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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

AFTER this the emperor became increasingly attentive to the interests of Christianity, and turned with disgust from the heathen superstitions. He abolished the combats of the gladiators, and set up his own statues in the temples. And as the heathens affirmed that it was Serapis who brought up the Nile for the purpose of irrigating Egypt, because a cubit was usually carried into his temple, he directed Alexander to transfer the cubit to the church. It was then asserted that the Nile would not overflow because of the displeasure of Serapis; nevertheless there was an inundation in the following year, and has been every subsequent one: thus it was proved by fact that the rising of the Nile was not in consequence of their superstition, but by reason of the decrees of Providence. About the same time those barbarians the Sarmatians and Goths made incursions on the Roman territory; yet the emperor’s earnestness respecting the churches was by no means abated, but he made suitable provision for both these matters. Placing his confidence in the Christian banner, he completely vanquished his enemies, so as even to cast off the tribute of gold which preceding emperors were accustomed to pay the barbarians: while they themselves, being terror-struck at their unexpected defeat, then for the first time embraced the Christian religion, by means of which Constantine had been protected. Again he built other churches, one of which was erected near the Oak of Mamre, under which the sacred oracles declare that Abraham entertained angels. For the emperor having been informed that altars had been reared under that oak, and that pagan sacrifices were performed there, severely censured by letter Eusebius bishop of Cæsarea, and ordered that the altars should be demolished, and a house of prayer erected beside the oak. He also directed that another church should be constructed in Heliopolis in Phoenicia, for this reason. Who originally legislated for the inhabitants of this city I am unable to state, but his character and morals may be judged of from the practice of that city; for the laws of the country ordered the women among them to be. common, and therefore the children born there were of doubtful descent, so that there was no distinction of fathers and their offspring. Their virgins also were presented for prostitution to the strangers who resorted thither. The emperor undertook the correction of these impure and disgraceful customs which had long prevailed among them, by the establishment of a solemn law of chastity, which provided for the mutual recognition of families: and when churches had been built there, he took care that a bishop and sacred clergy should be ordained, by whose means the corrupt manners of the people of Heliopolis might be reformed. He likewise demolished the temple of Venus at Aphaca on Mount Libanus, and abolished the obscene mysteries which were there celebrated. Why need I describe his expulsion of the Pythonic demon from Cilicia, by commanding the mansion in which he was lurking to be razed from its foundations? So great was the emperor’s devotion to Christianity, that when he was about to enter on a war with Persia, he prepared a tabernacle formed of embroidered linen on the model of a church, just as Moses had done in the wilderness; and this he adapted to conveyance from place to place, in order that he might have a house of prayer even in the most desert regions. But the war was suppressed at that time, being prevented through dread of the emperor. It would, I conceive, be out of place here to describe the emperor’s diligence in rebuilding cities and converting many villages into cities; as for example Drepane, to which he gave his mother’s name, and Constantia in Palestine, so called from his sister: for my purpose is to confine my narration of the emperor’s actions chiefly to such as are connected with Christianity, and especially those which relate to the churches. Wherefore I leave to others more competent to detail such matters, the emperor’s glorious achievements, inasmuch as the belong to a different subject, and require a distinct treatise. But I myself should have been silent, if the church had remained undisturbed by divisions: for where the subject does not supply matter for relation, there is no necessity for a narrator. Since however the apostolic faith of Christianity has been disturbed and at the same time frittered away by a vain and subtile mode of disputation, I thought it desirable to record these things, in order that the transactions of the churches might not be lost in obscurity. Accurate information on these points, while it procures celebrity among the many, renders him who is acquainted with them more secure from error, and instructs him not to be agitated by any empty sound of sophistical argumentation which he may chance to hear.








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