14 (1) Thus finally, all nations of the world being steered by a single pilot and welcoming government by the Servant of God, with none any longer obstructing Roman rule, all men passed their life in undisturbed tranquillity.
(2) The emperor judged that the prayers of the godly made a great contribution to his aim of protecting the general good, so he made the necessary provision for these, becoming himself a suppliant of God and bidding the leaders of the churches make intercessions for him. 15 (1) The great strength of the divinely inspired faith fixed in his soul might be deduced by considering also the fact that he had his own portrait so depicted on the gold coinage that he appeared to look upward in the manner of one reaching out to God in prayer. (2) Impressions of this type were circulated throughout the entire Roman world. In the imperial quarters of various cities, in the images erected above the entrances, he was portrayed standing up, looking up to heaven, his hands extended in a posture of prayer. 16 Such was the way he would have himself depicted praying in works of graphic art. But by law he forbade images of himself to be set up in idol-shrines, so that he might not be contaminated by the error of forbidden things even in replica.
17 One might observe the more solemn aspects of these things by noting how he conducted matters even in the imperial quarters in the manner of a church of God, being himself the leader in earnestness of those constituting the church there. He would take the books in his hands and apply his mind to the meaning of the divinely inspired oracles and would then render up lawful prayers with the members of the imperial household. 18 (1) He also decreed that the truly sovereign and really first day, the day of the Lord and Savior, should be considered a regular day of prayer. Servants and ministers consecrated to God, men whose well-ordered life was marked by reverent conduct and every virtue, were put in charge of the whole household, and faithful praetorians, bodyguards armed with the practice of faithful loyalty, adopted the emperor as their tutor in religious conduct, themselves paying no less honor to the Lord's saving day and on it joining in the prayers the emperor loved.
(2) The Blessed One urged all men also to do the same, as if by encouraging this he might gently bring all men to piety. He therefore decreed that all those under Roman government should rest on the days named after the Savior, and similarly that they should honor the days of the Sabbath, in memory, I suppose, of the things recorded as done by the universal Savior on those days.
(3) The Day of Salvation, then, which also bears the names of Light Day and Sun Day, he taught all the military to revere devoutly. To those who shared the divinely given faith he allowed free time to attend unhindered the church of God, on the assumption that with all impediment removed, they would join in the prayers. 19 To those who did not yet share in the divine Word, he gave order in a second decree that every Lord's Day they should march out to an open space just outside the city, and that there at a signal they should all together offer up to God a form of prayer learned by heart; they ought not to rest their hopes on spears or armor or physical strength, but acknowledge the God over all, the giver of all good and indeed of victory itself, to whom it was right to offer the lawful prayers, lifting up their hands high toward heaven, extending their mental vision yet higher to the heavenly King, and calling on him in their prayers as the Giver of victory and Savior, as their Guardian and Helper. He was himself the instructor in prayer to all the soldiery, bidding them all to say these words in Latin: 20(1)
"You alone we know as God,
You are the King we acknowledge,
You are the Help we summon.
By you we have won our victories,
Through you we have overcome our enemies.
To you we render thanks for the good things past,
You also we hope for as giver of those to come.
To you we all come to supplicate for our Emperor
Constantine and for his Godbeloved Sons: That he may be kept safe and victorious for us in long, long life, we plead."
(2) Such were the things he decreed should be done by the military regiments every Sunday, and such were the words he taught them to recite in their prayers to God. 21 Furthermore, he caused the sign ofthe saving trophy to be marked on their shields and had the army led on parade, not by any of the golden images, as had been their past practice, but by the saving trophy alone.
22 (1) He himself, like someone participating in sacred mysteries, would shut himself at fixed times each day in secret places within his royal palace chambers and would converse with his God alone, and kneeling in suppliant petition would plead for the objects of his prayers. On days of the Feast of the Savior, intensifying the rigor, he would perform the divine mysteries with his whole strength of soul and body, on the one hand wholly dedicated to purity of life, and on the other initiating the festival for all. (2) He transformed the sacred vigil into daylight, as those appointed to the task lit huge wax tapers throughout the whole city; there were fiery torches that lit up every place, so as to make the mystic vigil more radiant than bright day. When dawn interposed, in imitation of the beneficence of the Savior, he opened his beneficent hand to all provinces, peoples, and cities, making rich gifts of every kind to them all. (3) Such then was his religious practice toward his own God.
