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The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome

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    Constantine a Sun-Worshiper—The Labarum—Dies Solis and the Haruspices. Murder of Crispus and Fausta—The “True Cross” and Constantine—Is This Paganism or Christianity?—A Murder Even in Death

    MUCH research and great effort have been made to discover the time of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. One writer dates it at his accession in 306, another in 312, another in 321, yet another not till 323, and still another about 327. Others put it at his death-bed baptism, while still others insist that he never was a Christian. When he became a Christian, or whether he ever did, is an interesting question even at this time.GEP 424.1

    2. It must be borne in mind that sun-worship was the principal form of worship in the Roman Empire and of the Romans. The sun, as represented in Apollo, was the chief and patron divinity recognized by Augustus. “Apollo was the patron of the spot which had given a name to his great victory of Actium; Apollo himself, it was proclaimed, had fought for Rome and for Octavius on that auspicious day.”—Merivale. 1[Page 424] “Romans under the Empire,” chap 33, par. 13.GEP 424.2

    3. To Sol Deus Invictus—the sun, the unconquerable god—were attributed the world-wide conquests of the Roman power. The greatest and most magnificent temple that ever was on earth, except only that built by Solomon, was erected by Antoninus Pius, emperor of Rome, at Baalbec, in honor of the visible shining sun. Elagabalus, who became emperor June 7, A. D. 218, adopted as his imperial name the very name of the sun as it was worshiped at Emesa in Syria in the temple where he himself had been high priest. And as emperor and high priest of the sun, it was his chief purpose, and “it was openly asserted, that the worship of the sun, under the name of Elagabalus, was to supersede all other worship.”—Milman. 2[Page 424] “History of Christianity,” book ii, chap 8, par. 22. It was the oracle of the sun—Apollo—at Miletus which Diocletian consulted before he issued the decree of persecution to which he was so strongly urged by Galerius, who in turn was prompted by his mother, a fanatical worshiper of Cybele.GEP 424.3

    4. Thus the worship of the sun itself was the principal worship of the Romans in the time of Constantine. And it was in Constantine that, after Elagabalus, the sun found its most worshipful devotee. Up to the period of his war with Maxentius, A. D. 312, “all that we know of Constantine’s religion would imply that he was outwardly, and even zealously, pagan. In a public oration, his panegyrist extols the magnificence of his offerings to the gods. His victorious presence was not merely expected to restore more than their former splendor to the Gaulish cities ruined by barbaric incursions, but sumptuous temples were to arise at his bidding, to propitiate the deities, particularly Apollo, his tutelary god. The medals struck for these victories are covered with the symbols of paganism. Eusebius himself admits that Constantine was at this time in doubt which religion he should embrace.”—Milman. 3[Page 425] “History of Christianity,” book iii, chap 1, par. 36.GEP 425.1

    5. As emperor, and to satisfy the prejudices of the people, some respectful deference was shown to other gods, but “the devotion of Constantine was more peculiarly directed to the genius of the sun, the Apollo of Greek and Roman mythology; and he was pleased to be represented with the symbols of the god of light and poetry. The unerring shafts of that deity, the brightness of his eyes, his laurel wreath, immortal beauty, and elegant accomplishments, seemed to point him out as the patron of a young hero. The altars of Apollo were crowned with the votive offerings of Constantine; and the credulous multitude were taught to believe that the emperor was permitted to behold with mortal eyes the visible majesty of their tutelar deity; and that, either waking or in a vision, he was blessed with the auspicious omens of a long and victorious reign. The sun was universally celebrated as the invincible guide and protector of Constantine.”—Gibbon. 4[Page 425] “Decline and Fall,” chap 20, par. 3.GEP 425.2

    6. However, about the latter part of the year 311 or early in 312, there certainly came such a change in his mind as to lead him to favor Christianity. There was enmity between him and Galerius, which of itself naturally threw Constantine into opposition to the plans and ambitions of that emperor. Galerius had done all that he could to keep Constantine from escaping from the dominions of Diocletian to those of Constantius. Constantine knew that the purpose of Galerius in this was nothing but evil, if not death, to him. By extraordinary speed he defeated the scheme of Galerius in this, and when he was made emperor in Britain, as we have seen, the purposes of Galerius were almost wholly disconcerted.GEP 425.3

