38: Making Christian Britain

Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations,
and declare it in the isles afar off,

Jeremiah 31:10

It is impossible to conceive of European history without the considerable influence of the Latin occupiers. They came and they conquered; centuries later they left behind the foundations of modern civilisation as we know it. This is especially true of Britain.

Growing tired of the tribes from what the Romans called Britannia, who were supporting the Gauls in their resistance to the Roman army, Julius Caesar planted the Roman flag in Kent fifty-five years before Christ was born in Judea. He had learned of the rich mineral wealth and the fertile soil of what the poet would later call “England’s green and pleasant land”. In so doing the famous general and leader of the Republic commenced a four hundred year transformation of this territory. By the time the Romans left settlements in places that we today recognise as London, Manchester, Colchester, York, Chester, Lincoln and St Albans had been established, all linked together by excellent roads.

In the sovereignty of God, however, the Romans fulfilled a greater purpose; they laid down the conditions whereby Christianity could be established and consolidated in this western fringe of Europe.

It is generally believed that Christian merchants carried the message of Jesus along the Roman roads throughout Britannia, doing what the early Church did best; going everywhere preaching the Gospel.

As in other places throughout the Empire Christians were persecuted horribly for their faith, as recorded by the Venerable Bede, the father of English History.

Foremost among these stories of martyrdom is the heroism and fate of Alban early in the Third Century, after whom St Albans is named. As a pagan he protected a Christian leader called Amphibalus, and was as a result converted through his faithful testimony. When the authorities came searching he deliberately and bravely took the place of Amphibalus and thereby sealed his own death.

Through such heroism not only on the part of Alban but through the self sacrifice of many others, Jerusalem was erected in England’s green and pleasant land.

The Romans eventually receded but the Gospel remained as Christ went forth conquering all His foes by His Word and Spirit.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

“Jerusalem” by William Blake

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