Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 254Persecution. Ernest de Bunsen, speaking of Buddha, says:
"His religion has never been propagated by the sword. It has been effected entirely by the influence of peaceable and persevering devotees."
Can we say as much for what is termed "the religion of Christ?" No! this religion has had the aid of the sword and firebrand, the rack and the thumb-screw. "Persecution," is to be seen written on the pages of ecclesiastical history, from the time of Constantine even to the present day.[444:1] This Christian emperor and saint was the first to check free-thought.
"We search in vain," (says M. Renan), "in the collection of Roman laws before Constantine, for any enactment aimed at free thought, or in the history of the emperors, for a persecution of abstract doctrine. Not a single savant was disturbed. Men whom the Middle Ages would have burned—such as Galen, Lucian, Plotinus—lived in peace, protected by the law."[444:2]
Born and educated a pagan, Constantine embraced the Christian faith from the following motives. Having committed horrid crimes, in fact, having committed murders,[444:3] and,
"When he would have had his (Pagan) priests purge him by sacrifice, of these horrible murders, and could not have his purpose (for they answered plainly, it lay not in their power to cleanse him)[444:4] he lighted at last upon an Egyptian who came out of Iberia, and being persuaded by him that the Christian faith was of force to wipe away every sin, were it ever so heinous, he embraced willingly at whatever the Egyptian told him."[444:5]
Mons. Dupuis, speaking of this conversion, says:
"Constantine, soiled with all sorts of crimes, and stained with the blood of his wife, after repeated perjuries and assassinations, presented himself before the heathen priests in order to be absolved of so many outrages he had committed. He was answered, that amongst the various kinds of expiations, there was none which could expiate so many crimes, and that no religion whatever could offer efficient protection against the justice of the gods; and Constantine was emperor. One of the courtiers of the palace, who witnessed the trouble and agitation of his mind, torn by remorse, which nothing could appease, informed him, that the evil he was suffering was not without a remedy; that there existed in the religion of the Christians certain purifications, which expiated every kind of misdeeds, of whatever nature, and in whatsoever number they were: that one of the promises of the religion was, that whoever was converted to it, as impious and as great a villain as he might be, could hope that his crimes were immediately forgotten.[445:1] From that moment, Constantine declared himself the protector of a sect which treats great criminals with so much lenity.[445:2] He was a great villain, who tried to lull himself with illusions to smother his remorse."[445:3]
By the delay of baptism, a person who had accepted the true faith could venture freely to indulge their passions in the enjoyment of this world, while they still retained in their own hands the means of salvation; therefore, we find that Constantine, although he accepted the faith, did not get baptized until he was on his death-bed, as he wished to continue, as long as possible, the wicked life he was leading. Mr. Gibbon, speaking of him, says:
"The example and reputation of Constantine seemed to countenance the delay of baptism. Future tyrants were encouraged to believe, that the innocent blood which they might shed in a long reign would instantly be washed away in the waters of regeneration; and the abuse of religion dangerously undermined the foundations of moral virtue."[445:4]
Eusebius, in his "Life of Constantine," tells us that:
"When he thought that he was near his death, he confessed his sins, desiring pardon for them of God, and was baptized.
"Before doing so, he assembled the bishops of Nicomedia together, and spake thus unto them:
"'Brethren, the salvation which I have earnestly desired of God these many years, I do now this day expect. It is time therefore that we should be sealed and signed with the badge of immortality. And though I proposed to receive it in the river Jordan, in which our Saviour for our example was baptized, yet God, knowing what is fittest for me, hath appointed that I shall receive it in this place, therefore let me not be delayed.'"