    7. This, we repeat, naturally made Constantine an opponent of the plans of Galerius. Therefore when Galerius spent his strongest efforts in behalf of the pagan party in the State, Constantine naturally leaned toward the other. In this also he had the example of his humane father, who, although not able to defeat wholly the edicts of persecution, greatly modified their effects. Another thing that influenced him in this direction was because, as he himself said,—GEP 426.1

    “My father revered the Christian God, and uniformly prospered, while the emperors who worshiped the heathen gods, died a miserable death; therefore that I may enjoy a happy life and reign, I will imitate the example of my father, and join myself to the cause of the Christians, who are growing daily, while the heathen are diminishing.” 5[Page 426] Schaff, “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec. ii, par. 15.GEP 426.2

    8. And “this low utilitarian consideration weighed heavily in the mind of an ambitious captain, who looked forward to the highest seat of power within the gift of his age.”—Schaff. It is manifest that the only consideration that operated upon his mind at this time was this utilitarian one, and that whatever favor he felt toward Christians so far was merely as a matter of policy, with the hope that by this he might be aided in his aspirations to the sole rulership of the empire. To Constantine himself, if at this time Christianity had obtained any hold upon his mind, it was now the Christianity of the warrior, as subsequently it was that of the statesman. It was the military commander who availed himself of the assistance of any tutelar divinity who might insure success to his daring enterprise.”—Milman. 6[Page 426] “History of Christianity,” book iii, chap 1, par. 41.GEP 426.3

    9. Such was his attitude toward Christianity before the defeat of Maxentius. Nor was there afterward any material change, either in his profession or his character. In the same manner as the cruel emperors before him, at the defeat of Maxentius, not content with the death of that emperor himself and a large number of his adherents, he executed vengeance also on his infant son. “Utterly devoid of faith in anything else except himself and his own destiny, unyielding in that ambition to exercise dominion which nerved him for the doubtful war against Maxentius, he regarded both mankind and religion with pity and contempt, and sought to rule men for their good and his own glory, by means of any faith which they might prefer; and hence, as Christianity became more known and popular, he identified himself with it more and more, only in order to foster any agency which seemed to be available in the work of consolidating the warring factions of the empire, and securing the permanency of his throne.”—The Author of “Arius the Libyan.”GEP 427.1

    10. At what time he made the labarum is not certainly known; but whenever it was, it was simply another instance of his policy in pretending to favor the church party while still retaining his paganism. For when he constructed the labarum, he simply “changed the heathen labarum into a standard of the Christian cross with the Greek monogram of Christ, which he had also put upon the shields of his soldiers.” “On the top of the shaft was a crown composed of gold and precious stones, and containing the monogram of Christ; and just under this crown was a likeness of the emperor and his sons in gold.”—Schaff. 7[Page 427] “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec. ii, par. 24, and note 2.GEP 427.2

    11. That by this emblem Constantine intended to profess to the church party his alliance with them, is evident. Yet he did not propose to forsake his paganism; for “even in the labarum, if the initiated eyes of the Christian soldiery could discern the sacred symbol of Christ indistinctly glittering above the cross, there appeared, either embossed on the beam below or embroidered on the square purple banner which depended from it, the bust of the emperor and those of his family, to whom the heathen part of his army might pay their homage of veneration.” “And so, for the first time, the meek and peaceful Jesus became the God of battle; and the cross, the holy sign of Christian redemption, a banner of bloody strife.”—Milman. 8[Page 428] “History of Christianity,” book iii, chap 1, pars. 42, 39.GEP 427.3

    12. In honor of his triumph over Maxentius, a statue of himself was erected in the Roman Forum (A. D. 316). In his right hand was the labarum with the inscription,—GEP 428.1

    “By virtue of this salutary sign, which is the true symbol of valor, I have preserved and liberated your city from the yoke of tyranny.”—Eusebius. 9[Page 428] “Life of Constantine,” book i, chap. x1.GEP 428.2

