Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/59

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VICTORY OVER ROME 45

and space forever at odds with eternity. This would always be the nature and the mission of the Church. This was and would remain the theme of her history, dark and bright alike.

About 250 Origen predicted that the whole Roman Empire would gradually become Christian as the result of quiet missionary endeavour. Sixty years later his prophecy had come true. A cosmopolitan state, losing its nationalistic consciousness, at the same time permitted its citizens to group together freely under other forms for other purposes. About the year 300 a poorly-devised plan to strengthen the Empire by destroying the Church led to persecution. But Diocletian, son of a Dalmatian slave, who gladly believed in his Jupiter when he looked about at the miserable Christians, found that when he put his own army in motion against Cross and Bible, it contained thousands of dissidents who termed Jesus Christ their Saviour. He severed the Empire into two parts and when he did so the inner connection be- tween religion and state was destroyed. Later on, after he had ab- dicated and retired to his estate, this Emperor regarded all the persecu- tion and blood-letting which had been visited upon the "new people" as fruitless effort. His successor, who possessed the insight of a statesman, could not avoid combining the idea of the old Empire with the new conception of a divine society to which millions of Christian citizens subscribed.

This was the achievement of Constantine the Great. It was not without real sympathy that this young Augustus approached the Church. He believed honestly in the power of its God, who had seemed to answer his petition by granting a victory over Maxentius, the master of Italy and Africa. Constantine placed the Cross upon the shields of his soldiers and his own effigy in a Roman square bore the same sign in one hand. Yet this new ally of the Galilean did not cease to be Emperor. Ambitious to carry out a plan for a universal monarchy, he knew how to appreciate, as political factors, the Christian cult and the creative energies of its divinely established society. The Catholic Church might now be termed the Imperial Church and was soon to see that the good fortune of its liberation concealed the mis- fortune of a new bondage. Constantine's edict of toleration inaugu- rated an era of struggle with the worldly power, in the sense that the


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