes
"The early life of Patrick by Muirchu has two stories
indicating Patrick's attitude towards the seventh day. These
traditions had persisted for more than two centuries after the
Muirchu records that Patrick met with another minister on
every seventh day of the week for worship and spiritual contact.
"Almost five centuries later, when the movement to Sabbatize
Sunday was underway, in accounts of Patrick`s activities several
comminatory anecdotes for Sunday observance are fathered on the
saint. Patrick's journeys were occasionally terminated in the
records by the phrase `and he rested there on Sunday.' Then stories
were introduced into his activities as propaganda for stricter
A few decades after Patrick's death we find that the Sabbath
and Sunday were both being observed in Wales. This is mentioned in
The Book of David dating to A.D 500-25.
Patrick's understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in a
Christian's life is interesting. Its task was to inspire belief,
in man, which in turn would lead to salvation .... inducing men to
obey the divine laws, and enabling them to become sons of God and
joint heirs with Christ."31
The concept of the Holy Spirit as a "third person" of a
trinity seems to have been quite foreign to the real Patrick of
authentic history. His own writings and biographies written about
him shortly after his death, reveal a clear understanding of the
nature of Christ and of man's ultimate destiny.
Christ, it was said, had always existed with the Father. He
returned to His former glory when He ascended to heaven. His death
brought about the atonement between God and man. Christ was the
ONLY mediator between God and man; Patrick makes no mention of
angels, saints or priests having this role. The Holy Spirit,
Patrick noted, was the agency through which God revealed truth to
man; it also brought about a change (conversion) in the human mind.
Patrick believed that man's ultimate destiny was to join the
family of God and inherit eternal life. He did not believe in an
immortal soul but that the converted Christian would be resurrected
at the second coming of Christ, and would reign with Christ on the
Columba, Patrick, and others of their generation believed
themselves to be living in the final decades before Christ's coming
and that their duty was to preach the Gospel as a witness (Matt.
24:14). As Patrick died only four years before the fall of Rome in
A.D. 476, which to many represented the "end of the world," his
error on this point is understandable.
Celtic Christians from this period understood the doctrine of
"the spirit in man" and defined it as the human mind with its
capacity to reason and understand, through which God imparts
A number of spurious documents, attributed to Patrick, were
circulated during the centuries which followed his death. These
writings abound in superstition and the miraculous. The "Epistle"
and "Confessions," however, are of an entirely different nature and
probably represent the only authentic writings of Patrick still
extant. He states in his "Confessions" that his mission was "from
God." There is no mention of any commission from the Pope, nor any
reference to church councils or tradition. His only source of
doctrine is Scripture.
The early life of Patrick was traumatic. Living in a now
unlocated Roman coastal town, perhaps situated somewhere along the
Bristol Channel coast, he was captured by pirates at about the age
of sixteen years. Taken by them to Ireland, he spent six years in
a state of slavery.
During this time he claims to have found "the living God." In
a dream he saw the Irish calling to him, which he took as a sign
that God wanted him to preach in Ireland.
The Catholic Church in Britain seems to have opposed his
career at all stages. The early Irish church was independent from
Rome. This is a clear historical fact. It was not until about
A.D. 700, over two hundred years after Patrick`s death, that
Ireland became reconciled to Rome.
"O'Halleron's History of Ireland, p. 172, reports that the
Irish church `adhered more closely to the Jewish customs than did
the Roman Catholics. St. Patrick never was connected with Rome,
and was a Sabbath-keeper, according to Seventh Day Baptists. And
St. Columba's establishment of a Sabbath-keeping community on the
island of Iona was the result of St. Patrick's teaching' ... some
Irish Sabbath keepers remained until the nineteenth century."32
References to "monasteries" within the context of the early
Celtic church are unfortunate; these communities bore very little
resemblance to the great celibate institutions that dominated
Europe during the Middle Ages.
The earliest Celtic monasteries could perhaps have been more
accurately called colleges. They were modeled on the Old Testament
cities of refuge, and were communities where Christian men, women
and children, living in family groups along with single people,
were able to avoid overly close social contact with their pagan
neighbours, and enjoy Christian fellowship.
The Bible was studied, copied out by hand (this was prior to
the invention of printing), and perhaps in some cases even
translated into other languages. In time these institutions became
centres of education and culture; they provided an environment in
which musical, and other skills, could be developed.
"Monasticism in the Celtic Churches was mainly for the purpose
of copying and disseminating the Sacred Scriptures, and was
singularly free from the vain acts of physical mortification
typical of Latin Christianity."33
In process of time, however, Latin or Catholic views began to
influence and eventually dominate these institutions. The celibate
lifestyle was accepted and a gradual segregation of the sexes
Women had a restricted role as "spiritual wives," which meant
that they were employed in cleaning, cooking and other domestic
functions; the monks were clearly informed however, that they "are
not for any other purpose."34
Records that have survived from this period tend to imply that
the relationship between monks and "Spiritual wives" (which meant
that they were employed in cleaning, cooking and other domestic
functions), was often of a sexual rather than spiritual nature.
Increasingly severe rules were introduced by the authorities to
limit the contact between men and women, and to keep this to a
Moral standards had declined so much by the sixth century that
one rule had to be introduced that "If anyone from drunkenness
cannot sing though being unable to speak, he is to lose his
When Augustine arrived in A.D. 596 to convert the English to
the Catholic faith, he found that many were still observing the
"Augustine reports in his biography that he found the people
of Britain in `grievous and intolerable heresies,' because they
were `being given to Judaizing, but ignorant of the holy sacraments
and festivals of the church."36
Scottish Christians, too, continued to keep the Sabbath, until
well into the Middle Ages.
"Scottish Queen Margaret (Saint Margaret) in her attempt to
harmonize the Scottish church with the rest of Europe, had to
contend with those who `did not reverence the Lord's day, but ...
held Saturday to be the Sabbath.' Not until 1203 did Scotland
submit to Rome and its Sunday."37
"Welsh Sabbath keepers were prevalent until 1115, when the
first Roman Bishop was seated at St. David's."38
In England, Catholic doctrine and authority spread rapidly. At
the Council of Whitby (A.D. 664) the English churches agreed, with
some reluctance, to abandon their earlier doctrines, including the
observance of the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan, and to adopt
the rites and practices of the church of Rome.
Theodore of Tarsus was a successful advocate of the Roman
church in Britain. During his day increasing prominence was given
to Sunday observance, to the exclusion of the Sabbath. He drew up
seven Canons dealing with Sunday observance. Considerable debate
continued for some time between advocates of the Sabbath and those
who supported Sunday. Some wished to keep both days.
In one sermon of the period it was even suggested that the
word "Sabbath" in Exodus 20:8-11 should be changed to read "Lord's
The first English Sunday Legislation was introduced in A.D.
"Ina, king of the West Saxons, by the advice of Cenred his
father, and Heddes and Erkenwald his bishops, with all his aldermen
and sages, in a great assembly of the servants of God, for the
health of their souls, and the common preservation of the kingdom,
made several constitutions, of which this was the third: `If a
servant do any work on Sunday by his master's order, he shall be
free, and the master pay thirty shillings; but if he went to work
on his own head, he shall be either beaten with stripes, or ransom
himself with a price. A freeman, if he works on this day, shall
lose his freedom or pay thirty shillings; if he be a priest,
The Romanizing of the Celtic church continued rapidly during
the period A.D. 700-900. In A.D. 886 a spurious "Epistle of
Christ" was brought to Ireland from Rome which stated that "Whoever
shall not keep Sunday ... his soul shall not enter heaven." The
"Cain Domnaig," which was Ireland's first Sunday law, was
introduced at about the same time.
Even during this period of the Dark Ages, however, the light
of God's true Church was not entirely extinguished. "The despotism
of Antichrist was then (A.D. 786) so far from being universal, that
it was not owned throughout Italy itself. In some parts of that
country, as well as in England and France, the purity of Christian
worship was still maintained."40
Little is known of the activities of the Church of God in
Britain during this period; indeed, the numbers could well have
dwindled to the point where the "light" of God's people was about
to flicker out.
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 7
1. Antiquities of the British Churches, Stillingfleet,
2. Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain, Collier, vol. 1,
3. Ecclesiastical History by Mosheim, page 135.
4. The Hidden Centuries, G. Taylor, page 21.
5. Antiquities of the British Churches, Stillingfleet.
6. Townsend's Abridgment page 110. Ed. 1816.
7. Tertullian, Def. Fidei, page 179.
8. Origen, In Psalm CXLIX.
9. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England, chapter 7.
10. The Water Newton Early Christian Silver, by K. S.
Painter, page 7.
11. Ibid., pages 20-21.
12. Ibid., pages 22-23.
13. Ibid., page 16.
14. Ibid., page 24.
15. Our Neglected Heritage, G. Taylor, pages 60-61.
16. Jones' Church History, page 208, ed. 1837.
17. From Sabbath to Sunday, Samuele Bacchiocchi, page 80.
18. Ibid., page 173.
19. Ibid., page 212.
20. Ibid., pages 232-233.
21. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England, chapter 15.
22. The Celtic Church in Britain, Leslie Hardinge, page 32.
23. Ibid., page 48.
24. Ibid., page 82.
25. Ibid., page 84.
26. Eccl. History ii, 19.
27. History of the Sabbath, J.N. Andrews.
28. The Celtic Church in Britain, Leslie Hardinge, page 80.
29. Ibid., page 78.
30. Ibid., page 79.
31. Ibid., page 58.
32. Six Papers on the History of the Church of God by
Richard C. Nickels, part i, page 4.
33. The True Ecclesia, D.H. Macmillan, page 21.
34. The Celtic Church, Leslie Hardinge, page 186.
35. The History of the Welsh Church, E.J. Newell.
36. Six Papers on the History of the Church of God,
R. Nickels, page 3.
37. Ibid., page 4.
38. Ibid., page 5.
39. History of the Sabbath, J.N. Andrews.
40. Townsend's Abridgment, page 361.
CHAPTER EIGHT -- THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS
During the long dark night of the Middle Ages, God's true Church,
as prophesied, "fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place
prepared of God ..." (Rev. 12:6). For 1260 years the church of God
was driven by the persecuting power of the "Holy Roman Empire" into
the remote mountains and valleys of Europe, there to preserve the
purity of the true faith.
A variety of names were applied to God's people during this
period; "Paulicians," "Publicans," "Puritans," "Waldenses,"
"Vaudois" (meaning "Valley Dwellers"), "Henricians," "Bogomils"
("Friends of God") and several others. Names such as these,
however, were generally used by those outside of the Church. In
their own writings church members normally employed the title
"Church of God."
Church historians have been able to demonstrate that
regardless of the differing names used, "These branches, however,
sprang from one common stock, and were animated by the same
religious and moral principles."1
"Indeed, from the borders of Spain, throughout the greatest
part of the south of France, among and below the Alps, along the
Rhine, and even to Bohemia, thousands of the disciples of Christ,
as will hereafter be shown, were found, even in the very worst of
times, preserving the faith in its purity, adhering to the
simplicity of Christian worship, patiently bearing the cross after
Christ, men distinguished by their fear of God and obedience to His
will, and persecuted only for righteousness' sake."2
As the earlier "Smyrna" (Rev. 2:8-11) era of the true church
had been classified by the world as "Ebionites," so the members of
the "Pergamos" (Rev. 2:12-17) era came to be known as "Paulicians"
("the followers of the Apostle Paul").
This group of Christians became very numerous during the
seventh century and were distinguished by their zeal, knowledge and
the simplicity of their lives.
About A.D. 650 a well educated man named Constantine of
Mananali began to study portions of the Bible that he had received
as a gift. Amazed by the truth which he found revealed he began
preaching in the regions of Cappadocia and Armenia. Several
evangelists were trained to assist him in the ministry and soon
tens of thousands were being converted to the truth.
Constantine plainly taught that the Pope was not the
representative of God, and perhaps because of this and other
reasons, he was martyred in A.D. 684.
Simeon, an officer sent by the Emperor at Constantinople to
destroy Constantine and other church leaders, was so impressed by
the faith and courage displayed by Constantine and several of the
other martyrs, that he became convinced that these were truly God's
people. Three years later, his service to the Emperor completed,
he returned to the area and was placed by Christ into the office of
an apostle, vacated by the death of Constantine. Following a
three-year ministry Simeon was burned at the stake.
A third great leader, Sergius, was later raised up by God to
lead the church.
Paulician doctrines, along with those of other groups, are
described in a work entitled The Key of Truth, which was translated
into English by Fred C. Conybeare. They preached the gospel of the
Kingdom of God, baptized believers by immersion, practised the
laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Spirit, and
observed the Sabbath, the Passover on the fourteenth day of Nisan
and the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
This era of the Church was not without its problems. A trend
towards spiritual and moral decline set in early; many who
associated with the Church were not really converted but simply
cleaved to the true Christians with flatteries (Dan. 11:34).
Others held to the "doctrine of Balaam" (Rev. 2:14), that one
could commit spiritual "fornication" and coexist with sin and false
doctrine. When these people were permitted to fellowship with
local church congregations, the corruption only spread to many more
In an attempt to correct His people, Christ allowed severe
persecution to afflict them -- multitudes perished but few
"During a period of one hundred and fifty years, these
Christian churches seem to have been almost incessantly subjected
to persecution, which they supported with Christian meekness and
patience; and if the acts of their martyrdom, their preaching, and
their lives were distinctly recorded, I see no reason to doubt that
we should find in them the genuine successors of the Christians of
the first two centuries. And in this, as well as former instances
the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church.
"A succession of teachers and churches arose: and a person
named Sergius, who had labored among them in the ministry of the
gospel thirty-seven years, is acknowledged, even by their vilest
calumniators, to have been a most exemplary Christian. The
persecution had, however, some intermissions, until at length
Theodore, the Greek empress, exerted herself against them beyond
all her predecessors. She sent inquisitors throughout all Asia
Minor in search of these sectaries, and is computed to have killed
by the gibbet, by fire, and by the sword, a hundred thousand
Paulician leaders including Sergius and Sambat taught that the
same Holy Spirit was in them, and other true Christians, that was
in Jesus Christ. Their persecutors, seemingly unable to grasp this
point, charged that these Paulician teachers called themselves
"Christs," as if this were a matter of blasphemy.
The Paulicians claimed that they were the "holy universal and
apostolic church" and as such represented a direct continuation of
the first century church established by Jesus Christ. They urged
that all Christians, ministers and laymen, should study the
Scriptures and that priests who prevented the people from studying
were in error and were in fact hiding the truth of God.
Biblical church offices (Eph. 4:11) were held by Paulician
ministers and leaders. Those of highest rank were termed
"apostles" and "prophets," others who held office were called
"evangelists," pastors" or "teachers." They exercised the power of
"binding and loosing" (Matt. 18:17-18). "Elders ... rulers" and
"readers" are also mentioned. "Teachers" were responsible for
hand-copying the Holy Scriptures.
Ministers were expected to be married men, not celibate
priests. Ordinations were conducted by the laying on of hands.
Apostles were inducted into office by the direct inspiration and
selection of Jesus Christ.
The Paulician faith eventually came to dominate large areas of
Armenia and Albania but with many this was nothing more than an
outward "form" of religion; truly converted members were never
numerous. Many reached a state of compromise with the dominant
Catholic state religion. They conformed externally but followed
Paulician teachings in secret.
In time the alternatives narrowed to apostasy or martyrdom.
By the ninth century most had drifted so far from the true
doctrines that they were drawn to seek political or military
solutions to their persecution problems. Anatolia, one of the
earliest Paulician homelands, became a desolation and wilderness
ravaged by decades of warfare; thus the "Pergamos" era of the true
Church came to its inglorious conclusion.
The next era of the Church of God -- "Thyatira" (Rev. 2:18-29)
-- began to conduct a work of some significance around A.D. 1000.
Although having its headquarters and centre of operations located
in the mountains and valleys of northern Italy and southern France,
the work rapidly spread through large areas of Europe and even into
Britain. The names most commonly applied to these people were
"Vaudois," or "Waldensians."
"The Waldensians," says Popliner, "spread not only through
France, but also through nearly all the European coasts, and
appeared in Gaul, Spain, England, Scotland, Italy, Germany,
Bohemia, Saxony, Poland and Lithuania."
Crosby records that: "For in the time of William the Conquerer
(A.D. 1070) and his son William Rufus, it appears that the
Waldenses and their disciples out of France, Germany and Holland,
had their frequent recourse, and did abound in England. The
Berlingarian, or Waldensian heresy, as the chronologer calls it,
had, about A.D. 1080, generally corrupted all France, Italy, and
A wide variation of opinion exists concerning the precise
origin of the Waldenses. Some have traced their roots back to
"From among many testimonies I quote that of Henry Arnold, who
superintended the `glorious return' of the Waldenses to their
valleys in 1689. He says: `The Vaudois are, in fact, descended
from those refugees from Italy: who, after St. Paul had there
preached the Gospel, abandoned their beautiful country; and fled,
like the woman mentioned in the Apocalypse, to these wild
mountains, where they have, to this day, handed down the Gospel,
from father to son, in the same purity and simplicity as it was
preached by St. Paul.'"5
Several authorities, including Reimer, trace them back to the
fourth century, but Reinerius Saccho, an inquisitor and implacable
enemy, admits that they flourished about A.D. 600.
There seems to be general agreement amongst almost all
non-Catholic writers that the Waldensians represented a
continuation of the true Church of God.
Even Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England,
recognised the true status of this group. He employed the
diplomatic channels available to him in an attempt to bring an end
to the persecution of the Waldensians.
In a letter sent to the Lords of the United Provinces in 1655,
Cromwell points out:
"But if, on the other hand, he shall continue firmly resolved
utterly to destroy and to drive to a state of distraction those
men, among whom our religion was either planted by the first
preachers of the gospel, and so maintained in its purity from age
to age, or else reformed and restored to its primitive purity more
early than among many other nations, we hereby declare ourselves
ready to advise, in common with you, and the rest of our brethren
and allies of the reformed religion, by what means we may most
conveniently provide for the preservation and comfort of these
The Waldenses possessed a version of the Bible in their own
language and stressed obedience to the commandments, including the
observance of the seventh day Sabbath. They also baptized by
immersion repentant believers, and kept the Passover or Lord's
Supper once a year in the first month.
The lifestyle of these people tended to be simple but
industrious. They raised cattle and sheep and had considerable
success in the cultivation of olives, figs and grapes. Visitors to
their pleasant and well kept villages and hamlets noted the
happiness of the people and merry voices of the children at play.
Waldensian doctrines were based on "the doctrine contained in
the Old and New Testaments and comprehended in the Apostles' Creed,
and admitted the sacraments instituted by Christ, and the ten
commandments ... They said they had received this doctrine from
their ancestors, and that if they were in any error they were ready
to receive instruction from the Word of God."7
High moral standards were a part of the Waldensian way of life
and like a bright light shining in a dark place these people set a
fine example to all who came into contact with them.
"Claudius Seisselius, archbishop of Turin, is pleased to say,
that `their heresy excepted, they generally live a purer life than
other Christians. They never swear but by compulsion, they fulfill
their promises with punctuality; and living for the most part in
poverty, they profess to live the apostolic life and doctrine.
"`They also profess it to be their desire to overcome only by
the simplicity of faith, by purity of conscience, and integrity of
life; not by philosophical niceties and theological subtleties.'
And he very candidly admits that `in their lives and morals they
were perfect, irreprehensible, and without reproach among men,
addicting themselves with all their might to observe the commands
The Paulician and Bogomil evangelization of the Alpine region
led to a fruitful harvest of conversions; so much so, in fact, that
the Pope in 1096 described the Valley Louise in Dauphiny, France,
as being infested with "heresy."
It was in this region, at Embrun, that Peter of Bruys, about
1104, began to preach a message of repentance from sin. This work
spread throughout Languedoc and Provence. Peter rejected infant
baptism; only persons old and mature enough to understand the
importance of the step that they were taking were baptized, and
that only after real repentance.
The Catholic teaching that the priest in the Mass was able to
produce the literal flesh of Christ was also rejected, along with
purgatory, prayers for the dead, reverence for crosses, and several
other Catholic precepts.
Peter's preaching, which lasted for "nearly twenty years," was
highly successful. Many during this period were led by the Holy
Spirit to conversion. The true gospel of the kingdom was spread in
the south of France.
After Peter was seized and burned at the stake, his disciple,
Henry, took over his position as an apostle, and continued the
work. They were charged by the Catholic church with remaining
faithful to the whole law of God, including the observance of the
The historian, Mosheim, adds that they abstained from eating
meats which were prohibited under the Mosaic economy, and refused
to accept the "Trinity" doctrine. They seemed to have understood
that God is a family, which converted Christians may join at the
return of Christ.
Peter was martyred by burning at a town called St. Giles in
1126. Henry was burned at Toulouse in 1147; some; sources,
however, state that he died in prison in 1149.9
"So zealous were the Inquisitors in destroying the writings of
Bruis (Peter of Bruys) and Henry, that we scarcely know anything of
their tenets save what we can learn from ... an Abbot of Clugny."10
The "heretical" teachings of Peter and Henry were summarized
by the Abbot as follows:
"(1) They rejected infant baptism and held that it was the
faith of the individual candidate, which along with baptism saved
him. One cannot be saved by the faith of another.
(2) Church buildings are not necessary, worship can take place
anywhere by those who are close to God.
(3) Crucifixes should not be employed as a part of worship.
(4) The bread and wine of the Passover or Communion service
are only symbolic -- they do not change into the literal body and
blood of Christ.
(5) They denied that any prayers, alms or other sacrifices by
the living could assist the dead."11
The followers of Peter were said by the Abbot to have gathered
up as many crucifixes as they could find on a certain Good Friday
and made a large fire of them upon which they roasted some meat and
had a good meal. This story seems highly improbable and could have
been mere propaganda.
Peter is said to have made the remark that "churches are
vainly built, since the Church of God consists, not in a mass of
coherent stones, but in the unity of the congregated faithful."12
Henry, Peter's disciple, spoke out against chanting and other
forms of repetitious prayer.
During the ministry of Peter of Bruys the people of God were
nicknamed "Petrobrusians." They later became known as "Henricians"
after Henry. The people themselves, however, used the name "Church
Speaking of the work carried out by Henry, Monastier records
that "his preaching made a powerful impression on his hearers. The
people were fascinated."13
Two views which were promulgated by Peter and Henry, which
almost certainly contributed to the persecution which they
suffered, were: "That the priests and monks ought to marry, rather
than be the prey of lust, or give themselves to impurity"; and
"That God is mocked by the chants which the priests and monks
repeat in the temples; that God cannot be appeased by monkish
These ministers could clearly see the need for sincere prayer
which was from the heart.
Several of the Vaudois concepts were committed to writing
during this period. Examples of their works include "The Noble
Lesson" written in 1100, "Treatise on Antichrist" (1120), and
"Treatise on Purgatory" (1126).
Shortly after the death of Henry the work spread from France
"From Provence they passed into Languedoc and Gascogne, whence
their so-called heresy penetrated into Spain and England."15
William of Newbury mentions that about the year 1160, "In the
same days, certain vagabonds came into England, of the race (it is
believed) of those whom they commonly denominate Publicans." Other
sources classify these people as Waldenses or "Thirteen Valdensian
"These formerly emigrated from Gascony" and "they seemed to be
multiplied beyond the sand of the sea." They were accused of
"seducing the simple under a pretended display of piety."
"At that time (during the reign of Henry the Second), however,
somewhat more than thirty individuals, as well men as women,
dissembling their error, entered here, as it were peacefully, for
the sake of propagating their pestilence; a certain Gerard being
They seemed to have spread their doctrine in England for only
a short time before being arrested, and put into prison. The king
directed that they be tried by a council of bishops at Oxford. At
their trial they claimed to be Christians, following the doctrines
of the Apostles and rejected several points of Catholic belief.
The group was sentenced to be branded on the foreheads,
whipped and driven from the city. After receiving this punishment
they were "ejected from the city, through the intolerance of the
cold (for the season was winter) no one showing to them even the
slightest degree of mercy, they miserably perished."17
Another authority on this era (Authentic Details of the
Valdenses, written in 1827) mentions that others were burned at the
stake, also at Oxford.
Bale in his Old Chronical of London records "one burnt to
death tainted with the faith of the Valdenses" in the year 1210.
Some, fleeing from persecution in various parts of Europe, reached
England to face what must have been an uncertain future.
