THE INCREDIBLE HISTORY OF GOD'S TRUE CHURCH
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 beasts.
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 fragmentary.
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 Britain.
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 Lucius.
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 previous century.
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 guidance.
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 extreme.
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 consideration: "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 Christianity.
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 Archbishoprics."4
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 usury."6
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 A.D. 208.7
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 Christian treasure."10
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 Communion."12
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 Newton hoard.
"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 tax."18
"... anti-Judaism has emerged as a primary factor which contributed to the introduction of Sunday observance in place of the Sabbath."19
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 members.
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 Jutes.
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 A.D. 450: "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 of God.
"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 feast days.
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 through faith.
Prayer and Bible study were considered to be of great importance. Sincere prayer was advocated as vain repetition was not acceptable.
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 Sabbath-keepers.
"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 and offerings.28
"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 saint's death."29
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 Sunday observance."30
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 earth.
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 understanding.
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 developed.
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 minimum.
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 supper."35
When Augustine arrived in A.D. 596 to convert the English to the Catholic faith, he found that many were still observing the Sabbath.
"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 practises 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 day."
The first English Sunday Legislation was introduced in A.D. 692.
"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, double.'"39
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, page 55.
2. Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain, Collier, vol. 1, page 27.
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.