Anf-01 ix.vii.xxv Pg 6 Now, that he spake these words, not in regard to angelical powers, nor of invisible rulers— as some venture to expound the passage—but of those of actual human authorities, [he shows when] he says, “For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, doing service for this very thing.”4659
Rom. xiii. 4.
Anf-02 vi.iii.i.ix Pg 57.1
Anf-03 iv.xi.xxxiii Pg 4 and which is an institute of religion when it severely avenges in defence of human life? When we contemplate, too, the penalties awarded to other crimes—gibbets, and holocausts, and sacks, and harpoons, and precipices—who would not think it better to receive his sentence in the courts of Pythagoras and Empedocles? For even the wretches whom they will send into the bodies of asses and mules to be punished by drudgery and slavery, how will they congratulate themselves on the mild labour of the mill and the water-wheel, when they recollect the mines, and the convict-gangs, and the public works, and even the prisons and black-holes, terrible in their idle, do-nothing routine? Then, again, in the case of those who, after a course of integrity, have surrendered their life to the Judge, I likewise look for rewards, but I rather discover punishments. To be sure, it must be a handsome gain for good men to be restored to life in any animals whatsoever! Homer, so dreamt Ennius, remembered that he was once a peacock; however, I cannot for my part believe poets, even when wide awake. A peacock, no doubt, is a very pretty bird, pluming itself, at will, on its splendid feathers; but then its wings do not make amends for its voice, which is harsh and unpleasant; and there is nothing that poets like better than a good song. His transformation, therefore, into a peacock was to Homer a penalty, not an honour. The world’s remuneration will bring him a much greater joy, when it lauds him as the father of the liberal sciences; and he will prefer the ornaments of his fame to the graces of his tail! But never mind! let poets migrate into peacocks, or into swans, if you like, especially as swans have a respectable voice: in what animal will you invest that righteous hero Æacus? In what beast will you clothe the chaste and excellent Dido? What bird shall fall to the lot of Patience? what animal to the lot of Holiness? what fish to that of Innocence? Now all creatures are the servants of man; all are his subjects, all his dependants. If by and by he is to become one of these creatures, he is by such a change debased and degraded, he to whom, for his virtues, images, statues, and titles are freely awarded as public honours and distinguished privileges, he to whom the senate and the people vote even sacrifices! Oh, what judicial sentences for gods to pronounce, as men’s recompense after death! They are more mendacious than any human judgments; they are contemptible as punishments, disgusting as rewards; such as the worst of men could never fear, nor the best desire; such indeed, as criminals will aspire to, rather than saints,—the former, that they may escape more speedily the world’s stern sentence,—the latter that they may more tardily incur it. How well, (forsooth), O ye philosophers do you teach us, and how usefully do you advise us, that after death rewards and punishments fall with lighter weight! whereas, if any judgment awaits souls at all, it ought rather to be supposed that it will be heavier at the conclusion of life than in the conduct1724
Rom. xiii. 4.
1724 In administratione. thereof, since nothing is more complete than that which comes at the very last—nothing, moreover, is more complete than that which is especially divine. Accordingly, God’s judgment will be more full and complete, because it will be pronounced at the very last, in an eternal irrevocable sentence, both of punishment and of consolation, (on men whose) souls are not to transmigrate into beasts, but are to return into their own proper bodies. And all this once for all, and on “that day, too, of which the Father only knoweth;”1725
Anf-03 v.iv.v.xlv Pg 11
It is important, here, to observe the heretical origin of a sinful superstition which becomes conspicuous in the history of Constantine. If the church tolerated it in his case, it was doubtless in view of this extraordinary instance of one, who was a heathen still, at heart, becoming a guardian and protector of the persecuted Faithful. It is probable that he was regarded as a Cyrus or a Nebuchadnezzar whom God had raised up to protect and to deliver His people; who was to be honoured and obeyed as “God’s minister” (Rom. xiii. 4.) in so far, and for this purpose. The church was scrupulous and he was superstitious; it would have been difficult to discipline him and worse not to discipline him. Tacitly, therefore, he was treated as a catechumen, but was not formally admitted even to that class. He permitted Heathenism, and while he did so, how could he be received as a Christian? The Christian church never became responsible for his life and character, but strove to reform him and to prepare him for a true confession of Christ at some “convenient season.” In this, there seems to have been a great fault somewhere, chargeable perhaps to Eusebius or to some other Christian counsellor; but, when could any one say—“the emperor is sincere and humble and penitent and ought now to be received into the church.” It was a political conversion, and as such was accepted, and Constantine was a heathen till near his death. As to his final penitence and acceptance—“Forbear to judge.” 2 Kings x. 29–31. Concerning his baptism, see Eusebius, de Vita Const. iv. 61, see also, Mosheim’s elaborate and candid views of the whole subject: First Three Centuries, Vol. II. 460–471.
Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, Chapter 13
VERSE (3) -
:4 De 25:1 Pr 14:35; 20:2 Ec 10:4-6 Jer 22:15-18