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JULIAN THE APOSTATE.
From CYRILLUS ALEX. Contra Julian., lib. vi. p. 191.
Julian the Apostate, Roman emperor from 361 to 363, the most gifted and most bitter of all the ancient assailants of Christianity, endeavored, with the whole combined influence of his station, talent, and example, to restore idolatry throughout the Roman Empire, but in vain. His reign passed away like the “baseless fabric of a vision, leaving no wreck behind,” save the important lesson that ancient paganism was hopelessly extinct, and that no human power can arrest the triumphant march of Christianity.1818 For a fuller account of Julian and his reign, see the author’s “Church History,” vol. ii. (now in course of publication), p. 39 ff., and p. 75 ff.
In his work against the Christian religion, where he combined all former attacks, and infused into them his own sarcastic spirit, he says of Christ, as quoted by his opponent Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, “Contr. Jul.” vi. p. 191:—
“Jesus, having persuaded a few among you [Galileans, as he contemptously called the Christians], and those of the worst of men, has now been celebrated about three hundred 279years; having done nothing in his lifetime worthy of fame,1919 οὐδὲν ἀκοῆς ἄξιον. unless any one thinks it a very great work to heal lame and blind people and exorcise demoniacs2020 τοὺς κύλλους καὶ τοὺς τυφλοὺς ἰάσασθαι, κ9αὶ δαιμονῶντας ἐφορκίζειν. in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany.”
Note.—This is sufficiently bitter and contemptuous; and yet it concedes to Christ the power of working miracles; and these miracles, having all the highest moral and benevolent character, are an argument for the purity and divine mission of Christ’s person. The learned and critical Dr. Lardner, in his “Credibility of the Gospel History,” makes the following judicious remarks on this passage:2121 Lardner’s Works, ed. by Dr. Kippis, London, 1838, vol. vii. p. 628.—
“(1) This is plainly acknowledging the truth of the evangelical history, though he [Julian] does not refer to the whole of it, nor specify all the great works that Jesus did, nor all the places in which they were performed. (2) He acknowledgeth that, for three hundred years or more, Jesus had been celebrated; which regard for him was founded upon the works done by him in his lifetime; which works had been recorded by his disciples, eye-witnesses of those works; and the tradition had been handed down from the beginning to the time in which Julian lived. (3) Why should not ‘healing lame and 280blind men, and such as were afflicted with other distempers generally ascribed to demons,’ be reckoned great works? All judicious and impartial men must esteem them great works when performed on the sudden, and completely, as all our Lord’s works of healing were,—greater works than founding cities, erecting an extensive monarchy, or subduing whole nations by slaughter and the common methods of conquest, though such things have been often thought more worthy to be numbered and recorded by historians. (4) If there were but a few only persuaded by Jesus during his abode on this earth, it was not for want of sufficient evidence. There was enough, it seems, to persuade some bad men, called in the Gospels ‘publicans and sinners;’ the ‘worst men,’ as you say. But there were also some serious and pious men, thoughtful and inquisitive, as Nathanael, Nicodemus, and others, who were persuaded and fully satisfied, though for a while they had been averse and prejudiced. And there were worse men than those whom you call ‘the worst,’ even scribes and Pharisees, proud, covetous, ambitious men, whom no rational evidence, however clear and strong, could persuade to receive religious principles contrary to their present worldly interests.”
The same writer, after a careful examination of all the arguments of Julian against the religion of the Bible and the character of Christ and his apostles, thus ably and truthfully sums up their value as an undesigned and involuntary indirect testimony for the truth and credibility of the gospel history:2222 Lardner’s Works, vii. pp. 638, 639.—281
“Julian has borne a valuable testimony to the history and to the books of the New Testament, as all must acknowledge who have read the extracts just made from his works. He allows that Jesus was born in the reign of Augustus, at the time of the taxing made in Judæa by Cyrenius; that the Christian religion had its rise, and began to be propagated, in the times of the emperors Tiberius and Claudius. He bears witness to the genuineness and authenticity of the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Acts of the Apostles; and he so quotes them as to intimate that they were the only historical books received by Christians as of authority, and the only authentic memoirs of Jesus Christ and his apostles, and the doctrines preached by them. He allows their early date, and even argues for it. He also quotes, or plainly refers to, the Acts of the Apostles, to St. Paul’s Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians, and the Galatians. He does not deny the miracles of Jesus Christ, but allows him to have ‘healed the blind, and the lame, and demonaics;’ and ‘to have rebuked the winds, and walked upon the waves of the sea.’ He endeavors, indeed, to diminish these works, but in vain. The consequence is undeniable,—such works are good proofs of a divine mission. IIe endeavors also to lessen the number of the early believers in Jesus; and yet he acknowledgeth that there were ‘multitudes of such men in Greece and Italy’ before St. John wrote his Gospel. He likewise affects to diminish the quality of the early believers; and yet acknowledgeth, that, beside ‘men-servants and maid-servants,’ Cornelius, a Roman centurion at Cæsarea, and Sergius Paulus, Proconsul of Cyprus, were converted to the faith of Jesus before the end 282of the reign of Claudius. And he often speaks with great indignation of Peter and Paul, those two great apostles of Jesus, and successful preachers of his gospel. So that, upon the whole, he has undesignedly borne witness to the truth of many things recorded in the books of the New Testament. He aimed to overthrow the Christian religion, but has confirmed it: his arguments against it are perfectly harmless, and insufficient to unsettle the weakest Christian. He justly excepts to some things introduced into the Christian profession by the late professors of it, in his own time or sooner, but has not made one objection of moment against the Christian religion as contained in the genuine aud authentic books of the New Testament.”
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