THE CHURCH UNDER JULIAN.
After having: taken a view of various circum- Chap.
stances, all tending to illustrate the state of Christen- J. > dom, it is time to return to the order of our history from the death of Constantius. The people of God,
Chap- with light very faint, were in a low state (torn within v , by the Arian controversy) and scandalized by the madness of the Donatists. The faithful sons and pastors of the church were by no means simple and intelligent in divine things, and were menaced even with destruction by a persecution conducted with as much malice and vigour as any of the foregoing, and with far greater dexterity. The Christian bishops, however, took advantage of Julian's affected moderation to return to their sees. Meletius came back to Antioch; Lucifer of Cagliari, and Eusebius of Vercellae, returned to their churches ; but Athanasius remained still in the desert, because of the
1)ower of George at Alexandria. Julian wrote a etter to Photinus the heretic, and commended his zeal against the divinity of Jesus Christ*. He ordered Eusebius of Cyzicus, under severe penalties, to rebuild the church of the Novatians, which he had destroyed in the time of Constantius; a punishment probably just, though like every thing else done by Julian concerning the Christian religion,contrived by him with malignant intentions. He protected the Donatists in Africa, and defended them against the general church and against one another.
The prohibition of human learning decreed by this emperor, induced Apollinarius, the father and the son, to invent something which might stand as a substitute for the loss. The father, a grammarian, wrote in heroics the sacred history, and imitated the Greek tragedians, taking his subjects out of the Scripture. The son, a philosopher, wrote in defence of the Gospel in the form of dialogues, like Plato. Little of these works has come down to us ; the prohibition ceasing with the death of Julian, Christian scholars returned to their former studies, and we cannot judge how far the writings of the Apollinarii merited the rank of Classics. Ecebolius, a famous sophist a't Constantinople, yielded to the caresses of Julian, and returned to paganism. After * Fleury, XV. 4.
the emperor's death he desired to be received again into the church, and prostrating himself at the door , of the church, said, " Tread me under foot like salt that hath lost its savour." I know no more of the man to enable me to form a just estimate of his character. We may be convinced, however, that a considerable number of true Christians were yet in the church, amidst all its corruptions, by this important fact, that the greatest part of public teachers and professors of Christianity chose to quit their chairs, rather than to forsake their religion. Proeresius ought to be distinguished. Julian had studied under him at Athens, and from a kindness to his master, excepted him out of the general law. Yet he refused to be thus singled out from his brethren, and retired. Another of them was Victorinus, an African, converted from idolatry in his old age. The manner of his conversion is finely told by Augustine, and I shall have occasion to give it to the reader hereafter. His rhetorical school was given up on occasion of Julian's edict, and he wrote with zeal in defence of divine truth, though his abilities were inadequate to the work, because he applied himself to the study of Scripture too late in life.
Caesarius, the brother of the famous Gregory Nazianzen, continued to practise physic at court, as he bad done in the former reign. His brother wrote to him, how grievous a thing it was to himself and to their aged father (the bishop of Nazianzum in Cappadocia) that he should continue in the court of an infidel, seeking worldly greatness. " Our mother," says he, " could not endure the account. Such the weakness of her sex, and such the fervour of her piety, we are obliged to conceal the truth from her." Caesarius profited by these rebukes; not all the artifices of Julian could move him. " I am a Christian," says he, " and must continue so." Caesarius quitted the court, and retired to his pious father, who was as much delighted with his son's
Chap, conduct, as earthly-minded parents would have been 1x-_, displeased.
Among the officers of the army was Valentinian, afterwards emperor. He commanded the guards who attended Julian. The emperor one day entered into the temple of Fortune, and on each side of the gate stood the door-keepers, who sprinkled with sacred water those who came in. A drop of this water falling on Valentinian's mantle, he struck the officer with his fist, expressed his resentment at his being defiled with the impure water, and tore that part of his mantle *. Julian, incensed at his boldness, banished him from his presence, not for his Christianity, as he pretended, but because he had not kept his cohort in good order. Sensible, however, of his merit, he still employed him in the army. There were others who like Valentinian defended their Christian profession not with meekness, but wrath. They found, however, the punishment of their folly from Julian, whose partiality and prejudices in favour of paganism urged him to adopt measures, which filled the whole empire with confusion.
