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thas is "ennobled also by the virgin's fillet." And Constantine " distinguished with most special honor those who had devoted their lives to the practice of" celibacy, which to our Romanizing author, is "divine philosophy. This he does out of a respect little short of veneration for God's most holy and ever virgin guise."
Monasticism as well as celibacy " belongs to the discipline of the gospel." Persons "under the influence of an inspired and ardent faith instituted this mode of life in imitation of the ancient prophets." Women devoted themselves to celibacy "by a voluntary determination in consequence of that zealous desire of wisdom, in the earnest prosecution of which they disregarded the pleasures of the body." "Philo, when he made these statements, had in view the first heralds of the gospel, and the original practices handed down from the apostles."1
The power of baptism to purify from sin, and baptismal regeneration, are clearly taught by Eusebius. The lapsed are purified "by baptism." They are "washed and purified from the filth of their old and impure leaven." Baptism is the "seal of immortality," which Constantine delayed for the close of life, that his soul might return to God washed from every sin. "Being at length convinced that his life was drawing to a close, he felt that the time was come at which he should seek to expiate the errors of his past career, firmly believing that, whatever sins he had committed as a mortal man, his soul would be purified from them through the efficacy of the mysterious words and the salutary waters of baptism." He " had thought to do this in the waters of the river Jordan, wherein our Saviour, for our example, is recorded to have been baptized." But God having otherwise ordered, he was baptized at Nicomedia, " the first of all sovereigns, who was regenerated and perfected in a church dedicated to the martyrs of Christ." Thus "renewed, filled with heavenly light," he "rejoiced in spirit," and said: "Now I know that I am truly blessed. Now I feel assured that
i Lib. II. c. 17.
I am accounted worthy of immortality, and made a partaker of divine light." i
A penitent heretic entreated Dionysius of Alexandria, "that he might have the benefit of this most perfect* cleansing, reception and grace; which indeed," he adds, " I did. not dare to do, saying that his lay communion was sufficient for this: For one who had been in the habit of hearing thanksgiving, and repeating the amen, and standing and extending his hand to receive the sacred elements, and after viewing and becoming a partaker of the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour, Christ, for a long time, I would dare to renew again and further."a
Confirmation, as the means of imparting the Holy Spirit, is another prelatical assumption distinctly recognized by the same authority. Dionysius in exposing the impiety of Novatus in claiming the episcopate, alleges that "he was not sealed (in confirmation) by the bishop," and then adds: "But as he did not obtain this, how could he obtain the Holy Spirit? This mysterious grace, the power of receiving and imparting the Holy Spirit of God, is conferred by the laying on the hands of the bishop in confirmation."3
Absolution is another efficacious grace of the sacraments. Even a morsel of sacramental bread absolves Serapion, a dying penitent. After remaining three days speechless, on the fourth he recovers a little, and says to his grandchild: "O son, how long do you detain me? I beseech you, hasten, and quickly absolve me. Call one of the presbyters to me." He immediately becomes again speechless. It was night, and the presbyter was sick. But the bishop " gave the boy a small portion of the eucharist, telling him to dip it in water and to drop it in the mouth of the old man. The boy returned with the morsel. When he came near, before he entered, Serapion having recovered himself, said: 'Thou
hast come, my son, but the presbyter could not come. But do thou quickly perform what thou art commanded, and dismiss me.' The boy moistened the bread and at the same time dropped it in the old man's mouth. And he, having swallowed a little, immediately expired. Was he not, then, evidently preserved, and did he not continue living until he was absolved; and his sins being wiped away, he could be acknowledged as a believer for the many good acts he had done?"' No doubt! a miraculous restoration, a resuscitation and revelation from heaven to prepare the way for a perfect absolution by a morsel of the eucharist. All 1his, gravely recorded as historic truth, is hardly exceeded by the most extravagant legends of the papacy herself, and the lying impostures of her priesthood.
