HISTORY of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH*
THE LITERARY TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIANITY OVER GREEK AND ROMAN HEATHENISM.
§ 8. Heathen Polemics. New Objections.
I. Comp. The sources at §§ 4 and 5, especially the writings of Julian The Apostate Katav Cristianw'n, and Libanius, uJpe;r tw'n iJerw'n. Also Pseudo-lucian: Philopatris (of the age of Julian or later, comprised in the works of Lucian). Proclus (412–487): xviii ejpiceirhvmata katav cristianw'n (preserved in the counter work of Joh. Philoponus: De aeternitate mundi, ed. Venet. 1535). In part also the historical works of Eunapius and Zosimus.
II. Marqu. d’Argens: defense du paganisme par l’emper. Julien en grec et en franc. (collected from fragments in Cyril), avec des dissertat. Berl. 1764, sec. ed. Augmentée, 1767. This singular work gave occasion to two against it by G. Fr. Meier, Halle, 1764, And W. Crichton, Halle, 1765, in which the arguments of Julian were refuted anew. Nath. Lardner, in his learned collection of ancient heathen testimonies for the credibility of the Gospel History, treats also largely of Julian. See his collected works, ed. by Dr. Kippis, Lond. 1838, vol. vii. p. 581–652. Schröckh: vi. 354–385. Neander: iii. 77 sqq. (Engl. transl. of Torrey ii. 84–93).
The internal conflict between heathenism and Christianity presents the same spectacle of dissolution on the one hand and conscious power on the other. And here the Nicene age reaped the fruit of the earlier apologists, who ably and fearlessly defended the truth of the true religion and refuted the errors of idolatry in the midst of persecution.108 The literary opposition to Christianity had already virtually exhausted itself, and was now thrown by the great change of circumstances into apology for heathenism; while what was then apology on the Christian side now became triumphant polemics. The last enemy was the Neo-Platonic philosophy, as taught particularly in the schools of Alexandria and Athens even down to the fifth century. This philosophy, however, as we have before remarked,109 was no longer the product of pure, fresh heathenism, but an artificial syncretism of elements heathen and Christian, Oriental and Hellenic, speculative and theurgic, evincing only the growing weakness of the old religion and the irresistible power of the new.
Besides the old oft-refuted objections, sundry new ones came forward after the time of Constantine, in some cases the very opposite of the earlier ones, touching not so much the Christianity of the Bible as more or less the state-church system of the Nicene and post-Nicene age, and testifying the intrusion of heathen elements into the church. Formerly simplicity and purity of morals were the great ornament of the Christians over against the prevailing corruption; now it could be justly observed that, as the whole world had crowded into the church, it had let in also all the vices of the world. Against those vices, indeed, the genuine virtues of Christianity proved themselves as vigorous as ever. But the heathen either could not or would not look through the outward appearance and discriminate the wheat from the chaff. Again: the Christians of the first three centuries had confessed their faith at the risk of life, maintained it under sufferings and death, and claimed only toleration; now they had to meet reproach from the heathen minority for hypocrisy, selfishness, ambition, intolerance, and the spirit of persecution against heathens, Jews, and heretics. From being suspected as enemies to the emperor and the empire, they now came to be charged in various ways with servile and fawning submission to the Christian rulers. Formerly known as abhorring every kind of idolatry and all pomp in worship, they now appeared in their growing veneration for martyrs and relics to reproduce and even exceed the ancient worship of heroes.
Finally, even the victory of Christianity was branded as a reproach. It was held responsible by the latest heathen historians not only for the frequent public calamities, which had been already charged upon it under Marcus Aurelius and in the time of Tertullian, but also for the decline and fall of the once so mighty Roman empire. But this objection, very popular at the time, is refuted by the simple fact, that the empire in the East, where Christianity earlier and more completely prevailed, outlived by nearly ten centuries the western branch. The dissolution of the west-Roman empire was due rather to its unwieldy extent, the incursion of barbarians, and the decay of morals, which was hastened by the introduction of all the vices of conquered nations, and which had already begun under Augustus, yea, during the glorious period of the republic; for the republic would have lasted much longer if the foundations of public and private virtue had not been undermined.110 Taken from a higher point of view, the downfall of Rome was a divine judgment upon the old essentially heathen world, as the destruction of Jerusalem was a judgment upon the Jewish nation for their unbelief. But it was at the same time the inevitable transition to a new creation which Christianity soon began to rear on the ruins of heathendom by the conversion of the barbarian conquerors, and the founding of a higher Christian civilization. This was the best refutation of the last charge of the heathen opponents of the religion of the cross.
