[A. D. 312, at the Milvian Bridge on the Via Aurelia, ca. 4 miles north of the Gate of Rome (Piazza del Popolo)]
. . . Accordingly he called on God with earnest prayer and supplications that He would reveal to him Who He was, and stretch forth his right hand to help him in his present difficulties. And while he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been hard to believe, had it been related by any other person. But since the Victorious Emperor himself long afterwards declared it to the wrtier of this History, when he was honored with his acquaintance and society, and confirmed his statement with an oath, who could not believe the account especially since subsequent events established its truth?
He said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, bearing the inscription IN HOC SIGNO VINCES. At this sight, he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army which was with him on this expedition too and which witnessed this miracle.
Beloved bretheren! Hail! We have received from Divine Providence the blessing of being freed from all error, and united in the acknowledgment of one and the same Faith. The devil will no longer have any power over us . . . . Wherefore we all worship the One True God and believe that He Is. But in order that this might be done, by Divine Will I caused to be assembled at the City of Nicaea [May, 325] most of the bishops, which whom I also, who am but one of you and rejoice exceedingly in being your fellow servant, undertook the investigation of the truth . . . .(written in 325 A. D.) preserved in Socrates, The Ecclesiastical History, I. 9:
The Augustuses [Honorius and Theodosius II] to Melitius, Praetorian Prefect:Clerics must not be accused except before Bishops. Therefore, if a bishop, priest, deacon, or any person of inferior rank who is a minister of the Christian Faith should be accused by any person whatever before the bishops, since he must not be accused elsewhere, that man, whether of lofty honor or of any other dignity, who may undertake such a laudable type of suit, shall know that he must allege only what may be demonstrated by proofs and supported by documents. If any man, therefore, shall lodge unprovable complaints about such persons, he shall understand that by the authority of this sanction he will be subject to the loss of his own reputation, and thus by the loss of his honor and the forfeiture of his status he shall learn that he will not be permitted, for the future at least, to assail with impunity the respect due to another. For, just as it is right that bishops, priests, deacons, and all other clerics should be removed from the Venerable Church as persons attainted, if the allegations against them can be proved, so that they shall be despised thereafter and bowed under the contempt of wretched humiliation and shall not have an action for slander, so it must appear to be an act of similar justice that We have ordered an appropriate punishment for assailed innocence. Bishops, therefore, must hear such cases only under the attestation of many persons and in formal hearings.
Given on the Third Day before the Ides of December, at Ravenna, in the year of the 9th consulship of Honorius Augustus, and the 5th consulship of Theodosius Augustus. [December 11, 411/12]
Two elements there are, indeed, Imperator Augustus, by which this world is principally ruled: the consecrated authority of priests, and the royal power. Of these, the burden of the priests is much the weightier, since they will have to answer for even the kings of men on the Day of Divine Judgment. For you know, Most Clement Son, that although it is your right to take precedence over the human race in dignity, you bow your head obediently to those in charge of divine affairs, and look to them for the means of your salvation . . . .
John Paul Adams, CSUN