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 XI
1. And now, victorious and mighty Constantine, in this discourse, whose noble argument is the glory of the Almighty King, let me lay before thee some of the mysteries of his sacred truth: not as presuming to instruct thee, who art thyself taught of God; nor to disclose to thee those secret wonders which he himself, not through the agency of man, but through our common Saviour, and the frequent light of his Divine presence has long since revealed and unfolded to thy view: but in the hope of leading the unlearned to the light, and displaying before those who know them not the causes and motives of thy pious deeds.
2. True it is that thy noble efforts for the daily worship and honor of the Supreme God throughout the habitable world, are the theme of universal praise. But those records of gratitude to thy Saviour and Preserver which thou hast dedicated in our own province of Palestine, and in that city from which as from a fountain-head the Saviour Word 3537 has issued forth to all mankind; and again, the hallowed edifices and consecrated temples which thou hast raised as trophies of his victory over death; and those lofty and noble structures, imperial monuments of an imperial spirit, which thou hast erected in honor of the everlasting memory of the Saviours tomb; the cause, I say, of these things is not equally obvious to all.
3. Those, indeed, who are enlightened in heavenly knowledge by the power of the Divine Spirit, well understand the cause, and justly admire and bless thee for that counsel and resolution which Heaven itself inspired. On the other hand the ignorant and spiritually blind regard these designs with open mockery and scorn, and deem it a strange and unworthy thing indeed that so mighty a prince should waste his zeal on the graves and monuments of the dead.
4. “Were it not better,” such a one might say, “to cherish those rites which are hallowed by ancient usage; to seek the favor of those gods and heroes whose worship is observed in every province; instead of rejecting and disclaiming them, because subject to the calamities incident to man? Surely they may claim equal honors with him who himself has suffered: or, if they are to be rejected, as not exempt from the sorrows of humanity, the same award would justly be pronounced respecting him.” Thus, with important and contracted brow, might he give utterance in pompous language to his self-imagined wisdom.
5. Filled with compassion for this ignorance, the gracious Word of our most beneficent Father freely invites, not such a one alone, but all who are in the path of error, to receive instruction in Divine knowledge; and has ordained the means of such instruction throughout the world, in every country and village, in cultivated and desert lands alike, and in every city: and, as a gracious Saviour and Physician of the soul, calls on the Greek and the Barbarian, the wise and the unlearned, the rich p. 596 and the poor, the servant and his master, the subject and his lord, the ungodly, the profane, the ignorant, the evil-doer, the blasphemer, alike to draw near, and hasten to receive his heavenly cure. And thus in time past had he clearly announced to all the pardon of former transgressions, saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” 3538 And again, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” 3539 And he adds the reason, saying, “For they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” 3540 And again, “I desire not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should repent.” 3541
6. Hence it is only for those who are themselves instructed in Divine things and understand the motives of that zeal of which these works are the result, to appreciate the more than human impulse by which our emperor was guided, to admire his piety toward God, and to believe his care for the memorial of our Saviours resurrection to be a desire imparted from above, and truly inspired by that Sovereign, to be whose faithful servant and minister for good is his proudest boast.
7. In full persuasion, then, of thy approval, most mighty emperor, I desire at this present time to proclaim to all the reasons and motives of thy pious works. I desire to stand as the interpreter of thy designs, to explain the counsels of a soul devoted to the love of God. I propose to teach all men, what all should know who care to understand the principles on which our Saviour God employs his power, the reasons for which he who was the pre-existent Controller of all things at length descended to us from heaven: the reasons for which he assumed our nature, and submitted even to the power of death. I shall declare the causes of that immortal life which followed, and of his resurrection from the dead. Once more, I shall adduce convincing proofs and arguments, for the sake of those who yet need such testimony:
8. and now let me commence my appointed task.
