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extremely sorry that the promised land is the lost land.
By the Baron de BROUK ANS.*
SECTION I. Justice is often done at last. Two or three authors, either venal or fanatical, eulogize the cruel and effeminate Constantine as if he had been a god, and treat as an absolute miscreant the just, the wise, and the great Julian. All other authors, copying from these, repeat both the flattery and the calumny. They become almost an article of faith. At length the age of sound criticism arrives; and at the end of fourteen hundred years, enlightened men revise the cause which had been decided by ignorance. In Constantine we see a man of successful ambition, internally scoffing at things divine as well as human. He has the insolence to pretend that God sent him a standard in the air to assure him of victory. He imbrues himself in the blood of all his relations, and is lulled to sleep in all the effeminacy of luxury; but he is a christian-he is canonized.
Julian is sober, chaste, disinterested, brave, and clement; but he is not a christian-he has long been considered a monster.
At the present day, after having compared facts, memorials, and records, the writings of Julian and those of his enemies, we are compelled to acknowledge, that if he was not partial to christianity, he was somewhat excusable in hating a sect stained with the blood of all his family; and that although he had been persecuted, imprisoned, exiled, and threatened with death by the Galileans, under the reign of the cruel and sanguinary Constantius, he never persecuted them, but on the contrary even pardoned ten christian soldiers who had conspired against his life. His letters
* It is perfectly true that the baron de Bronkans, whose name the author here borrows, had resided a long time in Palestine, and that he communicated all these details to M. de Voltaire, in a conversation with him at Mount Pleasant (Delices) in my presence. - Note by WAGNIERE.
are read and admired: “ The Galileans,” says he, “ under my predecessor, suffered exile and imprisonment; and those who, according to the change of circumstances, were called heretics, were reciprocally massacred in their turn. I have called home their exiles, I have liberated their prisoners, I have restored their property to those who were proscribed, and have compelled them to live in peace; but such is the restless rage of these Galileans, that they deplore their inability any longer to devour one another." letter! What a sentence, dictated by philosophy, against persecuting fanaticism! Ten christians conspiring against his life, he detects and he pardons them. How extraordinary a man! What dastardly fanatics must those be who attempt to throw disgrace on his memory!
In short, on investigating facts with impartiality, we are obliged to admit, that Julian possessed all the qualities of Trajan, with the exception of that depraved taste too long pardoned to the Greeks and Romans; all the virtues of Cato, without either his obstinacy or ill-humour ; everything that deserved admiration in Julius Cæsar, and none of his vices. He possessed the continence of Scipio. Finally, he was in all respects equal to Marcus Aurelius, who was reputed the first of men.
There are none who will now venture to repeat, after that slanderer Theodoret, that, in order to propitiate the gods, he sacrificed a woman in the temple of Carres ; none who will repeat any longer the story of the death-scene in which he is represented as throwing drops of blood from his hand towards heaven, calling out to Jesus Christ,“ Galilean, thou hast conquered; as if he had fought against Jesus in making war upon the Persians; as if this philosopher, who died with such perfect resignation, had with alarm and despair recognized Jesus; as if he had believed, that Jesus was in the air, and that the air was heaven! These ridiculous absurdities of men denominated fathers of the church, are happily no longer current and respected.
Still however the effect of ridicule was, it seems, to be tried against him, as it was by the light and giddy citizens of Antioch. He is reproached for his ill-combed beard and the manner of his walk. But you, Mr. abbé de la Bletterie, never saw him walk; you have however read his letters and his laws, the monuments of his virtues. Of what consequence was it, comparatively, that he had a slovenly beard and an abrupt headlong walk, while his heart was full of magnanimity and all his steps tended to virtue!
One important fact remains to be examined at the present day. Julian is reproached with attempting to falsify the prophecy of Jesus Christ, by re-building the temple of Jerusalem. Fires, it is asserted, came out of the earth and prevented the continuance of the work. It is said that this was a miracle, and that this miracle did not convert Julian, nor Alypius the superintendant of the enterprise, nor any individual of the imperial court; and upon this subject the abbé de la Bletterie thus expresses himself : emperor and the philosophers of his court undoubtedly employed all their knowledge of natural philosophy, to deprive the Deity of the honour of so striking and impressive a prodigy. Nature was always the favourite resource of unbelievers; but she serves the cause of religion so very seasonably, that they might surely suspect some collusion between them.”
