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Having completed seven books, I now propose to begin the eighth. And may God and His Only-begotten Son the Word be with us, to enable us effectively to refute the falsehoods which Celsus has published under the delusive title of A True Discourse, and at the same time to unfold the truths of Christianity with such fullness as our purpose requires. And as Paul said,
We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, so would we in the same spirit and language earnestly desire to be ambassadors for Christ to men, even as the Word of God beseeches them to the love of Himself, seeking to win over to righteousness, truth, and the other virtues, those who, until they receive the doctrines of Jesus Christ, live in darkness about God and in ignorance of their Creator. Again, then, I would say, may God bestow upon us His pure and true Word, even
the Lord strong and mighty in battle against sin. We must now proceed to state the next objection of Celsus, and afterwards to answer it.
In a passage previously quoted Celsus asks us why we do not worship demons, and to his remarks on demons we gave such an answer as seemed to us in accordance with the divine word. After having put this question for the purpose of leading us to the worship of demons, he represents us as answering that it is impossible to serve many masters.
This, he goes on to say,
is the language of sedition, and is only used by those who separate themselves and stand aloof from all human society. Those who speak in this way ascribe, as he supposes,
their own feelings and passions to God. It does hold true among men, that he who is in the service of one master cannot well serve another, because the service which he renders to the one interferes with that which he owes to the other; and no one, therefore, who has already engaged himself to the service of one, must accept that of another. And, in like manner, it is impossible to serve at the same time heroes or demons of different natures. But in regard to God, who is subject to no suffering or loss, it is, he thinks,
absurd to be on our guard against serving more gods, as though we had to do with demi-gods, or other spirits of that sort. He says also,
He who serves many gods does that which is pleasing to the Most High, because he honours that which belongs to Him. And he adds,
It is indeed wrong to give honour to any to whom God has not given honour.
Wherefore, he says,
in honouring and worshipping all belonging to God, we will not displease Him to whom they all belong.
Before proceeding to the next point, it may be well for us to see whether we do not accept with approval the saying,
No man can serve two masters, with the addition,
for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other, and further,
You cannot serve God and mammon. The defense of this passage will lead us to a deeper and more searching inquiry into the meaning and application of the words
lords. Divine Scripture teaches us that there is
a great Lord above all gods. And by this name
gods we are not to understand the objects of heathen worship (for we know that
all the gods of the heathen are demons ), but the gods mentioned by the prophets as forming an assembly, whom God
judges, and to each of whom He assigns his proper work. For
God stands in the assembly of the gods: He judges among the gods. For
God is Lord of gods, who by His Son
has called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. We are also commanded to
give thanks to the God of gods. Moreover, we are taught that
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Nor are these the only passages to this effect; but there are very many others.
The sacred Scriptures teach us to think, in like manner, of the Lord of lords. For they say in one place,
Give thanks to the God of gods, for His mercy endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His mercy endures for ever; and in another,
God is King of kings, and Lord of lords. For Scripture distinguishes between those gods which are such only in name and those which are truly gods, whether they are called by that name or not; and the same is true in regard to the use of the word
lords. To this effect Paul says,
For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there are gods many, and lords many. But as the God of gods calls whom He pleases through Jesus to his inheritance,
from the east and from the west, and the Christ of God thus shows His superiority to all rulers by entering into their several provinces, and summoning men out of them to be subject to Himself, Paul therefore, with this in view, goes on to say,
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him; adding, as if with a deep sense of the marvellous and mysterious nature of the doctrine,
Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge. When he says,
To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, by
us he means himself and all those who have risen up to the supreme God of gods and to the supreme Lord of lords. Now he has risen to the supreme God who gives Him an entire and undivided worship through His Son — the word and wisdom of God made manifest in Jesus. For it is the Son alone who leads to God those who are striving, by the purity of their thoughts, words, and deeds, to come near to God the Creator of the universe. I think, therefore, that the prince of this world, who
transforms himself into an angel of light, was referring to this and such like statements in the words,
Him follows a host of gods and demons, arranged in eleven bands. Speaking of himself and the philosophers, he says,
We are of the party of Jupiter; others belong to other demons.
Whilst there are thus many gods and lords, whereof some are such in reality, and others are such only in name, we strive to rise not only above those whom the nations of the earth worship as gods, but also beyond those spoken of as gods in Scripture, of whom they are wholly ignorant who are strangers to the covenants of God given by Moses and by our Saviour Jesus, and who have no part in the promises which He has made to us through them. That man rises above all demon-worship who does nothing that is pleasing to demons; and he rises to a blessedness beyond that of those whom Paul calls
gods, if he is enabled, like them, or in any way he may,
to look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen. And he who considers that
the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected the same in hope, while he praises the creature, and sees how
it shall be freed altogether from the bondage of corruption, and restored to the glorious liberty of the children of God, — such a one cannot be induced to combine with the service of God the service of any other, or to serve two masters. There is therefore nothing seditious or factious in the language of those who hold these views, and who refuse to serve more masters than one. To them Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient Lord, who Himself instructs them, in order that when fully instructed He may form them into a kingdom worthy of God, and present them to God the Father. But indeed they do in a sense separate themselves and stand aloof from those who are aliens from the commonwealth of God and strangers to His covenants, in order that they may live as citizens of heaven,
coming to the living God, and to the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven.
But when we refuse to serve any other than God through His word and wisdom, we do so, not as though we would thereby be doing any harm or injury to God, in the same way as injury would be done to a man by his servant entering into the service of another, but we fear that we ourselves should suffer harm by depriving ourselves of our portion in God, through which we live in the participation of the divine blessedness, and are imbued with that excellent spirit of adoption which in the sons of the heavenly Father cries, not with words, but with deep effect in the inmost heart,
Abba, Father. The Lacedæmonian ambassadors, when brought before the king of Persia, refused to prostrate themselves before him, when the attendants endeavoured to compel them to do so, out of respect for that which alone had authority and lordship over them, namely, the law of Lycurgus. But they who have a much greater and diviner embassy in
being ambassadors for Christ should not worship any ruler among Persians, or Greeks or Egyptians, or of any nation whatever, even although their officers and ministers, demons and angels of the devil, should seek to compel them to do so, and should urge them to set at nought a law which is mightier than all the laws upon earth. For the Lord of those who are
ambassadors for Christ is Christ Himself, whose ambassadors they are, and who is
the Word, who was in the beginning, was with God, and was God.
But when Celsus speaks of heroes and demons, he starts a deeper question than he is aware of. For after the statement which he made in regard to service among men, that
the first master is injured when any of his servants wishes at the same time to serve another, he adds, that
the same holds true of heroes, and other demons of that kind. Now we must inquire of him what nature he thinks those heroes and demons possess of whom he affirms that he who serves one hero may not serve another, and he who serves one demon may not serve another, as though the former hero or demon would be injured in the same way as men are injured when they who serve them first afterwards give themselves to the service of others. Let him also state what loss he supposes those heroes or demons will suffer. For he will be driven either to plunge into endless absurdities, and first repeat, then retract his previous statements; or else to abandon his frivolous conjectures, and confess that he understands nothing of the nature of heroes and demons. And in regard to his statement, that men suffer injury when the servant of one man enters the service of a second master, the question arises:
What is the nature of the injury which is done to the former master by a servant who, while serving him, wishes at the same time to serve another?
For if he answers, as one who is unlearned and ignorant of philosophy, that the injury sustained is one which regards things that are outside of us, it will be plainly manifest that he knows nothing of that famous saying of Socrates,
Anytus and Melitus may kill me, but they cannot injure me; for it is impossible that the better should ever be injured by the worse. But if by injury he means a wicked impulse or an evil habit, it is plain that no injury of this kind would befall the wise, by one man serving two wise men in different places. If this sense does not suit his purpose, it is evident that his endeavours are vain to weaken the authority of the passage,
No man can serve two masters; for these words can be perfectly true only when they refer to the service which we render to the Most High through His Son, who leads us to God. And we will not serve God as though He stood in need of our service, or as though He would be made unhappy if we ceased to serve Him; but we do it because we are ourselves benefited by the service of God, and because we are freed from griefs and troubles by serving the Most High God through His only-begotten Son, the Word and Wisdom.
And observe the recklessness of that expression,
For if you worship any other of the things in the universe, as though he would have us believe that we are led by our service of God to the worship of any other things which belong to God, without any injury to ourselves. But, as if feeling his error, he corrects the words,
If you worship any other of the things in the universe, by adding,
We may honour none, however, except those to whom that right has been given by God. And we would put to Celsus this question in regard to those who are honoured as gods, as demons, or as heroes:
Now, sir, can you prove that the right to be honoured has been given to these by God, and that it has not arisen from the ignorance and folly of men who in their wanderings have fallen away from Him to whom alone worship and service are properly due? You said a little ago, O Celsus, that Antinous, the favourite of Adrian, is honoured; but surely you will not say that the right to be worshipped as a god was given to him by the God of the universe? And so of the others, we ask proof that the right to be worshipped was given to them by the Most High God. But if the same question is put to us in regard to the worship of Jesus, we will show that the right to be honoured was given to Him by God,
that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. For all the prophecies which preceded His birth were preparations for His worship. And the wonders which He wrought — through no magical art, as Celsus supposes, but by a divine power, which was foretold by the prophets— have served as a testimony from God in behalf of the worship of Christ. He who honours the Son, who is the Word and Reason, acts in nowise contrary to reason, and gains for himself great good; he who honours Him, who is the Truth, becomes better by honouring truth: and this we may say of honouring wisdom, righteousness, and all the other names by which the sacred Scriptures are wont to designate the Son of God.
