A Greater zealot for Paganism than Julian, is
not to be found in the history of mankind. Temper,
talents, power, and resentment, all conspired to
cherish his superstitious attachments. It may serve
to illustrate the providential care of God over his
church, and by way of contrast it may heighten our
ideas of that Gospel simplicity, with which we have
seen divine truth to be supported and advanced, to
behold the serpentine arts with which the prince of
darkness was permitted to attempt the restoration of
his kingdom by the hand of Julian. For I can by no
means subscribe to the character, which Mosheim *
gives us of the mediocrity of his genius. Whoever
duly attends to the plan which he formed to subvert
Christianity, will see the union of a solid judgment
with indefatigable assiduity. Neither address nor
dexterity was wanted. All that the wit and pru-
dence of man could do was attempted. He was
highly superstitious indeed, and addicted to magic
beyond all bounds. Nor are these, as Mosheim
thinks, any tokens of natural meanness of spirit.
Alexander the Great was as magnanimous by nature
as any of the sons of men; yet was he as super-
stitious as Julian himself. The desire of weighing
characters in modern scales, is apt to betray men
of learning into a false judgment both of persons
and things. Let itthen fairly be allowed, whatindeed
his works and actions in general, as well as his artful
and judicious opposition to the Gospel, evince, that
Julian was a man of very great parts and endow-
ments. He died about the same age with Alexander:
neither of them had attained that maturity of judg-
ment, which full experience gives to the human
mind. And yet in them both the world beheld
* Mosh. Ecclesiast. Cent. iv.
VOL. II. I
uncommon exertions of genius and capacity. If Julian failed, let it be remembered, that his arms were levelled against Heaven ; and it is of no service to Christianity, to depreciate the talents of its enemies.
Constantius ought to have reflected, that by cruelty and injustice in sacrificing the relations of Julian, he excited his hatred against Christianity. The case of Julian deserves commiseration, though it cannot admit of apology. What had he seen excellent or comely in the effects of the Gospel on his uncle or cousins ? What a prospect did he behold in the face of the Christian church, torn with factions, and deformed by ambition ! The same vices under which the heathen world groaned, appeared but too visible at present among Christians. These things, joined with the resentment of family wrongs, determined him early in life in favour of the old religion. He was made a public reader in the church of Nicomedia, and affected a zeal for Christianity during the greatest part of the reign of Constantius. Had he read the New Testament with attention, and prayed over it with seriousness, he might have seen that the doctrines there inculcated led to a conduct very opposite to that which he beheld in the then leaders of the Christian world, both civil and ecclesiastical. A tenth part of the study, which he employed on the profane classics, might have sufficed for this. But like many infidels in all ages, he does not seem to have paid any attention to the Scriptures, nor even to have known what their doctrines really are. From his youth he practised dissimulation with consummate artifice. One Maximus, a noted philosopher and magician, confirmed him in his pagan views; he secretly held correspondence with Libanius, the pagan sophist; and openly attempted to erect a church ; he studied all day, and sacrificed at night. He offered up his prayers in the church in public, and at midnight rose to perform his devotions to Mercury. His residence at Athens completed his knowledge of the fashionable philosophy; in fine, no person was ever more admirably qualified to act the part which he did, when he succeeded Constantius.
Tbis happened in the year 361. He ordered the Julian suctemples to be set open, those that were decayed "^t*iiiS°n* to be repaired, and new ones to be built, where A. D. there was a necessity. He fined the persons who 361. had made use of the materials of the temples which had been demolished, and set apart the money, this wav collected, for the erection of new ones. Altars were every where set up, and the whole machinery of Paganism was again brought into use. Altars and fires, blood, perfumes, and priests attending their sacrifices, were every where visible, and the imperial palace itself had its temple and furniture. The first thing he did every morning was to sacrifice, and byhis presence and example he encouraged the practice among all his subjects. Heathenism held up its head, and Christians were every where insulted. He repealed the laws made against idolatry, and confirmed its ancient honours and privileges. But laws are the least part of what it behoves princes to do, who mean to encourage religion. A plan of conduct, an earnestness of principle, and a system of manners, are needful to support any religious tenets*. The Author, mentioned below, has with great clearness illustrated the methods of Julian. Change the object, and let true religion be promoted, instead of false, and Julian will preach usefully to Christian princes, and shame the criminal indifference to all piety, which clouds the greatest part of the political hemisphere of Europe.