A treatise dating to about 1160 speaks of "many well disposed
persons devoting themselves to the preaching of the Gospel,
notwithstanding the persecution which had been set on foot against
the members of Christ."18
This period marks the beginning of one of the most important
phases of God's work during this era. The later works of this
"Thyatira" Church were "to be more than the first (Rev. 2:19).
It was at about this point in history that Peter Waldo,
perhaps the most important leader in this Church era, began to
preach. A successful and wealthy merchant of Lyons, France, Waldo
was shocked by the sudden death of one of his friends. This
traumatic experience prompted the question, "If I had died what
would have become of my soul?"
Being a Catholic, Waldo asked a theologian, "What is the
perfect way?" The reply, quoted from Scripture, was, "If thou wilt
be perfect, go, sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou
shalt have treasure in heaven; and come take up thy cross and
Waldo gave his wealth to the poor, but also used a part of it
to produce a translation of the Scriptures. His personal study of
these led him to the command to the apostles to preach the gospel
of the kingdom of God. Bringing an intelligent and orderly mind to
the study of God's Word, Waldo's understanding of the truth
After a time Waldo began to preach and share his newly
discovered truths with others. A group of helpers or "co-workers"
began to assist in this work as the "Poor Men of Lyons." The
education and business expertise that Peter Waldo brought to the
work of God was soon to lead to significant and steady growth.
The bold and determined stand that Waldo took, based on
teachings which he found revealed in Scripture, was to lead to
major personal problems within his own family. His Catholic wife
and two daughters supposed that he had lost his mind, and as a
result of this they separated themselves from him; one of his
daughters entered a convent. There are some indications, however,
that his wife later became reconciled to him and provided financial
assistance from the money which he had given to her.
Little is known of the early stages of Waldo's ministry, but
he is known to have gone, along with a group of his followers to
Picardy, in northern France. After suffering persecution in that
area they moved into Flanders and the Netherlands. By 1182 many
converts from those regions had joined their cause. Everywhere
they went, the Waldenses took their translation of the Bible with
In about 1176 the archbishop of Lyons forbade Waldo and his
followers to preach. "We must obey God rather than man" was the
reply which they gave, and when they persisted in spreading their
message they were ordered to appear before Pope Alexander III.
Peter Waldo went boldly to Rome in 1178 where he urged that
the Provencal translation of the Bible, which could be understood
by the people of southern France, and by those in parts of Spain
and Italy, be made available to the people. A decision on the
matter was left to the Lateran Council, which in 1179 stated that
Waldo and his followers could only preach at the invitation of
The response to this decision was that Christ had sent them to
preach and that this was what they would continue to do. Several
years of persecution were to follow, during which period they were
eventually driven from Lyons. A group of Waldenses became
established in Italy.
The courage displayed by Waldo in defending the true doctrine
is further described by Townsend.
"About 1160, the doctrine of transubstantiation was required
by the court of Rome to be acknowledged by all men. This led to
idolatry. Men fell down before the consecrated host and worshipped
it as God. The impiety of this abomination shocked the minds of
all men who were not dead to a sense of true religion. The mind of
Peter Waldo was aroused to oppose the abomination, and to strive
for a reformation. A fear of God, in union with an alarming sense
of the wickedness of the times, led him to conduct with courage in
opposing the dangerous corruption's of the hierarchy.
"As Waldo grew more acquainted with the Scriptures, he saw
that the general practice of nominal Christians was totally
abhorrent from the doctrines of the New Testament: and in
particular, that a number of customs, which all the world regarded
with reverence, had not only no foundation in the divine oracles,
but were even condemned by them. Influenced with equal zeal and
charity, he boldly condemned the reigning vices, and the arrogance
of the Pope. He did more: as he advanced in the knowledge of the
true faith and love of Christ, he taught his neighbours the
principles of practical godliness, and encouraged them to seek
salvation by Jesus Christ.
"John de Bekos Mayons, archbishop of Lyons, a distinguished
member of the corrupt system, forbade the new reformer to teach
anymore, on pain of excommunication, and of being proceeded against
as an heretic."
Although Waldo continued to preach, God it seems took steps to
protect His courageous servant.
"All things operated so strongly in his favor, that he lived
concealed at Lyons three years.
"Waldo fled from Lyons, and his disciples followed him. By
this dispersion, the doctrine of Waldo was widely disseminated
throughout Europe .... Persecuted from place to place, he retired
into Picardy. Success attended his labors; and the doctrines which
he preached appear to have so harmonized with those of the Vaudois,
that they and his people were henceforth considered as the same."
Phillip Augustus, a prince of France, attacked the Waldenses
and destroyed much of their property. He drove many of them into
"Not content with this, he pursued them thither, and caused
many of them to be burned. It appears that, at this time, Waldo
fled into Germany, and at last settled in Bohemia, where he ended
his-days about the year 1179. He appears to have been one of whom
the world was not worthy, and to have turned many unto
righteousness. The word of God then grew and multiplied."19
A school or college was established for the training of
qualified ministers and other labourers in the expanding work of
God. It consisted of three small stone buildings and was located
in the Angrogna Valley of the Cottian Alps. The college and town
of La Torre became the new headquarters of the Church of God.
Articles and small booklets were written and copied by hand and
provided free of charge to those who were interested in them.
Tithes and offerings from many countries were used to finance
the operating costs of the college and, as the work spread,
translations of the Bible were produced in various languages.
"Their pastors were named barba, the Vaudois term for uncle.
It was in the almost inaccessible solitude of the Pra-del-Tor, a
deep gorge ... that their school was situated."
"There they learned by heart the gospels of St. Matthew and
St. John, the catholic epistles, and a portion of those of St.
Paul. They were instructed, further, in Latin, Romane (old French)
and Italian. After this they passed several years in retirement,
and they were then consecrated ministers by the administration of
the sacrament and imposition of hands."20
Ministers were mature and well qualified men. Because of long
evangelistic journeys and the extreme personal danger that such
trips sometimes produced, few of these men married; this was based
on practical rather than religious grounds. They condemned
priestly celibacy for scriptural reasons (I Tim. 4:1-3).
Biblical offices were restored for the ministry. Evangelists,
pastors, elders and deacons were ordained. Peter Waldo, according
to his fruits, was an apostle but called himself "chief elder."
"They were supported by the voluntary contributions of the
people, distributed among them annually in a general synod. A
third of these contributions was given to the ministers, a third to
the poor, and a third was reserved for the missionaries of the
"These missionaries traveled in pairs, a young man and an old
man. They traversed all Italy, where they had fixed stations at
different points, and in almost all the towns adherents.
"The younger men thus became initiated in the delicate duties
of evangelization, each being under the experienced conduct of an
elder whom discipline established as his superior, and whom he
obeyed in all things, alike from duty and from deference. The old
man, on his part, thus prepared himself for his repose, by forming
for the church successors worthy of it and himself."21
They visited the sick and sang hymns and believed in "free
salvation by Jesus Christ -- and above all, faith working by
"They recommended fasting, whereby men humble themselves; but
fasting without charity is as a lamp without oil: it smokes, but
shines not. Prayer is, with them, inherent in love; patience is
the support; gentleness, resignation, charity, the seal of a
"They deny that the Christian should ever take an oath."22
Ministers were encouraged to learn a trade in order to be
able, if necessary, to earn their own living. Many received
special training in the laws of physical health and dietary
A system of elementary schools was established for children.
Even young children learned to memorize and recite entire chapters
Waldenses observed not only the weekly Sabbath and Passover,
but also assembled once a year in September or October for a
conference or synod. Some believe that this was in fact the
Biblical "Feast of Tabernacles."
Special ministerial conferences were also held from time to
time. On one occasion 143 pastors met together -- they came from
several different countries.
"They also had extraordinary meetings by deputies from all
parts of Europe, where Vaudois churches existed."23
The first Waldenses prohibited participation in wars and even
avoided taking military action in self-defense, they also refused
to take oaths of any kind. Later generations of Waldenses,
however, began to reject these views.
They "instructed their children in the articles of the
Christian faith and the commandments of God."24
"In like manner, also, their women are modest, avoiding
backbiting, foolish jesting, and levity of speech, especially
abstaining from lies or swearing, not so much as making use of the
common asseveration, `in truth,' `for certain,' or the like,
because they regard these as oaths, contenting themselves with
simply answering `yes' or `no.'"25
Some 80,000 Waldenses were said to have lived in the Austrian
Empire during the fourteenth century.
In 1315 Walter the Lollard, a leading Waldensian minister,
along with his brother, Raymond, carried the true gospel into
England. His work seemed to have been highly successful as it was
said that he spread the Waldensian doctrine all over England.
This zealous leader in God's work also preached in other parts
of Europe. "It is known that the celebrated Lollard who laboured
with such zeal to diffuse the Vaudois doctrines in England, was not
only a native of our valleys (Alpine valleys of northern Italy),
but preached in them for a length of time with great success."26
The name "Lollard" came from the Flemish word "Lollen" or
"Lullen," meaning to mumble or speak softly. Waldenses were
thought to mumble to themselves, or at least this was the
impression gained by outsiders as a result of the habit which they
practised of memorizing and repeating to themselves, or others,
passages from the Scriptures.
Walter Lollard was seized and burned at Cologne, Germany, in
1322. His death, according to one authority, was "highly
detrimental" to the cause of his followers, but in England the
movement seems to have prospered.
Later, during the second half of the fourteenth century, the
name "Lollard" was also applied to the followers of John Wycliffe,
the eminent Oxford theologian and Bible translator. Because of
this confusion, the later history of the original Lollards becomes
A large number of sympathizers joined themselves to the
Lollard cause, but it would appear that the objective of most of
these people was to introduce reforms into the Catholic church,
rather than to come to personal repentance and to assist in the
preaching of the true gospel.
In 1401 a law was introduced which forbade the teaching of
"new doctrines" by the Lollards. Faced with fines, imprisonment or
the ultimate penalty of being burned to death, many recanted and
made their peace with the Catholic church. The true Lollards
remained faithful to the Church of God, however, and several were
hunted down and martyred.
As late as 1494 a group of thirty people known as "the
Lollards of Kyle" were tried for "heresy" in Scotland. They were
fortunate in that they escaped execution.
The "Thyatira" era of the Church had major internal problems
relating to compromise with false doctrine (Rev. 2:20). In the
ancient Waldensian "Book of Antichrist" we read that the "Jezebel"
of Bible prophecy was equated with the Roman papacy.
The Roman church during the Middle Ages used various means,
including the threat of persecution, to induce the Waldenses to
participate in Sunday services and the Catholic mass. Many allowed
themselves to compromise and commit spiritual "fornication," some
even allowed Catholic priests to "baptize" their infant children.
Generations of coexistence with sin led the Thyatira Church to
gradually depart from its doctrines. By 1380 many members no
longer had the faith to rely on God for protection and began to use
military force to resist their persecutors. This was in spite of
the fact that God, on several occasions, had caused a wall of dense
fog to separate the Waldenses from their enemies.
The probable justification for using military action against
their enemies, rather than to follow Christ's instructions to flee
from persecution, was that the ancient Israelites had used military
might, along with God's assistance to defeat their enemies, and as
the Waldenses looked upon themselves as "Israel of the Alps," why
should not they do likewise?
Most, by the fifteenth century, had forgotten that the Church
of God is a holy and spiritual nation, using spiritual rather than
carnal weapons (I Pet. 2:9). Although the first Waldenses had
obeyed the command of Christ to "swear not at all" (Matt. 5:34-37),
by the time of the Synod of Angrogna in 1532 they had departed so
far from their earlier true doctrines that they now held "that a
Christian may swear by the name of God."
The Sabbath seems to have been rejected by the Waldenses at
about this date, or perhaps even earlier. One of the seventeen
articles of their faith written in 1532 states "that on Sundays we
ought to cease from our earthly labours."27
At the Synod of Angrogna the Waldenses declared their
solidarity with the Swiss Calvinists and the Protestant
Reformation. From this time they copied more and more of the ways
of the Protestant churches.
The later history of the Waldensian movement is dominated by
persecution. This period must be ranked as one of the blackest
episodes in the entire history of man's inhumanity to his fellow
human beings. God appears to have permitted the mass slaughter of
multitudes of these people, perhaps in order to induce them, by
means of these severe trials, to repent and return to their former
true doctrines and godly way of life.
As the centuries of persecution progressed to a grisly climax,
entire villages and communities of these unfortunate people were
butchered until it was said that the valleys ran red with the blood
of men, women and children.
"Children, cruelly torn from their mother's breast, were
seized by the feet, and dashed and crushed against the rocks or
walls ... their bodies were cast away on common heaps.
"The valleys resounded with such mournful echoes of the
lamentable cries of the wretched victims, and the shrieks wrung
from them in their agonies, that you might have imagined the rocks
were moved with compassion, while the barbarous perpetrators of
these atrocious cruelties remained absolutely insensible."28
On one occasion fires were lit at the mouth of a cavern where
a group of Vaudois were hiding.
"When the cavern was afterwards examined there were found in
it four hundred infants suffocated in their cradles, or in the arms
of their dead mothers. Altogether there perished in this cavern
more than 3,000 Vaudois ...."29
One young man was tied to an olive tree and used as target
practice by the soldiers, until the fifth bullet terminated his
"Daniel Revelli had his mouth filled with gunpowder, which,
being lighted, blew his head to pieces.
"Another martyr, Mazzone, was stripped naked, his body
shredded with iron whips, and the mangled frame then beaten to
death with lighted brands."30
Many villages were burned to the ground. In one such
incident, "Some women having been surprised in the church, they
were stripped naked, subjected to indescribable outrages, and then
compelled to hold
each other by the hand, as in a dance, were urged, at the pike's
point, up the castlerock, whence, already severely wounded and
suffering, they were precipitated, one after the other into the
Men were sometimes sold to ship owners as galley slaves and
women and girls who survived the horrors of those days often were
sold to the highest bidder.
"I speak not of the young women and girls who were seized and
taken into these dens of iniquity; the atrocious outrages to which
they were subjected may not be described."32
Some women, unable to contemplate an obscene and violent
death, or survival under such unthinkable conditions, took their
Houses were burnt and goods plundered, thousands were forced
to flee into the mountains where many perished of cold and hunger.
"So monstrous were the cruelties with which the extermination
was accompanied, that several even of the officers who had been
appointed to "execute it were struck with horror, and resigned
their commands, rather than fulfill their orders."33
When the persecutions ended in 1686, a French officer observed
that "All the valleys are wasted, all the inhabitants killed,
hanged or massacred."34
As we read of this very sobering aspect of church history, it
is good to remember that history does indeed repeat itself. A
time, yet future is predicted, when the final era of God's Church,
the Laodicean era, will also be exposed to the wrath of Satan, and
those human instruments that he can influence. Is it not far
better to learn the lesson that the Waldenses failed to heed, and
to stay close enough to God that we are counted worthy to receive
His protection (Rev. 3:7-13)?
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 8
1. Jones' Church History, page 238.
2. Ibid., page 187.
3. Jones' Church History, page 187.
4. History of the Sabbath, J.N. Andrews.
5. The True Ecclesia, D.H. Macmillan, page 23.
6. Jones' Church History, page 380, ed. 1837.
7. Ibid., page 355, ed. 1837.
8. Idem., page 259.
9. See The Ancient Vallenses and Albigenses, page 163,
10. Idem., page 163.
11. Ibid., pages 169-172.
12. Ibid., page 181.
13. The Vaudois Church, Monastier, page 40.
14. Ibid., page 45.
15. The Vaudois Church, Monastier, page 38.
16. The Ancient Vallenses and Albigenses, G.S. Faber,
17. Ibid., page 208.
18. Ibid., page 374.
19. Townsend's Abridgment, pages 405-409.
20. Israel of the Alps, A. Muston, page 3.
21. Ibid., page 4.
22. Ibid., pages 4-7.
23. The Vaudois Church, Monastier, page 93.
24. Jones' Church History, page 260.
25. Ibid., page 259.
26. Authentic Details of the Valdenses, ed. 1827.
27. The Vaudois Church, Monastier, page 146.
28. The Vaudois Church, Monastier, pages 270-1.
29. Israel of the Alps, A. Muston, page 20.
30. Ibid., page 45.
31. Ibid., page 34.
32. Ibid., page 74.
33. Ibid., page 141.
34. Ibid., page 204.
CHAPTER NINE -- THE MAN WHO WROTE TO A KING
Many of us use the King James Version of the Bible, published in
1611, for our personal study of God's Word. Have you ever wondered
how God's Work was conducted during this interesting period of
In Tudor England the recently discovered process of printing
was being put to good use. The English translations of the Bible
by men such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale were pouring from
For centuries the Bible had been beyond the reach of all in
Britain apart from theologians and scholars. The limited number of
hand-written copies in existence were all in the Latin language.
Even those who wished to study were generally discouraged from
doing so for fear that they would begin to embrace some form of
Stunned by the savage persecution of Protestants by "Bloody
Mary" Tudor (1553-58), the nation under Elizabeth I experienced a
new spirit of toleration. For a time men could study the newly
published Bibles without fear of arrest should they begin to
discuss with others the new points of doctrine that were coming to
God began opening the minds of a few to His truth, including
the Sabbath. Thomas Bampfield, a Church of God minister who lived
during the 17th century, claimed that there were some who observed
the seventh day Sabbath during the reign of Edward VI (1547-53),
although some of his critics denied this.
There is little real evidence of any activity by the Church of
God in Tudor England. Only brief references are found, many
writers who used the word "Sabbath" could well have been talking of
John Stockwood, writing in 1584, mentioned that: "A great
diversity of opinion among vulgar people and simple sort,
concerning the Sabbath day, and the right use of the same."
Gilfillan pointed out that: "Some maintaining the unchanged
and unchangeable obligation of the seventh-day Sabbath."
"At what time the seventh-day Baptists began to form churches
in this kingdom does not appear; but probably it was at an early
period; and although their churches have never been numerous, yet
there have been among them almost for two hundred years past, some
very eminent men."1
Several Sabbatarian writers of the seventeenth century,
including Francis Bampfield and Vavasor Powell, use the term
"Church of God" in their writings as the official, and scriptural,
name of the true church. The word "Sabbatarian" was also used from
time to time, mainly by outside writers.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the term
"Seventh Day Baptist" was employed by the great majority of Sabbath
keepers in Britain; the term "Church of God" seems to have been
almost entirely abandoned. The Seventh Day Baptists ultimately
became a separate denomination, whose doctrines, with the exception
of the Sabbath and baptism by immersion, were almost identical to
those of other Protestant churches.
Theophilus Brabourne, a former Puritan minister from Norfolk,
published books in 1628 and 1632 advocating the true Sabbath. He
sent a copy of the latter work to King Charles I. Original
documents still held by the British Museum Library reveal the
Brabourne made the point to the King that the nation's
problems, at least in part, were occasioned by neglect of the
fourth commandment. He strongly urged that the King should use his
royal powers to change the national day of worship from Sunday to
The King, grappling with his own problems of state which were
soon to lead to the Civil War, was neither impressed nor amused by
Brabourne's arguments. The matter was passed to Francis White,
Bishop of Ely, one of the nation's leading scholars and
In 1635 Bishop White published his "A Treatise of the Sabbath
Day" in which he refuted Brabourne's thesis. Under pressure from
the authorities Brabourne later agreed to conform to the teachings
of the established church, stating that his former views had been
"a rash and presumptuous error."
The ironic thing is that Francis White's treatise against the
Sabbath probably did more good to God's Church than harm. In this
thorough and well written work he traced the history of
Sabbath-keeping groups from the earliest times to his own day.
Several later writers have used this book in their own works on
White's treatise reveals a little of the concern felt by the
authorities of the times over the impact that God's Church was
beginning to have on the nation.
"Now because his (Brabourne's) treatise of the Sabbath was
dedicated to His Royal Majesty and the principles on which he
grounded all his arguments, (being commonly preached, printed and
believed, throughout the kingdom) might have poisoned and infected
many people, either with Sabbatarian error or some other like
quality: it was the King our gracious master, his will and
pleasure, that a treatise should be set forth, to prevent further
mischief, and to settle his good subjects (who have long time been
distracted about Sabbatarian questions) in the old and good way of
the ancient and orthodox catholic church."2
This incident throws an interesting light on the problems
faced by writers during the early days of printing.
R. Cox in his Literature of the Sabbath Question gives the
following information about Brabourne: "Brabourne is a much abler
writer than Traske, and may be regarded as the founder in England
of the sect at first known as Sabbatarians, but now calling
themselves Seventh Day Baptists.
"The book is very ill printed, for which he apologises by
informing the Christian reader that `by reason of some troubles
raised up against both myself and this my book, I was enforced to
absent myself, and there to dispose my work where I could not be
present at the press, to peruse, correct, and amend the faults
therein.' From the oddities of its spelling, it looks as if printed
either by a foreigner unacquainted with English, or at a private
press where the stock of some of the vowels was inadequate ...."
The book was entitled A Defence of that most Ancient and
Sacred Ordinance of God's, the Sabbath Day. It was said that "he
submitted for the time to the authority of the Church of England,
but sometime afterward wrote other books in behalf of the seventh
Although the major activity of God's Church seems to have
taken part in the London area, others were busy preaching the true
doctrines in different parts of the nation.
"About this time Philip Tandy began to promulgate in the
northern part of England the same doctrine (as Brabourne)
concerning the Sabbath. He was educated in the established church,
of which he became a minister. Having changed his views respecting
the mode of baptism and the day of the Sabbath, he abandoned that
church and `became a mark for many shots.' He held several public
disputes about his peculiar sentiments.
"James Ockford was another early advocate in England of the
claims of the seventh day as the Sabbath. He appears to have been
well acquainted with the discussions in which Traske and Brabourne
had been engaged.
"Being dissatisfied with the pretended conviction of
Brabourne, he wrote a book in defense of Sabbatarian views,
entitled, The doctrine of the Fourth Commandment. The book,
published about the year 1642, was burnt by order of the
authorities in the established church."4
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 9
1. History of the Sabbath, Andrews.
2. A Treatise of the Sabbath Day, Francis White, 1635.
3. History of the Sabbath, Andrews.
4. History of the Sabbath, Andrews.
CHAPTER TEN -- THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
The measure of religious freedom that existed under Queen Elizabeth
I was not to last for long. During most of the seventeenth
century, up to 1687, freedom of religion was available only to
those who followed the precepts of mainstream Protestant theology
in the form of the established Church of England.
In that year, James the Second suspended all penal laws
against dissent and released those in prison, granting freedom of
worship to all. Shortly afterwards, William and Mary Passed "The
Toleration Act," a measure described as `An Act exempting their
Majesties' Protestant subjects dissenting from the Church of
England from the penalties of certain laws.'
Before these freedoms were granted, the Church of God in
England had experienced a time of severe trials. It was not
without good reason that these people often called themselves the
"Poor" Churches of God. Fines for failure to attend the Sunday
services of the established church of 20 pounds a month might seem
modest in today's society, but such a sum three centuries ago
represented the income of the average employee for two years.
Translated into the values of our present age of inflation
such a sum would represent in the region of a staggering 16,000
pounds. Failure to pay such fines often led to a prison sentence.
In many such instances this was almost as bad as a sentence of
Conditions in the prisons of the day were appalling. Food was
described as "rubbish," hygiene precautions almost nonexistent, and
It was recorded that at the Bridewell Prison in Bristol in
1664 fifty-five women (probably mainly Quakers) shared five beds.
When two of the women died, the cause of death was given simply as
The severity of persecution varied greatly from area to area.
Among the Sabbath- keeping churches the indications are that the
ministers and leaders were the main targets.
Much depended upon the attitude of local officials and
magistrates. If the lay members lived quiet, industrious lives and
were respected within their communities, local magistrates often
turned a "blind eye" and no action was taken against them.
Religion dominated the thoughts of many of the nation's
scholars during this period; the literature published at this time
is full of religious debate and controversy. The Sabbath in
particular was the subject of almost endless discussion. Some
understood the academic reasons for keeping the seventh day, but
only a few were really willing to obey God in the face of strong
John Trask, one of the most powerful speakers of his day,
began to preach. He understood not only the truth of God's Sabbath
but also the facts regarding clean and unclean meats. Four
evangelists were ordained around 1616 and many were being brought
to real conversion.
The authorities were swift to take action against Trask;
public debate over God's law was one thing, but actual obedience
was an entirely different matter.
