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SUCCESSORS OF DIOCLETIAN
lowed during the nine years that he survived his retirement, must have caused him sorrow and regret, if he had any thought beyond his own gratification. The great sources of disorder, both in the Church and in the world, seem to be that those who have ability to rule are prevented from using it either by their own slothfulness or by others ;' and those who have no ability given them by God, occupy and abuse the place of power.
THE EMPERORS AND CÆSARS.-CONSTANTINE SUCCEEDS TO HIS
FATHER'S DOMINIONS.—MAXENTIUS AND HIS FATHER.--CIVIL WARS. — PERSECUTION OF THE CHRISTIANS. — TERRIBLE
DEATH OF GALERIUS. IN A.D. 306, after the abdication of Diocletian and Maximinian, Constantius and Galerius were raised to the rank of emperors. The adoption of Maximin and Severus as Cæsars, who were both of the temper of Galerius, and entirely under his influence, gave him real possession of three-fourths of the em. pire; and he anxiously expected the death of Constantius, whose declining state of health gave him the prospect of becoming sole emperor. The sons of Constantius by his second wife were still quite young, but Constantine was more than thirty years of age ; and his attractive appearance and manners, with his military talents, made him the favourite of the army in which he served. They were very indignant that he was not made Cæsar ; but Galerius had purposely kept him back, and would gladly have got rid of such a dangerous rival. But Constantius, suspecting that his son was in perilous circumstances, hastily called him out of the power of his associate, desiring his assistance in an expedition into Britain. The young prince was joyfully welcomed by his father and the Western army, and it was the general desire of the provincials that he should succeed to the dominions of Constantius. This beloved emperor died at York, only fifteen months after the abdication of Diocletian. He left three sons and three daughters by his second wife ; and, on his death-bed, commended them to the brotherly affection of Constantine. He did not
fail to protect them, and to give them a princely education and high honours in the State ; and they in their turn proved their gratitude by making no effort to overturn their brother's au. thority.
Galerius was exceedingly angry when a messenger reached him with a letter from Constantine, announcing his father's death and his own appointment as successor. The enraged emperor threatened to throw the messenger and the letter into the flames; but when he had duly considered the character and strength of the son of Constantius, he felt it was wiser not to resist his claims. He therefore contented himself with sending him his permission to reign as Cæsar in the Gallic provinces, telling him at the same time that Severus was emperor in the room of his deceased father. The ambitious Galerius was, however, but little reconciled to the loss of the fine provinces of Britain, Spain, and Gaul, when he was more deeply wounded by the intelligence of a revolt in Italy. The people of Rome proudly determined that a sovereign, who chose to reside in Asia, should no longer look upon them as the inhabitants of a tributary city; and they called upon Maxentius, the son of Maximinian, to assist them in recover. ing their freedom and independence. Maxentius, animated by Constantine's success, and aided by his father, declared himself the protector of Rome; and Severus, as the servant of Galerius, was put to death. Maximinian immediately set out for Gaul to seek the friendship of Constantine ; and secured his alliance by giving him his daughter, Fausta, in marriage.
The father and son then declared themselves emperors of Rome; and Galerius, finding every effort to regain Italy in vain, still refused to acknowledge them, and declared Licinius, one of his favourites, emperor in the place of the murdered Severus. The Cæsar, Maximin, was displeased that another should be preferred to himself; and, being determined not to remain in a lower rank, he caused himself to be proclaimed emperor of Egypt and Syria ; the provinces that suffered from his oppressive government. There were now, for the first and last time, six emperors: namely, Galerius and Licinius, Maximinian and his son, Constantine and Maximin. For a little time they seemed obliged to tolerate each other; and Maximi. nian was acknowledged as a father and senior emperor by Con
PERSECUTION ONDER MAXIMIN.
stantine and Maxentius, while Galerius was honoured in the same manner by Licinius and Maximin.
The next disturbance was occasioned by the unpopularity of Maximinian; and the old emperor was driven away from Rome by the jealousy of his son, and the hatred of the guards, towards whom he had shown some severity. He then took refuge with his son-in-law; pretending that he was at last convinced of the vanity of ambition, and that he had no more desire for empire. But the temporary absence of Constantine, in an engagement with the Franks, proved the falsehood of this profession, as Maximinian took this opportunity of usurping the imperial authority. Upon the return of his son-in-law, he took refuge in Marseilles, a town which was so strongly fortified that he might long have defended himself; but the inhabitants, through fear, gave him up to Constantine; and he was only allowed the privilege of choosing his own mode of death. It is believed that he was strangled in prison ; but Constantine pretended that he had destroyed himself in remorse on account of his past crimes,
Constantine pursued the same conduct as his father towards the Christians; and the tyrants of Italy seemed too much engaged in general acts of cruelty and oppression to care about them ; but Galerius and Maximin carried out the edicts of Diocletian with the utmost fury.
