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and so clear a discernment of the faults of others in CHAP. following it, may not be safely or speedily condemned by us, especially when that object was so excellent and the spirit of its pursuit so good. Even the weakest point about him, his appeals to Hermes and the Sibyl, may possibly be more defensible than we imagine; he evidently was aware of the suspicions thrown on these verses', which he does not himself admit the justice of; they might too have been acknowledged by adversaries who denied other prophecies, and his fault is at all events no greater than would have been that of a philologist before the time of Bentley, who had proved a grammatical canon from the epistles of Phalaris.
I have here set this writer in the most favourable light in which he can be viewed, and offered the most partial explanation of his design and its prosecution. But there is another hypothesis which will as easily explain the singularities of his argument, and which will quickly suggest itself to his readers. He was a man of excessive vanity, with unhesitating confidence in his own powers, and a profound contempt for the performances of others. Instead of excusing his weakness, like his brethren, he avows his intention of making truth more agreeable by his interesting eloquence, and asserts that by his writings not only will ancient adversaries be refuted, but future enemies deterred, and that no one after listening to his arguments, will be able to withhold his assent.3 To presume that he was blinded by his
See ad fin. IV. 15.
2 "Quæ (caussa) licet possit sine eloquentia defendi, ut est a multis sæpe defensa ; tamen claritate ac nitore sermonis illustranda, et quodammodo disserenda est, ut potentius in animos influat." D. I. I. præf.
"Non ut contra hos scriberem, qui paucis verbis obteri po
terant, sed ut omnes, qui ubique
CHAP. conceit, would be less charitable, but perhaps not less reaso asonable, than to conclude he was guided by expedience.
The few years that elapsed between the treatises of Arnobius and Lactantius had sufficed to change most materially the relation in which Christianity stood to the State; the former writer sends forth from the midst of persecutions a work which calumnies drove him to publish, the latter dedicates his to imperial favour, and assumes the tone rather of one justifying an established, than pleading for a persecuted, system. But, in about half a century more, the change was complete, and Paganism appears pleading for the toleration it had so long denied. A composition of this date will complete the various specimens of apologetic writing which I promised at starting, and its brief examination will conclude a chapter which has been already extended beyond the limits proposed. In the year 384 the heathen senators (both then and afterwards a numerous body) deputed an eminent member of their assembly to petition the sovereign for the restoration of the Altar of Victory in the senate, and the orator accordingly, Symmachus, addressed a kind of memorial to the throne, which still remains to us under the usual title of Relatio Symmachi. This singular relic, ostensibly a plea for the re-erection of an altar, is in fact a prayer for the toleration of the old religion. The writer assumes very deliberately the uncertainty of all schemes, and avers that peculiarity of belief is neither unnatural nor unsafe'; on the contrary, indeed, he thinks that such a division of credulity may possibly be desirable, and that as in the multitude of counsellors there is safety, so in the variety of creeds there may be truth. Uno itinere non potest per
ante damnavit, aut, quod est
Relat. Symm. c. 8. "Suus
cuique mos, suus cuique ritus est; varios custodes urbibus et cultos mens divina distribuit."
veniri ad tam grande secretum. He touches on the delicate point of a government contributing to a religion not its own, and asserts that such grants may be justifiably continued, if not commenced'; and that since the usefulness of a religion is the chief proof of its divinity3, that it is scarcely expedient to neglect those gods whose favour they had so long experienced. To this document S. Ambrose published a reply, which, though apologetic in character, contains but one of the arguments of the ancient apologies; Symmachus had reproduced the imperishable charge against the Christians of being the authors of all the calamities of the times, and specially of a recent famine. S. Ambrose refutes the accusation by the usual obvious facts and reasoning. The rest of his book is devoted to the discussion of his adversary's points in detail. He does not protest absolutely against the toleration of Paganism, but he vehemently dissuades the Emperor from protecting it; he urges that the Christians never applied for state-grants, but would have always been content could they have escaped persecution, and even gloried in that; he contrasts the seven vestals richly salaried, magnificently lodged, and pompously honoured, with the unobtrusive celibacy of whole congre
Ibid. c. 16. "Quod a principio [I would rather read in principio] beneficium fuit, usu atque ætate fit debitum; inanem igitur metum divino animo vestro tentat incutere, si quis asserit conscientiam vos habere præbentium, nisi detrahentium subieritis invidi
3 In other words, that a man's belief in the gods depends on what he gets from them. As this very remarkable argument is contained in a few words I subjoin it entire. "Accedit utilitas, quæ maxime homini Deos asserit. Nam cum ratio omnis in
operto sit, unde rectius quam de
* Perhaps I may add that Ambrose, like Tertullian, urges the fact that the Romans were perpetually altering their religious rites, and should therefore be less outrageous at their total suppression.
5 Ibid. c. 11.
CHAP. gations of Christians, and compares generally the patience III. of the Christians under tortures and death, with the outcry of the Pagans under simple neglect.
After all, perhaps we have scarcely given due credit, or assigned sufficient influence, to the Christian apologists. The disparaging decisions of Lactantius may possibly be owing in a great measure to his own overweening selfconceit, or refer merely to the judgment of philosophical sophists'; certainly, if they are to be tested by his opinion of himself, they are of little value. We know that Christianity spread over the surface of the known world, and that apologies were written to promote its diffusion we may not be able to trace their insensible operation or find recorded instances of their power, but it is at least not improbable that the stedfast endurance of a martyr whose blood was the seed of the Church, might have itself resulted from the patient and private study of such writings as these. Even their perpetual repetition argues an experience of some little previous success. At all events, the cause which they advocated was triumphant, and if we cannot discover how much of its prosperity they were mediately the authors of, that is no just or logical ground for refusing them any credit at all.
Ibid. 13. "Attollant mentis et corporis oculos, videant plebem pudoris," &c. I quote these words to remark that pudoris is not such a genitive as gloriæ in p. 65, (where see note) but is equi
valent to pudicarum. Let them look up, and see a whole tribe of virgins," &c. i.e. as opposed to the seven vestals.
7 "doctis hujus sæculi," he "deridentur hæc scripta."
you know not what,
I. Si non licet vobis, Romani imperii antistites', in aperto et edito ipso fere vertice civitatis præsidentibus ad judicandum, palam dispicere et persecuting coram examinare, quid sit liquido in caussa Christianorum; si ad hanc solam speciem auctoritas vestra de justitiæ diligentia in publico aut timet proves to be aut erubescit inquirere: si denique, quod proxime of the treataccidit, domesticis judiciis nimis operata sectæ hujus infestatio obstruit viam defensioni: liceat veritati vel occulta via tacitarum litterarum ad
comes before you
I. 1 Antistites. termed præsides afterwards, c. 9, and 50. Licet in this sentence means little more than lubet, which I only mention because it has been referred to the compulsory injustice of the government, (imposita est vobis necessitas cogendi, c. 28), under the influence of dæmoniacal agency.
2 Si ad hanc, &c. I think the construction of this rather intricate sentence is as follows: si auct. vestr. timet aut er. inq. in publico de just. diligentia, ad hanc solam speciem. Ad may thus mean either simply "with reference to," like nihil ad hanc caussam retractandum, c. 25; or it may be used after timet, like expavescere
ad lucem, c. 39; ad solitudinem,
3 Obstruere viam. This phrase, like obstruere gradum, (de Virg. Vel. c. 15; de præs. Hær. c. 15), is equivalent to impedimento esse.