§ 9. Julian’s Attack upon Christianity.
For Literature comp. § 4 p. 39, 40.
The last direct and systematic attack upon the Christian religion proceeded from the emperor Julian. In his winter evenings at Antioch in 363, to account to the whole world for his apostasy, he wrote a work against the Christians, which survives, at least in fragments, in a refutation of it by Cyril of Alexandria, written about 432. In its three books, perhaps seven (Cyril mentions only three111), it shows no trace of the dispassionate philosophical or historical appreciation of so mighty a phenomenon as Christianity in any case is. Julian had no sense for the fundamental ideas of sin and redemption or the cardinal virtues of humility and love. He stood entirely in the sphere of naturalism, where the natural light of Helios outshines the mild radiance of the King of truth, and the admiration of worldly greatness leaves no room for the recognition of the spiritual glory of self-renunciation. He repeated the arguments of a Celsus and a Porphyry in modified form; expanded them by his larger acquaintance with the Bible, which he had learned according to the letter in his clerical education; and breathed into all the bitter hatred of an Apostate, which agreed ill with his famous toleration and entirely blinded him to all that was good in his opponents. He calls the religion of "the Galilean" an impious human invention and a conglomeration of the worst elements of Judaism and heathenism without the good of either; that is, without the wholesome though somewhat harsh discipline of the former, or the pious belief in the gods, which belongs to the latter. Hence he compares the Christians to leeches, which draw all impure blood and leave the pure. In his view, Jesus, "the dead Jew," did nothing remarkable during his lifetime, compared with heathen heroes, but to heal lame and blind people and exorcise daemoniacs, which is no very great matter.112 He was able to persuade only a few of the ignorant peasantry, not even to gain his own kinsmen.113 Neither Matthew, nor. Mark, nor Luke, nor Paul called him God. John was the first to venture so far, and procured acceptance for his view by a cunning artifice.114 The later Christians perverted his doctrine still more impiously, and have abandoned the Jewish sacrificial worship and ceremonial law, which was given for all time, and was declared irrevocable by Jesus himself.115 A universal religion, with all the peculiarities of different national characters, appeared to him unreasonable and impossible. He endeavored to expose all manner of contradictions and absurdities in the Bible. The Mosaic history of the creation was defective, and not to be compared with the Platonic. Eve was given to Adam for a help, yet she led him astray. Human speech is put into the mouth of the serpent, and the curse is denounced on him, though he leads man on to the knowledge of good and evil, and thus proves himself of great service. Moses represents God as jealous, teaches monotheism, yet polytheism also in calling the angels gods. The moral precepts of the decalogue are found also among the heathen, except the commands, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," and, "Remember the Sabbath day." He prefers Lycurgus and Solon to Moses. As to Samson and David, they were not very remarkable for valor, and exceeded by many Greeks and Egyptians, and all their power was confined within the narrow limits of Judea. The Jews never had any general equal to Alexander or Caesar. Solomon is not to be compared with Theognis, Socrates, and other Greek sages; moreover he is said to have been overcome by women, and therefore does not deserve to be ranked among wise men. Paul was an arch-traitor; calling God now the God of the Jews, now the God of the Gentiles, now both at once; not seldom contradicting the Old Testament, Christ, and himself, and generally accommodating his doctrine to circumstances. The heathen emperor thinks it absurd that Christian baptism should be able to cleanse from gross sins, while it cannot remove a wart, or gout, or any bodily evil. He puts the Bible far below the Hellenic literature, and asserts, that it made men slaves, while the study of the classics educated great heroes and philosophers. The first Christians he styles most contemptible men, and the Christians of his day he charges with ignorance, intolerance, and worshipping dead persons, bones, and the wood of the cross.