I. Philosophical infidels, in our own times, when Julian's pothey have found themselves no longer able to support a perfect scepticism, have borrowed some Christian light, called it natural, and laboured by
* Cave's State of Paganism under Julian. This writer has giten so clear and masterly a view, in eight particulars, of Julian's attempts, that I cannot do better than to tread in his Heps. I shall avail myself, however, of other helps, still further to illustrate the subject, particularly Julian's own writings.
Chap- the help of that to subvert Christianity itself. We VIIL—. have seen, in part, the same procedure in the Amononian philosophers. In Julian this scheme was reduced to a system ; and he issued out precepts for the support of Heathenism, which in his youth he had learned in the Christian school, though he disavows his obligations to his benefactors. The divine excellence of the Gospel, and the extreme malignity of human nature, do each appear hence in a very conspicuous light. To reform Paganism itself was his first object; to maintain it on the old system of popular belief he saw was impossible. Christian light had now rendered pagan darkness visible, its deformity disgustful, and its absurdity contemptible. With great importunity did he exhort magistrates to correct the vices of men, and relieve their miseries, assuring them that the gods would reward men for their charitable acts ; that it is our duty to do good to all, even to the worst of men and our bitterest enemies; and that public religion should be supported by a reverential adoration of the images of the gods, which were to be looked on as symbols of the gods themselves. Priests, he said, should so live, as to be copies of what they preached by their own lives, and dissolute ones should be expelled from their offices. Not only wicked actions, but obscene and indecent language should be avoided by them. No idle books and wanton plays, but divine philosophy, should be the object of their serious study ; they should learn sacred hymns by heart, should pray thrice or at least twice every day; and when in their turn called on to attend the temple, they should never depart from it, but give up themselves to their office. At other times they should not frequent the forum, nor approach the houses of the great, unless with a view of procuring relief for the indigent, or discharging the duties of their office ; that in no case they should frequent the theatres, nor ever be seen in the company of a charioteer, player, or dancer. In every city the most pious and virtuous should be ordained, without any Cent.
consideration of their circumstances. The godly , *v
training of their own families, and their compassionate care for the indigent, would be their best recommendation The impious Galileans, he observed, by their singular benevolence had strengthened their party, and Heathenism had suffered by the want of attention to these things.
Such was the fire which the apostate stole from heaven, and such his artifice in managing it! The rules, however, deserve the attention of Christian pastors in all ages, though it may seem wonderful that the Roman high priest* should not see the divinity of that religion whence he had learned such excellent things, the like to which are not in any degree to be found in Plato or any other of his favourite Greeks. He endeavoured, in imitation of Christians, also to erect schools for the education of youth. Lectures of religion, stated times of prayers, monasteries for devout persons, hospitals and almshouses for the poor and diseased and for strangers; these things he particularly recommends in a letter to Arsacius the chief priest of Galacia. He tells him what it was that advanced the impious religion of the Christians, their kindness to strangers, their care in burying the dead, and their affected gravity. He bids him warn the priests to avoid play-houses and taverns, and sordid employments. Hospitals should be erected in every city for the reception of all sorts of indigent persons. The Galileans, he observes, relieve both their own poor and oursf
It was not, however, in Julian-s power to infuse that spirit into his partisans, which alone could produce such excellent fruits. It is vain to think of destroying Christian principles, and at the same time
* All the Caesars were intitled Pontifex Maximus.
f In the same spirit, speaking of the duties of a priest, he observes, " that the gods have given us great hopes after death, and on them we may with confidence rely." He certainly learnt this languagefromChristianity,which he ungratefully labours todestroy. A species of behaviour not uncommon with philosophic infidels.
preserving Christian practice. But here is an additional testimony to the virtues of Christians from their most determined enemy, and as powerful an illustration of the work of God in the first ages of Christianity. It must be confessed, at the same time, that the good sense and penetration of the emperor, are as conspicuous as his malice and impiety.
