Writings of Eusebius - The Life of Constantine - Book IV

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Translated by Ernest Cushing Richardson, Ph.d.

librarian and associate professor in hartford theological seminary.

Under the editorial supervision of Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Semimary, New York, and Henry Wace, D.D., Principal of King's College, London

Published in 1890 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

Book IV.


Chapter I.--How he honored Many by Presents and Promotions.

While thus variously engaged in promoting the extension and glory of the church of God, and striving by every measure to commend the Saviour's doctrine, the emperor was far from neglecting secular affairs; but in this respect also he was unwearied in bestowing benefits of every kind and in quick succession on the people of every province. On the one hand he manifested a paternal anxiety for the general welfare of his subjects; on the other he would distinguish individuals of his own acquaintance with various marks of honor; conferring his benefits in every instance in a truly noble spirit. No one could request a favor from the emperor, and fail of obtaining what he sought: no one expected a boon from him, and found that expectation vain. [3308] Some received presents in money, others in land; some obtained the Prætorian præfecture, others senatorial, others again consular rank: many were appointed provincial governors: others were made counts of the first, second, or third order: in numberless instances the title of Most Illustrious and many other distinctions were conferred; for the emperor devised new dignities, that he might invest a larger number with the tokens of his favor.

Footnotes

[3308] Compare Prolegomena, under Character, for the criticism of this conduct from those who viewed it from another point of view.

Chapter II.--Remission of a Fourth Part of the Taxes.

The extent to which he studied the general happiness and prosperity may be understood from a single instance most beneficial and universal in its application, and still gratefully remembered. He remitted a fourth part of the yearly tribute paid for land, and bestowed it on the owners of the soil; so that if we compute this yearly reduction, we shall find that the cultivators enjoyed their produce free of tribute every fourth year. [3309] This privilege being established by law, and secured for the time to come, has given occasion for the emperor's beneficence to be held, not merely by the then present generation, but by their children and descendants, in perpetual remembrance.
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Footnotes

[3309] For directly contrary account of his taxations, compare Prolegomena, under Character.

Chapter III.--Equalization of the More Oppressive Taxes.

And whereas some persons found fault with the surveys of land which had been made under former emperors, and complained that their property was unduly burdened; acting in this case also on the principles of justice, he sent commissioners to equalize the tribute, and to secure immunity to those who had made this appeal.

Chapter IV.--His Liberality, from His Private Resources, to the Losers in Suits of a Pecuniary Nature.

In cases of judicial arbitration, in order that the loser by his decision might not quit his presence less contented than the victorious litigant, he himself bestowed, and from his own private means, in some cases lands, in other money, on the defeated party. In this manner he took care that the loser, as having appeared in his presence, should be as well satisfied as the gainer of the cause; for he considered that no one ought in any case to retire dejected and sorrowful from an interview with such a prince. [3310] Thus it happened that both parties returned from the scene of trial with glad and cheerful countenances, while the emperor's noble-minded liberality excited universal admiration.

Footnotes

[3310] In reality it may have been less childish than Eusebius makes it appear, for it probably refers to cases where it was a matter of just equalization of claims, where each party thought his claim just.

Chapter V.--Conquest of the Scythians defeated through the Sign of Our Saviour.

And why should I relate even briefly and incidentally, how he subjected barbarous nations to the Roman power; how he was the first who subjugated the Scythian [3311] and Sarmatian tribes, which had never learned submission, and compelled them, how unwilling soever, to own the sovereignty of Rome? For the emperors who preceded him had actually rendered tribute to the Scythians: and Romans, by an annual payment, had confessed themselves servants to barbarians; an indignity which our emperor could no longer bear, nor think it consistent with his victorious career to continue the payment his predecessors had made. Accordingly, with full confidence in his Saviour's aid, he raised his conquering standard against these enemies also, and soon reduced them all to obedience; coercing by military force those who fiercely resisted his authority, while, on the other hand, he conciliated the rest by wisely conducted embassies, and reclaimed them to a state of order and civilization from their lawless and savage life. Thus the Scythians at length learned to acknowledge subjection to the power of Rome.

Footnotes

[3311] [Probably the Goths are meant, as in Socrates' Eccles. Hist. Bk. I. ch. 18.--Bag.] Compare for his Gothic wars, references in Prolegomena, under Life.

Chapter VI.--Conquest of the Sarmatians, consequent on the Rebellion of their Slaves.

With respect to the Sarmatians, God himself brought them beneath the rule of Constantine, and subdued a nation swelling with barbaric pride in the following manner. Being attacked by the Scythians, they had entrusted their slaves with arms, in order to repel the enemy. These slaves first overcame the invaders and then, turning their weapons against their masters, drove them all from their native land. The expelled Sarmatians found that their only hope of safety was in Constantine's protection: and he, whose familiar habit it was to save men's lives, received them all within the confines of the Roman empire. [3312] Those who were capable of serving he incorporated with his own troops: to the rest he allotted lands to cultivate for their own support: so that they themselves acknowledged that their past misfortune had produced a happy result, in that they now enjoyed Roman liberty in place of savage barbarism. In this manner God added to his dominions many and various barbaric tribes.

Footnotes

[3312] To the number of 300,000, according to Anonymus Valesianus. This was in the year 334.

Chapter VII.--Ambassadors from Different Barbarous Nations receive Presents from the Emperor.

Indeed, ambassadors were continually arriving from all nations, bringing for his acceptance their most precious gifts. So that I myself have sometimes stood near the entrance of the imperial palace, and observed a noticeable array of barbarians in attendance, differing from each other in costume and decorations, and equally unlike in the fashion of their hair and beard. Their aspect truculent and terrible, their bodily stature prodigious: some of a red complexion, others white as snow, others again of an intermediate color. For in the number of those I have referred to might be seen specimens of the Blemmyan tribes, of the Indians, and the Ethiopians, [3313] "that widely-divided race, remotest of mankind." All these in due succession, like some painted pageant, presented to the emperor those gifts which their own nation held in most esteem; some offering crowns of gold, others diadems set with precious stones; some bringing fair-haired boys, others barbaric vestments embroidered with gold and flowers: some appeared with horses, others with shields and long spears, with arrows and bows, thereby offering their services and alliance for the emperor's acceptance. These presents he separately received and carefully laid aside, acknowledging them in so munificent a manner as at once to enrich those who bore them. He also honored the noblest among them with Roman offices of dignity; so that many of them thenceforward preferred to continue their residence among us, and felt no desire to revisit their native land.

Footnotes

[3313] [Aiphiopas, toi dichtha dedaiatai, zschatoi andron, Hoi men dusomenou huperionos, hoi d' aniontos. --Odyss. 1. 23, 24.--Bag.]

Chapter VIII.--That he wrote also to the King of Persia, [3314] who had sent him an Embassy, on Behalf of the Christians in his Realm.

The king of the Persians also having testified a desire to form an alliance with Constantine, by sending an embassy and presents as assurances of peace and friendship, the emperor, in negotiating this treaty, far surpassed the monarch who had first done him honor, in the magnificence with which he acknowledged his gifts. Having heard, too, that there were many churches of God in Persia, and that large numbers there were gathered into the fold of Christ, full of joy at this intelligence, he resolved to extend his anxiety for the general welfare to that country also, as one whose aim it was to care for all alike in every nation.

Footnotes

[3314] Sapor II. (310-381) called the Great, one of the Sassanidæ and afterwards the persistent enemy of the sons of Constantine. He was at various times a bitter persecutor of the Christians, and it is said (Plate) that "no Persian king had ever caused such terror to Rome as this monarch." Compare article by Plate on the Sassanidæ in Smith, Dict. of Gr. and R. Biog. and Mythol.

Chapter IX.--Letter of Constantine Augustus to Sapor, King of the Persians, containing a truly Pious Confession of God and Christ.

Copy of his Letter to the King of Persia. "By keeping the Divine faith, I am made a partaker of the light of truth: guided by the light of truth, I advance in the knowledge of the Divine faith. Hence it is that, as my actions themselves evince, I profess the most holy religion; and this worship I declare to be that which teaches me deeper acquaintance with the most holy God; aided by whose Divine power, beginning from the very borders of the ocean, I have aroused each nation of the world in succession to a well-grounded hope of security; so that those which, groaning in servitude to the most cruel tyrants and yielding to the pressure of their daily sufferings, had well nigh been utterly destroyed, have been restored through my agency to a far happier state. This God I confess that I hold in unceasing honor and remembrance; this God I delight to contemplate with pure and guileless thoughts in the height of his glory.

Chapter X.--The Writer denounces Idols, and glorifies God.

"This God I invoke with bended knees, and recoil with horror from the blood of sacrifices, from their foul and detestable odors, and from every earth-born magic fire: [3315] for the profane and impious superstitions which are defiled by these rites have cast down and consigned to perdition many, nay, whole nations of the Gentile world. For he who is Lord of all cannot endure that those blessings which, in his own loving-kindness and consideration of the wants of men, he has revealed for the use of all, should be perverted to serve the lusts of any. His only demand from man is purity of mind and an undefiled spirit; and by this standard he weighs the actions of virtue and godliness. For his pleasure is in works of moderation and gentleness: he loves the meek, and hates the turbulent spirit: delighting in faith, he chastises unbelief: by him all presumptuous power is broken down, and he avenges the insolence of the proud. While the arrogant and haughty are utterly overthrown, he requires the humble and forgiving with deserved rewards: even so does he highly honor and strengthen with his special help a kingdom justly governed, and maintains a prudent king in the tranquillity of peace.

Footnotes

[3315] [Referring to the luminous appearances produced by the Pagan priests in the celebration of their mysteries.--Bag.]

Chapter XI.--Against the Tyrants and Persecutors; and on the Captivity of Valerian.

"I cannot, then, my brother believe that I err in acknowledging this one God, the author and parent of all things: whom many of my predecessors in power, led astray by the madness of error, have ventured to deny, but who were all visited with a retribution so terrible and so destructive, that all succeeding generations have held up their calamities as the most effectual warning to any who desire to follow in their steps. Of the number of these I believe him [3316] to have been, whom the lightning-stroke of Divine vengeance drove forth from hence, and banished to your dominions and whose disgrace contributed to the fame of your celebrated triumph.

Footnotes

[3316] [Valerian, who had been a persecutor of the Christians, and whose expedition against the Persians had terminated in his own captivity, and subjection to every kind of insult and cruelty from the conquerors.--Bag.]

Chapter XII.--He declares that, having witnessed the Fall of the Persecutors, he now rejoices at the Peace enjoyed by the Christians.

"And it is surely a happy circumstance that the punishment of such persons as I have described should have been publicly manifested in our own times. For I myself have witnessed the end of those who lately harassed the worshipers of God by their impious edict. And for this abundant thanksgivings are due to God that through his excellent Providence all men who observe his holy laws are gladdened by the renewed enjoyment of peace. Hence I am fully persuaded that everything is in the best and safest posture, since God is vouchsafing, through the influence of their pure and faithful religious service, and their unity of judgment respecting his Divine character, to gather all men to himself.

Chapter XIII.--He bespeaks his Affectionate Interest for the Christians in his Country.

"Imagine, then, with what joy I heard tidings so accordant with my desire, that the fairest districts of Persia are filled with those men on whose behalf alone I am at present speaking, I mean the Christians. I pray, therefore, that both you and they may enjoy abundant prosperity, and that your blessings and theirs may be in equal measure; [3317] for thus you will experience the mercy and favor of that God who is the Lord and Father of all. And now, because your power is great, I commend these persons to your protection; because your piety is eminent, I commit them to your care. Cherish them with your wonted humanity and kindness; for by this proof of faith you will secure an immeasurable benefit both to yourself and us."

Footnotes

[3317] [The sense given above of this passage (which in the text is corrupt), is founded on the reading restored by Valesius from Theodoritus and Nicephorus.--Bag.] Stroth translates (Hein.), "So I desire for you the greatest prosperity; and for them, too, I wish that it may prosper as with you."

Chapter XIV.--How the Zealous Prayers of Constantine procured Peace to the Christians.

Thus, the nations of the world being everywhere guided in their course as it were by the skill of a single pilot, and acquiescing in the administration of him who governed as the servant of God, the peace of the Roman empire continued undisturbed, and all classes of his subjects enjoyed a life of tranquillity and repose. At the same time the emperor, who was convinced that the prayers of godly men contributed powerfully to the maintenance of the public welfare, felt himself constrained zealously to seek such prayers and not only himself implored the help and favor of God, but charged the prelates of the churches to offer supplications on his behalf.

Chapter XV.--He causes himself to be represented on his Coins, and in his Portraits, in the Attitude of Prayer.

How deeply his soul was impressed by the power of divine faith may be understood from the circumstance that he directed his likeness to be stamped on the golden coin of the empire with the eyes uplifted as in the posture of prayer to God: and this money became current throughout the Roman world. His portrait also at full length was placed over the entrance gates of the palaces in some cities, the eyes upraised to heaven, and the hands outspread as if in prayer.

Chapter XVI.--He forbids by Law the Placing his Likeness in Idol Temples.

In this manner he represented himself, even through the medium of painting, as habitually engaged in prayer to God. At the same time he forbade, by an express enactment, the setting up of any resemblance of himself in any idol temple, that not even the mere lineaments of his person might receive contamination from the error of forbidden superstition.

Chapter XVII.--Of his Prayers in the Palace, and his Reading the Holy Scriptures.

Still nobler proofs of his piety might be discerned by those who marked how he modeled as it were his very palace into a church of God, and himself afforded a pattern of zeal to those assembled therein: how he took the sacred scriptures into his hands, and devoted himself to the study of those divinely inspired oracles; after which he would offer up regular prayers with all the members of his imperial court.

Chapter XVIII.--He enjoins the General Observance of the Lord's Day, and the Day of Preparation.

He ordained, too, that one day should be regarded as a special occasion for prayer: I mean that which is truly the first and chief of all, the day of our Lord and Saviour. The entire care of his household was entrusted to deacons and other ministers consecrated to the service of God, and distinguished by gravity of life and every other virtue: while his trusty body guard, strong in affection and fidelity to his person, found in their emperor an instructor in the practice of piety, and like him held the Lord's salutary day in honor and performed on that day the devotions which he loved. The same observance was recommended by this blessed prince to all classes of his subjects: his earnest desire being gradually to lead all mankind to the worship of God. Accordingly he enjoined on all the subjects of the Roman empire to observe the Lord's day, as a day of rest, and also to honor the day which precedes the Sabbath; in memory, I suppose, of what the Saviour of mankind is recorded to have achieved on that day. [3318] And since his desire was to teach his whole army zealously to honor the Saviour's day (which derives its name from light, and from the sun), [3319] he freely granted to those among them who were partakers of the divine faith, leisure for attendance on the services of the Church of God, in order that they might be able, without impediment, to perform their religious worship.

Footnotes

[3318] [That is, Friday. The passage is not very intelligible. Does it mean that Constantine ordered this day to be distinguished in some way from others, as the day of the Lord's crucifixion?--Bag.] [3319] [The decree of Constantine for the general observance of Sunday appears to have been issued a.d. 321, before which time both "the old and new sabbath" were observed by Christians. "Constantine (says Gibbon, ch. 20, note 8) styles the Lord's day Dies solis, a name which could not offend the ears of his Pagan subjects."--Bag.] This has been urged as ground for saying that Constantine did not commit himself to Christianity until the end of life, but it only shows his tact and care in treating the diverse elements of his empire.

Chapter XIX.--That he directed even his Pagan Soldiers to pray on the Lord's Day.

With regard to those who were as yet ignorant of divine truth, he provided by a second statute that they should appear on each Lord's day on an open plain near the city, and there, at a given signal, offer to God with one accord a prayer which they had previously learnt. He admonished them that their confidence should not rest in their spears, or armor, or bodily strength, but that they should acknowledge the supreme God as the giver of every good, and of victory itself; to whom they were bound to offer their prayers with due regularity, uplifting their hands toward heaven, and raising their mental vision higher still to the king of heaven, on whom they should call as the Author of victory, their Preserver, Guardian, and Helper. The emperor himself prescribed the prayer to be used by all his troops, commanding them, to pronounce the following words in the Latin tongue:

Chapter XX.--The Form of Prayer given by Constantine to his Soldiers.

"We acknowledge thee the only God: we own thee, as our King and implore thy succor. By thy favor have we gotten the victory: through thee are we mightier than our enemies. We render thanks for thy past benefits, and trust thee for future blessings. Together we pray to thee, and beseech thee long to preserve to us, safe and triumphant, our emperor Constantine and his pious sons." Such was the duty to be performed on Sunday by his troops, and such the prayer they were instructed to offer up to God.

Chapter XXI.--He orders the Sign of the Saviour's Cross to be engraven on his Soldiers' Shields.

And not only so, but he also caused the sign of the salutary trophy to be impressed on the very shields of his soldiers; and commanded that his embattled forces should be preceded in their march, not by golden images, as heretofore, [3320] but only by the standard of the cross.

Footnotes

[3320] Compare for these, Yates, article Signa Militaria in Smith, Dict. Gr. and Rom. Ant., where there is given cut of the arch of Constantine showing such standards.

Chapter XXII.--Of his Zeal in Prayer, and the Honor he paid to the Feast of Easter.

The emperor himself, as a sharer in the holy mysteries of our religion, would seclude himself daily at a stated hour in the innermost chambers of his palace; and there in solitary converse with his God, would kneel in humble supplication, and entreat the blessings of which he stood in need. But especially at the salutary feast of Easter, his religious diligence was redoubled; he fulfilled as it were the duties of a hierophant with every energy of his mind and body, and outvied all others in the zealous celebration of this feast. He changed, too, the holy night vigil into a brightness like that of day, by causing waxen tapers of great length to be lighted throughout the city: besides which, torches everywhere diffused their light, so as to impart to this mystic vigil a brilliant splendor beyond that of day. [3321] As soon as day itself returned, in imitation of our Saviour's gracious acts, he opened a liberal hand to his subjects of every nation, province, and people, and lavished abundant bounties on all.

Footnotes

[3321] Compare Venables, Easter, Ceremonies of, in Smith and Cheetham, Dict., for account of the customs of the day.

Chapter XXIII.--How he forbade Idolatrous Worship, but honored Martyrs and the Church Festivals.

Such were his sacred ministrations in the service of his God. At the same time, his subjects, both civil and military, throughout the empire, found a barrier everywhere opposed against idol worship, and every kind of sacrifice forbidden. [3322] A statute was also passed, enjoining the due observance of the Lord's day, and transmitted to the governors of every province, who undertook, at the emperor's command, to respect the days commemorative of martyrs, and duly to honor the festal seasons in the churches: [3323] and all these intentions were fullfilled to the emperor's entire satisfaction.

Footnotes

[3322] [This prohibition must be limited to private sacrifices. See Bk. II., ch. 45, note.--Bag.] [3323] "Str. rightly translates `and honored the festal days by public gatherings,' while Val. [and Bag.] falsely renders `duly honored the festival seasons of the church.'"--Hein.

Chapter XXIV.--That he described himself to be a Bishop, in Charge of Affairs External to the Church.

Hence it was not without reason that once, on the occasion of his entertaining a company of bishops, he let fall the expression, "that he himself too was a bishop," addressing them in my hearing in the following words: "You are bishops whose jurisdiction is within the Church: I also am a bishop, ordained by God to overlook whatever is external to the Church." [3324] And truly his measures corresponded with his words: for he watched over his subjects with an episcopal care, and exhorted them as far as in him lay to follow a godly life.

Footnotes

[3324] This saying of Constantine has occasioned a deal of exegesis and conjecture. Compare monograph of Walch mentioned under Literature in the Prolegomena for discussion and references to other older literature.

Chapter XXV.--Prohibition of Sacrifices, of Mystic Rites, Combats of Gladiators, also the Licentious Worship of the Nile.

Consistently with this zeal he issued successive laws and ordinances, forbidding any to offer sacrifice to idols, to consult diviners, to erect images, or to pollute the cities with the sanguinary combats of gladiators. [3325] And inasmuch as the Egyptians, especially those of Alexandria, had been accustomed to honor their river through a priesthood composed of effeminate men, a further law was passed commanding the extermination of the whole class as vicious, that no one might thenceforward be found tainted with the like impurity. And whereas the superstitious inhabitants apprehended that the river would in consequence withhold its customary flood, God himself showed his approval of the emperor's law by ordering all things in a manner quite contrary to their expectation. For those who had defiled the cities by their vicious conduct were indeed seen no more; but the river, as if the country through which it flowed had been purified to receive it, rose higher than ever before, and completely overflowed the country with its fertilizing streams: thus effectually admonishing the deluded people to turn from impure men, and ascribe their prosperity to him alone who is the Giver of all good.