"John Trask began to speak and write in favour of the seventh
day as the Sabbath of the Lord, about the time that King James I,
and the Archbishop of Canterbury, published the famous "Book of
Sports for Sunday," in 1618. His field of labour was London, and
being a very zealous man, he was soon called to account by the
persecuting power of the Church of England... He was censured in
the Star Chamber to be set upon the pillory at Westminster, and
from thence to be whipt to the Fleet (Prison), there to remain a
"This cruel sentence was carried into execution, and finally
broke his spirit. After enduring the misery of his prison for one
year, he recanted his doctrine."1
Trask is said to have founded the Mill Yard Church in London
shortly after his arrival in the capital from Salisbury. At least
one writer, however, has traced the establishment of this church
back to 1580 -- long before the time of Trask. As the records of
this church up to 1673 were destroyed in the fire of 1790, it is
impossible to know the facts with any degree of certainty.
There are some indications in the writings of the period that
Trask later returned to Sabbath observance, but there is no record
of him playing any major part in the church after his release from
Trask's wife was also imprisoned for her faith and spent the
remainder of her life behind bars.
Obedience to God during this somewhat grim period of history
often cost more than loss of a job and personal liberty, it could
also have devastating effects upon family relationships.
Conditions often became so difficult that some were required
to sacrifice all hope of a normal marriage and family relationship.
Many in this era lacked faith and dedication and were described by
Christ as being spiritually dead (Rev. 3:1). He did, however,
commend the few who were willing to go all the way in obedience.
"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled
their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are
worthy" (Rev. 3:4).
"Mrs. Trask lay fifteen or sixteen years a prisoner for her
opinion about the Saturday Sabbath; in all which time she would
receive no relief from anybody, notwithstanding she wanted much.
Her diet for the most part during her imprisonment, that is, till
a little before her death, was bread and water, roots and herbs; no
flesh, nor wine, nor brewed drink. All her means was an annuity of
forty shillings a year; what she lacked more to live upon she had
of such prisoners as did employ her sometimes to do business for
Although most of these persecutions involved fines or
imprisonment, at least two of the leaders of God's people at this
time suffered direct martyrdom. One of those who gave his life in
this manner was John James.
"It was about this time (A. D. 1661), that a congregation of
Baptists holding the seventh day as a Sabbath, being assembled at
their meeting-house in Bull-Stake Alley, (London) the doors being
open, about three o'clock P.M. (Oct. 19), whilst Mr. John James was
preaching, one Justice Chard, with Mr. Wood, an headborough, came
into the meeting place. Wood commanded him in the King's name to
be silent and come down, having spoken treason against the King.
But Mr. James, taking little or no notice thereof, proceeded in his
"The headborough came nearer to him in the middle of the
meeting place and commanded him again in the King's name to come
down or else he would pull him down; whereupon the disturbance grew
so great that he could not proceed."3
John James was arrested and brought to trial, found guilty
under the new law against non-conformity. He was sentenced to the
barbaric fate of being hung, drawn and quartered.
It was said that "This awful fate did not dismay him in the
least. He calmly said `Blessed be God, whom man condemneth, God
James was held in high esteem by many and whilst in prison
under sentence of death several people of rank and distinction
visited him and offered to use their influence to secure his
pardon. His wife sent two petitions to the King, but all these
moves failed to save him.
In his final words to the court he simply asked them to read
the following scriptures: Jer. 26:14-15 and Ps. 116:15. In keeping
with the gruesome custom of the time, after his execution his heart
was taken out and burned, the four quarters of his body fixed to
the gates of the city and his head set up on a pole in Whitechapel
opposite to the alley in which his meeting-house stood. Such was
the horrible price that some were prepared to pay for obedience to
God in seventeenth century England.
Little is known of the organizational structure of the Church
during this period. No information has come down to us regarding
the numbers attending services. During the time that Sabbath
keeping was illegal it is highly unlikely that any form of written
records were kept; a high degree of secrecy must have existed, but
even so many members were arrested by the authorities.
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 10
1. History of the Sabbath, Andrews.
2. History of the Sabbath, Andrews.
3. History of the Sabbath, Andrews.
CHAPTER ELEVEN -- THE AMAZING LIFE OF SHEM ACHER
Although there were several talented writers among God's people
during the 17th century, few of their works have remained extant.
The bulk of such writings were seized and destroyed by the
One remarkable document did escape destruction, however. A
single copy of Francis Bampfield's autobiography The Life of Shem
Acher has been preserved by the British Museum Library.
In his book, Bampfield draws a parallel between his own
calling and ministry and that of the Apostle Paul. Like Paul, he
too was not called by men into the ministry but by God. He was
also an educated man and talented scholar of Hebrew.
Born in Devonshire in 1614 it was said that he was "designed
for the ministry from his birth." He entered Wadham College,
Oxford, in 1631 and left in 1638 with a degree in the Arts.
Shortly after this he was ordained a deacon in the Church of
England by Bishop Hall.
He was later given a position, within that church, in Dorset
with a salary of 100 pounds per year. A zealous and hardworking
minister, he purchased books and Bibles for his congregation out of
his own pocket.
His personal study of the Bible brought him to an
understanding of the truth of God. For a time he was permitted to
preach these newly discovered truths to his Dorset congregation; in
1662, however, he was forced to make a decision -- would he obey
God or the State?
"But being utterly unsatisfied in his conscience with the
`conditions of conformity (as laid down by the new law),' he took
his leave of his sorrowful and weeping congregation in 1662, and
was quickly after imprisoned for worshipping God in his own family.
So soon was his unshaken loyalty to the King forgotten... that he
was more frequently imprisoned and exposed to greater hardships for
his non-conformity than most other dissenters."
Such was the zeal of this man that during his nine years of
imprisonment at Dorchester he raised up a church congregation
within the prison and regularly preached to the other prisoners.
He was arrested yet again in 1682 and given a life sentence in
Newgate -- he died in prison on February 16, 1684. Such was his
reputation among God's people that a great company of mourners
attended his funeral.
"All that knew him will acknowledge that he was a man of great
piety. And he would in all probability have preserved the same
character, with respect to his learning and judgment, had it not
been for his opinion in two points, viz., that infants ought not to
be baptized, and that the Jewish Sabbath ought still to be kept."1
Bampfield raised up the Pinners Hall Sabbatarian Church in
London, probably only one of many -- the details of his ministry
are far from complete. He mentions the "Church of God" and
sometimes the "Churches of Elohim" in his books.
Jesus Christ used this very able minister to reveal to His
Church of that day what was to them "new truth." In reality it was
old truth about a vital doctrine which, over a period of many
years, the Church had neglected and lost sight of.
The practice of anointing the sick (James 5:14) was unknown by
the time of Bampfield, and had probably been neglected in Britain
for several centuries. One of the major problems of this church
era was that being in a spiritually dead or dying condition,
several vital points of true doctrine became neglected and over a
period of time forgotten, only to come to light years or centuries
later as "new truth."
Very much aware of this tendency, Jesus gave the church of
this period the clear warning that it should "be watchful, and
strengthen the things (important points of doctrinal truth) which
remain, that are ready to die" (Rev. 3:2).
It was of vital importance that this era, even if not
performing many "works" itself, should preserve certain main points
of true doctrine that it had received from the previous (Thyatira)
era. There was a need to pass on these truths to the later dynamic
Philadelphia church (Rev. 3:7).
As a result of personal study, Bampfield became aware of the
truth of this doctrine. He took up the point with other ministers
only to find them either apathetic or openly in opposition to his
views. He began to waver in his own conviction on the point.
Jesus Christ, who was keenly aware of what was taking place within
His Church, decided to intervene.
Using the same "still small voice" that He had used when
speaking to Elijah (I Kings 19:12-13), He told Francis Bampfield,
who was sick at the time, to go ahead and anoint himself.
Bampfield, in his book, described what happened: "This was
brought upon his heart, that the Ordinance of Anointing the sick
had not been used: he was convinced of the need and use of this
Ordinance, of the standing preceptive and the promising part of it;
but, knew not whither to his satisfaction to go, or send for a
right Administrator, the Ministers in those parts at that time,
either not having Light or Faith therein, and some of them openly
"Hereupon a secret voice whispers, that, as a messenger from
Christ, he should administer it upon himself, the case being so
circumstanced; which accordingly he did, and felt the healing
strengthening effect of it quickly."2
After this incident he continued to use the method and the
knowledge spread to others in Britain and later to the church in
In this book the author refers to himself and his wife by the
names "Shem Acher" and "Gnezri-jah." During this time of
persecution the precaution was clearly necessary to obscure
personal identities from the authorities.
During his ministry Francis Bampfield, in common with the
Apostle Paul, suffered trials and persecutions both from "within
and without." So-called "brethren" who probably should have been
disfellowshipped years before, continually resisted his work.
Although he believed in the principle of tithing, he often
refused to accept the tithes of members in an attempt to counteract
false accusations that he "was only in it for the money."
After beginning his ministry in the west of England, he later
spent much time in London. In 1674 he observed the Lord's Supper
at Bethnal Green and mentions the fact that he conducted a number
of baptisms in the Thames near Battersea.
A very lengthy treatise was written on the Sabbath, and after
coming to this knowledge he relates that:
"Since that, Shem never met with any objection, that could
shake or stagger him, but all wrought for his fuller Confirmation
The widespread impact of Bampfield's ministry is indicated in
the following passage from his book:
"One of them in the name of the rest, in prayer to the LORD,
did by stretching out his hands, as others also of them did,
commend him unto the Lord in a special message to the Sabbath
churches in Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorsetshire, Gloucestershire and
Berkshire, which was undertaken by him, and prospered with desired
success, the report whereof at his return, caused joy to all the
brethren and sisters in fellowship."
Francis Bampfield's courtship and marriage must surely be one
of the saddest romances on record. His wife came from a prosperous
and respected Dorchester family. She began visiting Bampfield and
a few others during one of his terms of imprisonment. After his
release she began joining him in his preaching tours.
After a time rumours began to circulate that "something was
going on" between them and at this point he decided to ask the lady
to marry him.
Bampfield describes his wife in the following glowing terms:
"Excelling almost all her sex in the whole town of Dorchester for
humility, patience, diligence, faithfulness, zeal... having
undergone many hardships and difficulties for him, Shem Acher
This unusual situation and the initial reluctance to marry
might seem odd to us, but it was very similar to that mentioned in
I Cor. 7:26; it was simply not a good time to marry and raise a
It is difficult to imagine the kind of married life this
couple experienced. Francis Bampfield spent most of his life from
1662 onwards either in prison or "on the run" from the authorities.
There was no mention made of any children born to the couple, which
was probably just as well.
There can have been few leaders in God's Church with more zeal
than Francis Bampfield. Even when detained at Dorchester Prison,
his leadership and speaking ability resulted in large crowds of
people from the town flocking to the prison to hear him preach. As
he was unable to go out and do God's Work, God, it seems, brought
"the work" to him.
The prison authorities, embarrassed by this situation,
eventually took steps to prevent the local people from coming to
Damaris Bampfield, who had married Francis at the Mill Yard
Church in 1673, survived her husband by less than ten years -- she
died in 1693.3
The world looked upon the Bampfields, not as dedicated
servants of God, but as mere eccentrics: "The Bampfields were
typical English eccentrics such as this country only can produce."4
"Bampfield's Seventh-Day church flickered out in 1863, watched
only by a zealous antiquarian."5
(My grateful thanks are extended to the Baptist Union of Great
Britain and Ireland for making available the above works on Baptist
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 11
1. History of the Sabbath, Andrews, and Wilson's History of
Dissenting Churches, Vol. 2.
2. The Life of Shem Acher, Francis Bampfield.
3. Transactions of the Baptist Historical Society, page 12.
4. A History of the English Baptists, A. Underwood,
5. History of the British Baptists, W. T. Whitley, page 86.
CHAPTER TWELVE -- SARDIS IN DECLINE
Among the people that God was calling during the seventeenth
century were several whose lives were filled with great personal
accomplishments. Dr. Peter Chamberlen was one such individual.
Born in 1601, he was baptized in 1648 and started keeping the
Sabbath about three years later. He died in 1683, and was buried
at Malden, Essex.
During his long and interesting life he became "`Physician in
Ordinary to three Kings and Queens of England ... As for his
religion he was a Christian keeping the commandments of God and
faith of Jesus, being baptized about the year 1648 and keeping the
seventh day for the Sabbath above 32 years."1
Becoming a Fellow of the College of Physicians in 1628, he was
a man of progressive ideas, especially in the field of medical
science. Chamberlen advocated reforms in midwifery and other areas
of public health and hygiene. In 1818 a secret room was discovered
in his house -- it contained some of his midwifery forceps.
He suggested that a professional body be set up to care for
the needs of London's midwives. The eradication of disease was
also a subject which interested him; to this end he urged that a
system of public baths be established. Chamberlen also had an
inventive mind, he patented a method of writing and printing
phonetically. He also traveled extensively in Europe and spoke
several European languages.
A Non-Conformist church at Lothbury is believed, under his
leadership, to have begun Sabbath observance. In 1653 he became
pastor of the "Mill Yard" church.
An educated man and Cambridge graduate, Peter Chamberlen wrote
on a variety of subjects, but primarily on religious topics such as
the Sabbath and baptism, along with scientific and medical works.
"What shall we say," he wrote, "of those who take away of
those ten words (Ten Commandments) or those that make them void and
teach men so? Nay, they dare give the lie to, and make Jesus Christ
not only a breaker of the law, but the very author of sin in
others, also causing them to break them! Hath not the little horn
played his part lustily in this, and worn out the saints of the
Most High, so that they become little horns also!"2
During the period when the English Civil war was raging
another faithful servant of God was doing a powerful work in Wales.
Vavasor Powell traveled thousands of miles over mountains and
through valleys preaching the Word of God by day and night,
ultimately dying in prison for his faith.
He wrote a book, during his confinement, relating to his
experiences. It bore the curious title The Chirping of a Bird in
a Cage. This book was addressed to "the Churches of God, and
Scattered Saints throughout Wales."
In another of his books, Confessions of Faith, published in
1662, he reflects on the sufferings of God's people at that time.
"I have considerations of the great sufferings of the Church
of God of old, and the ground of their comfort which is Christ.
From Revelation 12, I was much refreshed to consider that the
church when she went into the wilderness was by the wings that God
Ten years later, shortly after Mr. Powell's death, one of his
followers wrote of some of his experiences. This work was
published in 1672 but the name of the author is not given.
"About the year 1647, the island of Anglesey in North Wales
being unreduced, the Parliament forces went to reduce it, and their
chief officers sent for me to preach to that brigade of soldiers,
and as I marched with them into the place, either the night
immediately before or the night before that, it was revealed unto
me in my sleep that I should be wounded, and two of my fingers cut
(and the very fingers pointed out), which accordingly came to pass;
yet when I was in extreme danger between several enemies who fell
upon me, receiving that and some other wounds, there being no
likelihood of escape, I heard a voice, as I apprehended, speaking
audibly to me, `O Lord, then bring me off'; and immediately God
guided my horse (though he was very wild and not well commanded) to
go backward out of the barricade that I had entered at, and so I
was indeed miraculously preserved.
"One time, coming from preaching, I lost my way, and being out
till it was far in the night in a wood or forest, among lakes,
briars and thorns, I went up and down until I was quite weary. But
by looking up to the Lord, I was presently directed into my way.
"The like experience I had another time, when another preacher
and myself had lost our way in a very dark night, and had tired
ourselves in searching to and fro to no purpose. At last calling
to mind how God had formerly heard in that case where I sought unto
Him, we called upon the Lord, who immediately pointed out our way,
and it seemed as clear to us as if it had been daylight."
Joseph Davis was a wealthy linen merchant and Sabbath keeper.
He suffered greatly for his beliefs. A member of the Mill Yard
church, he left this congregation a yearly allowance. His
experiences were described in the following manner: "About the time
the king entered London, I was illegally seized by the
county-troops, and carried a prisoner seven miles from my
habitation and calling, to Burford, and there detained two days,
being oftentimes tempted to drink the king's health.
"My second imprisonment was after Venner's unlawful
insurrection; when the militia of the county Horse and Foot, came
on the seventh day in the evening to our town and Mr. Hoard, one of
the captains of the county troops came to my shop, asking my name
and demanding arms, rudely made me Prisoner for nothing ... my
house was rifled by his soldiers, who took away my goods
"He was held in Oxford Castle until his trial, following which
he was imprisoned for ten years."4
Davis wrote to members of the Newport, Rhode Island Church in
1670, whilst he was a prisoner at Oxford. He was released on
September 13, 1672.
When describing his beliefs he twice used the term "Church of
Christ." He believed in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and that the
Holy Spirit was not part of a "Trinity" but rather the power of
God. He knew that men are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ,
not the works of the law, but that God required of men obedience
and good works.
He stated that:
"I believe there is but one true visible Church. The members
of the Gospel visible Church, in the latter times, that Anti-Christ
prevailed, are noted by the Spirit in Rev. 14:12 to be such as keep
the Commandments of God, and the Faith of Jesus, and such are, and
shall be Blessed, Rev. 22:14 ... They are the Lord Christ's Church.
Through the ages God has often carried on His work not only
through individuals, but also families. The talented Stennett
family was an example of this in action. Four generations of this
family faithfully served the Church of God in England.
The Stennetts, in common with other ministers of their time,
were prolific writers. In 1658 Edward Stennett wrote the book The
Royal Law Contended For, and in 1664 he published a work on a very
common theme entitled The Seventh Day is the Sabbath of the Lord.
"He was an able and devoted minister, but dissenting from the
established church, he was deprived of the means of support.
"He suffered much of the persecution which the Dissenters were
exposed to at that time, and more especially for his faithful
adherence to the cause of the Sabbath. For this truth he
experienced tribulation, not only from those in power, by whom he
was kept a long time in prison, but also much distress from
unfriendly dissenting brethren, who strove to destroy his
influence, and ruin his cause."6
Edward Stennett was one of the few, at that time, who could
clearly see the very real danger of allowing apostates," as he
called them, to continue in fellowship with the church. These
false "brethren," when permitted to remain within the local
congregations, often did as much damage to the work of the true
servants of God as "outside" persecutors.
Stennett spoke out strongly on this point, but being little
more than one voice in the wilderness had little effect on the
general trend within the church.
The absence of a strong central authority at this time led to
a lack of unity within the church. A wide variation of opinion
existed on even the most basic points of doctrine. Regarding the
Sabbath doctrine, Edward Stennett was stating the "official"
position when he wrote that "its observance ought to be commenced,
after the manner of the Jews, at sunset on Friday." A great deal of
controversy existed as to exactly when "sunset" should begin.
One ex-member described some of the extreme views that were
held by at least a number who considered themselves as a part of
the Church of God.
"Now that which about this time (1671) shewed forth itself,
was of a Sabbath keeper in the town where I lived (and she hath
more fellows abroad), a Sabbath-keeper so strict in her Sabbath
keeping, that few others of them (if any at all) do match her for
her zeal therein... Who is so far in her owning of the Sabbath, and
the Law whence the rule of it is taken, that she shames not openly
to disown the Gospel, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the author and
revealer thereof having cast out of her Bible the whole New
Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ... disowning all
those writings from the beginning of Matthew to the and of
"As a rector of the Established Church, Edward Stennett did
not hold to the Sabbath in 1631, when Brabourne wrote against him.
A Parliament supporter, Stennett lost his ministerial position in
1660 with the Restoration of the crown. He turned to the medical
profession to support his family, and gave his children a liberal
"Stennett began keeping the Sabbath, holding secret meetings
in his Wallingford Castle, which was immune from search warrants."8
In the work entitled, Work of Joseph Stennett, published in
1732, we find that an interesting sequel has been added by another
writer relating to Joseph's father, Dr. Edward Stennett. It tells
of how God was protecting some of His leading ministers at that
"He dwelt in the castle of Wallingford, a place where no
warrant could make forcible entrance, but that of a chief justice;
and the house was so situated that assemblies could meet, and every
part of religious worship be exercised in it, without any danger of
a legal conviction, unless informers were admitted, which care was
taken to prevent: so that for a long time he kept a constant and
undisturbed meeting in his hall."
A local clergyman became so incensed that these meetings of
God's people were, because of a technical point of law, being held
legally, that he hired a number of false witnesses to wrongly claim
that they had attended the meetings and by doing so had obtained
"evidence" of illegal worship.
"The assizes were held at Newbury; and when the time drew
near, there was a great triumph in the success the gentlemen
proposed to themselves, when of a sudden the scene was changed.
"News came to the justice that his son, whom he had lately
placed at Oxford, was gone off with a player; the concern whereof,
and the riding in search of him, prevented his attendance in the
"The clergyman, a few days before the assizes, boasted much of
the service which would be done to the church and the neighborhood
by his prosecution, and of his own determination to be at Newbury
to help carry it on; but to the surprise of many his design was
frustrated by sudden death."
One by one all of those involved in the case either died,
became sick, had accidents or decided not to give evidence. The
result was that "when Mr. Stennett came to Newbury, neither
prosecutor nor witness appearing against him, he was discharged."
In 1686 Edward Stennett moved from Wallingford to London where
he apparently gathered together the members of Francis Bampfield's
Pinner's Hall Sabbatarian Church. This church had been dispersed
a few years earlier at the time of Bampfield's imprisonment and
Dr. Edward Stennett died in 1689.
"His son Joseph Stennett succeeded him as pastor of the
Pinner's Hall Church, and four generations of Stennetts continued
to be Sabbatarian leaders in England. On his parents' tombstone,
Joseph engraved an epitaph that they were heirs of immortality."
"Joseph Stennett, son of Edward, pastored the Pinner's Hall
Church, 1690-1713." Very well-educated, "he preached on Sunday to
other Baptist churches, but remained the faithful pastor of the
Pinner's Hall Seventh-day Baptist church until his death. He wrote
several Sabbath hymns."10
One of his hymns include the words:
"Another six days' work is done,
Another Sabbath is begun;
Return, my soul, enjoy thy rest,
Improve the day that God has blessed."
A rather touching picture is given of the death of Joseph
"In the beginning of the year 1713, Mr. Stennett's health
began apparently to decline. Many heavy afflictions at that time
crowded upon him.
"When he drew near his dissolution, he called his children
around him, and in a peculiar manner gave his dying advice to his
eldest son, with respect to the management of his studies and the
conduct of his future life."
He informed those present, "That if they were found walking in
the ways of true religion, his God would be their God, to whose
providence he could in faith commit them."11
He was buried in the church yard of Hitchenden, Bucks.
"His son, Joseph Stennett II, became a minister at the age of
22. He declined to become pastor of the Mill Yard Church." Later,
as "it was quite customary in those days for a seventh-day minister
to serve a first-day," he at the age of 45 became pastor of a First
Day Baptist Church in London, although he remained a `faithful'
Sabbath keeper for the rest of his life. One of the most eloquent
preachers of the day, and a dissenter, he was known personally to
King George II."12
A great many Church of God ministers of the seventeenth
century were former ministers of the Church of England. The reason
why God called these men was probably that few others in that age
had the necessary education and leadership qualities. Even the
ability to read was by no means as universal a skill as it is
today. A few such men even held high political office prior to
"Thomas Bampfield had been Recorder of Exeter, member of the
Commonwealth Parliament, Speaker of Richard Cromwell's Parliament.
He lived at Dunkerton, near Bath, and about 1663 blossomed out in
extraordinary costume considering himself commissioned to found a
new sect. Francis won him to Seventh Day Baptist principles, and
he subsided into a quieter life.
"In 1692 and 1693 Thomas Bampfield was publishing on the
Sabbath question, eliciting three or four rejoinders: in the latter
year he died."13
In 1646 seven congregations are said to have met in London,
but by the time that Francis Bampfield wrote in 1677, persecution
had reduced this number to three. The locations of those three
congregations were Mill Yard, Bell Lane, and Cripplegate.
One of the earlier congregations, of which John James was
pastor, for a time met at "Bull Stake Alley," Whitechapel. It is
probable that many, if not most, of the meeting halls of the first
Sabbatarian groups were destroyed in the "Great Fire of London,"
which, in 1666, burnt down most of the city.
There is considerable variation among sources regarding the
number of congregations outside London. One source states that "in
the seventeenth century eleven churches of Sabbatarians flourished
in England, while many scattered Sabbath keepers were to be found
in various parts of that kingdom."14
The cities and towns where congregations are known to have met
are as follows: Sherborne, Dorchester, Salisbury, Chertsey,
Wallingford, Norweston, Tewkesbury, Braintree, Colchester,
Woodbridge, Norwich, Leominster, Derby, Manchester, and Hexham.
