Last Updated on :
Saturday, November 22, 2014


sp spacer

The Papacy In History And Prophecy



(Sixth Seal of Rev. 6:12-17 and the events of Rev. 12)

Constantine and The Church (AD 313-324)


As the beginning of the fourth century dawned there were three powerful leaders governing the body-politic of the Roman Empire. They were Constantine, who ruled the confines of Gaul and Britain in the West. Maxentius, who being the most powerful of the three, held sway over Italy and the central provinces, and Licinius, whose dominion included Asia Minor and the East. The policy of violent persecutions was relentlessly pursued by Maxentius as with his predecessor, but was beheld with indignation by Constantine who repealed the edicts of persecution in his province. The protected Christians in the province were soon encouraged to depend on the favour and justice of their new guardian, whose motives were dictated by political ambition rather than by religious principle. The year 313 saw the defeat of Maxentius and Licinius was beaten in 323 leaving Constantine master of the Roman world.

In March 313 when he conquered Italy, Constantine restored peace to the Catholic Church by the famous edict of Milan, which eventually became a fundamental law of the Roman world. All confiscated land and property was promptly restored to the Church and religious liberty abounded. He recognised the God of the Christians as one of the many deities in the heavens and esteeming the virtues of the Christians saw that their ideals would provide peace and tranquility in his reign. The flattering Christian apologist Lactantius reasoned on these lines and almost ventured to promise to Constantine that the establishment of Christianity would restore the innocency and felicity of the primative age, that the worship of the true God would extinguish war and dissension and that the magistrates might sheath the sword of justice among a people who would be universally actuated by the sentiments of truth and piety. This passive and unresisting obedience under authority must have appeared a very conspicuous and useful tool in the hands of this ambitious monarch. The primitive Christians derived their orders from the decrees of heaven and therefore Constantine, though he usurped the sceptre by treason and war, immediately assumed the sacred title of viceregent of the Deity making himself accountable to the Deity alone for the abuse of his power.

Although Constantine effected a dangerous alliance between church and state, which proved detrimental to both parties, the old superstitions still lingered in his mind. His liberality restored and enriched the temples of the heathen gods and his medals were impressed with figures of Jupiter, Apollo, Mars and Hercules. His devotion was peculiarly directed to the genius of the sun (the Apollo of


Greek and Roman mythology) and he was pleased to be represented with the symbols of the God of Light and Poetry. The altars of Apollo were crowned with his votive offerings, the Sun was universally celebrated as his invincible guide and protector, and the pagan soothsayers were his continual prognosticators. In fact he was not baptised till a few weeks before his death.

The purity and simplicity of Christianity had now been completely corrupted by its alliance with imperial influence, which began to exercise a large measure of control in ecclesiastical affairs. The emperor himself convoked general councils, presided over them and published their edicts as laws of the empire. Usurpations were made possible therefore, for the ardent desire of each theological party was to enlist political power on its side and thus overwhelm its opponents. The Eastern clergy, being closer to the schemes of court, became infected with ambition and resorted to political intrigue to further their worldly interests. New legal rights, similar to those given to pagan priests earlier, were extended to the clergy and with the rapid accumulation of ecclesiastical property, the offices of the Church were turned by many into a means of personal enrichment. Education was discredited in the West because ordination was supposed to provide all needed abilities whilst philosophy was pursued in the East. These were but a few of the many abuses and evils which characterized the Church of the fourth century.

When Constantine divided the empire into four prefectures he also appointed four spiritual heads in the same districts. Being above the metropolitans they were the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria and were given the title Exarch or Patriarch. Wars soon broke out between these spiritual potentates and those of Alexandria and Antioch constantly appealed to Rome for the settlement of their disputes. These doctrinal controversies soon began to elevate the Roman See which then encouraged all appeals to come to Rome in order that it might enhance the importance of the Roman bishop.