    13. Afterward a triumphal arch was also built in Rome to commemorate the victory at the Milvian bridge, in which his ambiguous relationship to the two religions is again displayed. “The inscription on this arch of Constantine ascribes his victory over the hated tyrant, not only to his master mind, but indefinitely also to the impulse of Deity, by which a Christian would naturally understand the true God, while a heathen, like the orator Nazarius, in his eulogy on Constantine, might take it for the celestial guardian power of the ‘urbs aeterna’ [eternal city].”—Schaff. 10[Page 428] “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec, ii, par. 25.GEP 428.3

    14. Again: after the defeat of Maxentius and his triumphal entry into the city of Rome, though he declined to celebrate the pagan rite of going to the Capitol to offer sacrifice to Jupiter and the gods, he restored the pagan temples, and assumed the title of pontifex maximus. And when some pagans of Africa brought to him the head of Maxentius, he granted as a reward that the province of Africa should be permitted to establish a priesthood and a worship in honor of the family of Constantine.GEP 428.4

    15. In A. D. 321, to please the bishops of the Catholic Church, he issued an edict commanding judges, townspeople, and mechanics to rest on Sunday. Yet in this also his paganism was still manifest, as the edict required rest on “the venerable day of the sun,” and “enjoined the observance, or rather forbade the public desecration, of Sunday, not under the name of Sabbatum, or Dies Domini, but under its old astrological and heathen title, Dies Solis, familiar to all his subjects, so that the law was as applicable to the worshipers of Hercules, Apollo, and Mithras, as to the Christians.”—Schaff. 11[Page 429] Id., sec. lxxv, par. 5.GEP 428.5

    16. “The same tenacious adherence to the ancient god of light has left its trace, even to our own time, on one of the most sacred and universal of Christian institutions. The retention of the old pagan name of “Dies Solis,’ or ‘Sunday,’ for the weekly Christian festival, is in great measure owing to the union of pagan and Christian sentiment with which the first day of the week was recommended by Constantine to his subjects, pagan and Christian alike, as the ‘venerable day of the sun.’ ... It was his mode of harmonizing the discordant religions of the empire under one common institution.”—Stanley. 12[Page 429] “History of the Eastern Church,” 6, par. 15.GEP 429.1

    17. The next day after issuing this Sunday law, that is, March 8, A. D. 321, he published another edict, in which he “expressly ordains that whenever lightning should strike the imperial palace or any other public building, the haruspices, according to ancient usage, should be consulted as to what it might signify, and a careful report of the answer should be drawn up for his use.” And by yet another “law of the same year, he declares also the employment of heathen magic, for good ends, as for the prevention or healing of diseases, for the protection of harvests, for the prevention of rain and of hail, to be permitted, and in such expressions, too, as certainly betray a faith in the efficacy of these pretended supernatural means, unless the whole is to be ascribed simply to the legal forms of paganism.”—Neander. 13[Page 429] “History of the Christian Religion,” Vol. ii, sec. i, part i, A, par. 33.GEP 429.2

    18. Meanwhile Constantine had been drawing closer to the bishops, and bestowing favors on the Catholic Church, the full account of which will be given in the following chapters. By this time, therefore, he could afford to hold the profession of the two religions upon an equal balance. Accordingly, now “his coins bore on the one side the letters of the name of Christ, on the other the figure of the sun-god, and the inscription, ‘Sol invictus’ (the unconquerable sun), as if he could not bear to relinquish the patronage of the bright luminary which represented to him, as to Augustus and to Julian, his own guardian deity.”—Stanley. 14[Page 430] “History of the Eastern Church,” lect. vi, par. 14.GEP 429.3

