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Christianity, which henceforth became the religion of the empire. The story of the miraculous cross, which is said to have appeared to him in the air, and to have wrought his conversion, would leave less room for doubt, respecting the Emperor's sincerity, had he previously shewn any indication of religious principles whatever, or had his subsequent life and conduct accorded with those of the religion he embraced; neither of which was the case. It appears most probable that policy urged him to embrace a religion, which experience had proved that force could not suppress.
A. D. 312 to 400.-It is customary with commentators on the Apocalypse, to date the period of the church's prosperity, from the commencement of the fourth century, when Pagan persecution ceased; but it is only in regard to worldly splendour, that ecclesiastical history will justify this representation. For the purity of religion, and the prosperity of the church bore no relation to each other in their progress. On the contrary, as one advanced, the other receded; and if before this period the clergy had ceased to set the example of Christian meekness and piety, it is from this time that their conduct became decidedly antichristian. For it would seem as if the last restraint upon impiety and immorality were withdrawn, when persecution ceased, and the road to wealth and honor
was thrown open to them. Besides which, the corruptions that flowed from the nominal advancement of Christianity to the imperial throne were such, that the Christians may rather be said to have relapsed into heathenism, than the Pagans to have become Christians.
If prior to this period the heat of sectarean animosity had impaired the feeling of charity and brotherly love amongst the followers of Jesus, their hatred of each other is henceforward described as 'exceeding the fury of wild beasts against men.'In the feuds of Christian bishops contending for power and supremacy, slaughter and bloodshed became frequent and familiar. Thousands of Christians perished by the hands of each other in the Donatist faction, which originated in a contest for worldly power. But the hatred excited by religious animosity for the most trifling disagreement in the articles of belief, utterly extinguished every feeling of humanity. Burning alive, a practice introduced by the first Christian Emperor, became shortly after the common punishment for those who were termed heretics. In the reign of Valens, no less than eighty ecclesiastics, as related by the historian Socrates, were at one time conveyed on board a ship, which was then set on fire, and they were all inhumanly burnt to death.
The persecution of the Pagans does not, indeed, furnish a list of martyrs like that of the Christians, for this obvious reason, that the Pagans had no taste for martyrdom, and readily embraced the alterna
tive offered to them. There is not, I think,' says Dr. Jortin, one Pagan on record, who died a martyr for his religion in those days.' Vol. 3. P. 242. But it must not be supposed that Christian forbearance was the cause of this, for the practice, which they had so loudly condemned when themselves were the sufferers, they soon learned to retort upon their Pagan persecutors. Little indeed, has been said by Christian writers on this topic; but the Theodosian Code, as Dr. Jortin remarks, stands a shameful monument of this Antichristian spirit. By this code, if a sacrifice was offered up in a private place with the knowledge of the owner, the place was to be confiscated. If not, twentyfive pounds weight of gold were to be paid, and the penalty was the same for a sacrifice offered in a temple. If any one consulted the entrails of a victim, to discover future events, it was high treason.' In the pillage and demolition of the temples, monks were the dragoons usually employed. The Jews too, were no less the objects of persecution than the Pagans; but however severe the laws were against them, Dr. Jortin declares,' that it was safer in the fourth and fifth centuries, to be a Jew or a Pagan, than to be a heretic or schismatic, or a Christian of this or that denomination.' Vol. 3. P. 377.
For the state of learning and morality in those days we have the following indubitable testimony. Among all the fathers of the fourth century, there was not in the opinion of Le Clerc, a worthier man than Gregory Nazianzen; and a part of the testi
mony which he has left us of the spirit of his own times is as follows. He declares that the pulpits were filled with illiterate pastors, with mere boys, with imitators of the Scribes and Pharisees; that there was no such thing as charity among them, but only acrimony and wrath; that their religion consisted in condemning the irreligion of others, whose behaviour they watched, not to reform, but to defame them; that they blamed or praised persons, not for their good or bad lives, but according to the party to which they belonged, admiring in one, what they reviled in another.'
Gregory, of Nyssa, went to Jerusalem, to try whether he could pacify the quarrels there amongst the Christians. He tells us, that instead of finding the virtues which might have been expected from the inhabitants of the holy land, he found the place to be a sink of iniquity and debauchery, the seat of envy, malice, adultery, robbery, murder, idolatry, poisoning, and bloodshed, where men assassinated others for a trifling reward, so that in no place were murders so frequently, and so easily committed.'
Such were the Christians of Jerusalem, in the fourth century, a century so abundant in saints and miracles.'-Jortin, V. 4. P. 69.
The enormities committed by both parties during the Donatist faction, which broke out in this, and prevailed through a great part of the next century, and which presents the first example of open war and bloodshed in support of the pretensions of a
Christian bishop, strongly display the unchristian spirit of the times. This quarrel, which involved the whole African church, did not arise from religious difference, but from the charge of turpitude, brought by the Donatists against those churches, which had given up their sacred books, under the Dioclesian persecution, and from their own claim to pre-eminence, on the score of superior sanctity. The Circumcelliones, a desperate band of ruffians, who, according to Mosheim, may be considered as the soldiers of the Donatists, supported their cause by assassinations and massacres, and filled the province of Africa with slaughter and rapine; until Macarius, sent against them by Constantine, checked their career, and defeated them at the battle of Bagnia. The enormities of the Circumcelliones were indeed condemned by most of the Donatists, while the measures pursued against themselves were not reconcileable with the dictates of humanity or justice,
From the view which has been taken of this age, it need not excite surprise if the prophetic historian regard it in a different light from those who can see only prosperity in the church.
We must not, however, conclude that the character which has been drawn belonged to all without exception. Many individuals there were, no doubt, who had imbibed the true spirit of Christianity; and the same period which allowed the nominal Christian to indulge without restraint, his worldly propensities, under the cloak of religion,