Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Constantine the Great: God's Instrument to End Persecution of the Church

VICTOR CONSTANTINUS MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS to the inhabitants of the province of Palestine. To all who entertain just and sound sentiments respecting the character of the Supreme Being, it has long been most clearly evident,…how vast a difference there has always been between those who maintain a careful observance of the hallowed duties of the Christian religion, and those who treat this religion with hostility or contempt. But at this present time, we may see by still more manifest proofs…both how unreasonable it is to question this truth, and how mighty is the power of the Supreme God: since it appears that they who faithfully observe His holy laws, and shrink from the transgression of His commandments, are rewarded with abundant blessings, and are endued with well-grounded hope as well as ample power for the accomplishment of their undertakings….[But those] who have been bold in the practice of oppression or injustice; who have either directed their senseless fury against God himself, or have conceived no kindly feelings towards their fellow-men, but have dared to afflict them with exile, disgrace, confiscation, massacre, or other miseries of the like kind,…have found that they received a recompense proportioned to their crimes,… Many a time have their armies been slaughtered, many a time have they been put to flight; and their warlike preparations have ended in total ruin and defeat.

But now, with such a mass of impiety oppressing the human race, and the commonwealth in danger of being utterly destroyed as if by the agency of some pestilential disease and therefore needing powerful and effectual aid; what was the relief, and what the remedy which the Divinity devised for these evils?...I myself, then, was the instrument whose services He chose, and esteemed suitable for the accomplishment of His will. Accordingly, beginning at the remote Brittanic ocean, and the regions where, according to the law of nature, the sun sinks beneath the horizon, through the aid of divine power I banished and utterly removed every form of evil which prevailed, in the hope that the human race, enlightened through my instrumentality, might be recalled to a due observance of the holy laws of God, and at the same time our most blessed faith might prosper under the guidance of His Almighty Hand….Believing therefore, that this most excellent service had been confided to me as a special gift, I proceeded as far as the regions of the East, which, being under the pressure of severer calamities, seemed to demand still more effectual remedies at my hands. At the same time I am most certainly persuaded that I myself owe my life, my every breath, in short, my very inmost and secret thoughts, entirely to the favor of the Supreme God….[Hence] I deem it incumbent on me to remove at once and most completely from all persons the hard necessities laid upon them for a season, and the unjust afflictions under which they have suffered, though free from any guilt or just liability.

(Eusebius, The Life of Constantine, 2.24-42; Quoted in David L. Dungan, Constantine’s Bible, 107-108)

Thus the pious Emperor, glorying in the confession of the victorious cross, proclaimed the Son of God to the Romans with great boldness of testimony….All the nations, as far as the limit of the western ocean, being set free from the calamities which had heretofore beset them, and gladdened by joyous festivals, ceased not to praise him as the victorious, the pious, the common benefactor; all indeed, with one voice and one mouth declared that Constantine had appeared by the grace of God as a general blessing to mankind.

(Eusebius, The Life of Constantine, 1.41; Quoted in David L. Dungan, Constantine’s Bible, 118)

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