« AnteriorContinuar »
er, still more expressly reasons against the luxury of the metropolitan prelates.
“ But, they might be happy, indeed, if, despising the grandeur of the city, which they allege as an excuse for their luxury, they would imitate the life of some country bishops, who, by their temperance, in eating and drinking, by the plainness of their habit, and the modesty of their whole behaviour, approve themselves to the eternal Deity, and his true worshippers, as men of virtue and piety." -Lardner, c. li.
Speaking of Constantius, he gives this character of the religion itself:
« The Christian religion, which is, in itself, plain and simple, he adulterated, with a childish superstition: for, studying it with a vain curiosity, instead of a sober mod esty, he raised many dissentions, which, when caused, he cherished and increased by a strife about words.”Lardner, c. li.
Maria. These extracts give a very different impression to the last; there is a distinction evidently drawn, between Christianity, and corruptions of it.
Mr. B. The whole of this author's statements, are so accordant with those of the Christians, that I wish time permitted my giving more; but, I must content myself, with observing, that he speaks of the Christian sects being very bitter against each other, and conveys the idea of Christianity being decidedly the religion of the great body of the people, and yet he praises Valentinian, be
“He stood neuter, between all the diversities of religion, and was troublesome to none; nor did he require any one to follow, either this, or that. Nor did he strive, by severe edicts, to bend the necks of his subjects to his own way of worship; but, left matters untouched, in the condition he found them.”—Lardner, c. li.
Edward. There is, however, in these extracts, little
42 What is the quotation from him, respecting the metropolitan prelates ?-43 What does he say of Constantius ?–44 What does Maria say, of these last quotations ?-45 What does Mr. B. say, of this author's statements ?–46 What is quoted, respecting Valentinian, from Lardner ?
reference to the state of Christianity, before the time of its establishment.
Mr. B. There is; but, even silence, here, becomes important; for, had the Christian accounts been false, as to leading facts, we can hardly suppose, they would have been passed over, by authors like those we have referred to. The gradual decline of Paganism, afforded ample time for full investigation; and, certainly, of all persons, the philosophers of Alexandria, and Athens, had the best means of detecting falsehood, had it existed; and, we may, therefore, regard their silence, as strongly corroborative of the truth of the Christian statements, as to the origin and progress of the religion.
Maria. There does not appear, any trace of Christianity having been promulgated, by means similar to those employed by Mohammed. Idolatry was, indeed, put down; but, there is no proof, that conversion was pressed upon the people, though the example of the court must have had great influence.
Mr. B. The next authority to be produced, will not make this conduct of the Christians less remarkable. Libanius, in his funeral oration on the emperor Julian, has the following memorable passage, which clearly shows, in what state Christianity had been, in the earlier stages of its
progress. Having paid all honours due to Constantius, he began with remedying matters relating to the gods, sacrificing in the view of all, and expressing his satisfaction in those, who followed him, and deriding those, who did not, and endeavouring to persuade them to imitate him, but without compulsion. Indeed, they, who were in wrong sentiments, were filled with fear, and expected pulling out of eyes, beheadings, and rivers of blood flowing from innumerable slaughters; and, that this new lord, would find out new ways of torture; and, that fire and sword,
47 What does Mr. B. say, of the comparative silence of Pagan writers, respecting the history of Christianity ?-48 What comparison does Maria here make, between Mohammedism and Christianity 349 Who is the next Pagan author introduced ?-50 On what occasion, does Libanius furnish oppo tunity to be quoted ?-51 What is the substance of the quota tion from Libanius!
and drowning, and burying alive, and amputation of limbs, would be trifling things. Such things had been practised, by those who went before; but, now, more grievous things were expected. But, Julian dissented from those, who had practised such things, as not obtaining the end aimed at; and, he was sensible, that no benefit was to be expected from such violence. For, men, labouring under diseases of the body, may be relieved by bandages; but, a false opinion about the gods, is not to be expelled by cutting and burning; and, if the hand sacrificeth, the mind reproves the hand, and condemns the infirmity of the body, and still approves, what it approved before. There is only an appearance of a change, bụt no real alteration of sentiment. Moreover, they, who comply, are pardoned afterwards, and they, who die, (under torture) are honoured as gods.
“Considering, therefore, these things, and observing, likewise, that their affairs had been increased by slaughters, he declined what he could not approve of. Thus, he brought over all to the truth, who were to be persuaded; but, did not compel those, who were in love with falsehood.”—Lardner, c. xlix.