II. Ridicule was the next weapon which the apostate made use of against Christianity. It is a method of attack which in all ages has been but too successful. Satire, as it is the easiest, so is it the most pleasing mode of writing; the whole nature of man, prone to indulge ideas of evil, favours the practice, and when written by an emperor, who might, if he had pleased, have used violence of the most formidable kind, it seemed to be the dictate of generosity. In writing against Christianity, hetrode in the steps of Celsus and Porphyry, and, by the few fragments of his work which remain, appears to have imbibed their spirit. The son of Mary, or the Galilean, were the titles which he gave to the blessed Jesus, and he ordered Christians to be called Galileans.
In his treatise of the Caesars, he asperses his uncle the great Constantine with much severity, and represents the Gospel as an asylum for the vilest of mankind. No doubt the enemies of God were delighted in that age with such productions, as they have since been with similar ones of Hume and Voltaire : and many are slow to learn, that a serious frame of mind isabsolutely necessary forthe contemplation of Christianity, and is as favourable for its reception, as a playful spirit is for its exclusion from the mind of man.
III. He was extremely politic in weakening the power and interest of Christians. He made an act of sacrifice the condition of preserving their places of honour and authority, and thus he either lessened their power or their reputation, and while he carefully avoided a formal persecution, he indirectly persecuted under every plausible pretence he could invent . Whoever had distinguished himself, under the former reigns, in demolishing the monuments of idolatry, felt his heavy hand, and was even put to death on frivolous accusations. The grants made to some subjects from the revenues of heathen temples, furnished a decent opportunity of impoverishing the opulent Christians, and this often with extreme injustice. He seized the treasures of the Arian church at Edessa, which had assaulted the Valentinian heretics, taunting them with the law of their religion, that being made poor here they might be rich hereafter. Injuries were now committed with impunity against the Christians by the governors of provinces, and when the former complained, he had the baseness to turn the knowledge of Christian precepts, which he had imbibed in his tender years, into a cruel sarcasm: " You know what directions of passiveness under injuries your Christ has given you !" To this he added an affected encouragement of heretics and sectaries, and thus artfully embroiled the Christian world with factions by toleration of them all, without real affection for any.
IV. It was, however, a refinement of policy far beyond the maxims of that age, and a proof of the native sagacity and good sense of Julian, that, young and impetuous as he was, he could abstain from open persecution himself, and yet connive at it in others, who knew what was agreeable to their master. He boasted of mildness in this respect, and contrasted himself with Galerius and the rest of the persecutors, observing, that they had augmented, rather than lessened the number of Christians. For, give them only occasion, said he, and they will crowd as fast to martyrdom as bees fly to their hives. Yet a number suffered for the Gospel under his reign, though not by the forms of avowed persecution.
V. The bishops and inferior clergy were beheld with an eye of rancour, at once ingenious and determined. In truth, they are in all ages the object of peculiar malevolence to men who love darkness
Chap- rather than light. Persecuting emperors and athe, istical philosophers unite in this respect. It is the glory of the Christian religion, that it provides popular instruction for the bulk of mankind where not applause, but spiritual utility, not ostentation, but holy and virtuous principles and practice, are the object of attention. Persecutors desire, that no instruction be instilled into the minds of the people, and philosophers, overlooking the vulgar with proud disdain, confine their attention to a few learned men. If the Gospel be indeed the light of heaven, that alone leads men to holiness, which fallen nature abhors, one sees at once, why the public teachers of Christianity are abhorred by the proud and the mighty. Julian charged them with seditiousness ; had he been a citizen of a free state, he would, with equal falsehood and with equal malice, have charged them with supporting tyranny. To deprive the church of the inspection of its pastors, he seized their incomes, abrogated their immunities, exposed them to civil burdens and offices, and occasionally expelled them by fraud or violence. At Antioch the treasures of-the church were seized, the clergy obliged to flee, and the churches shut up*. The same was done at Cyzicus without any shadow of sedition. At Bostra he threatened Titus the bishop, that if any mutiny happened, he should lay the blame on him and his clergy; and when the bishop
* It is certain that the temple of Daphne was burned in the night which terminated the procession of the Christians, who had removed the body of Babylas, a martyr in the Decian persecution, to Antioch from Daphne, where Julian would not suffer it to remain any longer. Julian, in his satire against the people of Antioch, indirectly charged the Christians with the fact, and was glad of the pretence to justify his severities against them. That be suspected them, Ammianus assures us, but gives no grounds to justify the suspicion. The work, intitled Misopogon, rallies the manners of the Antiocbians. Those of the emperor were austere, and void not only of pomp, but even of decent neatness. Theirs were full of Asiatic luxury : In fact, Christian simplicity had much decayed in this place, where Christians first had the name. Their numbers were immense, but the power of godliness was low.
assured him, that though the inhabitants were chiefly Christian, they lived peaceably and quietly under his government, he wrote back to the city, charging him with calumniating their character, and exhorting them to expel him. In other places he found pretences for imprisoning and torturing the pastors.
