A Short Introduction to Constantine the Great - John Lord - ebook
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One of the links in the history of civilization is the reign of Constantine, not unworthily called the Great, since it would be difficult to find a greater than he among the Roman emperors, after Julius Caesar, while his labors were by far more beneficent. A new era began with his illustrious reign,--the triumph of Christianity as the established religion of the crumbling Empire. Under his enlightened protection the Church, persecuted from the time of Nero, and never fashionable or popular, or even powerful as an institution, arose triumphant, defiant, almost militant, with new passions and interests; ambitious, full of enthusiasm, and with unbounded hope,--a great spiritual power, whose authority even princes and nobles were at last unable to withstand. No longer did the Christians live in catacombs and hiding-places; no longer did they sing their mournful songs over the bleeding and burning bodies of the saints, but arose in the majesty of a new and irresistible power,--temporal as well as spiritual,--breathing vengeance on ancient foes, grasping great dignities, seizing the revenues of princes, and proclaiming the sovereignty of their invisible King. In defence of their own doctrines they became fierce, arrogant, dogmatic, contentious,--not with sword in one hand and crucifix in the other, like the warlike popes and bishops of mediaeval Europe, but with intense theological hatreds, and austere contempt of those luxuries and pleasures which had demoralized society...

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A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO CONSTANTINE THE GREAT

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John Lord

ENDYMION PRESS

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Copyright © 2016 by John Lord

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHRISTIANITY ENTHRONED

CHRISTIANITY ENTHRONED

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A.D. 272-337.

One of the links in the history of civilization is the reign of Constantine, not unworthily called the Great, since it would be difficult to find a greater than he among the Roman emperors, after Julius Caesar, while his labors were by far more beneficent. A new era began with his illustrious reign,—the triumph of Christianity as the established religion of the crumbling Empire. Under his enlightened protection the Church, persecuted from the time of Nero, and never fashionable or popular, or even powerful as an institution, arose triumphant, defiant, almost militant, with new passions and interests; ambitious, full of enthusiasm, and with unbounded hope,—a great spiritual power, whose authority even princes and nobles were at last unable to withstand. No longer did the Christians live in catacombs and hiding-places; no longer did they sing their mournful songs over the bleeding and burning bodies of the saints, but arose in the majesty of a new and irresistible power,—temporal as well as spiritual,—breathing vengeance on ancient foes, grasping great dignities, seizing the revenues of princes, and proclaiming the sovereignty of their invisible King. In defence of their own doctrines they became fierce, arrogant, dogmatic, contentious,—not with sword in one hand and crucifix in the other, like the warlike popes and bishops of mediaeval Europe, but with intense theological hatreds, and austere contempt of those luxuries and pleasures which had demoralized society.

The last great act of Diocletian—one of the ablest and most warlike of the emperors—was an unrelenting and desperate persecution of the Christians, whose religion had been steadily gaining ground for two centuries, in spite of martyrdoms and anathemas; and this was so severe and universal that it seemed to be successful. But he had no sooner retired from the government of the world (A.D. 305) than the faith he supposed he had suppressed forever sprung up with new force, and defied any future attempt to crush it.

The vitality of the new religion had been preserved in ages of unparalleled vices by two things especially,—by martyrdom and by austerities; the one a noble attestation of faith in an age of unbelief, and the other a lofty, almost stoical, disdain of those pleasures which centre in the body.

The martyrs cheerfully and heroically endured physical sufferings in view of the glorious crown of which they were assured in the future world. They lived in the firm conviction of immortality, and that eternal happiness was connected indissolubly with their courage, intrepidity, and patience in bearing testimony to the divine character and mission of Him who had shed his blood for the remission of sins. No sufferings were of any account in comparison with those of Him who died for them. Filled with transports of love for the divine Redeemer, who rescued them from the despair of Paganism, and bound with ties of supreme allegiance to Him as the Conqueror and Saviour of the world, they were ready to meet death in any form for his sake. They had become, by professing Him as their Lord and Sovereign, soldiers of the Cross, ready to endure any sacrifices for his sacred cause.