Greater Freedom Brought With It Arrogance And Sloth

Before the persecution of my day, the message given through Christ to the world of reverence to God was accorded honor and freedom by all men, Greeks and non-Greeks alike. Rulers granted our people favors and even permitted them to govern provinces, while freeing them from the agonizing issue of [pagan] sacrifice. In the imperial palaces, emperors allowed members of their own households–wives, children, and servants–to practice the faith openly, according men like the loyal Dorotheus and the celebrated Gorgonius higher favor than their fellow servants or even officers. All governors honored the church leaders, mass meetings gathered in every city, and congregations worshiped in new, spacious churches that replaced the old. This all progressed day by day, the divine hand protecting its people from jealousy or plot so long as they were worthy.

But greater freedom brought with it arrogance and sloth. We began envying and attacking one another, making war on ourselves with weapons formed from words. Church leaders attacked church leaders and laymen formed factions against laymen, while unspeakable hypocrisy and pretense reached their evil limit. Finally, while the assemblies were still crowded, divine judgment, with its accustomed mercy, gradually started to intervene, and the persecution began with our brothers in the army. In our blindness, however, we made no effort to propitiate the Deity but, like atheists, assumed that our affairs went unnoticed, and we went from one wickedness to another. Those who were supposed to be pastors, unrestrained by the fear of God, quarreled jealousy, and hate, frantically claiming the tyrannical power they craved. Then it was that the Lord in his anger humiliated his daughter Zion, in the words of Jeremiah, and threw down from heaven the glory of Israel [Lam. 2:1-2]. And, as foretold in the Psalms, he renounced the covenant with his servant and profaned to the ground his sanctuary–through the destruction of churches–exalting the right hand of his servant’s enemies, not assisting him in battle, and covering him with shame (Eusebius, The Church History, Translated by Paul L. Maier, 85).