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he did. Such was his state of mind when Providence confirmed to him this promise of Christ,any man will do the will of my Father, he shall know of my doctrine, whether it be of God."
One day in the afternoon, while marching with his army, there appeared a cross of light above the sun, with a pendant inscription, "conquer by this," which was distinctly seen by him and his soldiers. At night the Saviour appeared to him in a dream, and repeated the vision, and enjoined him to make a standard like the cross he had seen, which should be a pledge of victory to him in all his wars.*
Constantine having succeeded in destroying the tyrant, was the more confirmed in the faith of Christ, and instantly turned his whole attention towards the prosperity of the church and empire. He succeeded, also, in various expeditions against the barbarians in the north, who had committed depredations on the Roman territory. Licinius, who revolted against him in Asia, was vanquished and slain. By this last victory, the immense empire, extending from Britain and Spain to Egypt and Persia, fell under the auspices of his imperial sceptre.
X. In ecclesiastic affairs he followed the advice of the clergy, and the clergy of that age were worthy of his confidence. All former edicts against the Christians were instantly repealed, and new ones is sued in their favor as often as occasion required. Edicts were issued soon after, prohibiting paganism, and commanding the demolition of the temples; and in remote places, in which compliance was neglected, the soldiers marched and threw the edifice into
a heap of ruins. If the antiquarian grieve at this,
he should recollect that the Christians had in view God's repeated injunctions to the Jews to destroy every vestige of idolatry. And having recently suffered so much from the heathens, it could scarcely be ex
* Life of Constan. by Euseb. book i. chap. xxviii. to xxxi. Socra. ecles. Hist. book i. chap. ii. Eusebius positively affirms, that he had Count from the emperor himself.
pected they would do otherwise. He crected churches in Constantinople and Jerusalem, which, if possible, exceeded the temples in architectural magnificence.
His liberality to the clergy corresponded with their indigence. Some of them he promoted to considerable offices of trust and dignity; and on their return 'from the council of Nice, every man had liberty to say what his wants were, and the sum was paid out of the imperial coffer.
With regard to conversions, they were rapid and superficial; but force was never applied. The church threw open her arms, and embraced the heathen on a mere change of opinions. The nobility, of course, readily conformed to the religion of the court; and last of all, the learned began to extol Christianity as the best and most sublime philosophy.
Hymns and eulogies were immediately composed in honor of God, who had enabled his faithful church to war a victorious warfare against idolatry and vice. His awful justice was celebrated, which had exscinded those emperors and their families who had persecuted and wasted the flock. Those denunciations of God in the psalms and the prophets, were not unaptly applied to this destruction; and those promises which belong exclusively to the latter day's glory, were applied, at least in an encouraging sense, to this prosperous age. "Kings shall become thy nursing fathers, and queens thy nursing mothers. little c e one shall become a thousand, and a strong one a great nation. He shall make thine enemies to be at peace with thee, and the sons of strangers shall build thy walls." Gratitude and duty induced them to celebrate the virtues of Constantine. He was applauded in their sermons as the Christian Zorobabel, who had re-edified and protected the church and city of the living God.
OF THE APOSTACY OF THE CHURCH-THE ORIGIN AND PROGRESS OF THE ANTI-
FROM the general influx of the superstitious heathen into the church, while under the patronage of Constantine, the worst of consequences might have been augured to the religion of Jesus Christ. The loss of discipline was attended with the loss of piety; and Zion, instead of continuing the beautiful garden of the Lord, became a deplorable waste. The full tide of imperial prosperity dazzled the Christian teachers, when they should have rejoiced with trembling, and remembered that their Master's kingdom not being of this world, his church should have been augmented with real converts, not with pagan proselytes. We shall here trace the several steps of this apostacy, with a view to caution ourselves by the fall of others.
I. The holy martyrs had always been reverenced; the cemeteries which contained their tombs had been • ? frequented for devotion; but the happiest way of honoring them, was to have imitated their piety. About the year 355, this honor was, in some places, extended to adoration. Churches were erected to their memory, and placed under their immediate protection. The walls were ornamented with scripture-pieces, for the instruction of those who could not read, and the statue of the martyr was placed in a conspicuous situation. These objects were instantly regarded with more than human reverence; the people so recently accustomed to worship idols in the temples, were hereby seduced to transfer their superstition to the churches, and to bow before wood and stone, which could neither hear nor speak. This homage gave the glory of the infinite God to a finite creature, because it supposed the martyrs like the Deity, to fill both heaven and earth. The clergy instead of rending their garments, as Paul and Silas at Lystra, and restraining the
first appearance of this superstition, seem to have contemplated it with approbation. Relics, real or pretended, were collected with great avidity, and multitudes of miracles were feigned to be wrought at the tombs of the martyrs. In the schools, the lives of these venerable characters were given to the students for themes, with permission to add fable to truth; and in a course of years, these legends were collected and palmed on the world as genuine histories.
II. About the same time, considerable numbers of Christians adopted a monastic life: and piety, preferring the solitude of the deserts to the endearments of society, strongly marks the superstition and degeneracy of the age. Ammon was the founder and father of the Egyptian monks.* This man having married a wife through the solicitation of his relatives, persuaded her on the evening after their marriage to adopt his mode of living. His modesty is said to have been so great, that he would not take off his clothes to pass a river. Another of these fathers usually took his food in his hand, and ate it walking: he thought that sitting down to dinner, looked as though he made eating and drinking a serious part of his employment. By habits of abstinence and fasting, the quantity of bread and herbs on which they chiefly subsisted became incredibly small. Their hours of sleep were also restricted, and many of them observed the midnight hour of devotion.
Companies of men, drying up their bodies by abstinence, and secluding themselves from riches and pleasures, could not fail to attract the veneration of a superstitious age. Monasteries and abbies were erected in every part of the Christian world, and by successive grants and legacies of lands, many of them became exceedingly enriched. The founders of these religious institutions generally made choice of a situation capable of a high state of cultivation, and by their own industry turned the wild wastes into agree