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Besides the Druids, the Britons had also Druidesses, who assisted in the offices, and shared in the honours and emoluments of the priesthood. When Suetonius invaded the island of Anglesea, his soldiers were struck with terror at the strange appearance of a great number of these consecrated females, who ran about the ranks of —the British army, like enraged furies, with their hair dishevelled, and flaming torches in their hands, imprecating the wrath of heaven on the invaders of their country.” The Druidesses of Gaul and Britain are said to have been divided into three ranks or classes. Those of the first class had vowed perpetual virginity, and lived together in sisterhoods, very much sequestered from the world. They were great pretenders to divination, prophecy, and miracles; were highly admired by the people, who consulted them on all important occasions as infallible oracles. The second class consisted of certain devotees, who were indeed married, but spent the greatest part of their time in the company of the Druids, and in the offices of religion, conversing only occasionally with their husbands. The third class was the lowest, consisting of such as performed the most servile offices about the temples, the sacrifices, and the persons of the Druids.” The British Druids were in the zenith of their power and glory, at the time the Romans, under Julius Caesar, invaded this country, before Christ 55. The Romans, knowing that they could not establish their own authority, and secure the submission and obedience of the Britons, without destroying the authority and influence of the Druids, obliged their new subjects to build temples, erect statues, and to offer sacrifices, after the Roman manner; . as well as deprive the Druids of all authority in civil matters, and showed them no mercy when found transgressing the laws, or concerned in any revolt: by these means their power was soon brought low. Many of them, however, fleeing before the face of persecution, retired into the isle of Anglesea; but that isle becoming the chief seat of disaffection to the Roman government, and the asylum of all that were forming plots against it, Suetonius Paulinus, who was governor of Britain under Nero, A. D. 61, determined to subdue it, which he shortly accomplished. So many of the Druids perished on this occasion, and in the unfortunate revolt of the Britons under Boadicea, queen of the Iceni, which happened soon after, that they were never able, after this period, to make any considerable appearance in South Britain. Those, however, who would not submit to the Roman government, and comply with the new system of the idolatry and rites of the Romans, fled into Caledonia, Ireland, and the lesser British isles, where they maintained their authority and superstition long after their extermination in Gaul and South Britain." Thus, as Mr. Southey remarks, when the Romans established themselves as conquerors in Britain, the authority of the Druids was destroyed, and one system of idolatry was exchanged for another, as far as Roman civilization extended.
* Strabo, l. 4. Diod. Sicul. l. 5. Ammian. Marcellin. l. 15. * Gruttes. p. 62. Relig. de Gaul. l. i. c. 27.
THE INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY INTO BRITAIN, THE IDOLATRY AND CONVERSION OF THE SAXONS, AND THE NATURE AND DESIGN OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
“ The religion of Jesus comes from God, and is a most glorious dispensation, not only for the sublime wonders of its doctrine, and the divine purity of its precepts, but that it excels all other religions in the strength of its motives, the richness of its promises, and the sufficiency of the divine aid attending it.”—Dr. Jennings on Preaching Christ.
HERE stands a Church, which has, from a very distant period, been devoted to the service of God! This high and venerable pile has occupied this situation during a long succession of ages, and still remains a conspicuous monument of the pious zeal and combined liberality of our remote ancestors. Time has laid its mouldering hand on some parts of the stately structure, and others have evidently undergone partial repairs. There may yet be discovered numerous traces of fine graphical skill, but for many generations past the names of those who, upon these embossments, left striking displays of genius for the admiration of succeeding ages, have been unknown. They are gone, but their works remain, not to say who they were, but what they performed.
Remote antiquity sanctions the erection and occupancy of suitable places for the public worship of Almighty
God. The renowned patriarchs had their sacred altars, though of rude construction, upon which they offered acceptable sacrifices. The Israelites, during their eventful peregrinations through the Arabian desert, had their tabernacle of meeting, in which the Lord their God condescended to favour them with visible tokens of his gracious presence. When conducted to the fruitful land of Canaan, and settled there according to divine appointment, they erected a magnificent temple, whose form, dimensions, and elegance, rendered it for many ages the wonder of surrounding nations. In addition to which, they built numerous synagogues, over all the country, for more general convenience; as well as constructed houses of prayer, in which pious persons might assemble more privately, and there pour forth the warm effusions of their devout hearts. The primitive Christians, whose religion was rejected by the unbelieving Jews, as well as accounted “foolishness” by the learned Greeks, were so far from enjoying splendid temples for religious worship, that they scarcely had places where to hide their heads, and did frequently avail themselves of the nocturnal season quietly to enjoy the communion of saints. As soon, indeed, as the heat of persecution was abated, and the roaring billows of boisterous passions were hushed into silence, so that the Christians could enjoy peace and security, not only in the retreats of solitude, but also in their public assemblies, then they looked out for better accommodations, and were industrious in procuring them. Especially, when Constantine the Great embraced the Christian faith, and Rome pagan became Christian: then were many heathen temples converted into places for Christian worship, and the Christians were protected by the civil authority in the performance of religious duties.
When they erected places for public worship, the Jewish temple was the chief model after which they formed them. A cathedral was an imitation of the temple, and a village-place of worship, that of a synagogue. Hence the idea of a holy end for an altar and a circle of priests, and an unhallowed one for the common people. Hence the divisions of porches, choirs, chancels, and other things, answering to the courts of the temple. The pulpit was in the choir: some were portable, and very plain; others fixtures, stretching out lengthwise, so that the preacher might walk up and down in them; some had seats and curtains, others were adorned with gold and silver, and resembled the thrones of princes more than the places for the convenience of Christian ministers. So says Eusebius, censuring the vanity of Paul of Samosata. And ever since, convenient places for public worship have been provided, which is very commendable; only those who occupy them should always keep in view the proper design and use of such edifices.
Before the advent of Christ, the progress of his religion, and prosperity of his kingdom, had long been the animating theme of prophetic inspirations. JEHow AH, speaking to the Messiah, says, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” The prophet Isaiah, contemplating the flourishing state of the Messiah's kingdom, breaks forth in the most lively strains, as though he had personally realized it, saying, “ Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and he shall be called the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” And looking forward to the extent and effects of his reign, he