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centuries. “The vast extent of this sect,” says Dr. Lardner, “is manifest from the names of the authors who have mentioned them, or written against them, and from the several parts of the Roman empire in which they were found.” *
All the ecclesiastical historians complain loudly of the schism that was made in the Christian church by the Novatians, whose difference from the Catholics respected matters of discipline only. But we should not be too hasty in joining issue with them in these lamentations. On the contrary, it may fairly admit of a doubt, whether this breach in the unity of the Christian church in that age, and other similar breaches that have taken place at different times, have not been productive, upon the whole, of the happiest effects. For besides promoting free enquiry and discussion, without which no subject can be well understood, this multiplication of sects has had a powerful tendency to counteract that overbearing authority which the whole christian church united, could not have failed to possess, and which, if there had been no place of retreat from power, would have been insupportable. What would have been the terror of an excommunication from a church, and how would it have been possible to correct any abuse in such circumstances ? That families and friends should be divided, and that those divisions should be the cause of so much animosity as they have often occasioned, is, no doubt to be lamented. But this is an evil that does not necessarily arise from sects in religion, but solely from the unreasonable spirit of bigotry in man, which cannot bear with patience that others should think or act differently from them—that bigotry, which a number of sects, and their necessary consequences, can alone cure. Private
»'Lardner's Works, 4to. ed. rol. ii. p. 57.
animosity was an evil inseparable from the promulgation of Christianity itself, and was distinctly foretold by its divine author. The excellent character of many of the Novatian bishops, was of great use in exciting emulation among those of the Catholic Church, and in checking that abuse of power, which has often disgraced Christianity infinitely more than the divisions that are the subject of complaint. But to proceed.
Constantius, whose death has been already mentioned, was suceeded in the administration of affairs in the year 361, by his nephew Julian. This prince, during his infancy, had been entrusted to the care of Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, to whom he was related on his mother's side. But although considerable pains had been taken to instruct him in the principles of Christianity, the mind of Julian imbibed a partiality for the pagan worship, which, however, he dexterously contrived to conceal until he had assumed the reins of government. Mr. Gibbon, not without probability, resolves this unhappy bias of the young prince's mind, into a disgust which he had taken at the manner in which the Arian controversy was carried on. “He was educated," says he, “in the lesser Asia, amidst the scandals of the Arian controversy. The fierce contests of the Eastern bishops, the incessant alterations of their creeds, and the profane motives which appeared to actuate their conduct, insensibly strengthened the prejudices of Julian, that they neither understood nor believed the religion for which they so fiercely contended.”* There is surely nothing incredible in this the wonder would have been that, spectator as he was of such detestable squabbles, he should have retained any predilection for the Christians.
The apostacy of Julian (as the Catholic clergy delighted to call it) was carefully concealed during his mi
* Decline and Fall, vol. iv. ch. 25.
nority; and, when first intimated, it was cautiously done among the adherents of the ancient pagan worship. From the zeal and virtues of their royal proselyte, they fondly hoped the restoration of their temples, sacrifices, and worship, of which they had been in a considerable degree deprived during the reigns of Constantine and his sons. Probably they expected that the flames of persecution should again be lighted up against the enemies of their deities; while the Christians beheld with horror and indignation the apostacy of Julian. But the hopes of the former, and the fears of the latter, were disappointed by the prudent conduct of Julian, who, during his short reign, consulted the good of his subjects and the public tranquillity. Actuated by these motives, and apprehensive of disturbing the repose of an unsettled reign, he surprised the world by an edict, extending te all the inhabitants of the empire the benefits of a free and equal toleration—but he had seen enough of the intolerant principles of the Catholic clergy, to deprive them of the power of persecuting their fellow subjects. The pagans were permitted to open all their temples, and were at once delivered from the oppressive laws and arbitrary exactions imposed upon them by Constantine and his sons. At the same time, the bishops and clergy, who had been banished by Constantius, were recalled from exile, and restored to their respective churches. Julian, who had paid considerable attention to their disputes, invited the leaders of the different parties to his palace, that he might enjoy the pleasure of witnessing their furious encounters. The clamour of controversy sometimes provoked him to exclaim, “Hear me! the Franks have heard me, and the Germans;" but he soon discovered that he was now engaged with more obstinate and implacable enemies; and, though he exerted all the powers of his oratory to persuade them to live in concord, or at least in peace, he was perfectly satisfied he had nothing to fear from their union and cooperation.
There are two particulars in the reign of Julian which ought not to be passed over without being briefly adverted to. The first is the extraordinary exertions which he made to restore the ancient superstitious worship. No sooner did he ascend the throne, than he assumed the character of supreme Pontiff, and became a perfect devotee to the rites of paganism. He dedicated a domestic chapel to the sun, his favourite deity—his gardens were filled with statues and altars of the gods--and each apartment of his palace displayed the appearance of a magnificent temple. He also endeavoured, by his own zeal, to inflame that of the magistrates and people. “Amidst the sacred but licentious crowd of priests, of inferior ministers, and of female dancers, who were dedicated to the service of the temple, it was the business of the emperor to bring the wood, to blow the fire, to handle the knife, to slaughter the victim, and thrusting his bloody hands into the bowels of the expiring animal, to draw forth the heart or liver, and to read, with the consummate skill of a soothsayer, the imaginary signs of future
a events."* Encouraged by the example of their sovereign, as well as by his exhortations and liberality, the cities and families resumed the practice of their neglected ceremonies. “Every part of the world," exclaims one of their own writers, with transport, “ displayed the triumph of religion--and the grateful prospect of flaming altars, bleeding victims, the smoke of incense, and a solemn train of priests and prophets, without fear, and without danger. The sound of prayer and of music was lie on the tops of the highest mountains; and the same
• Gibbon, vol. iv. ch. 23.
afforded a sacrifice for the gods, and a supper for their joyous votaries." This may give us some notion of what might have ensued had the life of Julian not been cut short.
The other circumstance alluded to, is the project which this emperor entertained of rebuilding the temple of Jerusalem. In a public address to the people of the Jews, dispersed throughout the provinces of his empire, he tells them, that he pities their misfortunes, condemns their oppressors, praises their constancy, declares himself their gracious protector, and expresses a hope, that after his return from the Persian war, he may be permitted to pay his vows to the Almighty in the holy city of Jerusalem. It is probable that the vain and ambitious mind of Julian aspired to the honour of restoring the ancient glory of the temple. He knew the Christians were firmly persuaded that, by the coming of Christ, the typical dispensation had come to an end; and could be succeed, in restoring the Jews to their city and the ritual of their worship, he might convert it into an argument against the faith of prophecy and the truth of revelation. He, therefore, resolved to erect, on mount Moriah, a stately temple; and without waiting for his return from the Persian war, gave instructions to his minister Alypius, to commence without delay, the vast undertaking. At the call of their great deliverer, the Jews, from all the provinces of the empire, repaired to Jerusalem. The desire of rebuilding the temple has, in every age, been a favourite project with them. In this propitious moment, says Gibbon, the men forgat their avarice and the women their delicacy; spades and pick-axes of silver were provided by the vanity of the rich, and the rubbish was transported in mantles of silk and purple. Every purse was opened in liberal contributions, every hand claimed a share in the pious labour; and the commands of a