But that the honour which we pay to the Son of God, as well as that which we render to God the Father, consists of an upright course of life, is plainly taught us by the passage,
You that make your boast of the law, through breaking the law do you dishonour God? and also,
Of how much sorer punishment, do you suppose, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For if he who transgresses the law dishonours God by his transgression, and he who treads under foot the word treads under foot the Son of God, it is evident that he who keeps the law honours God, and that the worshipper of God is he whose life is regulated by the principles and precepts of the divine word. Had Celsus known who they are who are God's people, and that they alone are wise — and who they are who are strangers to God, and that these are all the wicked who have no desire to give themselves to virtue, he would have considered before he gave expression to the words,
How can he who honours any of those whom God acknowledges as His own be displeasing to God, to whom they all belong?
And indeed he who, when speaking of God, asserts that there is only one who may be called Lord, speaks impiously, for he divides the kingdom of God, and raises a sedition therein, implying that there are separate factions in the divine kingdom, and that there exists one who is His enemy. He might speak after this fashion, if he could prove by conclusive arguments that those who are worshipped as gods by the heathens are truly gods, and not merely evil spirits, which are supposed to haunt statues and temples and altars. But we desire not only to understand the nature of that divine kingdom of which we are continually speaking and writing, but also ourselves to be of those who are under the rule of God alone, so that the kingdom of God may be ours. Celsus, however, who teaches us to worship many gods, ought in consistency not to speak of
the kingdom of God, but of
the kingdom of the gods. There are therefore no factions in the kingdom of God, nor is there any god who is an adversary to Him, although there are some who, like the Giants and Titans, in their wickedness wish to contend with God in company with Celsus, and those who declare war against Him who has by innumerable proofs established the claims of Jesus, and against Him who, as the Word, did, for the salvation of our race, show Himself before all the world in such a form as each was able to receive Him.
In what follows, some may imagine that he says something plausible against us.
If, says he,
these people worshipped one God alone, and no other, they would perhaps have some valid argument against the worship of others. But they pay excessive reverence to one who has but lately appeared among men, and they think it no offense against God if they worship also His servant. To this we reply, that if Celsus had known that saying,
I and My Father are one, and the words used in prayer by the Son of God,
As You and I are one, he would not have supposed that we worship any other besides Him who is the Supreme God.
For, says He,
My Father is in Me, and I in Him. And if any should from these words be afraid of our going over to the side of those who deny that the Father and the Son are two persons, let him weigh that passage,
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul, that he may understand the meaning of the saying,
I and My Father are one. We worship one God, the Father and the Son, therefore, as we have explained; and our argument against the worship of other gods still continues valid. And we do not
reverence beyond measure one who has but lately appeared, as though He did not exist before; for we believe Himself when He says,
Before Abraham was, I am. Again He says,
I am the truth; and surely none of us is so simple as to suppose that truth did not exist before the time when Christ appeared. We worship, therefore, the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth; and these, while they are two, considered as persons or subsistences, are one in unity of thought, in harmony and in identity of will. So entirely are they one, that he who has seen the Son,
who is the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His person, has seen in Him who is the image of God, God Himself.
He further supposes, that
because we join along with the worship of God the worship of His Son, it follows that, in our view, not only God, but also the servants of God, are to be worshipped. If he had meant this to apply to those who are truly the servants of God, after His only-begotten Son, — to Gabriel and Michael, and the other angels and archangels, and if he had said of these that they ought to be worshipped, — if also he had clearly defined the meaning of the word
worship, and the duties of the worshippers, — we might perhaps have brought forward such thoughts as have occurred to us on so important a subject. But as he reckons among the servants of God the demons which are worshipped by the heathen, he cannot induce us, on the plea of consistency, to worship such as are declared by the word to be servants of the evil one, the prince of this world, who leads astray from God as many as he can. We decline, therefore, altogether to worship and serve those whom other men worship, for the reason that they are not servants of God. For if we had been taught to regard them as servants of the Most High, we would not have called them demons. Accordingly, we worship with all our power the one God, and His only Son, the Word and the Image of God, by prayers and supplications; and we offer our petitions to the God of the universe through His only-begotten Son. To the Son we first present them, and beseech Him, as
the propitiation for our sins, and our High Priest, to offer our desires, and sacrifices, and prayers, to the Most High. Our faith, therefore, is directed to God through His Son, who strengthens it in us; and Celsus can never show that the Son of God is the cause of any sedition or disloyalty in the kingdom of God. We honour the Father when we admire His Son, the Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and Righteousness, and all that He who is the Son of so great a Father is said in Scripture to be. So much on this point.
Again Celsus proceeds:
If you should tell them that Jesus is not the Son of God, but that God is the Father of all, and that He alone ought to be truly worshipped, they would not consent to discontinue their worship of him who is their leader in the sedition. And they call him Son of God, not out of any extreme reverence for God, but from an extreme desire to extol Jesus Christ. We, however, have learned who the Son of God is, and know that He is
the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and
the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty; moreover,
the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of His goodness. We know, therefore, that He is the Son of God, and that God is His father. And there is nothing extravagant or unbecoming the character of God in the doctrine that He should have begotten such an only Son; and no one will persuade us that such a one is not a Son of the unbegotten God and Father. If Celsus has heard something of certain persons holding that the Son of God is not the Son of the Creator of the universe, that is a matter which lies between him and the supporters of such an opinion. Jesus is, then, not the leader of any seditious movement, but the promoter of peace. For He said to His disciples,
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; and as He knew that it would be men of the world, and not men of God, who would wage war against us, he added,
Not as the world gives peace, do I give peace unto you. And even although we are oppressed in the world, we have confidence in Him who said,
In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. And it is He whom we call Son of God— Son of that God, namely, whom, to quote the words of Celsus,
we most highly reverence; and He is the Son who has been most highly exalted by the Father. Grant that there may be some individuals among the multitudes of believers who are not in entire agreement with us, and who incautiously assert that the Saviour is the Most High God; however, we do not hold with them, but rather believe Him when He says,
The Father who sent Me is greater than I. We would not therefore make Him whom we call Father inferior — as Celsus accuses us of doing — to the Son of God.
Celsus goes on to say:
That I may give a true representation of their faith, I will use their own words, as given in what is called A Heavenly Dialogue: 'If the Son is mightier than God, and the Son of man is Lord over Him, who else than the Son can be Lord over that God who is the ruler over all things? How comes it, that while so many go about the well, no one goes down into it? Why are you afraid when you have gone so far on the way? Answer: You are mistaken, for I lack neither courage nor weapons.' Is it not evident, then, that their views are precisely such as I have described them to be? They suppose that another God, who is above the heavens, is the Father of him whom with one accord they honour, that they may honour this Son of man alone, whom they exalt under the form and name of the great God, and whom they assert to be stronger than God, who rules the world, and that he rules over Him. And hence that maxim of theirs, 'It is impossible to serve two masters,' is maintained for the purpose of keeping up the party who are on the side of this Lord. Here, again, Celsus quotes opinions from some most obscure sect of heretics, and ascribes them to all Christians. I call it
a most obscure sect; for although we have often contended with heretics, yet we are unable to discover from what set of opinions he has taken this passage, if indeed he has quoted it from any author, and has not rather concocted it himself, or added it as an inference of his own. For we who say that the visible world is under the government to Him who created all things, do thereby declare that the Son is not mightier than the Father, but inferior to Him. And this belief we ground on the saying of Jesus Himself,
The Father who sent Me is greater than I. And none of us is so insane as to affirm that the Son of man is Lord over God. But when we regard the Saviour as God the Word, and Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Truth, we certainly do say that He has dominion over all things which have been subjected to Him in this capacity, but not that His dominion extends over the God and Father who is Ruler over all. Besides, as the Word rules over none against their will, there are still wicked beings — not only men, but also angels, and all demons— over whom we say that in a sense He does not rule, since they do not yield Him a willing obedience; but, in another sense of the word, He rules even over them, in the same way as we say that man rules over the irrational animals — not by persuasion, but as one who tames and subdues lions and beasts of burden. Nevertheless, he leaves no means untried to persuade even those who are still disobedient to submit to His authority. So far as we are concerned, therefore, we deny the truth of that which Celsus quotes as one of our sayings,
Who else than He can be Lord over Him who is God over all?