At Merum, a city of Phrygia, Amachius the governor of the province ordered the temple to be opened, and the idols to be cleansed. Three Christians, inflamed, says my author f, with Christian
* Sozom. VI. c. 6.
f Socrates, B. III. c. 15. I fear there was in this action more of pride than zeal. Christians having tasted a little of the pleasures of superiority over Pagans in the two last reigns, and being' influenced in no high degree by Christian principles in thosetimes, descended again into a state of disgrace and inferiority with much reluctance. In the same spirit, at Dorostora in Thrace, one /Ennlian was cast into the Are by the soldiers for having overthrown certain altars. Those only who are in the vigorous exercise of spiritual arms, can with cheerful patience abstain from such as are carnal, when they are under provocation. Yet true Christians might be in a degree overcome by this spirit, and suffer with the love of Christ prevailing in the heart. The intelligent reader will take notice, however, from the commendations bestowed on such conduct by Socrates, how much the spirit of Christianity had declined since the days of Cyprian.
zeal,could not beartheindignity. Burning, continues Cent. he, with an incredible love of virtue, they rushed by IV' . night into the temple, and broke all the images. The governor, in his wrath being about to chastise many innocent persons, the culprits very generously offered themselves to punishment. He gave them the alternative, to sacrifice, or to die. They preferred the latter, and suffered death with excruciating tortures; more admirable for fortitude than meekness in their behaviour during their dying scenes.
At Pessinus in Galatia, on the confines of Phrygia, two young men suffered death in the presence of Julian. I wish I could say it was for professing the faith of Christ. But one of them had overturned an idol. The emperor put him to death in a cruel manner, with his companion, their mother, and the bishop of the city.
At Ancyra, the capital of Galatia, there was a priest named Basil, who in the former reign had opposed Arianism, and now with equal sincerity resisted idolatry. He went through the city, publicly exhorting the people to avoid polluting themselves with sacrifices. Once observing the Gentiles employed in their religious rites, he sighed, and besought God, that no Christian * might be.guilty of such enormity. The governor upon this apprehended him, charging him with sedition, and having tortured him, kept him in prison. Julian himself coming to Ancyra, sent for Basil, who reproached him with his apostasy. Julian said, he had intended to dismiss him, butwas obliged to treat him severely on account of his impudence. And in the end this priest suffered death in torture. Busiris was an heretic of the sect of the Abstemious, and was tortured at the same place. His constancy was amazing to the beholders; but he outlived Julian, recovered his liberty, and afterwards quitting his heresy, returned to the general church. Caesarea, in Cappadocia, being almost entirely
* Sozoraen, B. V. c. 11. VOL. II. K
Chap. Christian, having destroyed the temple of Fortune , since Julian's accession, merited his peculiar hatred; and he oppressed it with heavy exactions. Julian arriving at Antioch, was mortified to find how low the Pagan interest was fallen there*. The feast of Apollo was annually celebrated at Daphne, and on that occasion he expected to see the religious magnificence of Antioch displayed before himself as high priest. " What sacrifice," said he to the priest, " is to be offered at the festival ?" "I have brought a goose from home," replied he, " but the city has
Prepared nothing." " You, all of you," addressing imself to the senate f, " suffer every thing to be carried out of your houses, and given to the Galileans by your wives, who support the poor with your wealth, and give credit to their impiety." He uttered more to the same purpose, but he could not communicate his zcJ to the senate or people of Antioch. The rage for Hellenism had ceased for ever.
Mark, the bishop of Arethusa, in Syria, being ordered to pay the expense of rebuilding an idolatrous temple, which he had destroyed in the time of Constantius, and refusing, from conscientious motives, was tortured in an uncommon manner, and bore his sufferings with such astonishing patience, that the prefect said to Julian, " Is it not a shame, sir, that the Christians should be so much superior to us, and that an old man, over whom victory itself would be inglorious, should conquer us ?" He was at length
* The indefatigable pains which the Apostate took in support of Paganism is almost incredible. On the festivals to Venus he walked in procession with lewd women of the worst character. So says Chrysostom. Yet Lardner, who always mitigates the bad against Julian, fancies that Julian scorned all debauch. Moreover, he affects to doubt of the truth of the representations of the follies and immoralities of this emperor; because they are the accounts of Christians; and because Greg. Nazianzen is apt to overstate matters. Be it so —but still it will not follow that the .whole is false; and the judicious reader will rather be disposed to conclude that Lardner himself is greatly prejudiced in favour of Julian.—See Amm. Marcellinus.
