THAT HE DESCRIBED HIMSELF TO BE A BISHOP,
IN CHARGE OF AFFAIRS EXTERNAL TO THE CHURCH.
HENCE it was not without reason that once, on the occasion of his
entertaining a company of bishops, he let fall the expression, that he
himself too was a bishop, addressing them in my heating in the following
words: You are bishops whose jurisdiction is within the Church: I also
am a bishop, ordained by God to overlook whatever is external to the
Church. And truly his measures corresponded with his words; for he
watched over his subjects with an episcopal care, and exhorted them as far
as in him lay to follow a godly life..788
PROHIBITION OF SACRIFICES, OF MYSTIC RITES,
COMBATS OF GLADIATORS, ALSO THE LICENTIOUS WORSHIP
OF THE NILE.
CONSISTENTLY with this zeal he issued successive laws and ordinances,
forbidding any to offer sacrifice to idols, to consult diviners, to erect
images, or to pollute the cities with the sanguinary combats of gladiators.
And inasmuch as the Egyptians, especially those of Alexandria, had been
accustomed to honor their river through a priesthood composed of
effeminate men, a further law was passed commanding the extermination of
the whole class as vicious, that no one might thenceforward be found
tainted with the like impurity. And whereas the superstitious inhabitants
apprehended that the river would in consequence withhold its customary
flood, God himself showed his approval of the emperor's law by ordering
all things in a manner quite contrary to their expectation. For those who
had defiled the cities by their vicious conduct were indeed seen no more;
but the river, as if the country through which it flowed had been purified
to receive it,rose higher than ever before, and completely overflowed the
country with its fertilizing streams: thus effectually admonishing the
deluded people to turn from impure men, and ascribe their prosperity to
him alone who is the Giver of all good.
AMONG OTHER ENACTMENTS, HE DECREES THAT NO
CHRISTIAN SHALL SLAVE TO A JEW, AND AFFIRMS THE
VALIDITY OF THE DECISIONS OF COUNCILS.
HE also passed a law to the effect that no Christian should remain in
servitude to a Jewish master, on the ground that it could not be right that..790
those whom the Savior had ransomed should be subjected to the yoke of
slavery by a people who had slain the prophets and the Lord himself. If
any were found hereafter in these circumstances, the slave was to be set at
liberty, and the master punished by a fine.
He likewise added the sanction of his authority to the decisions of bishops
passed at their synods, and forbade the provincial governors to annul any
of their decrees: for he rated the priests of God at a higher value than any
judge whatever. These and a thousand similar provisions did he enact for
the benefit of his subjects; but there is not time now to give a special
description of them, such as might convey an accurate idea of his imperial
wisdom in these respects: nor need I now relate at length, how, as a
devoted servant of the Supreme God, he employed himself from morning
until night in seeking objects for his beneficence, and how equally and
universally kind he was to all.
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HIS GIFTS TO THE CHURCHES, AND BOUNTIES
TO VIRGINS AND TO THE POOR.
HIS liberality, however, was most especially exercised on behalf of the
churches of God. In some cases he granted lands, in others he issued
supplies of food for the support of the poor, of orphan children, and
widows; besides which, he evinced much care and forethought in fully
providing the naked and destitute with clothing. He distinguished,
however, with most special honor those who had devoted their lives to the
practice of Divine philosophy. Hence his respect, little short of
veneration, for God's most holy and ever virgin choir: for he felt assured
that the God to whom such persons devoted themselves was himself an
inmate of their souls.
THAT HE WROTE TO EUSEBIUS RESPECTING EASTER,
AND RESPECTING COPIES OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
EVER careful for the welfare of the churches of God, the emperor addressed
me personally in a letter on the means of providing copies of the inspired
oracles, and also on the subject of the most holy feast of Easter. For I had
myself dedicated to him an exposition of the mystical import of that feast;
and the manner in which he honored me with a reply may be understood
by any one who reads the following letter.
CONSTANTINE'S LETTER TO EUSEBIUS, IN PRAISE OF HIS
DISCOURSE CONCERNING EASTER.
VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS, to Eusebius.
It is indeed an arduous task, and beyond the power of language itself,
worthily to treat of the mysteries of Christ, and to explain in a fitting
manner the controversy respecting the feast of Easter, its origin as well as
its precious and toilsome accomplishment. For it is not in the power even
of those who are able to apprehend them, adequately to describe the things
of God. I am, notwithstanding, filled with admiration of your learning and
zeal, and have not only myself read your work with pleasure, but have
given directions, according to your own desire, that it be communicated to
many sincere followers of our holy religion. Seeing, then, with what
pleasure we receive favors of this kind from your Sagacity, be pleased to
gladden us more frequently with those compositions, to the practice of
which, indeed, you confess yourself to have been trained from an early
period, so that I am urging a willing man, as they say, in exhorting you to
your customary pursuits. And certainly the high and confident judgment
we entertain is a proof that the person who has translated your writings
into the Latin tongue is in no respect incompetent to the task, impossible
though it be that such version should fully equal the excellence of the
works themselves. God preserve you, beloved brother. Such was his.795
letter on this subject: and that which related to the providing of copies of
the Scriptures for reading in the churches was to the following purport.
CONSTANTINE'S LETTER TO EUSEBIUS ON THE
PREPARATION OF COPIES OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS, to Eusebius.
It happens, through the favoring providence of God our Savior, that great
numbers have united themselves to the most holy church in the city which
is called by my name. It seems, therefore, highly requisite, since that city
is rapidly advancing in prosperity in all other respects, that the number of
churches should also he increased. Do you, therefore, receive with all
readiness my determination on this behalf. I have thought it expedient to
instruct your Prudence to order fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the
provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the
instruction of the Church, to be written on prepared parchment in a legible
manner, and in a convenient, portable form, by professional transcribers
thoroughly practiced in their art. The catholicus of the diocese has also
received instructions by letter from our Clemency to be careful to furnish
all things necessary for the preparation of such copies; and it will be for
you to take special care that they be completed with as little delay as
possible. You have authority also, in virtue of this letter, to use two of the
public carriages for their conveyance, by which arrangement the copies
when fairly written will most easily be forwarded for my personal
inspection; and one of the deacons of your church may be intrusted with
this service, who, on his arrival here, shall experience my liberality. God
preserve you, beloved brother!...796
HOW THE COPIES WERE PROVIDED.
SUCH were the emperor's commands, which were followed by the
immediate execution of the work itself, which we sent him in magnificent
and elaborately bound volumes of a threefold and fourfold form. This fact
is attested by another letter, which the emperor wrote in acknowledgment,
in which, having heard that the city Constantia in our country, the
inhabitants of which had been more than commonly devoted to
superstition, had been impelled by a sense of religion to abandon their past
idolatry, he testified his joy, and approval of their conduct.