Christians Under Constantine

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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Mr. Newman's historical reasoning only condemns his system. The positive and superior instructions of Christianity were soon, he tells us, corrupted and polluted.1 How then is man able to get at truth for himself? He corrupts, on the contrary, what he has got. As to his account of Judaism, 2the only thing to be said is, that it is as untrue as can possibly be, as every tolerably instructed person knows.
He tells us that "before Constantine Christians were but a small fraction of the empire." (Phases, p. 161.) In the East this certainly was not the case, nor, indeed, in the West, though it had not prevailed as in the East. But how did the Christian soldiers conquer the empire, if Christians were only a small fraction? Constantine was able to found his pretensions to empire on the strength of the christian party. No doubt, as Mr. N. says, he conquered the empire for Christianity, but whence came the Christians who conquered it3 if they had made no more progress than Mr. N. states? Mr. N.'s assertions are not to be trusted. "There is nothing in all this to distinguish the outward history of Christianity from that of Mohammedism." (Phases, p. 162.) Now I ask any one in the smallest degree acquainted with history, if this is true? Christianity, unarmed and persecuted for three hundred years, had increased to such a degree that an ambitious chieftain could take up the profession of it to secure the empire for himself. No one can contest this, whatever judgment he may form of Constantine's sincerity, or Eusebius's account of his vision of the cross. Everyone knows that all the progress of Mohammedism was by arms. In the thirteenth year of Mohammed's setting up for prophet (that is, the very year of the Hegira, or flight from Mecca to Medina), he and his friends entered into a covenant engaging themselves to fight, and paradise was promised to those who were killed. Six years after this his public warfare began by the attack on Mecca. Indeed, he began in a small way at once, and a battle gained in the second year of the Hegira was (according to Sale) the foundation of his greatness. A person who can say that the first three hundred years of Christianity are not different from this does not deserve to be listened to. He who begins to consider its means of progress only three hundred years after it was established is not much better entitled to attention.
1. "Hardly was it started on its course when it began to be polluted by the heathenism and false philosophy around it.... It became more and more debased.... It sank into deep superstition and manifold moral corruption." (Phases, pp. 559, 160.)
2. "It began in polytheistic and idolatrous barbarism; it cleared into a hard monotheism, with much superstition adhering to it. This was farther improved by successive psalmists and prophets until Judaism culminated." (Phases, p. 160.)
3. " They [Christians] had made no such rapid progress in numbers as to imply that by the mere process of conversion they would ever christianize the empire. In fact, it was the Christian soldiers in Constantine's army who conquered the empire for Christianity." (Phases, pp. 161, 162.)