    19. In A. D. 315 there had been war between Constantine and Licinius. After two battles, a peace was concluded which continued till 323, when, “without any previous injury,” but out of sheer ambition and “a love of power that would brook no rival,” and “at the expense of truth and humanity,” Constantine entered again upon a war with Licinius. On July 3 was fought the battle of Adrianople, in which Licinius was defeated with a loss of thirty-four thousand men. He retreated to Byzantium, where Constantine besieged him. When Constantine was about to take the city, Licinius deserted it and passed over to Asia. Constantine followed, and another battle was fought at Chrysopolis, where Licinius was again defeated with so great a loss of men that he was compelled to sue for peace. His wife Constantia, the sister of Constantine, interceded with her brother in favor of her husband, and obtained from him a solemn promise, confirmed by an oath, that if Licinius would resign all claims to the office of emperor, he should be allowed to pass the rest of his life in peace and as became his station. Thessalonica was appointed as the place of his dwelling, or as it proved, his imprisonment; and it was not long before he was put to death (A. D. 324) in violation of the solemn oath of Constantine. The fact that Licinius was past seventy years of age at the time, lent to the transaction, in addition to its character of deliberate perjury, the element of positive cruelty.GEP 430.1

    20. The next year (A. D. 325) Constantine convened at Nice the first general council of the Catholic Church, presided over its deliberations, and enforced its decrees. The following year (A. D. 326) he went to Rome to celebrate in that city the twentieth year of his accession to the office of emperor, and while there, in the month of April, and wholly in jealous tyranny, he had his son Crispus murdered. Crispus was his eldest son, who had assisted in his wars, especially with Licinius, and had proved himself an able commander. He commanded the fleet at the siege of Byzantium, and after the battle the names of Constantine and Crispus were united in the joyful acclamations of their Eastern subjects. This excited the jealousy of Constantine, who soon began to slight Crispus, and bestow imperial favors upon his younger son, Constantius, who was but a mere boy. Constantine pretended that Crispus had entered into a conspiracy against him, and Oct. 21, 325, he issued an edict restoring the order of delators, after the manner of Tiberius and Domitian. “By all the allurements of honors and rewards, he invites informers of every degree to accuse without exception his magistrates or ministers, his friends or his most intimate favorites, protesting, with a solemn asseveration, that he himself will listen to the charge.”—Gibbon. 15[Page 431] “Decline and Fall,” chap 18, par. 6GEP 430.2

    21. The informers were not long in finding accusations against Crispus and a large number of his friends, and “in the midst of the festival, the unfortunate Crispus was apprehended by order of the emperor, who laid aside the tenderness of a father, without assuming the equity of a judge.... He was sent under a strong guard to Pola, in Istria, where, soon afterward, he was put to death, either by the hand of the executioner, or by the more gentle operation of poison. The Caesar Licinius, a youth of amiable manners, was involved in the ruin of Crispus; and the stern jealousy of Constantine was unmoved by the prayers and tears of his favorite sister, pleading for the life of a son, whose rank was his only crime, and whose loss she did not long survive.”—Gibbon. 16[Page 431] Id., par. 7.GEP 431.1

    22. Nor were these the only ones involved in the execution. “The sword of justice or of cruelty, once let loose, raged against those who were suspected as partizans of the dangerous Crispus, or as implicated in the wide-spread conspiracy, till the bold satire of an eminent officer of State did not scruple, in some lines privately circulated, to compare the splendid but bloody times with those of Nero.”—Milman. 17[Page 431] “History of Christianity,” book iii, chap 2, par. 12.GEP 431.2

    23. Nor yet did he stop here. “This was only the first act of the domestic tragedy; the death of the emperor’s wife Fausta, the partner of twenty years of wedlock, the mother of his three surviving sons, increased the general horror. She was suffocated in a bath which had been heated to an insupportable degree of temperature.” “The tragedy which took place in the family of Constantine betrayed to the surprised and anxious world, that, if his outward demeanor showed respect or veneration for Christianity, its milder doctrines had made little impression on the unsoftened paganism of his heart.”—Milman. 18[Page 432] Id., pars. 13, 10.GEP 431.3

    24. Shortly after this, Constantine’s mother went to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage to recover the holy places, and to build churches upon them. She carried a letter from Constantine to Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, in which he stated that it was always his “first and only object to excite all minds to the observation of the holy law with alacrity and diligence proportioned to the brightness of the manifestation which is thrown by new miracles upon the truth of the faith day by day;” and that it was his “most intense desire to erect beautiful edifices” upon that spot which had been consecrated “by the sufferings of our Lord, who thus brought faith to light.” 19[Page 432] Theodoret’s “Ecclesiastical History,” book i, chap. xviiGEP 432.1