dismissed; and a number, who had persecuted him, Cent. attended afterwards to his instructions. The bishop , Ivhad saved the life of Julian in the beginning of the reign of Constantius, when all his family was in danger ! His character appears to have been that of eminent piety and virtue; as such he is extolled by Gregory Nazianzen, though he had all along supported the Arian party: and considering the entire separation of the Arian from the general church, it is very improbable that Gregory should speak of him so highly as he does, had he not returned to the church, and been in its communion at that time *. It would be tedious to recite all the accounts of those who suffered from the insolent cruelty of Pagans, under the politic connivance and partiality of Julian during his short reign.
In the year 362, George f of Alexandria was mur- Murder uf dered by the Pagans of that city, to whom he had ^SSA made himself obnoxious, by exposing their senseless A. D. and ridiculous rites. The providence of God was 362. wonderfully displayed in causing this man, who had distinguished himself as the persecutor of his people, to perish by the hands of idolaters at last. There were not wanting, however, those who gave it out, that he had been murdered by the Athanasian party J. The letter of Julian to the people of Alexandria, still extant, abundantly confutes this calumny. He blames none but those of his own religion for it, and in his manner of blaming them, he confesses that George deserved even severer punishments, and declares that he will inflict no higher penalty on them than a reprimand, which he hopes they will reverence, " because from their first origin they were Greeks." Such the partiality of Julian for Gentiles!
The reader will not have forgotten, that Atha
• Theodoret, B. III. c. 7. Fleury, B, XV. c. 17.
f This is he whom monkish ignorance hath exalted into St. George, the Champion of England, against all the rules of history, geography, and common sense.
t Socrates, B. lit. c. 3.
Chap, nasius was all this time in concealment. He had v__i^l__, spent seven years, partly in the deserts, and partly in the house of a virgin at Alexandria. And the steady affection which the people had for him, and which no persecution of enemies could conquer, had Athana»iu» under God preserved him from his enemies. This w»UbTihop- year, after the death of George, he ventured to ric- return openly to his bishopric. The Arians were
obliged to hold their meetings in private houses, and the general voice of the people every where sincerely decided for Athanasius. During the little time that he was allowed to appear in public, he acted as a Christian bishop, treating his enemies with mildness, and relieving the distressed without respectof persons, restoring the custom of preaching on the doctrine of the Trinity, removing from the sanctuary those who had made a traffic of holy things, and gaining the hearts of the people. He held a council at Alexandria, composed of those who had particularly suffered during the Arian persecution, among whom Eusebius of Vercellae was particularly distinguished. Here those, who, contrary to their settled principles, had been beguiled by Arian subtilties to subscribe what they did not believe, with tears owned how they had been imposed on, and were received into the Church. Here the doctrine of the Trinity was again cleared of the ambiguities which had clouded it, and the Nicene creed was allowed to be the most accurate and exact. Two * schisms unhappily rent the church at this time. The first was at Antioch, where Euzoius the Arian had the chief sway. The followers of Eustathius, the late orthodox bishop, gave themselves up to Paulinus, a presbyter; while another party looked on themselves as belonging toMeletius, who had lately returned from exile. Lucifer of Cagliari, in his return through the East from banishment in Egypt, stopped at Antioch, with the best intentions, and endeavoured to heal the divisions of * Socrates, B. III. c. 9. Fleury, B. XV. 39.
the church. But by ordaining Paulinus, he confirmed the evils which he meant to cure. Meletius had a church without the city, Paulinus was allowed one within the city; while Euzoius, the most popular, possessed himself of the rest of the churches, but justice requires us to say, that he used his victory with moderation; and respecting the age, meekness, and piety of Paulinus, he did not deprive him of his little church in the city. A rare instance of moderation in an Arian leader! Lucifer himself was offended, that his fellow-sufferer Eusebius would not approve of his conduct at Antioch, and even broke off communion with him. Finding his obstinacy much blamed in the church, he became a schismatic altogether, returned to his own church at Cagliari in Sardinia, where he died eight years after. His followers were called Luciferians, but they were few in number*.
