Montesquieu

It seems from a pas­sage in the books of the pon­tiffs repor­ted by Cicero1 that the Romans had inex­pia­ble cri­mes,2 and it is on them that Zosimus bases his nar­ra­tive, so apt to impugn the moti­ves of Constantine’s conver­sion, and Julian his bit­ter sar­casm about that same conver­sion in his Cæsars.3

The pagan reli­gion, which for­bade only a few gross cri­mes, which hal­ted the hand and left the heart alone, could have inex­pia­ble cri­mes ; but a reli­gion that encom­pas­ses all the pas­sions, which is not more jea­lous of acts than of desi­res and thoughts, which keeps us atta­ched not by a few chains but by uncoun­ted threads, which lea­ves human jus­tice behind it and begins ano­ther jus­tice made to lead cons­tantly from repen­tance to love and from love to repen­tance, which pla­ces bet­ween judge and cri­mi­nal a great media­tor, bet­ween the just and the media­tor a great judge : such a reli­gion ought not to have inex­pia­ble cri­mes. But although it gives fears and hopes to all, it makes it clear enough that if there is no crime which by its nature is inex­pia­ble, a whole life can be ; that it would be very dan­ge­rous to tor­ment mercy with more cri­mes and more expia­tions ; that uneasy over old debts, never clear with the Lord, we must fear contrac­ting new ones, filling the mea­sure, and rea­ching the limit where pater­nal patience ends.

Book II of Laws.

Sacrum commissum, quod neque expiari poterit, impie commissum est ; quod expiari poterit publici sacerdotes expianto.

[The emperor Julian “the apostate,” Cæsares, 362 CE.]