Century IV, Chapter X

CHAP. X.
THE CHURCH. UNDER JOVIAN.

This prince succeeded Julian in the year 363, Jovian
aged about 33 years. His reign was terminated by "ore'than"
sudden death, after little more than seven months: »«e»
nor was there any thing peculiarly shining or eminent D
in his talents or character. Civil history does not „g„
distinguish him. In ecclesiastical history he merits
a particular attention ; for he is the first off the
* Sozom. B. VI. c. 11.

f The first Constantine 3eems in doctrine to have followed the Semi-Arianism of Eusebius, or perhaps more properly may be said to have not understood the Go3pel in any light; and the latter part of his life, it is allowed on all hands, was very faulty. Of Constantius, nothing need be said. Of Philip, in

CHAP. Roman emperors who gave some clear evidences, x- though not unequivocal, of real love to the truth as it is in Jesus. It were to be wished that the accounts of this emperor had been more explicit and large. Neither his faith, however, nor his practice seem to contradict* what I have asserted; and Providence just showed him to the Roman world, that he might restore the sinking Church, and then removed him.

In Julian's time he had given a noble mark of Christian sincerity, by declaring that he would rather quit the service than his religion f. Yet Julian kept him near his person, and employed him in his fatal expedition; an unequivocal proof, that his talents and capacity, though not of the first rate, were by no means defective. In stature he was much above the common size, and large in proportion, so that it was difficult to find an imperial habit that would suit him. The most striking feature in his character seems to have been a consistent frankness, openness, and integrity, such as I look for in vain among mere philosophers and mere heroes. Nor can it easily exist, except in minds erected by divine grace above the crooked pursuits of secular ambition. Though the empire of the Roman world was in his eye, he forgot not that he was a Christian, and was solicitous to confess his Saviour at a time

the last century, we know much more evil, notwithstanding his Christian profession. I could wish the reader, with me, to estimate the worth of characters by their spirituality and holiness, not by talents and exploits. If he does not, he will wonder that 1 should make light of the great Constantine in comparison of the obscure Jovian.

* I say seem to contradict; for I am aware that Ammianus charges him with gluttonous and libidinous excesses. But this author was not a Christian, and he expresses his hopes, that he might have corrected them, and owns that he was very sincere in his religion. This seems as much in Joviau's favour as may be expected from Ammianus.

f I follow the Abbe de la Bleterie in his life of this prince, which is beautifully written ; yet I keep my eye on the ancient historians all along.

when the cause of Paganism must have predominated much in Julian's army. " I am a Christian, says he, I cannot command idolaters, and I see the wrath of the living God ready to fall on an army of his enemies." " You command Christians! exclaimed those who heard him; the reign of superstition has been too short to efface from our minds the instructions of the great Constantine and of his son Constantius." Jovian heard with pleasure, and assented; and the Pagans in the army seem to have been silent*.

The army was in a situation of extreme danger at the time of Julian's death; far advanced into an enemy's country, and without provisions. The rashness of his predecessor had involved Jovian in these difficulties, and compelled him to negotiate with Sapor the Persian king; whose craft imposed on the undesigning simplicity of the new emperor. By affected delays, the old Persian monarch protracted the negotiation, till the increasing distress of the Romans for want of provisions enabled Sapor to dictate the terms entirely. Ammianus thinks it would have been a thousand times better to have tried the chance of war, than to have accepted any of the conditions. But Jovian was a Christian; he could not gain advantages by fraud and deceit in the course of the negotiation ; the preservation of the lives of men was to him of more importance than of the distant provinces which he was obliged to cede to Sapor: and it is remarkably providen

* Theod. IV. 2. Socral. III. 22. Both these historians tell the same story, though the former somewhat more fully. Ammianus observes, indeed, that the victims and entrails were inspected for Jovian: on which account Mr. Gibbon exults over the destruction of Theodoret's legend. But who does not see, that the superstitious practice having been in high vogue under Julian, it might be continued, for the present at least, even without Jovian's knowledge ? How does it appear that Theodoret's narrative deserves to be called a legend, any more than Ammtanus's, or even Gibbon's ? Besides, this object takes no notice at all of the authority of Socrates, who in candour and veracity is generally allowed to have been eminent.

VOL. II. L

Chap, tial, that the first instance we have on record of an x' ignominious and disadvantageous treaty concluded by the Romans, was under a monarch, who it is hoped belonged sincerely to Him whose kingdom is not of this world. Heavy are the complaints which Roman writers make of this dishonourable peace: Gregory Nazianzen laments it, but throws the blame on Julian : the pagan historian Eutropius seems to justify Jovian by calling it a treaty ignoble indeed, but necessary.

