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GibbonChapter20

Quotations from Chapter 20 of Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ("The Motives, Progress, and Effects of the Conversion of Constantine --- Legal Establishment and Constitution of the Christian or Catholic Church (306 - 438 A.D.)"):


"The philosopher, who with calm suspicion examines the dreams and omens, the miracles and prodigies, of profane or even of ecclesiastical history, will probably conclude that, if the eyes of the spectators have sometimes been deceived by fraud, the understanding of the readers has much more frequently been insulted by fiction. Every event, or appearance, or accident, which seems to deviate from the ordinary course of nature has been rashly ascribed to the immediate action of the Deity and the astonished fancy of the multitude has sometimes given shape and colour, language and motion, to the fleeting but uncommon meteors of the air."


"The frequent repetition of miracles serves to provoke, where it does not subdue, the reason of mankind...."


"The awful mysteries of the Christian faith and worship were concealed from the eyes of strangers, and even of catechumens, with an affected secrecy, which served to excite their wonder and curiosity. But the severe rules of discipline which the prudence of the bishops had instituted were relaxed by the same prudence in favour of an Imperial proselyte, whom it was so important to allure, by every gentle condescension, into the pale of the church; and Constantine was permitted, at least by a tacit dispensation, to enjoy most of the privileges, before he had contracted any of the obligations, of a Christian."


"An absolute monarch, who is rich without patrimony, may be charitable without merit; and Constantine too easily believed that he should purchase the favour of Heaven if he maintained the idle at the expense of the industrious, and distributed among the saints the wealth of the republic."


(see also Gibbon - Table of Contents, Gibbon - Thoughts Upon Reading, ... and http://www.his.com/~z/gibbon.html for a single-page presentation of Gibbon quotes)


TopicLiterature


(correlates: YouCanHaveItAll, Gibbon - Table of Contents, MercifulSchadenfreude, ...)