Footnotes

[3325] The most accessible reference for getting a glimpse of the legislation of Constantine in these and similar regards is the section, The alteration in general and penal legislation in Wordsworth's Constantinus I., in Smith and Wace, Dict. 1 (1877). This section is on p. 636-7. Compare also the laws themselves as gathered in Migne, Patrol. lat. vol. 8. Compare also Prolegomena for general statement of the value of his legislation and his reputation as legislator.

Chapter XXVI.--Amendment of the Law in Force respecting Childless Persons, and of the Law of Wills.

So numerous, indeed, were the benefits of this kind conferred by the emperor on every province, as to afford ample materials to any who might desire to record them. Among these may be instanced those laws which he entirely remodelled, and established on a more equitable basis: the nature of which reform may be briefly and easily explained. The childless were punished under the old law with the forfeiture of their hereditary property, a merciless statute, which dealt with them as positive criminals. The emperor annulled this, and decreed that those so circumstanced should inherit. He regulated the question on the principles of equity and justice, arguing willful transgressors should be chastised with the penalties their crimes deserve. But nature herself denies children to many, who long, perhaps, for a numerous offspring, but are disappointed of their hope by bodily infirmity. Others continue childless, not from any dislike of posterity, but because their ardent love of philosophy [3326] renders them averse to the conjugal union. Women, too, consecrated to the service of God, have maintained a pure and spotless virginity, and have devoted themselves, soul and body to a life of entire chastity and holiness. What then? Should this conduct be deemed worthy of punishment, or rather of admiration and praise; since to desire this state is in itself honorable, and to maintain it surpasses the power of unassisted nature? Surely those whose bodily infirmity destroys their hope of offspring are worthy of pity, not of punishment: and he who devotes himself to a higher object calls not for chastisement, but especial admiration. On such principles of sound reason did the emperor rectify the defects of this law. Again, with regard to the wills of dying persons, the old laws had ordained that they should be expressed, even at the latest breath, as it were, in certain definite words, and had prescribed the exact form and terms to be employed. This practice had occasioned many fraudulent attempts to hinder the intentions of the deceased from being carried into full effect. As soon as our emperor was aware of these abuses, he reformed this law likewise, declaring that a dying man ought to be permitted to indicate his last wishes in as few words as possible, and in whatever terms he pleased; and to set forth his will in any written form; or even by word of mouth, provided it were done in the presence of proper witnesses, who might be competent faithfully to discharge their trust.

Footnotes

[3326] [The word "philosophy," here and in the 28th Chapter, plainly indicates that virginity which was so highly honored in the earlier ages of Christianity, and the undue exaltation of which was productive, necessarily, of evils which it is scarcely possible to estimate at their full extent.--Bag.] On the growing prevalence of the practice of virginity compare Hatch, Virgins, in Smith and Cheetham, Dict. But this note belongs rather to the paragraph below; for the author does not refer to Christian virginity but primarily to philosophical celibacy in this instance. The Neo-Platonic philosophy of the times, through its doctrine of the purification of the soul by its liberation from the body or sensuous things, taught celibacy and ascetic practices generally. So Plotinus (d. 270 a.d.) practiced and taught to a degree, and Porphyry (d. 301+) more explicitly. Compare rich literature on Neo-Platonism, and conveniently Zeller, Outlines of Gr. Philos. Lond., 1886, p. 326-43, passim.

Chapter XXVII.--Among Other Enactments, he decrees that no Christian shall slave to a Jew, and affirms the Validity of the Decisions of Councils.

He also passed a law to the effect that no Christian should remain in servitude to a Jewish master, on the ground that it could not be right that those whom the Saviour had ransomed should be subjected to the yoke of slavery by a people who had slain the prophets and the Lord himself. If any were found hereafter in these circumstances, the slave was to be set at liberty, and the master punished by a fine. He likewise added the sanction of his authority to the decisions of bishops passed at their synods, and forbade the provincial governors to annul any of their decrees: for he rated the priests of God at a higher value than any judge whatever. These and a thousand similar provisions did he enact for the benefit of his subjects; but there is not time now to give a special description of them, such as might convey an accurate idea of his imperial wisdom in these respects: nor need I now relate at length, how, as a devoted servant of the Supreme God, he employed himself from morning until night in seeking objects for his beneficence, and how equally and universally kind he was to all.

Chapter XXVIII.--His Gifts to the Churches, and Bounties to Virgins and to the Poor.

His liberality, however, was most especially exercised on behalf of the churches of God. In some cases he granted lands, in others he issued supplies of food for the support of the poor, of orphan children, and widows; besides which, he evinced much care and forethought in fully providing the naked and destitute with clothing. He distinguished, however, with most special honor those who had devoted their lives to the practice of Divine philosophy. Hence his respect, little short of veneration, for God's most holy and ever virgin choir: for he felt assured that the God to whom such persons devoted themselves was himself an inmate of their souls.

Chapter XXIX.--Of Constantine's Discourses and Declamations. [3327]

For himself, he sometimes passed sleepless nights in furnishing his mind with Divine knowledge: and much of his time was spent in composing discourses, many of which he delivered in public; for he conceived it to be incumbent on him to govern his subjects by appealing to their reason, and to secure in all respects a rational obedience to his authority. Hence he would sometimes himself evoke an assembly, on which occasions vast multitudes attended, in the hope of hearing an emperor sustain the part of a philosopher. And if in the course of his speech any occasion offered of touching on sacred topics, he immediately stood erect, and with a grave aspect and subdued tone of voice seemed reverently to be initiating his auditors in the mysteries of the Divine doctrine: and when they greeted him with shouts of acclamation, he would direct them by his gestures to raise their eyes to heaven, and reserve their admiration for the Supreme King alone, and honor him with adoration and praise. He usually divided the subjects of his address, first thoroughly exposing the error of polytheism, and proving the superstition of the Gentiles to be mere fraud, and a cloak for impiety. He then would assert the sole sovereignty of God: passing thence to his Providence, both general and particular. Proceeding next to the dispensation of salvation, he would demonstrate its necessity, and adaptation to the nature of the case; entering next in order on the doctrine of the Divine judgment. [3328] And here especially he appealed most powerfully to the consciences of his hearers, while he denounced the rapacious and violent, and those who were slaves to an inordinate thirst of gain. Nay, he caused some of his own acquaintance who were present to feel the severe lash of his words, and to stand with downcast eyes in the consciousness of guilt, while he testified against them in the clearest and most impressive terms that they would have an account to render of their deeds to God. He reminded them that God himself had given him the empire of the world, portions of which he himself, acting on the same Divine principle, had intrusted to their government; but that all would in due time be alike summoned to give account of their actions to the Supreme Sovereign of all. Such was his constant testimony; such his admonition and instruction. And he himself both felt and uttered these sentiments in the genuine confidence of faith: but his hearers were little disposed to learn, and deaf to sound advice; receiving his words indeed with loud applause, but induced by insatiable cupidity practically to disregard them.

Footnotes

[3327] Compare Prolegomena, under Character and Writings. [3328] Compare Prolegomena, and the Oration appended to this work.

Chapter XXX.--That he marked out before a Covetous Man the Measure of a Grave, and so put him to Shame.

On one occasion he thus personally addressed one of his courtiers: "How far, my friend, are we to carry our inordinate desires?" Then drawing the dimensions of a human figure with a lance which he happened to have in his hand, he continued: "Though thou couldst obtain the whole wealth of this world, yea, the whole world itself, thou wilt carry with thee at last no more than this little spot which I have marked out, if indeed even that be thine." [3329] Such were the words and actions of this blessed prince; and though at the time he failed to reclaim any from their evil ways, yet notwithstanding the course of events afforded evident proof that his admonitions were more like Divine prophecies than mere words.

Footnotes

[3329] [Since it is uncertain whether thou wilt be buried in the ground, or consumed by fire, or drowned in the sea, or devoured by wild beasts (Valesius in loc.).--Bag.]

Chapter XXXI.--That he was derided because of his Excessive Clemency. [3330]

Meantime, since there was no fear of capital punishment to deter from the commission of crime, for the emperor himself was uniformly inclined to clemency, and none of the provincial governors visited offenses with their proper penalties, this state of things drew with it no small degree of blame on the general administration of the empire; whether justly or not, let every one form his own judgment: for myself, I only ask permission to record the fact.

Footnotes

[3330] Compare Prolegomena, under Character.

Chapter XXXII.--Of Constantine's Oration which he wrote to the Assembly of the Saints. [3331]

The emperor was in the habit of composing his orations in the Latin tongue, from which they were translated into Greek by interpreters appointed for this special service. One of the discourses thus translated I intend to annex, by way of specimen, to this present work, that one, I mean, which he inscribed "To the assembly of the saints," and dedicated to the Church of God, that no one may have ground for deeming my testimony on this head mere empty praise.

Footnotes

[3331] Compare the Oration itself following this work.

Chapter XXXIII.--How he listened standing to Eusebius' Declamation in Honor of our Saviour's Sepulchre.

One act, however, I must by no means omit to record, which this admirable prince performed in my own presence. On one occasion, emboldened by the confident assurance I entertained of his piety, I had begged permission to pronounce a discourse on the subject of our Saviour's sepulchre in his hearing. With this request he most readily complied, and in the midst of a large number of auditors, in the interior of the palace itself, he stood and listened with the rest. I entreated him, but in vain, to seat himself on the imperial throne which stood near: he continued with fixed attention to weigh the topics of my discourse, and gave his own testimony to the truth of the theological doctrines it contained. After some time had passed, the oration being of considerable length, I was myself desirous of concluding; but this he would not permit, and exhorted me to proceed to the very end. On my again entreating him to sit, he in his turn was displeased and said that it was not right to listen in a careless manner to the discussion of doctrines relating to God; and again, that this posture was good and profitable to himself, since it was reverent to stand while listening to sacred truths. Having, therefore, concluded my discourse, I returned home, and resumed my usual occupations.

Chapter XXXIV.--That he wrote to Eusebius respecting Easter, and respecting Copies of the Holy Scriptures.

Ever careful for the welfare of the churches of God, the emperor addressed me personally in a letter on the means of providing copies of the inspired oracles, and also on the subject of the most holy feast of Easter. For I had myself dedicated to him an exposition of the mystical import of that feast; and the manner in which he honored me with a reply may be understood by any one who reads the following letter.

Chapter XXXV.--Constantine's Letter to Eusebius, in praise of his Discourse concerning Easter.

"Victor Constantinus, Maximus Augustus, to Eusebius. "It is indeed an arduous task, and beyond the power of language itself, worthily to treat of the mysteries of Christ, and to explain in a fitting manner the controversy respecting the feast of Easter, its origin as well as its precious and toilsome accomplishment. [3332] For it is not in the power even of those who are able to apprehend them, adequately to describe the things of God. I am, notwithstanding, filled with admiration of your learning and zeal, and have not only myself read your work with pleasure, but have given directions, according to your own desire, that it be communicated to many sincere followers of our holy religion. Seeing, then, with what pleasure we receive favors of this kind from your Sagacity, be pleased to gladden us more frequently with those compositions, to the practice of which, indeed, you confess yourself to have been trained from an early period, so that I am urging a willing man, as they say, in exhorting you to your customary pursuits. And certainly the high and confident judgment we entertain is a proof that the person who has translated your writings into the Latin tongue is in no respect incompetent to the task, impossible though it be that such version should fully equal the excellence of the works themselves. God preserve you, beloved brother." Such was his letter on this subject: and that which related to the providing of copies of the Scriptures for reading in the churches was to the following purport.

Footnotes

[3332] [i.e. through the sufferings and resurrection of Christ.--Bag.]

Chapter XXXVI.--Constantine's Letter to Eusebius on the Preparation of Copies of the Holy Scriptures.

"Victor Constantinus, Maximus Augustus, to Eusebius. "It happens, through the favoring providence of God our Saviour, that great numbers have united themselves to the most holy church in the city which is called by my name. It seems, therefore, highly requisite, since that city is rapidly advancing in prosperity in all other respects, that the number of churches should also be increased. Do you, therefore, receive with all readiness my determination on this behalf. I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church, to be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable form, by professional transcribers thoroughly practiced in their art. [3333] The catholicus [3334] of the diocese has also received instructions by letter from our Clemency to be careful to furnish all things necessary for the preparation of such copies; and it will be for you to take special care that they be completed with as little delay as possible. [3335] You have authority also, in virtue of this letter, to use two of the public carriages for their conveyance, by which arrangement the copies when fairly written will most easily be forwarded for my personal inspection; and one of the deacons of your church may be intrusted with this service, who, on his arrival here, shall experience my liberality. God preserve you, beloved brother!"

Footnotes

[3333] Molz.in a note regards these as lectionaries, but they are usually thought to have been regular copies of the Scriptures in Greek--Septuagint and N.T., and the Codex Sinaiticus has been thought to be one of them. It dates from not earlier than the time of Eusebius, as it contains the Eusebian Canons, but yet from the fourth century. Altogether it is not impossible that it was one of these, and at all events a description of it, extracted from Scriveners (Introduction, 1883, p. 88 sq.), will be a fair illustration. "13 inches in length by 14-7/8 inches high." "Beautiful vellum." "Each page comprises four columns, with 48 lines in each column." "Continuous noble uncials." "Arranged in quires of four or three sheets." It is evident from comparison of several quotations of Eusebius that the copy of the New Testament which he himself used was not closely related with the Sinaitic text, unless the various readings headed by this ms. are all mistakes originating with it. Compare allusions in the notes to such different readings. The last clause, although in the text of Heinichen, is of doubtful authority. [3334] This word is a transcription, rendered "Procurator" by Bag., and is perhaps corresponding to that official (cf. Long. article Fiscus, in Smith, Dict. Gr. and R. Ant.). But this transcription is recognized (cf. Ffoulkes, Catholicus, in Smith and Cheetham, Dict.). [3335] The fact that the Sinaiticus exhibits two or three hands suggests that it was prepared with rapidity, and the having various scribes was a way to speed.

Chapter XXXVII.--How the Copies were provided.

Such were the emperor's commands, which were followed by the immediate execution of the work itself, which we sent him in magnificent and elaborately bound volumes of a threefold and fourfold form. [3336] This fact is attested by another letter, which the emperor wrote in acknowledgment, in which, having heard that the city Constantia in our country, the inhabitants of which had been more than commonly devoted to superstition, had been impelled by a sense of religion to abandon their past idolatry, he testified his joy, and approval of their conduct.

Footnotes

[3336] [The parchment copies were usually arranged in quaternions, i.e. four leaves made up together, as the ternions consisted of three leaves. The quaternions each contained sixteen pages, the ternions twelve (Valesius in loc.).--Bag.] So probably, although the three-columned form of the Sinaiticus and the four of the Vaticanus suggest a possible other meaning.

Chapter XXXVIII.--How the Market-Town of Gaza was made a City for its Profession of Christianity, and received the Name of Constantia.

For in fact the place now called Constantia, in the province of Palestine, having embraced the saving religion, was distinguished both by the favor of God, and by special honor from the emperor, being now for the first time raised to the rank of a city, and receiving the more honored name of his pious sister in exchange for its former appellation.

Chapter XXXIX.--That a Place in Phoenicia also was made a City, and in Other Cities Idolatry was abolished, and Churches built.

A similar change was effected in several other cities; for instance, in that town of Phoenicia which received its name from that of the emperor, and the inhabitants of which committed their innumerable idols to the flames, and adopted in their stead the principles of the saving faith. Numbers, too, in the other provinces, both in the cities and the country, became willing inquirers after the saving knowledge of God; destroyed as worthless things the images of every kind which they had heretofore held most sacred; voluntarily demolished the lofty temples and shrines which contained them; and, renouncing their former sentiments, or rather errors, commenced and completed entirely new churches. But since it is not so much my province to give a circumstantial detail of the actions of this pious prince, as it is theirs who have been privileged to enjoy his society at all times, I shall content myself with briefly recording such facts as have come to my own personal knowledge, before I proceed to notice the last days of his life.

Chapter XL.--That having conferred the Dignity of Cæsars on his Three Sons at the Three Decennial Periods of his Reign, he dedicated the Church at Jerusalem.

By this time the thirtieth year of his reign was completed. In the course of this period, his three sons had been admitted at different times as his colleagues in the empire. The first, Constantinus, who bore his father's name, obtained this distinction about the tenth year of his reign. Constantius, the second son, so called from his grandfather, was proclaimed Cæsar about the twentieth, while Constans, the third, whose name expresses the firmness and stability of his character, was advanced to the same dignity at the thirtieth anniversary of his father's reign. [3337] Having thus reared a threefold offspring, a Trinity, [3338] as it were, of pious sons, and having received them severally at each decennial period to a participation in his imperial authority, he judged the festival of his Tricennalia to be a fit occasion for thanksgiving to the Sovereign Lord of all, at the same time believing that the dedication of the church which his zealous magnificence had erected at Jerusalem might advantageously be performed.

Footnotes

[3337] These are general dates; "about" the tenth, etc., would have been more exact. Compare Prolegomena, under Life. [3338] [GriEURdos logo. Well may the old English Translator remark on this, "An odd expression." We may go further, and denounce it as an instance of the senseless and profane adulation to which our author, perhaps in the spirit of his age, seems to have been but too much inclined.--Bag.]

Chapter XLI.--That in the meantime he ordered a Council to be convened at Tyre, because of Controversies raised in Egypt.

Meanwhile that spirit of envy which is the enemy of all good, like a dark cloud intercepting the sun's brightest rays, endeavored to mar the joy of this festivity, by again raising contentions to disturb the tranquillity of the Egyptian churches. Our divinely favored emperor, however, once more convened a synod composed of many bishops, and set them as it were in armed array, like the host of God, against this malignant spirit, having commanded their presence from the whole of Egypt and Libya, from Asia, and from Europe, in order, first, to decide the questions in dispute, and afterwards to perform the dedication of the sacred edifice above mentioned. He enjoined them, by the way, to adjust their differences at the capital city of Phoenicia, reminding them that they had no right, while harboring feelings of mutual animosity, to engage in the service of God, since his law expressly forbids those who are at variance to offer their gift until they have first become reconciled and mutually disposed to peace. Such were the salutary precepts which the emperor continually kept vividly before his own mind, and in accordance with which he admonished them to undertake their present duties in a spirit of perfect unanimity and concord, in a letter to the following purport.

Chapter XLII.--Constantine's Letter to the Council at Tyre.

"Victor Constantinus, Maximus Augustus, to the holy Council at Tyre. "Surely it would best consist with and best become the prosperity of these our times, that the Catholic Church should be undivided, and the servants of Christ be at this present moment clear from all reproach. Since, however, there are those who, carried away by a baleful and furious spirit of contention (for I will not charge them with intentionally leading a life unworthy of their profession), are endeavoring to create that general confusion which, in my judgment, is the most pernicious of all evils; I exhort you, forward as you already are, to meet together and form a synod without delay: to defend those who need protection; to administer remedies to your brethren who are in peril; to recall the divided members to unity of judgment; to rectify errors while opportunity is yet allowed: that thus you may restore to so many provinces that due measure of concord which, strange and sad anomaly! the arrogance of a few individuals has destroyed. And I believed that all are alike persuaded that this course is at the same time pleasing to Almighty God (as well as the highest object of my own desires), and will bring no small honor to yourselves, should you be successful in restoring peace. Delay not, then, but hasten with redoubled zeal to terminate the present dissensions in a manner becoming the occasion, by assembling together in that spirit of true sincerity and faith which the Saviour whom we serve especially demands from us, I may almost say with an audible voice, on all occasions. No proof of pious zeal on my part shall be wanting. Already have I done all to which my attention was directed by your letters. I have sent to those bishops whose presence you desired, that they may share your counsels. I have despatched Dionysius, a man of consular rank, who will both remind those prelates of their duty who are bound to attend the Council with you, and will himself be there to superintend the proceedings, but especially to maintain good order. Meantime should any one, though I deem it most improbable, venture on this occasion to violate my command, and refuse his attendance, a messenger shall be despatched forthwith to banish that person in virtue of an imperial edict, and to teach him that it does not become him to resist an emperor's decrees when issued in defense of truth. For the rest, it will be for your Holinesses, unbiased either by enmity or favor, but consistently with ecclesiastical and apostolic order, to devise a fitting remedy whether it be for positive offenses or for unpremeditated errors; in order that you may at once free the Church from all reproach, relieve my anxiety, and, by restoring the blessings of peace to those who are now divided, procure the highest honor for yourselves. God preserve you, beloved brethren!" [3339]

Footnotes

[3339] Compare on the Synod of Tyre (held 335 a.d.), Hefele, Hist. of Councils, 2 (1876), 17-26.

Chapter XLIII.--Bishops from all the Provinces attended the Dedication of the Church at Jerusalem.