The remaining part of the extract given by Celsus seems to have been taken from some other form of heresy, and the whole jumbled together in strange confusion:
How is it, that while so many go about the well, no one goes down into it? Why do you shrink with fear when you have gone so far on the way? Answer: You are mistaken, for I lack neither courage nor weapons. We who belong to the Church which takes its name from Christ, assert that none of these statements are true. For he seems to have made them simply that they might harmonize with what he had said before; but they have no reference to us. For it is a principle with us, not to worship any god whom we merely
suppose to exist, but Him alone who is the Creator of this universe, and of all things besides which are unseen by the eye of sense. These remarks of Celsus may apply to those who go on another road and tread other paths from us — men who deny the Creator, and make to themselves another god under a new form, having nothing but the name of God, whom they esteem higher than the Creator; and with these may be joined any that there may be who say that the Son is greater than the God who rules all things. In reference to the precept that we ought not to serve two masters, we have already shown what appears to us the principle contained in it, when we proved that no sedition or disloyalty could be charged against the followers of Jesus their Lord, who confess that they reject every other lord, and serve Him alone who is the Son and Word of God.
Celsus then proceeds to say that
we shrink from raising altars, statues, and temples; and this, he thinks,
has been agreed upon among us as the badge or distinctive mark of a secret and forbidden society. He does not perceive that we regard the spirit of every good man as an altar from which arises an incense which is truly and spiritually sweet-smelling, namely, the prayers ascending from a pure conscience. Therefore it is said by John in the Revelation,
The odours are the prayers of saints; and by the Psalmist,
Let my prayer come up before You as incense. And the statues and gifts which are fit offerings to God are the work of no common mechanics, but are wrought and fashioned in us by the Word of God, to wit, the virtues in which we imitate
the First-born of all creation, who has set us an example of justice, of temperance, of courage, of wisdom, of piety, and of the other virtues. In all those, then, who plant and cultivate within their souls, according to the divine word, temperance, justice, wisdom, piety, and other virtues, these excellences are their statues they raise, in which we are persuaded that it is becoming for us to honour the model and prototype of all statues:
the image of the invisible God, God the Only-begotten. And again, they who
put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that has created him, in taking upon them the image of Him who has created them, do raise within themselves a statue like to what the Most High God Himself desires. And as among statuaries there are some who are marvellously perfect in their art, as for example Pheidias and Polycleitus, and among painters, Zeuxis and Apelles, while others make inferior statues, and others, again, are inferior to the second-rate artists — so that, taking all together, there is a wide difference in the execution of statues and pictures — in the same way there are some who form images of the Most High in a better manner and with a more perfect skill; so that there is no comparison even between the Olympian Jupiter of Pheidias and the man who has been fashioned according to the image of God the Creator. But by far the most excellent of all these throughout the whole creation is that image in our Saviour who said,
My Father is in Me.
And every one who imitates Him according to his ability, does by this very endeavour raise a statue according to the image of the Creator, for in the contemplation of God with a pure heart they become imitators of Him. And, in general, we see that all Christians strive to raise altars and statues as we have described them and these not of a lifeless and senseless kind and not to receive greedy spirits intent upon lifeless things, but to be filled with the Spirit of God who dwells in the images of virtue of which we have spoken, and takes His abode in the soul which is conformed to the image of the Creator. Thus the Spirit of Christ dwells in those who bear, so to say, a resemblance in form and feature to Himself. And the Word of God, wishing to set this clearly before us, represents God as promising to the righteous,
I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And the Saviour says,
If any man hear My words, and do them, I and My Father will come to him, and make Our abode with him. Let any one, therefore, who chooses compare the altars which I have described with those spoken of by Celsus, and the images in the souls of those who worship the Most High God with the statues of Pheidias, Polycleitus, and such like, and he will clearly perceive, that while the latter are lifeless things, and subject to the ravages of time, the former abide in the immortal spirit as long as the reasonable soul wishes to preserve them.
And if, further, temples are to be compared with temples, that we may prove to those who accept the opinions of Celsus that we do not object to the erection of temples suited to the images and altars of which we have spoken, but that we do refuse to build lifeless temples to the Giver of all life, let any one who chooses learn how we are taught, that our bodies are the temple of God, and that if any one by lust or sin defiles the temple of God, he will himself be destroyed, as acting impiously towards the true temple. Of all the temples spoken of in this sense, the best and most excellent was the pure and holy body of our Saviour Jesus Christ. When He knew that wicked men might aim at the destruction of the temple of God in Him, but that their purposes of destruction would not prevail against the divine power which had built that temple, He says to them,
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again....This He said of the temple of His body. And in other parts of holy Scripture where it speaks of the mystery of the resurrection to those whose ears are divinely opened, it says that the temple which has been destroyed shall be built up again of living and most precious stones, thereby giving us to understand that each of those who are led by the word of God to strive together in the duties of piety, will be a precious stone in the one great temple of God. Accordingly, Peter says,
You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ; and Paul also says,
Being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ our Lord being the chief cornerstone. And there is a similar hidden allusion in this passage in Isaiah, which is addressed to Jerusalem:
Behold, I will lay your stones with carbuncles, and lay your foundations with sapphires. And I will make your battlements of jasper, and your gates of crystal, and all your borders of pleasant stones. And all your children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness shall you be established.
There are, then, among the righteous some who are carbuncles, others sapphires, others jaspers, and others crystals, and thus there is among the righteous every kind of choice and precious stone. As to the spiritual meaning of the different stones — what is their nature, and to what kind of soul the name of each precious stone especially applies — we cannot at present stay to examine. We have only felt it necessary to show thus briefly what we understand by temples, and what the one Temple of God built of precious stones truly means. For as if in some cities a dispute should arise as to which had the finest temples, those who thought their own were the best would do their utmost to show the excellence of their own temples and the inferiority of the others — in like manner, when they reproach us for not deeming it necessary to worship the Divine Being by raising lifeless temples, we set before them our temples, and show to such at least as are not blind and senseless, like their senseless gods, that there is no comparison between our statues and the statues of the heathen, nor between our altars, with what we may call the incense ascending from them, and the heathen altars, with the fat and blood of the victims; nor, finally, between the temples of senseless gods, admired by senseless men, who have no divine faculty for perceiving God, and the temples, statues, and altars which are worthy of God. It is not therefore true that we object to building altars, statues, and temples, because we have agreed to make this the badge of a secret and forbidden society; but we do so, because we have learned from Jesus Christ the true way of serving God, and we shrink from whatever, under a pretence of piety, leads to utter impiety those who abandon the way marked out for us by Jesus Christ. For it is He who alone is the way of piety, as He truly said,
I am the way, the truth, the life.
Let us see what Celsus further says of God, and how he urges us to the use of those things which are properly called idol offerings, or, still better, offerings to demons, although, in his ignorance of what true sanctity is, and what sacrifices are well-pleasing to God, he call them
holy sacrifices. His words are, God is the God of all alike; He is good, He stands in need of nothing, and He is without jealousy. What, then, is there to hinder those who are most devoted to His service from taking part in public feasts. I cannot see the connection which he fancies between God's being good, and independent, and free from jealousy, and His devoted servants taking part in public feasts. I confess, indeed, that from the fact that God is good, and without want of anything, and free from jealousy, it would follow as a consequence that we might take part in public feasts, if it were proved that the public feasts had nothing wrong in them, and were grounded upon true views of the character of God, so that they resulted naturally from a devout service of God. If, however, the so-called public festivals can in no way be shown to accord with the service of God, but may on the contrary be proved to have been devised by men when occasion offered to commemorate some human events, or to set forth certain qualities of water or earth, or the fruits of the earth — in that case, it is clear that those who wish to offer an enlightened worship to the Divine Being will act according to sound reason, and not take part in the public feasts. For
to keep a feast, as one of the wise men of Greece has well said,
is nothing else than to do one's duty; and that man truly celebrates a feast who does his duty and prays always, offering up continually bloodless sacrifices in prayer to God. That therefore seems to me a most noble saying of Paul,
You observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
If it be objected to us on this subject that we ourselves are accustomed to observe certain days, as for example the Lord's day, the Preparation, the Passover, or Pentecost, I have to answer, that to the perfect Christian, who is ever in his thoughts, words, and deeds serving his natural Lord, God the Word, all his days are the Lord's, and he is always keeping the Lord's day. He also who is unceasingly preparing himself for the true life, and abstaining from the pleasures of this life which lead astray so many — who is not indulging the lust of the flesh, but
keeping under his body, and bringing it into subjection,— such a one is always keeping Preparation-day. Again, he who considers that
Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us, and that it is his duty to keep the feast by eating of the flesh of the Word, never ceases to keep the paschal feast; for the pascha means a
passover, and he is ever striving in all his thoughts, words, and deeds, to pass over from the things of this life to God, and is hastening towards the city of God. And, finally, he who can truly say,
We are risen with Christ, and
He has exalted us, and made us to sit with Him in heavenly places in Christ, is always living in the season of Pentecost; and most of all, when going up to the upper chamber, like the apostles of Jesus, he gives himself to supplication and prayer, that he may become worthy of receiving
the mighty wind rushing from heaven, which is powerful to destroy sin and its fruits among men, and worthy of having some share of the tongue of fire which God sends.
