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severity and indulgence; and as the former was
rendered still more odious by the example of Ga-
lerius, his implacable enemy, the latter was re-
commended to his imitation by the authority and
advice of a dying father. The son of Constan-
tius immediately suspended or repealed the edićts
of persecution, and granted the free exercise of
their religious ceremonies to all those who had al-
ready professed themselves members of the church.
They were soon encouraged to depend on the
favour as well as on the justice of their sovereign,
who had imbibed a secret and sincere reverence
for the name of Christ, and for the God of the
Christians “.
About five months after the conquest of Italy,
the emperor made a solemn and authentic decla-
ration of his sentiments, by the celebrated edićt
of Milan, which restored peace to the Catholic
church. In the personal interview of the two
western princes, Constantine, by the ascendant
of genius and power, obtained the ready concur-
rence of his colleague Licinius ; the union of
their names and authority disarmed the fury of
Maximin ; and, after the death of the tyrant of
the East, the edićt of Milan was received as a ge-
neral and fundamental law of the Roman world”.

A.D. 313.
Edićt of

original; and the aged emperor might recolle& the persecution of
Diocletian with a more lively abhorrence than he had ačtually felt
in the davs of his youth and Paganism.
14 see Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 1. viii. 13. l. ix. 9. and in Vit. Conso.
1. i. c. 16, 17. Laëtant. Divin. Institut. i. 1. Caecilius de Mort-
Persecut. c. 25.
is Caecilius (de Mort. Persecut, c. 48.) has preserved the Latin
original; and Eusebius (Hiss. Eccles. 1. x, c. 5.) has given a Greek

The wisdom of the emperors provided for the c H A P.

restitution of all the civil and religious rights, of which the Christians had been so unjustly deprived. It was enacted, that the places of worship, and public lands, which had been confiscated, should be restored to the church, without dispute, without delay, and without expence: and this severe injunction was accompanied with a gracious promise, that if any of the purchasers had paid a fair and adequate price, they should be indemnified from the Imperial treasury. The salutary regulations which guard the future tranquillity of the faithful, are framed on the principles of enlarged and equal toleration; and such an equality must have been interpreted by a recent sect as an advantageous and honourable distinčtion. The two emperors proclaim to the world, that they have granted a free and absolute power to the Chris. tians, and to all others, of following the religion which each dividual thinks proper to prefer, to which he has addićted his mind, and which he may deem the best adapted to his own use. They carefully explain every ambiguous word, remove every exception, and exact from the governors of the provinces a strićt obedience to the true and fimple meaning of an edićt, which was designed to establish and secure, without any limitation, the claims of religious liberty. They condescend to assign two weighty reasons which have induced them to allow this universal toleration: the humane intention of consulting the peace and haptranslation of this perpetual ediè, which refers to some Provisional


R 3 piness

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c H A P. piness of their people; and the pious hope, that, xx. by such a condućt, they shall appease and proSTT pitiate the Deity, whose seat is in heaven. They gratefully acknowledge the many signal proofs which they have received of the divine favour; and they trust that the same Providence will for ever continue to protećt the prosperity of the prince and people. From these vague and indefinite expressions of piety, three suppositions may be deduced, of a different, but not of an incompatible, nature. The mind of Constantine might flučtuate between the Pagan and the Christian religions. According to the loose and complying notions of Polytheism, he might acknowledge the God of the Christians as one of the many deities who composed the hierarchy of heaven. Or perhaps he might embrace the philosophic and pleas. ing idea, that, notwithstanding the variety of names, of rites, and of opinions, all the sects and all the nations of mankind are united in the worship of the common Father and Creator of the universe”. Use and But the councils of princes are more frequently beauty of . e ãocija. influenced by views of temporal advantage, than o: by confiderations of abstraćt and speculative truth. The partial and increasing favour of Constantine may naturally be referred to the esteem which he entertained for the moral chara&ter of the Christians; and to a persuasion, that the propagation of the gospel would inculcate the practice of private and public virtue. . Whatever latitude an absolute monarch may assume in his own condućt, whatever indulgence he may claim for his own passions, it is undoubtedly his interest that all his subječts should respect the natural and civil obligations of society. But the operation of the wisest laws is imperfect and precarious. They seldom inspire virtue, they cannot always restrain vice. Their power is insufficient to prohibit all that they condemn, nor can they always punish the actions which they prohibit. The legislators of antiquity had summoned to their aid the powers of education and of opinion. But every principle which had once maintained the vigour and purity of Rome and Sparta, was long since extinguished in a declining and despotic empire. Philosophy still exercised her temperate sway over the human mind, but the cause of virtue derived very feeble support from the influence of the Pagan superstition. Under these discouraging circumstances, a prudent magistrate might observe with pleasure the progress of a religion, which diffused among the people a pure, benevolent, and universal system of ethics, adapted to every duty and every condition of life; recommended as the will and reason of the Supreme Deity, and enforced by the 'sančtion of eternal rewards or punishments. The experience of Greek and Roman history could not inform the world how far the system of national

* A panegyric of Constantine, pronounced seven or eight months after the edićt of Milan (see Gothofred. Chronolog. Legum, p.7. and Tillemont, Hist. des Empereurs, tom. iv. p. 246.), uses the following remaikable expression; ” Summe rerum sator, cujus tot “ nomina sunt, quot linguas gentium esse voluisti, quem enim te “ ipse dici velis, fcire mon possumus.” Panegyr. Vet. ix. 26. In explaining Constantine's progress in the faith, Mosheim (p. 971, &c.)

is ingenious, subtle, prolix. - may

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17 See the elegant description of Laëtantius (Divin. Institut. v. 8.) who is much more perspicuous and positive than it becomes a discreet prophet. *8. The political system of the Christians is explained by Grotius, de Jure Belli et Pacis, l. i. c. 3, 4. Grotius was a republican and an exile; but the mildness of his temper inclined him to support the established powers, 7 : son

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