* No man ever exceeded Lucifer in courage and hardiness of spirit. When in exile for the Nicene faith, he published certain writings, in which he accuses Constantius with the most astonishing boldness. If there were more of the meekness of the Gospel in these writings, it might be proper to quote some parts of them for the edification of the Christian reader; but there is evidently too much of the man, and too little of the saint, in the whole method and spirit of them. Not content with composing these works, he sent a copy of them to the emperor, who, surprised at his boldness, ordered him to be asked, " whether he had really sent them." " Know," answered the intrepid bishop, " that I did send the book to the emperor, and after having again considered it, I do not retract; and when you have examined the reasons for which 1 have written in this manner, you will find that we have been strengthened by God, so as to expect with gladness the death which is preparing for us." I wonder not that Athanasius highly commends this man ; he himself, though in a less degree, partook of the same spirit. It is useful to mark the declensions of the Christian spirit among good men. The want of a closer attention to the vitals of experimental godliness rendered even the best men in these day3 too ferocious in their opposition to heretics. Lucifer was consistent throughout; the same temper which appears to have actuated him in his conduct towards Constantius, seduced him into a blameable schism in his latter days ; yet who can deny the sincerity of his love for the truth, and the integrity of his heart ?—See page 86 of this vol.
It is the design of history to record what may be useful to mankind. In this view, even the faults of the wise and good are serviceable. The unhappy spirit of faction, in the decline of Christian faith and love, split the small remnant of the faithful in Antioch into .two parties, which subsisted some time after the beginning of the next century. Two persons, both of undoubted piety, minister there, and yet cannot heal the evil. A third, who had distinguished himself for zeal and piety above many of his age, endeavours to compose the breach, but widens it. He himself soon after, through the impatience of contradiction, makes another party. There was a world of wisdom in St. John's charge to the Church in his old age. " Little children, love one another." The want of it is sure to be succeeded by factions, surmises, and endless divisions. The breach once made is more easily widened than closed. While the Gospel flourished in name through Antioch, the vices of luxury prevailed amidst the evils of heresy and schism. The church there became the mark of reproach to the apostate, in his satire against their city. I turn with more pleasure to behold Eusebius of Vercellas, who came back to his western bishopric in Italy, where he was received with extraordinary joy. His labours, and those of Hilary of Poitiers, were serviceable in Italy, Gaul, and in general through Europe. There the Arian heresy was suppressed, and peace and unity reigned. False learning and philosophy had not so corrupted the understanding. The Donatists in Africa obtained leave of Julian to recover their churches, and that frantic and turbulent sect proceeded to exercise military violence, an evil with which they had always been infected.
Athanasius was not allowed to enjoy long the sweets of liberty. The gentile Alexandrians represented to the emperor, that he corrupted the city and all Egypt, and that if he continued there, not a Pagan would be left. Julian's affected moderation was tried to the utmost in this case ; and the open spirit of persecution, which, contrary to his deliberate maxims, he displayed on this occasion, does immortal honour to the talents and integrity of the Egyptian prelate. " I allowed those Galileans, says he, who had been banished, to return to their countries, not to their churches *. I order Athanasius to leave the city on the receipt of my letter." The Christians wrote to the emperor, and begged that he might not be taken from them. Provoked to see how deeply the love of Christianity was fixed in them, and what progress the bishop had made in a very little time, Julian answered them f, that since Alexander was their founder, and Serapis and Isis their tutelary gods, it was surprising that the corrupted part should dare to call themselves the community. " I am ashamed, says he, that the gods should suffer any of you Alexandrians to confess himself a Galilean. You forget your ancient felicity, when Egypt conversed with the gods, and you abounded with prosperity. Your Alexander was a servant of the gods, whom Jupiter raised far above any of these, or the Hebrews, who were much better. The Ptolemies, who cherished your city as a daughter, advanced it to its greatness not by preaching Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the execrable Galileans. If you resolve to follow these impostors, agree among yourselves, and desire not to retain Athanasius, Many of his disciples are capable of pleasing you by their impious discourses. But if your affection for him is grounded on his skill and shrewdness (for I hear the man is crafty), for this reason I expel him from your city. That such an intriguer should preside over the people, is dangerous ; one who deserves not the name of man, a low despicable creature, who takes a pride in
* Jul. Epist. 26. A distinction certainly unfounded, because Contrary to the permission granted to all the rest of the bishops, t Epist. 51.