With all his sarcastic bitterness against Christianity, Julian undesignedly furnishes some valuable arguments for the historical character of the religion he hated and assailed. The learned and critical Lardner, after a careful analysis of his work against Christianity, thus ably and truthfully sums up Julian’s testimony in favor of it:
"Julian argues against the Jews as well as against the Christians. He 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 work. He allows that Jesus was born in the reign of Augustus, at the time of the taxing made in Judea 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 these were the only historical books received by Christians as of authority, and the only authentic memoirs of Jesus Christ and his apostles, and the doctrine 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 demoniacs,’ 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. He 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 ’menservants, and maidservants,’ Cornelius, a Roman centurion at Caesarea, and Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus, were converted to the faith of Jesus before the end of 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 and authentic books of the New Testament."116
The other works against Christianity are far less important.
The dialogue Philopatris, or The Patriot, is ascribed indeed to the ready scoffer and satirist Lucian (died about 200), and joined to his works; but it is vastly inferior in style and probably belongs to the reign of Julian, or a still later period;117 since it combats the church doctrine of the Trinity and of the procession of the Spirit from the Father, though not by argument, but only by ridicule. It is a frivolous derision of the character and doctrines of the Christians in the form of a dialogue between Critias, a professed heathen, and Triephon, an Epicurean, personating a Christian. It represents the Christians as disaffected to the government, dangerous to civil society, and delighting in public calamities. It calls St. Paul a half bald, long-nosed Galilean, who travelled through the air to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12, 1–4).
The last renowned representative of Neo-Platonism, Proclus of Athens (died 487), defended the Platonic doctrine of the eternity of the world, and, without mentioning Christianity, contested the biblical doctrine of the creation and the end of the world in eighteen arguments, which the Christian philosopher, John Philoponus, refuted in the seventh century.
The last heathen historians, Eunapius and Zosimus, of the first half of the fifth century, indirectly assailed Christianity by a one-sided representation of the history of the Roman empire from the time of Constantine, and by tracing its decline to the Christian religion; while, on the contrary, Ammianus Marcellinus (died about 390) presents with honorable impartiality both the dark and the bright sides of the Christian emperors and of the Apostate Julian.118
§ 10. The Heathen Apologetic Literature.
After the death of Julian most of the heathen writers, especially the ablest and most estimable, confined themselves to the defence of their religion, and thus became, by reason of their position, advocates of toleration; and, of course, of toleration for the religious syncretism, which in its cooler form degenerates into philosophical indifferentism.
Among these were Themistius, teacher of rhetoric, senator, and prefect of Constantinople, and afterwards preceptor of the young emperor Arcadius; Aurelius Symmachus, rhetorician, senator, and prefect of Rome under Gratian and Valentinian II., the eloquent pleader for the altar of Victoria; and above all, the rhetorician Libanius, friend and admirer of Julian, alternately teaching in Constantinople, Nicomedia, and Antioch. These all belong to the second half of the fourth century, and represent at once the last bloom and the decline of the classic eloquence. They were all more or less devoted to the Neo-Platonic syncretism. They held, that the Deity had implanted in all men a religious nature and want, but had left the particular form of worshiping God to the free will of the several nations and individuals; that all outward constraint, therefore, was contrary to the nature of religion and could only beget hypocrisy. Themistius vindicated this variety of the forms of religion as favorable to religion itself, as many Protestants justify the system of sects. "The rivalry of different religions," says he in his oration on Jovian, "serves to stimulate zeal for the worship of God. There are different paths, some hard, others easy, some rough, others smooth, leading to the same goal. Leave only one way, and shut up the rest, and you destroy emulation. God would have no such uniformity among men .... The Lord of the universe delights in manifoldness. It is his will, that Syrians, Greeks, Egyptians should worship him, each nation in its own way, and that the Syrians again should divide into small sects, no one of which agrees entirely with another. Why should we thus enforce what is impossible?" In the same style argues Symmachus, who withholds all direct opposition to Christianity and contends only against its exclusive supremacy.
