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22 June, 209 A.D. (date disputed) :  St. Alban of Britain Meets His Death

  Britain was a very fruitful island for Christ.  The entirety of today's United Kingdom has been, in fact.  Not only did many residents of those islands become Christian, but they also spread the Christian faith extensively from Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall, Wales, and the smaller associated islands, to many foreign lands. 

  My land of residence, America, was to become blessed by their out reach, in time.  Though they were only one of several nations that brought the Christian faith to America, the 'Pilgrims' remain a very famous example of Christianity come to America from Britain (with help from the Netherlands.)  Britain has been huge in the story of Christianity in the West and mentionably so elsewhere as well.  Their mastery of the seas brought them to numerous far flung shores for conquest and trade, but those same voyages allowed Jesus's followers to reach culture after culture. 

  God, who has seen forward in time from the first moment of the Creation, would have known of Britain's destiny as a well spring for witness to the forseen followers of His Son.  So, we probably shouldn't be surprised to find that he decided to perform some remarkable miracles there in the dark pagan forests and vales of those sweetly clothed islands, a Roman administered holding in the time of Christ and afterwards.  And, history records that it is true.  Very true!  Jesus's gospel entered Britain with a bang, not a whimper.  He gave those early United Kingdom progenitors some pretty big miracles to consider, few if any more so than the martyrdom of Alban (later Sainted) on what was possibly June 22, 209 A.D.

  Alban is believed to have been a Briton that had entered the Roman military.  He was depicted in early times as a large man who carried a sword.  He may have been retired, as he seems to have been well connected and well known, and a locally important person in his residence town of Verulamium (now 'St. Albans'.) There are still significant standing remains (stone walls and other stone work) near St. Albans that are part of the Verulamium of St. Albans time.  In Albans day, assuming the 209 A.D. time frame is the accurate date, there were Christians and perhaps quite a few of them in the area where Album had his house.  But Alban was not one of them.

  He was apparently a man of note, however, and there came a time when the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus resided in Briton for a time.  Septimus was a worshipper of the Roman gods, and a disliker of Christianity.  He sometimes ordered the persecution of Christians, even to death.  When Septimus visited the area of Verulamium he saw that there were many Christians there, and he ordered the local authorities to stomp on the believers of this faith which he so detested.

  In obedience to the Emperor's statements on the matter, the local authorities began to search out priests of the Christian faith, to stop them from teaching the religion of Jesus, and one such priest was named 'Amphibalus'.  This priest, to save his life, fled to the home of Alban, and asked him for protection.  Whatever Alban's reasons may have been seems lost to history - because he was a pagan - but he took in the priest and sheltered him there.

  Alban was a pagan they say, but he was able to get to know and to closely observe this priest Amphibalus, and Alban saw that he was a very sincere and whole hearted follower of his God Jesus.  He spoke to the man about who Jesus was, and he learned the message of the gospel.  He saw Amphibalus spend hour after hour in prayer.  It is likely also that the Holy Spirit of God worked mightily to enter the heart of Alban during this time.  And because there was persecution of Christians happening all over the countryside in the area of his town, Alban would have been aware of all that was going on to expunge this God, this fairly new teaching, from his region.  He may have been acquainted with people who were jailed, or tortured for being believers.

  Whatever the case, this local Christian priest had taken refuge in Alban's home, and the authorities either didn't know, or for a time did not want to impose themselves upon a man with Albus's connections and good reputation.  And during this time, Alban came to believe, he became a follower of Jesus. 

  There came a time, however, when a judge in that region either learned that Amphibalus the priest was hiding at Alban's home, or perhaps just decided to act upon what he had already known.  He directed that soldiers be sent to the home of Alban to take this Amphibalus into custody so that this judge might interrogate him - perhaps even execute him.

  Alban was tipped off about this event.  There seems to be no record of what was said between Alban and the priest Amphibalus, but Alban was not willing that his guest be captured and harmed.  He determined upon a plan.

  The soldiers sent to find Amphibalus neared Alban's house, but were met by the priest upon the road leading towards them from Alban's home.  The priest gave himself up to them.

  But when the soldiers made the return trip to the judge (who happened at that moment to be making daily worship sacrifices to the pagan Roamn deities that he believed in) and presented their captive, all were surprised to find that the man in the priest's clothing was not Amphibalus....but another.

  The judge was furious about the deception, and interrogated this imposter.    

  "Of what descent of family are you", the judge asked Alban. 

  "What does my name matter? I am called Alban by my parents, and even worship the true and living God who created all things."

  The judge replied to him, "If you will enjoy the happiness of eternal life, do not delay to offer sacrifice to the great gods!" (meaning this judge's own Roman gods.)

  Alban replied to him, "Those sacrifices which you offer to devils can neither avail the offerers anything, nor obtain for them the affect of their petitions.  On the contrary, who so ever offers sacrifices to these idols shall receive the eternal pains of hell for his reward."

  Angered greatly, the judge was still hopeful of avoiding an incident with an important local, so he ordered that Alban be taken away and given lashes with a whip until he would recant and worship the Roman gods.  Alban accepted the whipping in the best spirit he could, however, having decided to even die for Christ rather than deny that Jesus was his Lord.  When it became apparent to the judge that the whippings were not going to change the man's opinion, he ordered that he should be taken up to the top of what is now Holmhurst Hill to be executed publically.  Alban did not object, but seemed quite willing - even eager - to accept that fate.

