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The First Division Of Ancient Ch





By the accession of Constantine to the sole sovereignty of the Roman
Empire, A. D. 324, ancient Christianity may be conveniently divided into
two great periods. In the first, it was a religion liable to persecution,
suffering severely at times and always struggling to maintain itself; in
the second, it became the religion of the State, and in its turn set about
to repress and persecute the heathen religions. It was no longer without
legal rights; it had the support of the secular rulers and was lavishly
endowed with wealth. The conditions of the Church in these two periods are
so markedly different, and the conditions had such a distinct effect upon
the life and growth of the Christian religion, that the reign of
Constantine is universally recognized as marking a transition from one
historical period to another, although no date which shall mark that
transition is universally accepted. The year 311, the year in which the
Diocletian persecution ceased, has been accepted by many as the dividing
point. The exact date adopted is immaterial.

The principal sources in English for the history of the Christian Church
before A. D. 324 are:

The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down
to A. D. 325. American edition, Buffalo and New York, 1885-1896; new
edition, New York, 1896 (a reprint). The collection, cited as ANF,
contains the bulk of the Christian literature of the period, with the
exception of the less important commentaries of Origen.

Eusebius, Church History. Translated with Prolegomena and Notes by
Arthur Cushman McGiffert. In A Select Library of the Nicene and
Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Second series, New York,
1890. The Church History of Eusebius is the foundation of the study of
the history of the Church before A. D. 324, as it contains a vast number
of citations from works now lost. The edition by Professor McGiffert is
the best in English, and is provided with scholarly notes, which serve as
an elaborate commentary on the text. It should be in every library. This
work is cited as Eusebius, Hist. Ec. The text used in the extracts given
in this source book is that of Ed. Schwartz, in Die Griechischen
Christlicher: Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte. Kleine
Ausgabe, Leipsic, 1908. This text is identical with the larger and less
convenient edition by the same editor.





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