    25. Helena was said to be about eighty years old at this time, and the tale was invented, and one hundred years later became a matter of history, that she discovered the tomb in which the Saviour had been buried; that in it were found all three of the crosses that were used on the day of the crucifixion, the nails that were used in the crucifixion of the Saviour, and the tablet which Pilate had caused to be put upon the cross of the Saviour. But nobody could tell which was the true cross. Yet says the fable:—GEP 432.2

    “From this trouble she was shortly relieved by Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, whose faith solved the doubt, for he sought a sign from God and obtained it. The sign was this: A certain woman of the neighborhood, who had been long afflicted with disease, was now just at the point of death. The bishop therefore ordered that each of the crosses should be applied to the dying woman, believing that she would be healed upon being touched by the precious cross. Nor was he disappointed in his expectation; for the two crosses having been applied which were not the Lord’s, the woman still continued in a dying state; but when the third, which was the true cross, touched her, she was immediately healed, and recovered her former strength. In this manner then was the genuine cross discovered. The emperor’s mother erected over the place of the sepulcher a magnificent church, and named it New Jerusalem, having built it opposite to that old and deserted city. There she left a portion of the cross, enclosed in a silver case, as a memorial to those who might wish to see it. The other part she sent to the emperor, who, being persuaded that the city would be perfectly secure where that relic should be preserved, privately enclosed it in his own statue, which stands on a large column of porphyry in the forum called Constantine’s at Constantinople. I have written this from report indeed; but almost all the inhabitants of Constantinople affirm that it is true. Moreover, Constantine caused the nails with which Christ’s hands were fastened to the cross (for his mother having found these also in the sepulcher had sent them) to be converted into bridle bits and a helmet, which he used in his military expeditions.”—Socrates. 20[Page 433] “Ecclesiastical History,” book i, chap 17.GEP 432.3

    26. From this it would seem that by this time he would be ready to stand by the profession of Christianity alone, but such was not the case; for in A. D. 328, when he traced the limits and laid the foundation of his projected new city of Constantinople, he held the same ambiguous course as formerly, and accordingly “issued an imperial edict announcing to the world that Constantine by the command of God had founded the eternal city.” “But however the Deity might have intimated his injunctions to commence the work, or whatever the nature of the invisible guide which, as he declared, thus directed his steps, this vague appeal to the Deity would impress with the same respect all his subjects, and by its impartial ambiguity offend none.”—Milman. 21[Page 433] “History of Christianity,” book iii, chap 3, par. 5.GEP 433.1

    27. Yet a little later his actions seemed to indicate that he had reverted to paganism alone; for when in A. D. 330 the actual work of building the city was inaugurated, the “ancient ritual of Roman paganism contained a solemn ceremony, which dedicated a new city to the protection of the Deity” (Milman); 22[Page 433] Id., par. 4. and Sopater, a Neoplatonic heathen, “assisted with his heathen ceremonies at the consecration.”—Stanley. 23[Page 433] “History of the Eastern Church,” lect. vi, par. 42.GEP 433.2

    28. However, in building the city he fully acquitted himself in the estimation of both pagans and Catholics. For while he erected magnificent edifices for the Catholic Church, he also set up the images of the pagan deities “in all the public places of Constantinople. If the inhabitants were not encouraged, at least they were not forbidden, to pay divine honors to the immortal sculptures of Phidias and Praxiteles, which were brought from all quarters to adorn the squares and baths of Byzantium. The whole Roman world contributed to the splendor of Constantinople. The tutelar deities of all the cities of Greece (their influence, of course, much enfeebled by their removal from their local sanctuaries) were assembled,—the Minerva of Lyndus, the Cybele of Mount Dindymus (which was said to have been placed there by the Argonauts), the Muses of Helicon, the Amphitrite of Rhodes, the Pan consecrated by united Greece after the defeat of the Persians, the Delphic Tripod. The Dioscuri [Castor and Pollux] overlooked the Hippodrome.”—Milman. 24[Page 434] “History of Christianity,” book iii, chap 3, par. 6.GEP 433.3

