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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

THERE was an ancient Roman law by which those who were unmarried at the age of twenty-five were not admitted to the same privileges as the married; amongst other clauses in this law, it was specified that they were not to receive any bequests by testament, except from their own relatives; and also, that those who were childless, were to be deprived of half of any property that might be bequeathed to them. The object of this ancient Roman law was to increase the population of Rome and the provinces, which had been much reduced in numbers by the civil wars. The emperor, perceiving that this enactment militated against the interests of those who continued in a state of celibacy and remained childless for the sake of God, and deeming it absurd to attempt the multiplication of the human species by the care and zeal of man (nature always receiving increase or decrease according to the fiat from on high), made a law enjoining that the unmarried and childless should have the same advantages as the married. He even bestowed peculiar privileges on those who embraced a life of continence and virginity, and permitted them, contrary to the usage which prevailed throughout the Roman empire, to make a will before they attained the age of puberty; for he believed that those who devoted themselves to the service of God and the cultivation of philosophy would, in all cases, judge aright. For a similar reason the ancient Romans permitted the vestal virgins to make a will as soon as they attained the age of six years, and the emperor was even more influenced by this example than by his reverence for religion.

Constantine likewise enacted a law in favour of the clergy, permitting judgment to be passed by the bishops when litigants preferred appealing to them rather than to the secular court; he enacted that their decree should be valid, and as far superior to that of other judges as if pronounced by the emperor himself; that the governors and subordinate military officers should see to the execution of these decrees; and that sentence, when passed by them, should be irreversible.

Having arrived at this point of my history, it would not be right to omit all mention of the laws passed in favour of those individuals in the churches who had received their freedom. Owing to the strictness of the laws and the unwillingness of masters, there were many difficulties in the way of the acquisition of freedom, that is to say, of the freedom of the city of Rome; Constantine, therefore, made three laws, enacting, that all those individuals whose freedom should be attested by the priests, should receive the freedom of Rome. The records of these pious regulations are still extant, it having been the custom to engrave on tablets all laws relating to manumission. Such were the enactments of Constantine; in every thing he sought to promote the honour of religion: and religion was valued, not only for its own sake, but also on account of the virtue of those who then professed it.








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