The Tenth Persecution AD 303 – ABRIDGED – Foxe’s Book of Martyrs
In the beginning of the tenth persecution, which was in the nineteenth year of his reign, the emporer Dioclesian appointed Maximian to share his throne with him, and the two of them chose Galerius and Constantius to serve under them. Under these rulers the Christians were again persecuted furiously, a state which would continue until A.D. 313 even though Dioclesian and Maximian gave up their offices in the year A.D. 305.
Contantius and Galerius divided the empire between them, Galerius taking the eastern countires and Constatius ruling France, Spain, and Britian. Meanwhile, the Roman soldiers set up axentius as their caesar in Rome. While Galerius and Maxentius continued the persecution for seven or eight years, Constantius became a supporter for the Christians in his empire, being an enlightened, intelligent ruler who was always concerned for the welfare of his subjects, never waging unjust wars or aiding those who did. Churches were terribly persecuted in other parts of the empire, but Constantius gave Christians the freedom to live and worship as they chose, even appointing them as his closest protectors and advisors.
Constantius died in A.D. 306 and was buried at York, England. His son Constantine, and English-born Christian, succeeded him — a ruler every bit as compassionate and dedicated as his father.
In Rome, Maxentius was ruling as a tyrant, killing his own noblemen, confiscating their goods for himself, and practicing magic — the only thing he seemed to do well [ding ding ding!]. In the beginning of his reign he pretended to be a friend of the Christians, but only to win popular support while he secretly continued the persecution.
The citizens and senators of Rome soon grew weary of Maxentius’s tyranny and wickedness and petetioned Constantine to come free them. At first Constantine triend to convince Maxentius to mend his ways, but when that had no effect, he gathered an army in Britain and France and began marching toward Italy in A.D. 313.
Knowing he didn’t have the support of his people, Maxentius had to rely on his magic arts and occasional ambushes of Constantine’s advancing army, neither of which slowed Constantine’s advance toward Rome.
But as he entered Rome, Constantine began to feel nervous about the coming battle. He’d seen Maxentius defeat others by the use of his magic, and he wished he had a force he could use against it. One day at sunset, Constantine looked up to the south to see the bright form of the cross and the words, In this you shall overcome. He and the men with him were astonished at the sign, although no one was too sure what it actually meant. But one night as Constantine slept, Christ appeared to him with he same cross, telling him to make a cross to carry before him into battle.
This sign and its message wasn’t given to induce superstitious worship of the cross, as though the cross had any power in itself, but as an admonition to seek Jesus and set forth the glory of His name. The next day Constantine had a cross made of gold and precious stones, which he carried into before the army in place of his flag. With added confidance that God had blessed his cause, he hurried toward Rome and the showdown with Maxentius.
Maxentius was now forced out into the city to meet Constantine on the far side of the Tiber River. After he crossed the bridge named Pons Milvius, Maxentius destroyed it, replacing it with an unstable bridge of boats and planks, thinking to trap Constantine. The two armies clashed. Constantine drove Maxentius backward, farther and farther, until in his haste to safety, he tried to retreat over the new bridge and fell into his own trap. His horse tumbled off the unstable planking, taking Maxentius in his armour to the bottom of the Tiber, where he drowned.
Maxentius was the last Roman persecutor of the Christians whom Constantine set free after three hundred years of oppression and death. Constantine so firmly established the rights of Christians to worship God that it would be a thousand years before they would again suffer for their faith.