    29. When in 334 the city was finished, and he would celebrate its completion, “the ceremonial of the dedication was attended by still more dubious circumstances. After a most splendid exhibition of chariot games in the Hippodrome, the emperor moved in a magnificent car through the most public part of the city, encircled by all his guards in the attire of a religious ceremonial, and bearing torches in their hands. The emperor himself held a golden statue of the Fortune of the city in his hands. An imperial edict enacted the annual celebration of this rite. On the birthday of the city, the gilded statue of himself, thus bearing the same golden image of Fortune, was annually to be led through the Hippodrome to the foot of the imperial throne, and to receive the adoration of the reigning emperor.”—Milman. 25[Page 434] Id., par. 7.GEP 434.1

    30. Yet he considered this not enough. When he had besieged Licinius at this place, he had pitched his tent on a certain hill. In the building of the city he chose that spot for the principal forum, at one end of which was a statue of Cybele, and at the other the goddess of Fortune, the patroness of the new city. In the center of the forum he planted a column, the pedestal of which was of white marble twenty feet high. Upon this were set, one upon another, ten pieces of porphyry, each of which measured about ten feet in height and about thirty-three in circumference, making the pillar in all about one hundred and twenty feet in height. On the top of this pillar, Constantine placed a colossal bronze statue of Apollo, with the figure of his own head upon it, and round about the crown, like the rays of the sun, were the nails of “the true cross,” which his mother had sent to him from Jerusalem.GEP 434.2

    31. “The lingering attachment of Constantine to the favorite superstition of his earlier days may be traced on still better authority. The Grecian worship of Apollo had been exalted into the Oriental veneration of the sun, as the visible representative of the Deity; and of all the statues that were introduced from different quarters, none were received with greater honor than those of Apollo. In one part of the city stood the Pythian, in another the Sminthian deity. The Delphic Tripod, which, according to Zosimus, contained an image of the god, stood upon the column of three twisted serpents, supposed to represent the mystic Python. But on a still loftier, the famous pillar of porphyry, stood an image in which, if we are to credit modern authority (and the more modern our authority, the less likely is it to have invented so singular a statement), Constantine dared to mingle together the attributes of the sun, of Christ, and of himself. According to one tradition, this pillar was based, as it were, on another superstition. The venerable Palladium itself, surreptitiously conveyed from Rome, was buried beneath it, and thus transferred the eternal destiny of the old to the new capital. The pillar, formed of marble and of porphyry, rose to the height of a hundred and twenty feet. The colossal image on the top was that of Apollo, either from Phrygia or from Athens. But the head of Constantine had been substituted for that of the god. The scepter proclaimed the dominion of the world; and it held in its hand the globe, emblematic of universal empire. Around the head, instead of rays, were fixed the nails of the true cross. Is this paganism approximating to Christianity, or Christianity degenerating into paganism?”—Milman. 26[Page 435] Id., par. 7.GEP 435.1

    32. The reader will have no difficulty in answering the question which is here propounded. “It is no more certain that he despised and pitied paganism while he was solemnly offering sacrifices to Jupiter, and winning the admiration and love of the Roman world for his imperial piety, than it is certain that he pitied and despised the church of Christ, even while he was manipulating the faith into a sure and reliable support of the empire. In both courses he only played with the world, giving men any religious toy which the greater part might prefer to have, in exchange for the liberty of which he robbed them so plausibly and successfully that they scarcely perceived his theft, and enthusiastically caressed the royal thief.”—Author of “Arius the Libyan.” It was the same mixture of pagan and apostate Christian wickedness, the origin and progress of which we have seen in the chapter on “The Apostasy.”GEP 435.2

    33. Nor is the record yet complete. In A. D. 335, in the further exercise of his office of bishop of bishops in the church, Constantine convened the Synod of Tyre, to examine further into some questions that were raised in the trinitarian controversy. Yet all this time he was still keeping about him that Sopater who had assisted with the heathen ceremonials at the foundation of Constantinople. Sopater was so openly favored by Constantine that the church party grew jealous and quite alarmed for fear they should lose their emperor altogether. 27[Page 436] Id., chap 4, par. 39.GEP 436.1