In the first place, it is not true that it is said in the gospel, that the Jewish temple should not be re-built. The gospel of Matthew, which was evidently written after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, prophesies certainly, that not one stone should remain upon another of the temple of the Idumæan Herod; but on evangelist says that it shall never be re-built. It is perfectly false, that not one stone remained upon another when Titus demolished it. All its foundations remained together, with one entire wall and the tower Antonia.
Secondly, of what consequence could it be to the Supreme Being, whether there was a Jewish temple,
a magazine, or a mosque, on the spot where the Jews were in the habit of slaughtering bullocks and cows ?
Thirdly, it is not ascertained, whether it was from within the circuit of the walls of the city, or from within that of the temple, that those fires proceeded which burnt the workmen. But it is not very obvious why the Jews should burn the workmen of the emperor Julian, and not those of the caliph Omar, who long afterwards built a mosque upon the ruins of the temple; or those of the great Saladin, who rebuilt the same mosque. Had Jesus any particular predilection for the mosques of the mussulmen?
Fourthly, Jesus, notwithstanding his having predicted that there would not remain one stone upon another in Jerusalem, did not prevent the re-building of that city.
Fifthly, Jesus predicted many things which God permitted never to come to pass. He predicted the end of the world, and his coming in the clouds with great power and majesty, before or about the end of the then existing generation. The world however has lasted to the present moment, and in all probability will last much longer.
Sixthly, if Julian had written an account of this miracle, I should say that he had been imposed upon by a false and ridiculous report; I should think that the christians, his enemies, employed every artifice to oppose his enterprise, that they themselves killed the workmen, and excited and promoted the belief of their being destroyed by miracle; but Julian does not say a single word on the subject. The war against the Persians at that time fully occupied his attention ; he put off the re-building of the temple to some other time, and he died before he was able to commence the building.
Seventhly, this prodigy is related in Ammianus Marcellinus, who was a pagan. It is very possible that it may have been an interpolation of the christians. They have been charged with committing numberless others which have been clearly proved.
But it is not the less probable, that at a time when nothing was spoken of but prodigies and stories of witchcraft, Ammianus Marcellinus may have reported this fable on the faith of some credulous narrator. From Titus Livius to De Thou, inclusively, all historians have been infected with prodigies.
Eighthly, contemporary authors relate, that at the same period there was in Syria a great convulsion of the earth, which in many places broke out in conflagrations and swallowed up many cities. There was therefore more miracle.
Ninthly, if Jesus performed miracles, would it be in order to prevent the re-building of a temple in which he had himself sacrificed, and in which he was circumcised ? Or would he not rather perform miracles to convert to christianity the various nations who at present ridicule it? Or rather still, to render more humane, more kind, christians themselves, who, from Arius and Athanasius down to Roland and the Paladins of the Cevennes, have shed torrents of human blood, and conducted themselves nearly as might be expected from cannibals ?
Hence I conclude, that'nature' is not in collusion,' as La Bletterie expresses it, with christianity, but that La Bletterie is in collusion with some old women's stories, one of those persons, as Julian phrases it, quibus cum stolidis aniculis negotium erat.”
La Bletterie, after having done justice to some of Julian's virtues, yet concludes the history of that great man by observing, that his death was the effect of • divine vengeance.
If that be the case, all the heroes who have died young, from Alexander to Gustavus Adolphus, have, we must infer, been punished by God. Julian died the noblest of deaths, in the pursuit of his enemies, after many victories. Jovian, who succeeded him, reigned a much shorter time than he did, and reigned in disgrace. I see no divine vengeance in the matter; and I see in La Bletterie himself nothing more than a disingenuous, dishonest declaimer. But where are the men to be found who will dare to speak out?
Libanius the stoic was one of these extraordinary men.