No sooner had these injunctions been carried into effect, than another emissary arrived with despatches from the emperor, and an urgent admonition to the Council to hasten their journey to Jerusalem without delay. [3340] Accordingly they all took their departure from the province of Phoenicia, and proceeded to their destination, availing themselves of the public means of transport. Thus Jerusalem became the gathering point for distinguished prelates from every province, and the whole city was thronged by a vast assemblage of the servants of God. The Macedonians had sent the bishop of their metropolis; [3341] the Pannonians and Moesians the fairest of God's youthful flock among them. A holy prelate from Persia too was there, deeply versed in the sacred oracles; while Bithynian and Thracian bishops graced the Council with their presence; nor were the most illustrious from Cilicia wanting, nor the chief of the Cappadocians, distinguished above all for learning and eloquence. In short, the whole of Syria and Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, and Libya, with the dwellers in the Thebaid, all contributed to swell the mighty concourse of God's ministers, followed as they were by vast numbers from every province. They were attended by an imperial escort, [3342] and officers of trust had also been sent from the palace itself, with instructions to heighten the splendor of the festival at the emperor's expense.

Footnotes

[3340] Compare Hefele, 2. 26-7. [3341] [Alexander, bishop of Thessalonica. By the Pannonian and Moesian bishops are meant Ursacius and Valens, leaders of the Arian party; by the Bithynian and Thracian, Theogonius of Nicæa, and Theodorus of Perinthus (Valesius).--Bag.] [3342] "The emperor showed himself very attentive to them."--Molz.

Chapter XLIV.--Of their Reception by the Notary Marianus; the Distribution of Money to the Poor; and Offerings to the Church.

The director and chief of these officers was a most useful servant of the emperor, a man eminent for faith and piety, and thoroughly acquainted with the Divine word, who had been honorably conspicuous by his profession of godliness during the time of the tyrants' power, and therefore was deservedly entrusted with the arrangement of the present proceedings. Accordingly, in faithful obedience to the emperor's commands, he received the assembly with courteous hospitality, and entertained them with feasts and banquets on a scale of great splendor. He also distributed lavish supplies of money and clothing among the naked and destitute, and the multitudes of both sexes who suffered from want of food and the common necessaries of life. Finally, he enriched and beautified the church itself throughout with offerings of imperial magnificence, and thus fully accomplished the service he had been commissioned to perform.

Chapter XLV.--Various Discourses by the Assembled Bishops; also by Eusebius, the Writer of this History.

Meantime the festival derived additional luster both from the prayers and discourses of the ministers of God, some of whom extolled the pious emperor's willing devotion to the Saviour of mankind, and dilated on the magnificence of the edifice which he had raised to his memory. Others afforded, as it were, an intellectual feast to the ears of all present, by public disquisitions on the sacred doctrines of our religion. Others interpreted passages of holy Scripture, and unfolded their hidden meaning; while such as were unequal to these efforts presented a bloodless sacrifice and mystical service to God in the prayers which they offered for general peace, for the Church of God, for the emperor himself as the instrumental cause of so many blessings, and for his pious sons. I myself too, unworthy as I was of such a privilege, pronounced various public orations in honor of this solemnity, wherein I partly explained by a written description the details of the imperial edifice, and partly endeavored to gather from the prophetic visions apt illustrations of the symbols it displayed. [3343] Thus joyfully was the festival of dedication celebrated in the thirtieth year of our emperor's reign.

Footnotes

[3343] [Eusebius gives us no example of his application of Scripture in this case. His commentator Valesius refers to Zeph. iii. 8 (LXX), DiEUR touto hupomeinon me, legei Kurios, eis hemeran anastEURseos mou eis marturion, and tells us that Cyril of Jerusalem, in his fourth Homily, explains this passage in Zephaniah of the Martyrium, of Basilica, which Constantine built on the spot of the Lord's resurrection. Let any one examine the whole passage (allowing for the mistake of one Hebrew word for another by the LXX), and say, if this be a fair specimen, what we are to think of the Fathers of the fourth century as interpreters of Scripture. See also Bk. 3, ch. 33, note.--Bag.] "Interpreted pertinent passages from the prophets."--Str. and Molz.

Chapter XLVI.--That Eusebius afterwards delivered his Description of the Church of the Saviour, and a Tricennial Oration before Constantine himself.

The structure of the church of our Saviour, the form of his sacred cave, the splendor of the work itself, and the numberless offerings in gold, and silver, and precious stones, I have described to the best of my ability, and dedicated to the emperor in a separate treatise, which on a fitting opportunity I shall append to this present work. I shall add to it also that oration on his Tricennalia which shortly afterwards, having traveled to the city which bears his name, I delivered in the emperor's own presence. [3344] This was the second opportunity afforded me of glorifying the Supreme God in the imperial palace itself: and on this occasion my pious hearer evinced the greatest joy, as he afterwards testified, when he entertained the bishops then present, and loaded them with distinctions of every kind.

Footnotes

[3344] The Oration is appended to this work.

Chapter XLVII.--That the Council at Nicæa was held in the Twentieth, the Dedication of the Church at Jerusalem in the Thirtieth, Year of Constantine's Reign.

This second synod the emperor convened at Jerusalem, being the greatest of which we have any knowledge, next to the first which he had summoned at the famous Bithynian city. That indeed was a triumphal assembly, held in the twentieth year of his reign, an occasion of thanksgiving for victory over his enemies in the very city which bears the name of victory. [3345] The present meeting added luster to the thirtieth anniversary, during which the emperor dedicated the church at the sepulchre of our Saviour, as a peace-offering to God, the giver of all good.

Footnotes

[3345] Nicæa.

Chapter XLVIII.--That Constantine was displeased with one who praised him excessively.

And now that all these ceremonies were completed, and the divine qualities of the emperor's character continued to be the theme of universal praise, one of God's ministers presumed so far as in his own presence to pronounce him blessed, as having been counted worthy to hold absolute and universal empire in this life, and as being destined to share the empire of the Son of God in the world to come. These words, however, Constantine heard with indignation, and forbade the speaker to hold such language, exhorting him rather to pray earnestly on his behalf, that whether in this life or in that which is to come, he might be found worthy to be a servant of God. [3346]

Footnotes

[3346] Yet Eusebius himself in his Oration uses language almost as obnoxious, and records that Constantine was much pleased with it. The difference was probably one of gracefulness.

Chapter XLIX.--Marriage of his Son Constantius Cæsar.

On the completion of the thirtieth year of his reign he solemnized the marriage of his second son, [3347] having concluded that of his first-born long before. This was an occasion of great joy and festivity, the emperor himself attending on his son at the ceremony, and entertaining the guests of both sexes, the men and women in distinct and separate companies, with sumptuous hospitality. Rich presents likewise were liberally distributed among the cities and people.

Footnotes

[3347] His second son by Fausta. Crispus seems now to be counted out. This was not the famous Eusebia who was his second wife.

Chapter L.--Embassy and Presents from the Indians.

About this time ambassadors from the Indians, who inhabit the distant regions of the East, arrived with presents consisting of many varieties of brilliant precious stones, and animals differing in species from those known to us. These offerings they presented to the emperor, thus allowing that his sovereignty extended even to the Indian Ocean, and that the princes of their country, who rendered homage to him both by paintings and statues, acknowledged his imperial and paramount authority. Thus the Eastern Indians now submitted to his sway, as the Britons of the Western Ocean had done at the commencement of his reign.

Chapter LI.--That Constantine divided the Empire between his Three Sons, whom he had instructed in Politics and Religion.

Having thus established his power in the opposite extremities of the world, he divided the whole extent of his dominions, as though he were allotting a patrimonial inheritance to the dearest objects of his regard, among his three sons. To the eldest he assigned his grandfather's portion; to the second, the empire of the East; to the third, the countries which lie between these two divisions. [3348] And being desirous of furnishing his children with an inheritance truly valuable and salutary to their souls, he had been careful to imbue them with true religious principles, being himself their guide to the knowledge of sacred things, and also appointing men of approved piety to be their instructors. At the same time he assigned them the most accomplished teachers of secular learning, by some of whom they were taught the arts of war, while they were trained by others in political, and by others again in legal science. To each moreover was granted a truly royal retinue, consisting of infantry, spearmen, and body guards, with every other kind of military force; commanded respectively by captains, tribunes, and generals [3349] of whose warlike skill and devotion to his sons the emperor had had previous experience.

Footnotes

[3348] ["The younger Constantine was appointed to hold his court in Gaul; and his brother Constantius exchanged that department, the ancient patrimony of their father, for the more opulent, but less martial, countries of the East. Italy, the Western Illyricum, and Africa, were accustomed to revere Constans, the third of his sons, as the representative of the great Constantine" (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 18).--Bag.] Compare Prolegomena, under Life. [3349] Centurions, generals, tribunes.

Chapter LII.--That after they had reached Man's Estate he was their Guide in Piety.

As long as the Cæsars were of tender years, they were aided by suitable advisers in the management of public affairs; but on their arrival at the age of manhood their father's instructions alone sufficed. When present he proposed to them his own example, and admonished them to follow his pious course: in their absence he furnished them by letter with rules of conduct suited to their imperial station, the first and greatest of which was an exhortation to value the knowledge and worship of the Sovereign Lord of all more than wealth, nay, more than empire itself. At length he permitted them to direct the public administration of the empire without control, making it his first request that they would care for the interests of the Church of God, and boldly profess themselves disciples of Christ. Thus trained, and excited to obedience not so much by precept as by their own voluntary desire for virtue, his sons more than fulfilled the admonitions of their father, devoting their earnest attention to the service of God, and observing the ordinances of the Church even in the palace itself, with all the members of their households. [3350] For their father's forethought had provided that all the attendants of his son's should be Christians. And not only so, but the military officers of highest rank, and those who had the control of public business, were professors of the same faith: for the emperor placed confidence in the fidelity of men devoted to the service of God, as in a strong and sure defense. When our thrice blessed prince had completed these arrangements, and thus secured order and tranquillity throughout the empire, God, the dispenser of all blessings, judged it to be the fitting time to translate him to a better inheritance, and summoned him to pay the debt of nature.

Footnotes

[3350] The expression is over strong. Constantius, e.g., was not baptized until just before his death.

Chapter LIII.--Having reigned about Thirty-Two Years, and lived above Sixty, he still had a Sound Body.

He completed the time of his reign in two and thirty years, wanting a few months and days, [3351] and his whole life extended to about twice that period. At this age he still possessed a sound and vigorous body, free from all blemish, and of more than youthful vivacity; a noble mien, and strength equal to any exertion; so that he was able to join in martial exercises, to ride, endure the fatigues of travel, engage in battle, and erect trophies over his conquered enemies, besides gaining those bloodless victories by which he was wont to triumph over those who opposed him. [3352]

Footnotes

[3351] [In his Chronicon, Eusebius gives the more correct period of thirty years and ten months. Constantine's reign began a.d. 306, and his death took place a.d. 337.--Bag.] Compare Prolegomena, also Clinton, Fasti Rom. an. 337. [3352] Compare Prolegomena, under Character.

Chapter LIV.--Of those who abused His Extreme Benevolence for Avarice and Hypocrisy.

In like manner his mental [3353] qualities reached the highest point of human perfection. Indeed he was distinguished by every excellence of character, but especially by benevolence; a virtue, however, which subjected him to censure from many, in consequence of the baseness of wicked men, who ascribed their own crimes to the emperor's forbearance. In truth I can myself bear testimony to the grievous evils which prevailed during these times; I mean the violence of rapacious and unprincipled men, who preyed on all classes of society alike, and the scandalous hypocrisy of those who crept into the Church, and assumed the name and character of Christians. His own benevolence and goodness of heart, the genuineness of his own faith, and his truthfulness of character, induced the emperor to credit the profession of these reputed Christians, who craftily preserved the semblance of sincere affection for his person. The confidence he reposed in such men sometimes forced him into conduct unworthy of himself, of which envy took advantage to cloud in this respect the luster of his character. [3354]

Footnotes

[3353] "Psychical qualities"--including more than intellectual. [3354] Compare Prolegomena, Character. There is a striking touch of naturalness in this passage which tells for the historical trustworthiness of the biographer, and though exposing the fault of the emperor yet gives a rather pleasing glimpse of his character.

Chapter LV.--Constantine employed himself in Composition of Various Kinds to the Close of his Life.

These offenders, however, were soon over-taken by divine chastisement. To return to our emperor. He had so thoroughly trained his mind in the art of reasoning that he continued to the last to compose discourses on various subjects, to deliver frequent orations in public, and to instruct his hearers in the sacred doctrines of religion. He was also habitually engaged in legislating both on political and military questions; [3355] in short, in devising whatever might be conducive to the general welfare of the human race. It is well worthy of remark, that, very shortly before his departure, he pronounced a funeral oration before his usual auditory, in which he spoke at length on the immortality of the soul, the state of those who had persevered in a life of godliness, and the blessings which God has laid up in store for them that love him. On the other hand he made it appear by copious and conclusive arguments what the end of those will be who have pursued a contrary career, describing in vivid language the final ruin of the ungodly. His powerful testimony on these subjects seemed so far to touch the consciences of those around him, that one of the self-imagined philosophers, of whom he asked his opinion of what he had heard, bore testimony to the truth of his words, and accorded a real, though reluctant, tribute of praise to the arguments by which he had exposed the worship of a plurality of gods. By converse such as this with his friends before his death, the emperor seemed as it were to smooth and prepare the way for his transition to a happier life.

Footnotes

[3355] Compare remarks in Prolegomena, under Writings and Character.

Chapter LVI.--How he took Bishops with him on an Expedition against the Persians, and took with him a Tent in the Form of a Church.

It is also worthy of record that about the time of which I am at present writing, the emperor, having heard of an insurrection of some barbarians in the East, observed that the conquest of this enemy was still in store for him, and resolved on an expedition against the Persians. Accordingly he proceeded at once to put his forces in motion, at the same time communicating his intended march to the bishops who happened to be at his court, some of whom he judged it right to take with him as companions, and as needful coadjutors in the service of God. They, on the other hand, cheerfully declared their willingness to follow in his train, disclaiming any desire to leave him, and engaging to battle with and for him by supplication to God on his behalf. Full of joy at this answer to his request, he unfolded to them his projected line of march; [3356] after which he caused a tent of great splendor, representing in shape the figure of a church, to be prepared for his own use in the approaching war. In this he intended to unite with the bishops in offering prayers to the God from whom all victory proceeds.

Footnotes

[3356] From this point to the end of the first sentence in ch. 58 is bracketed by Heinichen.

Chapter LVII.--How he received an Embassy from the Persians and kept the Night Vigil with others at the Feast of Easter.

In the meanwhile the Persians, hearing of the emperor's warlike preparations, and not a little terrified at the prospect of an engagement with his forces, dispatched an embassy to pray for conditions of peace. These overtures the emperor, himself a sincere lover of peace, at once accepted, and readily entered on friendly relations with that people. At this time, the great festival of Easter was at hand; on which occasion he rendered the tribute of his prayers to God, and passed the night in watching with the rest.

Chapter LVIII.--Concerning the Building of a Church in Honor of the Apostles at Constantinople.

After this he proceeded to erect a church in memory of the apostles, in the city which bears his name. This building he carried to a vast height, and brilliantly decorated by encasing it from the foundation to the roof with marble slabs of various colors. He also formed the inner roof of finely fretted work, and overlaid it throughout with gold. The external covering, which protected the building from the rain, was of brass instead of tiles; and this too was splendidly and profusely adorned with gold, and reflected the sun's rays with a brilliancy which dazzled the distant beholder. The dome was entirely encompassed by a finely carved tracery, wrought in brass and gold.

Chapter LIX.--Farther Description of the same Church.

Such was the magnificence with which the emperor was pleased to beautify this church. The building was surrounded by an open area of great extent, the four sides of which were terminated by porticos which enclosed the area and the church itself. Adjoining these porticos were ranges of stately chambers, with baths and promenades, and besides many apartments adapted to the use of those who had charge of the place.

Chapter LX.--He also erected his own Sepulchral Monument in this Church.

All these edifices the emperor consecrated with the desire of perpetuating the memory of the apostles of our Saviour. He had, however, another object in erecting this building: an object at first unknown, but which afterwards became evident to all. He had in fact made choice of this spot in the prospect of his own death, anticipating with extraordinary fervor of faith that his body would share their title with the apostles themselves, and that he should thus even after death become the subject, with them, of the devotions which should be performed to their honor in this place. He accordingly caused twelve coffins to be set up in this church, like sacred pillars in honor and memory of the apostolic number, in the center of which his own was placed, having six of theirs on either side of it. Thus, as I said, he had provided with prudent foresight an honorable resting-place for his body after death, and, having long before secretly formed this resolution, he now consecrated this church to the apostles, believing that this tribute to their memory would be of no small advantage to his own soul. Nor did God disappoint him of that which he so ardently expected and desired. For after he had completed the first services of the feast of Easter, and had passed this sacred day of our Lord in a manner which made it an occasion of joy and gladness to himself and to all; the God through whose aid he performed all these acts, and whose zealous servant he continued to be even to the end of life, was pleased at a happy time to translate him to a better life.

Chapter LXI.--His Sickness at Helenopolis, and Prayers respecting his Baptism.

At first he experienced some slight bodily indisposition, which was soon followed by positive disease. In consequence of this he visited the hot baths of his own city; and thence proceeded to that which bore the name of his mother. Here he passed some time in the church of the martyrs, and offered up supplications and prayers to God. Being at length convinced that his life was drawing to a close, he felt the time was come at which he should seek purification from sins of his past career, firmly believing that whatever errors he had committed as a mortal man, his soul would be purified from them through the efficacy of the mystical words and the salutary waters of baptism. [3357] Impressed with these thoughts, he poured forth his supplications and confessions to God, kneeling on the pavement in the church itself, in which he also now for the first time received the imposition of hands with prayer. [3358] After this he proceeded as far as the suburbs of Nicomedia, and there, having summoned the bishops to meet him, addressed them in the following words.

Footnotes

[3357] Literally "salutary word of cleansing," but the paraphrase of Bag. will stand well whichever of the readings, "salutary cleansing," or "salutary word of cleansing," is adopted. [3358] [These words seem to prove that the emperor now first became a catechumen. His postponement of baptism until his last illness (after having stood forward so long as the public advocate and protector of the Christian religion), and the superstitious reliance which he was encouraged to place on the late performance of this "mysterious" rite, afford an evidence of the melancholy obscuration of Christian truth at the very time when Christianity was ostensibly becoming the religion of the Roman Empire. There is probably too much truth in the following remarks of Gibbon: "The pride of Constantine, who refused the privileges of a catechumen, cannot easily be explained or excused: but the delay of his baptism maybe justified by the maxims and practice of ecclesiastical antiquity. The sacrament of baptism was supposed to contain a full and absolute expiation of sin; and the soul was instantly restored to its original purity, and entitled to the promise of eternal salvation. Among the proselytes of Christianity, there were many who judged it imprudent to precipitate a salutary rite, which could not be repeated; to throw away an inestimable privilege, which could never be recovered," &c. (Decline and Fall, ch. 20).--Bag.] On the forms of admission to the catechumenate, compare Marriott, Baptism, in Smith and Cheetham, Dict.

Chapter LXII.--Constantine's Appeal to the Bishops, requesting them to confer upon him the Rite of Baptism.

"The time is arrived which I have long hoped for, with an earnest desire and prayer that I might obtain the salvation of God. The hour is come in which I too may have the blessing of that seal which confers immortality; the hour in which I may receive the seal of salvation. I had thought to do this in the waters of the river Jordan, wherein our Saviour, for our example, is recorded to have been baptized: but God, who knows what is expedient for us, is pleased that I should receive this blessing here. Be it so, then, without delay: [3359] for should it be his will who is Lord of life and death, that my existence here should be prolonged, and should I be destined henceforth to associate with the people of God, and unite with them in prayer as a member of his Church, I will prescribe to myself from this time such a course of life as befits his service." After he had thus spoken, the prelates performed the sacred ceremonies in the usual manner, and, having given him the necessary instructions, made him a partaker of the mystic ordinance. Thus was Constantine the first of all sovereigns who was regenerated and perfected in a church dedicated to the martyrs of Christ; thus gifted with the Divine seal of baptism, he rejoiced in spirit, was renewed, and filled with heavenly light: his soul was gladdened by reason of the fervency of his faith, and astonished at the manifestation of the power of God. At the conclusion of the ceremony he arrayed himself in shining imperial vestments, brilliant as the light, [3360] and reclined on a couch of the purest white, refusing to clothe himself with the purple any more.

Footnotes

[3359] Or "no hesitation." On this clause a deal of controversy has hinged. "No hesitation shall longer prevail" is the rendering of Molz., and Keim (Uebertritt C. p. 1) similarly gives "let all duplicity be banished." In the view of this translation, Constantine had been hedging all his life, trying to be Christian to Christians and heathen to heathen. The basis of the hypothesis is too slight for it to have any weight in view of the overwhelming documentary evidence of the frequent public professions of Christianity by Constantine, for which see Prolegomena, under Character. Discussion of various points relating to his baptism will be found under Literature, under the names Busæus, Castelli, Dalhus, Frimelius Fuhrmann, Guidi, Halloix, Hynitzsch, Jacobus of Sarug, Nicolai, Polus, Schelstrate, Scultetus, Tentzel, Walther, Withof. [3360] [It was customary for neophytes to wear white garments, which they laid aside on the eighth day from their baptism.--Bag.]