Libanius, in his plea for the temples addressed to Theodosius I. (384 or 390), called to his aid every argument, religious, political, and artistic, in behalf of the heathen sanctuaries, but interspersed bitter remarks against the temple-storming monks. He asserts among other things, that the principles of Christianity itself condemn the use of force in religion, and commend the indulgence of free conviction.
Of course this heathen plea for toleration was but the last desperate defence of a hopeless minority, and an indirect self-condemnation of heathenism for its persecution of the Christian religion in the first three centuries.
§ 11. Christian Apologists and Polemics.
I. The Greek Apologists: Eusebius Caes.: Proparaskeuh; eujaggelikhv (Preparatio evang.), and !Apovdeixi" eujaggelikhv (Demonstratio evang.); besides his controversial work against Hierocles; and his Theophany, discovered in 1842 in a Syriac version (ed. Lee, Lond. 1842). Athanasius: Kata;tw'n JEllhvnwn (Oratio contra Gentes), and Peri; th'" ejnanqrwphvsew" tou' Lovgou (De incarnatione Verbi Dei): two treatises belonging together (Opera, ed. Bened. tom. i. 1 sqq.). Cyril of Alex.: Contra impium Julianum libri X (with extracts from the three books of Julian against Christianity). Theodoret: Graecarum affectionum curatio ( JEllhnikw'n qerapeutikh; paqhmavtwn), disput. XII.
II. The Latin Apologists: Lactantius: Instit. divin. l. vii (particularly the first three books, de falsa religione, de origine erroris, and de falsa sapientia; the third against the heathen philosophy). Julius Firmicus Maternus: De errore profanarum religionum (not mentioned by the ancients, but edited several times in the sixteenth century, and latterly by F. Münter, Havn. 1826). Ambrose: Ep. 17 and 18 (against Symmachus). Prudentius: In Symmachum (an apologetic poem). Paul. Orosius: Adv. paganos historiarum l. vii (an apologetic universal history, against Eunapius and Zosimus). Augustine: De civitate Dei l. xxii (often separately published). Salvianus: De gubernatione Dei l. viii (the eighth book incomplete).
Comp. in part the apologetic literature at § 63 of vol. i. Also Schrökh: vii., p. 263–355. Neander: iii., 188–195 (Engl. ed. of Torrey, ii., 90–93). Döllinger (R.C.): Hdbuch der K. G., vol. I., part 2, p. 50–91.K. Werner (R.C.): Geschichte der Apolog. und polem. Literatur der christl. Theol. Schaffh. 1861–’65, 4 vols. vol. i.
In the new state of things the defence of Christianity was no longer of so urgent and direct importance as it had been before the time of Constantine. And the theological activity of the church now addressed itself mainly to internal doctrinal controversy. Still the fourth and fifth centuries produced several important apologetic works, which far outshone the corresponding literature of the heathen.
(1) Under Constantine we have Lactantius in Latin, Eusebius and Athanasius in Greek, representing, together with Theodoret, who was a century later, the close of the older apology.
Lactantius prefaces his vindication of Christian truth with a refutation of the heathen superstition and philosophy; and he is more happy in the latter than in the former. He claims freedom for all religions, and represents the transition standpoint of the Constantinian edicts of toleration.
Eusebius, the celebrated historian, collected with diligence and learning in several apologetic works, above all in his "Evangelic Preparation," the usual arguments against heathenism, and in his "Evangelic Demonstration" the positive evidences of Christianity, laying chief stress upon the prophecies.
