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The Life Of The Blessed Emperor Constantine -Eusebius Pamphilus

WHOEVER, then, has pursued a course unworthy of a life of virtue, and is conscious of having spent his days in trespass and disorder, let him repent, and turn with enlightened spiritual vision to God; and let him abandon his past career of wickedness, content if he attain to wisdom even in his declining years. We, however, have received no aid from human instruction; nay, whatever graces of character are esteemed of good report by those who have understanding, are entirely the gift of God. And I am able to oppose no feeble buckler against the deadly weapons of Satan’s armoury; I mean the knowledge I possess of those things which are pleasing to Him: and of these I will select such as are appropriate to my present design, while I proceed to sing the praises of the Father of all. But do Thou, Anointed Saviour of mankind, be present to aid me in my hallowed task! Instruct me worthily to sound Thy praises, and Thyself direct the words which celebrate Thy virtues! And now, let no one expect to listen to the artificial graces of studied language: for well I know that the nerveless eloquence of those who speak to charm the ear, and whose aim is rather to secure applause than to preserve chaste propriety of style, is distasteful to hearers of sound judgment. It is asserted, then, by some profane and senseless persons, that Christ, whom we worship, was justly condemned to death, and that He who is the Author of life to all, was Himself deprived of life. That such an assertion should be made by those who have once dared to enter the paths of impiety, who have cast aside all fear, and all thought of concealing their own depravity, is not surprising. But it is beyond the bounds of folly itself that they should be able, as it seems, really to persuade themselves that the incorruptible God yielded to the violence of men, and not rather to that love alone which He bore to the human race: that they should fail to perceive that Divine dignity and forbearance is changed by no insult, is moved from its intrinsic steadfastness by no revilings; but is ever the same, breaking down and repelling, by the spirit of wisdom and true greatness, the savage fierceness of those who assail it. The gracious kindness of God had determined to abolish iniquity, and to exalt modesty and justice. Accordingly He gathered a company of the wisest among men, and ordained that most noble and useful form of doctrine, which is calculated to lead the good and blessed of mankind to an imitation of His own providential care. And what higher blessing can we speak of than this, that God should prescribe the way of righteousness, and make those who are counted worthy of His instruction like Himself; that goodness might be communicated to all classes of mankind, and eternal felicity be the result? This is the glorious victory: this the true power: this the mighty work, worthy of its Author, the reclaiming of all people to the path of virtue: and the glory of this triumph we joyfully ascribe to Thee, thou Saviour of all! But thou, vile and wretched Blasphemy, whose glory is in the rumours of calumny and falsehood; thy power is to deceive and prevail with the inexperience of youth, and with men who still retain the folly of youth. These thou seducest from the service of the true God, and settest up false idols as the objects of their worship and their prayers; and thus the reward of their folly awaits thy deluded victims: for Christ, who is God, and the Son of God, the Author of every blessing, is outraged by their slanderous invectives. Is not the worship of the best and wisest of the nations of this world worthily directed to that God, who, while possessing boundless power, remains immoveably true to His own purpose, and retains undiminished His characteristic kindness and love to man? Away, then, ye impious (for still ye may while vengeance on your transgressions is yet withheld); begone to your sacrifices, your feasts, your scenes of revelry and riot, wherein, under the semblance of religion, your hearts are devoted to profligate enjoyment, and yourselves are the willing slaves of your own pleasures. No knowledge have ye of any good, nor even of the first commandment of the mighty God, who both declares His will to man, and gives commission to His Son to direct the course of human life, that they who have passed a career of virtue and self-control may obtain (according to the judgment of that Son) a second, yea, a blessed and happy existence. I have now declared the decree of God respecting the life which He prescribes to man, neither ignorantly, as many have done, nor resting on the ground of opinion or conjecture. But it may be that some will ask, Whence this title of Son? Whence this generation of which we speak, if God be indeed only One, and incapable of union with another? We are, however, to consider generation as of two kinds; one in the way of natural birth, which is known to all; the other, that which is the effect of an eternal cause, the mode of which is seen by the prescience of God, and by those among men whom He loves. For he who is wise will recognize the cause which regulates the harmony of creation. Since, then, nothing exists without a cause, of necessity the cause of existing substances preceded their existence. But since the world and all things that it contains exist, and are preserved, their preserver must have had a prior existence: so that Christ is the cause of all things that exist, and their