I seem to behold new maxims of government appearing under the first faithful emperor. The rule of the Psalmist*, in controversy, was perhaps never more punctually followed than by Jovian. Though the inhabitants of Nisibis in Mesopotamia petitioned him, with the most vehement importunity, to suffer them to defend their fortress against the Persian king, from their extreme unwillingness to leave their native country, he answered, That he had expressly sworn to deliver up the city, and that he could not elude an oath by vain subtilties. Crowns of gold were usually offered by cities to new princes. The people of Nisibis, willing to remain under the Roman government, very sedulously performed this act of homage. Jovian refused the crown; but they at length in a manner compelled him to accept it. Nothing, however, could move him from his purpose. He obliged the inhabitants to depart with their effects, somewhat earlier than he would have done, had he not been exasperated by their insults and importunities. Yet he seems to have done all that circumstances allowed. He ordered Amida, whither most of them retired, and which had been almost ruined by Sapor, to be rebuilt for their use, and settled them there. Not only Pagan, but some Christian authors, reproach Jovian for executing the treaty with so much fidelity.

* Paal. xv. 4. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

I confess he appears to me highly amiable in those Cent. very things, for which he has been so much cen- . sured. It was an act worthy of a prince who served Jesus Christ, to dread more the loss of truth and the wrath of God, on account of perjury, than the loss of territory. It is difficult for men to divest themselves of the regard for worldly honour and greatness. This illusion gives Jovian a mean appearance in the eyes of most writers*. Could such a man be fit to govern an empire ? Let it be remembered, however, that if Christian principles place a man under disadvantages in some worldly respects, they compensate for these in others. The same fear of God, which hindered Jovian from breaking his word, would have kept him from entering into a war of such madness and folly, as he found himself involved in at his accession.

These secular transactions would not have engaged my attention, were they not connected with an illustration of the religious principles and conduct of the prince. When I can meet with an exalted personage, who evidences a Christian spirit, I shall think his actions belong properly to this history. But to proceed : at Carrhae in Mesopotamia, a city wholly pagan, the messenger, who brought the first news of Julian's death, was near being stoned. Never was paganism more completely disappointed. Her hopes in an instant vanished as a dream, and the Church triumphed in praising her God, who is ever faithful to his promises. Real saints would doubtless show their thankfulness in a becoming manner, and Gregory Nazianzen was particularly careful, in an oration which he published on the occasion, to exhort Christians to display their meekness, humility, and charity. But compassion for a perishing enemy, and fear at the prospect of

* It is astonishing how the Abbe de la Bleterie could be induced to think, that Jovian was not bound to execute his promise, and should write a dissertation in support of this opinion.

Chap, prosperity were not exhibited as they ought to have *- , been. Antioch, in particular, personally hostile to Julian, and rilled with Arianism, demonstrated how" much it had fallen from Christian purity. Public entertainments, sacred and profane festivals, filled this voluptuous city. Dances and public shows were seen in the churches; and the theatres resounded with insulting acclamations. There the victory of the cross was published, there Maximus was addressed, as if present: " Fond Maximus ! what is become of thy predictions? God and his Christ have conquered."

Jovian led his army to Antioch, in which he remained six weeks, and applied himself to the regulation of religion. The conduct of his predecessor had involved him in intricate difficulties, both in ecclesiastical affairs and in civil. The whole empire was torn with distractions, and Julian's affected toleration had been attended with the horrors of real persecution. Already on his death the temples were every where shut*; the priests absconded; the philosophers had quitted the cloak, and resumed their common dress: to so great a despair were the pagans reduced. Within the church, the Orthodox and the Arians were every where at variance; Antioch itself was split into three divisions. The Donatists in Africa exercised a turbulence that required the interference of the magistrate. The Novatians, faulty only in a narrow bigotry and excess of discipline, had kept up some good understanding with the general Church, had joined her in the defence of the faith against Arianism, had endured persecution in common with her, while Arianism triumphed ; and some of them at Martinium in Paphlagonia had cut in pieces several companies of soldiers who under Constantius had been sent to oblige them to embrace Arianism. But during the reign of Julian, if we except the mad excesses of • Socrates.

