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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter I.--The Pretended Relaxation.

Church History by Eusebius Pamphilius

Chapter I.--The Pretended Relaxation.

1. The imperial edict of recantation, which has been quoted above, was posted in all parts of Asia and in the adjoining provinces. After this had been done, Maximinus, the tyrant in the East, -- a most impious man, if there ever was one, and most hostile to the religion of the God of the universe, -- being by no means satisfied with its contents, instead of sending the above-quoted decree to the governors under him, gave them verbal commands to relax the war against us.

2. For since he could not in any other way oppose the decision of his superiors, keeping the law which had been already issued secret, and taking care that it might not be made known in the district under him, he gave an unwritten order to his governors that they should relax the persecution against us. They communicated the command to each other in writing.

3. Sabinus, at least, who was honored with the highest official rank among them, communicated the will of the emperor to the provincial governors in a Latin epistle, the translation of which is as follows:

4. |With continuous and most devoted earnestness their Majesties, our most divine masters, the emperors, formerly directed the minds of all men to follow the holy and correct course of life, that those also who seemed to live in a manner foreign to that of the Romans, should render the worship due to the immortal gods. But the obstinacy and most unconquerable determination of some went so far that they could neither be turned back from their purpose by the just reason of the command, nor be intimidated by the impending punishment.

5. Since therefore it has come to pass that by such conduct many have brought themselves into danger, their Majesties, our most powerful masters, the emperors, in the exalted nobility of piety, esteeming it foreign to their Majesties' purpose to bring men into so great danger for such a cause, have commanded their devoted servant, myself, to write to thy wisdom, that if any Christian be found engaging in the worship of his own people, thou shouldst abstain from molesting and endangering him, and shouldst not suppose it necessary to punish any one on this pretext. For it has been proved by the experience of so long a time that they can in no way be persuaded to abandon such obstinate conduct.

6. Therefore it should be thy care to write to the curators and magistrates and district overseers of every city, that they may know that it is not necessary for them to give further attention to this matter.|

7. Thereupon the rulers of the provinces, thinking that the purpose of the things which were written was truly made known to them, declared the imperial will to the curators and magistrates and prefects of the various districts in writing. But they did not limit themselves to writing, but sought more quickly to accomplish the supposed will of the emperor in deeds also. Those whom they had imprisoned on account of their confession of the Deity, they set at liberty, and they released those of them who had been sent to the mines for punishment; for they erroneously supposed that this was the true will of the emperor.

8. And when these things had thus been done, immediately, like a light shining forth in a dark night, one could see in every city congregations gathered and assemblies thronged, and meetings held according to their custom. And every one of the unbelieving heathen was not a little astonished at these things, wondering at so marvelous a transformation, and exclaiming that the God of the Christians was great and alone true.

9. And some of our people, who had faithfully and bravely sustained the conflict of persecution, again became frank and bold toward all; but as many as had been diseased in the faith and had been shaken in their souls by the tempest, strove eagerly for healing, beseeching and imploring the strong to stretch out to them a saving hand, and supplicating God to be merciful unto them.

10. Then also the noble athletes of religion who had been set free from their sufferings in the mines returned to their own homes. Happily and joyfully they passed through every city, full of unspeakable pleasure and of a boldness which cannot be expressed in words.

11. Great crowds of men pursued their journey along the highways and through the market-places, praising God with hymns and psalms. And you might have seen those who a little while before had been driven in bonds from their native countries under a most cruel sentence, returning with bright and joyful faces to their own firesides; so that even they who had formerly thirsted for our blood, when they saw the unexpected wonder, congratulated us on what had taken place.

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