Chapter IV.—The Memorials against us. 2727
1. Thefact that this man, who took the lead in this matter, had succeeded in his purpose was an incitement to all the other officials in the cities under the same government to prepare a similar memorial. 2728 And the governors of the provinces perceiving that this was agreeable to the emperor suggested to their subjects that they should do the same.
2. And as the tyrant by a rescript declared himself well pleased with their measures, 2729 persecution was kindled anew against us. Priests for the images were then appointed in the cities, and besides them high priests by Maximinus himself. 2730 The latter were taken from among those who were most distinguished in public life and had gained celebrity in all the offices which they had filled; and who were imbued, moreover, with great zeal for the service of those whom they worshiped.
3. Indeed, the extraordinary superstition of the emperor, to speak in brief, led all his subjects, both rulers and private citizens, for the sake of gratifying him, to do everything against us, supposing that they could best show their gratitude to him for the benefits which they had received from him, by plotting murder against us and exhibiting toward us any new signs of malignity.
Lactantius (ibid. chap. 36) says: “In compliance with those addresses he [Maximinus] introduced a new mode of government in things respecting religion, and for each city he created a high priest, chosen from among the persons of most distinction. The office of those men was to make daily sacrifices to all their gods, and, with the aid of the former priests, to prevent the Christians from erecting churches, or from worshiping God, either publicly or in private; and he authorized them to compel the Christians to sacrifice to idols, and, on their refusal, to bring them before the civil magistrate; and, as if this had not been enough, in every province he established a superintendent priest, one of chief eminence in the state; and he commanded that all those priests newly instituted should appear in white habits, that being the most honorable distinction of dress.” Maximin perceived the power that existed in the Catholic Church with its wonderful organization, and conceived the stupendous idea of rejuvenating paganism by creating a pagan Catholic Church. The Roman religion should cease to be the loose, unorganized, chaotic thing it had always been, and should be made a positive aggressive power over against Christianity by giving it a regular organization and placing the entire institution in the hands of honorable and able men, whose business it should be to increase its stability and power in every way and in all quarters. We are compelled to admire the wisdom of Maximins plan. No persecutor before him had ever seen the need of thus replacing the Christian Church by another institution as great and as splendid as itself. The effort, like that of Julian a half-century later, must remain memorable in the annals of the conflict of paganism with Christianity.