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magistrate and the minister, which in these days is a question that agitates society under the designation of the connection between the Church and State, is of heathen, and not of Christian origin. Gibbon was an unbeliever in the truth of Christianity, and his evidence may therefore be considered impartial as between the various sects of that religion. “ It was long since established, as a fundamental maxim of the Roman constitution, that every rank of citizens was alike subject to the laws, and that the care of religion was the right as well as the duty of the civil magistrate. Constantine and his successors could not easily persuade themselves that they had forfeited, by their conversion, any branch of the imperial prerogative, or that they were incapable of giving laws to a religion which they had protected and embraced. The emperors still continued to exercise a supreme jurisdiction over the ecclesiastical order. The distinction of the spiritual and temporal powers was introduced and confirmed by the legal establishment of Christianity.” The difficulty has always been to mark out the line of separation between the spiritual and temporal powers, but in the time of Constantine, after the celestial vision, " the terrors of a military force silenced the faint and unsupported murmurs of the Pagans, and there was reason to expect that the cheerful submission of the Christian clergy, as well as people, would be the result of conscience and gratitude."*
That vision, real or illusive, was the authority for Constantine to declare that he was appointed prince and sovereign by the will of God the Supreme Governor of the World, “and that he was the only one to whose elevation no mortal may boast of having con
* Gibbon's “Hist. of the Decline and Fall,” chap. xx.
tributed." He claimed possession of the imperial throne by “ Divine Right,” and consequently demanded that passive and unresisting obedience which bows under the yoke of authority, or even of oppression.
The duty of obedience to the civil power, whether under king or governor, is enjoined by the Holy Scriptures, and prayers for magistrates and rulers, and for all men, are required of Christians. But despotic sovereigns and their servile supporters, from the age of Constantine downwards, have endeavoured to confound right and wrong, to prevent the choice between good and bad, to level all distinctions of moral worth and intellectual power, to place in the same rank the knave and the man of integrity, and to reduce all men to a blind and unreflecting submission to authority under slavish fear of imprisonment or death.
That image of the cross, alleged to have been seen standing above the sun, has been regarded by most Protestants and sensible thinkers as some meteoric appearance, or an illusion of the imagination inflamed by the prospect of battle, and that it vanished away like the baseless fabric of a vision, and left no trace behind it. But in this there is a mistake, for it was
a fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight." It led to wars and conquest, and for fifteen hundred years has been one of the influences which has affected the social, military, and political condition of Europe, and of a great portion of the world.
* Eusebius's “Life of Constantine," chap. xxiv.
Description of the famous Standard of the Cross displayed by
Constantine.-It would appear from Eusebius's History that Constantine also invented the Crucifix as a substitute for the Heathen Idol of War.—The Bishops had to accompany the Army under the Standard of the Cross.
VENERATION for the figure of the cross gradually deepened in the minds of Christians, and at the beginning of the fourth century it had increased to a feeling verging to idolatrous. In the minds of vast numbers it would doubtless be regarded as a charm or amulet against dangers and calamities, and it would be set forth in opposition to the numberless contrivances of the Pagan priests and their followers to secure the favour of their gods, and to avert evil. It would thus naturally become the symbol or type of the Christian faith ; and Christians, mixed among the heathen population, would recognise each other by the silent but expressive sign of the cross made with the hand. Taking this view of it there was a positive utility and safeguard to Christians, in this salutary sign, surrounded by Pagans in distant parts of the empire.
Constantine informed his historian that the vision commanded him to rear the cross as a war standard under which to conquer his enemies; but he afterwards carried it further, and in another form set it up apparently as an object of idolatry. As we have said before, whatever doubts may be raised of the vision
itself, there can be no doubt of the standard of the cross and the other figures which were fashioned from it by the emperor. Eusebius describes both from his own observation. The standard of the cross, modelled under Constantine's own direction to be borne before him as a general and emperor, was made in the following
the standards for the army being of course less costly articles :-“A long spear, overlaid with gold, formed the figure of the cross by means of a piece transversely laid over it. On the top of the whole was fixed a crown, formed by the intertexture
gold and precious stones; and on this, two letters indicating the name of Christ symbolized the Saviour's title by means of its first characters, the letter P being intersected by X exactly in its centre; and these letters the emperor was in the habit of wearing on his helmet at a later period. From the transverse piece which crossed the spear was suspended a kind of stream of purple cloth covered with a profuse embroidery of most brilliant precious stones, and which, being also richly interlaced with gold, presented an indescribable degree of beauty to the beholder. The banner was of a square form, and the upright staff, which in its full extent was of great length, bore a golden half-length portrait of the pious emperor and his children on its upper part beneath the trophy of the cross, and immediately above the embroidered streamer.* The emperor constantly made use of this salutary sign as a safeguard against every adverse and
:-“Our army is
* Extract from a curious letter of Prester John to Alexius Comnenus, emperor in the thirteenth century :preceded by thirteen great crosses of gold and precious stones ; but when we ride out without state, a cross unadorned with figures, gold, or jewels, that we may be ever mindful of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Layard's Nineveh, vol. i. p. 251.
hostile power, and commanded that others similar to it should be carried at the head of all his armies."
A standard of such costly material and splendid appearance was better suited for the throne-room of the imperial palace than for the dust and slaughter of battle, and it is evident from the description that Constantine regarded the " salutary sign” with superstitious and idolatrous feelings. His subsequent treatment of the figure of the cross manifests still stronger those feelings. The inscription on his own statue, holding a cross, erected at Rome after his great victory over Maxentius, is as follows : “ By virtue of this salutary sign, which is the true symbol of valour, I have preserved and liberated your city from the yoke of tyranny. I have also set at liberty the Roman senate and people, and restored them to their ancient greatness and splendour." +
He caused a picture to be set up of himself and his children, with the cross placed above his head, and below it the form of a dragon, stricken through with a dart, and falling headlong into the sea. He placed the picture in front of the portico of his palace so as to be visible to all, and he applied to himself in that representation the fulfilment of one of the ancient prophecies. I
He displayed in the principal apartment of the imperial palace on a vast tablet the symbol of the Saviour's passion : " And this symbol the pious prince seemed to have intended to be as it were the safeguard of the empire itself." S From this remarkable expression of Eusebius it appears that Constantine regarded that symbol with feelings analogous to those
* Eusebius's “Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine," book. i. chap. xxxi. + Ibid., b. i. c. xl.
# Ibid., b. iii. c. iii. § Ibid., b. iii. c. xlix. p. 153.