But the majority of those who are accounted believers are not of this advanced class; but from being either unable or unwilling to keep every day in this manner, they require some sensible memorials to prevent spiritual things from passing altogether away from their minds. It is to this practice of setting apart some days distinct from others, that Paul seems to me to refer in the expression,
part of the feast; and by these words he indicates that a life in accordance with the divine word consists not
in a part of the feast, but in one entire and never ceasing festival. Again, compare the festivals, observed among us as these have been described above, with the public feasts of Celsus and the heathen, and say if the former are not much more sacred observances than those feasts in which the lust of the flesh runs riot, and leads to drunkenness and debauchery. It would be too long for us at present to show why we are required by the law of God to keep its festivals by eating
the bread of affliction, or
unleavened with bitter herbs, or why it says,
Humble your souls, and such like. For it is impossible for man, who is a compound being, in which
the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, to keep the feast with his whole nature; for either he keeps the feast with his spirit and afflicts the body, which through the lust of the flesh is unfit to keep it along with the spirit, or else he keeps it with the body, and the spirit is unable to share in it. But we have for the present said enough on the subject of feasts.
Let us now see on what grounds Celsus urges us to make use of the idol offerings and the public sacrifices in the public feasts. His words are,
If these idols are nothing, what harm will there be in taking part in the feast? On the other hand, if they are demons, it is certain that they too are God's creatures, and that we must believe in them, sacrifice to them according to the laws, and pray to them that they may be propitious. In reference to this statement, it would be profitable for us to take up and clearly explain the whole passage of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, in which Paul treats of offerings to idols. The apostle draws from the fact that
an idol is nothing in the world, the consequence that it is injurious to use things offered to idols; and he shows to those who have ears to hear on such subjects, that he who partakes of things offered to idols is worse than a murderer, for he destroys his own brethren, for whom Christ died. And further, he maintains that the sacrifices are made to demons; and from that he proceeds to show that those who join the table of demons become associated with the demons; and he concludes that a man cannot both be a partaker of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. But since it would require a whole treatise to set forth fully all that is contained on this subject in the Epistle to the Corinthians, we shall content ourselves with this brief statement of the argument; for it will be evident to any one who carefully considers what has been said, that even if idols are nothing, nevertheless it is an awful thing to join in idol festivals. And even supposing that there are such beings as demons to whom the sacrifices are offered, it has been clearly shown that we are forbidden to take part in these festivals, when we know the difference between the table of the Lord and the table of demons. And knowing this, we endeavour as much as we can to be always partakers of the Lord's table, and beware to the utmost of joining at any time the table of demons.
Celsus says that
the demons belong to God, and are therefore to be believed, to be sacrificed to according to laws, and to be prayed to that they may be propitious. Those who are disposed to learn, must know that the word of God nowhere says of evil things that they belong to God, for it judges them unworthy of such a Lord. Accordingly, it is not all men who bear the name of
men of God, but only those who are worthy of God — such as Moses and Elias, and any others who are so called, or such as resemble those who are so called in Scripture. In the same way, all angels are not said to be angels of God, but only those that are blessed: those that have fallen away into sin are called
angels of the devil, just as bad men are called
men of sin,
sons of perdition, or
sons of iniquity. Since, then, among men some are good and others bad, and the former are said to be God's and the latter the devil's, so among angels some are angels of God, and others angels of the devil. But among demons there is no such distinction, for all are said to be wicked. We do not therefore hesitate to say that Celsus is false when he says,
If they are demons, it is evident that they must also belong to God. He must either show that this distinction of good and bad among angels and men has no foundation, or else that a similar distinction may be shown to hold among demons. If that is impossible, it is plain that demons do not belong to God; for their prince is not God, but, as holy Scripture says,
And we are not to believe in demons, although Celsus urges us to do so; but if we are to obey God, we must die, or endure anything, sooner than obey demons. In the same way, we are not to propitiate demons; for it is impossible to propitiate beings that are wicked and that seek the injury of men. Besides, what are the laws in accordance with which Celsus would have us propitiate the demons? For if he means laws enacted in states, he must show that they are in agreement with the divine laws. But if that cannot be done, as the laws of many states are quite inconsistent with each other, these laws, therefore, must of necessity either be no laws at all in the proper sense of the word, or else the enactments of wicked men; and these we must not obey, for
we must obey God rather than men. Away, then, with this counsel, which Celsus gives us, to offer prayer to demons: it is not to be listened to for a moment; for our duty is to pray to the Most High God alone, and to the Only-begotten, the First-born of the whole creation, and to ask Him as our High Priest to present the prayers which ascend to Him from us, to His God and our God, to His Father and the Father of those who direct their lives according to His word. And as we would have no desire to enjoy the favour of those men who wish us to follow their wicked lives, and who give us their favour only on condition that we choose nothing opposed to their wishes, because their favour would make us enemies of God, who cannot be pleased with those who have such men for their friends — in the same way those who are acquainted with the nature, the purposes, and the wickedness of demons, can never wish to obtain their favour.
And Christians have nothing to fear, even if demons should not be well-disposed to them; for they are protected by the Supreme God, who is well pleased with their piety, and who sets His divine angels to watch over those who are worthy of such guardianship, so that they can suffer nothing from demons. He who by his piety possesses the favour of the Most High, who has accepted the guidance of Jesus, the
Angel of the great counsel, being well contented with the favour of God through Christ Jesus, may say with confidence that he has nothing to suffer from the whole host of demons.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. So much, then, in reply to those statements of Celsus:
If they are demons, they too evidently belong to God, and they are to be believed, to be sacrificed to according to the laws, and prayers are to be offered to them that they may be propitious.
We shall now proceed to the next statement of Celsus, and examine it with care:
If in obedience to the traditions of their fathers they abstain from such victims, they must also abstain from all animal food, in accordance with the opinions of Pythagoras, who thus showed his respect for the soul and its bodily organs. But if, as they say, they abstain that they may not eat along with demons, I admire their wisdom, in having at length discovered, that whenever they eat they eat with demons, although they only refuse to do so when they are looking upon a slain victim; for when they eat bread, or drink wine, or taste fruits, do they not receive these things, as well as the water they drink and the air they breathe, from certain demons, to whom have been assigned these different provinces of nature? Here I would observe that I cannot see how those whom he speaks of as abstaining from certain victims, in accordance with the traditions of their fathers, are consequently bound to abstain from the flesh of all animals. We do not indeed deny that the divine word does seem to command something similar to this, when to raise us to a higher and purer life it says,
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak; and again,
Destroy not him with your meat, for whom Christ died; and again,
If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend.
But it is to be observed that the Jews, who claim for themselves a correct understanding of the law of Moses, carefully restrict their food to such things as are accounted clean, and abstain from those that are unclean. They also do not use in their food the blood of an animal nor the flesh of an animal torn by wild beasts, and some other things which it would take too long for us at present to detail. But Jesus, wishing to lead all men by His teaching to the pure worship and service of God, and anxious not to throw any hindrance in the way of many who might be benefited by Christianity, through the imposition of a burdensome code of rules in regard to food, has laid it down, that
not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man, but that which comes out of the mouth; for whatsoever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly, and is cast out into the draught. But those things which proceed out of the mouth are evil thoughts when spoken, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Paul also says,
Meat commends us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. Wherefore, as there is some obscurity about this matter, without some explanation is given, it seemed good to the apostles of Jesus and the elders assembled together at Antioch, and also, as they themselves say, to the Holy Spirit, to write a letter to the Gentile believers, forbidding them to partake of those things from which alone they say it is necessary to abstain, namely,
things offered to idols, things strangled, and blood.
For that which is offered to idols is sacrificed to demons, and a man of God must not join the table of demons. As to things strangled, we are forbidden by Scripture to partake of them, because the blood is still in them; and blood, especially the odour arising from blood, is said to be the food of demons. Perhaps, then, if we were to eat of strangled animals, we might have such spirits feeding along with us. And the reason which forbids the use of strangled animals for food is also applicable to the use of blood. And it may not be amiss, as bearing on this point, to recall a beautiful saying in the writings of Sextus, which is known to most Christians:
The eating of animals, says he,
is a matter of indifference; but to abstain from them is more agreeable to reason. It is not, therefore, simply an account of some traditions of our fathers that we refrain from eating victims offered to those called gods or heroes or demons, but for other reasons, some of which I have here mentioned. It is not to be supposed, however, that we are to abstain from the flesh of animals in the same way as we are bound to abstain from all race and wickedness: we are indeed to abstain not only from the flesh of animals, but from all other kinds of food, if we cannot partake of them without incurring evil, and the consequences of evil. For we are to avoid eating for gluttony, or for the mere gratification of the appetite, without regard to the health and sustenance of the body. We do not believe that souls pass from one body to another, and that they may descend so low as to enter the bodies of the brutes. If we abstain at times from eating the flesh of animals, it is evidently, therefore, not for the same reason as Pythagoras; for it is the reasonable soul alone that we honour, and we commit its bodily organs with due honours to the grave. For it is not right that the dwelling-place of the rational soul should be cast aside anywhere without honour, like the carcasses of brute beasts; and so much the more when we believe that the respect paid to the body redounds to the honour of the person who received from God a soul which has nobly employed the organs of the body in which it resided. In regard to the question,
How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come? we have already answered it briefly, as our purpose required.