Chapter LXIII.--How after his Baptism he rendered Thanks to God.

He then lifted his voice and poured forth a strain of thanksgiving to God; after which he added these words. "Now I know that I am truly blessed: now I feel assured that I am accounted worthy of immortality, and am made a partaker of Divine light." He further expressed his compassion for the unhappy condition of those who were strangers to such blessings as he enjoyed: and when the tribunes and generals of his army appeared in his presence with lamentations and tears at the prospect of their bereavement, and with prayers that his days might yet be prolonged, he assured them in reply that he was now in possession of true life; that none but himself could know the value of the blessings he had received; so that he was anxious rather to hasten than to defer his departure to God. He then proceeded to complete the needful arrangement of his affairs, bequeathing an annual donation to the Roman inhabitants of his imperial city; apportioning the inheritance of the empire, like a patrimonial estate, among his own children; in short, making every disposition according to his own pleasure. [3361]

Footnotes

[3361] The idea of ownership in empire which seems so strange in these days of republics, and is disallowed even by theoretical monarchists, seems to have been a most matter-of-course one in the mind of Constantine, and Eusebius was a true imperialist regarding "tyranies" and "republics" as in the same category. Whether it was by "divine right" or "natural right" they were quite sure it was a "right," and one to be freely exercised.

Chapter LXIV.--Constantine's Death at Noon on the Feast of Pentecost.

All these events occurred during a most important festival, I mean the august and holy solemnity of Pentecost, which is distinguished by a period of seven weeks, and sealed with that one day on which the holy Scriptures attest, the ascension of our common Saviour into heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit among men. In the course of this feast the emperor received the privileges I have described; and on the last day of all, which one might justly call the feast of feasts, he was removed about mid-day to the presence of his God, leaving his mortal remains to his fellow mortals, and carrying into fellowship with God that part of his being which was capable of understanding and loving him. [3362] Such was the close of Constantine's mortal life. Let us now attend to the circumstances which followed this event.

Footnotes

[3362] Compare Prolegomena, Life, Last Years; also for age at time of death, Prolegomena, p. 411, note.

Chapter LXV.--Lamentations of the Soldiery and their Officers.

Immediately the assembled spearmen and body-guard rent their garments, and prostrated themselves on the ground, striking their heads, and uttering lamentations and cries of sorrow, calling on their imperial lord and master, or rather, like true children, on their father, while their tribunes and centurions addressed him as their preserver, protector, and benefactor. The rest of the soldiery also came in respectful order to mourn as a flock the removal of their good shepherd. The people meanwhile ran wildly throughout the city, some expressing the inward sorrow of their hearts by loud cries, others appearing confounded with grief: each mourning the event as a calamity which had befallen himself, and bewailing his death as though they felt themselves bereft of a blessing common alike to all.

Chapter LXVI.--Removal of the Body from Nicomedia to the Palace at Constantinople.

After this the soldiers lifted the body from its couch, and laid it in a golden coffin, which they enveloped in a covering of purple, and removed to the city which was called by his own name. Here it was placed in an elevated position in the principal chamber of the imperial palace, and surrounded by candles burning in candlesticks of gold, presenting a marvelous spectacle, and such as no one under the light of the sun had ever seen on earth since the world itself began. For in the central apartment of the imperial palace, the body of the emperor lay in its elevated resting-place, arrayed in the symbols of sovereignty, the diadem and purple robe, and encircled by a numerous retinue of attendants, who watched around it incessantly night and day.

Chapter LXVII.--He received the same Honors from the Counts and other Officers as before his Death.

The military officers, too, of the highest rank, the counts, and the whole order of magistrates, who had been accustomed to do obeisance to their emperor before, continued to fulfill this duty without any change, even after his death entering the chamber at the appointed times, and saluting their coffined sovereign with bended knee, as though he were still alive. After them the senators appeared, and all who had been distinguished by any honorable office, and rendered the same homage. These were followed by multitudes of every rank, who came with their wives and children to witness the spectacle. These honors continued to be rendered for a considerable time, the soldiers having resolved thus to guard the body until his sons should arrive, and take on themselves the conduct of their father's funeral. No mortal had ever, like this blessed prince, continued to reign even after death, and to receive the same homage as during his life: he only, of all who have ever lived, obtained this reward from God: a suitable reward, since he alone of all sovereigns had in all his actions honored the Supreme God and his Christ, and God himself accordingly was pleased that even his mortal remains should still retain imperial authority among men; thus indicating to all who were not utterly devoid of understanding the immortal and endless empire which his soul was destined to enjoy. This was the course of events here.

Chapter LXVIII.--Resolution of the Army to confer thence-forward the Title of Augustus on his Sons.

Meanwhile the tribunes selected from the troops under their command those officers whose fidelity and zeal had long been known to the emperor, and dispatched them to the Cæsars with intelligence of the late event. This service they accordingly performed. As soon, however, as the soldiery throughout the provinces received the tidings of the emperor's decease, they all, as if by a supernatural impulse, resolved with one consent, as though their great emperor had been yet alive, to acknowledge none other than his sons as sovereigns of the Roman world: and these they soon after determined should no longer retain the name of Cæsar, but should each be honored with the title of Augustus, a name which indicates the highest supremacy of imperial power. Such were the measures adopted by the army; and these resolutions they communicated to each other by letter, so that the unanimous desire of the legions became known at the same point of time throughout the whole extent of the empire.

Chapter LXIX.--Mourning for Constantine at Rome; and the Honor paid him there through Paintings after his Death.

On the arrival of the news of the emperor's death in the imperial city, the Roman senate and people felt the announcement as the heaviest and most afflictive of all calamities, and gave themselves up to an excess of grief. The baths and markets were closed, the public spectacles, and all other recreations in which men of leisure are accustomed to indulge, were interrupted. Those who had erewhile lived in luxurious ease, now walked the streets in gloomy sadness, while all united in blessing the name of the deceased, as the one who was dear to God, and truly worthy of the imperial dignity. Nor was their sorrow expressed only in words: they proceeded also to honor him, by the dedication of paintings to his memory, with the same respect as before his death. The design of these pictures embodied a representation of heaven itself, and depicted the emperor reposing in an ethereal mansion above the celestial vault. They too declared his sons alone to be emperors and Augusti, and begged with earnest entreaty that they might be permitted to receive the body of their emperor, and perform his obsequies in the imperial city.

Chapter LXX.--His Burial by his Son Constantius at Constantinople.

Thus did they there testify their respect for the memory of him who had been honored by God. The second of his sons, however, who had by this time arrived, proceeded to celebrate his father's funeral in the city which bears his name, himself heading the procession, which was preceded by detachments of soldiers in military array, and followed by vast multitudes, the body itself being surrounded by companies of spearmen and heavy armed infantry. On the arrival of the procession at the church dedicated to the apostles of our Saviour, the coffin was there entombed. Such honor did the youthful emperor Constantius render to his deceased parent, both by his presence, and by the due performance of this sacred ceremony.

Chapter LXXI.--Sacred Service in the Church of the Apostles on the Occasion of Constantine's Funeral.

As soon as [Constantius] had withdrawn himself with the military train, the ministers of God came forward, with the multitude and the whole congregation of the faithful, and performed the rites of Divine worship with prayer. At the same time the tribute of their praises was given to the character of this blessed prince, whose body rested on a lofty and conspicuous monument, and the whole multitude united with the priests of God in offering prayers for his soul, not without tears,--nay, rather with much weeping; thus performing an office consonant with the desires of the pious deceased. [3363] In this respect also the favor of God was manifested to his servant, in that he not only bequeathed the succession of the empire to his own beloved sons, but that the earthly tabernacle of his thrice blessed soul, according to his own earnest wish, was permitted to share the monument of the apostles; was associated with the honor of their name, and with that of the people of God; was honored by the performance of the sacred ordinances and mystic service; and enjoyed a participation in the prayers of the saints. Thus, too, he continued to possess imperial power even after death, controlling, as though with renovated life, a universal dominion, and retaining in his own name, as Victor, Maximus, Augustus, the sovereignty of the Roman world. [3364]

Footnotes

[3363] [Alluding to his desire of being buried in the church of the apostles, and sharing their honors, as noticed in ch. 60.--Bag.] [3364] [It appears that an interregnum of about three months took place, during which all the laws and edicts continued to be issued in the name of Constantine, as before his death.--Bag.]

Chapter LXXII.--Of the Phoenix.

We cannot compare him with that bird of Egypt, the only one, as they say, of its kind, which dies, self-sacrificed, in the midst of aromatic perfumes, and, rising from its own ashes with new life, soars aloft in the same form which it had before. Rather did he resemble his Saviour, who, as the sown corn which is multiplied from a single grain, had yielded abundant increase through the blessing of God, and had overspread the whole world with his fruit. Even so did our thrice blessed prince become multiplied, as it were, through the succession of his sons. His statue was erected along with theirs in every province; and the name of Constantine was owned and honored even after the close of his mortal life.

Chapter LXXIII.--How Constantine is represented on Coins in the Act of ascending to Heaven.

A coinage was also struck which bore the following device. On one side appeared the figure of our blessed prince, with the head closely veiled: the reverse exhibited him sitting as a charioteer, drawn by four horses, with a hand stretched downward from above to receive him up to heaven.

Chapter LXXIV.--The God whom he had honored deservedly honored him in Return.

Such are the proofs by which the Supreme God has made it manifest to us, in the person of Constantine, who alone of all sovereigns had openly professed the Christian faith, how great a difference he perceives between those whose privilege it is to worship him and his Christ, and those who have chosen the contrary part, who provoked his enmity by daring to assail his Church, and whose calamitous end, in every instance, afforded tokens of his displeasure, as manifestly as the death of Constantine conveyed to all men an evident assurance of his Divine love.

Chapter LXXV.--He surpassed all Preceding Emperors in Devotion to God.

Standing, as he did, alone and pre-eminent among the Roman emperors as a worshiper of God; alone as the bold proclaimer to all men of the doctrine of Christ; having alone rendered honor, as none before him had ever done, to his Church; having alone abolished utterly the error of polytheism, and discountenanced idolatry in every form: so, alone among them both during life and after death, was he accounted worthy of such honors as none can say have been attained to by any other; so that no one, whether Greek or Barbarian, nay, of the ancient Romans themselves, has ever been presented to us as worthy of comparison with him. [3365]

Footnotes

[3365] The sharp sarcasms of Julian's Cæsars seem almost to have taken their text from this challenge. He marshals the great emperors before the gods, where each presents his claim to greatness. Constantine is greatly ridiculed, and yet to choose between Julian and Eusebius, if regard is had to Constantine's real effect on world history, Eusebius is the truer judge, and is at least not so far wrong that his superlative enthusiasm for his imperial friend cannot be readily pardoned.

The Oration of the emperor constantine,

which he addressed "to the assembly of the saints."


Chapter I.--Preliminary Remarks on the Feast of Easter: and how the Word of God, having conferred Manifold Benefits on Mankind, was betrayed by his Beneficiaries.

That light which far outshines the day and sun, first pledge of resurrection, and renovation of bodies long since dissolved, [3366] the divine token [3367] of promise, the path which leads to everlasting life--in a word, the day of the Passion--is arrived, best beloved doctors, and ye, my friends who are assembled here, ye blessed multitudes, who worship him who is the author of all worship, and praise him continually with heart and voice, according to the precepts of his holy word. But thou, Nature, [3368] parent of all things, what blessing like to this hast thou ever accomplished for mankind? Nay rather, what is in any sense thy workmanship, since he who formed the universe is himself the author of thy being? For it is he who has arrayed thee in thy beauty; and the beauty of Nature is life according to Nature's laws. But principles quite opposed to Nature have mightily prevailed; in that men have agreed in withholding his rightful worship from the Lord of all, believing that the order of the universe depended, not on his providence, but, on the blind uncertainty of chance: and this notwithstanding the clearest announcement of the truth by his inspired prophets, whose words should have claimed belief, but were in every way resisted by that impious wickedness which hates the light of truth, and loves the obscure mazes of darkness. Nor was this error unaccompanied by violence and cruelty, especially in that the will of princes encouraged the blind impetuosity of the multitude, or rather itself led the way in the career of reckless folly. Such principles as these, confirmed by the practice of many generations, became the source of terrible evils in those early times: but no sooner had the radiance of the Saviour's presence appeared, than justice took the place of wrong, a calm succeeded the confusion of the storm, and the predictions of the prophets were all fulfilled. For after he had enlightened the world by the glorious discretion and purity of his character, and had ascended to the mansions of his father's house, he founded his Church on earth, as a holy temple of virtue, an immortal, imperishable temple, wherein the worship due to the Supreme Father and to himself should be piously performed. But what did the insane malice of the nations hereupon devise? Their effort was to reject the grace of Christ, and to ruin that Church which was ordained for the salvation of all, though they thus ensured the overthrow of their own superstition. [3369] Once more then unholy sedition, once more war and strife prevailed, with stiff-neckedness, luxurious riot, and that craving for wealth which now soothes its victims with specious hope, now strikes them with groundless fear; a craving which is contrary to nature, and the very characteristic of Vice herself. Let her, however, lie prostrate in the dust, and own the victorious power of Virtue; and let her rend and tear herself, as well she may, in the bitterness of repentance. But let us now proceed to speak of topics which pertain to the Divine doctrine.

Footnotes

[3366] Or "once suffering." [3367] hermaiou, "gift of Hermes"; i.e. providential good-fortune. Valesius wrongly conjectures herma, "foundation" of promise. [3368] Valesius, followed by various translators, substitutes "God" for "Nature." But all ms. authority, and the context as well, is against. [3369] 1709, Molz., Vales., Cous., render "substitute in place thereof their own superstition."

Chapter II.--An Appeal to the Church and to his Hearers to pardon and correct the Errors of His Speech.

Hear then, thou master [3370] of the ship, possessor of virgin purity, and thou Church, the cherisher of tender and inexperienced age, guardian of truth and gentleness, through whose perennial fountain the stream [3371] of salvation flows! Be ye also indulgent, my hearers, who worship God sincerely, and are, therefore, the objects of his care: attending, not to the language, but to the truth of what is said; not to him who speaks, but rather to the pious zeal which hallows his discourse! For what will be the use of words when the real purpose of the speaker remains unknown? It may be, indeed, that I essay great things; the love of God which animates my soul, a love which overpowers natural reserve, is my plea for the bold attempt. On you, then, I call, who are best instructed in the mysteries of God, to aid me with your counsel, to follow me with your thoughts, and correct whatever shall savor of error in my words, expecting no display of perfect knowledge, but graciously accepting the sincerity of my endeavor. And may the Spirit of the Father and the Son accord his mighty aid, while I utter the words which he shall suggest to speech or thought. [3372] For if any one, whether in the practice of eloquence, or any other art, expects to produce a finished work without the help of God, both the author and his efforts will be found alike imperfect; while he has no cause to fear, no room for discouragement, [3373] who has once been blessed with the inspiration of Heaven. Wherefore asking your indulgence for the length of this preface, let us attempt the theme in its utmost scope. [3374]

Footnotes

[3370] [The bishop who is thus metaphorically addressed as the guide and controller of the Church.--Bag.] [3371] Some mss. read poma, "draught." [3372] "I read aute phrEURsei...but regarding phrEURsei as derived not from the verb phrEURzein, but from the noun phrEURsis."--Hein. [3373] "Ought not to shrink or to be neglectful." [3374] Valesius, followed by 1709 and substantially by Bag., omitting pros, renders "enter upon the head and principal matter of our design." Hein. retains pros, and like Molz. renders "proceed, as well as I may, to my theme." He means rather that having God's help he will not fear to "essay great things."

Chapter III.--That God is the Father of the Word, and the Creator of all Things; and that Material Objects could not continue to exist, were their Causes Various.

God, who is ever above all existence, and the good which all things desire, has no origin, and therefore no beginning, being himself the originator [3375] of all things which receive existence. But he who proceeds from him is again united to him; and this separation from and union with him is not local, but intellectual in its character. For this generation was accompanied by no diminution of the Father's substance (as in the case of generation by seed); but by the determining act of foreknowledge God manifested a Saviour presiding over [3376] this sensible world, and all created things therein. [3377] From hence, then, is the source of existence and life to all things which are within the compass of this world; hence proceed the soul, and every sense; [3378] hence those organs through which the sense-perceptions are perfected. What, then, is the object of this argument? To prove that there is One director of all things that exist, and that all things, whether in heaven or on earth, both natural and organized bodies, [3379] are subject to his single sovereignty. For if the dominion of these things, numberless as they are, were in the hands, not of one but of many, there must be a partition and distribution of the elements, and the old fables would be true; [3380] jealousy, too, and ambition, striving for superior power, would destroy the harmonious concord of the whole, while each of the many masters would regulate in a manner different from the rest the portion subject to his control. The fact, however, that this universal order is ever one and the same, is the proof that it is under the care of a superior power, and that its origin cannot be ascribed to chance. Else how could the author of universal nature ever be known? To whom first, or last, could prayers and supplications be addressed? Whom could I choose [3381] as the object of my worship, without being guilty of impiety towards the rest? Again, if haply I desired to obtain some temporal blessing, should I not, while expressing my gratitude to the Power who favored my request, convey a reproach to him who opposed it? Or to whom should I pray, when desiring to know the cause of my calamity, and to obtain deliverance? Or let us suppose that the answer is given by oracles and prophecies, but that the case is not within the scope of their authority, being the province of some other deity. [3382] Where, then, is mercy? where is the provident care of God for the human race? Unless, indeed, some more benevolent Power, assuming a hostile attitude against another who has no such feeling, be disposed to accord me his protection. Hence anger, discords, mutual censure, and finally universal confusion, would ensue, while each departed from his proper sphere of action, dissatisfied, through ambitious love of power, with his allotted portion. What, then, would be the result of these things? Surely this discord among the heavenly powers would prove destructive to the interests of earth: the orderly alternation of times and seasons would disappear; the successive productions of the earth would be enjoyed no more: the day itself, and the repose of night which follows it, would cease to be. But enough on this subject: let us once more resume that species of reasoning which admits of no reply.

Footnotes

[3375] "Beginning." [3376] Presiding "overseer," "president," or "ruler." It is the one who has charge of games or ships or public works, &c. [3377] Cf. John i. 3, 13, 14, and Eph. i. 10. There is the greatest variety in the rendering of this passage, of which Bag.'s is the worst. The writer draws here on a philosophy of the Logos, which recognizes the second person of the Trinity as the creator and head of created things. The free version of Cousin gives the best flavor of the idea. "He was produced by the inexhaustible fecundity of his eternal mind to preside over the creation and government of this visible world." A better translation waits on a better exposition of the doctrine of the Logos and its history. [3378] Molz.renders "und die Organe, mit Hilfe derer das Wahrgenommene innerlich zur Idee erhoben wird." [3379] Chr.substantially "natural and artificial"; Molz. "lifeless and live"; perhaps "inorganic and organic" is meant. [3380] [Alluding to the fabulous division of the world between the brothers Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto. Valesius in loc.--Bag.] Or rather Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Zeus had the heavens, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld, while the earth remained "with high Olympus, common to us all"--a fruitful source of dissension. Cf. Homer, Il. XV. 184-195, ed. Doederlein, 2 (1864), p. 64-65; tr. Bryant, XV. ll. 227-245. [3381] A possible reading here is exairetos, i.e. take as the chief object, &c.--Vales. and Hein. [3382] Valesius remarks that many instances are recorded where the oracle of Apollo replied to those who consulted him that Bacchus or Saturn must be placated in order to their liberation.

Chapter IV.--On the Error of Idolatrous Worship.

Whatever has had a beginning, has also an end. Now that which is a beginning in respect of time, is called a generation: and whatever is by generation is subject to corruption, and its beauty [3383] is impaired by the lapse of time. How, then, can they whose origin is from corruptible generation, be immortal? Again, this supposition has gained credit with the ignorant multitude, that marriages, and the birth of children, are usual among the gods. Granting, then, such offspring to be immortal, and continually produced, the race must of necessity multiply to excess: and if this were so, where is the heaven, or the earth, which could contain so vast and still increasing a multitude of gods? But what shall we say of those men who represent these celestial beings as joined in incestuous union with their sister goddesses, and charge them with adultery and impurity? [3384] We declare, further, with all confidence, that the very honors and worship which these deities receive from men are accompanied by acts of wantonness and profligacy. Once more; the experienced and skillful sculptor, having formed the conception of his design, perfects his work according to the rules of art; and in a little while, as if forgetful of himself, idolizes his own creation, and adores it as an immortal god, while yet he admits that himself, the author and maker of the image, is a mortal man. Nay, they even show the graves and monuments of those whom they deem immortal, and bestow divine honors on the dead: not knowing that that which is truly blessed and incorruptible needs no distinction which perishable men can give: for that Being, who is seen by the mental eye, and conceived by the intellect alone, requires to be distinguished by no external form, and admits no figure to represent its character and likeness. But the honors of which we speak are given to those who have yielded to the power of death: they once were men, and tenants, while they lived, of a mortal body.

