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age it was the boast of the apologists, that Christianity was spread every way among the Indians, Mauritanians, Getulians, Spaniards, and Britons; among the Sarmatians, the Daci, the Germans, and the Scythians. But that which appears most of all miraculous in the propagation of Christianity, is, that it was carried on through all these primitive stages, with all the meekness and tranquility of its own doctrine, without the least force, without the least sedition or tumult, and with no other authority, than merely a gentle influence upon men's minds, and an unconstrained conviction of their understandings.

LET

LETTER XCV.

IN leading you through this long chain of investigation, I have often been obliged to pause and reflect, lest, in turning to the right or to the left, I should have rendered things obscure, by the winding and intricate path which I have often unavoidably been forced to pursue. The navigation in which we are engaged is too much obstructed by impediments, to permit us to proceed in a direct course.

The public establishment of Christianity at present bespeaks our consideration; and it may well be considered as one of those important and extraordinary revolutions, which excite the most lively curiosity, and afford the most valuable instruction. The victories, and the civil policy of Constantine the Great, who first gave it an authoritative footing in the empire of the Romans, no longer influence the state of Europe; but a considerable portion of the globe still retains, and

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and the rest progressively will partake of, the impression received from the conversion of that monarch. The ecclesiastical institutions of his reign are still connected by an indissoluble chain with the opinions, the passions, and the interests of the present generation.

Constantius, the father, ended his life in the imperial palace of York; and his son was elevated to the purple, by the soldiers in Britain, 25th July, 306. Two years after this, the Roman world was, for the first time, administered by six emperors: but what marks the period with the highest splendor, was the general adoption of the Christian faith. The British legions gave a sovereign, and what was still more important, gave the first Christian emperor to the world.

Constantine substituted the cross for the eagle, and ordered it to be borne on all shields: and his veneration for that symbol led him to abolish one of the most detestable species of execution, that ever was intoduced, crucifixion. Though it had subsisted from the earliest periods of antiquity, he prohibited it throughout the earth; for such, almost,

was

* Eusebius,

"Supplicium

was the limits of his sway. crucis, quod primitus erat apud Romanos in usu, lege prohibuit."* Much, however, has been insinuated concerning the policy of Con-stantine, in manifesting so suddenly a predilection for the cross to this he is said to have owed his nomination to the crown, and by it to have gained the successful issue of his struggles with his competitors.

The circumstances, respecting the cross which is recorded to have appeared to Constantine, are thus briefly related. While he was praying to the God of his father, and supplicating aid in his difficulties (then being on his march against Maxentius) and desiring that this unknown God would make himself known to him, there suddenly appeared a luminous figure of a cross, fixed upon the declining sun, visible not only to himself, but to all the soldiers who were with him, with this inscription, raw vínx, “By this, conquer." Being astonished at this extraordinary appearance, and not knowing what to make of it, the night following Christ appeared to him in a dream, with the very same sign he had seen in the heavens, ordering him to make a military standard like it, and assuring

him,

* Cassiodorus.

him, it would be his security in his battles. This cross was interpreted, by the Christians he consulted, to be the symbol of immortality, and the trophy of the victory which Christ, while he was on earth, had gained over death.

This story, however, although handed down to us, on the solemn asseveration of Constantine, and by a learned and illustrious prelate,* is not, I think, in all its parts to be implicitly credited. That Constantine and others might have seen a natural Parbelion, which sometimes has the appearance of a of a cross, is not at all improbable; or that fancy, or political ingenuity, might have traced out the Greek word of battle, Neither is it improbable, that he might have dreamed, as he related; for his mind was in great anxiety, and he looked up with eagerness for protection to the unknown God of his father, But I must think it in the highest degree improbable, that the founder of so peaceable a religion as the Christian, who solemnly declared, his kingdom was not of this world, and who expressly forbade his servants to fight for him, should in this manner put himself at the head of

an

• Eusebius.

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