Compelling the light

Eusebius quotes a letter of Constantine to his eastern subjects, posted soon after he took the east. It is, the church historian wrote …

an admonitory letter to the inhabitants of every province, respecting the error of idolatry into which his predecessors in power bad fallen, in which he eloquently exhorts his subjects to acknowledge the Supreme God, and openly to profess their allegiance to his Christ as their Saviour.

It is? It does recall the recent persecution of the Christians that kindled, as it were, the flames of a civil war and now the Roman people bear that lasting stain. Persecution is trouble.

But it is not a letter to the east as a whole. It is to the Christians, his fellows. We’re ok, he writes, leave the others alone …

Let those, therefore, who still delight in error, be made welcome to the same degree of peace and tranquillity which they have who believe. Let them have, if they please, their temples of lies

We, the Christians, can’t by our nature, compel belief …

For it is one thing voluntarily to undertake the conflict for immortality, another to compel others to do so from the fear of punishment.

Maybe they’ll turn, through example …

For it may be that this restoration of equal privileges to all will prevail to lead them into the straight path. Let no one molest another, but let every one do as his soul desires

We’re sitting …

we have the glorious edifice of thy truth

All men, them and us should …

Henceforward, therefore, let us all enjoy in common the privilege placed within our reach, I mean the blessing of peace, endeavoring to keep our conscience pure from all that is contrary.

Some Christians, Eusebius included, wanted triumph, forced enlightenment. But the first Christian Emperor didn’t share this sentiment. He wanted peace above all else. He’d picked God to help keep it. He wouldn’t promote him to its detriment.

Something else. There are no bible references in the letter. There are few in Constantine’s writings.

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