VI. The vigilant malice of the apostate surveyed every advantage, and seized it with consummate dexterity. Nor can the enemies of the Gospel in any age find a school more fruitful in the lessons of persecution than this before us. A man so perfectly Grecian as this emperor, must have hated or despised the Jews, and Moses must have been as really an object of his derision, as St. Paul. But to advance and encourage the Jews in their secular concerns, was one of the obvious means of depreciating Christianity. Hence he spake of them with compassion, begged their prayers for his success in the Persian wars, and pressed them to rebuild their temple*, and restore their worship. He himself promised to defray the expense out of the exchequer, and appointed an officer to superintend the work. To strengthen the hands of such determined enemies of Christianity, and to invalidate the Christian prophecies concerning the desolation of the Jewsf, were objects highly desirable indeed to the mind of Julian. But the enterprize was suddenly baffled, and the workmen were obliged to desist. No historical factsincethedaysofthe Apostles seemsbetter attested.
• He sent for some of the chief men of their nation, and asked them why they did not sacrifice according to the law of Moses. They told him, that they were forbidden to sacrifice except at Jerusalem. He thereupon promises to rebuild their temple ; and we have still a letter of his to the community of the Jew*, which appears, on the authority of Sozomen, to be genuine. Philostorgius expressly tells us, that Julian's design in the re-building of Jerusalem was to oppose the prophecies. Sozomen.—Lardner.
t See Matt- xxiii. 38, 39. To restore this people, while yet they continued in their enmity to Christ, was an attempt worthy of an infidel like Julian, and called for a miraculous interposition as plainly as Pharaoh's pursuit of the Israelites at the Red Sea.
Chap. I shall state very briefly the fact itself and its proofs, v^tI- . and then leave the reader to judge, whether there was ever any reason to doubt its credibility.
Ammianus Marcellinus, a writer of unquestionable credibility, and at least no friend of the Gospel, acquaints us with the attempt, and informs us of its defeat. " He projected to rebuild the magnificent temple of Jerusalem. He committed the conduct of the affair to Alypius of Antioch ; who set himself to the vigorous execution of his charge, and was assisted by the governor of the province ; but horrible balls of fire breaking out near the foundations with repeated attacks, rendered the place inaccessible to the scorched workmen from time to time, and the element resolutely driving them to a distance, the enterprize was dropped*." Socrates observes, that during the progress of this affair the Jews menaced the Christians, and threatened to retort upon them the evils which they had suffered from the Romans. The Christian evidences for the fact are Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrose, and Chrysostom* who lived at the same time. The three ecclesiastical historians, Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, who lived in the next age, do all give a testimony consistent one with another. To these may be added, Philostorgius the Arian, and the testimony of Jewish rabbis. See Warburton's Julian, p. 98.
VII. The suppression of learning among the Christians was another of the objects of Julian's policy. He published a law, that no professor of any art or science should practise in any place without the approbation of the court of that city, and the sanction of the emperor. With a view to keep the church in ignorance of the arts of reasoning and philosophy, he forbad Christian schoolmasters to teach Gentile learning, lest being furnished, says he, with our armour, they make war upon us with our own weapons. Our learning is unnecessary to Christians, who are trained up to an illiterate rusti
* Ammianus, B. XXIII. c. 1.
city, so that to believe is sufficient for them ; and by this prohibition I only restore possessions to their proper owners *. The scheme was highly prudent, but it required a great length of time, to raise from it any considerable effects.