With less scholarship, but with far greater speculative compass and acumen, the great Athanasius, in his youthful productions "against the Greeks," and "on the incarnation of the Logos" (before 325), gave in main outline the argument for the divine origin, the truth, the reasonableness, and the perfection of the Christian religion. These two treatises, particularly the second, are, next to Origen’s doctrinal work De principiis, the first attempt to construct a scientific system of the Christian religion upon certain fundamental ideas of God and world, sin and redemption; and they form the ripe fruit of the positive apology in the Greek church. The Logos, Athanasius teaches, is the image of the living, only true God. Man is the image of the Logos. In communion with him consist the original holiness and blessedness of paradise. Man fell by his own will, and thus came to need redemption. Evil is not a substance of itself, not matter, as the Greeks suppose, nor does it come from the Creator of all things. It is an abuse of freedom on the part of man, and consists in selfishness or self-love, and in the dominion of the sensuous principle over the reason. Sin, as apostasy from God, begets idolatry. Once alienated from God and plunged into finiteness and sensuousness, men deified the powers of nature, or mortal men, or even carnal lusts, as in Aphrodite. The inevitable consequence of sin is death and corruption. The Logos, however, did not forsake men. He gave them the law and the prophets to prepare them for salvation. At last he himself became man, neutralized in human nature the power of sin and death, restored the divine image, uniting us with God and imparting to us his imperishable life. The possibility and legitimacy of the incarnation lie in the original relation of the Logos to the world, which was created and is upheld by him. The incarnation, however, does not suspend the universal reign of the Logos. While he was in man, he was at the same time everywhere active and reposing in the bosom of the Father. The necessity of the incarnation to salvation follows from the fact, that the corruption had entered into human nature itself, and thus must be overcome within that nature. An external redemption, as by preaching God, could profit nothing. "For this reason the Saviour assumed humanity, that man, united with life, might not remain mortal and in death, but imbibing immortality might by the resurrection be immortal. The outward preaching of redemption would have to be continually repeated, and yet death would abide in man."119 The object of the incarnation is, negatively, the annihilation of sin and death; positively, the communication of righteousness and life and the deification of man.120 The miracles of Christ are the proof of his original dominion over nature, and lead men from nature-worship to the worship of God. The death of Jesus was necessary to the blotting out of sin and to the demonstration of his life-power in the resurrection, whereby also the death of believers is now no longer punishment, but a transition to resurrection and glory.—This speculative analysis of the incarnation Athanasius supports by referring to the continuous moral effects of Christianity, which is doing great things every day, calling man from idolatry, magic, and sorceries to the worship of the true God, obliterating sinful and irrational lusts, taming the wild manners of barbarians, inciting to a holy walk, turning the natural fear of death into rejoicing, and lifting the eye of man from earth to heaven, from mortality to resurrection and eternal glory. The benefits of the incarnation are incalculable, like the waves of the sea pursuing one another in constant succession.
(2) Under the sons of Constantine, between the years 343 and 350, Julius Firmicus Maternus, an author otherwise unknown to us,121 wrote against heathenism with large knowledge of antiquity, but with fanatical zeal, regarding it, now on the principle of Euhemerus, as a deification of mortal men and natural elements, now as a distortion of the biblical history.122 At the close, quite mistaking the gentle spirit of the New Testament, he urges the sons of Constantine to exterminate heathenism by force, as God commanded the children of Israel to proceed against the Canaanites; and openly counsels them boldly to pillage the temples and to enrich themselves and the church with the stolen goods. This sort of apology fully corresponds with the despotic conduct of Constantius, which induced the reaction of heathenism under Julian.
(3) The attack of Julian upon Christianity brought out no reply on the spot,123 but subsequently several refutations, the chief one by Cyril of Alexandria († 444), in ten books "against the impious Julian," still extant and belonging among his most valuable works. About the same time Theodoret wrote an apologetic and polemic work: "The Healing of the Heathen Affections," in twelve treatises, in which he endeavors to refute the errors of the false religion by comparison of the prophecies and miracles of the Bible with the heathen oracles, of the apostles with the heroes and lawgivers of antiquity, of the Christian morality with the immorality of the heathen world.
§ 12. Augustine’s City of God. Salvianus.
(4) Among the Latin apologists we must mention Augustine, Orosius, and Salvianus, of the fifth century. They struck a different path from the Greeks, and devoted themselves chiefly to the objection of the heathens, that the overthrow of idolatry and the ascendency of Christianity were chargeable with the misfortunes and the decline of the Roman empire. This objection had already been touched by Tertullian, but now, since the repeated incursions of the barbarians, and especially the capture and sacking of the city of Rome under the Gothic king Alaric in 410, it recurred with peculiar force. By way of historical refutation the Spanish presbyter Orosius, at the suggestion of Augustine, wrote an outline of universal history in the year 417.
