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: 256and the ecclesiastics, who governed the conscience of Theodosius, suggested the most effectual methods of persecution. In the space of fifteen years he promulgated at least fifteen severe edicts against the heretics, more especially against those who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity.[448:1]
Arius (the presbyter of whom we have spoken in Chapter XXXV., as declaring that, in the nature of things, a father must be older than his son) was excommunicated for his so-called heretical notions concerning the Trinity. His followers, who were very numerous, were called Arians. Their writings, if they had been permitted to exist,[448:2] would undoubtedly contain the lamentable story of the persecution which affected the church under the reign of the impious Emperor Theodosius.
In Asia Minor the people were persecuted by orders of Constantius, and these orders were more than obeyed by Macedonius. The civil and military powers were ordered to obey his commands; the consequence was, he disgraced the reign of Constantius. "The rites of baptism were conferred on women and children, who, for that purpose, had been torn from the arms of their friends and parents; the mouths of the communicants were held open by a wooden engine, while the consecrated bread was forced down their throats; the breasts of tender virgins were either burned with red-hot egg-shells, or inhumanly compressed between sharp and heavy boards."[448:3] The principal assistants of Macedonius—the tool of Constantius—in the work of persecution, were the two bishops of Nicomedia and Cyzicus, who were esteemed for their virtues, and especially for their charity.[448:4]
Julian, the successor of Constantius, has described some of the theological calamities which afflicted the empire, and more especially in the East, in the reign of a prince who was the slave of his own passions, and of those of his eunuchs: "Many were imprisoned, and persecuted, and driven into exile. Whole troops of those who are styled heretics were massacred, particularly at Cyzicus, and at Samosata. In Paphlagonia, Bithynia, Gallatia, and in many [Pg 449]other provinces, towns and villages were laid waste, and utterly destroyed."[449:1]
Persecutions in the name of Christ Jesus were inflicted on the heathen in most every part of the then known world. Even among the Norwegians, the Christian sword was unsheathed. They clung tenaciously to the worship of their forefathers, and numbers of them died real martyrs for their faith, after suffering the most cruel torments from their persecutors. It was by sheer compulsion that the Norwegians embraced Christianity. The reign of Olaf Tryggvason, a Christian king of Norway, was in fact entirely devoted to the propagation of the new faith, by means the most revolting to humanity. His general practice was to enter a district at the head of a formidable force, summon a Thing,[449:2] and give the people the alternative of fighting with him, or of being baptized. Most of them, of course, preferred baptism to the risk of a battle with an adversary so well prepared for combat; and the recusants were tortured to death with fiend-like ferocity, and their estates confiscated.[449:3]
These are some of the reasons "why Christianity prospered."
Note.—The learned Christian historian Pagi endeavors to smoothe over the crimes of Constantine. He says: "As for those few murders (which Eusebius says nothing about), had he thought it worth his while to refer to them, he would perhaps, with Baronius himself have said, that the young Licinius (his infant nephew), although the fact might not generally have been known, had most likely been an accomplice in the treason of his father. That as to the murder of his son, the Emperor is rather to be considered as unfortunate than as criminal. And with respect to his putting his wife to death, he ought to be pronounced rather a just and righteous judge. As for his numerous friends, whom Eutropius informs us he put to death one after another, we are bound to believe that most of them deserved it, and they were found out to have abused the Emperor's too great credulity, for the gratification of their own inordinate wickedness, and insatiable avarice; and such no doubt was that Sopater the , who was at last put to death upon the accusation of Adlabius, and that by the righteous dispensation of God, for his having attempted to alienate the mind of Constantine from the true religion." (