23 For all those under Roman rule, both civilian and military, access was universally blocked to every form of idolatry, and every form of sacrifice banned. A decree went also to the governors of each province directing that they should similarly reverence the Lord's Day. These same persons at the emperor's behest honored the days of martyrs as well, and adorned the times of festival with public gatherings. Such things were all carried out as the emperor desired. 24 Hence it is not surprising that on one occasion, when entertaining bishops to dinner, he let slip the remark that he was perhaps himself a bishop, too, using some such words as these in our hearing: "You are bishops of those within the Church, but I am perhaps a bishop appointed by God over those outside." In accordance with this saying, he exercised a bishop's supervision over all his subjects and pressed them all, as far as lay in his power, to lead the godly life.
25 (1) Hence it is not surprising that in successive laws and ordinances he prohibited everyone from sacrificing to idols, from practicing divination, from having cult figures erected, from performing secret rites, and from defiling the cities by the carnage of gladiatorial combat. (2) To those in Egypt and especially Alexandria, who had a custom of worshipping their river through the offices of effeminate men, another law was sent out, declaring that the whole class of homosexuals should be abolished as a thing depraved, and that it was unlawful for those infected with this gross indecency to be seen anywhere.
(3) Whereas the superstitious supposed that the river would no longer flow for them in its customary way, God cooperated with the emperor's law by achieving quite the opposite of what they expected. For although those who defiled the cities by their abominable practice were no more, the river, as though the land had been cleared for it, flowed as never before and rose in abundant flood to overflow all the arable land, by its action teaching the senseless that one should reject polluted men and attribute the cause of prosperity to the sole giver of all good.
26 (1) Indeed, with countless such measures taken by the emperor in every province, there would be plenty of scope for those eager to record them. The same applies to the laws that he renewed by transforming them from their primitive state to a more hallowed one. It will be easier to explain briefly the nature of these reforms also.
(2) Ancient laws had punished those without children by stopping them inheriting from their kinsmen. This was a harsh law against the childless, since it punished them as criminals. By repealing this, he permitted the proper persons to inherit. The emperor made this change toward sacred justice, saying that it was those who offended deliberately who ought to be corrected with fitting punishment. (3) Nature has made many childless, when they have prayed to be blessed with large families, but have been disappointed through bodily infirmity. Others have become childless, not through rejecting the natural sue-cession of children, but through abstaining from intercourse with women, an abstinence that they chose through a passion for philosophy, and women consecrated to the sacred service of God have practised a chaste and absolute virginity, consecrating themselves by a pure and all-holy life of soul and body. (4) Ought this then to be thought to deserve punishment, and not admiration and approval? Their zeal is highly deserving, their achievement surpasses nature. Those therefore who are disappointed in their desire for children by bodily infirmity should be pitied rather than penalized, and the lover of the Supreme deserves the highest admiration and not punishment. Thus the emperor with sound reasoning remodeled the law.
(5) Furthermore for those near death ancient laws prescribed that even with their last breath the wills they made must be expressed in precise verbal formulas, and that certain phrases and terminology must be used to state them. This led to much malicious manipulation to circumvent the intentions of the deceased. (') The emperor noted this and changed this law, too, saying that the dying person should express what he had in mind in plain simple words and everyday speech and compose his will in an ordinary document or even unwritten if he wished, provided he did this in the presence of trustworthy witnesses, able to preserve accurately what is entrusted to them.
27 (1) He also made a law that no Christian was to be a slave to Jews, on the ground that it was not right that those redeemed by the Savior should be subjected by the yoke of bondage to the slayers of the prophets and the murderers of the Lord. If any were found in this condition, the one was to be set free, the other punished with a fine.
(2) He also put his seal on the decrees of bishops made at synods, so that it would not be lawful for the rulers of provinces to annul what they had approved, since the priests of God were superior to any magistrate.
(3) He made countless decrees like these for those under his rule. It would need leisure to commit them to a separate work for the precise analysis of the emperor's policies in those also. What need is there now to set out in detail how, having attached himself to the God over all, he pondered from dawn to dusk on which of mankind to benefit or how he was fair to all and impartial in his benefits?