Augustine himself answered the charge in his immortal work "On the city of God," that is) the church of Christ, in twenty-two books, upon which he labored twelve years, from 413 to 426, amidst the storms of the great migration and towards the close of his life. He was not wanting in appreciation of the old Roman virtues, and he attributes to these the former greatness of the empire, and to the decline of them he imputes her growing weakness. But he rose at the same time far above the superficial view, which estimates persons and things by the scale of earthly profit and loss, and of temporary success. "The City of God" is the most powerful, comprehensive, profound, and fertile production in refutation of heathenism and vindication of Christianity, which the ancient church has bequeathed to us, and forms a worthy close to her literary contest with Graeco-Roman paganism.124 It is a grand funeral discourse upon the departing universal empire of heathenism, and a lofty salutation to the approaching universal order of Christianity. While even Jerome deplored in the destruction of the city the downfall of the empire as the omen of the approaching doom of the world,125 the African father saw in it only a passing revolution preparing the way for new conquests of Christianity. Standing at that remarkable turning-point of history, he considers the origin, progress, and end of the perishable kingdom of this world, and the imperishable kingdom of God, from the fall of man to the final judgment, where at last they fully and forever separate into hell and heaven. The antagonism of the two cities has its root in the highest regions of the spirit world, the distinction of good and evil angels; its historical evolution commences with Cain and Abel, then proceeds in the progress of paganism and Judaism to the birth of Christ, and continues after that great epoch to his return in glory. Upon the whole his philosophy of history is dualistic, and does not rise to the unity and comprehensiveness of the divine plan to which all the kingdoms of this world and even Satan himself are made subservient. He hands the one city over to God, the other to the demons. Yet he softens the rigor of the contrast by the express acknowledgment of shades in the one, and rays of light in the other. In the present order of the world the two cities touch and influence each other at innumerable points; and as not all Jews were citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, so there were on the other hand true children of God scattered among the heathen like Melchisedek and Job, who were united to the city of God not by a visible, but by an invisible celestial tie. In this sublime contrast Augustine weaves up the whole material of his Scriptural and antiquarian knowledge, his speculation, and his Christian experience, but interweaves also many arbitrary allegorical conceits and empty subtleties. The first ten books he directs against heathenism, showing up the gradual decline of the Roman power as the necessary result of idolatry and of a process of moral dissolution, which commenced with the introduction of foreign vices after the destruction of Carthage; and he represents the calamities and approaching doom of the empire as a mighty preaching of repentance to the heathen, and at the same time as a wholesome trial of the Christians, and as the birth-throes of a new creation. In the last twelve books of this tragedy of history he places in contrast the picture of the supernatural state of God, founded upon a rock, coming forth renovated and strengthened from all the storms and revolutions of time, breathing into wasting humanity an imperishable divine life, and entering at last, after the completion of this earthly work, into the sabbath of eternity, where believers shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise, without end.126
Less important, but still noteworthy and peculiar, is the apologetic work of the Gallic presbyter, Salvianus, on providence and the government of the world.127 It was composed about the middle of the fifth century (440–455) in answer at once to the charge that Christianity occasioned all the misfortunes of the times, and to the doubts concerning divine providence, which were spreading among Christians themselves. The blame of the divine judgments he places, however, not upon the heathens, but upon the Christianity of the day, and, in forcible and lively, but turgid and extravagant style, draws an extremely unfavorable picture of the moral condition of the Christians, especially in Gaul, Spain, Italy, and Africa. His apology for Christianity, or rather for the Christian faith in the divine government of the world, was also a polemic against the degenerate Christians. It was certainly unsuited to convert heathens, but well fitted to awaken the church to more dangerous enemies within, and stimulate her to that moral self-reform, which puts the crown upon victory over outward foes. "The church," says this Jeremiah of his time, "which ought everywhere to propitiate God, what does she, but provoke him to anger?128 How many may one meet, even in the church, who are not still drunkards, or debauchees, or adulterers, or fornicators, or robbers, or murderers, or the like, or all these at once, without end? It is even a sort of holiness among Christian people, to be less vicious." From the public worship of God, he continues, and almost during it, they pass to deeds of shame. Scarce a rich man, but would commit murder and fornication. We have lost the whole power of Christianity, and offend God the more, that we sin as Christians. We are worse than the barbarians and heathen. If the Saxon is wild, the Frank faithless, the Goth inhuman, the Alanian drunken, the Hun licentious, they are by reason of their ignorance far less punishable than we, who, knowing the commandments of God, commit all these crimes. He compares the Christians especially of Rome with the Arian Goths and Vandals, to the disparagement of the Romans, who add to the gross sins of nature the refined vices of civilization, passion for theatres, debauchery, and unnatural lewdness. Therefore has the just God given them into the hands of the barbarians and exposed them to the ravages of the migrating hordes.
