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133 [120]

Actes and Monuments of the Church.

him in the field beyond the riuer of Tybur, wher Maxentius craftely breaking downe the bridge called Pons Miluius, caused an other decitfull bridge to be made of boates and whiries, being ioyned together, and couered ouer with boordes & planckes in maner of a bridge, thincking therwith to take Constantine as in a trappe. But here it came to passe, whyche in the. 7. Psalme is written: He digged a pyt, and fell therein himselfe. MarginaliaPsal. 7.
Maxētius takē in hys owne trap.
Let his working returne vpon his owne head, and his vnrighteousnes vpon his owne pate, whych here in this Maxentius was rightly verefied. For after the two hostes did meete, he being not able to sustayne the force of Constantine fighting vnder the crosse of Christ against him, was put to such a flight, and driuen to such an exigent, MarginaliaMaxentius beaten in the field.that in retiring backe, for haste thinking to gette the citie, vpon the same bridge which he did lay for Cōstātine, was ouerturned by the fal of his horse into the bottome of the flood, MarginaliaMaxētius drouned by his own bridge.and there with the weyght of hys armour, he with a great part of hys beaten men were drowned. MarginaliaPharao a figure of Maxentius the last persecutor in Rome.Represēting vnto vs the like example of Pharao and his host drowned in the read sea. Who not vnaptly semeth to beare a prophetical prefiguratiō of this Maxentius. For as the children of Israel were in long thraldome and persecution in Egipt vnder tyrauntes there, tyll the drowning of this Pharao, their last persecutor: MarginaliaPharao & Maxentius cō was this Maxentius & Maximinus & Licinius þe last persecutors in þe Romain Monarchie of the Christiās, whom this Cōstātinus fightyng vnder þe crosse of Christ, did vāquish & set the Christians at libertie, who before had bene persecuted now. 300. yeares in Rome, as hath bene hetherto in this historie declared.

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Marginalia Exod. 15.Wherfore as the Israelites with their Moses at the drowning of their Pharao, soong gloriouslye vnto the Lord, who miraculously had cast downe the horse and horseman into the sea: MarginaliaThe fygure of the old Testament verified in the new.So no lesse reioysing and exceeding gladnes was here, to see the glorious hande of the Lord Christ fighting with his people, and vanquishyng hys enemies and persecutors.

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MarginaliaThe glorious and victorious hand of Christ.In histories we reade of manye victories and great conquestes gotten: yet we neuer read, nor euer shall of any victorie so wholsome, so cōmodious, so oportune to mankinde, as this was, which made an end of so much bloodshed, and obtayned so much libertie & life to the posteritie of so many generatiōs. For albeit that some persecution was yet stirring in the east countries by Maximinus, and Licinius, as shalbe declared: Yet in Rome and in al the west partes, no martyr dyed after this heauenly victorye gotten. And also in the East partes the said Cōstātinus, wt the sayd crosse borne before him, cōsequently vpon the same so vanquished the tyrauntes, and so established the peace of the Churche, that for the space of a iust. M. yeares after that, MarginaliaPersecution in the West ceaseth for a M. yeares tyl the tyme of Wyckleffe.we reade of no set persecutiō against the Christiās, vnto the time of Iohn Wyckleffe, when the bishops of Rome began with fire to persecute the true members of Christ, as in further processe of this history (Christ graunting) shal appeare. So happy, so glorious (as I sayd) was this victory of Cōstantine, surnamed the great. For the ioy and gladnes wherof, the Citizens, who had sent for him before, with exceeding triumph brought him into the city of Rome, where he with the crosse was moste honorablye receaued, and celebrated the space of. vij. dayes together, hauing moreouer in þe market place his image set vp, holding in his right hand the signe of the crosse, with thys inscription: Hoc salutari signo, veraci fortitudinis iudicio, ciuitatem nostram iugo tyranni ereptam liberaui. That is, with this wholsome signe, the true tokē 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 litle tranquility came to the church of Christ. Although not withstāding in the Eastchurches, the storme of this tenth persecution was not yet all together quieted, but that some tayle thereof in those partes remained for the space of. ij. or iij. yeare But of this we minde to speake (Christ willing) hereafter. In the meane season, to returne againe to the west partes here in Europe, where Constantinus then had most to do, great tranquility followed, and long continued in the Church without anye open slaughter, for a thousand yeares together MarginaliaNote well these thousand yeres and then read the. xx chap. of the Apoc. Saranas was bound vp for a thousand yeares &c.(to the tyme of Iohn Wiclef and Waldenses, as is before touched) by the meanes of the godly beginning of good Constantinus, who wyth his fellow Licinius, being nowe stablished in their dominion, eftsones set forth their generall proclamation or edict, not constrayning therin any man to anye religion, but geuing 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, who soeuer pleased. Which thing was verye well taken, and highlye allowed of the Romaynes, and all wyse men. The copy of the edict or constitution here insueth.

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

MarginaliaThe copye of the imperiall constitution of Constantinus and Licinius.Not long agone we weying with our selues, that the libertie and freedome of religion oughte not in anye case to be prohibited, but that fre leaue ought to be geuen to euery man to doo therin according to his will and mynde, we haue geuen commaundement to al mē to qualifie matters of religiō as they thē selues thought good, and that also the Christians should keepe the opinions and fayth of their religion. But because that many and sundrye opinions by the same our first lisence spring and increase through such liberty graunted, we thought good manifestly to adde thereunto, and make playne such thinges, wherby perchaunce some of them in time to come, may from such their obseruance be let or hindered. When therfore by prosperous successe, I Cōstantinus Augustus, & I Licinius Augustus came to Mediolanum, and there sat in councell vppon suche thinges as serued for the vtilitie and profyt of the common weale, these thinges amongest others, we thought would be beneficial to all men: yea and before all other thinges we purposed to establish those thinges, wherin the true reuerence and woorship of God is comprehended, that is, to geue vnto the Christians free choyse to follow what religion they thinke good, and wherby the same sinceritie and celestiall grace which is in euerye place receaued, maye also be embraced and accepted of all our louing subiectes. According therefore vnto thys our pleasure vpon good aduisement and sounde iudgement, we haue decreed, that no man so hardy, be denied to chuse and follow the Christian obseruance or religion: But that this liberty be geuen to euery mā, that he may apply his mind to what religion he thinketh mete himselfe, wherby God may performe vpon vs al his accustomed care and goodnes. To the intent therfore you might know that this is our pleasure, we thought it necessary this to write vnto you, wherby all such errours and opinions being remoued, which in our former letters (beyng sent vnto you in the behalfe of the Christians) are contained and which seme verye vndiscrete & contrary to our clemency, may be made frustrate and adnichilate. Now therfore firmly and frely we wil and commaund, that euerye man haue free libertie to obserue the Christian religion, & that without anye griefe or molestation he may be suffered to do the same. These thinges haue we thought good to signifie vnto you by as playn wordes as we may, that we haue geuen to the Christians free and absolute power to keepe and vse their religion. And for as much as this libertye is absolutely geuen of vs vnto them, to vse and exercise theyr former obseruance, if anye be so disposed, it is manifest

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