28 But to the churches of God in particular he was exceptionally generous in his provision, in one place bestowing estates, and elsewhere grain allowances to feed poor men, orphan children, and women in distress. Then with great concern he also provided huge quantities of clothing for the naked and unclad. He singled out as worthy of special honor those who had dedicated their lives to godly philosophy. He would all but worship God's choir of those sanctified in perpetual virginity, believing that in the souls of such as these dwelt the God to whom they had consecrated themselves.
29 (1) Indeed in order to enlarge his understanding with the help of the divinely inspired words, he would spend the hours of the night awake, and repeatedly made public appearances without calling upon speechwriters; he thought that he ought to rule his subjects with instructive argument and establish his whole imperial rule as rational. (2) Consequently when he gave the invitation, countless multitudes rushed to join the audience to hear the emperor's philosophy. If while speaking he had occasion to mention God, standing quite straight with intense face and subdued voice, he would seem to be initiating the audience with deep awe in the inspired doctrine, and then when the hearers let out favorable exclamations, he would indicate that they should look to heaven and save the adulation and honor of their reverent praises for the King over all.
(3) In planning his addresses, he would at one point set out refutations of polytheistic error, showing that the religion of the heathen is a deception and a fa9ade for atheism; at another point he would recommend that the sole Godhead should be acknowledged and would systematically expound providence both in general and in particular cases. From there he would proceed to the Savior's dispensation, demonstrating the necessity for it to happen in terms of what is appropriate. He would then go on to deal with the doctrine of divine judgment. (4) Next he would touch on things that struck the audience most forcefully, rebuking thieves and frauds and those who committed themselves to greedy profiteering. Striking them, and as if actually flogging them, with his argument, he made some of his courtiers bow their heads as their conscience was smitten. Testifying in plain words, he announced to them that he would give an account to God oftheir activities, for the God over all had given him sovereignty over things on earth, and he in imitation of the Supreme had committed particular administrative regions of the empire to them; all however would in due course be subject to scrutiny of their actions by the Great King. (5) Such were the constant themes of his affirmation, his admonition, his teaching.
With the assurance of the authentic faith he held and expressed such views, but they were slow to learn and deaf to what is good; they would cheer his words with cries and acclamations of approval, but in practice they ignored them through greed. 30 (1) So in the end he tackled one ofthose round him and said, "How far, my man, do we make greed stretch?" Then on the ground he drew with the staff that he had in his hand the measure ofthe height of a man and said, "If all the wealth in the world and all the land there is becomes yours, you will still not possess more than this plot here marked out—assuming you even get that." (2) But in spite of what he said and did, not one was restrained by the blessed one; yet events have manifestly convinced them that the pronouncements of the emperor were like divine oracles and not mere words. 31 But since the fear of death failed to deter the wicked from their evil ways, the emperor being wholly given to clemency, and none ofthose who governed the various provinces took any steps anywhere at all against the offenders, this certainly brought no small reproach upon the whole regime. Whether that was fair or not is for each to judge as he sees fit, and I content myselfwith recording the truth.
32 However that may be, Latin was the language in which the emperor used to produce the text of his speeches. They were translated into Greek by professional interpreters. By way of example of his translated works, I shall append immediately after this present book the speech that he entitled, "To the assembly of the saints," dedicating the work to the Church of God, so that none may think our assertions about his speeches to be mere rhetoric.
33 (1) One other thing seems to me to be unforgettable, a deed that the marvelous man did in our own presence. On one occasion, emboldened by his devotion to divine things, we asked permission to deliver an address about the Savior's tomb for him to hear. He listened with rapt attention, and where a large audience was standing round right inside the palace he stood up and listened with the others. When we begged him to rest on the imperial throne that was nearby, he would not do so, but made a shrewdly considered critique of the speech and affirmed the truth of its doctrinal theology. (2) Since it took a long time and the speech still continued, we suggested breaking off; he however would not allow it, but urged us to go on to the end. When we asked him to sit, he kept refusing, saying at one time that when the doctrine of God was being discussed, it was wrong for him to relax while he listened, and at another that it was good and beneficial for him to stand: it was a holy thing to listen to divinity standing up. When this, too, came to an end, we returned home and took up our regular business.
Was this article helpful?