Chap- hazarding his life, and is fit only to cause disturbt , ances in society." To hasten the execution of his order, Julian wrote to the governor of Egypt*, that if he did not expel Athanasius by a certain time, a time which he limited, he would fine his officers one hundred pounds of gold. " 1 am deeply afflicted," says he, " at the contempt of the gods, which is shown by this man; it will be highly agreeable to me if you drive the villain out of Egypt, who under my government has had the insolence to baptize Grecian women of quality."
The enmity of the carnal mind against God has seldom been more displayed than in these letters concerning Athanasius. It breaks through all disgui ses, and transgresses all the bounds of prudence and decorum. The affectation also of despising a man whom he feared, and whose abilities dismayed him, is completely evident. One sees in the weakness of his arguments, how incapable even sensible men are of saying any thing that has the least tendency to shake the mind of a Christian. We must take every opportunity to show the progress of the Gospel; and as, through the scantiness of materials, a part of our evidence must come from the mouth of enemies, it should be observed, that there is in the last letter a confession of the laborious and useful life of Athanasius. He staid not a year in his bishopric since his return; yet in that time he confirmed the faithful in the truth ; he demonstrated the power of godliness by kindness, liberality and mercy, to enemies as well as friends; he extended the pale of the church by the conversion of Pagans, some of noble birth; and he merited the indignation, and alarmed the fears of the monarch of the Roman world. Such is the grace of God operating by Christian principles ! J The original is priSt , «*9f«iraf«<rxof turtXiif, the malignant spirit of which it is not easy to transJate into English.
* Epist 6.
Athanasius was therefore obliged once more to Athanasibs seek safety by flight. All the faithful gathered Z'TM" round him weeping.- " We must retire a little cour»e;to time, friends, says he ; it is a cloud that will soon fl,gl"' fly over." He took leave of them, recommending his church to the ablest of his friends, and going on board a vessel, he fled by the Nile into the obscurer parts of Egypt. Still his life was in imminent danger. The persecutors followed, and were not far from him, which induced Athanasius to use something of that craftiness with which Julian charged him*. He directed his companions to return to Alexandria, and to meet his enemies. The pursuers asked them earnestly, " Have you seen Athanasius?"—" He is near," say they ; " make haste, and you will soon overtake him." Thus deluded, they went forward with speed in vain ; and the bishop, who had secreted himself during this scene, returned in private to Alexandria, where he lay concealed till the end of the persecution. Thus did the malice of Julian expose this great and good man, to use the same sort of artifices, which David did, when persecuted by king Saul, who made the same remark as Julian did, " It is told me that he dealeth very subtilly f;" a conduct which probably extorted from him afterwards that prayer, " Remove from me the way of lying."
The active spirit of Julian was now bent on the destruction of the Persian monarchy ; and the pains and expense which he made use of in sacrifices and auguries, may seem incredible. But his ardent mind was one of the fittest instruments of Satanic infatuation, and Divine Providence was hastening his endAt Antioch he was so provoked by the Psalmody of the Christians, particularly the chorus which they used, " Confounded be all they that worship graven images," that he ordered his Praetorian prefect, Sallust, to punish them. He, though a Gentile, re
• Sozomen, B. V. c. 15. Socrates, B. III. c. 14. t 1 Samuel, x.xiii. 22.