In Wales at least one Sabbath meeting was held regularly at
Swansea, there were also a number of scattered members in this
Sabbath keepers also met in Ireland, although there are no
indications that they had any contact with the English groups.
"A small remnant of Sabbath-keepers has persisted in Ireland
unto this time; a church or society being found there as late as
John Bunyan, the well-known author of Pilgrim's Progress,
wrote a book against the Sabbath in 1685, but it was never
"Another very early church is that of Natton, or Tewkesbury,
on the River Severn. There is evidence here of Sabbath-keepers as
early as 1620, and a church' by 1640. Complete organization was
not achieved until 1650. Prior to 1680, Natton was a mixed
congregation of both first and seventh day observers."16
John Purses was said to have been the first pastor at Natton
(1660-1720). He was followed by Edmund Townsend (1720-1727),
Philip Jones (1727-1770), and Thomas Hiller (1770-1790).
"He (Thomas Hiller) died a few years ago (written in 1848)
since which time the church, now dwindled to a mere handful, has
been destitute of a pastor, but has enjoyed the assistance of a
worthy baptist preacher from Tewkesbury."17
The Pinner's Hall Church followed a similar pattern of
decline. This group -- which met together on Broad St., London
(and also from time to time at Cripplegate and Devonshire Square),
had been gathered together by Francis Bampfield and later pastored
by Edward and Joseph Stennett.
"The church continued to meet at Pinner's Hall till 1727, when
they moved to Curriers Hall, where they assembled for divine
worship till the expiration of the lease in 1799, when they removed
to Redcross Street.
"In former days this church appears to have been pretty
numerous, but it has declined latterly, and at present (1808)
consists of only a very few members."18
The historic Mill Yard Church probably dates back to 1607, but
one authority (Daland) traces its establishment to 1580. One of
its earliest pastors was John Trask (1617-1619). Later ministers
included Dr. Peter Chamberlen, John James, William Sellers and
Until 1654 the group met for worship "near Whitechapel," the
next meeting place was "Bull Stake Alley"; in 1680 they were at
East Smithfield. Between 1691 and 1885 they worshipped in Mill
Yard Goodman's Fields in Middlesex.
By 1900 the congregation was meeting in two private houses,
one the home of Lt. Col. Richardson and the other the house of the
At the time of writing, a "Mill Yard" Seventh Day Baptist
Church still meets. The latest official membership figures
supplied by the Seventh Day Baptist headquarters indicate that 15
members and 29 children (members of a Sabbath school) meet together
By the eighteenth century the prophecy of Jesus Christ
relating to this "Sardis" era of the Church had become a sobering
reality: "I know your works, that thou hast a name that thou
livest, and art dead" (Rev. 3:1).
From this period onwards most British Sabbath keepers
abandoned even the name "Church of God" (John 17:11). This
scriptural name is given twelve times in the New Testament. The
warning of Christ to "strengthen the things which remain, that are
ready to die" (Rev. 3:2) went largely unheeded. As a result, a
period of decline which was to lead to almost total extinction set
"The middle of the eighteenth century marks the virtual
disappearance of the Seventh Day Baptist churches. Their numbers
had never been considerable but they had several churches in London
and the Provinces. By 1754, there was no Seventh-Day minister
left, though ordinary Baptist ministers were willing to do double
Books were written advocating Sabbath observance in the years
1801, 1825 and 1851.
Writing in 1848, Benedict records that "only three Sabbatarian
churches now remain in England out of the eleven which existed
there one hundred and fifty years ago.
"There can be little doubt, that the observance of the Sabbath
upon a different day from the one commonly observed, is connected
with great inconvenience."20
As zeal diminished still further no attempts were made to
preach the gospel. In time only the doctrines of the Sabbath and
baptism by immersion remained.
"An April 13, 1901, article in the Birmingham Weekly Post
stated that the Natton Church was the only Seventh Day Baptist
Church left in the provinces (outside London?). The minister
there, as usual, also ministered to a First Day Baptist Church at
Tewkesbury. The writer of the article remarks, `There is nothing
in the type of service to differentiate it from that of an ordinary
nonconformist service.' And he was amazed that this sect, which few
know about, had continued to exist for two and one-half centuries,
because `there appears to be little attempt to propagate the faith,
and without such effort the number of adherents is not likely to
increase.' The writer concluded that the interested person had
better hurry up and find out about the group `before it passes out
of existence altogether.'
"The official Seventh Day Baptist history gives three reasons
for the decline of British Sabbath-keeping churches: (1) lack of
organized fellowship among the churches (improper government); (2)
dependence on charitable bequests for finances (tithing not
enforced); and (3) employment of first-day pastors (failure to keep
the Sabbath properly)."21
In a recent letter to the author, a leader of the Seventh Day
Baptist church, writing from their headquarters in Plainfield, New
Jersey, mentions that "Our most recent statistics show 50 members
in Britain, 5150 members in the United States, and a worldwide
total of 52,700."
A limited evangelistic work is being conducted by this group
and a magazine The Sabbath Recorder is published on a monthly
basis. This church has made available much valuable material on
church history, for which I thank them.
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 12
1. A History of the English Baptists, Underwood, page 112.
2. The Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America,
3. Ibid., p. 87.
4. A History of English Baptists, Underwood, page 99.
5. The Last Legacy, or the Autobiography and Religious
Profession, of Joseph Davis, Senior, pages 2847.
6. History of the Sabbath, J.N. Andrews.
7. Literature of the Sabbath Question, R. Cox.
8. Six Papers on the History of the Church of God, R.C.
Nickels, part 1, page 16.
9. See Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America,
10. Six Papers on the History of the Church of God, R.C.
Nickels, part 1, page 18.
11. Wilson's History of Dissenting Churches, vol. 2,
12. Six Papers on the History of the Church of God, R.C.
Nickels, part 1, page 18.
13. Transactions of the Baptist Historical Society, page 12.
14. History of the Sabbath, Andrews.
15. History of Ireland, O'Halleron.
16. Six Papers on the History of the Church of God, R.C.
Nickels, part 1, page 12.
17. History of the Baptist Denomination, D. Bendict,
18. Wilson's History of Dissenting Churches, vol. 2,
19. A History of English Baptists, Underwood, page 147.
20. History of the Baptist Denomination, D. Benedict,
21. Six Papers on the History of the Church of God, R.C.
Nickels, pages 22-23.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN -- THE NEW WORLD
During the period when the Church of God in England was suffering
some of its most severe persecution, Jesus Christ caused His Church
to be established in America. It was here, in the area which was
later to become the United States of America, that the new
congregations, free from much of the persecution and other
restrictions suffered in England, would have a new base from which
to flourish and grow.
"Who was the first Sabbath keeper in America? It is not known,
but the first recorded Sabbatarian was Stephen Mumford, who came to
America in 1664. There may have been others prior to Mumford, for
as early as 1646, Sabbath discussion embroiled New England. Some
of the earliest books published in America supported the keeping of
the seventh day Sabbath.
The Baptist historian Griffiths reports that the earliest
Sabbath keepers were at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1644. "It is
said that in the province of Rhode Island, there were adherents of
that faith (Sabbath keepers) at its early settlement contemporary
with the founding of the first Baptist Church."1
"Stephen Mumford came over from London in 1664, and brought
the opinion with him that the whole of the ten commandments, as
they were delivered from Mount Sinai, were moral and immutable; and
that it was the Antichristian power which thought to change times
and laws, that changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first
day of the week. Several members of the first day church in
Newport embraced this sentiment, and yet continued with the church
for some years, until two men and their wives who had done so,
turned back to the keeping of the first day again."2
Mumford, who originally came from Tewkesbury, was sent to
Newport, Rhode Island, by the Bell Lane Sabbatarian Church of
London. He was not a minister.
"There is no doubt that Stephen Mumford decided to migrate
across the Atlantic Ocean because of the difficult circumstances in
which not only the Seventh Day Baptists but other Baptists and
Dissenters found themselves in England at the time. They hoped to
find greater freedom over the seas."3
When King Charles II came to the throne in 1660 the measure of
religious freedom that had been permitted during the time of Oliver
Cromwell was not to continue.
Several Acts of Parliament were passed designed to enforce
uniformity of religion in Britain, which in effect meant conformity
to the teachings of the Church of England.
"The third Act was the Conventicle Act of 1664 which forbade
the assembly of more than five people in addition to the family of
the house for religious services except according to the Prayer
Book, under penalty of fines and transportation. For the third
offense they could be banished to the American plantations,
excepting New England and Virginia. If they should return or
escape, death was the penalty. Many were sent to the West Indies
where they endured great hardship. Vast numbers suffered in all
parts of England and Wales. It is said that 8000 perished in
prison during the days of Charles II. It may have been this Act
which led Stephen Mumford to decide to migrate to Rhode Island, to
banish himself by so doing rather than wait for the Government to
Further information on Mumford's arrival in Rhode Island is
given by Richard Nickels.
"Mumford may have been induced to come by Dr. John Clarke,
pastor of the Newport First-Day Baptist church, who was agent of
the colony to the court of King Charles II. The King's charter
held by Clarke granted `unlimited toleration in religion to all
people of Rhode Island.' Mumford could thus be escaping religious
persecution by coming to the New World.
"Mumford did not succumb to Sunday-keeping, nor did he keep
his Sabbath beliefs to himself. Apparently on October 6, 1665 he
wrote to several Sabbatarian churches in England for advice.
"The first of his `converts,' called `the first person upon
the continent to begin the observance of the Bible Sabbath'... was
a woman, Tacy Hubbard, wife of Samuel Hubbard, who commenced its
observance a little later ...
"The Hubbards joined Mumford in Sabbath observance in 1665.
The group increased with Ruth Burdick, wife of Robert in 1665, and
Rachel Langworthy, wife of Andrew (daughter of the Hubbards), and
Bethiah and Joseph Clark in 1667, living in Misquamicut, Rhode
Island. Apparently they continued to go to church on Sunday and
also met in private homes on Saturday. Others who embraced the
Sabbath were William Hiscox, Roger Baster, Nicholas Wild and wife,
and John Solomon and wife."5
Problems and persecution for the little group were not long in
coming. John Clarke and several other local ministers began to
preach against them, charging them with being heretics and
schismatics. Clarke taught that all of the ten commandments were
Early in 1669 four of the Sabbath keepers (the Wilds and
Solomons) renounced their faith and returned to Sunday worship.
This action deeply disturbed the other Sabbath keepers who were
perplexed by the question. Should we continue to fellowship with
a church which includes apostates?
They wrote to the church in London for advice and guidance.
Dr. Edward Stennett wrote to them from London as follows:
"If the church will hold communion with these apostates from
the truth, you ought then to desire to be fairly dismissed from the
church; which if the church refuse, you ought to withdraw
yourselves, and not be partakers of other men's sins ..." The
letter was dated March 6, 1670.6
Dr. Stennett's letter was one of several which were written
from England to encourage the infant Sabbath keeping church in
"Before this the Bell Lane Church in London, which seems to
have been gathered by John Belcher the bricklayer in 1662, kept in
touch with Stephen Mumford at Newport. Their letter was dated 26
March, 1668, four years after he had migrated, and signed by eleven
members of Bell Lane. Among those signatures appear the names of
Belcher and William Gibson who later came to Newport and was the
second pastor of the Seventh Day Baptist Church there. A month
before this on 2 February, 1668 Edward Stennett wrote to Newport
from his place in Abingdon, Berkshire.
"Another Sabbath-keeper in England wrote to those in Newport
two years later. This was Joseph Davis, Sr., who had accepted the
Sabbath in 1668 and was in prison at Oxford Castle in 1670 as a
result of a fresh wave of persecution for attending conventicles.
It would seem that those in Newport had heard of him because they
wrote to him on 4 July 1669, and to this letter he replied that
Baptists and Independents were preaching against the Sabbath. He
exhorted the Sabbath-keepers on Rhode Island not to be discouraged
In June, 1671 the trials of the Newport group reached a climax
when Elder Holmes preached a blistering sermon against the
Sabbath-keepers, claiming that the ten commandments were given to
the Jews but were not binding on Gentiles. Several meetings were
held to discuss the points of difference between the two factions.
William Hiscox pointed out that "The ground of our difference
is, that you and others deny God's law." It took the
Sabbath-keepers over six years to learn the lesson that it is not
possible to keep the Sabbath and, at the same time, remain in a
church which kept a different day and preached against God's law.
They withdrew from further fellowship with the Sunday congregation
and formed a new Sabbath-keeping church in December, 1671.
"In 1671 ... Stephen Mumford, William Hiscox, Samuel Hubbard,
Roger Baster, and three sisters, entered into church covenant
together, thus forming the first seventh-day Baptist Church in
"For more than thirty years after its organisation, the
Newport church included nearly all persons observing the seventh
day in the states of Rhode Island and Connecticut ...9
Although Baptist historians almost always define these early
American Sabbatarian congregations as "Seventh Day Baptist," it
becomes very clear when reading the actual records left by these
people that they considered themselves to be "the Church of God" at
Piscataway, New Jersey, or "the Church of God dwelling at
Shrewsbury" (New Jersey).10
It was fortunate that the close relationship which the
Sabbath-keepers had with other churches ceased at an early date.
If this had not been so they would quickly have lost many of the
distinctive features of their faith.
"Had the first-day people been of the same mind, the light of
the Sabbath would have been extinguished within a few years, as the
history of English Sabbath-keepers clearly proves.
But, in the providence of God, the danger was averted by the
opposition which these commandment-keepers had to encounter.
"When the London Seventh-day Baptists, in 1664, sent Stephen
Mumford to America, and in 1675 sent Eld. William Gibson, they did
as much, in proportion to their ability, as had been done by any
society for propagating the gospel in foreign parts."11
For a time growth in church membership was slow. The entire
population of the Rhode Island colony was less than 3,000; the
inhabitants found themselves in conflict with the Indians and also
in dispute with Massachusetts and Connecticut over boundaries.
Four other people soon joined the original seven.
"Owing to the fact that the roll of the Church for many years
is not extant, if one was kept at all, it is difficult to tell in
some cases who did belong to the church."12
Records of the Newport Church begin in 1692. Samuel Hubbard
reported that in 1678 there were 37 Sabbatarians in America; 20 in
Newport, 7 at Westerly (also known as Hopkinton) and 10 at New
Three years later the number of members reached 51; of this
group two were Indians.
"William Hiscox, the first minister, served from 1671 to his
death in 1704. When, if ever, he was ordained, is unknown.
"In 1675, Mumford went to London, and on October 16, 1675, he
returned with a new assistant elder, William Gibson of the Bell
Lane church. Gibson was probably already ordained when he arrived,
for he preached at New London, and eventually settled at Westerly.
Gibson worked effectively against the Rogerine sect, and upon
Hiscox's death, he became full pastor."14
As time went on, many of the Newport members moved on to the
western wilderness of Westerly and Waterford and as early as 1680
a branch of the Newport Church was established on the banks of the
Pawcatuck River at Meetinghouse Bridge in Westerly which was known
for nearly half a century as the Sabbatarian Church of Westerly.
These early settlers went back and forth to Newport when Indian
raids were threatened particularly at the time of King Phillips war
in 1675, traveling by boat.
"Many of the members of the Newport Church were outstanding
citizens of the times and some were intimates of Roger Williams.
The Redwood Library, the first library to be established in the
Colonies, was erected on a site given by Henry Collins, a Seventh
Day Baptist and a well known goldsmith, benefactor of the arts, and
contributor to many projects which would make better business men
and better citizens."15
Members were received into these early New England churches by
profession of faith, baptism and the laying on of hands.
"The great majority of the `Free Inhabitants of the Towne of
Westerly' on a list dated May 18, 1669, at the time were or later
were to become members of this church. Also, outstanding Rhode
Island leaders of the pre-Revolutionary era during the struggle for
independence from England, notably Samuel Ward, Joshua Babcock and
others, were members of this church.
"At Boom Bridge, a large tree was felled, mounted on a post in
a horizontal position, weighed at the short end and so adjusted
that it could support an individual at the long end and swung
around to reach the far bank. The bolder Sabbatarians took this
shorter route to church risking an occasional dunking while others
chose the `Saturday Path,' safer but longer. Boom Bridge derives
its name from this novel apparatus."16
By 1683 the American churches had realized the need of closer
personal contact between the members. With one church at Newport,
on an island, and various scattered members on the mainland, they
found great difficulty in meeting together as a group.
On October 31 of that year Hubbard wrote to Elder William
Gibson, who at the time was living in New London, "O that we could
have a general meeting! but winter is coming upon us."
The first "General Meeting" was held in late May, 1684,
shortly after Pentecost. All the brethren in New London, Westerly,
Narraganset, Providence, Plymouth Colony and Martha's Vineyard were
invited to attend.
"The object of this meeting was to bring the members, so
widely scattered together at a communion season."17 This was the
first recorded general meeting of Sabbath-keepers in America.
According to Hubbard 26 or 27 people were in attendance. Prayers
were given and discussion took place on several doctrinal issues.
"By this time, more members lived on the mainland than at
Newport. Sabbath keepers had lived at Westerly since 1666,
converts of Mumford. At a yearly meeting of the Church, at
Westerly, on September 28, 1708 (New Style), the decision was made
to separate into two churches. There were 72 at Westerly and 41 at
Newport. (The Feast of Tabernacles for that year started Saturday,
September 29.) Previously it was common to hold the yearly meeting
at Westerly. Its first elder, John Maxson, was ordained October 1,
`by fasting and prayer and laying on of hands."18
There are strong indications that many of these annual
meetings took place either during the fall Holy Day season or near
Pentecost. Although these people probably had only a limited
knowledge of God's Plan of Salvation, pictured by these days, they
were at least attempting to follow the Holy Day pattern that God
Four Sabbatarian churches were established around Philadelphia
towards the end of the seventeenth century and early years of the
eighteenth. Little historical record has survived concerning these
churches and they seem to have died out by the early 1800's.
An important local congregation of "the Church of God" was
established at Piscataway, New Jersey, in 1705. Edmund Dunham was
its first pastor.
The Articles of Faith of this church are given in "Seventh-day
"I. We believe that unto us there is but one God, the Father,
and one Lord Jesus Christ, who is the mediator between God and
mankind, and that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God.
"II. We believe that all the Scriptures of the Old and New
Testaments, given by inspiration, are the Word of God -- and are
the rule of faith and practice.
"III. We believe that the ten commandments, which were written
on two tables of stone by the finger of God, continue to be the
rule of righteousness unto all men.
"IV. We believe the six principles recorded in Heb. 6: 1, 2 to
be the rule of faith and practice.
"V. We believe that the Lord's Supper ought to be administered
and received in all Christian churches.
"VI. We believe that all Christian churches ought to have
church officers in them, as elders, and deacons.
"VII. We believe that all persons thus believing ought to be
baptized in water by dipping or plunging, after confession is made
by them of their faith in the above said things.
"VIII. We believe that a company of sincere persons, being
formed in the faith and practices of the above said things, may
truly be said to be the Church of Christ.
"IX. We give up ourselves unto the Lord and one another, to be
guided and governed by one another, according to the Word of
Extensive scriptural evidence was given to support these
Articles of Faith.
Only "a few names" in the Sardis era of the church were truly
converted and dedicated Christians (Rev. 3:4). During the
eighteenth century numerous Sabbath-keeping congregations were
being formed in various parts of America, but as time went on an
increasingly small proportion of the people in those congregations
were really drawing close to God through prayer and Bible study.
Many joined local churches after having accepted the doctrinal
"argument" of the Sabbath. The fruits indicate that only a small
number had deeply repented of their former ways. Some even
continued to take part in wars and politics.
As a result of being in this weakened spiritual state several
members were influenced by false teachers who came into the church
with a view to obtaining a following for their own style of belief.
One such "evangelist" was William Davis. Born in Wales in
1663, Davis studied at Oxford in order to become a minister in the
Church of England. He changed his mind about this and became a
Quaker instead. After migrating to Pennsylvania, he found himself
in disagreement with other Quakers which resulted in him joining
Because Davis's view of Christ differed from that held by the
Baptists -- he did not believe that Christ was divine -- he was
excommunicated from that church; but some time later was introduced
to the Sabbath by Abel Noble, who, according to some sources, was
also a former Quaker.
Mr. Davis applied for membership of the Newport Church in 1706
but was turned down on doctrinal grounds. Four years later he
tried again, and even though some still objected, he was finally
accepted. In 1713 he was given authority by this congregation to
preach and baptize.
For the rest of his life Davis was continually "in" and "out"
of fellowship due to his belief in the Trinity, immortal soul, and
the idea of going to heaven after death. His views were accepted
by an increasing number of people and eventually became a part of
Seventh-Day Baptist doctrine.
In one of his letters William Davis strongly defends his
doctrinal views against those who rightly rejected them as being
"Now all this enmity against me among Seventh-day men arose
against me originally from a noted seventh-day man and soul sleeper
(one who rejected the immortal soul belief) in this country, who
above twenty years ago opposed me about my principles of
immortality of human souls, and afterward proceeded to differ with
me about my faith in Christ and the Trinity, who having poisoned
several other seventh-day men with the mortal and atheistical
notion, and set them against me, he secretly conveyed this drench
(accusation) against me over to Westerly to the persons beforenamed
(various elders in the Rhode Island Church of God), who, complying
with him in their judgments in the Socinian and Anti-Trinitarian
error, drank it greedily down before I came among them ..."20
This man had many descendants in New Jersey, New York,
Pennsylvania and West Virginia who perpetuated his views long after
In the early 1700s several debates were held on the question
of the Sabbath. Episcopalians, led by Evan Evans and George Keith
were able, by their arguments, to cause some leading Sabbatarians
in Upper Providence to give up the Sabbath.
Public debates, conducted by leading ministers on both sides,
were held in 1702 at Philadelphia. At Pennepek the Sabbatarians
lost their place of worship when its owner returned to the Church
The lifestyle of the members of the Sabbatarian "Philadelphia
Movement" churches has been compared to that of the Quakers. They
spoke directly and simply, dressed plainly and refused to engage in
war or to take oaths.
A London minister, Elhanan Winchester, described them in 1788:
"Such Christians I have never seen as they are, who take the
Scriptures as their only guide, in matters both of faith and
practise ... they are so afraid of doing anything contrary to the
commands of Christ, that no temptations would prevail upon them
even to sue any person at law. They are industrious, sober,
temperate, kind, charitable people. They read much, they sing and
pray much ... they walk in the commandments and ordinances of the
Lord blameless; both in public and private, they bring up their
children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ... and
whatsoever they believe their Saviour commands, they practise
without inquiring what others do."21
"Another church began through Piscataway as the mother church,
at Oyster Pond, Long Island, with Elder Elisha Gillette. He joined
the Piscataway church in 1769, but continued to live on Long
Island. Upon request of the Piscataway church during its yearly
meeting of 1786, Gillette was ordained by Elder William Bliss of
Newport, Elder John Burdick of Hopkinton, and Elder Nathen Rogers
(who in 1787 became pastor of Piscataway).
"Gillette soon organised a Sabbath church in Long Island,
which in 1791 was recognized as a sister church of Piscataway. The
church was short-lived, for it made the fatal mistake of admitting
into membership Sunday keepers, and soon dissolved."22
Another important reason for the spiritual decline of the
eighteenth century Sabbatarian churches was involvement in
politics. Richard Ward, a member of the Newport Church, even held
office as governor of Rhode Island from 1741 to 1742.
"One of the outstanding leaders of the Colonial and
Pre-Revolutionary War periods in American History was Samuel Ward,
a founder of Rhode Island College (Brown University), Colonial
Governor of Rhode Island and a Seventh Day Baptist. He was a
participant in the deliberations of the Continental Congress in
Philadelphia and would have been a signer of the Declaration of
Independence had he not been stricken by small pox from which he
died before that document was in final form. He was a descendant
of Roger Williams.
"His home was located at the corner of the Shore Road and the
road to Weekapaug in Westerly not far from the Atlantic Ocean, the
present location of the home of Clifford A. Langworthy. Here came
Benjamin Franklin and other leaders for conferences and planning
discussions as to policies and procedures to be followed by the
Colonies in their struggle for independence.
"Samuel Ward's wife was Anna Ray from Block Island and
Benjamin Franklin struck up a friendship and corresponded regularly
with a sister of Mrs. Ward who came over to the mainland at times
when Franklin was in the area. It is recorded that he accompanied
her to Weekapaug Breachway from where she took off for Block Island
in a small boat bidding her goodbye as she began her dangerous trip
over the rough waters of Block Island Sound.
