Menu
John N. Andrews (1829-1883)

John N. Andrews (1829-1883)

First SDA Missionary J. N. Andrews was the first SDA missionary sent to countries outside...

Joseph Bates (1792- 1872)

Joseph Bates (1792- 1872)

Joseph Bates was the oldest of the three founders of the Seventh- day Adventist...

Rachel Oakes Preston (1809- 1868)

Rachel Oakes Preston (1809- 1868)

Rachel (Harris) Oakes Preston was a Seventh- day Baptist who persuaded a group of...

Uriah Smith (1832- 1903)

Uriah Smith (1832- 1903)

Uriah Smith was born to Rebekah Spalding and Samuel Smith in1832. He showed a...

William Miller (1782-1849)

William Miller (1782-1849)

American farmer and Baptist preacher who announced the imminent coming of Christ and founded...

John Norton Loughborough (1832-1924)

John Norton Loughborough (1832-1924…

Pioneer evangelist and administrator. He first heard the present truth preached by J. N. Andrews...

Stephen Nelson Haskell (1833-1922)

Stephen Nelson Haskell (1833-1922)

Evangelist, administrator. He began preaching for the non-Sabbatarian Adventists in New England in 1853, and...

Hiram Edson (1802-1882)

Hiram Edson (1802-1882)

Hiram Edson was the instrument whom God used to reveal to the early Sabbath-keeping Adventists...

John Byington (Oct. 8, 1798 - Jan. 7, 1887)

John Byington (Oct. 8, 1798 - Jan. …

John Byington was a Methodist circuit rider before he became a Seventh-day Adventist preacher. He...

Thomas M. Preble (1810–1907)

Thomas M. Preble (1810–1907)

Author, scholar, Free Will Baptist minister of New Hampshire, and Millerite preacher. He was born...

Owen Russell Loomis Crosier (1820-1913)

Owen Russell Loomis Crosier (1820-1…

Millerite preacher and editor, of Canandaigua, New York, first writer on what was to become...

Joseph Harvey Waggoner (1820–1889)

Joseph Harvey Waggoner (1820–1889)

Evangelist, editor, author. He attended school for only six months, but was indefatigable in private...

George Storrs (1796–1879)

George Storrs (1796–1879)

Millerite preacher and writer, chief proponent of conditional immortality. Born in New Hampshire, he was...

Alonzo T. Jones (1850–1923)

Alonzo T. Jones (1850–1923)

Minister, editor, author. He was born in Ohio. At the age of 20...

Charles Fitch (1805–1844)

Charles Fitch (1805–1844)

Congregational minister, later Presbyterian minister, Millerite leader, the designer of the “1843 chart.”...

Ellen Gould White (1827–1915)

Ellen Gould White (1827–1915)

Cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, writer, lecturer, and counselor to...

Ellet J. Waggoner (1855-1916)

Ellet J. Waggoner (1855-1916)

In 1884 E. J. Waggoner became assistant editor of the Signs of the Times, under...

William Warren Prescott (1855-1944)

William Warren Prescott (1855-1944)

W. W. Prescott was an educator and administrator. His parents were Millerites in...

Prev Next

Chapter 11 - Constantine and the Bishops

Chapter 11

Constantine and the Bishops

FROM the reading of Chapter VI, it will be remembered that Diocletian had no sooner abdicated than the system of orderly government which he had established and which he hoped would continue, fell to precess, and confusion once more ruled in the affairs of state. So far as the government was concerned, the army was now, as it had been for hundreds of years, the source of power; but among the four aspiring emperors not only the military force, but the territory of the empire, was almost equally divided. So nearly equal was this division that not one of the emperors had any material advantage over another in this respect. Yet it was the ambition of each one to become sole emperor. It therefore became a matter of vital concern to each one to obtain whatever power he might and yet there was no further resource to be hoped for from the side of the empire. Thus stood matters among the emperors.