luctantly obeyed, and seized a number of Christians. One of them, Theodorus, a young man, was so long and so variously tortured, that his life was despaired of. But God preserved him. Ruffinus, the Latin ecclesiastical historian*, declares, that he saw him a long time after, and asked him, whether he felt any pain in his torments. He owned not much ; for a young man stood by him, wiped off his sweat, and encouraged his spirit: so that upon the whole he felt during his tortures more pleasure than pain. A memorable instance of the gracious care of God over his servants ! Julian seems to have increased in cruelty, as he came nearer his end: He persecuted numbers at Antioch. Gregory Nazianzen, in an oration, describes these facts rather in a rhetorical than in an accurate manner, and speaks also of his horrible incantations, and the cruelties attendant on his superstition. The description is probably exaggerated; but Gregory was both too intelligent and too honest either to have been deceived himself, or to have deceived others altogether. Certain it is, that Julian toward the Christian part of his subjects was a tyrant; and one instance more shall close the account of his severities. Publia, a widow of great reputation, with a number of virgins over whom she presided at Antioch, sung and praised God, when Julian was passing by. In particular, they sang such parts of the Psalms as expose the wickedness and folly of idolatry. Julian ordered them to hold their peace, till he had passed them. Publia, with more zeal than charity, I fear, encouraged them, and caused them to sing on another occasion as he passed, " Let God arise, and let his enemies be scatteredf." Julian in a rage ordered her to be brought before him, and to be buffetted on each side of her face. The effects of passion seem but too visible both in the emperor
* Socrates, B. III. c. 19. Ruff. B. I. c. 36.
t Theodoret, B. HI. c. 19.
and the woman : there is, however, this difference ; the one liad a zeal for God, the other a contempt.
I studiously avoid secular history as much as possible ; and having no business with Julian's war against the Persians *, I have only to take notice of the circumstances of his death, and to make a reflection or two on the conduct of Divine Providence, on the character of the man, and on the lessons of piety which are obviously imprinted on his story, and on the great deliverance vouchsafed to the Church. He received a mortal wound from a Persian lance in a skirmish. We are told, that, conscious of his approaching end, he filled his hand with the blood, and casting it into the air, said, " O Galilean, Thou Hast Conquered f." Some think that by that action, he meant to reproach the sun, the idol of the Persians, for his partiality to them, though he himself had been his devout worshipper. It is highly probable, that a soul so active and vehement as his, did express his indignation in some remarkable way at that juncture : neither of the accounts are improbable, though both cannot be true. In his last moments in his tent he expressed a readiness to die, declaring that he had learned from philosophy, how much more excellent the soul was than the body, and that death ought rather to be the subject of joy than of affliction. He boasted, that he had lived without guilt, and that he reflected with pleasure on the innocence of his private, and the integrity of his public life. He
* I shall introduce here a circumstance which happened at Berea, whither Julian went in his march from Antioch. There he found the son of an illustrious citizen, who had been disinherited by his father for following the religion of the emperor. Inviting them to dinner, and placing himself between them, he in vain endeavoured to unite them. Finding the father inexorable, he promised the son to be a father in bis place.—His religious addresses to the people of this place were little regarded by the senate of Berea, which was almost entirely Christian. So deeply had this place received Christianity, and so perseveringly preserved it since the days of the Apostles.—Acts xvii.
f Tbeodoret, B. III. c. 25.
reproved the immoderate grief of the spectators, and begged them not to disgrace by their tears his death, as in a few moments he should mix with heaven and the stars. He entered into a metaphysical argument with Maximus and Priscus, his favourite philosophers, on the nature of the soul. He died after a reign of one year and eight months, in the thirtysecond year of his age. A man of good understanding who taught children at Antioch, was in company with Libanius, who asked him what the carpenter's son was doing. It was smartly replied, " the Maker of the world, whom you jocosely call the carpenter's son, is employed in making a coffin." A few days after, tidings came to Antioch of Julian's death *. The story is related also by authors somewhat differently, but its substance seems to be true : nor is there any occasion to suppose the schoolmaster to have been possessed of the spirit of prophecy. The minds of Christians in general must have been extremely agitated during this whole scene of Julian's attempt against the Persian empire: their ardent prayers for '.'the preservation of the church, without the least personal ill will to their imperial persecutor, almost implied an expectation of his death in the answer to their prayers; and the extraordinary rashness, with which his military expedition was conducted, might lead mankind in general to hope, or to fear, it would end in his ruin.