Celsus afterwards states what is adduced by Jews and Christians alike in defense of abstinence from idol sacrifices, namely, that it is wrong for those who have dedicated themselves to the Most High God to eat with demons. What he brings forward against this view, we have already seen. In our opinion, a man can only be said to eat and drink with demons when he eats the flesh of what are called sacred victims, and when he drinks the wine poured out to the honour of the demons. But Celsus thinks that we cannot eat bread or drink wine in any way whatever, or taste fruits, or even take a draught of water, without eating and drinking with demons. He adds also, that the air which we breathe is received from demons, and that not an animal can breathe without receiving the air from the demons who are set over the air. If any one wishes to defend this statement of Celsus, let him show that it is not the divine angels of god, but demons, the whole race of whom are bad, that have been appointed to communicate all those blessings which have been mentioned. We indeed also maintain with regard not only to the fruits of the earth, but to every flowing stream and every breath of air that the ground brings forth those things which are said to grow up naturally — that the water springs in fountains, and refreshes the earth with running streams — that the air is kept pure, and supports the life of those who breathe it, only in consequence of the agency and control of certain beings whom we may call invisible husbandmen and guardians; but we deny that those invisible agents are demons. And if we might speak boldly, we would say that if demons have any share at all in these things, to them belong famine, blasting of the vine and fruit trees, pestilence among men and beasts: all these are the proper occupations of demons, who in the capacity of public executioners receive power at certain times to carry out the divine judgments, for the restoration of those who have plunged headlong into wickedness, or for the trial and discipline of the souls of the wise. For those who through all their afflictions preserve their piety pure and unimpaired, show their true character to all spectators, whether visible or invisible, who behold them; while those who are otherwise minded, yet conceal their wickedness, when they have their true character exposed by misfortunes, become manifest to themselves as well as to those whom we may also call spectators.
The Psalmist bears witness that divine justice employs certain evil angels to inflict calamities upon men:
He cast upon them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, sent by evil angels. Whether demons ever go beyond this when they are suffered to do what they are ever ready, though through the restraint put upon them they are not always able to do, is a question to be solved by that man who can conceive, in so far as human nature will allow, how it accords with the divine justice, that such multitudes of human souls are separated from the body while walking in the paths which lead to certain death.
For the judgments of God are so great, that a soul which is still clothed with a mortal body cannot comprehend them;
and they cannot be expressed: therefore by unnurtured souls they are not in any measure to be understood. And hence, too, rash spirits, by their ignorance in these matters, and by recklessly setting themselves against the Divine Being, multiply impious objections against providence. It is not from demons, then, that men receive any of those things which meet the necessities of life, and least of all ourselves, who have been taught to make a proper use of these things. And they who partake of grain and wine, and the fruits of trees, of water and of air, do not feed with demons, but rather do they feast with divine angels, who are appointed for this purpose, and who are as it were invited to the table of the pious man, who hearkens to the precept of the word, which says,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. And again, in another place it is written,
Do all things in the name of God. When, therefore, we eat and drink and breathe to the glory of God, and act in all things according to what is right, we feast with no demons, but with divine angels:
For every creature is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. But it could not be good, and it could not be sanctified, if these things were, as Celsus supposes, entrusted to the charge of demons.
From this it is evident that we have already met the next statement of Celsus, which is as follows:
We must either not live, and indeed not come into this life at all, or we must do so on condition that we give thanks and first-fruits and prayers to demons, who have been set over the things of this world: and that we must do as long as we live, that they may prove good and kind. We must surely live, and we must live according to the word of God, as far as we are enabled to do so. And we are thus enabled to live, when,
whether we eat or drink, we do all to the glory of God; and we are not to refuse to enjoy those things which have been created for our use, but must receive them with thanksgiving to the Creator. And it is under these conditions, and not such as have been imagined by Celsus, that we have been brought into life by God; and we are not placed under demons, but we are under the government of the Most High God, through Him who has brought us to God — Jesus Christ. It is not according to the law of God that any demon has had a share in worldly affairs, but it was by their own lawlessness that they perhaps sought out for themselves places destitute of the knowledge of God and of the divine life, or places where there are many enemies of God. Perhaps also, as being fit to rule over and punish them, they have been set by the Word, who governs all things, to rule over those who subjected themselves to evil and not to God. For this reason, then, let Celsus, as one who knows not God, give thank-offerings to demons. But we give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a sacred body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it.
Celsus would also have us to offer first-fruits to demons. But we would offer them to Him who said,
Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself upon the earth. And to Him to whom we offer first-fruits we also send up our prayers,
having a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, and
we hold fast this profession as long as we live; for we find God and His only-begotten Son, manifested to us in Jesus, to be gracious and kind to us. And if we would wish to have besides a great number of beings who shall ever prove friendly to us, we are taught that
thousand thousands stood before Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand ministered unto Him. And these, regarding all as their relations and friends who imitate their piety towards God, and in prayer call upon Him with sincerity, work along with them for their salvation, appear unto them, deem it their office and duty to attend to them, and as if by common agreement they visit with all manner of kindness and deliverance those who pray to God, to whom they themselves also pray:
For they are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation. Let the learned Greeks say that the human soul at its birth is placed under the charge of demons: Jesus has taught us not to despise even the little ones in His Church, saying,
Their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven. And the prophet says,
The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him, and delivers them. We do not, then, deny that there are many demons upon earth, but we maintain that they exist and exercise power among the wicked, as a punishment of their wickedness. But they have no power over those who
have put on the whole armour of God, who have received strength to
withstand the wiles of the devil, and who are ever engaged in contests with them, knowing that
we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Now let us consider another saying of Celsus, which is as follows:
The satrap of a Persian or Roman monarch, or ruler or general or governor, yea, even those who fill lower offices of trust or service in the state, would be able to do great injury to those who despised them; and will the satraps and ministers of earth and air be insulted with impunity? Observe now how he introduces servants of the Most High — rulers, generals, governors, and those filling lower offices of trust and service — as, after the manner of men, inflicting injury upon those who insult them. For he does not consider that a wise man would not wish to do harm to any, but would strive to the utmost of his power to change and amend them; unless, indeed, it be that those whom Celsus makes servants and rulers appointed by the Most High are behind Lycurgus, the lawgiver of the Lacedæmonians, or Zeno of Citium. For when Lycurgus had had his eye put out by a man, he got the offender into his power; but instead of taking revenge upon him, he ceased not to use all his arts of persuasion until he induced him to become a philosopher. And Zeno, on the occasion of some one saying,
Let me perish rather than not have my revenge on you, answered him,
But rather let me perish if I do not make a friend of you. And I am not yet speaking of those whose characters have been formed by the teaching of Jesus, and who have heard the words,
Love your enemies, and pray for them which despitefully use you, that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. And in the prophetical writings the righteous man says,
O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; if I have returned evil to those who have done evil to me, let me fall helpless under mine enemies: let my enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth.
But the angels, who are the true rulers and generals and ministers of God, do not, as Celsus supposes,
injure those who offend them; and if certain demons, whom Celsus had in mind, do inflict evils, they show that they are wicked, and that they have received no office of the kind from God. And they even do injury to those who are under them, and who have acknowledged them as their masters; and accordingly, as it would seem that those who break through the regulations which prevail in any country in regard to matters of food, suffer for it if they are under the demons of that place, while those who are not under them, and have not submitted to their power, are free from all harm, and bid defiance to such spirits; although if, in ignorance of certain things, they have come under the power of other demons, they may suffer punishment from them. But the Christian— the true Christian, I mean — who has submitted to God alone and His Word, will suffer nothing from demons, for He is mightier than demons. And the Christian will suffer nothing, for
the angel of the Lord will encamp about them that fear Him, and will deliver them, and his
always beholds the face of his Father in heaven, offers up his prayers through the one High Priest to the God of all, and also joins his own prayers with those of the man who is committed to his keeping. Let not, then, Celsus try to scare us with threats of mischief from demons, for we despise them. And the demons, when despised, can do no harm to those who are under the protection of Him who can alone help all who deserve His aid; and He does no less than set His own angels over His devout servants, so that none of the hostile angels, nor even he who is called
the prince of this world, can effect anything against those who have given themselves to God.
In the next place, Celsus forgets that he is addressing Christians, who pray to God alone through Jesus; and mixing up other notions with theirs, he absurdly attributes them all to Christians.
If, says he,
they who are addressed are called upon by barbarous names, they will have power, but no longer will they have any if they are addressed in Greek or Latin. Let him, then, state plainly whom we call upon for help by barbarous names. Any one will be convinced that this is a false charge which Celsus brings against us, when he considers that Christians in prayer do not even use the precise names which divine Scripture applies to God; but the Greeks use Greek names, the Romans Latin names, and every one prays and sings praises to God as he best can, in his mother tongue. For the Lord of all the languages of the earth hears those who pray to Him in each different tongue, hearing, if I may so say, but one voice, expressing itself in different dialects. For the Most High is not as one of those who select one language, Barbarian or Greek, knowing nothing of any other, and caring nothing for those who speak in other tongues.