"A bronze tablet marks the spot where the Ward home was
located, erected and dedicated by the Children of the American
Revolution in 1904. Governor Ward's granddaughter, Julia Ward
Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, was present and
participated in the dedication ceremonies. Tea was served by the
ladies of the Pawcatuck Seventh Day Baptist Church and other
members of Phebe Greene Ward Chapter of the D.A.R. to the assembled
"Among the prominent Seventh Day Baptists of the Eighteenth
Century residing in Westerly was Dr. Joshua Babcock born there in
1707, graduated from Yale College and who studied `physic and
surgery' in Boston, later completing his education in England. He
then settled in his native town where he built up a very large
practice. Later he established a retail store which carried as
wide a variety of merchandise and handled as large a volume of
business as any between New York and Boston.
" ... The Babcock house is located on Franklin Street named in
honour of Benjamin Franklin and is greatly admired for its rugged
strength and beauty. Its interior features, Dutch tiles around its
fireplace, many elaborate cupboards and ceilings, a carved elegant
staircase, secret closets and other architectural features provide
us today with an authentic example of a fine Colonial home."24
Dr. Babcock died in 1783 and his memory is kept alive in the
Babcock Junior High School of Westerly.
Although American Sabbatarians enjoyed a far greater measure
of religious freedom than had their European counterparts of
earlier generations, subtle pressures were exerted at times to
induce them to conform to the beliefs of their Protestant
neighbours. The measures taken to combat such pressures were often
controversial and, at times, even comical.
"Fourteen of the early New London Sabbath-keepers petitioned
the church in Hopkinton June 28, 1784 asking `that they be
incorporated a church in covenant relations with the mother
church.' The request was granted and they became a separate church
November 11, 1784. Early meetings were held in private homes and
eventually the church had three different places of worship."
"We are disturbed today by the numerous mass demonstrations
against this or that unpopular cause and are inclined to think of
them as being unique and a present-day phenomenon. However,
history records the fact that early Seventh Day Baptists in the New
London area were so determined to have freedom to worship on the
Sabbath and not be compelled to conform to Congregational pressures
that some of the womenfolk took their knitting with them to a
church service on Sunday while the men noisily pushed loaded
wheelbarrows up and down the church steps."25
Interesting and significant records have been preserved which
reveal that for several generations the early American
Sabbath-keeping congregations did keep, within the limitations of
their understanding, the Feast of Tabernacles. This term does not
seem to have been in general use, however, and the festival was
normally termed the "Yearly Meeting," or the "General Meeting," or
the "Sabbatarian Great Meeting."
"The journeys to attend them were often performed by ox teams,
a distance of one hundred miles ... great multitudes thronged to
them for the spiritual profit to be gained, and great multitudes
more attended for curiosity or pleasure. No event, during the
year, caused more excitement. The old members of the church, who
attended them in their earlier times, love to live over again and
again those pleasant and profitable meetings. Their social
intercourse was of a holy and sanctifted character, the influence
of which still lingers in the hearts of those who enjoyed them.
"The meeting was regarded somewhat in the light of the yearly
feasts of the Jews when all the tribes went up to Jerusalem to
worship. It was a time when the members of the Church, generally,
were expected to come together for a spiritual re-union ... The
Lord's Supper was commonly observed at these General Meetings ....
At a Church meeting of the 15th of September, 1722, was celebrated
the ordinance of Bread and Wine."26
Records of these early festivals indicate that, in common with
the Biblical observance of such feasts, the moderate use of alcohol
was permitted to those attending. Crowds of local people would
sometimes gather around the places where alcohol was on sale and
create trouble for those attending the festival. At times,
problems of this nature would become so serious that state laws in
Rhode Island and New Jersey were introduced which prohibited the
sale of intoxicating drinks within a mile of the place of the
The observance of the Lord's Supper or Communion during the
autumn or fall festival described by James Bailey, was clearly a
departure from "the faith once delivered to the saints."
"The 1926 Seventh Day Baptist Manual notes that the `Mill Yard
Church, of London, the original Seventh Day Baptist Church,
celebrates it once a year, at the time of the Passover, from the
Jewish Church.' But besides the South Fork of the Hughes River
Church in West Virginia, no record has been found of any other
Seventh Day Baptist church observing communion on the time of the
"A.H. Lewis, Seventh Day Baptist counterpart of the Seventh
Day Adventist, and Sabbath historian, John N. Andrews, said that
the crucifixion was on Wednesday, and the resurrection on Saturday.
Further, he admitted, `The earliest Christians, i.e. those of the
New Testament period, continued to observe the Passover; and since
Christ died at that time, they associated his death with that
festival. In this way the Passover became the festival of Christ's
death.' The scriptural time, Lewis knew, was the 14th of Nisan,
without reference to Sunday or any day of the week.
"If the Mill Yard church observed communion at the time of the
Passover throughout its history, it appears that the American
churches deviated from English practices from the start. The very
purpose of holding yearly meetings (the first recorded one was May
14, 1684, Old Style) was to bring scattered members together `at a
communion season.' From its earliest records, communion at Newport
has been reported to have been held in April, May, September, and
other times of the year. On December 1, 1754, Newport communion
time was set on the last Sabbath of every month. It was still
observed on the last Saturday of the month in 1771.
"On July 12, 1746, the Shrewsbury church voted communion once
in two months in conformity with the practice of the Westerly
church. On March 3, 1775, the church voted communion to be held
quarterly, on the last Sabbath in November, February, May and
"In 1811, the Piscataway church was also observing communion
quarterly, with the Friday before communion Sabbath, a day of
fasting and prayer.
"Formerly, fermented wine and unleavened bread both, only,
were used. But contents of the `cup' changed to grape juice; and
today, (among Seventh Day Baptists) even regular, leavened bread,
is often used.
"According to the 1833 `Confession of Faith' it is the duty of
members to take the Lord's Supper as often as the church shall deem
it expedient and the circumstances admit.
"If the Mill Yard `mother church' of London, England, always
observed communion once a year on the date of the Jewish Passover,
why didn't American Sabbatarians do the same? The exact reason is
unclear. But the fact that the Americans had forgotten how they
had received their doctrines and beliefs (Revelation 3:3) cannot be
The practice of foot-washing as a part of the celebration of
the Lord's Supper seems to have been carried out by several
Sabbatarian congregations during the eighteenth century.
A letter written by the Shrewsbury Church of Christ during
this period gives some interesting instructions on the subject:
"And now, dear Brethren, we shall use the freedom to acquaint
you with one thing, and do heartily desire to recommend it to your
serious and Christian consideration, and that is about the duty of
washing one another's feet.
"This is a duty and work which some of us have been long
thoughtful and in part persuaded of... and have concluded to put it
in practice some time since, in the following manner; viz, at the
towel and girds himself, then he pours water in a basin and begins
to wash the disciples' (viz., the brethren's) feet, and from him
they take it, and the brethren to the brethren, and the sisters to
the sisters, they wash one another's feet through the present
"The practice of feet-washing was continued by this church
after its removal to Virginia but was probably abandoned at some
time during the first half of the nineteenth century."28
In 1775 Jacob Davis was ordained a minister of the Shrewsbury
Church. During the ordination ceremony he was asked the question,
"Have you entire freedom to administer the ordinances of God to
them as to a Church of God; to pray with them and for them and
endeavour to build them up in the faith?" The new minister was
given a solemn charge. "Brother Davis, I charge thee before God
and the Lord Jesus Christ, that thou take charge of the church of
Christ dwelling at Shrewsbury."29
At Piscataway major internal problems were aroused due to
members' attitudes towards the Revolutionary War. They "differed
among themselves in relation to the justness of the war." The
church broke up for several years and some members joined the
Patriot army; others fled to the north and a number suffered the
destruction of their farms during the war.
The Shrewsbury Church was also split by the war. Jacob Davis
became a chaplain in the Continental Army and several members
joined their pastor in taking a part in the conflict. At least one
member, however, took an entirely different position. Simeon
Maxson, was temporarily disfellowshipped in 1776 for violently
disagreeing with the others and calling them "children of the
devil" for supporting carnal warfare."30
"Impoverished and decimated by the Revolutionary War, the
Shrewsbury church sold the church building and on September 6, 1789
as a body moved to Woodbridgetown, Pennsylvania, and soon
thereafter to New Salem, Virginia, on land donated by William Fitz
Randolph. It is probable that the Shrewsbury emigrants were joined
by recruits from Piscataway, New Jersey.
"It is reported that some Sabbatarians had removed from
Shrewsbury to southwestern Pennsylvania and Westem Virginia as
early as 1774. After the war, small colonies went even further
west, into Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska."31
"Near the close of the war, other members of the Rhode Island
churches were migrating to Berlin, New York. By 1797 there was a
church established at Brookfield, New York. Sabbath keepers were
soon to spread into western New York, and elsewhere. From the
Newport and Piscataway movements sprang churches of Sabbath keepers
in North, Central, and Westem New York, northern Pennsylvania,
Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas and western Nebraska.
In 1794 a Sunday "blue law" was passed in Pennsylvania which
caused great hardship to the Sabbatarians. Richard Bond, of the
Nottingham church, refused to serve on a jury during the Sabbath.
"In America the number of churches gradually increased as the
gospel was spread from state to state. But so nearly dead were
these congregations that in 1802 many began to organize themselves
together into a General Conference ... At this serious juncture,
most of the local churches joined themselves together to form the
Seventh-day Baptist General Conference ... Soon they began teaching
the pagan Trinity doctrine and the immortality of human souls!
"Several faithful congregations did not become members of the
Conference because they would not submit to the new Protestant
doctrines being introduced ... For another half century the
congregations maintained the little truth they possessed, although
most of them did not go all the way in obedience to God. John
aptly described this period: `Be watchful, and establish the things
remaining, which are about to die, for I have not found they works
perfect before my God' (Rev. 3:21)."32
A circular letter was sent out by the 1802 General Conference:
"Beloved brethren, we having received the kind letters from
various churches in our fellowship, are bound by the love of God
and the law of gratitude, to give thanks to God for the common
salvation he has provided for us all, and for civil and religious
liberty, and for the day and means of grace and hopes of glory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
"To effect so good an end and to keep order in the house or
church of God, let every member have a home, or be under the watch
and care of faithful brethren, and not scattered in the wide world
where no church can see them walk or discipline them. Let them be
careful to keep God's holy Sabbath, and join in social worship,
statedly; likewise in private duties.
"It is expected that all the churches in our Communion will
send letters or messengers, or both, to our next Yearly Meeting...
with a statement of their liberality toward defraying the charges
of the missionaries. As purity of heart and morality of life
constitute our chief happiness, and we all are but stewards of the
manifold grace of God, let us give unto all their due. The grace
of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."33
One source gives the number of members of the Seventhday
Baptist church, at the time of this Conference, as 1130, with nine
The minutes of the Seventh-Day Baptist General Conference for
1846 reveal that by 1807, numbers had risen to 1,648, and by 1846
they had increased to 6,092.
In 1818 the name "Seventh-Day Baptist" was officially adopted
by the majority of Sabbatarian congregations.
By about 1917 this church had 73 church congregations and
At the time of writing, membership of this church, the figures
provided by Seventh-Day Baptist headquarters in Plainfield, New
Jersey, are "5,150 members in the United States, and a worldwide
total of 52,700."
Conference records during the nineteenth century reveal a
gradual change in attitude and doctrine. By 1803 decisions
affecting Seventh-Day Baptists were reached by the process of
voting. Each church had from one to four votes depending on its
size. The Conference could only advise local churches; it assumed
no powers over the churches beyond this. All contributions to the
Conference were to be voluntary.
In 1804 a Circular Letter indicated that internal dissention
was prevalent: "... do nothing to wound the weak and feeble lambs
of Christ, who cannot endure much; and be not offended with those
who cannot see as far and walk as fast as you ... establish nothing
new, although it might be for the better, until the whole be
generally agreed thereon, that peace and harmony may be established
among ourselves ...."
A "have love" philosophy was advocated towards those of
differing beliefs, including the preachers and people of other
denominations at the 1820 Conference.
Two years later members were advised "not to sacrifice the
Sabbath in marriage." In 1833 members voted unanimously to abstain
from alcohol except for medicinal purposes.
A condition of "coldness and apathy" was said to have
prevailed in 1836. By 1864 Seventh Day Baptists were "greatly
absorbed in national affairs," meaning the Civil War. A policy of
cooperation with Seventh Day Adventists was agreed in 1870.35
Not all American Sabbath-keepers were in agreement with the
"General Conference." One such church was established on the South
Fork of the Hughes River in West Virginia. The congregation was
raised up following revival meetings held by an evangelist,
Alexander Campbell, in 1833. A public debate on the Sabbath was
also conducted with a local Methodist minister which resulted in
several of the listeners accepting the Sabbath. Church services
began in 1834. The people called themselves "the Seventh Day
Baptist church" and also the "Church of Christ."
Some of the practices of this group were described as
"Mosaic." Biblical laws of "clean" and "unclean" meats were
observed. The communion service was held "once in twelve months on
the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month." The foot-washing
ceremony was also observed by this group.
They believed that a Christian should not hold public office,
that tithing is commanded, and that a Christian should not marry a
non-Christian. This church was governed from the top down with the
ministers firmly in control.
Rules were imposed relating to courtship, dating and child
rearing. A standard of dress was enforced, the violation of which
even resulted in some being excommunicated.
Randolph records that over 130 people belonged to the South
Fork congregation during its half century of existence.
Because of its rigid and literal application of the Bible,
this group experienced severe persecution from "Christian" sources
which viewed their beliefs as "half crazy ideas."
A group of five disaffected members established their own
opposition church in order to challenge the "heretics" of South
Fork; for several years a fierce struggle continued between the two
factions. The dissidents eventually gained control of the "mother
church." In 1885 they ordained a woman as a minister.36
The West Virginia churches were closely associated with
Sabbath-keepers in Ohio. A church was raised up in 1824 at Pike,
Clarke County, Ohio. A division took place over the question of
alcohol and a "Temperance Reform" movement began which led to the
separation of "wet" and "dry churches in the area.
The nineteenth century saw a growing acceptance of Catholic
and Protestant doctrines by Seventh-Day Baptists. Their 1833
General Conference produced an "Expose of Sentiments" which
included a statement on the Trinity.
"We believe that there is a union existing between the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that they are equally divine and
equally entitled to our adoration.
"Members were received only upon the vote of a Sabbatarian
Baptist church at a business meeting. In the Westerly church
(Hopkinton), a written confession of faith was required of
candidates for membership, so that the initiate knew the step he
"After baptism, laying on of hands was generally performed.
The Newport church practiced this from the start, in accord with
the English Sabbatarian churches, and the 1833 Expose of Faith
"Much internal dissension occurred within the churches.
Personal and business differences among members were taken before
a church council composed of the elders, deacons and several
leading members. Recalcitrant members were sometimes
excommunicated, with a formal `Awful Sentence of Excommunication.'
A frequent reason was for continual breach of Sabbath or other
The general trend amongst Sabbath-keeping churches of the
nineteenth century seems to have been that they desired to be more
and more like the churches around them. They overlooked the fact
that they were to be "a peculiar people" (I Pet. 2:9) set apart by
God for a special purpose. This trend is evident in the
observation of religious festivals.
"No fact is more fully established than that Sunday and its
associate festivals came into Christianity through pagan
influence." This included Easter, Christmas, Whitsunday, and
others. This was the general Seventh-Day Baptist view until the
late 1800's, when Christmas influence began to show itself in the
holding of `Founder's Day' on December 23, in order to hold the
interest of the children during the holiday season. It was really
only a pretense; a Christmas observation two days early. Now
Christmas and Easter are commonly observed among Seventh-Day
This period is marked by declining membership and spiritual
power. True conversion was sadly lacking in the majority of
"Conference reports are rife with admissions of the cold and
lethargic state of the Sabbatarian churches at the turn of the
nineteenth century. In 1836, there was said to be `general
coldness and apathy' in the whole church. In 1840, despite the
`revivals' in the church, there remained widespread, apathy and
backsliding.' By 1846, little interest was shown in denominational
"Periodical after periodical published by Seventh Day Baptists
folded due to lack of support. In fact, the history of nineteenth
century Seventh Day Baptists is the record of one paper's demise
"A `tent campaign' began in 1878, with several evangelist
preachers in the effort. But the program was soon abandoned,
because church members would not support it. A feeble revival of
the program was attempted in 1895, with few visible results."39
Sabbatarian history in the mid-nineteenth century is dominated
by the Adventist movement.
During this time the Advent movement among Sunday observing
churches was begun by William Miller. "In 1843 several followers
of Miller in Washington, New Hampshire, became acquainted with the
truth of the Sabbath. It was not until after the miserable
disappointment of 1844, however, that the general body of
adventists had the Sabbath question called to their attention. A
small number accepted the Sabbath and soon united with the few
remaining Church of God brethren who refused to be affiliated with
the Seventh-Day Baptist Conference.
"They called themselves the `Church of God' and began
publishing `The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald.' Their first
songbook was dedicated to `The Church of God scattered abroad."40
"The `transition period' of Church of God history, from the
1840's to early 1860's, is difficult to record. History seems to
focus almost entirely on those Sabbath keepers who adhered to the
`visions' of Mrs. White, or on those who had lost the proper church
name, or history focuses on Adventists who held to the name,
`Church of God,' but did not observe the Sabbath.
"Independent Sabbath keepers existed throughout the period of
1840-1860 in New York, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, and
elsewhere. Of these, remnants of Sabbatarian Baptists in West
Virginia in the late 1850's combined Sabbath keeping, Passover
observance, and keeping of Biblical food laws with other beliefs
strikingly similar to the modern Church of God (Seventh Day)."41
"With each passing year, new and different doctrines were
being introduced by Ellen G. White to explain away the adventist
failure of October 22, 1844," the predicted date for the second
coming of Christ. "The original Church of God brethren generally
did not go along with the `inspired testimony' of Ellen G. White.
Finally, a meeting was held by some of the members in Battle Creek,
Michigan, September 28 through October 1, 1860."42
Seventeen delegates attended the Conference, the purpose of
which was to discuss "loyal organization." Most of the speakers
held the view that organization when applied to a church was of the
devil, that "organization is Babylon." There seemed to be no clear
understanding as to how the true church should be organized and
The Conference did agree, however, that it should legally
organize a publishing association. It also recommended that local
Sabbath churches be organized.
Another subject which was considered by the delegates was that
of a church name. Some pressed for "Church of God" and others
"Seventh Day Adventist," objecting to the former name because it
failed to emphasize the Sabbath and the belief in the Second Coming
The name "Seventh Day Adventist" was finally chosen. Only one
man, from Gilboa, Ohio, voted against this decision, holding out
for "Church of God." Many delegates did not consider that a church
name had any major significance whatsoever.
In 1863 the first Seventh Day Adventist General Conference was
held at Battle Creek. The membership of this church in that year
Not all Sabbath keepers agreed to the new name. Those of Ohio
determined to retain the name "Church of God."
"For another seventy years conditions remained almost
unchanged. The remaining brethren retained the name `Church of
God,' with headquarters finally at Stanberry, Missouri. Among
local congregations only a few individuals repented and
strengthened the truth that was ready to perish in their midst.
But most of the ministers resorted to organising pitifully weak
evangelistic work on the pattern of state conferences rather than
yielding themselves to God's government and direction in the
carrying of the gospel with power.
"In fact, instead of the true gospel, most ministers taught a
`third angel's message,' which they had accepted from the adventist
people. They also published a small paper called the Bible
During this period an evangelistic work took place at Marion,
Iowa. Early in 1860 a man named M.E. Cornell arrived in the town
and began to preach on the Second Coming of Christ, Sabbath
observance and the unconscious state of the dead. His preaching
created something of a stir and the ministers of various local
churches began to oppose him.
One such minister challenged Cornell to a debate on the
Sabbath and state of the dead questions. The debate caused even
more local interest as the ministers were unable to counter
Cornell's arguments. As a result of this, a new congregation was
established at Marion, consisting of about fifty people drawn from
several churches in the area.
The new group agreed together to keep the commandments of God
and faith of Jesus and to use the Bible alone as their rule of
faith and practice. A crisis quickly developed for the new church
when a move was made to change the name from "Church of Jesus
Christ" to "Seventh Day Adventist." The members were also required
to accept the visions of Ellen G. White as having equal authority
with the Bible.
"Fully half of the members refused to enter the new
organization with its new conditions, but remained firm to the
original organization, and to those that remained were added quite
a few persons who had been holding back, now came forward and
united with them, which made them much stronger than the party that
reorganized. Other churches in Iowa were organized, who shortly
were also disrupted, and then more or less associated themselves
with the Church of Christ in Marion, later known as the Church of
"As soon as it was discovered that some of the members of
these neighboring churches clung to their original faith, a
circular letter was written calling for a conference of the
scattered believers which was responded to by meeting of such a
conference at Marion, Nov. 5, 1862, when the above circular letter
was ordered printed for the call of a conference of a more general
nature. The Church at Marion was without a pastor at that time, so
one of their members, V. M. Gray, who took charge of the meetings,
was voted in as elder of the church."44
Another powerful preacher that rose to prominence around the
middle of the nineteenth century was a former Seventh Day
Adventist, Elder Crammer. He left that church because he would not
accept Mrs. White's visions and the "Shut Door" policy of the
"Henceforth Elder Crammer preached as the Spirit directed, and
got quite a following, including several ministers." Persecution
had to be endured. "While meetings were in progress at Hartford or
near there... they were served with a shower of eggs of no recent
date, but the Elder came out of it unharmed, while others were not
so fortunate. His wife had on a very nice dress which was nearly
spoiled. The perfume of the eggs broke up the meeting that night.
"One more effort was made by the enemy; this time a large
bucket of water was placed over the speaker's stand with a string
attached. When Elder Cramner was in the midst of his sermon the
string was pulled and down came the water, but the trick did not
work as the promoters had expected, for the Elder was unharmed, but
a little child lying asleep nearby was nearly drowned.
"Organization was now discussed and was finally effected in
the year 1860." Other ministers united until there was a total of
twelve. Gilbert Cramner was the founder of the Church of God in
Michigan, and was the first president of the Conference. One
writer stated: "To have known Elder Gilbert Cramner at any time
during his life, and especially in his earlier Christian ministry,
is to have known one of the most powerful and eloquent ministers of
On August 10, 1863, a new magazine was published with the
title The Hope of Israel. It was printed at Hartford, Van Buren
Co., Michigan, with a subscription price of seventy five cents a
year. The Resident Editor was Enos Easton; Gilbert Cramner and
John Reed were Corresponding Editors.
The editorial policy was based on ten principles:
1) That the Bible alone contains the whole moral law and
that its precepts are sufficient to govern God's people
in every age without the addition of humanly devised
2) That the penalty of sin is death, and that the dead are
really dead and "know not anything."
3) That sin is "the transgression of the law," which in
effect means breaking the ten commandments.
4) Man, having sinned, is under the sentence of death. His
only hope of eternal life is by means of a resurrection
from the dead, the penalty for sin having been paid by
the sacrifice of Christ.
5) This hope in eternal life was a major motivation in
Israel and the primitive church.
6) The setting up of the kingdom of God on earth and return
of Jesus Christ is imminent.
7) The reward of the righteous and punishment of the wicked
will take place on the earth.
8) The earth will provide the final abode of the faithful
9) That paradise will be restored to the earth and that God
will dwell in the New Jerusalem.
10) Man will finally have access to the tree of life and will
experience life without pain, death and sorrow.
The effect of this new magazine was to draw together a host of
scattered believers and to provide a vehicle through which views on
many different religious topics could be shared with others.
One of the first issues carried an article by Elder Cramner in
which he related his experiences in the ministry. His labours had
resulted in the ordination of eight ministers and the conversion of
several hundred members in the state of Michigan.
He wrote of divine healings, numbering about one hundred which
included the restoration of sight to the blind and hearing to the
The Hope of Israel attracted interest, it seems, from many
parts of the United States, and even beyond. A letter was included
in the second issue from a Mr. Tanton Ham of Bristol, England, in
which he described the pagan origins of the irnmortal soul
Bible prophecy and its relationship to world news was a common
theme and the progress of the Civil War received good coverage in
the early issues.
In some areas the preaching activities of ministers was
disrupted by the influence of Spiritualists but the magazine
reported that the "devils were cast out."
The pages of the Hope were available for the expression of
widely differing opinions on a variety of subjects. Various
opinions were expressed; for example on the subject of whether or
not fermented wine should be drunk by church members.