    34. In A. D. 337 Constantine was taken with a serious illness, and being satisfied that he was about to die, he called for an Arian bishop, and was baptized. Then “he was clothed in robes of dazzling whiteness; his couch was covered with white also; in the white robes of baptism, on a white death-bed, he lay, in expectation of his end ... At noon on Whit-Sunday, the 22nd of May, in the sixty-fourth year of his age, and the thirty-first of his reign, he expired ... So passed away the first Christian emperor,—the first defender of the faith,—the first imperial patron of the papal See, and of the whole Eastern church,—the first founder of the holy places,—pagan and christian, orthodox and heretical, liberal and fanatical, not to be imitated or admired, but much to be remembered, and deeply to be studied.”—Stanley. 28[Page 436] “History of the Eastern Church,” end of lect. vi.GEP 436.2

    35. His body was enclosed in a coffin of gold and taken in solemn procession to Constantinople, where it lay in state for three months, waiting for his two eldest sons to arrive, the youngest only being present.GEP 437.1

    36. And yet the record is not complete. When he was attacked by his last illness, he suspected poison, and before he died, he gave to the bishop of Nicomedia his will to be handed to his eldest son when he should arrive at Constantinople. The bishop, having read it and found its terrible import, put it in the dead emperor’s hand, and left it there until Constantius took it. The purport of the instruction was that he believed he had been poisoned by his brothers and their children, and instructed his sons to avenge his death. “That bequest was obeyed by the massacre of six out of the surviving princes of the imperial family. Two alone escaped.”—Stanley. 29[Page 437] Id. lect. vi, par. 7 from end.GEP 437.2

    37. As neither Christians nor pagans could tell to which religion Constantine belonged while he was alive, and consequently both claimed him, so likewise “even after his death both religions vied, as it were, for Constantine. He received with impartial favor the honors of both. The first Christian emperor was deified by the pagans; in a later period he was worshiped as a saint by part of the Christian church. On the same medal appears his title of ‘god,’ with the monogram, the sacred symbol of Christianity; in another he is seated in the chariot of the sun, in a car drawn by four horses, with a hand stretched forth from the clouds to raise him to heaven.”—Milman. 30[Page 437] “History of Christianity,” book iii, chap 4, par. 3 from end.GEP 437.3

    38. Even to this time and to this extent Constantine himself was to blame for his ambiguous position, as he had been all the time he had lived as emperor. He himself had erected a grand church in Constantinople called the Church of the Apostles, which he intended to be his burial-place. “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 would 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.”—Eusebius. 31[Page 438] “Life of Constantine,” book iv, chap 6.GEP 437.4

    39. And as had been his practise all the way along, he called this church by a name “truly indicating the mixture of pagan and Christian ideas which led to its erection, the ‘Heroon.’”—Stanley. 32[Page 438] “History of the Eastern Church,” lect. vi, par. 5 from end. The word “Heroon” denotes the temple or chapel of a hero.GEP 438.1

    40. Such are the facts in regard to Constantine’s religious life simply as they are. No one can have the slightest difficulty in deciding that he never was a Christian in any proper sense of the word. All must agree “that his progress in the knowledge of Christianity was not a progress in the practise of its virtues;” that “his love of display and his prodigality, his suspiciousness and his despotism, increased with his power; and that the very brightest period of his reign is stained with gross crimes, which even the spirit of the age and the policy of an absolute monarch an not excuse.”—Schaff. 33[Page 438] “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec. ii, pars. 10, 11.GEP 438.2

    41. The synopsis of the whole question as to what was the religion of Constantine, can be no better expressed than it has already been by another: “Constantine adopted Christianity first as a superstition, and put it by the side of his heathen superstition, till finally in his conviction the Christian vanquished the pagan, though without itself developing into a pure and enlightened faith.”—Schaff. 34[Page 438] “History of the Christian Church,” Vol. iii, sec. ii, par. 6.GEP 438.3

    42. And the final analysis, the conclusion of the whole matter, the sum of all that has been, or that can be, said, is that in Constantine the elements of the actual pagan and the apostate Christian were so perfectly mixed as to produce the typical papist of all times.GEP 438.4

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