He next represents Christians as saying what he never heard from any Christian; or if he did, it must have been from one of the most ignorant and lawless of the people.
Behold, they are made to say,
I go up to a statue of Jupiter or Apollo, or some other god: I revile it, and beat it, yet it takes no vengeance on me. He is not aware that among the prohibitions of the divine law is this,
You shall not revile the gods, and this is intended to prevent the formation of the habit of reviling any one whatever; for we have been taught,
Bless, and curse not, and it is said that
revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God. And who among us is so foolish as to speak in the way Celsus describes, and to fail to see that such contemptuous language can be of no avail for removing prevailing notions about the gods? For it is matter of observation that there are men who utterly deny the existence of a God or of an overruling providence, and who by their impious and destructive teaching have founded sects among those who are called philosophers, and yet neither they themselves, nor those who have embraced their opinions, have suffered any of those things which mankind generally account evils: they are both strong in body and rich in possessions. And yet if we ask what loss they have sustained, we shall find that they have suffered the most certain injury. For what greater injury can befall a man than that he should be unable amidst the order of the world to see Him who has made it? And what sorer affliction can come to any one than that blindness of mind which prevents him from seeing the Creator and Father of every soul?
After putting such words into our mouth, and maliciously charging Christians with sentiments which they never held, he then proceeds to give to this supposed expression of Christian feeling an answer, which is indeed more a mockery than an answer, when he says,
Do you not see, good sir, that even your own demon is not only reviled, but banished from every land and sea, and you yourself, who are as it were an image dedicated to him, are bound and led to punishment, and fastened to the stake, while your demon— or, as you call him, 'the Son of God'— takes no vengeance on the evil-doer? This answer would be admissible if we employed such language as he ascribes to us; although even then he would have no right to call the Son of God a demon. For as we hold that all demons are evil, He who turns so many men to God is in our view no demon, but God the Word, and the Son of God. And I know not how Celsus has so far forgotten himself as to call Jesus Christ a demon, when he nowhere alludes to the existence of any evil demons. And finally, as to the punishments threatened against the ungodly, these will come upon them after they have refused all remedies, and have been, as we may say, visited with an incurable malady of sinfulness.
Such is our doctrine of punishment; and the inculcation of this doctrine turns many from their sins. But let us see, on the other hand, what is the response given on this subject by the priest of Jupiter or Apollo of whom Celsus speaks. It is this:
The mills of the gods grind slowly. Another describes punishment as reaching
to children's children, and to those who came after them. How much better are those words of Scripture:
The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children for the fathers. Every man shall be put to death for his own sin. And again,
Every man that eats the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. And,
The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. If any shall say that the response,
To children's children, and to those who come after them, corresponds with that passage,
Who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, let him learn from Ezekiel that this language is not to be taken literally; for he reproves those who say,
Our fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge, and then he adds,
As I live, says the Lord, every one shall die for his own sin. As to the proper meaning of the figurative language about sins being visited unto the third and fourth generation, we cannot at present stay to explain.
He then goes on to rail against us after the manner of old wives.
You, says he,
mock and revile the statues of our gods; but if you had reviled Bacchus or Hercules in person, you would not perhaps have done so with impunity. But those who crucified your God when present among men, suffered nothing for it, either at the time or during the whole of their lives. And what new thing has there happened since then to make us believe that he was not an impostor, but the Son of God? And forsooth, he who sent his Son with certain instructions for mankind, allowed him to be thus cruelly treated, and his instructions to perish with him, without ever during all this long time showing the slightest concern. What father was ever so inhuman? Perhaps, indeed, you may say that he suffered so much, because it was his wish to bear what came to him. But it is open to those whom you maliciously revile, to adopt the same language, and say that they wish to be reviled, and therefore they bear it patiently; for it is best to deal equally with both sides — although these (gods) severely punish the scorner, so that he must either flee and hide himself, or be taken and perish. Now to these statements I would answer that we revile no one, for we believe that
revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God. And we read,
Bless them that curse you; bless, and curse not; also,
Being reviled, we bless. And even although the abuse which we pour upon another may seem to have some excuse in the wrong which we have received from him, yet such abuse is not allowed by the word of God. And how much more ought we to abstain from reviling others, when we consider what a great folly it is! And it is equally foolish to apply abusive language to stone or gold or silver, turned into what is supposed to be the form of God by those who have no knowledge of God. Accordingly, we throw ridicule not upon lifeless images, but upon those only who worship them. Moreover, if certain demons reside in certain images, and one of them passes for Bacchus, another for Hercules, we do not vilify them: for, on the one hand, it would be useless; and, on the other, it does not become one who is meek, and peaceful, and gentle in spirit, and who has learned that no one among men or demons is to be reviled, however wicked he may be.
There is an inconsistency into which, strangely enough, Celsus has fallen unawares. Those demons or gods whom he extolled a little before, he now shows to be in fact the vilest of creatures, punishing more for their own revenge than for the improvement of those who revile them. His words are,
If you had reviled Bacchus or Hercules when present in person, you would not have escaped with impunity. How any one can hear without being present in person, I leave any one who will to explain; as also those other questions,
Why he is sometimes present, and sometimes absent? and,
What is the business which takes demons away from place to place? Again, when he says,
Those who crucified your God himself, suffered no harm for doing so, he supposes that it is the body of Jesus extended on the cross and slain, and not His divine nature, that we call God; and that it was as God that Jesus was crucified and slain. As we have already dwelt at length on the sufferings which Jesus suffered as a man, we shall purposely say no more here, that we may not repeat what we have said already. But when he goes on to say that
those who inflicted death upon Jesus suffered nothing afterwards through so long a time, we must inform him, as well as all who are disposed to learn the truth, that the city in which the Jewish people called for the crucifixion of Jesus with shouts of
Crucify him, crucify him, preferring to have the robber set free, who had been cast into prison for sedition and murder, and Jesus, who had been delivered through envy, to be crucified — that this city not long afterwards was attacked, and, after a long siege, was utterly overthrown and laid waste; for God judged the inhabitants of that place unworthy of living together the life of citizens. And yet, though it may seem an incredible thing to say, God spared this people in delivering them to their enemies; for He saw that they were incurably averse to any amendment, and were daily sinking deeper and deeper into evil. And all this befell them, because the blood of Jesus was shed at their instigation and on their land; and the land was no longer able to bear those who were guilty of so fearful a crime against Jesus.
Some new thing, then, has come to pass since the time that Jesus suffered — that, I mean, which has happened to the city, to the whole nation, and in the sudden and general rise of a Christian community. And that, too, is a new thing, that those who were strangers to the covenants of God, with no part in His promises, and far from the truth, have by a divine power been enabled to embrace the truth. These things were not the work of an impostor, but were the work of God, who sent His Word, Jesus Christ, to make known His purposes. The sufferings and death which Jesus endured with such fortitude and meekness, show the cruelty and injustice of those who inflicted them, but they did not destroy the announcement of the purposes of God; indeed, if we may so say, they served rather to make them known. For Jesus Himself taught us this when He said,
Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides by itself alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit. Jesus, then, who is this grain of wheat, died, and brought forth much fruit. And the Father is ever looking forward for the results of the death of the grain of wheat, both those which are arising now, and those which shall arise hereafter. The Father of Jesus is therefore a tender and loving Father, though
He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up as His lamb
for us all, that so
the Lamb of God, by dying for all men, might
take away the sin of the world. It was not by compulsion, therefore, but willingly, that He bore the reproaches of those who reviled Him. Then Celsus, returning to those who apply abusive language to images, says:
Of those whom you load with insults, you may in like manner say that they voluntarily submit to such treatment, and therefore they bear insults with patience; for it is best to deal equally with both sides. Yet these severely punish the scorner, so that he must either flee and hide himself, or be taken and perish. It is not, then, because Christians cast insults upon demons that they incur their revenge, but because they drive them away out of the images, and from the bodies and souls of men. And here, although Celsus perceives it not, he has on this subject spoken something like the truth; for it is true that the souls of those who condemn Christians, and betray them, and rejoice in persecuting them, are filled with wicked demons.