How was it with the church? We insert again the quotation made from Eusebius concerning the state of things in the churches before the persecution by Diocletian: --

"When by reason of excessive liberty, we sunk into negligence and sloth, one envying and reviling another in different ways, and we were almost, as it were on the point of taking up arms against each other. and were assailing each other with words as with darts and spears, prelates inveighing against prelates, and people rising up against people, and hypocrisy and dissimulation had arisen to the greatest height of malignity, then the divine judgment, which usually proceeds with a lenient hand, whilst the multitudes were yet crowding into the church, with gentle and mild visitations began to afflict its episcopacy; the persecution having begun with those brethren that were in the army. But, as if destitute of all sensibility, we were not prompt in measures to appease and propitiate the Deity; some, indeed, like atheists, regarding our situation as unheeded and unobserved by a providence, we added one wickedness and misery to another. But some that appeared to be our pastors, deserting the law of piety, were inflamed against each other with mutual strifes, only accumulating quarrels and threats, rivalship, hostility, and hatred to each other, only anxious to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves."

The persecution had caused all these divisions and disputes to be laid aside. Every other interest was forgotten in the one all-absorbing question of the rights of conscience against pagan despotism. Thus there was created at least an outward unity among all the sects of whatever name, professing the Christian religion in any form. Thus was molded a compact power which permeated every part of the empire, and which was at the same time estranged from every material interest of the empire as it then stood. Here was power which if it could be secured and used, would assure success to him who would gain it, as certainly as he could make the alliance. This condition of affairs was clearly discerned at the time. Constantine "understood the signs of the times and acted accordingly."

"To Constantine, who had fled from the treacherous custody of Galerius, it naturally occurred that if he should ally himself to the Christian party, conspicuous advantages must forthwith accrue to him. It would give him in every corner of the empire men and women ready to encounter fire and sword; it would give him partisans not only animated by the traditions of their fathers, but -- for human nature will even in the religious assert itself -- demanding retribution for the horrible barbarities and injustice that had been inflicted on themselves; it would give him, and this was the most important of all, unwavering adherents in every legion in the army. He took his course. The events of war crowned him with success. He could not be otherwise than outwardly true to those who had given him power, and who continued to maintain him on the throne." -- Draper.1

Constantine was not the only one who saw this opportunity. Maximin likewise detected it, but was distrusted by the church party. Constantine being a much more accomplished politician, succeeded. In addition to the advantages which offered themselves in this asserted unity of the churches, there was a movement among the bishops, which made it an additional incentive to Constantine to form the alliance which he did with the church. Although it is true that all the differences and disputes and strifes among the bishops and sects had been forgotten in the supreme conflict between paganism and freedom of thought, there is one thing mentioned by Eusebius that still remained. That was the ambition of the bishops "to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves." Nor was it alone government in the church which they were anxious to assert; but government in the State as well, to be used in the interests of the church. For, "There had in fact arisen in the church . . . a false theocratical theory, originating, not in the essence of the gospel, but in the confusion of the religious constitutions of the Old and New Testaments." -- Neander.2

This theocratical theory of the bishops is the key to the whole history of Constantine and the church of his time, and through all the dreary period that followed. It led the bishops into the wildest extravagance in their worship of the imperial influence, and coincided precisely with Constantine''s idea of an absolute monarchy.

The idea of the theocracy that the bishops hoped to establish appears more clearly and fully in Eusebius''s "Life of Constantine" than in any other one production of the time. There the whole scheme appears just as they had created it, and as it was applied in the history of the time. The church was a second Israel in Egyptian bondage. Maxentius was a second Pharaoh, Constantine was a second Moses. As the original Moses had grown up in the palace of the Pharaohs, so likewise this new Moses had grown up in the very society of the new Pharaohs. Thus runs the story: --

"Ancient history relates that a cruel race of tyrants oppressed the Hebrew nation; and the God who graciously regarded them in their affliction, provided that the prophet Moses, who was then an infant, should be brought up in the very palaces and bosoms of the oppressors, and instructed in all the wisdom they possessed. And when he had arrived at the age of manhood, and the time was come for divine justice to avenge the wrongs of the afflicted people, then the prophet of God, in obedience to the will of a more powerful Lord, forsook the royal household, and estranging himself in word and deed from those by whom he had been brought up. Openly preferred the society of his true brethren and kinsfolk. And in due time God exalted him to be the leader of the whole nation; and, after delivering the Hebrews from the bondage of their enemies, inflicted divine vengeance through his means upon the tyrant race. This ancient story, though regarded by too many as fabulous, has reached the ears of all. But now the same God has given to us to be eye-witnesses of miracles more wonderful than fables, and, from their recent appearance, more authentic than any report. For the tyrants of or day have ventured to war against the supreme God, and have sorely afflicted his church. And in the midst of these, Constantine, who was shortly to become their destroyer, but at that time of tender age, and blooming with the down of early youth, dwelt, as God''s servant Moses had done, in the very home of the tyrants. Young, however, as he was, he shared not in the pursuits of the impious: for from that early period his noble nature (under the leading of the Divine Spirit), inclined him to a life of piety and acceptable service to God." -- Eusebius.3