Edward. This is, indeed, very important testimony. There is no mention made, here, of any cause for persecution, beyond the holding these sentiments; nor of any cause of success, on the opposite side, beyond the endurance of sufferings.
Mr. B. We have, also, an oration by the same author, on behalf of the temples, which is translated at length, in Lardner, and which establishes some very important facts, in addition to the above; one of which is, that Christianity was, at that time, the prevailing religion, and heathenism in a weak and declining state; and, another, that the Christian laws “ do not permit persecution, but commend persuasion, and condemn compulsion.'
Maria. But, does not the appeal to Christian principles, imply, some degree of persecution existing?
Mr. B. The oration is addressed to Theodosius, and
52 What does Edward say, of the testimony of Libanius ?-53 What other important testimony is there, from the same author ?-54 To wbom was that oration of Libanius addressed ?
the occasion of it was, the pulling down of some temples, without the express orders of the emperor. That no authorised persecution of the Pagans took place, and that the emperor did not sanction any outrages, which the populace might perpetrate, under the pretext of zeal for Christianity, is abundantly manifest, from the whole oration; but, one passage is so remarkable, that, notwithstanding the time already spent, in examining extracts upon this subject, it cannot be omitted. He asserts, that those, who had suffered from Christian zeal, were not liable to penalties, from having acted contrary to law: and continues
“Of which, there would have been some appearance, if you, O Emperor, had published a decree to this purpose:
Let no man, within my empire, believe in the gods, nor worship them, nor ask any good thing of them, neither for himself, nor for his children, unless it be done in silence, and privately; but, let all present themselves at the places where I worship, and join in the rites there performed. And let them offer the same prayers, which they do, and bow the head at the hand of him, who directs the multitude. Whoever transgresses this law, shall be put to death.' It was easy for you to publish such a law as. this; but
you have not done it, nor have you, in this matter, laid a yoke upon the souls of men. But, though you think one way better than the other, yet, you do not judge. that other to be an impiety, for which a man may be justly punished. Nor, have you excluded those, of that sentiment, from honours, but have conferred upon them the highest offices, and have given them access to your table, to eat and drink with you. This, you have done, formerly, and at this time: besides others, you have associated to yourself, (thinking it advantageous to the government) a man, who swears by the gods, both before others, and before yourself; and you are not offended at it; nor do you think yourself injured by those oaths; nor do you account him a wicked man, who placeth his best hopes in the gods.”—Lardner, c. xlix.
55 What account is given of this oration ?-56 What is the substance of the extract from the oration to Theodosius ?
Edward. Yet, ultimately, Paganism was suppressed by the emperors.
Mr. B. It was not so much suppresscd by them, as it was left by them, to its own strength, for defence, and sunk, in consequence, gradually, as might have been expected. The countenance, afforded by the emperors, to Christianity, was, undoubtedly, of the greatest consequence to it; but, it must be remembered, it was not they, who made the new religion powerful in the first instance; the first, and great steps, had already been made by the new faith; it had been found invincible, before the state joined its strength to it. Indeed, it is very questionable, whether some of the emperors ever would have advocated it, had they not felt its influence to be irresistible.
Maria. You regard, then, the patronage given to Christianity, as the effect, not the cause, of its general reception?
Mr. B. Certainly; though I am willing to allow, that the countenance, thus given to it, materially contributed to its universal reception afterwards.
Maria. But, do you think, had the court continued Pagan, that Christianity would have supplanted Paganism?
Mr. B. In reality, it would, though not in appearance; arguing from the state in which the two religions were, at the commencement of the third century; the nominal change of the religion of the state, might have been retarded, but it could not have been prevented: the principles, on the side of Christianity, had proved themselves too powerful for any weapons, which Paganism was able to produce.
Edward. The light, which is thrown on the subject, by the quotations you have produced, appears to me calculated to give great interest to a further investigation
57 What is said, by Mr. B., in reply to the remark of Edward, that Paganism was suppressed ?—58 What is said of the countenance of the emperors to Christianity ?-59 What may have induced them first to fa. vour it ?–60 How does Maria remark upon this ?-61 Would Christianity have supplanted Paganism, had the latter continued to be the religion of the court ?-62 What does Edward say of the quotations made ?