The Great Persecution and the Final Victory, Part 4

The History of Christianity #78

Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is 2 Corinthians 4:8 which reads: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Don Bosco. He said: “All past persecutors of the Church are now no more, but the Church still lives on. The same fate awaits modern persecutors; they, too, will pass on, but the Church of Jesus Christ will always remain, for God has pledged His Word to protect Her and be with Her forever, until the end of time.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Great Persecution and the Final Victory” (Part 4) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Then help came from an unexpected quarter, Galerius became ill with a painful disease and, perhaps convinced by those Christians who said that this was a punishment from God, grudgingly decided to change his policy. According to Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea, on April 30, 311 AD, Galerius proclaimed:

“With all the laws which we have decreed for the good of the state, we have sought to restore the ancient rules and traditional discipline of the Romans. We have particularly sought to have Christians, who had abandoned the faith of their ancestors, return to the truth…After the promulgation of our edict ordering all to return to the ancient customs, many obeyed for fear of danger, and we were forced to punish others. But there are still many who persist on their opinions, and we are aware that they neither worship nor serve the gods, nor even their own god. Therefore, moved by our mercy to be benevolent toward all, it has seemed just to us to extend to them our pardon, and allow them to be Christians once again, and once again gather in their assemblies, as long as they do not interfere with public order.

In another edict we shall instruct our magistrates regarding this matter.

In return for our tolerance, Christians will be required to pray to their god for us, for the public good, and for themselves, so that the state may enjoy prosperity and they may live in peace.”

Such was the edict that ended the most cruel persecution that the church had to suffer from the Roman Empire. Soon prisons were opened, and forth came a multitude of people bearing the marks of torture, but thankful for what they saw as an intervention from on high.

Galerius died five days later, and Christian historian Lactantius, who made it a point to show that those who persecuted Christians died horrible deaths, declared that his repentance came too late.

The empire was then divided among Licinius, Maximinus Daia, Constantine, and Maxentius. The first three recognized one another, and declared Maxentius to be a usurper. As to their policies toward Christians, Maximinus Daia was the only one who soon began anew the persecution that Galerius had ended.

Next time, we will continue looking at The Great Persecution and the Final Victory.

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