the Donatists, a kind of truce had prevailed among: the contending parties. Immediately on his death their eyes were solicitously directed to his successor, to see what measures he would pursue. Himself a sincere believer of the primitive faith, he yet abhorred persecution. Convinced that conscience could not be forced, and that a voluntary religion only was acceptable to God, he made a law, by which he permitted the Pagans to re-open their temples, and exercise their religion. Yet he peremptorily forbad witchcraft and impostures. He suffered the public sacrifices, but put a stop to the overflowings of magic and enchantments, with which Julian had filled the empire; in fine, he granted the Pagans more than Constantius had allowed, and placed them in the same state in which they had been left by the great Constantine. In this toleration there was an effective sincerity, to which that of Julian had no just pretensions. In the former reign, the Christian found himself only nominally free ; in the latter, the Pagan found himself really so. Philosophers themselves were admitted to court; though it could not be expected, that they should become the bosom friends of a Christian emperor. Some of the courtiers insulted them; Jovian himself was too just and generous to do it. Even Libanius and Maximus, the pillars of Paganism and philosophy, were spared; we may thence judge how mildly others were treated. At Constantinople also, sacrifices were publicly offered for the solemnity of the consulship of Jovian. He even permitted Themistius, an illustrious pagan magistrate, to harangue before him on the propriety of religious freedom, and the rights of conscience, and to thank him for the liberty which he gave to his subjects. His speech on the occasion need not be given ; the sentiments are now common and trite; something right and something wrong, as is usual at this day, appears on the face of it. The right of private judgment and the iniquity of

Chap- compulsion are justly stated; and, like all men who*- , are void of any true religious principle, he intimates that all religions are equally true and equally pleasing to God. But it seems a pitiable thing, that none of the learned and philosophical Pagans should have found out this doctrine before ! if they had, how much Christian blood would have been spared! It would have redounded more to their credit, if they had made or propagated this discovery during the Christian persecutions. To speak of it now, when they were the inferior party, looks more like selfishness than liberality. Philosophers wrote against Christians with much animosity, and some of them joined actively in persecuting: I recollect not one, before Themistius, who pleaded for toleration.

At the same time Jovian declared Christianity to be the established religion, and replaced in the standard the figure of the cross, which Julian had taken away. He ordered the Christians to be restored to their churches, recalled their exiles, and reinstated them in all their privileges. One Magnus, an officer of note, had burned by his private authority the church of Berytus in Phoenicia. He was himself an unprincipled man, ardent in persecution. Jovian was very near beheading him ; but contented himself with obliging him to rebuild the church at his own expense.

Thus did Jovian prove himself the defender of Christianity as the established religion, and of toleration at the same time. The ingenuity of man can proceed no farther in such a subject. The principles of church government, which have for an hundred years subsisted among ourselves, were in their great outlines introduced by Jovian into the empire: and on the whole convey a just idea of the integrity of his heart and the soundness of his understanding*.

* This praise seems due to Jovian in general for his conduct; •t the same time I am far from pretending to determine pre

Atlianasius had no sooner heard of the death of Athanasius Julian, than he suddenly appeared again at Alex- *^"TM>t andria, to the agreeable surprise of his people. A Alexandria, letter from Jovian confirmed him in his office, and it was conceived in these terms:—" To the most religious friend of God, Athanasius. As we admire beyond expression the sanctity of your life, in which shine forth the marks of resemblance to the God of the universe*, and your zeal for Jesus Christ our Saviour, we take you, venerable bishop, under our protection. You deserve it, by the courage which you have shewn in the most painful labours, and your contempt of persecutors and menacing words. Holding in your hand the helm of faith, which is so dear to you, you cease not to combat for the truth, nor to edify the Christian people, who find in you the perfect model of all virtues. For these reasons we recall you immediately, and we order you to return, to teach the doctrine of salvation. Return to the holy churches; feed the people of God. Let the pastor at the head of the flock offer up prayers for our person; for we are persuaded, that God will diffuse on us and on our

cisely the line which he ought to have pursued. Numbers speak with great confidence on the subject of religious establish* ments and toleration, who have never weighed the difficulties with which it is involved. A more proper place to investigate it may occur, when we come to the reign of Theodosius.

• Mr. Gibbon calls this impious and extravagant flattery. Who but a person either exceedingly prejudiced or ignorant would have hazarded such an assertion? I scruple not to charge the learned critic with both. His prejudice will not allow him to bear a short interval of the prosperity of Athanasius with patience, and his ignorance of the Scriptures has led him here to express his prejudice with'peculiar absurdity. Every child in divinity knows, that to say, a man resembles God, or bears his image and likeness, means no more, than " that he is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him," that he is what Adam was before the fall, what every Christian is made by grace. What an immensity of learning do some men attain, without knowing the very elements of the New Testament!

