one hand, nor to offend the reader too much on the other. The repetition is not ungraceful in those speeches where the dignity of the speaker renders it a sort of insolence to alter his words ; as in the messages from Gods to men, or from higher powers to inferiors in concerns of state, or where the ceremonial of religion seems to require it, in the solemn forms of prayers, oaths, or the like. In other cases, I believe the best rule is to be guided by the nearness, or distance, at which the repetitions are placed in the original: when they follow too close, one may vary the expression, but it is a question whether a professed translator be authorised to omit any ; if they be tedious, the author is to answer for it.

It only remains to speak of the versification. Homer, as has been said, is perpetually applying the sound to the sense, and varying it on every new subject. This is indeed one of the most exquisite beauties of poetry, and attainable by very few : I know only of Homer eminent for it in the Greek, and Virgil in Latin. I am sensible it is what may sometimes happen by chance, when a writer is warm, and fully possessed of his image : however, it may be reasonably believed they designed this, in whose verse it so manifestly appears in a superior degree to all others. Few readers have the ear to be judges of it; but those who have, will see I have endeavoured at this beauty.



Born 1698_Died 1779


Julian was the first who got enough acquainted with the Gospel to apply such arms against it as must have ended in its ruin, had it been nothing more than what he affected to think it, a human invention. And here we shall be forced to confess, that Providence seems to have raised up this extraordinary man on set purpose to do the last honours to the Religion of Jesus; to shew the world what human power, with all its advantages united, was able to oppose to its establishment. For we find in this emperor all the great qualities that a projector could conceive, or an adversary would require, to secure success to so daring an opposition. He was eloquent and liberal; artful, insinuating, and indefatigable ; which, joined to a severe temperance, an affected love of justice, and a courage superior to all trials, first gained him the affections, and, soon after, the peaceable possession of the whole empire.

He was bred up in the Christian religion from his infancy: and was obliged to profess it, or at least to disguise his passion for Paganism, to the time he assumed the purple. His aversion to his uncle Constantine, and his cousin Constantius, for the cruelties exercised on his family, had prejudiced him against the Christian religion; and his attachment to some Platonic sophists, who had been employed in his education, gave him as violent a bias towards Paganism. He was ambitious; and Paganism, in some of its theürgic rites, had Hattered and encouraged his views of the diadem : he was vain, which made him aspire to the glory of re-establishing the ancient rites : he was extremely knowing, and fond of Grecian literature ; the very soul of which, in his opinion, was the old Theology : but above all, notwithstanding a considerable mixture of enthusiasm, his superstition was excessive, and what nothing but the blood of hecatombs

With these dispositions he came to the empire ; and, consequently, with a determined purpose of subverting the Christian, and restoring the Pagan worship. His predecessors had left him the repeated experience of the inefficacy of downright force. The virtue of the first Christians then rendered this effort fruitless; the numbers of the present would have now made it dangerous. He found it necessary therefore to change his ground : his knowledge of human nature furnished him

could appease.

with arms; and his knowledge of the faith he had abandoned, enabled him to direct those arms to most advantage.


An account of this attempt, to wave the testimony of Christian authors, is transmitted to us by a contemporary writer, of noble extraction, a friend and admirer of Julian, and his companion in arms; a man of affairs, a lover of truth, learned, candid, and impartial; qualities which rendered him the best historian of his time; who, although neither ignorant of the doctrines, nor bigotted against the followers of our faith, yet was strongly attached to the superstition of his ancestors, and, in one word, a Pagan professed and declared.

So much then the most sceptical reader must be forced to grant. To doubt of this, would be subverting the very foundations of human credit ; and it might as well be questioned whether Cæsar was assaulted in the senate, as whether Julian attempted to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem.

What now was the condition of the church at this juncture ! and how were the fears of the good people alarmed! It had long combated, and at length triumphed over, the prejudices of the people, the arts of the philosophers, and the violence of civil power. It had bent the obstinacy of superstition by the superior force of miracles : it had confounded the meretricious confidence of Grecian Sophistry, by the simple majesty of Truth ; and had wearied out the rage of tyranny, by constancy and contempt of suffering. But it was now summoned to a severer trial, and pushed upon the very crisis of its fate. Its enemies, supported by the whole

power of the empire, had brought a decisive scheme to its projection ; a scheme that was to reflect eternal dishonour upon the Oracles of Truth. The credit of God's servants, the authority of his word, and the very pretensions of revelation, where all vitally interested in the event. The long struggle between Superstition and Religion was now to be finally decided. The God of the Christians was publicly challenged : his power was defied to protect his Dispensation against

this impending stroke. Destitute of all human aid, their only reliance was on heaven. And no believer, but must conclude, that God would indeed interpose to vindicate the character of his Son : no man, but must confess, that to support a Religion like this, was an occasion worthy the interposition of the Lord of all things.

Well, the impious attack was made ; and the expected protection afforded. The same great and impartial historian, who acquaints us with the attempt, informs us likewise of the defeat of it.

Thus did the vigilance of Providence not only vindicate the honour of our holy faith in the open view of all men, but, in its goodness, secured the memory of this impious attempt by the testimony of the most unexceptionable witness. For- were infidelity itself, when it would evade the force of evidence, to prescribe what qualities it expected in a faultless, testimony, it could invent none but what might be found in the historian here produced. He was a Pagan, and so not prejudiced in favour of Christianity: he was a dependent, a follower, and a profound admirer of Julian, and so not inclined to report any thing to his dishonour: he was a lover of truth, and so would not relate what he knew, or but suspected, to be false : he had great sense, improved by the study of philosophy and knowledge of the world, and so would not easily suffer himself to be deceived: he was not only contemporary to the fact; but, at the time it happened, resident near the place: he recorded the event not on its first report, when, in the relation of journalary occurrences, much falsehood blends itself with truth ; but after time and inquiry, which separates this impure mixture, had confirmed what really happened: he related it not as, an uncertain report or hearsay, with diffidence; but as a notorious fact, at that time, no more questioned in Asia, than the project and success of the Persian expedition : he inserted it not for any partial purpose in support or confutation of any system ; in defence or discredit of any character : he delivered it in no cursory or transient manner, nor in a loose or private memoir ; but gravely and deliberately, as the natural and necessary part of a composition the most useful and important, a general history of the empire ; on the complete performance of which the author was so intent, that he exchanged a court life, for one of study and contemplation, and chose Rome, the great repository of the proper materials, for the place of his retirement..


Born 1709—Died 1784.


That praises are without reason lavished on the dead, and that the honours due only to excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint, likely to be always continued by those, who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope for eminence from the heresies of paradox; or those, who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from posterity what the present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the regard which is yet denied by envy, will be at last bestowed by time.

Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly votaries that reverence it, not from reason, buti from prejudice. Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long preserved, without considering that time has sometimes co-operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun through artificial opacity. The great contention of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by hisworst performance: and when he is dead, we rate them by his best.

« ElőzőTovább »