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109 [109]

Actes and Monumentes of the Churche.

in Britayne and Fraunce, wherwith to represse the violent rage of that tyraunt. Thus Constantinus sufficiently appoynted with strength of men, but especially wt strength of God, entred his iourney commyng toward Italy, MarginaliaAn. 318. which was about the laste yeare of the persecution, an. 318. Maxentius vnderstandyng of the commyng of Constantine, & trustyng more to hys diuelish arte of Magike, then to the good wyll of hys subiectes, which he little deserued, durst not shew hymselfe out of the citie, nor encounter with hym in the open field, but with priuy garrisons layd in wayte for hym by the way, in sundry straightes as he shoulde come. With whom Constantine had diuers skirmishes, & by the power of the Lord dyd euer vāquish them and put them to flight. MarginaliaMaxentius feared for his magick and sorcery. Notwithstanding Constantinus yet was in no great comfort, but in great care and dreade in his mynde (approchyng now nere vnto Rome) for the Magicall charmes & sorceries of Maxentius, wherwith he had vanquished before Seuerus sent by Galerius agaynst hym, as hath bene declared, which made also Constantinus the more afrayd. Wherfore beyng in great doubt and perplexitie in himselfe, and reuoluyng many thynges in his mynde, what helpe he myght haue agaynst the operations of hys charming, which vsed to cut women great with childe, to take his diuelish charmes by the entrals of the infantes, with such other like feates of deuilishnes which he practised: These thinges (I say) Constantinus doubting and reuoluing in his mynde, in hys iourney drawyng toward the citie, and casting vp his eyes many times to heauen, in the South part, about the goyng downe of the sunne, MarginaliaA miracle of a crosse apperyng to Constantine in heauen. saw a great brightnesse in heauen, appearing in the similitude of a crosse, with certaine starres of equall bignesse, geuing this inscription like latine letters, MarginaliaIn hoc Vince. IN HOC VINCE, that is: In this ouvercome. Euseb. De vita Constant. lib. 2. Niceph. lib. 7. cap 29. Eutrop. lib. 11. Sozom. lib. 1. cap. 3. Socrat. lib. 1. cap. 2. Vrspurgens. Chronic. Paul. Diacon. lib. 11. This miraculous vision to be true, for the more credite, Eusebius Pamphilus in his first booke De vita Constantini. doth witnesse moreouer, MarginaliaThis vision reported & testified by Constantine hymselfe to be true. that he had heard the sayd Constantinus hymselfe oftentymes reporte, and also to sweare this to be true and certaine, which he did see with his owne eyes in heauen, and also his souldioures about hym. At the sight wherof, when he was greatly astonied, and consulting with his men vppon the meanyng therof, behold in the night season in his slepe Christ appeared to him with the signe of the same crosse, which he had sene before, biddyng hym to make the figuration thereof, and to cary it in hys warres before hym, and so should he haue the victory.

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MarginaliaAn admonition concerning the material crosse not to be worshipped, but to be a meanes to bryng Constantine to the fayth of hym which was crucified. ¶ Wherin is to be noted (good Reader) that this signe of the Crosse, and these letters added withall: In hoc vince, was geuen to hym of God, not to induce any superstitious worship or opinion of the crosse, as though the crosse it self, had any such power or strength in it, to obtayne victory: but onely to beare the meanyng of an other thyng, that is, to be an admonition to hym, to seeke and aspire to the knowledge and fayth of him, which was crucified vppon the crosse, for the saluation of him, & of all the world, and so to set forth the glory of his name, as afterward it came to passe. This by the way, now to the matter.

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MarginaliaConstantinus wyth hys army approcheth towarde Rome. The next day followyng after this nightes visiō, Constantinus caused a crosse after the same figuratiō to be made of gold and precious stone, & to be borne before hym in steede of hys standard: and so with much hope of victory & great confidence, as one armed from heauen speedeth hymselfe toward his enemy. Against whom Maxentius beyng cōstrained perforce to issue out of the Citie, sendeth all his power to ioyne with hym in the field beyonde the ryuer of Tybur, where Maxentius craftely breaking downe the bridge called Pons Miluius, caused an other deceitfull bridge to be made of boates and whirries, beyng ioyned together, and couered ouer with boordes and planckes in maner of a bridge, thyncking therwith to take Constantine as in a trap. But here it came to passe which in the 7. psalme is written: He digged a pit, and fell therin hymself. MarginaliaPsal. 7.
Maxentius taken in his owne trap.
Let hys workyng returne vpon his owne head, and hys vnrighteousnesse vpon hys owne pate, which here in this Maxentius was rightly verefied. For after the two hostes did meete, he beyng not able to sustayne the force of Constantine fightyng vnder the crosse of Christ against hym, was put to such a flight, and driuen to such an exigent, MarginaliaMaxentius beaten in the fielde. that in retyring backe, for hast thinkyng to get the citie, vppon the same bridge which he did lay for Constantine?, was ouerturned by the fall of hys horse into the bottome of the floud, MarginaliaMaxentius drowned by his owne bridge. and there with the wayght of hys armour, he with a great part of his beatē men were drowned. MarginaliaPharao a figure of Maxentius the last persecutor in Rome. Representing vnto vs the lyke example of Pharao and his hoste drowned in the red sea. Who not vnaptly seemeth to beare a propheticall prefiguration of this Maxentius. For as the children of Israell were in long thraldom and persecution in Egipt vnder tyrauntes there, till the drowning of this Pharao, their last persecutor: MarginaliaPharao and Maxentius compared. so was this Maxentius & Maximinus and Licinius the last persecutors in þe Romaine Monarchie of the christiās, whom this Constantinus fighting vnder the crosse of Christ, dyd vanquish & set the christians at liberty, who before had bene persecuted now. 300. yeares in Rome, as hath bene hetherto in this historye declared.

