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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

WHEN Julian acted and wrote in the manner aforesaid, he expected that he would, by these means, easily induce his subjects to change their religious opinions. Although he earnestly desired to abolish the Christian religion, yet he refrained from employing violent measures, lest he should be accounted tyrannical. He used every means, however, that could possibly be devised to lead his subjects back to Paganism; and he was more especially urgent with the soldiery, whom he sometimes addressed individually, and sometimes through the medium of their officers. To habituate them, in all things, to the worship of the gods, he restored the ancient form of the standard of the Roman armies, which, as we have already stated, Constantine had, at the command of God, converted into the sign of the cross. Julian also caused to be painted, in juxta-position with his own figure, on the public pictures, a representation either of Jupiter coming out of heaven and presenting to him the symbols of imperial power, a crown or a purple robe, or else of Mars, or of Mercury, with their eyes intently fixed upon him, as if to express their admiration of his eloquence and military skill. He placed the pictures of the gods in juxta-position with his own, in order that the people might be led to worship them under the pretext of rendering due honour to him; and might thus, under the cloak of ancient usages, be induced to offer religious homage. He considered that, if they would yield obedience on this point, they would be the more ready to obey him on every other occasion; but that, if they ventured to refuse obedience, he would have reason to punish them, as infringers of the Roman customs and offenders against the emperor and the state. There were but very few (and the law had its course against them) who, seeing through his designs, refused to render the customary homage to his pictures: but the multitude, through ignorance or simplicity, conformed as usual to the ancient regulation, and thoughtlessly paid homage to his image. The emperor derived but little advantage from this artifice; yet he did not cease from his efforts to effect a change in religion. The next machination to which he had recourse was less subtle and more violent than the former one; and the fortitude of many soldiers attached to the court was thereby tested. When the stated day came round for giving money to the troops, which day generally fell upon the anniversary of some festival among the Romans, such as that of the birth of the emperor, or the foundation of some royal city, Julian reflected that soldiers are naturally thoughtless and simple, and disposed to be covetous of money, and therefore concluded that it would be a favourable opportunity to seduce them to the worship of the gods. Accordingly, as each soldier approached to receive the money, he was commanded to offer sacrifice, fire and incense having previously been placed for this purpose near the emperor, according to an ancient Roman custom. Some of the soldiers had the courage to refuse to offer sacrifice and receive the gold; others were so habituated to the observance of the ancient custom, that they conformed to it without imagining that they were committing sin. Others, again, deluded by the lustre of the gold, complied with the Pagan rite, and suffered themselves to fall into the temptation from which they ought to have fled. It is related that as some of those who had ignorantly fallen into sin were seated at table, and drinking to each other, one among them happened to mention the name of Christ. Another of the guests immediately exclaimed, “It is extraordinary that you should call upon Christ, when, but a short time ago, you denied him for the sake of the emperor’s gift, by throwing incense into the fire.” On hearing this observation, they all became suddenly conscious of the sin they had committed; they rose from table, and rushed into the public streets, where they screamed and wept, and called upon all men to witness that they were Christians, and that they had offered incense unawares, and with the hand alone, and not with the assent of the judgment. They then presented themselves before the emperor, threw back his gold, and besought him to put them to death, protesting that they would never renounce their sentiments, whatever torments might, in consequence of the sin committed by their hand, be inflicted on the other parts of their body for the sake of Christ. whatever displeasure the emperor might have felt against them, he refrained from slaying them, lest they should enjoy the honour of martyrdom: he therefore merely deprived them of their military commission, and dismissed them from the court.








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