VIII. Philosophy had ever been the determined foe of the Gospel. It behoved the artful persecutor, himself a philosopher, to encourage it as much as possible. He expressed his hearty wishes, that all the books of the wicked Galileans were banished out of the world. But as this was now impossible, he directed the philosophers to bend all their powers against them. Jamblicus, Libanius, Maximus, and others of-the philosophic tribe, were his intimate friends and counsellors, and the empire was filled with invectives against the Gospel. Its enemies were liberally paid by imperial munificence for their labours, and Julian seemed desirous to put it to the proof, whether indeed "the foolishness of God was wiser than men."
IX. He used ensnaring artifices to draw unwary Christians into compliance with pagan superstitions. He was wont to place the images of the heathen gods near his own statues, that those who bowed to the latter, might seem to adore also the former. Those who seemed thus to comply, he endeavoured
* In the same strain, he says " If they (the Christian professors) think these authors give a false account of the most honourable things, let them betake themselves to the churches of the Galileans, and expound Matthew and Luke. Yet those of the (Christian) youth who please to go (to the Pagan schools) are not excluded." So prudently did he provide for the progress of Hellenism, and for the downfall of Christian knowledge. He charges the Christians with the inconsistency of instructing pupils in classical learning, at the same time that they opposed the heathen mythology. The account of La Bleterie concerning this matter Is just, and his observation deserves to be quoted. " To explain the classic authors, to commend them as models of language, of eloquence and taste, to unveil their beauties, &c. this is not proposing them as oracles of religion and morality." Julian is pleased to confound two things so different, and to erect, under favour of this confusion, the puerile sophistry, which prevails through his whole edict.
Chap- to persuade into greater compliances; those who v*n- t refused, he charged with treason, and proceeded against them as delinquents. He ordered the soldiers, when they received their donative, to throw a piece of frankincense into the fire in honour of the gods. Some few Christians who had been surprised into the practice, returned to the emperor, threw back their donatives, and professed their readiness to die for their religion.
The story of Theodoret, B. III. c. 17, deserves to be told more particularly. Julian caused an altar to beplaced near himself, withburningcoalsand incense upon a table, and required every one to throw some incense into the fire, before he received his gold. Some, who were aware of the danger, feigned sickness ; some through fear or avarice complied. But the greater part were deceived. Some of these last going afterwards to their meals, called on the name of Jesus Christ, according to their custom. One of their companions said in a surprise : " What is the meaning of this? you call on Christ, after having renounced him. How ? answered the other, astonished. " You have thrown incense into the fire." They instantly tore their hair, rose up from table, and ran into the forum. " We declare it, they cried, before all the world, we are Christians; we declare it before God, to whom we live, and for whom we are ready to die. We have not betrayed thee, Jesus our Saviour. If our hands have offended, our hearts consented not. The emperor has deceived us, we renounce the impiety, and our blood shall answer for it." They then ran to the palace, and throwing the gold at Julian's feet, " Sacrifice us, say they, to Jesus Christ, and give your gold to those who will be glad to receive it." In a rage he ordered them to be led to execution. The warmth of his temper had wellnigh prevailed over his politic maxims; he recovered himself, however, in time sufficient to countermand the order. He contented himself with banishing them to the distant parts of the empire, forbidding them to reside in cities. Let the reader see here Cent. the philosophizing heathen and the simple Christian . in contrast, and judge which religion is human and which is divine.
On some occasions Julian would defile the fountains with Gentile sacrifices, and sprinkle the food brought to market with hallowed water. Christians knew their privilege from St. Paul's well-known determination of the case, yet they groaned under the indignity. Juventinus, and Maximus, two officers of his guard, expostulated with great warmth against these proceedings, and so provoked his resentment, that he punished them capitally, though, with that caution which never forsook him, he declared, that he put them to death not as Christians, but as undutiful subjects.
Jupiter had in no age possessed so zealous a devotee as this prince, who lived at the close of his religious dominion over mankind. The Decius's and the Galerius's, compared with Julian, were mere savages. It is certain, that no ingenuity could have contrived measures more dexterously. Disgrace, poverty, contempt, a moderate degree of severity, checked and disciplined by dissimulation, and every method of undermining the human spirit, were incessantly labouring to subvert Christianity. One sees not how the scheme could have failed, had Providence permitted this prudent and active genius to have proceeded many years in this course : but what a worm is man, when he sets himself to oppose his Maker!