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.: Chapter I
p. 519 Book III.
Chapter I.—A Comparison of Constantines Piety with the Wickedness of the Persecutors.
In this manner that spirit who is the hater of good, actuated by envy at the blessing enjoyed by the Church, continued to raise against her the stormy troubles of intestine discord, in the midst of a period of peace and joy. Meanwhile, however, the divinely-favored emperor did not slight the duties befitting him, but exhibited in his whole conduct a direct contrast to those atrocities of which the cruel tyrants had been lately guilty, 3223 and thus triumphed over every enemy that opposed him. For in the first place, the tyrants, being themselves alienated from the true God, had enforced by every compulsion the worship of false deities: Constantine convinced mankind by actions as well as words, 3224 that these had but an imaginary existence, and exhorted them to acknowledge the only true God. They had derided his Christ with words of blasphemy: he assumed that as his safeguard 3225 against which they directed their blasphemies, and gloried in the symbol of the Saviours passion. They had persecuted and driven from house and home the servants of Christ: he recalled them every one, and restored them to their native homes. They had covered them with dishonor: he made their condition honorable and enviable in the eyes of all. They had shamefully plundered and sold the goods of godly men: Constantine not only replaced this loss, but still further enriched them with abundant presents. They had circulated injurious calumnies, through their written ordinances, against the prelates of the Church: he on the contrary, conferred dignity on these individuals by personal marks of honor, and by his edicts and statutes raised them to higher distinction than before. They had utterly demolished and razed to the ground the houses of prayer: he commanded that those which still existed should be enlarged, and that new ones should be raised on a magnificent scale at the expense of the imperial treasury. They had ordered the inspired records to be burnt and utterly destroyed: he decreed that copies of them should be multiplied, and magnificently adorned 3226 at the charge of the imperial treasury. They had strictly forbidden the prelates, anywhere or on any occasion, to convene synods; whereas he gathered them to his court from every province, received them into his palace, and even to his own private apartments and thought them worthy to share his home and table. They had honored the demons with offerings: Constantine exposed their error, and continually distributed the now useless materials for sacrifice, to those who would apply them to a better use. They had ordered the pagan temples to be sumptuously adorned: he razed to their foundations those of them which had been the chief objects of superstitious reverence. They had subjected Gods servants to the most ignominious punishments: he took vengeance on the persecutors, and inflicted on them just chastisement in the name of God, while he held the memory of his holy martyrs in constant veneration. They had driven Gods worshipers from the imperial palaces: he placed full confidence in them at all times, and knowing them to be the better disposed and more faithful than any beside. They, the victims of avarice, voluntarily subjected themselves as it were to the pangs of Tantalus: he with royal magnificence unlocked all his treasures, and distributed his gifts with rich and high-souled liberality. They committed countless murders, that they might plunder or confiscate the wealth of their victims; while throughout the reign of Constantine the sword of justice hung idle everywhere, and both people and municipal magistrates 3227 in every provence were governed rather by paternal authority than by any constraining. 3228 Surely p. 520 it must seem to all who duly regard these facts, that a new and fresh era of existence had begun to appear, and a light heretofore unknown suddenly to dawn from the midst of darkness on the human race: and all must confess that these things were entirely the work of God, who raised up this pious emperor to withstand the multitude of the ungodly.
Compare contrast with the other emperors in Prolegomena, under Life.519:3224
Eusebius expressly states that Constantines words had little result in conversion. It is meant here that the success of one who relied on God itself proved the vanity of idols.519:3225
This may perhaps mean “ordered to be inscribed” or “wrote it to be his safeguard.” This form of Bag. is a satisfactory paraphrase.519:3226
Their bindings were adorned with precious stones according to Cedrenus. Compare Prolegomena, Character, Magnificence.519:3227
[Πολιτευτῶν ἀνδρῶν, here, apparently, the Decurions, who formed the corporations of the cities, and were subject to responsible and burdensome offices. Vide Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chap. 17.—Bag.] So Valesius maintains, and has been generally if not universally followed. Though it might be overventuresome to change the translation therefore, it befits the sense better and suits the words admirably to apply to the different classes, Peregrini and Cives. This distinction did not fully pass away until the time of Justinian (Long, art. Civitas, in Smith, Dict. Gr. and Rom. Ant.), and it seems certain that Eusebius meant this.519:3228
This above is a sort of resumé of the life of Constantine. For illustration of the various facts mentioned, compare the latter part of the Church History and the various acts and documents in this Life. Compare also Prolegomena, under Life, and especially under Character. It seems now and then to be like a little homily on the glory of having the shoe on the other foot—the glory of having done to others what others had done to them.
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