preservation the effect of their existence: even as the Father is the cause of the Son, and the Son the effect of that cause. Enough, then, has been said to prove His priority of existence. But how do we explain His descent to this earth, His condescension to the society of men? The motive of His advent (as the prophets had foretold), originated in His watchful care for the interests of all: for it needs must be that the Creator should care for His own works. But when the time came for Him to assume a terrestrial body, and to sojourn on this earth, He devised for Himself a new mode of birth. Conception was there, yet apart from marriage: childbirth, yet pure virginity: and a maiden became the mother of God! An eternal nature received a beginning of temporal existence: a sensible form of a spiritual essence, a material manifestation of incorporeal brightness, appeared. Alike wondrous were the circumstances which attended this great event. A radiant dove (like that which flew from the ark of Noah) alighted on the Virgin’s bosom: and accordant with this impalpable union, purer than chastity, more guileless than innocence itself, were the results which followed. From infancy possessing the wisdom of God; received with reverential awe by the Jordan, in whose waters He was baptized; gifted with that royal unction, the spirit of universal intelligence; with knowledge and power to perform wondrous works, and to heal diseases beyond the reach of human art; He yielded a swift and unhindered assent to the prayers of men, to whose welfare, indeed, His whole life was devoted without reserve. His doctrines instilled, not prudence only, but real wisdom: His hearers were instructed, not in the mere social virtues, but in the ways which conduct to the spiritual world; and devoted themselves to the contemplation of immutable and eternal things, and the knowledge of the Supreme Father. The benefits which He bestowed were no common blessings: for blindness, the gift of sight; for helpless weakness, the vigour of health; in the place of death, restored and renovated life. I dwell not on that lavish provision in the wilderness, whereby a scanty measure of food became a complete and enduring supply for the wants of a mighty multitude. Thus do we render thanks to Thee according to our feeble power, our God and Saviour, Christ; supreme Providence of the mighty Father, who both savest us from evil, and impartest to us Thy most blessed doctrine: thus we essay, not indeed to celebrate Thy praise, but to speak the language of thanksgiving. For what mortal is he who shall worthily declare Thy praise, of whom we learn that Thou didst from nothing call creation into being, and illumine it with Thy light; that Thou didst regulate the confusion of the elements by the laws of harmony and order? But chiefly we mark Thy loving-kindness, in that Thou hast caused those whose hearts inclined to Thee to desire earnestly a divine and blessed life, and hast provided that, like merchants of true blessings, they might impart to many others the wisdom and happiness they had received; themselves, meanwhile, reaping the everlasting fruit of virtue. Freed from the trammels of vice, and imbued with the love of their fellow-men, they keep mercy ever before their eyes, and realize in hope the promises of faith; devoted to modesty, and all those virtues which the past career of human life had thrown aside, but which were now restored by Him whose providence is over all. No other power could be found to devise a remedy for such evils, and for that spirit of injustice which had heretofore asserted its dominion over the race of men. The provident care of Christ, however, could reach the circumstances even here, and with ease restored whatever had been disordered by violence and the licentiousness of human passion. And this restoring power He exercised without concealment or reserve. For He knew that, though there were some whose thoughts were able to recognize and understand His power, others there were whose brutish and senseless nature led them to rely exclusively on the testimony of their own senses. In open day, therefore, that no one, whether good or evil, might find room for doubt, He manifested His blessed and wondrous healing power; restoring the dead a second time to life, and renewing with a word the powers of those who had been bereft of bodily sense. Can we, in short, suppose, that to render the sea firm as the solid ground, to still the raging of the storm, and finally to ascend to heaven, after turning the unbelief of men to steadfast faith by the performance of these wondrous acts, demanded less than almighty power, was less than the work of God? Nor was the time of His passion unaccompanied by like wonders: when the sun was darkened, and the shades of night obscured the light of day. Then terror every where seized the hearts of men, and the thought that the end of all things was already come, and that chaos, such as had been ere the order of creation began, would once more prevail. Then, too, the cause was sought of so terrible an evil, and in what respect the trespasses of men had provoked the wrath of Heaven; until God Himself, who surveyed with dignity and calm contempt the arrogance of the ungodly, renewed the face of heaven, and adorned it with the host of stars; the gloomy sadness of nature disappeared, and her pristine beauty was again restored.



Image or Constantine is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Attribution: I, Jean-Christophe Benoist





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