The conduct of Divine Providence is ever to be adored, in hastening the death of so formidable an enemy to his people; whose schemes seemed only to require length of time to effect the ruin of the Church. But he was suffered to aim at too many objects at once, the restoration of idolatry, the ruin of Christianity, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the conquest of Persia. That he should have pursued this last with such avidity, is an instance of the opposition of two parties to each other, both equally • Theodoret.
bent on the ruin of the Church: a thing very common in history, by which the Lord frequently saves his people. How much more prudent had it been in Julian to have made an alliance with the Persian monarch, who would gladly have accepted it, and to have united with him in the destruction of Christians, against whom they both were equally incensed. Thus does God infatuate the councils of his enemies, and lead them to quarrel with one another for the good of his Church, rather than to unite for its ruin !
If philosophic pride had not entirely hardened the heart and stupified the conscience of the apostate, he could never have boasted in his last moments of his innocence and integrity. Besides numberless evils which a mind not quite steeled against the checks of conscience must have perceived, the guilt of ten years hypocrisy surely should have moved him to remorse. If sincerity be not essential to virtue upon every possible system, it is hard to say what is. But from the time of his initiation into the Platonic mysteries at Ephesus, to his open avowal of paganism, he dissembled in religion altogether; he openly professed the Gospel, and secretly worshipped idols. His friend Libanius commends his hypocrisy. Philosophers in general, who held that every thing was God, and yet constantly practised all the rites of vulgar polytheism, dissembled continually. The mind of Julian seems with astonishing inconsistency to have united, in sincere belief, the refinements of philosophy with the vulgar idolatry: but his hypocrisy with respect to Christianity, so artfully persisted in till the death of Constantius, is one of the completest instances of deceit I read of in history. That man must either be extinct at death, or be happy by a re-union with the Deity, was the belief of the philosophers in general: and Julian, like them, avows it at his death, and, like Cicero *, he had not the least idea of punishment See his Senectute, toward the end.
Chap, for sin in an after-life. What is meant then by the , , praises so profusely conferred in our age on philosophic infidels ? Are hypocrisy, atheism, the extinction of the feelings of natural conscience, and a total exemption from all that modest sense of imbecility which is so becoming a frail creature like man, are these virtues? Shall we be told in triumph, how nobly Hume the philosopher died ? Is the very worst state of mind to be gloried in as the best ? Is not scepticism and indifference about a future state, a mark of what the Scripture calls a reprobate mind, however it may be complimented by unbelievers with the appellation of a philosophical spirit? How much more amiable a prince would Julian have been, if he had lived like Antoninus Pius, following the rules of plain and common sense; and how large a part of the defects and vices of his character was owing to this same philosophy !
Yet a tear of compassion is due to this extraordinary man. He had seen a poor sample of the Gospel in the lives and manners of the family of Constantine, and had suffered deep and cruel injuries from them. Philosophers cautiously watched him when very young, and infused their poison with dexterity. Useful lessons may be learned from history by young persons, who among ourselves having been educated by Christians of mere formal orthodoxy, are ever prone to be seduced by heretical philosophers. While those, who profess the Gospel, are loudly called on to take care, that they express their religious zeal by something more substantial than words and forms. Young minds who are under the influence of unfruitful professors, are seriously warned, by the apostasy of Julian, to perform with diligence what he neglected, namely, To search the Scriptures for themselves with prayer. Had Julian been as studious of the Greek Testament as he was of Plato, and prayed as earnestly to God through Christ as he did or seemed to do to Jupiter and Apollo, he might have escaped the snare of Satan.
But men confirm themselves in apostasy and infide- Cent. lity, by hearkening to every thing that tends to pro- . duce these evils, and they avoid the force of divine truth by contemptuous neglect and indifference.
I wish the spirit of the Church could be more an object of our commendation during this whole scene than it is. No doubt many prayed sincerely, and we have seen abundant proofs of godly men choosing to suffer rather than to sin. But it is evident, that there was a great want of primitive meekness aud patience. Persecution under Julian was incurred too frequently by Christians without cause. Even just sentiments on this subject were lost by many. Sozomen, speaking of a suspicion, that Julian was slain by a Christian, admits that if it were so, none could easily blame the action : and supposes that Christians might do innocently at least what heathen patriots have done so laudably*. Such sentiments, compared with the primitive spirit of the Gospel, mark the degeneracy of the times, at the same time that they afford most lamentable advantages to the unbeliever.