Footnotes

[3383] "Form." [3384] A favorite theme of the Christian apologists. Cf. long list given in the Clementine Recognitions, X. 22.

Chapter V.--That Christ, the Son of God, created All Things, and has appointed to Every Thing the Term of its Existence.

But why do I defile my tongue with unhallowed words, when my object is to sound the praises of the true God? Rather let me cleanse myself, as it were, from this bitter draught by the pure stream which flows from the everlasting fountain of the virtue [3385] of that God who is the object of my praise. Be it my special province to glorify Christ, as well by the actions of my life, as by that thanksgiving which is due to him for the manifold and signal blessings which he has bestowed. I affirm, therefore, that he [3386] has laid the foundations of this universe; and conceived the race of men, ordaining these things by his word. And immediately he transferred our newly created parents (ignorant at first, according to his will, of good and evil) to a happy region, abounding in flowers and fruits of every kind. [3387] At length, however, he appointed them a seat on earth befitting creatures endued with reason; and then unfolded to their faculties, as intelligent beings, the knowledge of good and evil. Then, too, he bade the race increase; and each healthy region of the world, as far as the bounds of the circumambient ocean, became the dwelling-place of men; while with this increase of numbers the invention of the useful arts went hand in hand. Meantime the various species of inferior [3388] animals increased in due proportion, each kind discovering some characteristic quality, the special gift of nature: the tame distinguished by gentleness and obedience to man; the wild by strength and swiftness, and an instinctive foresight which warned them to escape from peril. The gentler animals he placed entirely beneath man's protecting care, but entailed on him the necessity of strife with those of fiercer nature. He next created the feathered race, manifold in number, diverse in character and habits; brilliant with every variety of color, and endued with native powers of melody. Finally, having arranged with wise discrimination whatever else the compass of this world contains, and having assigned to every creature the stated term of its existence, he thus completed the beautiful order of the perfect whole.

Footnotes

[3385] Or "perfections." [3386] "To be referred not to the preceding `Christ' but...the supreme God."--Hein. (?). [3387] [Constantine seems to have supposed the Paradise of our first parents to be somewhere apart from this earth. In this fanciful idea, which is obviously indefensible from Scripture he is countenanced by the opinions of Tertullian, Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Valentinian, and Jerome, some of whom placed it in or above the third heaven, others in the fourth, others again in a world superior to the present, &c. See the note of Valesius, who quotes from some of these Fathers. In reference to what follows, we may ask, Was Constantine acquainted with, or does he avoid noticing, the circumstances of the fall?--Bag.] Ans. Constantine like many another to our own day seems to regard the "fall" as a fall upwards--that complacent optimism which ignores Scripture and Schopenhauer alike. [3388] Without the logos, i.e. inarticulate or (as here) irrational.

Chapter VI.--The Falsity of the General Opinion respecting Fate [3389] is proved by the Consideration of Human Laws, and by the Works of Creation, the Course of which is not Fortuitous, but according to an Orderly Arrangement which evinces the Design of the Creator.

The great majority, however, in their folly, ascribe the regulation of the universe to nature, while some imagine fate, or accident, [3390] to be the cause. With regard to those who attribute the control of all things to fate, they know not that in using this term they utter a mere word, but designate no active power, nor anything which has real and substantial existence. For what can this fate be, considered in itself, if nature be the first cause of all things? Or what shall we suppose nature itself to be, if the law of fate be inviolable? Indeed, the very assertion that there is a law of fate implies that such law is the work of a legislator: if, therefore, fate itself be a law, it must be a law devised by God. All things, therefore, are subject to God, and nothing is beyond the sphere of his power. If it be said that fate is the will [3391] of God, and is so considered, we admit the fact. But in what respect do justice, [3392] or self-control, [3393] or the other virtues, depend on fate? From whence, if so, do their contraries, as injustice and intemperance, proceed? For vice has its origin from nature, not from fate; and virtue is the due regulation of natural character and disposition. But, granting that the varied results of actions, whether right or erroneous in themselves, depend on fortune or fate: in what sense can the general principle of justice, [3394] the principle of rendering to every one his due, be ascribed to fate? [3395] Or how can it be said that laws, encouragements to virtue and dissuasives from what is evil, praise, blame, punishment, in short whatever operates as a motive to virtue, and deters from the practice of vice, derive their origin from fortune or accident, and not rather from that of justice, [3396] which is a characteristic attribute of the God of providence? For the events which befall men are consequent upon the tenor of their lives. Hence pestilence or sedition, famine and plenty, succeed in turn, declaring plainly and emphatically that all these things are regulated with reference to our course of life. For the Divine Being delights in goodness, but turns with aversion from all impiety; looks with acceptance on the humble spirit, but abhors presumption, and that pride which exalts itself above what becomes a creature. And though the proofs of these truths are clear and manifest to our sight, they appear in a still stronger light, when we collect, and as it were concentrate our thoughts within ourselves, and ponder their causes with deep attention. I say, then, that it becomes us to lead a life of modesty and gentleness, not suffering our thoughts to rise proudly above our natural condition, and ever mindful that God is near us, and is the observer of all our actions. But let us still farther test the truth of the proposition, that the order of the universe depends on chance [3397] or accident. [3398] Are we then to suppose that the stars and other heavenly bodies, the earth and sea, fire and wind, water and air, the succession of the seasons, the recurrence of summer and winter, that all these have an undesigned and fortuitous existence, and not rather that they proceed from the creative hand of God? Some, indeed, are so senseless as to say that most of these things have been devised by mankind because of their need of them. Let it be admitted that this opinion has a semblance of reason in regard to earthly and corruptible things (though Nature herself supplies every good with a lavish hand); yet can we believe that things which are immortal and unchangeable are the inventions of men? These, indeed, and all things else which are beyond the reach of our senses, and comprehended by the intellect [3399] alone, receive their being, not from the material life of man, but from the intellectual and eternal essence of God. Again, the orderly arrangement of these things is the work of his providence: for instance, that the day, deriving radiance from the sun, is bright; that night succeeds his setting, and the starry host [3400] by which night itself is redeemed from total darkness. And what shall we say of the moon, which when most distant from, and opposite to the sun, is filled with light, but wanes in proportion to the nearness of her approach to him? Do not these things manifestly evince the intelligence [3401] and sagacious wisdom of God? Add to this that needful warmth of the solar rays which ripens the fruits of the earth; the currents of wind, so conducive to the fertility of the seasons; the cool and refreshing showers; and the harmony of all these things in accordance with which all are reasonably and systematically conducted: lastly, the everlasting order of the planets, which return to the self-same place at their appointed times: are not all these, as well as the perfect ministry of the stars, obedient to a divine law, evident proofs of the ordinance [3402] of God? Again, do the mountain heights, the deep and hollow valleys, the level and extensive plains, useful as they are, as well as pleasing to the eye, appear to exist independently of the will of God? Or do not the proportion and alternate succession of land and water, serviceable, the one for husbandry, the other for the transport of such foreign products as we need, afford a clear demonstration of his exact and proportionate providential care? For instance, the mountains contain a store of water, which the level ground receives, and after imbibing sufficient for the renovation of the soil, sends forth the residue into the sea, and the sea in turn passes it onward to the ocean. And still we dare to say that all these things happen by chance [3403] and accident; unable though we be to show by what shape or form this chance is characterized; a thing which has no foundation either in intellect or sense existence; which rings in our ears as the mere sound of an unsubstantial name!

Footnotes

[3389] For a full discussion of various definitions and usage of the word Fate (he eiriarmene) in Greek philosophy, compare Zeller, Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics (Lond. 1880), p. 170-171, notes. [3390] automaton. The usual word for chance or accident is tuche. These may be here, as is often the case, simple synonyms, but both words are used in the same phrase later in such way as to suggest that tuche is parallel with "fate" rather than "chance" in the author's mind. automaton seems to be used of "self-originating," tuche of originating from some unknown cause or without any cause. The former is the modern, self-energized, "lift-yourselves-by-your-own-boot-straps" evolution. The latter is a form of agnosticism. Aristotle (Metaph. 10. 8) defines chance (tuche) as a "cause by accident" (sumbebekos), or more literally "coincidence," which is substantially what Janet (Final Causes, 1878, p. 19) means by defining chance as the coincidence of causes. At the end of the same Chapter Aristotle uses automaton in contrast with tuche--"tuche or even automaton," which has been rendered (M'Mahon) "chance or even spontaneity." In modern phrase those who hold these three various views of the universe might be characterized as "material evolutionists," "transcendental idealists," and "philosophical (or perhaps `agnostic') evolutionists." [3391] i.e. "plan." [3392] dikaiosune, better "righteousness," "correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting" (Thayer, Lex. p. 149). So its opposite mentioned below (adikia) is better "unrighteousness," as generally in the revised English version of the N.T., "mammon of unrighteousness" (Luke xvi. 9, e.g.). The word means more than our "just," "more," as Socrates said (Plat. Rep. 1. 331), "than to speak the truth and pay your debts." Righteousness is the better translation, but we are met with the difficulty that it has generally been rendered justice in translations of the philosophers. [3393] sophrosune, temperance, vs. akolasia, intemperance, below; soundness of mind vs. insanity (cf. use in Acts xxvi. 25, and of verb in Mark v. 15; Luke viii. 35; also use in Plato, Rep. 332, &c.); self-control vs. unbridled desire. This same contrast of sophrosune and akolasia is found in Aristotle, Eth. 2, vii. 3; 7, vii. I; and especially 7, ix. 5. [3394] ti dikaion, not dikaiosune [3395] This is very free, and follows translation of Valesius and 1709 text. 1709 marg. translates more literally, "But either crimes, or, on the other hand, brave performances, which are [the property] of a good and right purpose of mind, if they happen sometimes one way, at others another," and Molz. somewhat similarly. It is possible that it should read: "Granted that either evil actions proceeding from a good and upright will, or contrariwise, good actions [from an evil will] which issue directly contrary [to their own nature or to just expectation] may be ascribed to chance or fate, how can the right," &c. [3396] dikaiosune [3397] tuche. [3398] automaton [3399] noos was not narrowed to the mere intellectual functions. "Intellectual" is not to be taken of brain function only, but of brain and heart,--real knowing, as against the "intellectuation" which men nowadays try to force the word "know" to mean. [3400] "Quire of the stars," 1709. [3401] The "logos endiEURthetos" of Philo, frequent in Alexandrian theologians. It is the unuttered thought vs. the expressed word. [3402] Fore-ordination, or plan. [3403] automaton

Chapter VII.--In regard to Things above our Comprehension, we should glorify the Creator's Wisdom, and attribute their Causes to him alone, and not to Chance.

In fact, this word "chance" is the expression of men who think in haphazard and illogical fashion; who are unable to understand the causes of these things, and who, owing to the feebleness of their own apprehensions, conceive that those things for which they cannot assign a reason, are ordered without reason. There are, unquestionably, some things which possess wonderful natural properties, and the full apprehension of which is very difficult: for example, the nature of hot springs. For no one can easily explain the cause of so powerful a fire; and it is indeed surprising that though surrounded on all sides by a body of cold water, it loses none of its native heat. These phenomena appear to be of rare occurrence throughout the world, being intended, I am persuaded, to afford to mankind convincing evidence of the power of that Providence which ordains that two directly opposite natures, heat and cold, should thus proceed from the self-same source. Many indeed, yea, numberless, are the gifts which God has bestowed for the comfort and enjoyment of man; and of these the fruit of the olive-tree and the vine deserve especial notice; the one for its power of renovating and cheering the soul, [3404] the other because it ministers to our enjoyment, and is likewise adapted for the cure of bodily disease. Marvelous, too, is the course of rivers, flowing night and day with unceasing motion, and presenting a type of ever-flowing, never-ceasing life: and equally wonderful is the alternate succession of day and night.

Footnotes

[3404] psuches = "soul." In the absence of a proper Biblical psychology the word has been most sadly abused in translations. The only way back to a proper conception of the words "spirit" and "soul" and "life," &c., is to re-establish a uniform rendering for them. It is as bad as the rendering of our English version, where nephesk (= psuche) is rendered "life."

Chapter VIII.--That God bestows an Abundant Supply of whatever is suited to the Wants of Man, and ministers but sparingly to his Pleasures; in Both Cases with a View to his Advantage.

Let what has been said suffice to prove that nothing exists without reason and intelligence, and that reason itself and providence are of God. It is he who has also distributed the metals, as gold, silver, copper, and the rest, in due proportion; ordaining an abundant supply of those which would be most needed and generally employed, while he dispensed those which serve the purposes merely of pleasure in adornment of luxury with a liberal and yet a sparing hand, holding a mean between parsimony and profusion. For the searchers for metals, were those which are employed for ornament procured in equal abundance with the rest, would be impelled by avarice to despise and neglect to gather those which, like iron or copper, are serviceable for husbandry, or house-building, or the equipment of ships; and would care for those only which conduce to luxury and a superfluous excess of wealth. Hence it is, as they say, that the search for gold and silver is far more difficult and laborious than that for any other metals, the violence of the toil thus acting as a counterpoise to the violence of the desire. And how many instances might still further be enumerated of the workings of that Divine Providence which, in all the gifts which it has so unsparingly conferred upon us, plainly urges us to the practice of self-control and all other virtues, and leads us away from unbefitting covetousness! To trace the secret reasons of all these things is indeed a task which exceeds the power of human faculties. For how can the intellect of a frail and perishable being arrive at the knowledge of perfect truth, or apprehend in its purity the counsel of God from the beginning?

Chapter IX.--Of the Philosophers, who fell into Mistaken Notions, and Some of them into Danger, by their Desire of Universal Knowledge.--Also of the Doctrines of Plato.

We ought, therefore, to aim at objects which are within our power, and exceed not the capacities of our nature. For the persuasive influence of argument has a tendency to draw most of us away from the truth of things, which has happened to many philosophers, who have employed themselves in reasoning, and the study of natural science, and who, as often as the magnitude of the subject surpasses their powers of investigation, adopt various devices for obscuring the truth. Hence their diversities of judgment, and contentious opposition to each others' doctrines, and this notwithstanding their pretensions to wisdom. Hence, too, popular commotions have arisen, and severe sentences, passed by those in power, apprehensive of the overthrow of hereditary institutions, have proved destructive to many of the disputants themselves. Socrates, for example, elated by his skill in argumentation, indulging his power of making the worse appear the better reason, [3405] and playing continually with the subtleties of controversy, fell a victim to the slander of his own countrymen and fellow-citizens. Pythagoras, too, who laid special claim to the virtues of silence and self-control, was convicted of falsehood. For he declared to the Italians that the doctrines which he had received during his travels in Egypt, and which had long before been divulged by the priests of that nation, were a personal revelation to himself from God. Lastly, Plato himself, the gentlest and most refined of all, who first essayed to draw men's thoughts from sensible to intellectual and eternal objects, and taught them to aspire to sublimer speculations, in the first place declared, with truth, a God exalted above every essence, but to him he added also a second, distinguishing them numerically as two, though both possessing one perfection, and the being of the second Deity proceeding from [3406] the first. For he is the creator and controller of the universe, and evidently supreme: while the second, as the obedient agent of his commands, refers the origin of all creation to him as the cause. In accordance, therefore, with the soundest reason, we may say that there is one Being whose care and providence are over all things, even God the Word, who has ordered all things; but the Word being God himself is also the Son of God. For by what name can we designate him except by this title of the Son, without falling into the most grievous error? For the Father of all things is properly considered the Father of his own Word. Thus far, then, Plato's sentiments were sound; but in what follows he appears to have wandered from the truth, in that he introduces a plurality of gods, to each of whom he assigns specific forms. And this has given occasion to still greater error among the unthinking portion of mankind, who pay no regard to the providence of the Supreme God, but worship images of their own devising, made in the likeness of men or other living beings. Hence it appears that the transcendent nature and admirable learning of this philosopher, tinged as they were with such errors as these, were by no means free from impurity and alloy. And yet he seems to me to retract, and correct his own words, when he plainly declares that a rational soul is the breath [3407] of God, and divides all things into two classes, intellectual and sensible: [the one simple, the other] [3408] consisting of bodily structure; the one comprehended by the intellect alone, the other estimated by the judgment and the senses. The former class, therefore, which partakes of the divine spirit, and is uncompounded and immaterial, is eternal, and inherits everlasting life; but the latter, being entirely resolved into the elements of which it is composed, has no share in everlasting life. He farther teaches the admirable doctrine, that those who have passed a life of virtue, that is, the spirits of good and holy men, are enshrined, after their separation from the body, in the fairest mansions of heaven. A doctrine not merely to be admired, but profitable too. [3409] For who can believe in such a statement, and aspire to such a happy lot, without desiring to practice righteousness and temperance, and to turn aside from vice? Consistently with this doctrine he represents the spirits of the wicked as tossed like wreckage on the streams of Acheron and Pyriphlegethon.

Footnotes

[3405] This is almost identically the form of what Socrates (Apol. c. 2) declared to be the falsehood circulated by his enemies to his prejudice. "But far more dangerous are those who began when you were children and took possession of your minds with their falsehoods, telling of one Socrates, a wise man who...made the worse appear the better cause" (logon, "reason"), Tr. Jowett, 1 (1874), 316. This example does peculiar discredit either to the learning or the mental honesty of the author. [3406] Rather "deriving existence from," "proceeding from," gives strict idea, but may be confounded with the technical "proceeding from" of the "filioque" controversy, which is quite another phrase. [3407] "Spirit." [3408] "The one simple" is not in the text, but is a conjectural addition of Valesius, followed by most translators. "Consisting of bodily structure" seems possibly to be an epexegetical phrase relating to the "all things" which he divides into intellectual and sensible, making the intellectual as well as the sensible to have bodily (somatic) structure. "All things," or "the universe," a plural technical term, is regarded as his mind passes to the explanation as "the all." This psychological probability appears a simpler solution than the various textual conjectures. [3409] Heinichen suspects that there has been an inversion of words here, and that it should have been, "He further teaches the admirable and profitable doctrine," and "a doctrine not merely to be admired" omitted.

Chapter X.--Of those who reject the Doctrines of Philosophers, as well as those of Scripture: and that we ought to believe the Poets in All Things, or disbelieve them in All.

There are, however, some persons so infatuated, that when they meet with such sentiments as these, they are neither converted or alarmed: nay, they even treat them with contempt and scorn, as if they listened to the inventions of fable; applauding, perhaps, the beauty of the eloquence, but abhorring the severity of the precepts. And yet they give credence to the fictions of the poets, and make both civilized and barbarous [3410] countries ring with exploded and false tales. For the poets assert that the judgment of souls after death is committed to men whose parentage they ascribe to the gods, [3411] extolling their righteousness and impartiality and represent them as guardians of the dead. The same poets describe the battles of the gods and certain usages of war among them, and speak of them as subject to the power of fate. Some of these deities they picture to us as cruel, others as strangers to all care for the human race, and others again as hateful in their character. They introduce them also as mourning the slaughter of their own children, thus implying their inability to succor, not strangers merely, but those most dear to them. They describe them, too, as subject to human passions, and sing of their battles and wounds, their joys and sorrows. And in all this they appear worthy of belief. [3412] For if we suppose them to be moved by a divine impulse to attempt the poetic art, we are bound to believe them and to be persuaded of what they utter under this inspiration. They speak, then, of the calamities to which their divinities are subject; calamities which of course are altogether true! But it will be objected that it is the privilege of poets to lie, since the peculiar province of poetry is to charm [3413] the spirits of the hearers, while the very essence of truth is that things told be in reality exactly what they are said to be. [3414] Let us grant that it is a characteristic of poetry occasionally to conceal the truth. But they who speak falsehood do it not without an object; being influenced either by a desire of personal gain or advantage, or possibly, being conscious of some evil conduct, they are induced to disguise the truth by dread of the threatening vengeance of the laws. But surely it were possible for them (in my judgment), by adhering faithfully to truth at least while treating of the nature of the Supreme Being, to avoid the guilt at once of falsehood and impiety.