But when the souls of those who die for the Christian faith depart from the body with great glory, they destroy the power of the demons, and frustrate their designs against men. Wherefore I imagine, that as the demons have learned from experience that they are defeated and overpowered by the martyrs for the truth, they are afraid to have recourse again to violence. And thus, until they forget the defeats they have sustained, it is probable that the world will be at peace with the Christians. But when they recover their power, and, with eyes blinded by sin, wish again to take their revenge on Christians, and persecute them, then again they will be defeated, and then again the souls of the godly, who lay down their lives for the cause of godliness, shall utterly destroy the army of the wicked one. And as the demons perceive that those who meet death victoriously for the sake of religion destroy their authority, while those who give way under their sufferings, and deny the faith, come under their power, I imagine that at times they feel a deep interest in Christians when on their trial, and keenly strive to gain them over to their side, feeling as they do that their confession is torture to them, and their denial is a relief and encouragement to them. And traces of the same feeling may be seen in the demeanour of the judges; for they are greatly distressed at seeing those who bear outrage and torture with patience, but are greatly elated when a Christian gives way under it. Yet it is from no feeling of humanity that this arises. They see well, that, while
the tongues of those who are overpowered by the tortures
may take the oath, the mind has not sworn. And this may serve as an answer to the remark of Celsus:
But they severely punish one who reviles them, so that he must either flee and hide himself, or be taken and perish. If a Christian ever flees away, it is not from fear, but in obedience to the command of his Master, that so he may preserve himself, and employ his strength for the benefit of others.
Let us see what Celsus next goes on to say. It is as follows:
What need is there to collect all the oracular responses, which have been delivered with a divine voice by priests and priestesses, as well as by others, whether men or women, who were under a divine influence?— all the wonderful things that have been heard issuing from the inner sanctuary? — all the revelations that have been made to those who consulted the sacrificial victims?— and all the knowledge that has been conveyed to men by other signs and prodigies? To some the gods have appeared in visible forms. The world is full of such instances. How many cities have been built in obedience to commands received from oracles; how often, in the same way, delivered from disease and famine! Or again, how many cities, from disregard or forgetfulness of these oracles, have perished miserably! How many colonies have been established and made to flourish by following their orders! How many princes and private persons have, from this cause, had prosperity or adversity! How many who mourned over their childlessness, have obtained the blessing they asked for! How many have turned away from themselves the anger of demons! How many who were maimed in their limbs, have had them restored! And again, how many have met with summary punishment for showing want of reverence to the temples — some being instantly seized with madness, others openly confessing their crimes, others having put an end to their lives, and others having become the victims of incurable maladies! Yea, some have been slain by a terrible voice issuing from the inner sanctuary. I know not how it comes that Celsus brings forward these as undoubted facts, while at the same time he treats as mere fables the wonders which are recorded and handed down to us as having happened among the Jews, or as having been performed by Jesus and His disciples. For why may not our accounts be true, and those of Celsus fables and fictions? At least, these latter were not believed by the followers of Democritus, Epicurus, and Aristotle, although perhaps these Grecian sects would have been convinced by the evidence in support of our miracles, if Moses or any of the prophets who wrought these wonders, or Jesus Christ Himself, had come in their way.
It is related of the priestess of Apollo, that she at times allowed herself to be influenced in her answers by bribes; but our prophets were admired for their plain truthfulness, not only by their contemporaries, but also by those who lived in later times. For through the commands pronounced by the prophets cities were founded, men were cured, and plagues were stayed. Indeed, the whole Jewish race went out as a colony from Egypt to Palestine, in accordance with the divine oracles. They also, when they followed the commands of God, were prosperous; when they departed from them, they suffered reverses. What need is there to quote all the princes and private persons in Scripture history who fared well or ill according as they obeyed or despised the words of the prophets? If we refer to those who were unhappy because they were childless, but who, after offering prayers to the Creator of all, became fathers and mothers, let any one read the accounts of Abraham and Sarah, to whom at an advanced age was born Isaac, the father of the whole Jewish nation: and there are other instances of the same thing. Let him also read the account of Hezekiah, who not only recovered from his sickness, according to the prediction of Isaiah, but was also bold enough to say,
Afterwards I shall beget children, who shall declare Your righteousness. And in the fourth book of Kings we read that the prophet Elisha made known to a woman who had received him hospitably, that by the grace of God she should have a son; and through the prayers of Elisha she became a mother. The maimed were cured by Jesus in great numbers. And the books of the Maccabees relate what punishments were inflicted upon those who dared to profane the Jewish service in the temple at Jerusalem.
But the Greeks will say that these accounts are fabulous, although two whole nations are witnesses to their truth. But why may we not consider the accounts of the Greeks as fabulous rather than those? Perhaps some one, however, wishing not to appear blindly to accept his own statements and reject those of others, would conclude, after a close examination of the matter, that the wonders mentioned by the Greeks were performed by certain demons; those among the Jews by prophets or by angels, or by God through the means of angels; and those recorded by Christians by Jesus Himself, or by His power working in His apostles. Let us, then, compare all these accounts together; let us examine into the aim and purpose of those who performed them; and let us inquire what effect was produced upon the persons on whose account these acts of kindness were performed, whether beneficial or hurtful, or neither the one nor the other. The ancient Jewish people, before they sinned against God, and were for their great wickedness cast off by Him, must evidently have been a people of great wisdom. But Christians, who have in so wonderful a manner formed themselves into a community, appear at first to have been more induced by miracles than by exhortations to forsake the institutions of their fathers, and to adopt others which were quite strange to them. And indeed, if we were to reason from what is probable as to the first formation of the Christian society, we should say that it is incredible that the apostles of Jesus Christ, who were unlettered men of humble life, could have been emboldened to preach Christian truth to men by anything else than the power which was conferred upon them, and the grace which accompanied their words and rendered them effective; and those who heard them would not have renounced the old-established usages of their fathers, and been induced to adopt notions so different from those in which they had been brought up, unless they had been moved by some extraordinary power, and by the force of miraculous events.
In the next place, Celsus, after referring to the enthusiasm with which men will contend unto death rather than abjure Christianity, adds strangely enough some remarks, in which he wishes to show that our doctrines are similar to those delivered by the priests at the celebration of the heathen mysteries. He says,
Just as you, good sir, believe in eternal punishments, so also do the priests who interpret and initiate into the sacred mysteries. The same punishments with which you threaten others, they threaten you. Now it is worthy of examination, which of the two is more firmly established as true; for both parties contend with equal assurance that the truth is on their side. But if we require proofs, the priests of the heathen gods produce many that are clear and convincing, partly from wonders performed by demons, and partly from the answers given by oracles, and various other modes of divination. He would, then, have us believe that we and the interpreters of the mysteries equally teach the doctrine of eternal punishment, and that it is a matter for inquiry on which side of the two the truth lies. Now I should say that the truth lies with those who are able to induce their hearers to live as men who are convinced of the truth of what they have heard. But Jews and Christians have been thus affected by the doctrines they hold about what we speak of as the world to come, and the rewards of the righteous, and the punishments of the wicked. Let Celsus then, or any one who will, show us who have been moved in this way in regard to eternal punishments by the teaching of heathen priests and mystagogues. For surely the purpose of him who brought to light this doctrine was not only to reason upon the subject of punishments, and to strike men with terror of them, but to induce those who heard the truth to strive with all their might against those sins which are the causes of punishment. And those who study the prophecies with care, and are not content with a cursory perusal of the predictions contained in them, will find them such as to convince the intelligent and sincere reader that the Spirit of God was in those men, and that with their writings there is nothing in all the works of demons, responses of oracles, or sayings of soothsayers, for one moment to be compared.
Let us see in what terms Celsus next addresses us:
Besides, is it not most absurd and inconsistent in you, on the one hand, to make so much of the body as you do — to expect that the same body will rise again, as though it were the best and most precious part of us; and yet, on the other, to expose it to such tortures as though it were worthless? But men who hold such notions, and are so attached to the body, are not worthy of being reasoned with; for in this and in other respects they show themselves to be gross, impure, and bent upon revolting without any reason from the common belief. But I shall direct my discourse to those who hope for the enjoyment of eternal life with God by means of the soul or mind, whether they choose to call it a spiritual substance, an intelligent spirit, holy and blessed, or a living soul, or the heavenly and indestructible offspring of a divine and incorporeal nature, or by whatever name they designate the spiritual nature of man. And they are rightly persuaded that those who live well shall be blessed, and the unrighteous shall all suffer everlasting punishments. And from this doctrine neither they nor any other should ever swerve. Now, as he has often already reproached us for our opinions on the resurrection, and as we have on these occasions defended our opinions in what seemed to us a reasonable way, we do not intend, at each repetition of the one objection, to go into a repetition of our defense. Celsus makes an unfounded charge against us when he ascribes to us the opinion that
there is nothing in our complex nature better or more precious than the body; for we hold that far beyond all bodies is the soul, and especially the reasonable soul; for it is the soul, and not the body, which bears the likeness of the Creator. For, according to us, God is not corporeal, unless we fall into the absurd errors of the followers of Zeno and Chrysippus.