We have related how Galerius sought to prevent Constantine''s joining his father in Britain; and how Constantine succeeded in eluding his vigilance. By the theocratical bishops this was made to be the flight of the new Moses from the wrath of the new Pharaohs. Thus the story continues: --

"The emperors then in power, who observed his manly and vigorous figure and superior mind with feelings of jealousy and fear, . . . carefully watched for an opportunity of inflicting some brand of disgrace on his character. But he, being aware of their designs (the details of which, through the providence of God, were more than once laid open to his view), sought safety in flight, and in this respect his conduct still affords a parallel to that of the great prophet Moses." -- Eusebius.4

As the original Moses, without the interposition of any human agency, had been called to the work to which the Lord had appointed him, so the theocraticl bishops had the new Moses likewise appointed directly by the authority of God : --

"Thus then, the God of all, the supreme Governor of the world, by his own will, appointed Constantine, the descendant of so renowned a parent, to be prince and sovereign: so that, while others have been raised to this distinction by the election of their fellow-men, he is the only one to whose elevation no mortal may boast of having contributed." -- Eusebius.5

Eusebius knew as well as any other man in the empire that the legions in Britain had proclaimed Constantine emperor, precisely as the armies had been doing in like instances for more than a hundred years. He knew full well that Constantine held his title to the imperial power by the same tenure precisely as had all the emperors before him from the accession of Claudius. In short, when the bishop Eusebius wrote this statement, he knew that he was writing a downright lie.

When Constantine marched against Maxentius, it was the new Moses on his way to deliver Israel. When the army of Maxentius was defeated and multitudes were drowned in the river, it was the Red Sea swallowing up the hosts of Pharaoh. When Maxentius was crowded off the bridge and by the weight of his armor sank instantly to the bottom of the river, it was the new Pharaoh and"the horse and his rider" being thrown into the sea and sinking to the bottom like a stone.

Then was Israel delivered, and a song of deliverance was sung by the new Israel as by the original Israel at their deliverance. Thus the story continues: --

"And now those miracles recorded in Holy Writ, which God of old wrought against the ungodly (discredited by most as fables, yet believed by the faithful), did he in very deed confirm to all, alike believers and unbelievers, who were eye-witnesses to the wonders I am about to relate. For as once in the days of Moses and the Hebrew nation, who were worshipers of God, he cast Pharaoh''s chariots and his host into the waves, and drowned his chosen chariot-captains the Red Sea, -- so at this time did Maxentius, and the soldiers and guards with him, sink to the bottom as a stone, when, in his flight before the divinely aided forces of Constantine, he essayed to cross the river which lay in his way, over which he had made a strong bridge of boats, and had framed an engine of destruction, really against himself, but in the hope of ensnaring thereby him who was beloved-of God. For his God stood by the one to protect him, while the other, destitute of his aid, proved to be the miserable contriver of these secret devices to his own ruin. So that one might well say, "He made a pit, and digged it, and shall fall into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his iniquity shall come down upon his own pate.'' Thus, in the present instance, under divine direction, the machine erected on the bridge, with the ambuscade concealed therein, giving way unexpectedly before the appointed time, the passage began to sink down, and the boats with the men in them went bodily to the bottom. At first the wretch himself, then his armed attendants and guards, even as the sacred oracles had before described, `sank as lead in the mighty waters.'' So that they who thus obtained victory from God might well, if not in the same words, yet in fact in the same spirit as the people of his great servant Moses, sing and speak as they did concerning the impious tyrant of old: `Let us sing unto the Lord, for he has been glorified exceedingly: the horse and his rider has he thrown into the sea. He is become my helper and my shield untosalvation.'' And again, `Who is like to thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, marvelous in praises, in praises, doing wonders?''" -- Eusebius.6

Such adulation was not without response on the part of Constantine. He united himself closely with the bishops, of whom Eusebius was but one, and, in his turn, flattered them:

"The emperor was also accustomed personally to invite the society of God''s ministers, whom he distinguished with the highest possible respect and honor, treating them in every sense as persons consecrated to the service of God. Accordingly, they were admitted to his table, though mean in their attire and outward appearance; yet not so in his estimation, since he judged not of their exterior as seen by the vulgar eye, but thought he discerned in them somewhat of the character of God himself." -- Eusebius.7

This worked charmingly. Throughout the empire the courtly bishops worked in Constantine''s interest; and as Licinius only now remained between Constantine and his longed-for position as sole emperor and absolute ruler, the bishops and their political church-followers prayed against Licinius and for Constantine. As these "wordly-minded bishops, instead of caring for the salvation of their flocks, were often but too much inclined to travel about and entangle themselves in worldly concerns" (Neander8), Licinius attempted to check it. To stop their meddling with the political affairs of his dominions, he forbade the bishops to assemble together or to pass from their own dioceses to others. He enacted that women should be instructed only by women; that in their assemblies the men and the women should sit separate; and commanded that they of Nicomedia should meet outside the city, as the open air was more healthful for such large assemblies.

This only tended to make the bishops more active, as the acts of Licinius could be counted as persecution. Licinius next went so far as to remove from all public office whoever would not sacrifice to the gods, and the line was quickly drawn once more in his dominion in favor of paganism. This caused Constantine''s party to put on a bolder face, and they not only prayed for Constantine against Licinius, but they began to invent visions in which they pretended to see the "legions of Constantine marching victoriously through the streets at midday.''" -- Neander.9

These enactments on the part of Licinius furnished the new Moses with an opportunity to conquer the heathen in the wilderness, and to go on to the possession of the promised land and the full establishment of the new theocracy. War was declared, and Constantine, with the labarum at the head of his army, took up his march toward the dominions of Licinius.

Another step was now taken in furtherance of the theocratical idea, and in imitation of the original Moses. It will be remembered that, after the passage of the Red Sea, Moses erected a tabernacle, and pitched it afar off from the camp, where he went to consult the Lord and to receive what the Lord had to give in commandment to Israel. Constantine, to sustain his part in this scheme of a new theocracy, and as far as possible to conform to the theoratical plans of the bishops, likewise erected a tabernacle, and pitched it a considerable distance from his camp. To this tabernacle he would repair and pretend to have visions and communications from the Lord, and to receive directions in regard to his expected battles with Licinius. The original account is as follows: --

"In this manner Licinius gave himself up to these impieties, and rushed blindly towards the gulf of destruction. But as soon as the emperor was aware that he must meet his enemies in a second battle, he applied himself in earnestness to the worship of his Saviour. He pitched the tabernacle of the cross outside and at a distance from his camp, and there passed his time in pure and holy seclusion, and in offering up prayers to God; following thus the example of his ancient prophet, of whom the sacred oracles testify that he pitched the tabernacle without the camp. He was attended only by a few, of whose faith and piety, as well as affection to his person, he was well assured. And this custom he continued to observe whenever he meditated an engagement with the enemy. For he was deliberate in his measures, the better to insure safety, and desired in everything to be directed by divine counsel. And since his prayers ascended with fervor and earnestness to God, he was always honored with a manifestation of his presence. And then, as if moved by a divine impulse, he would rush from the tabernacle, and suddenly give orders to his army to move at once without delay, and on the instant to draw their swords. On this they would immediately commence the attack, with great and general slaughter, so as with incredible celerity to secure the victory, and raise trophies in token of the overthrow of their enemies." -- Eusebius.10

He soon carried this matter somewhat farther, and provided a tabernacle in each legion, with attendant priests and deacons, and also another which was constructed in the form of a church, "so that in case he or his army might be led into the desert, they might have a sacred edifice in which to praise and worship God, and participate in the mysteries. Priests and deacons followed the tent for the purpose of officiating therein, according to the law and regulations of the church." -- Sozomen.11

Such was the original establishment of state chaplaincies. And it is but proper to remark that the system, wherever copied, has always been worthy of the original imposture.