This horrible picture of the Christendom of the fifth century is undoubtedly in many respects an exaggeration of ascetic and monastic zeal. Yet it is in general not untrue; it presents the dark side of the picture, and enables us to understand more fully on moral and psychological grounds the final dissolution of the western empire of Rome.
* Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.
108 Comp. vol. i. §§ 60-66.
109 Comp. § 4 (p. 42), and vol. i. § 61.
110 Gibbon, too, imputes the fall of the west-Roman empire not, as unjustly charged by Dr. Kurtz (Handbuch der allg. Kirchengesch. i. 2, p. 15, 3d ed.), to Christianity, but almost solely to the pressure of its own weight. Comp. his General Observations on the Fall of the R. Empire in the West, at the close of ch. xxxviii., where he says: "The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long." Gibbon then mentions Christianity also, it is true, or more properly monasticism, which, he thinks, suppressed with its passive virtues the patriotic and martial spirit, and so far contributed to the catastrophe; but adds: "If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened [—he says not: caused—]by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors." This view is very different from that of Eunapius and Zosimus, with which Kurtz identifies it. Gibbon in general follows more closely Ammianus Marcellinus, whom, with all reason, he holds as a historian far superior to the others.—Lord Byron truthfully expresses the law of decay to which Rome succumbed, in these words from Childe Harold:
"There is the moral of all human tales;
’T is but the same rehearsal of the past:
First freedom, and then glory—when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, barbarism at last."
111 In the preface to his refutation, Contra Jul. i. p. 3: Triva suggevgraye bibliva kata; tw'n aJgivwn eujaggelivwn kai; kata; th'" eujagou'" tw'n Cristianw'n qrhskeiva". But Jerome says, Epist. 83 (tom. iv. p. 655): " Julianus Augustus septem libros, in expeditione Parthica [or rather before he left Antioch and started for Persia], adversus Christianos vomuit."
112 Cyril has omitted the worst passages of Julian respecting Christ, but quotes the following (Contra Jul. l. vi. p. 191, ed. Spanh.), which is very characteristic: "Jesus, who over-persuaded much (ajnapeivsa") the lowest among you, some few, has now been talked of (ojnomavzetai) for three hundred years, though during his life he performed nothing worth mentioning (oujde;n ajkoh'" a[xion), unless it be thought a mighty matter to heal the cripples and blind persons and to exorcise those possessed of demons in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany (eij mhv ti" ei[etai tou;" kollou;" kai; tou;" tuflou;" iavsasqai, kai; daimonwvnta" ejforkivzein ejn Bhqseivda/ kai; ejn Bhqaniva/ tai'" kwvmai" tw'n megivstwn e[rgwn ei'nai )" Dr. Lardner has ingeniously inferred from this passage that, Julian, by conceding to Christ the power of working miracles, and admitting the general truths of the gospel traditions, furnishes an argument for Christianity rather than against it.