Booklets were advertised and readers could even send for a
book containing "105 choice hymns" for 45 cents. Many contributors
to the magazine were convinced that they were living in "the last
days" and some even set the date for the end of the world and the
return of Christ. One such "prophet" predicted that this event
would occur in 1873, basing his prediction on the book of Daniel
and added the ominous warning, "Reader, this just leaves ten years
to the end of the world..."
This general belief that the end was near seems to have
stimulated a measure of zeal and enthusiasm among members. The
Hope carried several reports of evangelistic campaigns.
The Civil War created many problems for God's people. Most
were firmly opposed to participation in warfare and several were
sentenced to periods of imprisonment for their refusal to join the
army when drafted. One member, John L. Staunton, was
disfellowshipped in 1865 for enlisting in the U.S. Army.
Articles during this period covered such subjects as "The Plan
of Salvation," "The Mark of the Beast" and "When Does the Sabbath
The Hope also carried news of conferences and meetings. At
one meeting a Sister Carter of Otsego, who for a long time had been
deprived of her power of speech, had a moving experience: her
speech was perfectly restored again. Glory to God!"
From time to time readers were urged to increase their
contributions in order that the size and quality of the magazine
could be enhanced. It was suggested that members might give up the
use of tobacco, described as "the poisonous weed" and donate the
money saved to "our little paper."
In 1864 the magazine subscription was increased to $1.00 per
year, that was for 26 issues. This period seems to have been
marked by a measure of growth within the Church of God. Procedures
were laid down for the ordination of ministers. Such men had to be
full of faith and the Holy Spirit and also to meet the
qualifications listed in I Timothy, chapter 3. They were set apart
by prayer and the laying on of hands.
Although ministers were ordained partly that order and
discipline should exist within congregations, each local church was
an independent unit and not under the authority or jurisdiction of
any higher church authority. Regular communications did exist
between churches, however, in order that their common cause should
The need for unity was stressed and so far as the church name
was concerned the members used either "The Church of God" or "The
Church of Christ." Division was to be avoided and all were to
strive for "one faith" and "one baptism."
Several articles and letters appeared which discussed the
precise time of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Although most writers took the "three days and three nights" to
mean exactly that -- 72 hours -- a measure of confusion existed
over the actual time that these events took place.
The Hope of Israel was often plagued by financial problems.
H.S. Dille, the office editor, was paid $4 per week, which even in
1865 was considered a low wage. At one point the church owed him
between $60 and $70. Even the most dedicated of workers could
hardly be expected to continue indefinitely under such conditions;
his health began to decline and several issues of the Hope did not
Members were constantly urged to do their part and support the
magazine financially; some had even neglected to pay their own
The October, 1865 issue was the last one to be published at
Waverly, Michigan. No further issues were produced until May,
1866, and by this time the paper had been moved to Marion, Iowa.
It now had a new editor, W.H. Brinkerhoff, and was published on a
semi-monthly basis. The subscription price by this time had
increased to $1.50 per year and each issue contained 16 pages.
One of the most energetic ministers of this period was Elder
J.H. Nichols. He began preaching for the Church of God in 1861 and
continued until his death in 1916. It has been said that he was
the first person to take the Sabbath truth west of the Rocky
Mountains when he preached on the site of Santa Rosa, California in
Articles and letters on a wide variety of subjects appeared in
the Hope. One such article examined "that dreadful disease known
as Trichinosis." The writer produced evidence to show that the only
certain way to avoid contracting the disease was to avoid eating
"Clean" and "unclean" meats appeared to have been the theme of
The magazine contained reports from church conferences and of
various evangelistic work conducted by the ministers. In June,
1866, H.S. Dille was disfellowshipped for joining the Mormons.
For several years a running battle was fought in the pages of
the Hope and Review and Herald between the Church of God people and
the Seventh Day Adventists. The two main points of issue were the
validity or otherwise of Mrs. Ellen G. White's visions and the
interpretation of the prophecies of the book of Revelation.
By about 1870 a decline in the zeal and enthusiasm of many of
the members may be detected. One reason for this could well be the
lack of real leadership in the church and the fact that the Hope,
which was the only real contact that many members had with others
of like faith, seemed to lack a clear, decisive and united policy
on many vital points of doctrine.
An example of this is the controversy which surrounded the
question of whether or not the "wicked dead" would be resurrected.
Articles in favour of this and against appeared in the magazine,
including the obvious answer that in order to have a "second death"
there would have to be a resurrection from the first death.
As a wide variety of often conflicting opinions were given
equal space in the magazine it seems probable that many readers
became confused and began to lose interest.
The Hope seems to have ceased publication for a period of
about two years (1869-71). When it resumed in June, 1871, it
published "Mr. Miller's Apology and Defense" being William
Miller's reasons why Christ had not returned in 1843-44 as he had
In 1872 the name of the magazine was changed from The Hope of
Israel to The Advent and Sabbath Advocate and Hope of Israel. This
rather cumbersome new title was favoured because the former title
did not draw the attention of the reader to the key doctrines of
the Church -- the Second Coming of Christ and the seventh-day
Sabbath. Publication of the paper was suspended between October,
1873 and March, 1874, due to differences of opinion between the
editor and the managers of the Publishing Association.
It was about this time that A.F. Dugger appears on the scene.
As a first-day preacher, he had been asked by his denomination to
write a book against the seventh-day Sabbath. The material
uncovered by his research convinced him, however, that the seventh
day and not the first was the true Christian Sabbath.
A letter to the Advocate in 1881 suggested that the practice
of tithing be introduced. This seems to have been a new doctrine
to the Church of God of this period.
The centre of activity for the church appears to have been in
Missouri at this time. A series of "campmeetings" were held which
drew crowds of from 1,200 to 1,500 people. These meetings were
occasions for both preaching services and social gatherings. They
seem to have been quite successful.
The Advocate ceased publication for some two years between
1882 and 1884; when it resumed publication, information was given
relating to the establishment of a branch of the Church of God at
In 1884 Elder A.F. Dugger, who was working from Fairfield,
Nebraska, announced the creation of a system of Sabbath school work
for young people.
Views were expressed in the Advocate which seems strange to a
twentieth century reader. During the period 1885-86 several
articles appeared which deplored "the evils of the skating rinks."
The General Conference of the Church of God for 1886 was held
at Marion, Iowa. Some interesting statistics were produced at the
time which shows how small and lacking in any real impact on the
world the Church of God really was during these final years of the
"Sardis" era. Reports revealed a membership of 75 in four churches
in Kansas, 440 in thirteen churches in Missouri and 365 in the
eight churches of Michigan. Total membership of the Church of God
in 1887 stood at about 1,000. There were 122 conversions in that
year and 30 ministers.
About 1890 the name of the magazine was changed yet again.
This time to Sabbath Advocate and Herald of the Advent. By 1892 a
branch of the Church of God had been established in South Dakota.
The following year a songbook of hymns and music was produced that
was said to be slanted towards truth so that members could freely
sing them; it was advertised in the Sabbath Advocate.
So "liberal" was the editorial policy of the magazine that in
1894 several articles were submitted which were against the
Sabbath. They were rejected by the editor.
The closing years of the nineteenth century saw a work being
done by the church in Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and
several other areas. In 1900 a sanitarium was opened at White
Cloud, Michigan. The name of the magazine was changed once again
in that same year -- this time to The Bible Advocate and Herald of
the Coming Kingdom.
At the General Conference of 1902 it was suggested that an
academy or college for the Church of God should be established.
In 1905 A.F. Dugger became the editor and manager of the Bible
Advocate. The Conference of that year passed a resolution to
reaffirm belief in the doctrine that tithes and offerings were the
means by which the Work should be supported.
By 1907 Elder Dugger's health was failing and he retired as
editor of the Bible Advocate. The vacancy was reluctantly filled
by Brother Brinkerhoff. On December 20 of that year a fire
destroyed a large part of the Advocate building, although most of
the printing type was rescued. Some of the machinery and many of
the tracts were destroyed by fire and water. The $700 insurance on
the building and printing materials covered only a part of the
loss, but contributions from members from many parts of the country
made up the balance of the loss.
In 1910 Elder A.F. Dugger died, but by this date we find his
son Andrew N. Dugger active in the ministry. The November, 1912
issue of the Bible Advocate carried news of a series of meetings
held by Andrew Dugger in schoolhouses at Empire Prairie, some eight
miles from Stanberry. The meetings were moderately successful and
it was said that several of those attending had minds receptive for
Mr. Dugger became quite well known in later years as one of
the authors (along with C.O. Dodd) of A History of the True
Religion. He died two or three years ago (from 1979) after one of
the longest ministries in Church of God history.
A good deal of space in the magazine was devoted to prophecy
and its relationship to world news. The "Eastern Question"
concerning the Balkan war and the decline of the Turkish Empire was
a favourite theme during 1913. These events were often linked with
the Biblical "Times of the Gentiles."
Several articles appeared during 1914-18 on the prophetic
significance of World War I. Many writers considered these events
as a fulfillment of some of the prophecies of Daniel. During this
period A.N. Dugger became editor of the Bible Advocate.
A number of public debates were held in 1916 between Church of
God ministers and those of other persuasions. Several conversions
were reported as a result of these activities. In April of the
following year when the United States entered World War I, A.N.
Dugger, together with a Congressman from Missouri, had a personal
meeting with President Woodrow Wilson, which resulted in the young
men of the Church being exempted from combatant service.
The capture of Jerusalem by the British General Allenby
towards the end of 1917 led to a series of articles in the Bible
Advocate entitled "Condensed History of Jerusalem and the Jews."
Church records for 1919 reveal that over 60 new members were
added in the states of Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri. The subject
of growth within the church seems to have been on the minds of some
at this time as a proposal was submitted that the Church of God
establish a college for the training of ministers.
By March, 1920, pledges and special offerings for this purpose
had been received which totaled $59,083.25 This sum also included
several wills. Not all within the church were in favour of the
project. Some held the view that God did not need a college for
His Work, that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was sufficient
and that colleges and schools were of the Devil.
A Bible Home Instructor was produced in 1920 and it was
offered to book agents who reported good sales. During this period
a tent campaign was conducted at Sabatha, Kansas and Maryville,
Missouri. Forty-three new members were added to the church.
Numerous campaigns and debates were held in various parts of
the United States during 1922 but results were hardly encouraging.
By this time field ministers numbered about forty, and their goal
was to bring one thousand new members into the church during 1922.
This was probably an optimistic objective.
During that year a new church was established in Mexico City
and interest in the Work was reported in China, India, New Zealand
Milton Grotz of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania visited Stanberry in
1923. He appears to have had quite a reputation for his healing
ministry. People came to his services not only from the local area
but also from many miles away. There were several reports of
healing miracles. Grotz, accompanied by Elder Dugger, also
conducted evangelistic campaigns at Bassett, Nebraska. It was said
that people with all manner of diseases, including cripples, were
healed. A local church of over eighty members was established
shortly after the end of the campaigns.
By 1923 the number of ministers had increased to 126 and
church membership estimated at 1,000 to 1,500. During the late
1920s the main thrust of the Work seems to have been concentrated
in a very aggressive program to sell Bible Home Instructors. The
salesmen or "Colporteurs" appear to have been pioneers in several
new areas. Ministers followed along later and raised up churches
after a sufficient level of interest had been aroused.
A very limited foreign work was also being conducted at this
time. Some of the church literature was translated in the Swedish
and German languages. Some, at this time, began to see the
potential of radio as a means of reaching mass audiences, and
efforts were made to raise money for a radio work.
The need for unity in preaching and writing was recognized and
by 1929 ministers were being urged to speak and write the same
thing. It soon became clear, however, that differences of opinion
still existed on a variety of doctrinal subjects.
It was during this time that a very special ministry was about
to begin in the state of Oregon which was to have a profound impact
on the next era of the Church of God.
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 13
1. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, R.C. Nickels, page 1.
2. History of the Sabbath, J.N. Andrews.
3. The Times of Stephen Mumford, by James McGeachy, page 1.
4. Ibid., page 2.
5. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, R.C. Nickels, page 3.
6. History of the Sabbath, J.N. Andrews.
7. The Times of Stephen Mumford, James McGeachy, page 5.
8. History of the Baptist Denomination, D. Benedict,
9. Ibid., page 921.
10. Seventh Day Baptist Memorial, page 160, vol. 2, no. 4;
Randolph, A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in
West Virginia, pages 19-20.
11. History of the Sabbath, J. N. Andrews.
12. Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, Plainfield,
New Jersey, pages 600 and 608.
13. See Westerly and its Witnesses, by F. Denison,
14. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, R.C. Nickels, page 7.
15. Seventh Day Baptists in New England, 1671-1971, Karl G.
Stillman, page 2.
16. Ibid., page 5.
17. Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, pages 602-3,
18. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, R.C. Nickels, pages 8-9.
19. Seventh-day Baptist Memorial, vol. 2, no. 3,
20. Seventh-Day Baptist Memorial, vol. 2, No. 3,
21. Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, page 674.
22. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, R.C. Nickels, page 20.
23. Seventh Day Baptists in New England, 1671-1971, K.G.
Stillman, page 7.
24. Ibid., pages 7-8.
25. Ibid., page 10.
26. History of the Origin and Growth of Sabbath-keeping in
America, James Bailey, pages 25-26, 20-23.
27. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, Richard C. Nickels,
28. Randolph's History of the Seventh Day Baptists, page 15.
29. Ibid., pages 20-24.
30. See Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, page 639.
31. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, R.C. Nickels, page 23.
32. A True History of the True Church, Herman L. Hoeh.,
33. Our People Bound Together, Albert N. Rogers, pages 4-5.
34. See A History of English Baptists by Underwood.
35. See Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, pages 153
36. Ibid., pages 855-59, 887-88, 854-64, 1367.
37. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, Richard C. Nickels,
pages 57 and 59.
38. Ibid., page 60.
39. Ibid., page 66.
40. A True History of the True Church, Herman L. Hoeh,
41. Sabbath Adventists, 1844-1863, R.C. Nickels, page 40.
42. A True History of the True Church, Herman L. Hoeh,
43. Ibid., page 24
44. History of the Church of God (Seventh Day), by John
Kiesz, page 12.
45. Ibid., pages 13-14.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN -- GO YOU INTO ALL THE WORLD
We now come to the modern era of the Church of God, a phase of
God's Work which in several important respects was quite unlike the
earlier eras which had preceded it.
Prior to the twentieth century the church had experienced only
a limited impact upon the world. During Roman times it was
confined to the Roman Empire and a few areas beyond its borders.
For over a thousand years during the Dark and Middle Ages, the true
church was driven underground and subjected to almost continual
persecution. Any public preaching of the true gospel was on a
small scale and of limited duration.
Even when the fires of persecution began to die down and
flicker out some three centuries ago, the church had become so worn
out by the privations that it had suffered that it could do little
more than hang on to the true doctrines that had been handed down
to it from ancient times. Little by little much of this truth had
slipped away and become lost by the beginning of the twentieth
Christ, however, had predicted that a time would come when the
Gospel of the Kingdom of God would be preached "IN ALL THE WORLD"
as a witness and warning of His imminent return to the earth to set
up the Kingdom and Government of God. The witness would go "UNTO
ALL NATIONS" (Matt. 24:14). Although the church itself was still
to be small in number, still a "little flock," it would have set
before it "an open door" through which to reach "all nations" (Rev.
The context of these verses and the reference to a worldwide
crisis, shortly before the return of Christ, proves that this
passage was largely prophetic relating to our modern age. The
"open door" through which a small group having "a little strength"
could reach the whole world must surely be such present day means
of mass communication as radio, television and publishing.
Christ also stated that the human leader of this "end time"
work would hold a position or office similar to that of Elijah.
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall
first come, and restore all things" (Matt. 17:11). It is important
to realize that John the Baptist, who also held the office of
Elijah, was already dead and his work completed when this statement
was made (Matt. 14:1-12).
The end time "Elijah" was to conduct a work on a much greater
scale than that of John. He was to "restore all things" including
the knowledge of how to have happy family relationships (Mal.
4:5-6), and to proclaim the gospel on a worldwide scale (Mal.
A work carried out on such a large scale, involving the
expenditure of vast sums of money, could not be handled by one man
alone. It had, of necessity, to be supported by group, an entire
era of the Church of God (Rev. 3: 7-13). Christ said that one
should evaluate a minister on his fruits -- the results of his
ministry. In this chapter we will examine the life and work of
Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God.
This story "is the incredible story of something never done
before -- never done this way -- a seemingly impossible achievement
utterly unique in the world!
"By all the criteria of organizational and institutional
experience, it simply could never have happened.
"Every phase of this globe-girdling Work has been something
altogether unique -- a first -- the blazing of a new trail.
"Ambassador College is astonishingly unique among institutions
of higher learning.
"The Plain Truth magazine is utterly unique in the publishing
"The World Tomorrow program, viewed and heard by millions on
both radio and television daily, is entirely unique in
"And the Worldwide Church of God, behind these global
enterprises, is altogether unique on the earth -- practicing, as it
does, the revealed ways of the living Creator God, and for the
first time in 18 1/2 centuries, thundering His all-important
message over all continents of the earth."1
So wrote Mr. Armstrong in the introduction to the 1973 edition
of his autobiography.
The "Work," as it sometimes called, has been described as one
of the most incredible success stories of our time." For 35 years
the Work grew at an average increase of 30 per cent per year. This
means a doubling in size, scope and power every two and two third
years, and increasing over four thousand times in 32 years.
Here is an organization with no product to sell but rather one
to give away, free of charge, to the consumer. Did ever a
commercial company, or any other enterprise even set out with such
a policy, much less grow and prosper?
Herbert Armstrong takes no personal credit for the success of
the venture that has dominated his life for over fifty years.
"For it is the story of what the living God can do -- and has
done through a very average human instrument, called and chosen by
Him -- one whose eyes He opened to astonishing truth -- one He
reduced to humble obedience, yielded in faith and dedicated to
God's way! God promised to bless His own Work. And how greatly He
has blessed and prospered it like the grain of mustard seed, it
grew -- and grew!"
Mr. Armstrong was born July 31, 1892, in Des Moines, Iowa, of
respected Quaker stock. His ancestors had come from England along
with William Penn.
His boyhood was a happy one and typical of many others in the
United States around the turn of the century. At age 16 he
obtained his first job away from home as a waiter in an Altoona
hotel. It was at this point in his life that Herbert, inspired by
the praise of his employer, began to consider the subject of
success in life and, fired with newly acquired self-confidence and
a measure of cocky ambition, began to seek out the ladder of
success and started to climb it.
This desire to succeed was motivated entirely by vanity and
what he was much later to define as the selfish "get" philosophy of
life. It was also, however, a burning and driving passion such as
only a tiny minority of human beings ever experience. For the
majority of people around the world to earn a reasonable wage and
to achieve a measure of physical security and comfort represents
about the limit of personal ambition.
For several years he read, or, rather devoured, every book
that he could obtain relating to personal success, including
Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, three times over.
One such work, entitled Choosing a Vocation, took him an
important step further down the road to success. The thorough
self-analysis that was advocated revealed to Mr. Armstrong that he
would be most suited to the professions of journalism and
Although ambitious, Herbert Armstrong was not too proud to
seek and accept career guidance from those that he respected and
obtained a job selling advertising space for a newspaper.
He learned by practical experience several of the "Seven Laws
of Success." A goal was fixed -- to become "important" in the field
of business, he educated himself towards the goal and by degrees
came to an understanding of the laws which regulate good health.
Drive was developed as he drove himself forward with dynamic
energy. Resourcefulness and perseverance were also employed in the
relentless quest for success. The seventh law of success was not
understood until many years later.
In 1912 Herbert Armstrong talked himself into an advertising
position with The Merchants Trade Journal of Des Moines, despite
the protests of the advertising manager that no such vacancy
During his time with the Journal he was able to develop the
crucial skills in writing effective advertisements which were to
pay dividends many years later in drawing the attention of the
public to his own religious orientated booklets and The Plain Truth
Here, under expert tuition, he learned the art of writing
eye-catching and thought-provoking headlines, sub-headings that
grabbed the attention and created suspense in the reader -- a
desire to know more. His text matter began to hold the interest
and arouse desire to obtain the product offered for sale and
finally an emotional appeal was designed to stir the reader to
action -- to go out and buy the item that had been promoted.
Within two to three years he was writing ads that brought
results. The words and phrases used were plain, simple and direct;
they were designed to appeal, in an effective and to the common man
or woman, people of sincere manner, average educational background.
Mr. Armstrong began to develop an effective writing style: "It
had to be fast-moving, vigorous, yet simple, interesting, making
the message plain and understandable." All this training in
communication skills, although not remotely realized at the time,
was merely preparation for a life's work which would become
apparent much later.
In order to create interest, the ads were presented in a
story-flow form, in which the reader felt impelled to read on to
the end. They were sincere and based on the slogan "Truth in
"But I was entirely sincere. Usually a bragging, conceited
young lad who is cocky, is also an insincere, flippant, smart
aleck. I was not. It seems I was, by nature, deeply sincere and
in earnest, and although excessively self-confident, even snappy
and cocky in manner, there was always with it a sense of
earnestness and dignity. At least I thought I was right, and in my
heart meant to be. Human nature wants to be good, but seldom does
it want to do good. That natural desire in one to wish to consider
himself good, I suppose, led to an attitude of sincerity."2
In 1913 Mr. Armstrong began touring the United States as an
"Idea Man" for the Journal. He interviewed merchants and gathered
material on successful business ideas which he presented in article
form in the Journal. During this period, he was forced to put a
prod on himself and become an "early bird," rising at 6 a.m.
Work of this nature gave him the opportunity for in-depth
study into the question of why some succeed in the business world
and others fail. Much later in life he was to write of his
findings in this field in a booklet The Seven Laws of Success.
Some of these laws were learned by bitter experience -- Herbert
Armstrong had his failures as well as successes. Although he was
developing valuable expertise in his field, his own lack of
maturity caused him to often sell his services at a fraction of
their true value. As a piano salesman he was a dismal failure and
was unable to sell a single piano.
Mr. Armstrong's real flair was for advertising. He reflected
the saying, "Where there's a will there's a way." He was a man of
vision and constantly conceived of ideas, involving the skillful
application of advertising, which would expand and extend the
businesses that received his attention.
During the course of his business career he became personally
acquainted with hundreds of prominent bankers and many other
leaders in the world of commerce. One of the factors which
contributed to his own success was that he spent a good deal of
time with men who were successful.
In 1917, Herbert Armstrong met the woman who was to be his
first wife and constant source of help and encouragement for almost
fifty years. He is convinced that God, who seemingly was guiding
other aspects of his life, played a definite part in the selection
of Loma Dillon as the future Mrs. Armstrong.
Loma, who was a distant cousin of her husband-to-be, exuded an
almost boundless energy, sparkle, sincere friendliness and outgoing
personality. Herbert, himself very much a "live wire," was
immediately impressed and found himself drawn towards her.
She was a girl of superior intelligence and high ideals.
Although lacking in sophistication and somewhat naive, she did have
strength of character and the captivating "unspoiled wholesomeness
of an Iowa country girl."
They began to date, by personal contact and exchange of
letters, and, over a period of several months, shared each other's
views on a variety of serious subjects. Love began to blossom but
marriage plans were complicated by the entry of the United States
into World War I.
Mr. Armstrong, in common with many other young men, was
stirred by the emotion of patriotism and applied to join the army
as an officer trainee. He felt very strongly that all plans for
marriage should be postponed until after the war was over. Loma,
driven by the urgent yearnings of a girl in love, was of the
opposite opinion and wanted them to marry without delay.
They were married on Herbert's twenty-fifth birthday, July 31,
Shortly after the wedding Mrs. Armstrong had a most unusual
dream that was so vivid that it left her in a dazed and shocked
condition for several days. In the dream, she, along with her
husband, was crossing a busy Chicago intersection where Broadway
and Sheridan Road meet. Suddenly a dazzling spectacle of stars in
the shape of a huge banner appeared in the sky. As she and her
husband were looking up at the sight, the stars moved away and
three angels descended and began to talk with them; Christ also
spoke briefly to them.
The message that the Armstrongs received was that Christ was
shortly to return to earth and that they were to have a part in
preparing for this awesome event. Mr. Armstrong was embarrassed by
the dream, and at the time did not ascribe to it any particular
importance or significance.
Later that year, 1917, Mr. Armstrong received a draft
classification of "Class IV, Noncombatant," which meant that he was
not called up for Army service as he had expected. He was free to
continue his promising career in advertising. Success, and along
with it personal income, increased rapidly.
