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 V
1. And in this hope our divinely-favored emperor partakes even in this present life, gifted as he is by God with native virtues, and having received into his soul the out-flowings of his favor. His reason he derives from the great Source of all reason: he is wise, and good, and just, as having fellowship with perfect Wisdom, Goodness, and Righteousness: virtuous, as following the pattern of perfect virtue: valiant, as partaking of heavenly strength.
2. And truly may he deserve the imperial title, who has formed his soul to royal virtues, according to the standard of that celestial kingdom. But he who is a stranger to these blessings, who denies the Sovereign of the universe, and owns no allegiance to the heavenly Father of spirits; who invests not himself with the virtues which become an emperor, but overlays his soul with moral deformity and baseness; who for royal clemency substitutes the fury of a savage beast; for a generous temper, the incurable venom of malicious wickedness; for prudence, folly; for reason and wisdom, that recklessness which is the most odious of all vices, for from it, as from a spring of bitterness, proceed the most pernicious fruits; such as inveterate profligacy of life, covetousness, murder, impiety and defiance of God; surely one abandoned to such vices as these, however he may be deemed powerful through despotic violence, has no true title to the name of Emperor.
3. For how should he whose soul is impressed with a thousand absurd images of p. 586 false deities, 3513 be able to exhibit a counterpart of the true and heavenly sovereignty? Or how can he be absolute lord of others, who has subjected himself to the dominion of a thousand cruel masters? a slave of low delights and ungoverned lust, a slave of wrongfully-extorted wealth, of rage and passion, as well as of cowardice and terror; a slave of ruthless demons, and soul-destroying spirits?
4. Let, then, our emperor, on the testimony of truth itself, be declared alone worthy of the title; who is dear to the Supreme Sovereign himself; who alone is free, nay, who is truly lord: above the thirst of wealth, superior to sexual desire; victorious even over natural pleasures; controlling, not controlled by, anger and passion. 3514 He is indeed an emperor, and bears a title corresponding to his deeds; a Victor in truth, who has gained the victory over those passions which overmaster the rest of men: whose character is formed after the Divine original 3515 of the Supreme Sovereign, and whose mind reflects, as in a mirror, the radiance of his virtues. Hence is our emperor perfect in discretion, in goodness, in justice, in courage, in piety, in devotion to God: he truly and only is a philosopher, since he knows himself, and is fully aware that supplies of every blessing are showered on him from a source quite external to himself, even from heaven itself. Declaring the august title of supreme authority by the splendor of his vesture, he alone worthily wears that imperial purple which so well becomes him.
5. He is indeed an emperor, who calls on and implores in prayer the favor of his heavenly Father night and day, and whose ardent desires are fixed on his celestial kingdom. For he knows that present things, subject as they are to decay and death, flowing on and disappearing like a rivers stream, are not worthy to be compared with him who is sovereign of all; therefore it is that he longs for the incorruptible and incorporeal kingdom of God. And this kingdom he trusts he shall obtain, elevating his mind as he does in sublimity of thought above the vault of heaven, and filled with inexpressible longing for the glories which shine there, in comparison with which he deems the precious things of this present world but darkness. For he sees earthly sovereignty to be but a petty and fleeting dominion over a mortal and temporary life, and rates it not much higher than the goatherds, or shepherds, or herdsmans power: nay, as more burdensome than theirs, and exercised over more stubborn subjects. The acclamations of the people, and the voice of flattery, he reckons rather troublesome than pleasing, because of the steady constancy of his character, and genuine discipline of his mind.
6. Again, when he beholds the military service of his subjects, the vast array of his armies, the multitudes of horse and foot, entirely devoted to his command, he feels no astonishment, no pride at the possession of such mighty power; but turns his thoughts inward on himself, and recognizes the same common nature there. He smiles at his vesture, embroidered with gold and flowers, and at the imperial purple and diadem itself, when he sees the multitude gaze in wonder, like children at a bugbear, on the splendid spectacle. 3516 Himself superior to such feelings, he clothes his soul with the knowledge of God, that vesture, the broidery of which is temperance, righteousness, piety, and all other virtues; a vesture such as truly becomes a sovereign.
7. The wealth which others so much desire, as gold, silver, or precious gems, he regards to be, as they really are, in themselves mere stones and worthless matter, of no avail to preserve or defend from evil. For what power have these things to free from disease, or repel the approach of death? And knowing as he does this truth by personal experience in the use of these things, he regards the splendid attire of his subjects with calm indifference, and smiles at the childishness of those to whom they prove attractive. Lastly, he abstains from all excess in food and wine, and leaves superfluous dainties to gluttons, judging that such indulgences, however suitable to others, are not so to him, and deeply convinced of their pernicious tendency, and their effect in darkening the intellectual powers of the soul.
8. For all these reasons, p. 587 our divinely taught and noble-minded emperor, aspiring to higher objects than this life affords, calls upon his heavenly Father as one who longs for his kingdom; exhibits a pious spirit in each action of his life; and finally, as a wise and good instructor, imparts to his subjects the knowledge of him who is the Sovereign Lord of all.
There seems to be a clear hint of Philonism here, or Philonism as developed by the Neo-Platonists and the Christian Theologians. The history of the thought seems to begin in the Platonic ideas. These self-existing forms which impress themselves on the soul naturally become personalities to which the soul submits, and whose images are impressed on the soul. These personalized ideas are in the thought of Philo the thoughts or ideas of God, “powers” who do his will, like the Valkyr of the Northern mythology,—the personified thoughts or will of Odin. These objective ideas in organized whole were the Word.
The objectivity of ideas, placed in relation with “mind reading,” “thought transference,” and the like, and with the modern conceptions of the conservation of energy and transmission of force by vibrations, give an interesting suggestion of a material basis for the conception. If thought is accompanied by vibration of brain molecules, it is of course quite conceivable that that vibration be projected through any medium which can transmit vibration, whether the nerves of another person or the air. A person of supreme energy of will would make these vibrations more intense, and an Infinite personality would make tangible even perhaps to the point of that resistance which we call matter. The conception of one great central Personality issuing an organized related system of thoughts in various stages of embodiment, in one massive, constant forth-streaming of will, is most interesting. According to it, all will forms of the individual are true as they are in harmony with these norms. Where, however, the lesser wills project incongruous will forms, they are in conflict with the greater. According to it, the human soul is beaten upon by all ideas which have ever been projected, either in individual or in some combined total of force, and is formed according to what it submits itself to, whether to the lesser and mal-organized or to the Great Norm.586:3514
Compare Prolegomena, Character. This peculiar self-control, it is to be remembered, was characteristic also of his father, and in a measure the product of the Neo-Platonic philosophy.586:3515
Literally, the “archetypal idea,”—the same phrase as that used by Philo, 1. 4 (ed. Lips., 1828, I. p. 7); i.e. that incorporeal model or image of God on which the corporeal world was formed.586:3516
This may be true; but compare Prolegomena, Character, for his practice, at least.
Next: Chapter VI
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