113 Jno. vii. 5.
114 "Neither Paul," he says (Cyr. l. x. p. 327), "nor Matthew, nor Luke, nor Mark has dared to call Jesus God. But honest John (oJ crhstovs jIwavnnh"), understanding that a great multitude of men in the cities of Greece and Italy were seized with this distemper; and hearing likewise, as I suppose, that the tombs of Peter and Paul were respected, and frequented, though as yet privately only, however, having heard of it, he then first presumed to advance that doctrine."
115 Matt. v. 17-19.
116 Dr. Nathiel Lardner’s Works, ed. by Dr. Kippis in ten vols. Vol. vii. pp. 638 and 639. As against the mythical theory of Strauss and Renan the extract from Lardner has considerable force, as well as his whole work on the credibility of the Gospel History.
117 According to Niebuhr’s view it must have been composed under the emperor Phocas, 968 or 969. Moyle places it in the year 302, Dodwell in the year 261, others in the year 272.
118 The more is it to be regretted, that the fisrt thirteen books of his history of the Roman emperors from Nerva to 353 arelost. The remaining eighteen books reach from 353 to 378.
119 De incarn. c. 44 (Opera ed. Bened. i. p. 86).
120 JO Lovgo" ejnanqrwvphsen, i]na hJmei'" qeopoihqw'men.
121 It is uncertain whether he was the author of a mathematical and astrological work written some years earlier and published at Basel in 1551, which treats of the influence of the stars upon men, but conjures its readers not to divulge these Egyptian and Babylonian mysteries, as astrology was forbidden at the time. If he were the author, he must have not only wholly changed his religion, but considerably improved his style.
122 The Egyptian Serapis, for instance, was no other than Joseph, who, being the grand-son of Sara, was named Sara'" ajpov.
123 Though Apollinaris wrote a book "Of the Truth" against the emperor and the heathen philosophers, of which Julian is reported to have said sneeringly: jAnevgnwn, e[gnwn, katevgnwn:"I have read it, understood it, and condemned it." To which the Christian bishops rejoined in like tone: jAnevgnw", ajllj aujk e[gnw" , eij gavr e[gnw" oujk a[n katevgnw": "You have read, but not understood, for, had you understood you would not have condemned." So says Sozomen: v. 18. Comp. Schröckh: vi. 355.
124 Milman says (l.c. book iii. ch. 10) The City of God was unquestionably the noblest work, both in its original design and in the fulness of its elaborate execution, which the genius of man had as yet contributed to the support of Christianity."
125 Proleg. in Ezek.: In una urbe totus orbis interiit. Epist. 60: Quid salvum est, si Roma perit!
126 "Ibi vacabimus, " reads the conclusion, l. xxii. c. 30, "et videbimus; videbimus, et amabimus; amabimus, et laudabimus. Ecce quod erit in fine sine fine. Nam quia alius noster est finis, nisi pervenire ad regnum, cuius nullus est finis." Tillemont and Schröckh give an extended analysis of the Civitas Dei. So also more recently Dr. Baur in his work on the Christian church from the fourth to the sixth century, pp. 43-52. Gibbon, on the other hand, whose great history treats in some sense, though in totally different form and in opposite spirit, the same theme, only touches this work incidentally, notwithstanding his general minuteness. He says in a contemptuous tone, that his knowledge of Augustine is limited to the "Confessions," and the "City of God." Of course Augustine’s philosophy of history is almost as flatly opposed to the deism of the English historian, as to the heathen views of his contemporaries Ammianus, Eunapius, and Zosimus.
127 Of this book: "De gubernatione Dei, et de justo Dei praesentique judicio," Isaac Taylor has made very large use in his interesting work on "Ancient Christianity" (vol. ii. p. 34 sqq.), to refute the idealized Puseyite view of the Nicene and post-Nicene age. But he ascribes too great importance to it, and forgets that it is an unbalanced picture of the shady side of the church at that time. It is true as far as it goes, and yet leaves a false impression. There are books which by a partial and one-sided representation make even the truth lie.
128 "Ipsa Dei ecclesia quae in omnibus esse debet placatrix Dei, quid est aliud quam exacerbatrix Dei? aut, praeter paucissimos quosdam, qui mala fugiunt, quid est aliud pene omnis coetus Christianorum, quam sentina vitiorum?" (P. 91.)