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Marginalia Exod. 15. Wherfore as the Israelites with their Moses at þe drowning of theyr Pharao, song gloriously vnto the Lord, who miraculously had cast downe the horse and horsemen into the sea: MarginaliaThe figure of the olde Testament verified in the new. So no lesse reioycing and exceedyng gladnesse was here, to see the glorious hande of the Lorde Christ fightyng with hys people, and vanquishyng his enemies and persecutors.

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MarginaliaThe glorious & victorious hand of Christ. In histories we read of many victories and great conquestes gotten: yet we neuer read nor euer shall of any victory so wholsome, so commodious, so oportune to mankind, as this was, which made an ende of so much bloodshed, and obtained so much liberty and life to the posteritie of so many generations. For albeit that some persecution was yet stirring in the East countreys by Maximinus and Licinius, as shalbe declared: Yet in Rome and in all the West partes, no Martir dyed after this heauenly victory gotten. And also in the East partes the said Constantinus, with the sayd crosse borne before him, consequently vppon the same so vanquished the tirantes, and so established the peace of the church, that for the space of a iust. M. yeares after that, MarginaliaPersecution in the West ceaseth for a M. yeares tyll the tyme of Wyckleffe. we read of no set persecution against the Christians, vnto the tyme of Iohn Wickliffe, when the Bbishops of Rome began with fire to persecute the true members of Christ, as in further processe of this history (Christ graunting) shall appeare. So happy, so glorious (as I said) was this victory of Constantine, surnamed the great. For the ioy & gladnesse wherof the Citizens who had sent for him before, with excedyng triumph brought him into þe citie of Rome, where he with the crosse was most honourably receiued, and celebrated the space of vij. dayes together, hauyng moreouer in the market place, his image set vp, holdyng in his right hand the signe of the crosse, with this inscription: Hoc salutari signo, veraci fortitudinis iudicio, ciuitatem nostram iugo tyranni ereptam liberaui. That is, with this wholsome signe, the true token of fortitude, I haue rescued and deliuered our Citie from the yoke of the tyrant. Euseb. lib. 9. cap. 9.

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By this heauenly victory of Constantinus, and by the death of Maxentius no little tranquilitie came to the church of Christ. Although notwithstanding in the East Churches, the storme of this tenth persecution was not yet altogether quieted, but that some tayle therof in those partes remayned for the space of ij. or iij. yeare. But of this we mynde to speake (Christ willyng) hereafter. In the meane season, to returne agayne to the West partes here in Europe, where Constantinus then had most to do, great tranquillity followed, and long continued in the church without any open slaughter, for a thousande yeares together MarginaliaNote well these thousand yeares, and then read the. xx chap. of the Apoc. Saranas was bound vp for a thousand yeares &c. (to the tyme of Iohn Wickliffe and Waldenses, as is before touched) by the meanes of the godly beginnyng of good Constantinus, who with hys fellow Licinius, beyng now stablished in their dominion, eftsones set forth their generall proclamation or edict, not constrayning therin any man to any religion, but geuyng liberty to all men, both for the Christians to persist in their profession without any daunger, and for other men freely to adioyne with them, whosoeuer pleased. Whiche thyng was very well taken, and highly allowed of the Romaines, and all wise men. The copy of the edict or constitution here ensueth.

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¶ The copy of the Imperiall constitution of Constantinus and Licinius, for the establishing of the free worshippyng of God, after the Christian religion.

MarginaliaThe copye of the imperiall constitution of Constantinus and Licinius.
Euseb. lib.10. cap. 5.
Not long agone we weying with our selues, that the liberty and freedome of religion ought not in any case to be prohibited, but that free leaue ought to be geuen to euery man to do therin accordyng to hys will and mynd, we haue geuen commaundement to all men to qualifie matters of religion as they themselues thought good, and that also the Christians should keepe the opinions and fayth of their religion. But because that many and sundry opinions by the same our first licence spring and increase through suche liberty graunted, we thought good manifestly to adde therunto, and make playne such thynges, whereby perchaunce some of them in tyme to come, may from such their obser-

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