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A Short Introduction to Constantine the Great

30 pages27 minutes


One of the links in the history of civilization is the reign of Constantine, not unworthily called the Great, since it would be difficult to find a greater than he among the Roman emperors, after Julius Caesar, while his labors were by far more beneficent. A new era began with his illustrious reign,--the triumph of Christianity as the established religion of the crumbling Empire. Under his enlightened protection the Church, persecuted from the time of Nero, and never fashionable or popular, or even powerful as an institution, arose triumphant, defiant, almost militant, with new passions and interests; ambitious, full of enthusiasm, and with unbounded hope,--a great spiritual power, whose authority even princes and nobles were at last unable to withstand. No longer did the Christians live in catacombs and hiding-places; no longer did they sing their mournful songs over the bleeding and burning bodies of the saints, but arose in the majesty of a new and irresistible power,--temporal as well as spiritual,--breathing vengeance on ancient foes, grasping great dignities, seizing the revenues of princes, and proclaiming the sovereignty of their invisible King. In defence of their own doctrines they became fierce, arrogant, dogmatic, contentious,--not with sword in one hand and crucifix in the other, like the warlike popes and bishops of mediaeval Europe, but with intense theological hatreds, and austere contempt of those luxuries and pleasures which had demoralized society...

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