Those who transfer the worship due to that God who formed and rules the world to the works of his hand; who hold the sun and moon, or other parts of this material system, nay, the elements themselves, earth, water, air, and fire, in equal honor with the Creator of them all; who give the name of gods to things which never would have had existence, or even name, except as obedient to that Word of God who made the world: such persons in my judgment resemble those who overlook the master hand which gives its magnificence to a royal palace; and, while lost in wonder at its roofs and walls, the paintings of varied beauty and coloring which adorn them, and its gilded ceilings and sculptures, ascribe to them the praise of that skill which belongs to the artist whose work they are: whereas they should assign the cause of their wonder, not to these visible objects, but to the architect himself, and confess that the proofs of skill are indeed manifest, but that he alone is the possessor of that skill who has made them what they are.
9. Again, well might we liken those to children, who should admire the seven-stringed lyre, and disregard him who invented or has power to use it: or those who forget the valiant warrior, and adorn his spear and shield with the chaplet of victory: or, lastly, those who hold the squares and streets, the public buildings, temples, and gymnasia of a great and royal city in equal honor with its founder; forgetting that their admiration is due, not to lifeless stones, but to him whose wisdom planned and executed these mighty works.
10. Not less absurd is it for those who regard this universe with the natural eye to ascribe its origin to the sun, or moon, or any other heavenly body. Rather let them confess that these are themselves the works of a higher wisdom, remember the Maker and Framer of them all, and render to him the praise and honor above all created objects. Nay rather, inspired by the sight of these very objects, let them address themselves with full purpose of heart to glorify and worship him who is now invisible to mortal eye, but perceived by the clear and unclouded vision of the soul, the supremely sovereign Word of God. To take the instance of the human body: no one has yet conferred the attribute of wisdom on the eyes, or head, the hands, or feet, or other members, far less on the outward clothing, of a wise and learned man: no one terms the philosophers household furniture and utensils, wise: but every rational person admires that invisible and secret power, the mind of the man himself.
11. How much more, then, is our admiration due, not to the visible mechanism of the universe, material as it is, and formed of the selfsame elements; but to that invisible Word who has moulded and arranged it all, who is the only-begotten Son of God, and whom the Maker of all things, who far transcends all being, has begotten of himself, and appointed Lord and Governor of this universe?
12. For since it was impossible that perishable bodies, or the rational spirits which he had created, should p. 597 approach the Supreme God, by reason of their immeasurable distance from his perfections, for he is unbegotten, above and beyond all creation, ineffable, inaccessible, unapproachable, dwelling, as his holy word assures us, 3542 in the light which none can enter; but they were created from nothing, and are infinitely far removed from his unbegotten Essence; well has the all-gracious and Almighty God interposed as it were an intermediate Power 3543 between himself and them, even the Divine omnipotence of his only-begotten Word. And this Power, which is in perfect nearness and intimacy of union, with the Father which abides in him, and shares his secret counsels, has yet condescended, in fullness of grace, as it were to conform itself to those who are so far removed from the supreme majesty of God. How else, consistently with his own holiness could he who is far above and beyond all things unite himself to corruptible and corporeal matter? Accordingly the Divine Word, thus connecting himself with this universe, and receiving into his hands the reins, as it were, of the world, turns and directs it as a skillful charioteer according to his own will and pleasure.
13. The proof of these assertions is evident. For supposing that those component parts of the world which we call elements, as earth, water, air, and fire, the nature of which is manifestly without intelligence, are self-existent; and if they have one common essence, which they who are skilled in natural science call the great receptacle, mother, and nurse of all things; and if this itself be utterly devoid of shape and figure, of soul and reason; whence shall we say it has obtained its present form and beauty? To what shall we ascribe the distinction of the elements, or the union of things contrary in their very nature? Who has commanded the liquid water to sustain the heavy element of earth? Who has turned back the waters from their downward course, and carried them aloft in clouds? Who has bound the force of fire, and caused it to lie latent in wood, and to combine with substances most contrary to itself? Who has mingled the cold air with heat, and thus reconciled the enmity of opposing principles? Who has devised the continuous succession of the human race, and given it as it were an endless term of duration? Who has moulded the male and female form, adapted their mutual relations with perfect harmony, and given one common principle of production to every living creature? Who changes the character of the fluid and corruptible seed, which in itself is void of reason, and gives it its prolific power? Who is at this moment working these and ten thousand effects more wonderful than these, nay, surpassing all wonder, and with invisible influence is daily and hourly perpetuating the production of them all?
