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 LVI
Chapter LVI.—He prays that All may be Christians, but compels None.
“My own desire is, for the common good of the world and the advantage of all mankind, that thy people should enjoy a life of peace and undisturbed concord. Let those, therefore, who still delight in error, be made welcome to the same degree of peace and tranquillity which they have who believe. For it may be that this restoration of equal privileges to all will prevail to lead them into the straight path. Let no one molest another, but let every one do as his soul desires. Only let men of sound judgment be assured of this, that those only can live a life of holiness and purity, whom thou callest to a relip. 514 ance on thy holy laws. With regard to those who will hold themselves aloof from us, let them have, if they please, their temples 3202 of lies: we have the glorious edifice of thy truth, which thou hast given us as our native home. 3203 We pray, however, that they too may receive the same blessing, and thus experience that heartfelt joy which unity of sentiment inspires.
[῎Ονπερ κατὰ φύσιν δέδωκας. The clause is thus rendered by Valesius: “Nos splendidissimam domum veritatis tuæ, quam nascentibus nobis donasti, retinemus.” This seems almost as unintelligible as the original. The translation above attempted yields, perhaps, a sense not inconsistent with the general scope of the passage.—Bag.] 1709 renders “according to nature.” Molzberger has “through no merit on our part.” Stroth renders “characteristically” or “as our own natural possession” (i.e. eigenthümlich), and is confirmed by Heinichen, while Christophorson has “natura” and Portesius “a natura.” The last is the best translation “by nature.” As a matter of interpretation Bagster is probably wrong and Stroth substantially right. Whether Constantine had the Epistle to the Romans in mind or not, he had the same thought as Paul that men “by nature” have the “truth of God,” but exchange this for a lie (Rom. 1:25, Rom. 2:14, Rom. 11:21, 24Rom. i. 25; ii. 14; cf. xi. 21 and 24). This suggests, however, another possible meaning, that the truth is known “through the things that are made” (Rom. i. 20). For various philosophical usages of φύσις, compare interesting note in Grant, Ethics of Aristotle, 1 (Lond. 1885), 483, 484.
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