The outcome of the war between Constantine and Licinius we have already related; also his murder of Licinius. And when, in violation of his solemn oath to his sister Constantine, Constantine caused Licinius to be executed,the courtierbishop justified the wicked transaction as being the lawful execution of the will of God upon the enemy of God. Thus he speaks: --

"He then proceeded to deal with this adversary of God and his followers according to the laws of war, and consign them to the fate which their crimes deserved. Accordingly the tyrant himself [Licinius] and they whose counsels had supported him in his impiety, were together subjected to the just punishment of death. After this, those who had so lately been deceived by their vain confidence in false deities, acknowledged with unfeigned sincerity the God of Constantine, and openly professed their belief in him as the true and only God." -- Eusebius.12

When Constantine went to take his seat as presiding officer in the Council of Nice, his theocratical flatterers pretended to be dazzled by his splendor, as though an angel of God had descended straight from heaven, and he who sat at Constantine''s right hand that day, thus testifies: --

"And now, all rising at the signal which indicated the emperor''s entrance, at last he himself proceeded through the midst of the assembly, like some heavenly messenger of God." -- Eusebius.13

Constantine, to sustain his part in the farce, declared openly in the council that "the crimes of priests ought not to be made known to the multitude, lest they should become an occasion of offense or of sin;" and that if he should detect "a bishop in the very act of committing adultery," he would throw "his imperial robe over the unlawful deed, lest any should witness the scene," and be injured by the bad example." Theodoret.14 And when the council was closed and the creed for which they had come together was established, he sent a letter to the "Catholic Church of the Alexandrians," in which he announced that the conclusions reached by the council were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and could be none other than the divine will concerning the doctrine of God.

After the council was over, he gave a banquet in honor of the twentieth year of his reign, to which he invited the bishops and clergy who had attended the council. The bishops responded by pretending that it seemed to be the very likeness of the kingdom of Christ itself. The description is as follows: --

"The emperor himself invited and feasted with those ministers of God whom he had reconciled, and thus offered as it were through them a suitable sacrifice to God. Not one of the bishops was wanting at the imperial banquet, the circumstances of which were splendid beyond description. Detachments of the body guard and other troops surrounded the entrance of the palace with drawn swords, and through the midst of these the men of God proceeded without fear into the innermost of the imperial apartments, in which some were the emperor''s own companions at table, while others reclined on couches arranged on either side.

One might have thought that a picture of Christ''s kingdom was thus shadowed forth, and that the scene was less like reality than a dream." -- Eusebius.15

At the banquet "the emperor himself presided, and as the feast went on, called to himself one bishop after another, and loaded each with gifts in proportion to his deserts." This so delighted the bishops that one of them -- James of Nisibis, a member of that monkish tribe who habitually lived on grass, browsing like oxen, was wrought up to such a height that he declared he saw angels standing round the emperor. Constantine, not to be outdone, saw angels standing around James, and pronounced him one of the three pillars of the world. He said, "There are three pillars of the world; Antony in Egypt, Nicolas of Myra, James in Assyria."16

Another instance of this mutual cajolery is given concerning Eusebius and the emperor as follows: --
"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 sepulcher 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 admonished me to desist, saying 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 argued a becoming reverence to stand while listening to sacred truths. Having, a therefore concluded my discourse. I returned home, and resumed my usual occupations." -- Eusebius.17

Constantine himself occasionally appeared in the role of preacher also. "On these occasions a general invitation was issued, and thousands of people went to the palace to hear an emperor turned preacher" (Stanley18; they were ready at the strong points to respond with loud applause and cheering. At times he would attack his courtiers for their rapacity and worldliness generally, and they, understanding him perfectly, would cheer him loudly for his preaching, and go on in the same old way imitating his actions.

Again: when his mother sent the nails of the true cross to him from Jerusalem with the instruction that some of them should be used as bridle bits for his war-horse, it was counted a further evidence that the kingdom of God was come; for it was made to be the fulfillment of that which "Zachariah the prophet predicted, `that what is upon the bridles of the horses shall be holiness unto the Lord Almighty,''" -- Theodoret.19 And when he appointed his sons and nephews as Caesars to a share in the governmental authority, this was made to be a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel vii, 17, "The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom.!" --

Yet more than this: Eusebius actually argued that the emperor''s dining hall might be the New Jerusalem described in the book of Revelation.20 And at the celebration of the thirtieth year of his reign, another of the bishops was so carried away with the imperial honors conferred upon him, that he went so far as to declare that Constantine had been constituted by God to rule over all in the present world, and was destined also by the Lord to reign with the Son of God in the world to come. This, it seems, was rather too much even for Constantine, and he exhorted the gushing bishop not to use such language any more; but instead to pray for him that he might be accounted worthy to be a servant of God, rather than joint ruler, in the world to come. -- Eusebius.21