  Holmhurst Hill was a ways away and across a swift little river from where the jail was.  The town's people, the Christians I suppose, had heard the news.  They would likely have long known where their priest was living - that he had been given sanctuary by Alban.  They would likely have heard that Alban had let himself be taken prisoner in the place of their priest Amphibalus.  They were stirred up greatly by the news, and the sad and upset milling group of them assembled and, though they could not really stop the executioner and the soldiers bearing Albanus out to his death, they did stand as a crowd in front of the bridge that crossed the river, blocking the way.

  But, Alban was quite happy with his fate.  He apparently wished for no one to be harmed by attempting to save him from his execution, so he prayed out loud to the Lord, there by the river's edge where the execution squad was halted.  He didn't pray that he could escape this death.  Instead he prayed, and to the amazement of all, the water of the swift little river simply ceased flowing and a dry path across it appeared right there beside his halted execution squad.  They quickly crossed over, and bypassed the assembled crowd of protestors.

  It was now not far to the top of the smooth hill, the top of which being where he would meet his end.  The executioner himself, aghast at what he had seen, was making the decision on their way up as to whether he could kill this man.  So powerful a sign of a god's favor and power!  He was feeling that he too wanted to belong to this Jesus who could do such powerful things.  

  At the top of the hill, Alban was taken by great thirst, and moved by the spirit, he prayed out to God for water.  As the assembled group watched, a spring came into existence there on that hill top.  Springs do occasionally appear (though it is highly rare to witness the birth of one.)  But springs almost never originate from hilltops even when they do appear.  As Alban drank, the executioner had seen enough.  He announced that he too would worship Jesus, and that he preferred join Alban in death rather than be the one who killed him.  He knelt beside Alban, whose head was rested upon a little bush it is said, as he stretched out his neck to the sword.  

  One of the soldiers there remained undeterred.  He grabbed a sword and stepped forward to carry out the judge's sentence, cutting off the head of first Alban, and then the originally intended executioner. But, this man was not allowed to look for long upon this deed he had performed - this killing of the Holy first fruits of the island of Britain.  It is recorded that he had no more than swung the sword the second time when - to the astonishment of all who watched - the man's eyes fell out of his head.  He stood blind, his eye sockets empty.

  The men still living, assembled on that hill, had seen what no one before them had seen.  They had seen miracles at the killing of this first British martyr that were beyond comprehension, yet which they could not deny having seen.

  Word was quickly taken to the judge concerning all that had happened, and to his credit he believed his men, and was so affected that he ordered the immediate end to the persecution of Christians within his region of authority.  It is said that Christianity flourished tremendously in that area during the next months and years, as word of these bizarre and unheralded events became widely known throughout Britain, the British Isles, and eventually mainland Europe.

  Britain had yielded the first fruits of martyrdom for Christ in a nation that would become high impact for the kingdom of heaven as the centuries rolled by.  Nearly all lands would come to have martyrs, but this one was recorded for history, and is still known today by a good many, at least near where it happened.  It was written of by several early historians and ecclesiastical scholars including the famous Venerable Bede. 

  A church was erected - called St. Alban's, naturally - at the site of Alban's death, there by the Ver River that Alban had crossed.  Rebuilt, a  church still stands there today, though other St. Albans churches have been erected in other places in honor of those events and that man,

  Britain's Christian churches are feeling a decline these days, some sources say.  But I think they are waking up even today, and remembering who they are, and from what solid stock they spring from.  The people of the United Kingdom have a Christian heritage which includes a great many miracles and glorious events.  God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have done much there.  Perhaps the church leaders there just need to remind their flocks of how greatly and often their peoples have been blessed through these many centuries with signs of their good Lord's favor.  I feel like the British Isles are going to wake up loud and hard when they do wake up, though, despite their reputation for stiff upper lips and propriety. 

 One thing's for sure.... they've been awfully zealous for Christ before over there during various periods of history.  Their ancestors knew Christ - they heard that Jesus had died for them and they believed!  And what they knew, they acted on fearlessly, sometimes even to death.  And with good reason.  Why not?  They have heard the good word preached, but they have also been shown signs of tremendous power.  Tremendous power!  And then they've helped, and are still helping, to show the world.

  Rise Britain!  Rise United Kingdom!  Rise again for Christ.  The Christian world loves it when you rise.  Let all Christian nations rise to shine Christ's light upon those who struggle still in the darkness of their unbelief or even ignorance of the Lord Jesus, Son of the Almighty God.




    I personally believe that realizing how many great deeds of God have actually occurred through out history will lead some people to be saved giving their life to Christ.  If you agree, then please, take the time to be a 'missionary', to love your neighbor enough to care about their soul.  Please mention and recommend visiting the Deeds of God website on any social media sites that you belong to.  Tell a favorite account to your friends or family, and tell them where you read it.  To know God is to stand in awe of Him, but too few people know Him today.  Accounts like these are yet another way to come to know Jesus and the Holy Father, and the Spirit of Truth that helps us understand.  Thank you.  Dan Curry






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