14. Surely the wonder-working and truly omnipotent Word of God may well be deemed the efficient cause of all these things: that Word who, diffusing himself through all creation, pervading height and depth with incorporeal energy, and embracing the length and breadth of the universe within his mighty grasp, has compacted and reduced to order this entire system, from whose unreasoned and formless matter he has framed for himself an instrument of perfect harmony, the nicely balanced chords and notes of which he touches with all-wise and unerring skill. He it is who governs the sun, and moon, and the other luminaries of heaven by inexplicable laws, and directs their motions for the service of the universal whole.
15. It is this Word of God who has stooped to the earth on which we live, and created the manifold species of animals, and the fair varieties of the vegetable world. It is this same Word who has penetrated the recesses of the deep, has given their being to the finny race, and produced the countless forms of life which there exist. It is he who fashions the burden of the womb, and informs it in natures laboratory with the principle of life. By him the fluid and heavy moisture is raised on high, and then, sweetened by a purifying change, descends in measured quantities to the earth, and at stated seasons in more profuse supply.
16. Like a skillful husbandman, he fully irrigates the land, tempers the moist and dry in just proportion, diversifying the whole with brilliant flowers, with aspects of varied beauty, with pleasant fragrance, with alternating varieties of fruits, and countless gratifications for the taste of men. But why do I dare essay a hopeless task, to recount the mighty works of the Word of God, and describe an energy which surpasses mortal thought? By some, indeed, he has been termed the Nature of the universe, by others, the World-Soul, by others, Fate. Others again have declared him to be the most High God himself, strangely confounding things most widely different; bringing down to this earth, uniting to a corruptible and material body, and assigning to that supreme and unbegotten Power who is Lord of all an intermediate place between p. 598 irrational animals and rational mortals on the one hand, and immortal beings on the other. 3544
Here the author seems to speak doubly of the Word and the word.596:3538
Matt. xi. 28.596:3539
Matt. xi. 13. R.V.: “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” The text here has the reading εισμετανοιαν, omitted by Tischendorf and the revisers with א B, etc., but supported by CEGKL, sab. cop., etc. It is worth noting that it is not in the Sinaitic, and if this text reading is correct it would nearly overthrow the possibility that this ms. was one of those prepared under the direction of Eusebius.596:3540
Matt. xi. 12.596:3541
Ezek. xviii. 23. R.V.: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, saith the Lord God: and not rather that he should return from his way and live?”597:3542
1 Tim. vi. 16.597:3543
[This whole passage (which is defended by Valesius) appears, if rigidly interpreted, to lie under suspicion of a tinge of Arianism.—Bag.] It savors directly of Philo. His doctrine was of an ineffable God, above and separate from matter, and defiled by any contact with it. To bring him into connection with created things he introduced intermediate beings, or “powers,” the universal power including all the rest being the Logos. Compare brief account in Zellers Outlines of Greek Philosophy, p. 320–325; Siegfried, Philo von Alexandria (Jena, 1875), especially p. 199 sq., 219 sq., and p. 362–364, where he treats very inadequately of Eusebius dependence on Philo; also works of Philo and Eusebius Præp. and Demonst. Ev. There is a chance of viewing the Word thus as created, but if this is guarded against (as it is by him in the use of “begotten”), there is nothing intrinsically heterodox in making the Word the Creator of the world and only Revealer of the Father. The direct Philonian influence is seen in the phraseology of the following sentences.598:3544
[Of this somewhat obscure passage, a translator can do no more than give as nearly as possible a literal version. The intelligent reader will not fail to perceive that the author, here and in the following chapter, has trodden on very dangerous ground.—Bag.] Compare above notes on the relations of Eusebius and Philo.
Next: Chapter XII
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