But after he was dead, and therefore unable to put any check upon the extravagance of their adulation, Eusebius pretended to hesitate as to whether it would not be committing gross sacrilege to attempt to write his life. However, he finally concluded to venture upon it. Some of his statements we have already given; but there are a few more that should be reproduced in this connection. Referring to Constantine''s lying in state so long before his sons assumed the imperial authority, he says: --

"No mortal had ever, like this blessed prince, continued to reign even after his 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."22

This was not enough, however. It must needs be that God should set him forth as the pattern of the human race: --

"And God himself, whom Constantine worshiped, has confirmed this truth by the clearest manifestations of his will, being present to aid him at the commencement, during the course, and at the end of his reign, and holding him up the human race as an exemplary pattern of godliness.23
Next, he seeks some object worthy to be a standard of comparison for"this marvelous man." But he is unable to find any such thing or person but the Saviour himself Therefore he declares: --

"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 over-spread the 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."24

But even this does not satisfy the aspirations of the episcopal adulator. The task is now become one of such grandeur as to transcend all his powers; he stops amazed, and in impotence resigns it all to Christ, who only, he professes, is worthy to do the subject justice: --

"For to whatever quarter I direct my view, whether to the east, or to the west, or over the whole world, or toward heaven itself, I see the blessed emperor everywhere present; . . . and I see him still living and powerful, and governing the general interests of mankind more completely than ever before, being multiplied as it were by the succession of his children to the imperial power. . . .

"And I am indeed amazed when I consider that he who was but lately visible and present with us in his mortal body, is still, even after death, when the natural thought disclaims all superfluous distinctions as unsuitable, most marvelously endowed with the same imperial dwellings, and honors, and praises, as heretofore. But further, when I raise my thoughts even to the arch of heaven, and there contemplate his thrice blessed soul in communion with God himself, freed from every mortal and earthly vesture, and shining in a refulgent robe of light; and when I perceive that it is no more connected with the fleeting periods and occupations of mortal life, but honored with an ever-blooming crown, and an immortality of endless and blessed existence; I stand as it were entranced and deprived of all power of utterance: and so, while I condemn my own weakness, and impose silence on myself, I resign the task of speaking his praises worthily to one who is better able, even to him who alone has power (being the immortal God -- the Word) to confirm the truth of his own sayings."25

All this with much more to the same purpose is set forth by that bishop who above all others is entitled "one of the best among the bishops of Constantine''s court," and the one who "cannot be reckoned among the number of the ordinary court bishops of his period." -- Neander.26

By the plain, unbiased facts of history, Constantine stands before the world as a confirmed and constant hypocrite, a perjurer, and a many-times murderer. And yet this bishop, knowing all this, hesitates not to declare him the special favorite of God; to liken him to Jesus Christ; to make God indorse him to the human race as an example of godliness; and to exalt him so high that no one but "the immortal God" can worthily speak his praises!

When one of the best of the bishops of his court, one who was familiar with the whole course of his evil life, could see in the life and actions of such a man as this, a Moses, and angels, and the New Jerusalem, and the kingdom of God, and even the Lord Christ -- when in such a life, all this could be seen by one of the best of the bishops, we can only wonderingly inquire what could not be seen there by the worst of the bishops!

Can any one wonder, or can any reasonable person dispute, that from a mixture composed of such bishops and such a character, there should come the mystery of iniquity in all its hideous enormity?

NOTE ON CONSTANTINE''S VISION OF THE CROSS

rn

It will be observed that in this account of Constantine nothing has been said about his "vision of the cross," of which so much has been said by almost every other writer who has gone over this ground. For this there are two main reasons. First, There is no point in the narrative where it could have been introduced, even though it were true. Second, The whole story is so manifestly a lie that it is unworthy of serious notice in any narrative that makes any pretensions to truth or soberness.
There is no point at which such an account could be inserted, because nobody ever heard of it until "long after" it was said to have occurred; and then it was made known by Constantine himself to Eusebius only, and was never made a matter of record until after Constantine''s death.