The credulity of Eusebius is utterly invincible. Nothing, however incredible, transcends his belief. The flames "form a wall like an oven around the body of Polycarp, unable to consume it," but give off a "fragrant odor like the fumes of incense, or some other precious aromatic drugs;" and when the executioner plunges his sword into the martyr, such a quantity of blood gushed forth that the fire is extinguished; when the body of Apphiunus, a noble youth of Cesarea, was cast into the sea, "suddenly a loud and uncommon crashing sound pervaded, not only the sea, but the whole surrounding heavens, so that the earth and the whole city was shaken by it; and, at the same time of this wonderful and sudden shaking, the body of the divine martyr was cast by the sea, before the gates of the city, as if unable to bear it." 2
Constantine received direct revelations from God. He was taught to conquer by " a cross of light in the heavens," which he saw about midday as he was engaged in prayer; he was minutely instructed by "the Christ of God" to make his famous Labarum, the standard of the cross by which he won his conquests. Fifty men of " his body guard who were most distinguished for personal strength, valor
and piety," were detailed for the sole care of hi? standard; one "who bore the standard, in an agony of fenr," resigned it on a certain occasion to another, and immediately fell dead upon the spot, pierced by a d;irt from the enemy; but the standard bearer, though he was assailed by a continued shower of darls, remained unhurt, the staff of the standard receiving every weapon!" It was indeed "a truly marvellous circumstance " which might task the credulity even of Euscbius himself, had he not received this and the other details of the cross and the Labarum on the word and oath of Constantine who related ihem in his hearing.1 Such are the fictions and falsehoods of the "blessed emperor," a pattern of piety, of faith, and prayer, and every grace, devised, no doubt, to invest with religious awe his sacred character, and his arms with a divine, resistless charm. We forbear to speak of other marvellous fictions and fables thickly strewn over the pages of Eusebius, which justly entitle him to the unhonored distinction of Father of the legendary superstition of papal Rome.
The exaggerated representations and distorted features which our historian every where gives of events and characters sadly detract from his merits, and often leave us in total uncertainty respecting the truth of his narrative. Licinius, whom Constantine honored with an "illustrious marriage" with his favorite sister, is like the most gracious emperor himself" in "great esteem for moderation and piety. These two pious rulers had been excited by God, the universal sovereign, against the two most profane tyrants," Maxentius and Maximin.
This same Licinius, when a little later at war with Constantine, " being himself of a nature hopelessly debased by sensuality, and degraded by the continual practice of adultery and other shameless vices, assumed his own worthless character as a specimen of human nature generally, and denied that the virtue of chastity and continence existed
1 Life of Const. I. c. 28—30. II. c. 9.
among men."1 Was Licinius then a pattern of piety, or an example of shocking profligacy?
Constantine, the pious emperor of our worthy bishop, who labors for language adequately to set forth the exalted religious character of his sovereign; Constantine, this pattern of piety, "the meekest and gentlest and most benevolent of men," "whose character shone with all the graces of religion," was the murderer of "his most pious son, Crispus Caesar, resembling in all things his father;" he was the murderer of his own wife Fausta, " the daughter, wife, sister, and mother of so many princes." He put to death Maximian, his father-in-law, and Licinius, the husband of his sister, after having spared his life for a time by her entreaties. Several others, connected with the court of Constantine, are said to have fallen victims to his anger or his suspicion, among whom we may mention particularly the son of Licinius and Constantia, a youth of amiable manners and great promise. "The stern jealousy of Constantine was unmoved by the prayers and tears of his favorite sister pleading for the life of a son whose rank was his only crime, and whose loss she did not long survive." It is difficult to estimate the real character of Constantine. He was a bloody man, of mean and merciless jealousy; and if at heart a Christian, the bloodiest of all the saints above we must believe, who " have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
But his panegyrist, in contemplating the state of the deceased emperor, loses sight of the sober dignity of the historian in this most extraordinary rhapsody. "When I raise my thoughts even to the arch of Heaven, and there contemplate his thrice blessed soul in communion with God Himself, freed from any mortal and earthy vesture, and shining in a refulgent robe of light; and when I perceive that it is no more connected with the fleeting periods and occupations of mortal life, but honored with an ever-blooming crown, and an immortality of endless and blessed existence:
1 Uisl. IX. c. 9. Life of Const. I. c. 52.