Footnotes

[3410] "All the Greek-speaking world, and foreign lands as well." [3411] Rhadamanthus was a son of Jove (or Vulcan) and Europa. Cf. Hom. Il. 14. 322; Od. 4. 564, 7. 323. [3412] [There can be no doubt (though the fact is not immediately apparent from the wording of the text), that the spirit of this passage is ironical.--Bag.] [3413] Rather "cheat," or "delude." Mr. Charles Dudley Warner, essayist and novelist, says in an interesting essay on the relation of fiction to life, that the object of fiction is to produce illusions, and the test of its art is its power to produce such illusion. [3414] There is a temptation here to adopt the translation of Molz. "Truth lies in the fiction, however, when what is told corresponds to reality." Mr. Warner, in his lecture, goes on to say that the object of fiction is to reveal what is,--not the base and sordid things only or peculiarly, but the best possibilities, and gives an exquisite exposition of the fact that the idealism of true fiction is simply the realism of the nobler characteristics and truths. The truth is, that the object of fiction or poetry as art is to produce the image,--fill the whole personality with a picture. This is only gained in its highest form when every detail exactly corresponds to truth or reality. The function of fiction is not illusion, but realization. Its object is the reproduction of truth. Molz. makes Constantine say that fiction is true when it corresponds to reality, though the forms be not historical or actual. This is a true observation, but not what Constantine says. He says in substance, with Mr. Warner, that the object is to produce illusion or deceive, while the idea of truth is just the reverse.

Chapter XI.--On the Coming of our Lord in the Flesh; its Nature and Cause. [3415]

Whoever, then, has pursued a course unworthy of a life of virtue, and is conscious of having lived an irregular and disorderly life, let him repent, and turn with enlightened spiritual vision to God; and let him abandon his past career of wickedness, content if he attain to wisdom even in his declining years. We, however, have received no aid from human instruction; nay, whatever graces of character are esteemed of good report by those who have understanding, are entirely the gift of God. And I am able to oppose no feeble buckler against the deadly weapons of Satan's armory; I mean the knowledge I possess of those things which are pleasing to him: and of these I will select such as are appropriate to my present design, while I proceed to sing the praises of the Father of all. But do thou, O Christ, Saviour of mankind, be present to aid me in my hallowed task! Direct the words which celebrate thy virtues, [3416] and instruct me worthily to sound thy praises. And now, let no one expect to listen to the graces of elegant language: for well I know that the nerveless eloquence of those who speak to charm the ear, and whose aim is rather applause than sound argument, is distasteful to hearers of sound judgment. It is asserted, then, by some profane and senseless persons, that Christ, whom we worship, was justly condemned to death, and that he who is the author of life to all, was himself deprived of life. That such an assertion should be made by those who have once dared to enter the paths of impiety, who have cast aside all fear, and all thought of concealing their own depravity, is not surprising. But it is beyond the bounds of folly itself that they should be able, as it seems, really to persuade themselves that the incorruptible God yielded to the violence of men, and not rather to that love alone which he bore to the human race: that they should fail to perceive that divine magnanimity and forbearance is changed by no insult, is moved from its intrinsic steadfastness by no revilings; but is ever the same, breaking down and repelling, by the spirit of wisdom and greatness of soul, the savage fierceness of those who assail it. The gracious kindness of God had determined to abolish iniquity, and to exalt order and justice. Accordingly, he gathered a company of the wisest among men, [3417] and ordained that most noble and useful doctrine, which is calculated to lead the good and blessed of mankind to an imitation of his own providential care. And what higher blessing can we speak of than this, that God should prescribe the way of righteousness, and make those who are counted worthy of his instruction like himself; that goodness might be communicated to all classes of mankind, and eternal felicity be the result? This is the glorious victory: this the true power: this the mighty work, worthy of its author, the restoration of all people to soundness of mind: and the glory of this triumph we joyfully ascribe to thee, thou Saviour of all! But thou, vile and wretched blasphemy, whose glory is in lies and rumors and calumny; thy power is to deceive and prevail with the inexperience of youth, and with men who still retain the folly of youth. These thou seducest from the service of the true God, and settest up false idols as the objects of their worship and their prayers; and thus the reward of their folly awaits thy deluded victims: for they calumniate Christ, the author of every blessing, who is God, and the Son of God. Is not the worship of the best and wisest of the nations of this world worthily directed to that God, who, while possessing boundless power, remains immovably true to his own purpose, and retains undiminished his characteristic kindness and love to man? Away, then, ye impious, for still ye may while vengeance on your transgressions is yet withheld; begone to your sacrifices, your feasts, your scenes of revelry and drunkenness, wherein, under the semblance of religion, your hearts are devoted to profligate enjoyment, and pretending to perform sacrifices, yourselves are the willing slaves of your own pleasures. No knowledge have ye of any good, nor even of the first commandment of the mighty God, who both declares his will to man, and gives commission to his Son to direct the course of human life, that they who have passed a career of virtue and self-control may obtain, according to the judgment of that Son, a second, yea, a blessed and happy existence. [3418] I have now declared the decree of God respecting the life which he prescribes to man, neither ignorantly, as many have done, nor resting on the ground of opinion or conjecture. But it may be that some will ask, Whence this title of Son? Whence this generation of which we speak, if God be indeed only One, and incapable of union with another? We are, however, to consider generation as of two kinds; one in the way of natural birth, which is known to all; the other, that which is the effect of an eternal cause, the mode of which is seen by the prescience of God, and by those among men whom he loves. For he who is wise will recognize the cause which regulates the harmony of creation. Since, then, nothing exists without a cause, of necessity the cause of existing substances preceded their existence. But since the world and all things that it contains exist, and are preserved, [3419] their preserver must have had a prior existence; so that Christ is the cause of preservation, and the preservation of things is an effect: [3420] even as the Father is the cause of the Son, and the Son the effect of that cause. Enough, then, has been said to prove his priority of existence. But how do we explain his descent to this earth, and to men? His motive in this, [3421] as the prophets had foretold, originated in his watchful care for the interests of all: for it needs must be that the Creator should care for his own works. But when the time came for him to assume a terrestrial body, and to sojourn on this earth, the need requiring, he devised for himself a new mode [3422] of birth. Conception was there, yet apart from marriage: childbirth, yet pure virginity: and a maiden became the mother of God! An eternal nature received a beginning of temporal existence: a sensible form of a spiritual essence, a material manifestation of incorporeal brightness, [3423] appeared. Alike wondrous were the circumstances which attended this great event. A radiant dove, like that which flew from the ark of Noah, [3424] alighted on the Virgin's bosom: and accordant with this impalpable union, purer than chastity, more guileless than innocence itself, were the results which followed. From infancy possessing the wisdom of God, received with reverential awe by the Jordan, in whose waters he was baptized, gifted with that royal unction, the spirit of universal intelligence; with knowledge and power to perform miracles, and to heal diseases beyond the reach of human art; he yielded a swift and unhindered assent to the prayers of men, to whose welfare, indeed, his whole life was devoted without reserve. His doctrines instilled, not prudence only, [3425] but real wisdom: his hearers were instructed, not in the mere social virtues, [3426] but in the ways which conduct to the spiritual world; and devoted themselves to the contemplation of immutable and eternal things, and the knowledge of the Supreme Father. The benefits which he bestowed were no common blessings: for blindness, the gift of sight; for helpless weakness, the vigor of health; in the place of death, restoration to life again. I dwell not on that abundant provision in the wilderness, whereby a scanty measure of food became a complete and enduring supply [3427] for the wants of a mighty multitude. [3428] Thus do we render thanks to thee, our God and Saviour, according to our feeble power; unto thee, O Christ, supreme Providence of the mighty Father, who both savest us from evil, and impartest to us thy most blessed doctrine: for I say these things, not to praise, but to give thanks. For what mortal is he who shall worthily declare thy praise, of whom we learn that thou didst from nothing call creation into being, and illumine it with thy light; that thou didst regulate the confusion of the elements by the laws of harmony and order? But chiefly we mark thy loving-kindness, [3429] in that thou hast caused those whose hearts inclined to thee to desire earnestly a divine and blessed life, and hast provided that, like merchants of true blessings, they might impart to many others the wisdom and good fortune they had received; themselves, meanwhile, reaping the everlasting fruit of virtue. Freed from the trammels of vice, and imbued with the love of their fellow-men, they keep mercy ever before their eyes, and hoping for the promises of faith; [3430] devoted to modesty, and all those virtues which the past career of human life had thrown aside [but which were now restored by him whose providence is over all]. [3431] No other power could be found to devise a remedy for such evils, and for that spirit of injustice which had heretofore asserted its dominion over the race of men. Providence, however, could reach the circumstances even here, and with ease restored whatever had been disordered by violence and the licentiousness of human passion. And this restoring power he exercised without concealment. For he knew that, though there were some whose thoughts were able to recognize and understand his power, others there were whose brutish and senseless nature led them to rely exclusively on the testimony of their own senses. In open day, therefore, that no one, whether good or evil, might find room for doubt, he manifested his blessed and wondrous healing power; restoring the dead to life again, and renewing with a word the powers of those who had been bereft of bodily sense. [3432] Can we, in short, suppose, that to render the sea firm as the solid ground, to still the raging of the storm, and finally to ascend to heaven, after turning the unbelief of men to steadfast faith by the performance of these wondrous acts, demanded less than almighty power, was less than the work of God? Nor was the time of his passion unaccompanied by like wonders: when the sun was darkened, and the shades of night obscured the light of day. Then terror everywhere laid hold upon the people, and the thought that the end of all things was already come, and that chaos, such as had been ere the order of creation began, would once more prevail. Then, too, the cause was sought of so terrible an evil, and in what respect the trespasses of men had provoked the wrath of Heaven; until God himself, who surveyed with calm dignity the arrogance of the ungodly, renewed the face of heaven, and adorned it with the host of stars. Thus the beclouded face of Nature was again restored to her pristine beauty.

Footnotes

[3415] One ms. adds, "and concerning those who did not know this mystery." In another the Chapter is divided, and this is the heading of the second part. [3416] Or "this discourse concerning virtue." [3417] [Alluding to the apostles, who are called in the beginning of ch. 15, "the best men of their age." Were it our province to criticise, we might notice the contrariety of such expressions as these to the account which Scripture gives us of those "unlearned and ignorant men," the feeble, and, in themselves, fallible instruments, whom God selected to further his wondrous designs of mercy to a ruined world.--Bag.] Were it in our province to criticise the critic, we might notice that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and refer to the whole Book of Proverbs. Any just conception of wisdom or true learning says the same thing. The man who knows that God and not phusis or tuche manages the universe, is more learned than the wisest of those learned in things which are not so. [3418] Christophorson extends ch. 10 to this point, and here introduces ch. 11, with the heading "On the coming of Our Lord in the flesh; its nature and cause." [3419] Preserved, preserver, and preservation = saved, saviour, and salvation. This represents the N.T. idea better than the popular conception which confuses Christ our Saviour with Christ our Redeemer. Redemption was a necessary part of his effort for our salvation, but the salvation itself was a saving, in literal English preserving. We have been redeemed; we are being saved. [3420] Bag.follows here Valesius' translation and note where he makes the word "preservation" a conjectural emendation of Scaliger, inconsistent with the meaning of the passage, and omits translating "the cause of all things that exist." But Hein. does not even hint such reading, and his text (followed also by Molz.), so far from tending to disturb the whole meaning, gives much the more intelligent conception. Christ is the preserver (saviour) of things. Preservation of things is the effect of that cause, just as the Father is the cause of the Son, and the Son the effect of that cause. Therefore the preserver precedes created things as a cause precedes its effect. [3421] Valesius expresses a preference for the reading kathodou (advent) here instead of katholou (universal), but the latter is the reading of Heinichen, and undoubtedly correct. Bag. has followed Valesius. [3422] "New mode" is a paraphrase supported by only one ms. The real meaning of nothen is well expressed by Chr., "alienam quandam a communi hominum natura nascendi rationem sibi excogitavit." Its usual meaning is "illegitimate." [3423] This is supposed to refer to Heb. i. 3, although a different Greek word is used. [3424] Various suggestions have been made regarding the dove which according to the literal rendering "flew from the ark of Noah." Christophorson (according to Valesius) supposes it to be that dove which Noah formerly sent out of the ark, this dove being a figure of the Holy Spirit which was afterward to come in the Virgin. Jerome, Ep. ad Oc., also regards the Noachic dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Vales., followed by 1711 and Bag., prefer to translate as if it were "like that," &c. This form of the story, according to which the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove, is according to Valesius from the Apocrypha; perhaps, he suggests, from the "Gospel to the Hebrews." In later art the dove is the constant symbol of the Holy Spirit, and is often found in pictures of the annunciation, e.g. in pictures by Simeone Memmi, Dürer, Andrea del Sarto, and many others. It is found in six of the pictures of the annunciation given by Mrs. Jameson (Legends of the Madonna, p. 165 sq.). [3425] The author seems to have here a reference to the Aristotelian distinction between prudence and wisdom (cf. Ethics, 6. 3; 7. 8, &c.). It reminds of that passage (vi. 7, ed. Grant ad. ii. 165-166), where the two are distinguished and defined, wisdom being "concerned with the immutable, and prudence with the variable"; and a little farther along wisdom is distinguished from "statesmanship," i.e. the "social" of Bag., which is a form of "prudence" (tr. Williams, p. 160), and indeed (vi. 8. 1) generically identical with prudence. So again (1, 2) "political art" is identified with ethics. [3426] Social virtues or "political" virtues. Cf. the "political art" or "statesmanship" of Aristotle. [3427] [Pollou chronou, "for a considerable time." This seems to be a rhetorical addition to the circumstances of the miracle, scarcely to be justified by the terms of the inspired narrative.--Bag.] [3428] At this point Christophorson begins his Chapter xii., "of those who did not know the mystery," &c. [3429] The translator takes most extraordinary liberties with the word "philanthropy"; now it is "loving-kindness," now "love of their fellow-men," and so on in picturesque variety, and yet as appropriate as it is lacking in uniformity. [3430] Cf. Rom. viii. 25; Gal. v. 5. [3431] [The text, in the last clause of this passage, is undoubtedly corrupt. The above is an attempt to supply a probable sense.--Bag.] This is omitted by Hein. from his text. [3432] i.e. healing the paralytics. This paraphrased passage reads more literally, "bidding those bereft of sense [i.e. sensation, feeling] to feel again." Still it may be that Molz. is right in thinking it refers to the senses--seeing, hearing, &c.--as well as feeling, though his translation will hardly stand; "and to such as lacked any of the senses he granted the full use of all their senses again."

Chapter XII.--Of those who are Ignorant of this Mystery; and that their Ignorance is Voluntary. The Blessings which await those who know it, especially such as die in the Confession of the Faith. [3433]

But it will be said by some, who love to blaspheme, that it was in the power of God to ameliorate and soften the natural will of man. What better way, I ask, what better method could be devised, what more effectual effort put forth for reclaiming evil man, than converse with God himself? Was not he visibly present to teach them the principles of virtuous conduct? And if the personal instructions of God were without effect, how much more, had he continued absent and unheard? What, then, had power to hinder this most blessed doctrine? The perverse folly of man. For the clearness of our perceptions is at once obscured, as often as we receive with angry impatience those precepts which are given for our blessing and advantage. In truth, it was the very choice of men to disregard these precepts, and to turn a deaf ear to the commandments so distasteful to them; though had they listened, they would have gained a reward well worthy such attention, and that not for the present only, but the future life, which is indeed the only true life. For the reward of obedience to God is imperishable and everlasting life, to which they may aspire who know him, [3434] and frame their course of life so as to afford a pattern to others, and as it were a perpetual standard for the imitation of those who desire to excel in virtue. Therefore was the doctrine committed to men of understanding, that the truths which they communicated might be kept with care and a pure conscience by the members of their households, and that thus a truthful and steadfast observance of God's commands might be secured, the fruit of which is that boldness in the prospect of death which springs from pure faith and genuine holiness before God. He who is thus armed can withstand the tempest of the world, and is sustained even to martyrdom by the invincible power of God, whereby he boldly overcomes the greatest terrors, and is accounted worthy of a crown of glory by him to whom he has thus nobly testified. [3435] Nor does he himself assume the praise, knowing full well that it is God who gives the power both to endure, and to fulfill with ready zeal the Divine commands. And well may such a course as this receive the meed of never-failing remembrance and everlasting honor. For as the martyr's life is one of sobriety and obedience to the will of God, so is his death an example of true greatness and generous fortitude of soul. Hence it is followed by hymns and psalms, words and songs of praise to the all-seeing God: and a sacrifice of thanksgiving is offered in memory of such men, a bloodless, a harmless sacrifice, wherein is no need of the fragrant frankincense, no need of fire; but only enough of pure light [3436] to suffice the assembled worshipers. Many, too, there are whose charitable spirit leads them to prepare a temperate banquet for the comfort of the needy, and the relief of those who had been driven from their homes: a custom which can only be deemed burdensome [3437] by those whose thoughts are not accordant with the divine and sacred doctrine.

Footnotes

[3433] Literally and better, "through the confession." It refers to those who are technically known as confessors. Although in general the distinction prevails by which those who have suffered, but not unto death, are called "confessors," while those who lost their lives are called "martyrs" (cf. Pseud-Cypr. de dupl. Mart. c. 31), yet its use for martyrs is not uncommon (cf. Ambrose, ad Gratian, c. 2). Later the term was used of all, especially faithful professors of Christ. [3434] Cf. John xvii. 3; 1 John v. 19-20. [3435] This translation "to whom" accords with the reading of Valesius, followed by 1611, Molz., "Zimmermann," Cous. ("whose cause he has sustained"), but Hein. adopts the reading "who," preceded by Chr., who translates "who himself bravely endured martyrdom." [3436] [Alluding to the tapers, &c., lighted at the tombs of martyrs on the anniversary of their death.--Bag.] Compare Scudamore, Lights, The Ceremonial Use of, in Smith and Cheetham, Dict. 1 (1880), 993 sq. [3437] "Vulgar."

Chapter XIII.--That there is a Necessary Difference between Created Things. That the Propensity to Good and Evil depends on the Will of Man; and that, consequently, Judgment is a Necessary and Reasonable Thing.

There are, indeed, some who venture with childish presumption to find fault with God in respect of this also, and ask why it is that he has not created one and the same natural disposition for all, but rather has ordained the existence of many things different, nay, contrary in their nature, whence arises the dissimilarity of our moral conduct and character. Would it not (say they) have been better, both as regards obedience to the commands of God, and a just apprehension of himself, and for the confirmation of individual faith, that all mankind should be of the same moral character? It is indeed ridiculous to expect that this could be the case, and to forget that the constitution of the world is different from that of the things that are in the world; that physical and moral objects are not identical in their nature, nor the affections of the body the same as those of the soul. [For the immortal soul far exceeds the material world in dignity, and is more blessed than the perishable and terrestrial creation, in proportion as it is noble and more allied to God. [3438] ] Nor is the human race excluded from participation in the divine goodness; though this is not the lot of all indiscriminately, but of those only who search deeply into the Divine nature, and propose the knowledge of sacred things as the leading object of their lives.

Footnotes

[3438] [The text of this passage is defective. The conjectural restoration of Valesius, which seems probable, is chiefly followed.--Bag.] Heinichen, like Christophorson and Savil before him, "does not hesitate," with one of the mss., to omit this passage.

Chapter XIV.--That Created Nature differs infinitely from Uncreated Being; to which Man makes the Nearest Approach by a Life of Virtue.

Surely it must be the very height of folly to compare created with eternal things, which latter have neither beginning nor end, while the former, having been originated and called into being, and having received a commencement of their existence at some definite time, must consequently, of necessity have an end. How then can things which have thus been made, bear comparison with him who has ordained their being? Were this the case, [3439] the power to command their existence could not rightly be attributed to him. Nor can celestial things be compared to him, any more than the material [3440] with the intellectual [3441] world, or copies with the models from which they are formed. Nay, is it not absurd thus to confound all things, and to obscure the honor of God by comparing him with men, or even with beasts? And is it not characteristic of madmen, utterly estranged from a life of sobriety and virtue, to affect a power equivalent to that of God? If indeed we in any sense aspire to blessedness like that of God, our duty is to lead a life according to his commandments: so shall we, having finished a course consistent with the laws which he has prescribed, dwell for ever superior to the power of fate, in eternal and undecaying mansions. For the only power in man which can be elevated to a comparison with that of God, is sincere and guileless service and devotion of heart to himself, with the contemplation and study of whatever pleases him, the raising our affections above the things of earth, and directing our thoughts, as far as we may, to high and heavenly objects: for from such endeavors, it is said, a victory accrues to us more valuable than many blessings. [3442] The cause, then, of that difference which subsists, as regards the inequality both of dignity and power in created beings, is such as I have described. In this the wise acquiesce with abundant thankfulness and joy: while those who are dissatisfied, display their own folly, and their arrogance will reap its due reward.

Footnotes

[3439] This is following with Heinichen, and meets the conjecture of Valesius as over against the mss. and other conjectures, which, substituting mania for homoia, read "for if it be madness to liken these things to him," &c. [3440] Or "sensible"; i.e. world of sense or perception. [3441] This is the word often rendered by Bag. as "spiritual." [3442] This is supposed to refer to Rev. ii. 7-10; iii. 11, &c. It might well have in mind Col. iii. 2-4, or best of all Rev. xxi. 7, as containing the thought of victory (nikEURo = "overcome").