These things of themselves would go far to discredit the story; but when it is borne in mind that the only record that was even then made of it was in Eusebius''s "Life of Constantine," the character of which is quite clearly seen in the extracts which we have made from it in the chapter, the story may be entirely discredited. Eusebius''s words are as follows: --

"While he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been difficult to receive with credit, had it been related by any other person. But since the victorious emperor himself long afterwards declared it to the writer of this history, when he was honored with his acquaintance and society, and confirmed his statement by an oath, who could hesitate to accredit the relation, especially since the testimony of after-time has established its truth?" 27

It will be seen at once that this account is of the same nature as that of Eusebius''s "Life of Constantine" throughout. It is of the same piece with that by which" no mortal was allowed to contribute to the elevation of Constantine." If it should be pleaded that Constantine confirmed his statement by an oath, the answer is that this is no evidence of the truth of the statement. "That the emperor attested it on oath, as the historian tells us, is indeed no additional guarantee for the emperor''s veracity." -- Stanley.28

He gave his oath to his sister as a pledge for the life of her husband, and shortly had him killed. In short, when Constantine confirmed a statement by an oath, this was about the best evidence that he could give that the statement was a lie. This is the impression clearly conveyed by Stanley''s narrative as may be seen by a comparison of Lecture ill, par. iii; Lecture iv, par. 9; Lecture vi, par. 10, and is sustained by the evidence of Constantine''s whole imperial course.

In addition to this, there is the fact that Eusebius himself only credited the story because it came from Constantine, and because it was established "by the testimony of after-time," in which testimony he was ever ready to see the most wonderful evidence of God''s special regard for Constantine; and the further fact that it was one of the principles of Eusebius that "it may be lawful and fitting to use falsehood as a medicine, for the advantage of those who require such a method,"29 which principle is fully illustrated in his dealings with Constantine.

When all these things, and many others which might be mentioned, are fairly considered, they combine to make the story of Constantine''s vision of the cross, utterly unworthy of the slightest credit, or any place, in any sober or exact history. Therefore I do, and all others ought to, fully concur in the opinion that this "flattering fable" "can claim no place among the authentic records of history; and by writers whose only object is truth, it may very safely be consigned to contempt and oblivion." -- Waddington.30

-----------------------------------
1 [Page 265] " Intellectual Development of Europe,'' Chap. ix, par. 22.
2 [Page 265] "History of the Christian Religion and Church," Vol. ii, Section Second, part i, div. i, par. 2.
3 [Page 266] "Life of Constantine," book i, chap. xii.
4 [Page 267] Id., chap. xx
5 [Page 267] Id., chap.
6 [Page 268]Id., chap. xxxviii.
7 [Page 269] Id., chap. xlii.
8 [Page 269] "History of the Christian Religion and Church." Vol. ii, Section First, part i, div. A, par. 26.
9 [Page 270] Id., Section First, part i, div. A, par. 27.
10 [Page 271] "Life of Constantine," book ii, chap xii.
11 [Page 271] "Ecclesiastical History," book i, chap. viii.
12 [Page 271] "Life of Constantine," book ii, chap. xviii.
13 [Page 272] Id., book iii, chap. x.
14 [Page 272] "Ecclesiastical History," book i, chap, xi.
15 [Page 273] "Life of Constantine," book iii, chap. 15.
16 [Page 273] Stanley, "History of the Eastern Church," Lecture v, par. 34.
17 [Page 273] "Life of Constantine," book iv, chap. xxxiii.
18 [Page 274] "History of the Eastern Church," Lecture vi, par. 24.
19 [Page 274] "Ecclesiastical History," book i, chap. xviii.
20 [Page 274] "Encyclopedia Britannica," article "Millennium."
21 [Page 275] "Life of Constantine," book iv. chap. xlviii.
22 [Page 275] "Life of Constantine," book iv, chap. lxvii.
23 [Page 275] Id., book i, chap. iv.
24 [Page 276] Id., book iv, chap. lxxii.
25 [Page 276] Id., book i, chaps. i, ii.
26 [Page 277] "History of the Christian Religion and Church," Vol. ii, Section First, part 1, div. A, par. 45, note.
27 [Page 278] "Life of Constantine." book i, chap. xxvii.
28 [Page 278] "History of the Eastern Church," Lecture vi, par. 10.
29 [Page 278] Quoted by Waddington in "Note on Eusebius," at the end of chapter vi, of his "History of the Church."
30 [Page 278] "History of the Church," chap. vi, par. 2.

Downloads

Online Library

Watch Online

About Us

Follow Us