Chap- fellow Christians his signal favours, if you afford the assistance of your prayers." ' Jovian wrote to him again, to ask instruction with respect to the Arian controversy. Athanasius, entering into his views, convened some bishops, and answered him in the name of the synod, recommending to him the Nicene faith, and defending it in his usual manner. Jovian directed him to come to Antioch, where he was graciously received. Ariau and Candidus, two Arians, relations also of the emperor, came to him at Antioch, having conceived some hope of his favour. Euzoius also, the bishop of that city, where Arianism was strong, and some other Arians, laboured to ingratiate themselves with the eunuchs of the palace, as their party had done in the reign of Constantius. The Macedonians too, the followers of the deposed bishop of Constantinople, who had taught them to deny the divinity of the Holy Ghost, solicited the emperor for the predominancy in the church. " I hate disputes, replied Jovian ; I love and honour men of peace, and promoters of union." The Arians, confounded with such a sentence, communicated with Meletius the orthodox bishop of Antioch, and subscribed the council of Nice. It is difficult to believe their sincerity ; under any the most moderate account that can be given of the controversy, Arian duplicity must strike every reader. At any rate Jovian was not to blame ; he plainly declared, that he would constrain no man, and he said so sincerely. But power, not mere toleration, was their object. Jovian also strove in vain to heal the division between the followers of Meletius and Paulinus, which has been mentioned above.

The Arians of Alexandria* attempted to gain the episcopal see for a person named Lucius, a man void of all piety, and made application for him to the

* Opera Athanasii, V. 1. p. 782. See Bleterie's Life of Jovian.

emperor, with Lucius himself at their head. The friends of Athanasius sent deputies alsoontheirpart, to oppose them. The interference of Constantine, and still more of Constantius, in the expulsion of bishops in cities of great note in the empire, had established an unhappy precedent, which was followed too frequently. A short extract of the conferences may throw some light on the character of Jovian, and on the state of religion at that time. " We beg your power, your majesty, your piety," say the Arians, " to give us audience." Who and whence are you? " Sir, we are Christians." Whence, and of what city ? " Of Alexandria." What do you desire of me ? " To give us a bishop." I have ordered Athanasius to return to his see. " Sir, this man has been banished many years, for crimes of which he is not cleared." A soldier of the emperor's guard interposed : " Sir, give yourself the trouble to examine who these people are, the remains of the faction of George, the villain who desolated Alexandria." At these words, Jovian, (who was on horseback when they met him,) spurred his horse and left them. The Arians were not so repulsed; they presented themselves to Jovian a second time. " We have several heads of accusation against Athanasius, which we are able to prove. It is thirty years since he was banished by Constantine and Constantius of immortal memory." The accusations often, twenty, thirty years, replied Jovian, are out of date. I know why he was accused, and how he was banished. A third time Jovian being importuned by the same petitioners, and the deputies of the Athanasians speaking at the same time, Jovian said, " When all speak together, one cannot understand who is in the right. Choose two persons on hoth sides; I cannot answer both of you." The Arians begged the emperor to set over them any person except Athanasius. "I have made inquiries," said he; " he teaches sound doctrine." " It is true

Chap- he speaks well," answered the Arians, " but means ** , ill." The emperor replied, " I need no other testimony; if he means ill, he must give accountof that to God : We men hear words; God alone knows the heart." " The treasurer," said a lawyer, a cynic philosopher, " has taken some houses from me onaccount of Athanasius." Is Athanasius responsible for the actions of the treasurer r "I have a charge against Athanasius," said another lawyer, named Patalas, a Pagan. What business, said the emperor, has a Pagan like thee to trouble himself about Christians? Enraged at the attempts of the Arians to corrupt the eunuchs of his court, he made them to undergo the torture, to discover the bottom of the intrigue, and said he would treat his first domestics in the same Athanasius manner, if they followed such measures. He sent Lis diocese. Athanasius to his diocese, where he lived ten years longer, and directed the affairs of the church.

The plainness and frank manners of Jovian, mixed with firmness, are evident in this account; so is the inveterate malignity of the Arians; and every serious reader will deplore the power which Satan gains over a people once tinged with the spirit of religious party in opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, and will see matter of caution not to depart from the simplicity of the Gospel.

While Jovian was at Antioch, he was much aspersed by the wits of that city. His person, it was said, was formed at the expense of his mind. The measure of his stature is that of his folly. Calumnies were propagated against him, and the spirit of satire was indulged with much freedom.

But, notwithstanding these censures, the acknowledgments of pagans themselves in favour of Jovian; his talent of knowing men, and employing them accordingly; his attention to find out persons of merit; his care of Christian doctrine and piety; his integrity and openness; and above all, his strict conscientiousness, like to which I find nothing in

pagan heroes and patriots; announced, though not Cent. the splendid genius, yet the man of sound under- . standing, and promised to the world a wise and pious government. It is impossible that Ammianus could have had a mean opinion of him, since, when he speaks of his faults, he owns that he might have lived to correct them. He seems to have been a character of the solid, not the shining kind ; the wickedness of the times, I fear, was unworthy of him. He was soon removed, and so very suddenly, that it was suspected, he had not died a natural death ; though of this no proof was given. The Christians sincerely wept, the Pagans in general spake well of him ; the Arians soon endeavoured to take advantage of his decease, and the Church was once more involved in persecution.