Africa was distinguished for the number of its martyrs; and, in Egypt, the immediate residence of Maximin, their tortures were most horrible. Fire, boiling water, wild beasts, starvation, and crucifixion, were all resorted to by turns : and, it is said, even the executioners were fatigued, and their weapons blunted while the faith and patience of the Christians still held out. If we cannot read without horror the various tortures that were used at this time, we may form some idea of the greatness of His power, who kept his people steadfast, when these things touched not merely their imaginations, but their bodily frames.
Some of the African martyrs were torn asunder by the bent boughs of trees; some were crushed ; even women were hung up by one foot till they died : others had their flesh torn with scourges or iron nails; others had their limbs dislocated or cut off; and, in many cases, those who had been dreadfully wounded were carefully healed and again tempted to sacrifice,
PERSECUTION UNDER GALERIUS.
but, for the most part, they still preferred death. In different provinces, different modes of torture were used; and every plan was devised to make the suffering as great as possible without destroying life. In some places the accused were scorched with boiling lead, or had sharp reeds thrust under their nails : great numbers were deprived of an eye, or a leg, and sent to work in the mines.
In Palestine, which was under the immediate control of Galerius, all were compelled to sacrifice : and, whilst many apostatized to save their lives, others rashly offered themselves for martyrdom, and irritated their judges ; giving examples of the two extremes of natural feeling uncontrolled by the Spirit of Christ. We can hardly suppose that all who suffered tortures and death were prepared for the crown of life; for many proud and bold spirits are ashamed to deny a profession that they have once made, uniting their opinions with themselves, and not holding fast for the Lord's sake. Eusebius of Cæsarea, the historian, upon whose authority the accounts of this persecution chiefly rest, remarks that the heavy scourge was needful; and speaks of the fitness of particular chastisements to the nature of the case ; curiously remarking that the pastors, who had so long neglected their charges, were condemned to take care of camels, or to feed the emperor's horses. Maximin, however, took example from the established church order and discipline; and hoped to strengthen the national religion by introducing a united system of priesthood somewhat resembling that of the Christians. New high-priests were chosen from among persons of the highest ranks; and priests were appointed in every city and village, and distinguished by the white mantle usually worn only by the ministers of the palace.
In A.D. 310, Galerius was attacked with a disease of the most dreadful nature; his body, bloated with intemperance, was covered with ulcers which bred worms; and, it is said, the palace at Sardis, where he resided, was intolerable on account of his state of corruption. When the poor emperor found that his physicians and idols could do him no good, he sent forth an edict, permitting the Christian prisoners to go free, and releasing the confessors from the mines : he also allowed the Christians to rebuild their places of worship, and entreated that they would pray for his health. But he only survived his pro
TYRANNY OF MAXENTIUS.
clamation a few days; and died in torments far worse than any he had inflicted, for his mind was tortured as well as his body.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, after vainly striving to fight against him. These are the words of the Lord Jesus, “ I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear : Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke xii. 4, 5).
CONSTANTINE AND LICINIUS. — MAXIMIN'S ATTEMPTS AGAINST
CHRISTIANITY. - STORY OF CONSTANTINE'S VISION.- REAL POWER OF THE CROSS. – CONSTANTINE'S VICTORY. — THE VICTORY OF LICINIUS.- RENEWAL OF CIVIL WAR. -DEATH OF LICINIUS.
IN A.D. 311, after the death of the elder emperors, Constantine formed an alliance with Licinius who had the Illyrian provinces; and Maximin made an agreement with Maxentius which only increased the misery of their respective subjects.
The pride of the tyrant of Italy was only equalled by his vices; and he often declared that he alone was emperor, and the three others, only his lieutenants in the frontier provinces. The people of Rome, who had before mourned on account of the neglect and absence of the emperors, had now reason during six years to lament their chosen sovereign's presence. The soldiers were the only class that Maxentius desired to please ; and he would even dare to give them the villa, or the wife of a Roman senator, as the reward of obedience to his commands.
After the death of Maximinian, Constantine had caused his statues to be thrown down ; and the emperor of Rome, who had cared so little for his father during his life, affected great zeal in revenging this insult after his death; and desired that the statues of Constantine in Italy and Africa should be treated in the same contemptuous manner. This war with images