"Actually, during these next few years, I did not work more
than four or five days a month. But, with the nine magazines and
a national circulation, the commission of a half-page, or a
full-page contract for one year was rather large. I did not need
to have too many of the brilliant days to make a good year's
"From memory, my income for that year 1918 was approximately
$7,300; for 1919 approximately $8,700; and for 1920 over $11,000.
When you consider that a dollar in those days was worth more than
three times the value of today's dollar, those incomes today (1957)
would be more nearly like terms of the 1984 dollar, $22,000;
$26,000; and $35,000."3 In terms of the 1984 dollar, you could add
a zero to those amounts and be fairly accurate.
By 1920 the Armstrongs had become the proud parents of two
daughters, Beverly Lucile and Dorothy Jane. The birth of the
second baby, however, was accompanied by serious risk to the health
of mother and baby.
"The world-famous obstetrical specialist brought in on my
wife's case in Chicago, her Des Moines doctor, and my wife's uncle
who was a captain in the Medical Corps in the Army, all told us
that another pregnancy would mean the certain death of my wife and
of the baby. Although we did not know at the time, we learned much
later we were of the opposite Rh blood factor."4
The lucrative and successful advertising career that seemed to
be taking Herbert Armstrong towards his goal of being "important"
in the commercial world was not to last. By 1922 the depression
that had rapidly swept the United States had ruined almost all of
his major clients.
"Things in my business went from bad to worse. It was
discouraging -- frustrating. I was taking the biggest beating of
my life, but hung stubbornly on. Finally, about July, 1922, it
became necessary to give up our apartment. My income had gone too
low to support my family, and at that time we decided that Mrs.
Armstrong and the girls should go to her Father's farm in lowa, to
lessen the expenses."5
This solution to the problem, however, proved to be no real
solution at all. With too much time on his hands and lacking the
support and companionship of his family, Mr. Armstrong decided to
leave Chicago and join them in Iowa.
For a time Mr. Armstrong went back to selling business surveys
to newspapers, but with only a limited measure of success. In 1924
the whole family set out on a trip to visit his parents in Oregon.
Their transport was a "Model T" Ford.
After several interesting experiences and a host of car
problems they finally reached the West Coast and settled at
Portland, Oregon. It was here that a new business opportunity
opened up for Herbert -- writing big-space ads for a laundry. This
was a new style of advertising, being largely educational in
content and involved persuading women customers that the laundry
would not "ruin" their clothing as some had suspected.
This new venture was successful beyond anything that he had
previously tried -- there were prospects of an eventual income of
up to half a million dollars a year, but then "the bottom fell out"
of this new business and his income was reduced to $50 per month.
Mr. Armstrong and his family now experienced real poverty and
"In Chicago I had built a publisher representative business
that brought me an income equivalent to $35,000 a year or more
before I was thirty. The flash depression of 1920 had swept away
all my major clients, and with them my business.
"Now, with a new business of much greater promise, all my
clients were suddenly removed from possibility of access, through
powers and forces entirely outside of my control. "It seemed,
indeed, as if some invisible and mysterious hand were causing the
earth to simply swallow up whatever business I started."6
It was at about this point, in 1926, that Herbert Armstrong
was to face the most momentous turning point of his life. An
elderly neighbour lady, Mrs. Ora Runcorn, began to re awaken Mrs.
Armstrong's interest in religious and spiritual matters, with the
result that Mrs. Armstrong became convinced that the Bible clearly
stated that Saturday and not Sunday was the true Christian Sabbath.
To Mr. Armstrong, however, this "wonderful discovery" was
nothing short of "rank fanaticism." The controversy became so
heated that it seemed this issue could well lead to the break-up of
"I felt I could not tolerate such humiliation. What would my
friends say? What would former business acquaintances think?
Nothing had ever hit me where it hurt so much -- right smack in the
heart of all my pride and vanity and conceit! And this mortifying
blow had to fall immediately on top of confidence-crushing
"In desperation, I said: `Loma, you can't tell me that all
these churches have been wrong all these hundreds of years! Why,
aren't these all Christ's churches?'
"`Then,' came back Mrs. Armstrong, `why do they all disagree
on so many doctrines? Why does each one teach differently than the
"`But,' I still contended, `isn't the Bible the very source of
the teaching of all these Christian churches? And they all agree on
observing Sunday! I'm sure the Bible says, "Thou shalt keep
"`Well, does it?' smiled my wife, handing me a Bible.
"`Show it to me. If it does -- then I'll do what it says'."7
Mr. Armstrong, although he knew little of the Bible, agreed to
conduct a thorough study into this question and to find out from
the Bible which day Christians should keep holy.
Reduced to a state of virtual unemployment, and having just
one advertising account left which absorbed no more than about
thirty minutes a week of his time, he was able to devote six months
of his life to an intensive, in-depth study into such questions as
-- Does God exist?, Did life evolve -- or was it created?, Which
day is the Christian Sabbath? and other related topics.
This period of intense study was not to be done on a casual
basis out of mere curiosity. Much of it was done at the Portland
Public Library where he worked from opening to closing time. Each
question was examined from every possible angle and viewpoint,
often the study continued at home until the early hours of the
The end result of this experience was that Mr. Armstrong found
unmistakable evidence that God did exist, that the Bible, in its
original form, was inspired and accurate, and that the seventh day
was the only Sabbath authorized by the Bible, Christ and the
apostles, that Sunday worship had been taken directly from
He also found evidence that the theory of evolution was both
unproved and by its very nature unprovable. Science could offer no
answers to account for the host of problems and "gaps" within the
theory. The sheer complexity of the vast array of life forms on
earth, and the amazing interdependency that existed between them,
demanded intelligent planning and creation -- blind chance and
accident could never account for the varied and exquisite beauty of
everything from a tiny insect and delicate flower to the mighty
elephant or whale. Mr. Armstrong has since written booklets which
explain the details of his findings.
Evolution could not account for the vast gulf between animal
brain and human mind -- the only solution to this mystery is that
there does indeed exist a "spirit in man" that separates human kind
from all other life-forms on earth.
Herbert Armstrong, now at the crucial turning point of his
life, realized that God had revealed amazing truth to him. The
all-important question was: would he accept it and live by it? God
had already "softened" him, it seems, by destroying every material
money making enterprise that had been started. His self-confidence
had been shattered.
"To accept this truth meant -- so I supposed -- to cut me off
from my former friends, acquaintance and business acquaintances and
associates. I had come to meet some of the independent
`Sabbath-keepers,' down around Salem and the Willamette Valley.
Some of them were what I then, in my pride and conceit, regarded as
backwoods `hillbillies.' None were of the financial and social
position of those I had associated with.
"My associations and pride had led me to `look down upon' this
class of people. I had been ambitious to hob-nob with the wealthy
and the cultural.
"I saw plainly what a decision was before me. To accept this
truth meant to throw in my lot for life with a class of people I
had always looked on as inferior. I learned later that God looks
on the heart, and these humble people were the real salt of the
earth. But I was then still looking on the outward appearance. It
meant being cut off completely and forever from all to which I had
aspired. It meant a total crushing of vanity. It meant a total
change of life!
"I counted the cost!
"But then, I had been beaten down. I had been humiliated. I
had been broken in spirit, frustrated. I had come to look on this
formerly esteemed self as a failure. I now took another good look
"And I acknowledged: `I'm nothing but a burned-out old hunk of
"I realized I had been a swellheaded, egotistical jackass.
"Finally, in desperation, I threw myself on God's mercy. I
said to God that I knew, now, that I was nothing but a burned-out
hunk of junk. My life was worth nothing more to me. I said to God
that I knew now I had nothing to offer Him -- but if He would
forgive me -- if He could have any use whatsoever for such a
worthless dreg of humanity, that He could have my life; I knew it
was worthless, but if He could do anything with it, He could have
it -- I was willing to give this worthless self to Him -- I wanted
to accept JESUS CHRIST as personal Saviour!
"I meant it! It was the toughest battle I ever fought. It was
a battle for LIFE. I lost that battle, as I had been recently
losing all battles. I realized Jesus Christ had bought and paid
for my life. I gave in. I surrendered, unconditionally.
"I told Christ He could have what was left of me! I didn't
think I was worth saving!"8
Although the process of repentance and real conversion was,
for Mr. Armstrong, an experience, painful almost beyond words, to
describe, it brought with it a deep and lasting JOY that more than
replaced the personal goal of being "important," that he had
decided to reject.
In his continual study of the Bible, he began to come to see
more and more spiritual truth, "a single doctrine at a time."
Although the literature of many religious groups and churches was
studied, the Bible alone remained the ultimate authority on
Mr. and Mrs. Runcorn introduced the Armstrongs to a small
group of "Church of God" people at Salem and Jefferson, Oregon.
They began to fellowship with these people.
Having seen the clear command to new converts to "repent, and
be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts
2:38), Herbert Armstrong became baptized, by total immersion in
water. Following this he found that he could now really understand
"It was like a miracle! And indeed, it was a miracle! The very
Holy Spirit of God had come into and renewed my mind. I had been
baptized by the Holy Spirit into the true Body of Christ, the
Church of God -- but I did not realize that fact literally. I was
still to search earnestly to find the one and only true Church
which Jesus founded, before recognizing fully He had already placed
me in it!"9
In August, 1927, Mrs. Armstrong became dangerously ill due to
an unusual chain of circumstances involving a dog bite,
tonsillitis, a "backset," and blood poisoning.
Quinsy developed and her throat became swollen shut. For
three days and nights she was unable to eat or drink. Lack of
sleep was leading to a state of near exhaustion. The red line of
the blood poisoning was streaking up the right arm on its way to
the heart; Mrs. Armstrong was not expected to live another
At this point it was suggested to Mr. Armstrong that a man and
wife come and anoint and pray for Mrs. Armstrong.
Although feeling embarrassed at the prospect, Mr. Armstrong
The couple arrived, and after answering several questions on
the subject of healing from the Bible, the man anointed Mrs.
Armstrong and prayed in faith to God that He, in accordance with
His written promise to heal, would totally heal her of all
sickness. After sleeping deeply until 11 A.M. the next day Mrs.
Armstrong arose from bed completely healed.
For the Armstrongs the nineteen twenties marked the beginning
of more than a quarter of a century of financial hardship.
Although suffering -- often to the point of going hungry -- the
years also brought great personal happiness and joy of
understanding more and more of God's truth.
"In those days we were constantly behind with our house rent.
When we had a little money for food we bought beans and such food
as would provide the most bulk for the least money. Often we went
hungry. Yet, looking back over those days, Mrs. Armstrong was
remarking just the day before this was written that we were finding
happiness despite the economic plight, and we did not complain or
grumble. But we did suffer.
"From the time of my conversion Mrs. Armstrong has always
studied with me. We didn't realize it then but God was calling us
together. We were always a team, working together in unity."10
As new doctrinal truths were uncovered one at a time, it
seemed only natural that Mr. Armstrong should want to share them
with others that he assumed would be overjoyed to receive them. He
was sadly disillusioned to find that where obedience to God and His
Word is involved few indeed had the motivation of faith to go
against commonly held views. Even the "man of God" who had been
used in the healing of Mrs. Armstrong was unwilling to accept a
point of new truth which Mr. Armstrong had wished to share with
him. The sad result was that God took away from him the wonderful
"gift of healing" that he had up to that point been using.
Herbert Armstrong was also to learn by bitter experience that
he was utterly unable to "get our families converted." The
unconverted mind simply cannot understand spiritual things. No
person can come to Christ unless God, through the Holy Spirit,
"draws" the person.
A question which greatly concerned and perplexed Armstrong was
-- where is God's true Church today? Which of the many hundreds of
differing sects and churches -- if any -- constituted the real
"Church of God" which Jesus established?
"My shocking, disappointing, eye-opening discovery, upon
looking into the Bible for myself, had revealed in stark plainness
that the teachings of traditional Christianity were, in most basic
points, the very opposite of the teachings of Christ, of Paul, and
of the original true Church!
"Could the original and only true Church have disintegrated
and disappeared? Could it have ceased to exist? No, for I read
where Jesus said the gates of the grave would never prevail against
it. Also He said to His disciples who formed His Church, `Lo, I am
with you always.'"11
This quest to find the true church finally led Herbert
Armstrong to a small almost unheard of group calling itself "The
Church of God," which ran a publishing house at Stanberry,
Missouri. Part of the history of this group has been covered in an
earlier chapter of this book.
Although it had the right name and obeyed the commandments of
God (Rev. 12:17), it numbered only about 2,000 members and seemed
to be almost totally lacking in real power and works. As it had
more Bible truth than any other group, the Armstrongs began to
fellowship with some of its scattered members in Oregon.
Some of the fruits of Mr. Armstrong's research were presented
to the church in article form, and several such articles were
published in The Bible Advocate. Other material, however, although
privately endorsed as "new truth" by some of the leaders of the
church, was not publicly proclaimed for fear that some members
might become offended and withdraw financial support.
In 1928, after much urging by local church members, Mr.
Armstrong preached his first "sermon" to a small congregation near
Salem. His subject was the Sabbath Covenant. Leaders within the
church began to show signs of concern and suspicion over the
members; and opposition, which was to last for several years, began
That year, 1928, saw the birth of a son to the Armstrongs,
Richard David. A year and four months later Garner Ted was born.
This period was one of severe financial hardship for the
Armstrongs, but also one of real growth spiritually; a time when
humility was developed and when they were forced to rely on God for
many of the essentials of life.
Shortly before the birth of Garner Ted in 1930, the family
suffered a severe trial. Mrs. Armstrong was anaemic and her
condition, which was caused by a serious iron deficiency,
threatened the safe delivery of the unborn child. No money was
available for hospital bills -- even the bill relating to the
delivery of Richard David had not yet been paid.
Mr. Armstrong was virtually driven to seek the solution to the
problem by fasting and prayer. This period of self-examination to
discover where he was wrong, led him to realize that a business
project had been absorbing his mind to the detriment of a close
relationship with God. He repented of this and within a very short
space of time an amazing series of incidents resulted in all of
their immediate material needs being satisfied.
"And, Ted, too, was born as a result of an almost incredible
miracle of healing only three weeks before his birth! But God had
need of these two sons.
"We dedicated them, of course, to God from birth -- for Him to
use as He had need."12
In June, 1931, after some three years of preaching experience,
Mr. Armstrong was ordained a minister -- not by the Stanberry,
Missouri headquarters, but by the separately incorporated "Oregon
Conference" of the Church of God. Not everyone welcomed this
"From the first, and for some time, I was treated by the
ministers as the green-horn tail-ender among them. They used every
practice and device constantly to humiliate me and belittle me in
the eyes of the brethren. I needed this -- and I knew God knew I
needed it! Aware of my need of humility, I felt, myself, that I was
the `least of the ministers.' However, the brethren loved me and
continued looking to me for leadership. The only `fruit' being
borne resulted from my efforts. This, naturally, was the very
reason for the opposition and persecution."13
For a time, Herbert Armstrong worked with various ministers of
the "Sardis" era, and participated in several evangelistic
campaigns. He was employed by the Oregon Conference at a salary of
$3 per week. Members also provided the Armstrongs with sacks of
flour, beans and other foodstuffs.
Mr. Armstrong came to an understanding of tithing during this
period, and found out from experience that it really worked.
By 1933, opposition and persecution from those within the
ministry had reached such a level that Herbert Armstrong felt
compelled to reject the $3 salary in order to be free to preach the
Word of God without restriction. Pressure had been growing within
the ministry to dictate what should be preached. Although it was
not realized at the time, this rejection of financial support from
those who did not support Mr. Armstrong's work, marked the
beginning of the "Philadelphia" era of the Church of God, as
described in Revelation chapter 3.
"But, from that moment when we began to rely solely on God for
financial support not only, but also for guidance, direction, and
results, the Work began a phenomenal yearly increase of 30% for the
next 35 years."14
For six weeks during the summer of that year, 1933, a series
of meetings, with Mr. Armstrong speaking, were held at the Firbutte
schoolhouse near Eugene, Oregon. A new Sabbath-keeping church of
over 20 members was established as a result of this.
In September of that year an opportunity presented itself for
Mr. Armstrong to speak on a local 100 watt radio station, KORE of
Eugene. It was a morning devotional program lasting for fifteen
minutes and was available, free of charge, to local ministers.
The first program brought a surprising response; fourteen
letters and telephone calls were received by the station asking for
written copies of the message. This was the first time that such
a response had been received by a program of this type, and Mr.
Frank Hill, the station owner, invited Mr. Armstrong to present a
regular half-hour Sunday morning church service, for which a small
charge of $2.50 per broadcast would be made.
Herbert Armstrong became aware that God was opening before
him, in a small way to begin with, the door of mass evangelism. He
had faith that God would provide the financial means by which the
broadcast could be sustained.
"And, to finance what He opened before me, He added, slowly,
gradually, but consistently to the little family of Co-workers who
voluntarily wanted to have a part in God's WORK -- in changing
hearts, changing human nature, preparing for Christ's coming to
CHANGE AND SAVE THE WORLD! But I could not invite people to become
Co-workers. I could welcome them with gratitude when GOD caused
them voluntarily to become Co-workers with Christ -- but until they
took the initiative I could not ask them. No other activity on
earth is operated like this -- and perhaps none has grown so
The radio program was first called "Radio Church of God,"15
and was indeed a church service, including music provided by a
mixed quartet. Later, when it was realized that the audience was
drawn by the message of a speech-type program, the title was
changed to "The World Tomorrow" and the format also gradually
On the first Sunday in 1934, the Plain Truth magazine was
first introduced to the public through the broadcast. That first
issue was "a pretty amateurish, home-made looking sort of thing."
About 250 copies were produced by hand on a mimeograph.
The aim was to publish a magazine going to the general public,
not primarily church members, to make plain God's truth -- the true
gospel of God's coming kingdom. For several years all articles
were written by Mr. Armstrong.
Like the proverbial grain of mustard seed, the magazine was to
grow, and grow, and grow in quality and circulation. By 1973 it
had become a high quality, professional appearing, 52-page magazine
with a circulation of over three million.
A "three-point campaign" was started which used the broadcast,
magazine, and personal public meetings. Although some believed
that people would never support this campaign because "you are
preaching exactly what the Bible says -- people don't want to be
told they are wrong," it was the critics who were proved wrong.
One crucial factor that few understand, or are willing to
accept is that "there has been vision behind the planning and
phenomenal growth of this great work. But this is the WORK OF GOD,
not of man."16
The early public meetings drew crowds of about 100, but a
measure of persecution and opposition was received from local
For some years Mr. Armstrong and the little group that looked
to him for leadership cooperated with the "Sardis" church but did
not "join" it in the sense of coming under its authority.
Although the cost of producing The Plain Truth and radio
broadcast in 1934 was almost unbelievably small by modern
standards, members and co-workers seemed almost never to be able to
provide those funds in full. At one point contributions fell short
by $4.33 per month.
"I had no idea, then, where that additional $4.33 per month
was to come from! But I felt positively assured that God had opened
this door of radio, and expected me to walk on through it! And I
relied implicitly on the PROMISE in Scripture that `my God shall
supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ
Jesus.' And although God has allowed many severe tests of faith,
that promise has always been kept!"17
Progress continued to be made, but not without effort and real
sacrifice on the part of the Armstrongs and their little band of
coworkers. The struggle was "uphill an the way." By August, 1935,
the radio audience had grown to an estimated 10,000. The number of
people attending the public meetings also gradually increased. By
1936 some meetings attracted 200 or more people.
It took time to learn that the Work was to move ahead on
faith. When Mr. Armstrong began to rely on the promises of people
rather than to simply walk through the doors that God was opening
-- relying on God to provide the means --at such times the doors
remained closed until faith was exercised. By the end of 1936 the
broadcast was being carried by the three radio stations of the
For a two-and-a-half year period, from August, 1935 to
January, 1938 The Plain Truth ceased publication entirely. This
was later seen by Mr. Armstrong as a punishment and means of
correction resulting from his own lack of faith.
During 1937, steady progress was made towards "our goal of
100,000" radio listeners. Looking back on that period, Mr.
Armstrong reflected: "WHAT A GOAL! That looked mighty BIG, then!
Yet to-day (1973) our listening audience is estimated at some one
hundred and fifty MILLION people per week."18
Despite persecution, and even attempts by some opposing
ministers to stop the broadcast altogether, the Work continued and
prospered. Soon it was being heard not only in most of Oregon, but
also parts of Washington. Financial contributions, however, as
usual seemed woefully inadequate-many were willing to listen to the
message but few were willing to provide financial support to help
The Plain Truth was revived in January, 1938. Funds were
still not available for it to be printed, however, and, as before,
it was hand-produced on the mimeograph. The task of producing and
sending out the magazine was handled by Helen Starkey, Mr. and Mrs.
Armstrong, and a few volunteer helpers. By this time the mailing
list had risen to 1,050.
Expenses for the Work (including living costs for the
Armstrongs) had by that year reached $300 per month. The financial
pressures were such that at one point Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong came
close to losing their small home. They struggled on, and, by
combining the May-June issue of the magazine in 1938, were able to
present the first printed issue. It included, for the first time,
the slogan, "A Magazine of Understanding."
Although reaching an increasingly large audience, many aspects
of the "Work" at this time could only be described as crude: the
"office" was no more than a small, inside, unventilated room.
There were no filing cabinets -- just cardboard cartons, no
addressing machine, mail was addressed by hand-even the office desk
was an old scarred table.
As war raged in Europe, and the Battle of Britain reached its
climax, the broadcast started on KRSC, in Seattle, September 15,
1940. This gave good coverage of the Pacific Northwest.
The Plain Truth then, as now, was speaking out boldly on world
news subjects, as they related to Bible prophecy. The
August-September issue for 1940 announced that "the invasion of the
British Isles is awaited hourly -- may be in actual progress before
this paper is in your hands -- may, possibly, not come at all."
By the end of the year the subscription list to the magazine
had reached 3,000, and the estimated listening audience to the
broadcast stood at 150,000. Publishing and mailing costs were in
the region of $100 per issue of the magazine.
A growing number of listeners to the program were coming to
recognize that they were hearing "God's very own message." A small
number even began sending financial contributions. Letters were
received which indicated that an increasing number of lives were
being changed by the broadcasts -- atheists converted, a suicide
prevented, many after searching for years were now finding a real
purpose in their lives.
1941 was a year of rapid growth. The weekly listening
audience from the three stations in Eugene and Portland, Oregon,
and Seattle, Washington, grew to a quarter of a million. The Plain
Truth circulation reached 5,000 and by this time it had become a
printed 16-page magazine.
Real "growing pains" were experienced about this time. The
dismal, cramped "office" with its antiquated equipment became quite
inadequate to handle the increasing volume of mail. In May of that
year a larger, sun-lit office became available in the I.O.O.F.
building in Eugene. Newer and more suitable office equipment was
gradually purchased for a Work which was "growing up."
Mr. Armstrong became filled with an increasing sense of
urgency to send out a powerful warning message to modern "Israel,"
the United States, Britain and other nations of northwestern
Europe. Not just his message, of course, but God's.
In 1942 the church-service type program with its singing of
hymns prior to the message was dropped and the format so well known
to "World Tomorrow" listeners was adopted. The name of the program
was also changed to "The World Tomorrow." With its increasingly
professional presentation, the program became more acceptable to
really "big-time" radio stations. A major step forward occurred
when it was accepted by station KMTR, located in Hollywood.
Art Gilmore, the well-known coast-to-coast announcer, was
employed to introduce and sign off the broadcast. The fact that
Hollywood was the radio headquarters of the nation was a great
advantage, as the Work was able to have access to top quality
Putting the "World Tomorrow" on a Hollywood radio station
represented a big leap forward for the Work. It resulted in a
doubling of the listening audience.
When an opportunity came to begin daily broadcasting over
station KMTR, Mr. Armstrong accepted the offer as a matter of faith
-- there were no indications at the time as to how the sudden jump
in expenses -- a doubling in fact -- would be met. By now he had
learned that when a door opened before him he had to walk through
it in faith-relying on God to provide the needed finance. The
check for the first week's broadcast took "every dollar we had in
The response to daily broadcasting was immediate and
tremendous, the sudden big increase in financial contributions was
sufficient to ensure that the broadcasts could continue. Faith was
rewarded -- God did supply the funds as and when they were needed.