Chapter XV.--Of the Saviour's Doctrines and Miracles; and the Benefits he confers on those who own Subjection to him.

The Son of God invites all men to the practice of virtue, and presents himself to all who have understanding hearts, as the teacher of his saving precepts. [3443] Unless, indeed, we will deceive ourselves; and remain in wretched ignorance of the fact, that for our advantage, that is, to secure the blessing of the human race, he went about upon earth; and, having called around him the best men of their age, committed to them instructions full of profit, and of power to preserve them in the path of a virtuous life; teaching them the faith and righteousness which are the true remedy against the adverse power of that malignant spirit whose delight it is to ensnare and delude the inexperienced. Accordingly he visited the sick, relieved the infirm from the ills which afflicted them, and consoled those who felt the extremity of penury and want. He commended also sound and rational sobriety of character, enjoining his followers to endure, with dignity and patience, every kind of injury and contempt: teaching them to regard such as visitations permitted by their Father, and the victory is ever theirs who nobly bear the evils which befall them. For he assured them that the highest strength of all consisted in this steadfastness of soul, combined with that philosophy which is nothing else than the knowledge of truth and goodness, producing in men the generous habit of sharing with their poorer brethren those riches which they have themselves acquired by honorable means. At the same time he utterly forbade all proud oppression, declaring that, as he had come to associate with the lowly, so those who despised the lowly would be excluded from his favor. Such and so great was the test whereby he proved the faith of those who owned allegiance to his authority, and thus he not only prepared them for the contempt of danger and terror, but taught them at the same time the most genuine confidence in himself. Once, too, his rebuke was uttered to restrain the zeal of one of his companions, who yielded too easily to the impulse of passion, when he assaulted with the sword, and, eager to protect his Saviour's life, exposed his own. Then it was that he bade him desist, and returned his sword to its sheath, reproving him for his distrust of refuge and safety in himself, and declaring solemnly that all who should essay to retaliate an injury by like aggression, or use the sword, should perish by a violent death. [3444] This is indeed heavenly wisdom, to choose rather to endure than to inflict injury, and to be ready, should necessity so require, to suffer, but not to do, wrong. For since injurious conduct is in itself a most serious evil, it is not the injured party, but the injuring, on whom the heaviest punishment must fall. It is indeed possible for one who is subject to the will of God to avoid the evil both of committing and of suffering injury, provided his confidence be firm in the protection of that God whose aid is ever present to shield his servants from harm. For how should that man who trusts in God attempt to seek for resources in himself? In such a case he must abide the conflict with uncertainty of victory: and no man of understanding could prefer a doubtful to a certain issue. Again, how can that man doubt the presence and aid of God, who has had experience of manifold dangers, and has at all times been easily delivered, at his simple nod, from all terrors: who has passed, as it were, through the sea which was leveled by the Saviour's word, and afforded a solid road for the passage of the people? This is, I believe, the sure basis of faith, the true foundation of confidence, that we find such miracles as these performed and perfected at the command of the God of Providence. Hence it is that even in the midst of trial we find no cause to repent of our faith, but retain an unshaken hope in God; and when this habit of confidence is established in the soul, God himself dwells in the inmost thoughts. But he is of invincible power: the soul, therefore, which has within it him who is thus invincible, will not be overcome by the perils which may surround it. Likewise, [3445] we learn this truth from the victory of God himself, who, while intent on providing for the blessing of mankind, though grievously insulted by the malice of the ungodly, yet passed unharmed through the sufferings of his passion, and gained a mighty conquest, an everlasting crown of triumph, over all iniquity; thus accomplishing the purpose of his own providence and love as regards the just, and destroying the cruelty of the impious and unjust.

Footnotes

[3443] This accords with the "margin of the Geneva Edition," and mentioned by Valesius, who gives also "in the Saviour's commands" and "in the Father's commands," which latter is adopted by Heinichen. [3444] Matt. xxvi. 52; for "all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword." Note the characteristic inflation of style. Matthew takes eight words, the English translators twelve, Constantine sixteen, and his translator twenty-two ponderous words. [3445] Val. prefers pros ("besides") to para ("likewise, at the same time"), and is followed by Bag.

Chapter XVI.--The Coming of Christ was predicted by the Prophets; and was ordained to be the Overthrow of Idols and Idolatrous Cities.

Long since had his passion, as well as his advent in the flesh, been predicted by the prophets. The time, too, of his incarnation had been foretold, and the manner in which the fruits of iniquity and profligacy, so ruinous to the works and ways of righteousness, should be destroyed, and the whole world partake of the virtues of wisdom and sound discretion, through the almost universal prevalence of those principles of conduct which the Saviour should promulgate, over the minds of men; whereby the worship of God should be confirmed, and the rites of superstition utterly abolished. By these not the slaughter of animals alone, but the sacrifice of human victims, and the pollutions of an accursed worship, had been devised: as, for example, by the laws of Assyria and Egypt, the lives of innocent men were offered up in images of brass or earth. Therefore have these nations received a recompense worthy so foul a worship. Memphis and Babylon [it was declared] [3446] shall be wasted, and left desolate with their fathers' gods. Now these things I speak not from the report of others, but having myself been present, and actually seen the most wretched of these cities, the unfortunate Memphis. [3447] Moses desolated, at the Divine command, the land of the once mighty Pharaoh, whose arrogance was his destruction, [3448] and destroyed his army (which had proved victorious over numerous and mighty nations, an army strong in defenses and in arms), not by the flight of arrows or the hurling of hostile weapons, but by holy prayer alone, and quiet supplication.

Footnotes

[3446] Not in text. This parenthesis is the least obnoxious of various proposed paraphrases. [3447] Probably refers to its destruction by Diocletian, whom Constantine accompanied. See Prolegomena, Life, Early Years. [3448] The text of this passage is most dubious. Bag., following Valesius, translates: "And an actual witness of the wretched fate which has befallen these cities. Memphis lies desolate; that city which was the pride of the once mighty Pharaoh whose power Moses crushed at the Divine command." This has been changed to accord with the text and punctuation of Heinichen. The change makes Constantine declare himself an eye-witness of the fate of Memphis alone, which is thought to accord with the facts; for while he was in fact in Egypt with Diocletian there is no evidence that he ever saw Babylon. And yet it is possible he did.

Chapter XVII.--Of the Wisdom of Moses, which was an Object of Imitation to the Wise among Heathen Nations. Also concerning Daniel, and the Three Children.

No nation has ever been more highly blessed than that which Moses led: none would have continued to enjoy higher blessings, had they not willingly withdrawn themselves from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But who can worthily describe the praises of Moses himself; who, after reducing to order an unruly nation, and disciplining their minds [3449] to habits of obedience and respect, out of captivity restored them to a state of freedom, turned their mourning into gladness, and so far elevated their minds, [3450] that, through the excess of contrast with their former circumstances, and the abundance of their prosperity, the spirit of the people was elated with haughtiness and pride? So far did he surpass in wisdom those who had lived before him, that even the wise men and philosophers [3451] who are extolled by heathen nations aspired to imitate his wisdom. For Pythagoras, following his wisdom, attained to such a pitch of self-control, that he became to Plato, himself a model of discretion, the standard of his own self-mastery. Again, how great and terrible the cruelty of that ancient Syrian king, over whom Daniel triumphed, the prophet who unfolded the secrets of futurity, whose actions evinced transcendent greatness of soul, and the luster of whose character and life shone conspicuous above all? The name of this tyrant was Nebuchadnezzar, whose race afterward became extinct, and his vast and mighty power was transferred to Persian hands. The wealth of this tyrant was then, and is even now, celebrated far and wide, as well as his ill-timed devotion to unlawful worship, his idol statues, lifting their heads to heaven, and formed of various metals, and the terrible and savage laws ordained to uphold this worship. These terrors Daniel, sustained by genuine piety towards the true God, utterly despised, and predicted that the tyrant's unseasonable zeal would be productive of fearful evil to himself. He failed, however, to convince the tyrant (for excessive wealth is an effectual barrier to true soundness of judgment), and at length the monarch displayed the savage cruelty of his character, by commanding that the righteous prophet should be exposed to the fury of wild beasts. Noble, too, indeed was the united spirit exhibited by those brethren [3452] (whose example others have since followed, and have won surpassing glory by their faith in the Saviour's name), [3453] those, I mean, who stood unharmed in the fiery furnace, and the terrors appointed to devour them, repelling by the holy touch of their bodies the flame by which they were surrounded. On the overthrow of the Assyrian Empire, which was destroyed by thunderbolts from Heaven, [3454] the providence of God conducted Daniel to the court of Cambyses the Persian king. Yet envy followed him even here; nor envy only, but the deadly plots of the magians against his life, with a succession of many and urgent dangers, from all which he was easily delivered by the providential care of Christ, [3455] and shone conspicuous in the practice of every virtue. Three times in the day did he present his prayers to God, and memorable were the proofs of supernatural power which he displayed: and hence the magians, filled with envy at the very efficacy of his petitions, represented the possession of such power to the king as fraught with danger, and prevailed on him to adjudge this distinguished benefactor of the Persian people to be devoured by savage lions. Daniel, therefore, thus condemned, was consigned to the lions' den (not indeed to suffer death, but to win unfading glory); and though surrounded by these ferocious beasts of prey, he found them more gentle than the men who had enclosed him there. Supported by the power of calm and steadfast prayer, he was enabled to subdue all these animals, ferocious as, by nature, they were. Cambyses, on learning the event (for so mighty a proof of Divine power could not possibly be concealed), amazed at the marvelous story, and repenting the too easy credence he had given to the slanderous charges of the magians, resolved, notwithstanding, to be himself a witness of the spectacle. But when he saw the prophet with uplifted hands rendering praises to Christ, and the lions crouching, and as it were worshiping, at his feet, immediately he adjudged the magians, to whose persuasions he had listened, to perish by the self-same sentence, and shut them up in the lions' den. [3456] The beasts, erewhile so gentle, rushed at once upon their victims, and with all the fierceness of their nature tore and destroyed them all. [3457]

Footnotes

[3449] "Souls." [3450] "Souls." [3451] The sage commentators on this passage have thought it incumbent to explain and, as it were, apologize for the apparent tautology, "wise men or philosophers,--whichever you choose to call them" (Val. and Hein.). Colloquially speaking, there is a vast difference between being a philosopher and being a wise man. Probably this is no slip of style nor gracious option of language such as the editors impute, but some more or less clear distinction of technical terms. [3452] "Spirit exhibited by these brethren in suffering martyrdom." [3453] Molz.remarks that to get any intelligent meaning out of this mass of sounding words, the translator often has to guess and translate very freely. [3454] ['Anairetheises keraunon bolais. This must be regarded as a rhetorical rather than historical allusion to the extinction of the Assyrian Empire. The critical reader will not fail to mark occasional instances of inaccuracy and looseness of statement in this Chapter, and generally in the course of the oration.--Bag.] Valesius objects to this passage as follows in the language of 1711: "Neither do I well understand that. For Men, Towns, and Cities may be destroyed by Thunder-bolts,...But, truly I can't see how a kingdom could be ruined by Thunder." [3455] Constantine evidently believed in an eternal Christ. [3456] "He adjudged to perish by the self-same sentence, and shut them up in the lions' den," is bracketed by Valesius and the second clause omitted by Bag. [3457] "Eliminated them all." Valesius calls attention to the characteristic slight inaccuracies of our author! e.g. in the Biblical account (1) it was not the magi; (2) it was not Cambyses.

Chapter XVIII.--Of the Erythræan Sibyl, who pointed in a Prophetic Acrostic at our Lord and his Passion. The Acrostic is "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour, Cross."

My desire, however, is to derive even from foreign sources a testimony to the Divine nature of Christ. For on such testimony it is evident that even those who blaspheme his name must acknowledge that he is God, and the Son of God if indeed they will accredit the words of those whose sentiments coincided with their own. [3458] The Erythræan Sibyl, then, who herself assures us that she lived in the sixth generation after the flood, was a priestess of Apollo, who wore the sacred fillet in imitation of the God she served, who guarded also the tripod encompassed with the serpent's folds, and returned prophetic answers to those who approached her shrine; having been devoted by the folly of her parents to this service, a service productive of nothing good or noble, but only of indecent fury, such as we find recorded in the case of Daphne. [3459] On one occasion, however, having rushed into the sanctuary of her vain superstition, she became really filled with inspiration from above, and declared in prophetic verses the future purposes of God; plainly indicating the advent of Jesus by the initial letters of these verses, forming an acrostic in these words: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour, Cross. The verses themselves are as follows: Judgment! Earth's oozing pores [3460] shall mark the day; Earth's heavenly king his glories shall display: Sovereign of all, exalted on his throne, Unnumbered multitudes their God shall own; Shall see their Judge, with mingled joy and fear, Crowned with his saints, in human form appear. How vain, while desolate earth's glories lie, Riches, and pomp, and man's idolatry! In that dread hour, when Nature's fiery doom Startles the slumb'ring tenants of the tomb, Trembling all flesh shall stand; each secret wile, Sins long forgotten, thoughts of guilt and guile, Open beneath God's searching light shall lie: No refuge then, but hopeless agony. O'er heaven's expanse shall gathering shades of night From earth, sun, stars, and moon, withdraw their light; God's arm shall crush each mountain's towering pride; On ocean's plain no more shall navies ride. Dried at the source, no river's rushing sound Shall soothe, no fountain slake the parched ground. Around, afar, shall roll the trumpet's blast, Voice of wrath long delayed, revealed at last. In speechless awe, while earth's foundations groan, On judgment's seat earth's kings their God shall own. Uplifted then, in majesty divine, Radiant with light, behold Salvation's Sign! Cross of that Lord, who, once for sinners given, Reviled by man, now owned by earth and heaven, O'er every land extends his iron sway. Such is the name these mystic lines display; Saviour, eternal king, who bears our sins away. [3461] It is evident that the virgin uttered these verses under the influence of Divine inspiration. And I cannot but esteem her blessed, whom the Saviour thus selected to unfold his gracious purpose towards us.

Footnotes

[3458] "Of their own selves." [3459] [Daughter of Tiresias, and priestess at Delphi. She was called Sibyl, on account of the wildness of her looks and expressions when she delivered oracles (Lempriere in voc.).--Bag.] [3460] [ ;;Idrosei gar chthon, k.t.l.--Bag.] [3461] [It can scarcely be necessary to observe that the acrostic, the general sense of which has been aimed at in the above translation, must be regarded as the pious fiction of some writer, whose object was to recommend the truth of Christianity to heathens by an appeal to the authority of an (alleged) ancient heathen prophecy.--Bag.] The quotation is found in the edition of Alexandre, Bk. VIII. ch. 219-250. (Cf. translation in Augustin, De civ. Dei.) The translation of Bag., giving the "general sense" and reproducing the acrostic, stands unchanged. The translation of 1709, much more vigorous and suggestive of the "Dies Iræ," is as follows: "When the Great Day of Judgment shall appear, The melting Earth shall then dissolve with fear; A King Immortal shall from Heav'n descend, At whose Tribunal the whole world attend. Both Just and Wicked shall, when Time grows old, Their mighty God in flesh array'd behold; Armies of Saints on His Right hand shall come, Whilst Humane Souls expect their final doom. Th' Universe shall be a dry, Barren Strand, And Thorns shall flourish on the scorched land; Men shall with indignation cast away Their Wealth and Idols in that dreadful day. The parching Earth, and Heaven in flames shall fry, And searching fire drain the Ocean dry: All flesh which in the Grave imprison'd lay, Shake off their Fetters, and return to Day. Fire 'twixt Good and Bad shall diff'rence make, And filthy Dross from purer Metal take. Man's secret Deeds shall all be open lay'd, And th' obscure Mazes of their Hearts displayed; Gnashing their Teeth, they shall their Fate bewail: The stars harmonious dance, and th' Sun shall fail. The Orbs roll'd up, shrink into darkest night, The Labouring Moon shall lose her borrowed light. Mountains with Plains on the same Level lye; Vallies shall gape no more, nor Hills be high. On the proud Billows Ships shall ride no more: And Lightning the Earth's Face shall shrivel sore. The crackling Rivers with fierce Fire shall burn, Which shall their streams to solid Crystal turn. The Heav'nly Trump shall blow a doleful sound, And th' world's destruction, and its sin resound. The yawning Earth Hell's vast Abyss shall shew; All Kings before God's just Tribunal go. Then Liquid Sulphur from the Sky shall stream, God shall pour down Rivers of vengeful flame; All men shall then the Glorious Cross descry, That wished-for sign unto a faithful eye: The Life of pious Souls, their chief delight; To Sinners an Offence, a dismal sight! Enlightening the called with its beams, When cleansed from sin in twice six limpid streams. His Empire shall be boundless, and that God Shall Rule the Wicked with an Iron Rod; This God, Immortal King, describ'd in Verse, Our Saviour, dying, shall man's doom Reverse."

Chapter XIX.--That this Prophecy respecting our Saviour was not the Fiction of any Member of the Christian Church, but the Testimony of the Erythræan Sibyl, whose Books were translated into Latin by Cicero before the coming of Christ. Also that Virgil makes mention of the same, and of the Birth of the Virgin's Child: though he spoke obscurely of this Mystery from Fear of the Ruling Powers.

Many, however, who admit that the Erythræan Sibyl was really a prophetess, yet refuse to credit this prediction, and imagine that some one professing our faith, and not unacquainted with the poetic art, was the composer of these verses. They hold, in short, that they are a forgery, and alleged to be the prophecies of the Sibyl on the ground of their containing useful moral sentiments, tending to restrain licentiousness, and to lead man to a life of sobriety and decorum. Truth, however, in this case is evident, since the diligence of our countrymen [3462] has made a careful computation of the times; so that there is no room to suspect that this poem was composed after the advent and condemnation of Christ, or that the general report is false, that the verses were a prediction of the Sibyl in an early age. For it is allowed that Cicero was acquainted with this poem, which he translated into the Latin tongue, and incorporated with his own works. [3463] This writer was put to death during the ascendancy of Antony, who in his turn was conquered by Augustus, whose reign lasted fifty-six years. Tiberius succeeded, in whose age it was that the Saviour's advent enlightened the world, the mystery of our most holy religion began to prevail, and as it were a new race of men commenced: of which, I suppose, the prince of Latin poets thus speaks: Behold, a new, a heaven-born race appears. [3464] And again, in another passage of the Bucolics: Sicilian Muses, sound a loftier strain. What can be clearer than this? For he adds, The voice of Cuma's oracle is heard again. [3465] Evidently referring to the Cumæan Sibyl. Nor was even this enough: the poet goes further, as if irresistibly impelled to bear his testimony. What then does he say? Behold! the circling years new blessings bring: The virgin comes, with her the long-desired king. [3466] Who, then, is the virgin who was to come? Is it not she who was filled with, and with child of the Holy Spirit? And why is it impossible that she who was with child of the Holy Spirit should be, and ever continue to be a virgin? This king, too, will return, and by his coming lighten the sorrows of the world. The poet adds, Thou, chaste Lucina, greet the new-born child, Beneath whose reign the iron offspring ends, A golden progeny from heaven descends; His kingdom banished virtue shall restore, And crime shall threat the guilty world no more. We perceive that these words are spoken plainly and at the same time darkly, by way of allegory. Those who search deeply for the import of the words, are able to discern the Divinity of Christ. But lest any of the powerful in the imperial city might be able to accuse the poet of writing anything contrary to the laws of the country, and subverting the religious sentiments which had prevailed from ancient times, he intentionally obscures the truth. For he was acquainted, as I believe, with that blessed mystery which gave to our Lord the name of Saviour: [3467] but, that he might avoid the severity of cruel men, he drew the thoughts of his hearers to objects with which they were familiar, saying that altars must be erected, temples raised, and sacrifices offered to the new-born child. His concluding words also are adapted to the sentiments of those who were accustomed to such a creed; for he says:

Footnotes

[3462] "Our men," i.e. Christians rather than "countrymen." [3463] [The passage in Cicero (De Divinatione, Bk. II. ch. 54) clearly does not refer to this acrostic, and contains in itself a plain denial of prophetic truth in the Sibylline prediction (whatever it was) which the writer had in view. "Non esse autem illud carmen furentis, cum ipsum poema declaret (est enim magis artis et diligentiæ, quam incitationis et motus), tum verò ea, quæ akrostichis dicitur, cum deinceps ex primis versuum litteris aliquid connectitur, ut in quibusdam Cumanis, id certe magis est attenti animi, quam furentis," &c.--Bag.] [3464] This and following quotations are found in the fourth eclogue of Virgil--the Pollio. The version of Bag. is allowed to stand. If farther variety of rendering and interpretation is desired, it can be found in charming profusion in the various English translations of Virgil of which the few at hand give ample promise. Those at hand are Ogilby, Lond., 1675, p. 41-49; Warton, Lond., 1763, p. 76-82; Trapp, Lond., 1755, p. 37-46; Kennedy, Lond., 1849, p. 25-29; Wilstach, Bost., 1884, p. 154-161; Bowen, Lond., 1887, p. 24-28. Compare Henley, Observations on the Subject of the Fourth Eclogue, etc., Lond., 1788. 8vo. [3465] Here is variety indeed. 1711 renders, "Last times are come Cumæa's prophecy,"--whatever that may mean. Molz. has "Now the voice of the famed oracle of Cumæ is dumb." [3466] Constantine takes large liberty with the poet here in order to make him say what he would like to have had him say. The latest translation at hand (Bowen) renders: "Now is the world's grand cycle begun once more from of old; Justice the Virgin comes, and the Saturn Kingdom again." [3467] "The blessed and salutary mystery of our Saviour."--1709. "Mystery of salvation."--Molz.

