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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : Chapter VIII.--The Subsequent Wickedness of Licinius, and his Death.

Church History by Eusebius Pamphilius

Chapter VIII.--The Subsequent Wickedness of Licinius, and his Death.

1. Such blessings did divine and heavenly grace confer upon us through the appearance of our Saviour, and such was the abundance of benefits which prevailed among all men in consequence of the peace which we enjoyed. And thus were our affairs crowned with rejoicings and festivities.

2. But malignant envy, and the demon who loves that which is evil, were not able to bear the sight of these things; and moreover the events that befell the tyrants whom we have already mentioned were not sufficient to bring Licinius to sound reason.

3. For the latter, although his government was prosperous and he was honored with the second rank after the great Emperor Constantine, and was connected with him by the closest ties of marriage, abandoned the imitation of good deeds, and emulated the wickedness of the impious tyrants whose end he had seen with his own eyes, and chose rather to follow their principles than to continue in friendly relations with him who was better than they. Being envious of the common benefactor he waged an impious and most terrible war against him, paying regard neither to laws of nature, nor treaties, nor blood, and giving no thought to covenants.

4. For Constantine, like an all-gracious emperor, giving him evidences of true favor, did not refuse alliance with him, and did not refuse him the illustrious marriage with his sister, but honored him by making him a partaker of the ancestral nobility and the ancient imperial blood, and granted him the right of sharing in the dominion over all as a brother-in-law and co-regent, conferring upon him the government and administration of no less a portion of the Roman provinces than he himself possessed.

5. But Licinius, on the contrary, pursued a course directly opposite to this; forming daily all kinds of plots against his superior, and devising all sorts of mischief, that he might repay his benefactor with evils. At first he attempted to conceal his preparations, and pretended to be a friend, and practiced frequently fraud and deceit, in the hope that he might easily accomplish the desired end.

6. But God was the friend, protector, and guardian of Constantine, and bringing the plots which had been formed in secrecy and darkness to the light, he foiled them. So much virtue does the great armor of piety possess for the warding off of enemies and for the preservation of our own safety. Protected by this, our most divinely favored emperor escaped the multitudinous plots of the abominable man.

7. But when Licinius perceived that his secret preparations by no means progressed according to his mind, -- for God revealed every plot and wickedness to the God-favored emperor, -- being no longer able to conceal himself, he undertook an open war.

8. And at the same time that he determined to wage war with Constantine, he also proceeded to join battle with the God of the universe, whom he knew that Constantine worshiped, and began, gently for a time and quietly, to attack his pious subjects, who had never done his government any harm. This he did under the compulsion of his innate wickedness which drove him into terrible blindness.

9. He did not therefore keep before his eyes the memory of those who had persecuted the Christians before him, nor of those whose destroyer and executioner he had been appointed, on account of the impieties which they had committed. But departing from sound reason, being seized, in a word, with insanity, he determined to war against God himself as the ally of Constantine, instead of against the one who was assisted by him.

10. And in the first place, he drove from his house every Christian, thus depriving himself, wretched man, of the prayers which they offered to God in his behalf, which they are accustomed, according to the teaching of their fathers, to offer for all men. Then he commanded that the soldiers in the cities should be cashiered and stripped of their rank unless they chose to sacrifice to the demons. And yet these were small matters when compared with the greater things that followed.

11. Why is it necessary to relate minutely and in detail all that was done by the hater of God, and to recount how this most lawless man invented unlawful laws? He passed an ordinance that no one should exercise humanity toward the sufferers in prison by giving them food, and that none should show mercy to those that were perishing of hunger in bonds; that no one should in any way be kind, or do any good act, even though moved by Nature herself to sympathize with one's neighbors. And this was indeed an openly shameful and most cruel law, calculated to expel all natural kindliness. And in addition to this it was also decreed, as a punishment, that those who showed compassion should suffer the same things with those whom they compassionated; and that those who kindly ministered to the suffering should be thrown into bonds and into prison, and should endure the same punishment with the sufferers. Such were the decrees of Licinius.

12. Why should we recount his innovations in regard to marriage or in regard to the dying -- innovations by which he ventured to annul the ancient laws of the Romans which had been well and wisely formed, and to introduce certain barbarous and cruel laws, which were truly unlawful and lawless? He invented, to the detriment of the provinces which were subject to him, innumerable prosecutions, and all sorts of methods of extorting gold and silver, new measurements of land and injurious exactions from men in the country, who were no longer living, but long since dead.

13. Why is it necessary to speak at length of the banishments which, in addition to these things, this enemy of mankind inflicted upon those who had done no wrong, the expatriations of men of noble birth and high reputation whose young wives he snatched from them and consigned to certain baser fellows of his own, to be shamefully abused by them, and the many married women and virgins upon whom he gratified his passions, although he was in advanced age -- why, I say, is it necessary to speak at length of these things, when the excessive wickedness of his last deeds makes the first appear small and of no account?

14. For, finally, he reached such a pitch of madness that he attacked the bishops, supposing that they -- as servants of the God over all -- would be hostile to his measures. He did not yet proceed against them openly, on account of his fear of his superior, but as before, secretly and craftily, employing the treachery of the governors for the destruction of the most distinguished of them. And the manner of their murder was strange, and such as had never before been heard of.

15. The deeds which he performed at Amaseia and in the other cities of Pontus surpassed every excess of cruelty. Some of the churches of God were again razed to the ground, others were closed, so that none of those accustomed to frequent them could enter them and render the worship due to God.

16. For his evil conscience led him to suppose that prayers were not offered in his behalf; but he was persuaded that we did everything in the interest of the God-beloved emperor, and that we supplicated God for him. Therefore he hastened to turn his fury against us.

17. And then those among the governors who wished to flatter him, perceiving that in doing such things they pleased the impious tyrant, made some of the bishops suffer the penalties customarily inflicted upon criminals, and led away and without any pretext punished like murderers those who had done no wrong. Some now endured a new form of death: having their bodies cut into many pieces with the sword, and after this savage and most horrible spectacle, being thrown into the depths of the sea as food for fishes.

18. Thereupon the worshipers of God again fled, and fields and deserts, forests and mountains, again received the servants of Christ. And when the impious tyrant had thus met with success in these measures, he finally planned to renew the persecution against all.

19. And he would have succeeded in his design, and there would have been nothing to hinder him in the work, had not God, the defender of the lives of his own people, most quickly anticipated that which was about to happen, and caused a great light to shine forth as in the midst of a dark and gloomy night, and raised up a deliverer for all, leading into those regions with a lofty arm, his servant, Constantine.

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