Period I The Imperial State Chu

The history of the Church in the first period of the second division of

the history of ancient Christianity has to deal primarily with three lines

of development, viz.: first, the relation of the Church to the imperial

authority and the religious forces of the times, whereby the Church became

established as the sole authorized religion of the Empire, and heathenism

and heresy were prohibited by law; secondly, the development of the
br />
doctrinal system of the Church until the end of the Arian controversy,

whereby the full and eternal deity of the Son was established as the

Catholic faith; thirdly, the development of the constitution, the fixation

of the leading ecclesiastical conceptions, and the adaptation of the

system of the Church to the practical needs of the times. The entire

period may be divided into two main parts by the reign of Julian the

Apostate (361-363); and the reign of Constantine as Emperor of the West

(312-324) may be regarded as a prelude to the main part of the history. On

the death of Theodosius the Great in 395, the Empire became permanently

divided, and though in the second period the courses of the Church in the

East and in the West may be treated to some extent together, yet the

fortunes, interests, and problems of the two divisions of the Church begin

to diverge.

Chapter I. The Church And Empire Under Constantine

Constantine was the heir to the political system of Diocletian. The same

line of development was followed by him and his sons, and with increasing

severity the burden pressed upon the people. But the Church, which had

been fiercely persecuted by Diocletian and Galerius, became the object of

imperial favor under Constantine. At the same time in many parts of the

Empire, especially in the West, the heathen religion was rooted in the

affections of the people and everywhere it was bound up with the forms of

state. The new problems that confronted Constantine on his accession to

sole authority in the West, and still more when he became sole Emperor,

were of an ecclesiastical rather than a civil character. In the

administration of the Empire he followed the lines laid down by Diocletian

(§ 58). But in favoring the Church he had to avoid alienating the heathen

majority. This he did by gradually and cautiously extending to the Church

privileges which the heathen religion had enjoyed (§ 59), and with the

utmost caution repressing those elements in heathenism which might be

plausibly construed as inimical to the new order in the state (§ 60). At

the same time, Constantine found in the application of his policy to

actual conditions that he could not favor every religious sect that

assumed the name of Christian. He must distinguish between claimants of

his bounty. He must also bring about a unity in the Church where it had

been threatened (§ 61), and repress what might lead to schism. Accordingly

he found himself, immediately after his accession to sole authority,

engaged in ecclesiastical discussions and adjudicating by councils

ecclesiastical cases (§ 62).