The broadcast was now heard seven days a week in Southern
California. It went out at 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and 9:30 Sunday
Such was the impact of the broadcast that when the Biltmore
Theatre, Los Angeles, was hired for a Sunday afternoon personal
appearance campaign by Mr. Armstrong, 1,750 people attended. After
the meeting, when the two offering boxes were opened, they were
found to contain, to within one cent, the exact sum needed to cover
the expenses of hiring the building.
By 1943, the radio broadcast was being heard in every state.
Stations had been added in Spokane and San Diego. Later the first
superpower clear-channel station could be picked up in every state;
one broadcast alone brought in 2,200 letters from listeners.
Shortly afterwards, a second exclusive channel station, the
50,000 watt WOAI, San Antonio, accepted the program; it went out at
11 p.m. on Sundays.
During this period, strong persecution was received from
organized religious sources, much of it coming from New York --
there were many it seems who wanted "The World Tomorrow" broadcast
put off the air.
As a result of evangelistic services held in the Chamber of
Commerce auditorium in Seattle and smaller services at Everett,
Washington, a small church congregation was established in that
By the end of 1943, The Plain Truth was able to list ten
stations that carried the broadcast. One small Texas station even
offered, without being approached by Mr. Armstrong, to carry the
program. In 1944 the mail response indicated that the radio
audience had risen to over half a million and the Plain Truth
circulation reached 35,000 copies per month, sent out at a cost of
$1,000 per issue. Each copy, at this time, had gone down from
sixteen to only twelve pages.
During the decade between 1934 and 1944 the radio power used
by the church rose from 100 watts per week to 91,000 watts. By
1962 it had reached more than 22 million watts per week.
Prior to the founding of Ambassador College, Mr. Armstrong was
the only converted and ordained minister in what was then the Radio
Church of God (the name was later changed to Worldwide Church of
God). As small church congregations were raised up from the
growing radio audience, no qualified and dedicated ministers were
available to pastor these congregations.
The result was that "fierce wolves" began to enter in,
"devouring the flock." This was one of the prime reasons which led
Mr. Armstrong to establish the college. Qualified and loyal
ministers were desperately needed by the growing Work of God.
In 1944 a major financial crisis developed for the Work. Ten
thousand booklet requests went unsatisfied as funds were not
available to print and send them out. Prospects of having the
broadcast forever off the air induced the Armstrongs to sell their
small home. They were determined to keep the Work going, even if
"it took our all." For the time being the Work was saved. For Mr.
and Mrs. Armstrong, however, the sale of their home meant three
frustrating years with no permanent home. They, along with their
unmarried children, were forced to move, every few days or weeks,
from one temporary home (mostly auto courts) to another.
By this time, they placed no great importance on material
prosperity or security. The tremendous spiritual blessings which
they had come to enjoy, and the privilege of serving in God's Work,
far outweighed the loss of worldly acquisitions.
During this period, the radio program was aired by means of
electrical transcriptions. Programs were received on large size
semi-soft acetate phonograph discs. Each disc recorded 15 minutes
and was 15 inches in diameter. Most of the recording was carried
out at a professional recording studio at Portland, Oregon. Where
possible, Mr. Armstrong visited radio stations, especially the
50,000 watt ones, in order to speak to the listening audience
The next big step forward for the Work came when "The World
Tomorrow" was accepted by the 100,000 watt station XELO, of Juares,
Mexico. This station had twice the power of any station in the
United States and had an exclusive clear channel. It was heard
across the United States and even into Canada. The program was
aired at the prime time of 8 P.M. on Sunday.
The response was described by Mr. Armstrong as "fantastic,"
and resulted in a steady increase in circulation for The Plain
In 1945, Mr. Armstrong, as a fully accredited press
representative, accompanied by his wife, had the opportunity of
attending the San Francisco Conference at which the United Nations
Charter was drawn up. He was able to listen to many speeches given
by world leaders in which they spoke of civilization's "Last Hope."
That year also saw "The World Tomorrow" broadcast on a daily
basis, coast-to-coast. A major theme that Mr. Armstrong stressed
at this time was that Germany, then conquered and devastated, would
rise again to head a powerful and prophesied United States of
An even bigger door was opened to the Work when the broadcast
was aired by station XEG, with 150,000 watts at 8 P.M., six nights
a week. This was in addition to the Mexican station XELO which was
also carrying the broadcast six nights a week. The Work during
this period experienced rapid growth, circulation for The Plain
Truth reached 75,000 copies per month.
It has been said that 1946 "marked the very beginning of the
organized Work of God in these last days." Until this time it had
been virtually a one-man operation, but one man, with the aid of
his wife, simply lacked the time and opportunity to handle all the
needs of a rapidly growing work.
Mr. Armstrong had learned by bitter experience that not every
person or minister to whom he had entrusted responsibility was as
capable or dedicated as the position required. A college was
clearly needed, where suitable people could be properly trained and
tested before being given ministerial or other important
responsibilities. For some time while recording programs at the
Hollywood recording studios, Mr. Armstrong searched the Pasadena
area for suitable college premises. Several possible sites were
examined but the big problem always remained that of raising
sufficient funds to make a purchase.
About this time it was decided that the Armstrongs should
conduct a nation-wide baptizing tour. Scores of listeners had
written from many parts of the United States requesting baptism,
and Mr. Armstrong was able to baptize several in local rivers,
lakes or streams; some were even baptized in a bathtub.
After the tour it was discovered that a small mansion had come
onto the market in Pasadena. It contained some eighteen rooms and
was located on Grove Street, just off of South Orange Grove
Boulevard -- Pasadena's "Millionaire's Row."
The building was set in magnificently landscaped grounds,
which had become somewhat neglected over recent years -- it seemed
an ideal setting for a college designed to instill culture and
character-building qualities in the students. The one big problem
was that it cost $100,000.
A contract was agreed with the owner in which Mr. Armstrong
was to pay $1,000 per month until $25,000 had been paid; this would
then be counted as a down-payment and then an option to purchase
would be exercised leading to the eventual ownership of the
Walter E. Dillon, Mr. Armstrong's brother-in-law, agreed to
inspect the college and afterwards accepted an invitation to become
its first President. He held a Masters degree and had many years'
experience in teaching and college administration.
In order to recruit students, the college was advertised in
the January-February, 1947, Plain Truth. The article announced
that "Ambassador offers superior advantages in location, beauty of
campus, nature of courses of study, high academic standards --
advantages in our special recreational and social program, cultural
advantages, physical education, as well as in religious
Ambassador College was not to be a Bible School or Ministerial
College, but a general liberal arts institution. It was recognized
that one must be called of God to the ministry; a person cannot
select it of his own volition, as a career. At the same time, it
was expected that God would call a proportion of students and that
such would be evident by the "fruits" of their lives.
The college was to be a revolutionary new type of institution,
progressive and forward looking, built on sound academic and
In February, 1947, several months before the first Ambassador
College was to open, Mr. Armstrong was told of another property
which might be available in Switzerland. Stirred by the prospect
of a second college where students would have an ideal opportunity
to learn European languages, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong set off at very
short notice on the Queen Elizabeth.
During this trip to Britain and Europe, Mr. Armstrong came to
see that the Work needed to expand beyond the confines of the
United States. "WE MUST REACH EUROPE, AND ENGLAND, as well as
America! Our work is just STARTING!"
From Lugano Mr. Armstrong wrote to those at home, have decided
DEFINITELY and FINALLY on the Swiss branch of Ambassador." This was
not to be, however. "I was to learn, later, that CHRIST had
decided DEFINITELY and FINALLY otherwise."
A second college was established, thirteen years later, in
1960, not in Switzerland, but in England, not far from London. On
the return journey to the United States, a hurricane was
experienced in mid-Atlantic. The ship was in "mortal danger."
Herbert Armstrong, remembering God's promise in Psalm 107: 23-30
regarding those in peril on the sea, prayed in faith, with his
wife, that God would calm the storm. Early next morning he awoke
to find a calm sea.
Immense problems surrounded the founding of the College at
Pasadena. Looking back on those events many years later, Mr.
Armstrong was to write that "it became crystal clear, now, why even
Satan was so concerned that he threw at us everything possible to
stop the founding of the Ambassador Colleges."19
The former owner, a Dr. Bennett, seemed to have no intention
of moving out or turning over possession of the property. Subtle
tactics were used to finally gain possession.
Opposition to the founding of the College was also experienced
from within the church.
"But some in the Church did not like the idea of my moving to
Pasadena to start a college. Several were becoming self-centered
"... Those who disagreed with the wisdom of founding the
College -- who could not see God's hand in the College found
sympathizers siding with them, until about half the Church members
became antagonistic. They left it for Mrs. Armstrong and me to go
it alone, in the struggle to found the College. But we were not
alone. The living CHRIST never forsook HIS work!"20
As if this were not trial enough, the College next faced a
$30,000 "headache." Building inspectors found that the College
building did not reach the standard required of a classroom
building. All walls and ceilings needed to be torn out and
replaced with a one-hour-fire resistant construction.
The financial pressures became almost unbearable. Everyone,
it seems, apart from the Armstrongs, "knew" that the College would
"fold up" even before it opened its doors to the first students.
Once again, however, faith was rewarded and donations covered the
The College did finally open on October 8, 1947, with four
students and a faculty of eight. Like other aspects of the Work
the College also started as small as the proverbial grain of
Another problem which Mr. Armstrong discovered was that the
vision he had of the type of education which the college was to
provide was not shared by the first members of the faculty. They
never seemed able to grasp that the College was to be neither a
"religious" school or a rubber stamp of other secular institutions.
It was intended to be a liberal arts, co-educational
institution-but based on God's revealed knowledge.
After leaving curricula-planning to the leading faculty
members, Mr. Armstrong was dismayed to discover that his own
theology course had been reduced to a two-hour minor subject. From
then on he insisted that all students and faculty members attend
his lecture. Everyone was to know what he and the College stood
for -- even if not all accepted these precepts. Some attempts were
made to inject atheistic and other views which were contrary to the
policy that the Bible was to be the starting point in attaining
knowledge. Such problems gradually faded out when converted
Christians were added to the faculty.
Financial pressures, resulting from attempting to operate a
College and radio broadcast with inadequate funds, led to a
reduction in the program schedule and a "half-time" college for
which teachers received half pay during 1948. Three women teachers
failed to return to college after the end of the first college
At the end of 1948 a "supreme crisis" loomed for the Work. A
lump sum of about $17,000 had to be paid on December 27, to cover
taxes, insurance and interest relating to the College; this, of
course, was in addition to all the other expenses and costs of
running the Work. An amazing thing then happened. The normal
daily income at that time was $500 to $600; for 15 days during the
first half of December, as if by a miracle, the income soared to
about $3,000. The result was that all outstanding debts were paid
on time and the College survived.
During 1949 and 1950 the Work continued to experience a tight
financial squeeze. Only four issues of The Plain Truth were
printed in 1950, each copy reduced to just eight pages.
In 1951 the first two students to graduate, Herman Hoeh and
Betty Bates, received their degrees. Additional property and land
was purchased, which provided the small but growing College with an
athletic field and dormitories.
The first "fruits" of the new College were produced in that
year. The young Mr. Hoeh began to assist Herbert Armstrong with
the teaching schedule. He handled some of the Bible courses. His
articles also began appearing at about this time -- first in the
publication for Church members only -- The Good News -- and later
in The Plain Truth. Up to this time Mr. Armstrong had written all
articles in church publications.
Another student, Raymond Cole, took over the duties of pastor
of the Portland, Oregon church for several months during 1951.
During 1952 The Plain Truth increased its size back up to 16
pages, and was published on a monthly basis. Up to this time it
appeared only when funds permitted, often no more than three or
four copies a year. As time passed the College produced trained
editorial staff which relieved Mr. Armstrong from some of his
Richard D. Armstrong and Herman L. Hoeh took a trip to Europe
in 1952. Their report was published in The Plain Truth, the very
first material that appeared which had not been written by Mr.
Armstrong. From that time on Ambassador College has striven to
produce students who are able to speak foreign languages "like a
Mr. Armstrong's radio broadcast was heard on eleven stations
in 1953, and this year marked the beginning of what came to be
known as the "Foreign Work." On January 1st, on the nineteenth
anniversary of the World Tomorrow broadcast, the program was first
aired over Radio Luxembourg, the most powerful radio station on
In October of that year the Work took a great leap forward
when the radio program went onto the ABC, coast to coast, national
radio network. It meant millions of new listeners every week and
tremendous prestige. This move put the broadcast on some 90
additional radio stations every Sunday.
Shortly after the broadcast began on Radio Luxembourg, it
became necessary to open an office in Britain to handle the mail
response. In February, 1953, Dick Armstrong flew to London and
arranged a mail address -- B.C.M. Ambassador, London, WC1. He
remained in Britain for several months, handling the mail.
For a time after this the British Monomark office forwarded
the mail direct to Pasadena, but this proved an unsatisfactory,
short term arrangement. It became essential that a permanent
office be established in London, and that Mr. Armstrong should see
for himself the plans that needed to be made to take care of the
small but growing European Work.
Public meetings were held during 1954 in Belfast, Glasgow,
Manchester and London, which gave Mr. Armstrong an opportunity to
meet and address some of the World Tomorrow radio audience. Mr.
and Mrs. Armstrong, along with their son Dick and Roderick
Meredith, were able to do a little "sight seeing" in Britain and
Europe as well as making arrangements for the promotion of the Work
in those areas.
The public meetings in Britain drew crowds of up to 750
people, and the theme of the lectures was "What's Prophesied for
Britain." During the visit Mrs. Edna Palin of Crewe was baptized by
Dick Armstrong the first baptized Church member in Britain.
Very slowly the Work in Britain began to grow. A small church
was established in London during 1956. As the radio program went
out at 11:30 P.M.. (later changed to 6 P.M.), the response was
poor. During 1957 a lecture series conducted by Mr. Meredith, and
followed up by a period of intensive preaching and counseling,
resulted in an increase in the church congregation to 30 people.
The task of feeding this little flock was taken over by Gerald
Waterhouse in 1958, and steady growth continued. By the end of
that year the circulation of The Plain Truth in Britain had reached
about 12,000, and the fledgling church had increased to 75 members.
The dedicated ministry of Mr. Waterhouse produced steady
growth. By July, 1958, when he left to take an assignment in the
United States, the church congregation of London averaged about 45
each Sabbath. Mr. Raymond F. McNair arrived with his family that
same month to assume responsibility for the Work in Britain.
During the summer of 1958, Mr. McNair, assisted by George
Meeker, conducted a full-scale baptizing tour of England, Scotland,
Ireland and Wales. About 60 people were baptized.
Between 1958 and 1966 a spectacular growth-rate in Britain
took the membership figures from 30 to 1,030.
In 1959 Mr. McNair began conducting Bible Studies in Bristol
and Birmingham. The Bristol meetings were held in the home of a
local member, and attendance averaged 18. Early in 1960, Sabbath
services began in the Grand Hotel, located in the centre of
Mr. McNair, looking back on those days, reflects: "We averaged
about 20 each Sabbath -- if I counted myself!"
An evangelistic campaign conducted in the summer of 1960
doubled the numbers of this struggling little congregation to 40
The Plain Truth for June, 1960, carried an "important
Announcement to Our British Readers" from Mr. Herbert Armstrong.
"I have important news for you! We are opening a campaign of
dynamic evangelistic meetings in Bristol -- starting Monday night,
"Never has Bristol and its surrounding area heard the
shocking, sobering facts that are going to be disclosed during this
lively campaign -- facts I cannot give over the air!"
The theme of these meetings was: what lies ahead for Britain
and the world in the immediate future, as described in Bible
prophecy. Roderick C. Meredith was the speaker.
"Mr. Meredith is fully consecrated, utterly sincere and in
earnest, stirringly dynamic. He knows what he is talking about!
And he is going to talk! He is going to tell you things you can't
hear from any other source! He is coming in the power of the living
Christ, supercharged by his Holy Spirit!"
Potential listeners were warned:
"Yes, you'll be shocked, surprised -- you'll hear more real
truth in one night in these meetings than most people learn years
of the preaching of our day!"
The lectures were held five nights a week at the Y.M.C.A.,
Colston St., Bristol.
Later that year, campaigns were held in Birmingham and
Manchester. Church congregations of some 45 to 50 people were
established at these locations.
During this period, advertisements were placed in the British
editions of Reader's Digest magazine, which were said to have had
"a terrific effect," with about ten thousand people requesting
literature as a result.
On October 14, 1960, a second Ambassador College campus opened
its doors at Bricket Wood, Herts., not far from London.
By 1966, several additional church congregations had been
established in Britain. Attendance figures for that year were as
follows: Bricket Wood, 300; London, 220; Warrington, 120;
Birmingham, 120; Belfast, 115; Bristol, 78; Leeds, 57; Glasgow, 70;
During the period of 1965-67, the British Work received a
tremendous boost when the World Tomorrow was accepted by several
commercial radio stations. These so-called "pirate" stations were
located on ships, off the coast of Britain, and a powerful
"witness" was beamed across the nation. Garner Ted Armstrong, who
was the main speaker at the time, expressed his delight when he
heard his own voice coming from several car radios as he was held
up for a few minutes in a London traffic jam.
Although the Bricket Wood campus was forced to close down in
1974 due to financial pressures within the Work, a vigorous public
lecture campaign, along with advertising The Plain Truth, has kept
the British public aware of the Work, and a steady growth rate has
The British Press has in general had a somewhat negative
approach to the Work; its main concern has been over the question
"Where does the money come from?" A measure of unrest was generated
in 1976 when three of the top men in the British Work were
disfellow-shipped. Since that time, however, the Work in this area
has enjoyed a healthy increase in its income, and the policy of
advertising The Plain Truth and booklets in newspapers and
magazines has brought a response from several thousand new readers.
In 1955, the World Tomorrow broadcast was beamed to the vast
Indian sub-continent over Radio Ceylon. The following year saw it
going out over an Australian network of eight stations. An office
was opened in Sydney during 1959, and within a short time a number
of churches were started in the land "down under." An advertising
campaign in the Australian and New Zealand editions of the Reader's
Digest gave an additional boost to the Work in that region. Many
radio stations were added, and by 1968 the broadcast could be heard
in most parts of the island continent. A number of Garner Ted
Armstrong one-hour TV specials and selected half-hour TV programs
were later shown on Australian television. Thousands of
Australians are now attending regular "Worldwide Church of God"
The last twenty years has seen rapid growth for the Work in
the Philippines, Malaysia, Burma, India and other parts of Asia.
In 1974, Mr. Herbert Armstrong was received as an honoured guest by
Philippine President Marcos. He also conducted several personal
appearance campaigns which drew crowds of many thousands of local
Filipino people. Church membership has increased rapidly in the
area during recent years.
In 1960 the broadcast was carried on three Canadian radio
stations, and a year later the Work opened an office in Vancouver,
under the management of Mr. Dennis Prather. The modest two-room
office suite was to soon prove inadequate for the soaring
growth-rate of the Canadian Work. By 1974 the mailing list for The
Plain Truth had passed the 200,000 mark, The magazine was available
in both the English and French languages.
In addition to the radio broadcast, by the mid nineteen
seventies, some 265 Canadian television stations carried the Work's
telecast. By this period there were also over 8,000 people
attending Church services.
Since 1954, the World Tomorrow broadcast has been carried by
a number of radio stations in Africa which has stimulated a demand
for Church publications far in excess of the available supply. In
1970 a major baptising tour of East, Central and West Africa was
undertaken. Church membership in "Black" Africa now stands at 331
(May, 1979). Mr. Harold Jackson ministers to the spiritual needs
of people in this area.
The Work has been able to use the tools of radio, television
and publishing to send out a witness in South Africa and Rhodesia.
Mr. Herbert Armstrong's meetings with political leaders in South
Africa and South West Africa has given the Work increased prestige
and Church membership has been steadily rising.
For many years the World Tomorrow broadcast has been going out
in the French, German and Spanish languages, not only to European
nations but also to areas such as Canada, South America, and the
West Indies where a significant proportion of the local populations
speak such languages. It can truly be said that, "The sun never
sets on the worldwide work of the Worldwide Church of God!" The
Plain Truth and other literature, including booklets on a host of
subjects, is becoming available in an increasing number of foreign
The true gospel is indeed being preached, and published, in
all the world for a witness unto all nations (Matt. 24:14 and Mark
In terms of figures and statistics, the output of the Work
during its forty five year life has been truly amazing. By 1979 it
had produced 4891 radio programs and 768 television programs. The
total amount of literature mailed out added up to 288 million
pieces, 224 million copies of The Plain Truth, 12 million copies of
Tomorrow's World and 12 million copies of The Good News; a
staggering overall total of 536 million items.
The Work by 1979 had received 37 million letters, which, if
put in a stack would reach 14 miles high. Since 1973 it has
received 2,090,000 telephone calls via the WATS telephone service.
A total of 565 church congregations meet in various parts of the
world, the 71,003 members are served by about 1,000 ordained
ministers. Some 100,000 members and others gather for the annual
Fall Festival, kept in 75 locations around the world.21
Several years ago the Worldwide Church of God recognized that
it needed to play a part in serving the physical and cultural needs
of the world, in addition to its important spiritual role. In 1975
the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation was founded. It
is dedicated to serving mankind, of helping people to realize and
fulfill their individual and collective potentials. To achieve
this objective a number of humanitarian, cultural and educational
projects and programs have been instituted throughout the world.
These activities include assisting handicapped children,
promoting major cultural events, and sponsoring archaeological
excavations. The elegant Ambassador Auditorium is used as a
beautiful setting for A.I.C.F. sponsored concerts at which world
renowned singers, musicians, dancers and entertainers delight the
audience and raise funds for charitable concerns. The prestige of
the Church has also been enhanced by such "good works."
Perhaps the most unexpected and inspiring aspect of the Work
within the last decade has been the personal meetings which have
taken place between Herbert W. Armstrong and a host of world
leaders, which have included the emperors of Ethiopia and Japan, in
addition to the kings, presidents and prime ministers of many
nations around the world.
Many world leaders recognize Mr. Armstrong as a leading
educator, spiritual leader, and as an "ambassador for world peace."
He speaks to them of the "missing dimension" in world history, and
of the fact that "a strong hand from someplace" is soon to restore
peace and set up a world government.
In December, 1979, Herbert Armstrong made a very significant
visit to the People's Republic of China. The first such visit of
a leader from the world of Christianity since the Communists came
to power in that country.
Chinese leaders greeted Mr. Armstrong with friendliness and
the level of official honour that is reserved for high ranking
political visitors from foreign countries.
Mr. Armstrong and his party were housed in the government
guest State House of Peking (Beijing).
They were able to visit the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden
City, and other places of interest.
Mr. Armstrong was the guest of honour at several official
banquets attended by high ranking Chinese leaders and also
diplomats and ambassadors from 57 other nations.
In his address to such important gatherings, he was not
lacking in the skills of a diplomat himself. In this atheistic
nation he spoke of the return of Christ in the terminology of the
intervention of a "strong unseen hand from someplace" that would
usher in a time of world peace. Even some of the inscrutable
Chinese seemed to be impressed by Mr. Armstrong's theme of the
"give" and "get" philosophy of life.
A one hour meeting was held with Vice Chairman Tan Zhen-Lin,
one of the top men in the Chinese government. This man and his
colleagues are responsible for moulding the thinking of one billion
people (one thousand million), a quarter of the earth's population.
Invitations have been received for Mr. Armstrong to visit
leaders in the Soviet Union, Poland, North Korea, and several other
At an age when most men or women would be content with a quiet
and dignified retirement, Herbert Armstrong, and the Church that he
represents, seem intent on ensuring that the prophesied witness of
Christ's return and the setting up of the Kingdom of God will
without fail be "preached throughout the whole world."
FOOTNOTES -- Chapter 14
1. The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, page 10.
2. Ibid., pages 76-77.
3. The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong,
1973 ed. p. 205.
4. Ibid. p. 210.
5. Ibid. p. 221.
6. Ibid. p. 261.
7. Ibid. p. 263.
8. Ibid. p. 276-277.
9. Ibid. p. 286.
10. Ibid. p. 294.
11. Ibid. p. 309
12. Ibid. p. 344.
13. Ibid. p. 360.
14. Ibid p. 449.
15. Ibid. p. 451.
16. Ibid. p. 455.
17. Ibid. p. 499.
18. Ibid. p. 527.
19. The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong,
20. Ibid. Installment 56.
21. See the Good News magazine, January, 1979.
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International Standard Book Number 0-917182-23-5
Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 83-91442