Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Life of Constantine with Orations of Constantine and Eusebius.: Section 8
With this as center of perspective, we have a picture of Constantine with lights and shadows, to be sure, but in the main true in its drawing and coloring. He was a man of rather more than medium height, strongly built, with broad shoulders, thick neck, and generally athletic and well-formed figure. His piercing eye, slightly aquiline nose, scanty reddish beard, and florid complexion, together with his bright expression, made a countenance striking and even handsome. Of great physical strength and vigor, he carried himself in a manly, self-possessed, dignified, and serene manner, uniting a dignity which might rise at times even to hauteur, or even incipient arrogance, with a general and customary affability. His dress, like his complexion, was somewhat florid. His mind was active, alert, intense without being somber, penetrating, sound, fairly cultivated, and well exercised in expression by pen or word. He was animated, habile, and attentive in conversation, self-possessed, steady, and calm in formal address. He was pre-eminently a man of energy, intense and resistless, with a determination to accomplish whatever he attempted, which rose under opposition to irresistible impetuosity, and wrought a courage which, in action, was absolutely fearless. His ambition was limitless, but not wholly or even mainly selfish.
With his energy and ambition were united the ballast of marked prudence, patience, perseverance, faithfulness to details, steadfastness, and supreme self-control. He was amiable and tactful, popular with his soldiers, and careful to please. Toward those who came into his power he showed habitual mildness and forbearance,—a mildness so great that he was generally blamed for it; and toward all he showed great kindness, justice, and a generosity which verged on the lavish. He was open to the charge of over-generosity, almost of prodigality, a good measure of real vanity, some over-insistence on his own will and thought as the final standard of right, and by no means free from mistakes or human weaknesses. He was a good son, husband, father, a remarkably successful general, a tolerable legislator, and a clear-sighted, firm-willed statesman. In his religious life he abounded in creed and confession—believing in the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and Eternal Life, in Repentance and Faith, in love to God, and love to man. He preached his faith on all occasions; he practiced thanksgiving and prayer abundantly. He regarded everything that he had or was as from God. The editors brief judgment is that Constantine, for his time, made an astonishingly temperate, wise, and, on the whole, benevolent use of absolute power, and in morality, kindly qualities, and, at last, in real Christian character, greatly surpassed most nineteenth century politicians—standing to modern statesmen as Athanasius to modern theologians.
Next: Chapter III
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