Chapter XX.--A Farther Quotation from Virgilius Maro respecting Christ, with its Interpretation, showing that the Mystery was indicated therein darkly, as might be expected from a Poet.

A life immortal he shall lead, and be By heroes seen, himself shall heroes see; evidently meaning the righteous. The jarring nations he in peace shall bind, And with paternal virtues rule mankind. Unbidden earth her earliest fruits shall bring, And fragrant herbs, to greet her infant king. Well indeed was this admirably wise and accomplished man acquainted with the cruel character of the times. He proceeds: The goats, uncall'd, full udders home shall bear; The lowing herds no more fierce lions fear. Truly said: for faith will not stand in awe of the mighty in the imperial palace. His cradle shall with rising flowers be crown'd: The serpent's brood shall die; the sacred ground Shall weeds and poisonous plants refuse to bear; Each common bush th' Assyrian rose [3468] shall wear. Nothing could be said more true or more consistent with the Saviour's excellency than this. For the power of the Divine Spirit presents the very cradle of God, like fragrant flowers, to the new-born race. [3469] The serpent, too, and the venom of that serpent, perishes, who originally beguiled our first parents, and drew their thoughts from their native innocence [3470] to the enjoyment of pleasures, that they might experience [3471] that threatened death. For before the Saviour's advent, the serpent's power was shown in subverting the souls of those who were sustained by no well-grounded hope, and ignorant of that immortality which awaits the righteous. But after that he had suffered, and was separated for a season from the body which he had assumed, the power of the resurrection was revealed to man through the communication of the Holy Spirit: and whatever stain of human guilt might yet remain was removed by the washing of sacred lustrations. Then indeed could the Saviour bid his followers be of good cheer, and, remembering his adorable and glorious resurrection, expect the like for themselves. Truly, then, the poisonous race may be said to be extinct. Death himself is extinct, and the truth of the resurrection sealed. Again, the Assyrian race is gone, which first led the way to faith in God. [3472] But when he speaks of the growth of amomum every where, he alludes to the multitude of the true worshipers of God. [3473] For it is as though a multitude of branches, crowned with fragrant flowers, and fitly watered, sprung from the self-same root. Most justly said, Maro, thou wisest of poets! and with this all that follows is consistent. But when heroic worth his youth shall hear, And learn his father's virtues to revere. By the praises of heroes, he indicates the works of righteous men: by the virtues of his Father he speaks of the creation and everlasting structure of the world: and, it may be, of those laws by which God's beloved Church is guided, and ordered in a course of righteousness and virtue. Admirable, again, is the advance to higher things of that state of life which is intermediate, as it were, between good and evil, and which seldom admits a sudden change: Unlabored harvests shall the fields adorn, [3474] that is, the fruit of the Divine law springs up for the service of men. And clustered gropes shall blush on every thorn. Far otherwise has it been during the corrupt and lawless period of human life. The knotted oaks shall showers of honey weep. [3475] He here describes the folly and obduracy of the men of that age; and perhaps he also intimates that they who suffer hardships in the cause of God, shall reap sweet fruits of their own endurance. Yet, of old fraud some footsteps shall remain; The merchant still shall plough the deep for gain: Great cities shall with walls be compassed round, And sharpened shares shall vex the fruitful ground: Another Tiphys shall new seas explore; Another Argo land the chiefs upon the Iberian shore; Another Helen other wars create, And great Achilles urge the Trojan fate. Well said, wisest of bards! Thou hast carried the license of a poet precisely to the proper point. For it was not thy purpose to assume the functions of a prophet, to which thou hadst no claim. I suppose also he was restrained by a sense of the danger which threatened one who should assail the credit of ancient religious practice. Cautiously, therefore, and securely, as far as possible, he presents the truth to those who have faculties to understand it; and while he denounces the munitions and conflicts of war [3476] (which indeed are still to be found in the course of human life), he describes our Saviour as proceeding to the war against Troy, understanding by Troy the world itself. [3477] And surely he did maintain the struggle against the opposing powers of evil, sent on that mission both by the designs of his own providence and the commandment of his Almighty Father. How, then, does the poet proceed? But when to ripen'd manhood he shall grow, that is, when, having arrived at the age of manhood, he shall utterly remove the evils which encompass the path of human life, and tranquilize the world by the blessings of peace: The greedy sailor shall the seas forego; No keel shall cut the waves for foreign ware, For every soil shall every product bear. The laboring hind his oxen shall disjoin; No plough shall hurt the glebe, no pruning-hook the vine; Nor wool shall in dissembled colors shine: But the luxurious father of the fold, With native purple, and unborrow'd gold, Beneath his pompous fleece shall proudly sweat; And under Tyrian robes the lamb shall bleat. Mature in years, to ready honors move, O of celestial seed, O foster son of Jove! See, laboring nature calls thee to sustain The nodding flame of heaven, and earth, and main! See to their base restored, earth, seas, and air; And joyful ages, from behind, in crowing ranks appear. To sing thy praise, would heaven my breath prolong. Infusing spirits worthy such a song, Not Thracian Orpheus should transcend my lays, Nor Linus, crown'd with never-fading bays; Though each his heavenly parent should inspire; The Muse instruct the voice, and Phoebus tune the lyre. Should Pan contend in verse, and thou my theme, Arcadian judges should their God condemn. [3478] Behold (says he) how the mighty world and the elements together manifest their joy.

Footnotes

[3468] [Amomum.--Bag.] "Assyrian cinnamon," Kennedy, p. 28; "the cardamon's spice shall grow, That from Assyria's gardens," Wilstach, 1, p. 157; "Syrian spices," Trapp, 1, p. 92; "Assyria's rich perfume," Warton, 1, p. 78; "Assyrian roses," Ogilby, p. 42. [3469] [i.e. the Christians.--Bag.] [3470] Self-control. [3471] "Might not experience," according to some, including Heinichen, who rejects in first, but accepts in text of his second edition. [3472] [Referring, apparently, to Abraham. This passage is founded on a misconstruction of Virgil's line by Constantine. which is followed by the Greek verse itself according to one edition.--Bag.] [3473] [By a kind of play on the word amomum, he alludes to the Christians as amomoi, or blameless persons.--Bag.] [3474] "The fields shall mellow wax with golden grain." [3475] Bag.adds: "And through the matted grass the liquid gold shall creep." 1709translates: "And th' hardened oaks with dewy honey sweat." While Molz. has "Forth from the hard oak stems the lovely honey flows." These all approach Virgil closer than they do Constantine. With all allowance for poetic license, "pine" should hardly be translated "oak." [3476] Literally, "times and wars."--1709. [3477] This, bad as it is, is hardly worse than the subjective interpretation of scripture by modern allegorizers, and certainly no worse than some of the Scripture interpretations of Eusebius. [3478] [The reader will perceive that the foregoing verses, with but little exception, and very slight alteration, are taken from Dryden's translation of the fourth eclogue of Virgil.--Bag.]

Chapter XXI.--That these Things cannot have been spoken of a Mere Man: and that Unbelievers, owing to their Ignorance of Religion, know not even the Origin of their own Existence.

It may be some will foolishly suppose that these words were spoken of the birth of a mere ordinary mortal. But if this were all, what reason could there be that the earth should need neither seed nor plough, that the vine should require no pruning-hook, or other means of culture? How can we suppose these things to be spoken of a mere mortal's birth? For nature is the minister of the Divine will, not an instrument obedient to the command of man. Indeed, the very joy of the elements indicates the advent of God, not the conception of a human being. The prayer, too, of the poet that his life might be prolonged is a proof of the Divinity of him whom he invoked; for we desire life and preservation from God, and not from man. Indeed, the Erythræan Sibyl thus appeals to God: "Why, O Lord, dost thou compel me still to foretell the future, and not rather remove me from this earth to await the blessed day of thy coming?" And Maro adds to what he had said before: Begin, sweet boy! with smiles thy mother know, Who ten long months did with thy burden go. No mortal parents smiled upon thy birth: No nuptial joy thou know'st, no feast of earth. How could his parents have smiled on him? For his Father [3479] is God, who is a Power without sensible quality, [3480] existing, not in any definite shape, but as comprehending other beings, [3481] and not, therefore, in a human body. And who knows not that the Holy Spirit has no participation in the nuptial union? For what desire can exist in the disposition of that good which all things else desire? What fellowship, in short, can wisdom hold with pleasure? But let these arguments be left to those who ascribe to him a human origin, and who care not to purify themselves from all evil in word as well as deed. On thee, Piety, I call to aid my words, on thee who art the very law of purity, most desirable of all blessings, teacher of holiest hope, assured promise of immortality! Thee, Piety, and thee, Clemency, I adore. We who have obtained thine aid [3482] owe thee everlasting gratitude for thy healing power. But the multitudes whom their innate hatred of thyself deprives of thy succor, are equally estranged from God himself, and know not that the very cause of their life and being, and that of all the ungodly, is connected with the rightful worship of him who is Lord of all: for the world itself is his, and all that it contains.

Footnotes

[3479] "Father" is emendation of Valesius embodied in his translation (1659), but not his text (1659). It is bracketed by Molz. "His God [and Father]." [3480] "Pure force." [3481] In this form it sounds much like Pantheism, but in translation of Molz. this reads, "but determinable through the bounds of other [existences]." [3482] So Valesius conjectures it should read, but the text of Val. and Hein. read, "We needy ones owe," &c.

Chapter XXII.--The Emperor thankfully ascribes his Victories and all other Blessings to Christ; and condemns the Conduct of the Tyrant Maximin, the Violence of whose Persecution had enhanced the Glory of Religion.

To thee, Piety, I ascribe the cause of my own prosperity, and of all that I now possess. To this truth the happy issue of all my endeavors bears testimony: brave deeds, victories in war, and triumphs over conquered foes. This truth the great city itself allows with joy and praise. The people, too, of that much-loved city accord in the same sentiment, though once, deceived by ill-grounded hopes, they chose a ruler unworthy of themselves, [3483] a ruler who speedily received the chastisement which his audacious deeds deserved. But be it far from me now to recall the memory of these events, while holding converse with thee, Piety, and essaying with earnest endeavor to address thee with holy and gentle words. Yet will I say one thing, which haply shall not be unbefitting or unseemly. A furious, a cruel, and implacable war was maintained by the tyrants against thee, Piety, and thy holy churches: nor were there wanting some in Rome itself who exulted at a calamity so grievous to the public weal. Nay, the battlefield was prepared; when thou didst stand forth, [3484] and present thyself a voluntary victim, supported by faith in God. Then indeed it was that the cruelty of ungodly men, which raged incessantly like a devouring fire, wrought for thee a wondrous and ever memorable glory. Astonishment seized the spectators themselves, when they beheld the very executioners who tortured the bodies of their holy victims wearied out, and disgusted at the cruelties; [3485] the bonds loosened, the engines of torture powerless, the flames extinguished, while the sufferers preserved their constancy unshaken even for a moment. What, then, hast thou gained by these atrocious deeds, most impious of men? [3486] And what was the cause of thy insane fury? Thou wilt say, doubtless, these acts of thine were done in honor of the gods. What gods are these? or what worthy conception hast thou of the Divine nature? Thinkest thou the gods are subject to angry passions as thou art? Were it so indeed, it had been better for thee to wonder at their strange determination than obey their harsh command, when they urged thee to the unrighteous slaughter of innocent men. Thou wilt allege, perhaps, the customs of thy ancestors and the opinion of mankind in general, as the cause of this conduct. I grant the fact: for those customs are very like the acts themselves, and proceed from the self-same source of folly. Thou thoughtest, it may be, that some special power resided in images formed and fashioned by human art; and hence thy reverence, and diligent care lest they should be defiled: those mighty and highly exalted gods, thus dependent on the care of men!

Footnotes

[3483] [Maxentius (W. Lowth in loc.).--Bag.] [3484] This passage clearly refers to the voluntary sufferings of the martyrs. See the note of Valesius. [3485] "At a loss to invent fresh cruelties," Bag.; "And perplexed at the labor and trouble they met with," 1709; "And reluctantly pursuing their terrible work," Molz. [3486] Alluding to Maximin, the most bitter persecutor of the Christians, as appears from the title of this Chapter.

Chapter XXIII.--Of Christian Conduct. That God is pleased with those who lead a Life of Virtue: and that we must expect a Judgment and Future Retribution.

Compare our religion with your own. Is there not with us genuine concord, and unwearied love of others? If we reprove a fault, is not our object to admonish, not to destroy; our correction for safety, not for cruelty? Do we not exercise, not only sincere faith towards God, but fidelity in the relations of social life? Do we not pity the unfortunate? Is not ours a life of simplicity which disdains to cover evil beneath the mask of fraud and hypocrisy? Do we not acknowledge the true God, and his undivided sovereignty? This is real godliness: this is religion sincere and truly undefiled: this is the life of wisdom; and they who have it are travelers, as it were, on a noble road which leads to eternal life. For he who has entered on such a course, and keeps his soul pure from the pollutions of the body, does not wholly die: rather may he be said to complete the service appointed him by God, than to die. Again, he who confesses allegiance to God is not easily overborne by insolence or rage, but nobly stands under the pressure of necessity and the trial of his constancy is as it were, a passport to the favor of God. For we cannot doubt that the Deity is pleased with excellence in human conduct. For it would be absurd indeed if the powerful and the humble alike acknowledge gratitude to those from whose services they receive benefit, and repay them by services in return, and yet that he who is supreme and sovereign of all, nay, who is Good itself, should be negligent in this respect. Rather does he follow us throughout the course of our lives, is near us in every act of goodness, accepts, and at once rewards our virtue and obedience; though he defers the full recompense to that future period, when the actions of our lives shall pass under his review and when those who are clear in that account shall receive the reward of everlasting life, while the wicked shall be visited with the penalties due to their crimes.

Chapter XXIV.--Of Decius, Valerian, and Aurelian, who experienced a Miserable End in consequence of their Persecution of the Church.

To thee, Decius, [3487] I now appeal, who has trampled with insult on the labors of the righteous: to thee, the hater of the Church, the punisher of those who lived a holy life: what is now thy condition after death? How hard and wretched thy present circumstances! Nay, the interval before thy death gave proof enough of thy miserable fate, when overthrown with all thine army on the plains of Scythia, thou didst expose the vaunted power of Rome to the contempt of the Goths. Thou, too, Valerian, who didst manifest the same spirit of cruelty towards the servants of God, hast afforded an example of righteous judgment. A captive in the enemies' hands, led in chains while yet arrayed in the purple and imperial attire, and at last thy skin stripped from thee, and preserved by command of Sapor the Persian king, thou hast left a perpetual trophy of thy calamity. And thou, Aurelian, fierce perpetrator of every wrong, how signal was thy fall, when, in the midst of thy wild career in Thrace, thou wast slain on the public highway, and didst fill the furrows of the road with thine impious blood!

Footnotes

[3487] [Vide Euseb. Hist. Eccles. Bk. VI. ch. 39. Gibbon (ch. 16) notices very leniently the persecution of Decius.--Bag.]

Chapter XXV.--Of Diocletian, who ignobly abdicated [3488] the Imperial Throne, and was terrified by the Dread of Lightning for his Persecution of the Church.

Diocletian, however, after the display of relentless cruelty as a persecutor, evinced a consciousness of his own guilt and owing to the affliction of a disordered mind, endured the confinement of a mean and separate dwelling. [3489] What then, did he gain by his active hostility against our God? Simply this I believe, that he passed the residue of his life in continual dread of the lightning's stroke. Nicomedia attests the fact; eyewitnesses, of whom I myself am one, declare it. The palace, and the emperor's private chamber were destroyed, consumed by lightning, devoured by the fire of heaven. Men of understanding hearts had indeed predicted the issue of such conduct; for they could not keep silence, nor conceal their grief at such unworthy deeds; but boldly and openly expressed their feeling, saying one to another: "What madness is this? and what an insolent abuse of power, that man should dare to fight against God; should deliberately insult the most holy and just of all religions; and plan, without the slightest provocation, the destruction of so great a multitude of righteous persons? O rare example of moderation to his subjects! Worthy instructor of his army in the care and protection due to their fellow-citizens! Men who had never seen the backs of a retreating army plunged their swords into the breasts of their own countrymen!" So great was the effusion of blood shed, that if shed in battle with barbarian enemies, it had been sufficient to purchase a perpetual peace. [3490] At length, indeed, the providence of God took vengeance on these unhallowed deeds; but not without severe damage to the state. For the entire army of the emperor of whom I have just spoken, becoming subject to the authority of a worthless person, [3491] who had violently usurped the supreme authority at Rome (when the providence of God restored freedom to that great city), was destroyed in several successive battles. And when we remember the cries with which those who were oppressed, and who ardently longed for their native liberty implored the help of God; and their praise and thanksgiving to him on the removal of the evils under which they had groaned, when that liberty was regained, and free and equitable intercourse restored: do not these things every way afford convincing proofs of the providence of God, and his affectionate regard for the interests of mankind?

Footnotes

[3488] Cf. Prolegomena, Life. [3489] [The derangement of Diocletian appears to have been temporary only. The causes of his abdication are not very clearly ascertained; but he seems to have meditated the step a considerable time previously. See Gibbon, ch. 13, and the note of Valesius.--Bag.] [3490] Valesius and Hein., in his first edition, and Bag. read this transposed thus, "...severe damage to the state, and an effusion of blood; which, if shed," etc. But Val. suggests, and Heinichen adopts in his second edition, that the whole sentence should be transposed as above. [3491] ["He means Maxentius, as appears from what follows. How Diocletian's army came under the command of Maxentius, it is not difficult to understand. After Diocletian's abdication, Galerius Maximian took the command of his forces, giving part to Severus Cæsar for the defence of Italy. Shortly afterwards, Maxentius having usurped the Imperial power at Rome, Galerius sent Severus against him with his forces. Maxentius, however, fraudulently and by promises corrupted and drew to his own side Severus's army. After this, Galerius, having marched against Maxentius with a more numerous force, was himself in like manner deserted by his troops. Thus the army of Diocletian came under the power of Maxentius" (Valesius ad loc.).--Bag.]

Chapter XXVI.--The Emperor ascribes his Personal Piety to God; and shows that we are bound to seek Success from God, and attribute it to him; but to consider Mistakes as the Result of our own Negligence.

When men commend my services, which owe their origin to the inspiration of Heaven, do they not clearly establish the truth that God is the cause of the exploits I have performed? Assuredly they do: for it belongs to God to do whatever is best, and to man, to perform the commands of God. I believe, indeed, the best and noblest course of action is, when, before an attempt is made, we provide as far as possible for a secure result: and surely all men know that the holy service in which these hands have been employed has originated in pure and genuine faith towards God; that whatever has been done for the common welfare has been effected by active exertion combined with supplication and prayer; the consequence of which has been as great an amount of individual and public benefit as each could venture to hope for himself and those he holds most dear. They have witnessed battles, and have been spectators of a war in which the providence of God has granted victory to this people: [3492] they have seen how he has favored and seconded our prayers. For righteous prayer is a thing invincible; and no one fails to attain his object who addresses holy supplication to God: nor is a refusal possible, except in the case of wavering faith; [3493] for God is ever favorable, ever ready to approve of human virtue. While, therefore, it is natural for man occasionally to err, yet God is not the cause of human error. Hence it becomes all pious persons to render thanks to the Saviour of all, first for our own individual security, and then for the happy posture of public affairs: at the same time intreating the favor of Christ with holy prayers and constant supplications, that he would continue to us our present blessings. For he is the invincible ally and protector of the righteous: he is the supreme judge of all things, the prince of immorality, the Giver of everlasting life.

Footnotes

[3492] i.e. the Roman. So Val. and Hein., but Val. thinks it may perhaps rather be "to my army." [3493] Better, literally, "slackening faith." There is somewhat of loss from the primitive and real conception of faith in the fixing of the word "wavering" as the conventional expression for weak. Faith is the steadfast current of personality towards an object, and poverty of faith is more often the abatement or slackening of that steady, insistent activity than the wavering of doubt. There is more unbelief than disbelief.


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