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The Oration


the emperor constantine,

which he addressed

“to the assembly of the saints.”


Chapter I.—Preliminary Remarks on the Feast of Easter: and how the Word of God, having conferred Manifold Benefits on Mankind, was betrayed by his Beneficiaries.

That light which far outshines the day and sun, first pledge of resurrection, and renovation of bodies long since dissolved,33663366    Or “once suffering.” the divine token33673367    ἕρμαιου, “gift of Hermes”; i.e. providential good-fortune. Valesius wrongly conjectures ἕρμα, “foundation” of promise. of promise, the path which leads to everlasting life—in a word, the day of the Passion—is arrived, best beloved doctors, and ye, my friends who are assembled here, ye blessed multitudes, who worship him who is the author of all worship, and praise him continually with heart and voice, according to the precepts of his holy word. But thou, Nature,33683368    Valesius, followed by various translators, substitutes “God” for “Nature.” But all ms. authority, and the context as well, is against. parent of all things, what blessing like to this hast thou ever accomplished for mankind? Nay rather, what is in any sense thy workmanship, since he who formed the universe is himself the author of thy being? For it is he who has arrayed thee in thy beauty; and the beauty of Nature is life according to Nature’s laws. But principles quite opposed to Nature have mightily prevailed; in that men have agreed in withholding his rightful worship from the Lord of all, believing that the order of the universe depended, not on his providence, but, on the blind uncertainty of chance: and this notwithstanding the clearest announcement of the truth by his inspired prophets, whose words should have claimed belief, but were in every way resisted by that impious wickedness which hates the light of truth, and loves the obscure mazes of darkness. Nor was this error unaccompanied by violence and cruelty, especially in that the will of princes encouraged the blind impetuosity of the multitude, or rather itself led the way in the career of reckless folly. Such principles as these, confirmed by the practice of many generations, became the source of terrible evils in those early times: but no sooner had the radiance of the Saviour’s presence appeared, than justice took the place of wrong, a calm succeeded the confusion of the storm, and the predictions of the prophets were all fulfilled. For after he had enlightened the world by the glorious discretion and purity of his character, and had ascended to the mansions of his father’s house, he founded his Church on earth, as a holy temple of virtue, an immortal, imperishable temple, wherein the worship due to the Supreme Father and to himself should be piously performed. But what did the insane malice of the nations hereupon devise? Their effort was to reject the grace of Christ, and to ruin that Church which was ordained for the salvation of all, though they thus ensured the overthrow of their own superstition.33693369    1709, Molz., Vales., Cous., render “substitute in place thereof their own superstition.” Once more then unholy sedition, once more war and strife prevailed, with stiff-neckedness, luxurious riot, and that craving for wealth which now soothes its victims with specious hope, now strikes them with groundless fear; a craving which is contrary to nature, and the very characteristic of Vice herself. Let her, however, lie prostrate in the dust, and own the victorious power of Virtue; and let her rend and tear herself, as well she may, in the bitterness of repentance. But let us now proceed to speak of topics which pertain to the Divine doctrine.

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