But since he reproaches us with too great an anxiety about the body, let him know that when that feeling is a wrong one we do not share in it, and when it is indifferent we only long for that which God has promised to the righteous. But Celsus considers that we are inconsistent with ourselves when we count the body worthy of honour from God, and therefore hope for its resurrection, and yet at the same time expose it to tortures as though it were not worthy of honour. But surely it is not without honour for the body to suffer for the sake of godliness, and to choose afflictions on account of virtue: the dishonourable thing would be for it to waste its powers in vicious indulgence. For the divine word says:
What is an honourable seed? The seed of man. What is a dishonourable seed? The seed of man. Moreover, Celsus thinks that he ought not to reason with those who hope for the good of the body, as they are unreasonably intent upon an object which can never satisfy their expectations. He also calls them gross and impure men, bent upon creating needless dissensions. But surely he ought, as one of superior humanity, to assist even the rude and depraved. For society does not exclude from its pale the coarse and uncultivated, as it does the irrational animals, but our Creator made us on the same common level with all mankind. It is not an undignified thing, therefore, to reason even with the coarse and unrefined, and to try to bring them as far as possible to a higher state of refinement — to bring the impure to the highest practicable degree of purity — to bring the unreasoning multitude to reason, and the diseased in mind to spiritual health.
In the next place, he expresses his approval of those who
hope that eternal life shall be enjoyed with God by the soul or mind, or, as it is variously called, the spiritual nature, the reasonable soul, intelligent, holy, and blessed; and he allows the soundness of the doctrine,
that those who had a good life shall be happy, and the unrighteous shall suffer eternal punishments. And yet I wonder at what follows, more than at anything that Celsus has ever said; for he adds,
And from this doctrine let not them or any one ever swerve. For certainly in writing against Christians, the very essence of whose faith is God, and the promises made by Christ to the righteous, and His warnings of punishment awaiting the wicked, he must see that, if a Christian were brought to renounce Christianity by his arguments against it, it is beyond doubt that, along with his Christian faith, he would cast off the very doctrine from which he says that no Christian and no man should ever swerve. But I think Celsus has been far surpassed in consideration for his fellow-men by Chrysippus in his treatise, On the Subjugation of the Passions. For when he sought to apply remedies to the affections and passions which oppress and distract the human spirit, after employing such arguments as seemed to himself to be strong, he did not shrink from using in the second and third place others which he did not himself approve of.
For, says he,
if it were held by any one that there are three kinds of good, we must seek to regulate the passions in accordance with that supposition; and we must not too curiously inquire into the opinions held by a person at the time that he is under the influence of passion, lest, if we delay too long for the purpose of overthrowing the opinions by which the mind is possessed, the opportunity for curing the passion may pass away. And he adds,
Thus, supposing that pleasure were the highest good, or that he was of that opinion whose mind was under the dominion of passion, we should not the less give him help, and show that, even on the principle that pleasure is the highest and final good of man, all passion is disallowed. And Celsus, in like manner, after having embraced the doctrine,
that the righteous shall be blessed, and the wicked shall suffer eternal punishments, should have followed out his subject; and, after having advanced what seemed to him the chief argument, he should have proceeded to prove and enforce by further reasons the truth that the unjust shall surely suffer eternal punishment, and those who lead a good life shall be blessed.
For we who have been persuaded by many, yea by innumerable, arguments to lead a Christian life, are especially anxious to bring all men as far as possible to receive the whole system of Christian truth; but when we meet with persons who are prejudiced by the calumnies thrown out against Christians, and who, from a notion that Christians are an impious people, will not listen to any who offer to instruct them in the principles of the divine word, then, on the common principles of humanity, we endeavour to the best of our ability to convince them of the doctrine of the punishment of the wicked, and to induce even those who are unwilling to become Christians to accept that truth. And we are thus anxious to persuade them of the rewards of right living, when we see that many things which we teach about a healthy moral life are also taught by the enemies of our faith. For you will find that they have not entirely lost the common notions of right and wrong, of good and evil. Let all men, therefore, when they look upon the universe, observe the constant revolution of the unerring stars, the converse motion of the planets, the constitution of the atmosphere, and its adaptation to the necessities of the animals, and especially of man, with all the innumerable contrivances for the well-being of mankind; and then, after thus considering the order of the universe, let them beware of doing ought which is displeasing to the Creator of this universe, of the soul and its intelligent principle; and let them rest assured that punishment shall be inflicted on the wicked, and rewards shall be bestowed upon the righteous, by Him who deals with every one as he deserves, and who will proportion His rewards to the good that each has done, and to the account of himself that he is able to give. And let all men know that the good shall be advanced to a higher state, and that the wicked shall be delivered over to sufferings and torments, in punishment of their licentiousness and depravity, their cowardice, timidity, and all their follies.
Having said so much on this subject, let us proceed to another statement of Celsus:
Since men are born united to a body, whether to suit the order of the universe, or that they may in that way suffer the punishment of sin; or because the soul is oppressed by certain passions until it is purged from these at the appointed period of time — for, according to Empedocles, all mankind must be banished from the abodes of the blessed for 30,000 periods of time — we must therefore believe that they are entrusted to certain beings as keepers of this prison-house. You will observe that Celsus, in these remarks, speaks of such weighty matters in the language of doubtful human conjecture. He adds also various opinions as to the origin of man, and shows considerable reluctance to set down any of these opinions as false. When he had once come to the conclusion neither indiscriminately to accept nor recklessly to reject the opinions held by the ancients, would it not have been in accordance with that same rule of judging, if, when he found himself not disposed to believe the doctrines taught by the Jewish prophets and by Jesus, at any rate to have held them as matters open to inquiry? And should he not have considered whether it is very probable that a people who faithfully served the Most High God, and who ofttimes encountered numberless dangers, and even death, rather than sacrifice the honour of God, and what they believed to be the revelations of His will, should have been wholly overlooked by God? Should it not rather be thought probable that people who despised the efforts of human art to represent the Divine Being, but strove rather to rise in thought to the knowledge of the Most High, should have been favoured with some revelation from Himself? Besides, he ought to have considered that the common Father and Creator of all, who sees and hears all things, and who duly esteems the intention of every man who seeks Him and desires to serve Him, will grant unto these also some of the benefits of His rule, and will give them an enlargement of that knowledge of Himself which He has once bestowed upon them. If this had been remembered by Celsus and the others who hate Moses and the Jewish prophets, and Jesus, and His faithful disciples, who endured so much for the sake of His word, they would not thus have reviled Moses, and the prophets, and Jesus, and His apostles; and they would not have singled out for their contempt the Jews beyond all the nations of the earth, and said they were worse even than the Egyptians, — a people who, either from superstition or some other form of delusion, went as far as they could in degrading the Divine Being to the level of brute beasts. And we invite inquiry, not as though we wished to lead any to doubt regarding the truths of Christianity, but in order to show that it would be better for those who in every way revile the doctrines of Christianity, at any rate to suspend their judgment, and not so rashly to state about Jesus and His apostles such things as they do not know, and as they cannot prove, either by what the Stoics call
apprehensive perception, or by any other methods used by different sects of philosophers as criteria of truth.
When Celsus adds,
We must therefore believe that men are entrusted to certain beings who are the keepers of this prison-house, our answer is, that the souls of those who are called by Jeremiah
prisoners of the earth, when eager in the pursuit of virtue, are even in this life delivered from the bondage of evil; for Jesus declared this, as was foretold long before His advent by the prophet Isaiah, when he said that
the prisoners would go forth, and they that were in darkness would show themselves. And Jesus Himself, as Isaiah also foretold of Him, arose as
a light to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, so that we may therefore say,
Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords from us. If Celsus, and those who like him are opposed to us, had been able to sound the depths of the Gospel narratives, they would not have counselled us to put our confidence in those beings whom they call
the keepers of the prison-house. It is written in the Gospel that a woman was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus beheld her, and perceived from what cause she was bowed together, he said,
Ought not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years, to be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? And how many others are still bowed down and bound by Satan, who hinders them from looking up at all, and who would have us to look down also! And no one can raise them up, except the Word, that came by Jesus Christ, and that aforetime inspired the prophets. And Jesus came to release those who were under the dominion of the devil; and, speaking of him, He said with that depth of meaning which characterized His words,
Now is the prince of this world judged. We are, then, indulging in no baseless calumnies against demons, but are condemning their agency upon earth as destructive to mankind, and show that, under cover of oracles and bodily cures, and such other means, they are seeking to separate from God the soul which has descended to this
body of humiliation; and those who feel this humiliation exclaim,
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? It is not in vain, therefore, that we expose our bodies to be beaten and tortured; for surely it is not in vain for a man to submit to such sufferings, if by that means he may avoid bestowing the name of gods on those earthly spirits that unite with their worshippers to bring him to destruction. Indeed, we think it both reasonable in itself and well-pleasing to God, to suffer pain for the sake of virtue, to undergo torture for the sake of piety, and even to suffer death for the sake of holiness; for
precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints; and we maintain that to overcome the love of life is to enjoy a great good. But when Celsus compares us to notorious criminals, who justly suffer punishment for their crimes, and does not shrink from placing so laudable a purpose as that which we set before us upon the same level with the obstinacy of criminals, he makes himself the brother and companion of those who accounted Jesus among criminals, fulfilling the Scripture, which says,
He was numbered with transgressors.
Celsus goes on to say:
They must make their choice between two alternatives. If they refuse to render due service to the gods, and to respect those who are set over this service, let them not come to manhood, or marry wives, or have children, or indeed take any share in the affairs of life; but let them depart hence with all speed, and leave no posterity behind them, that such a race may become extinct from the face of the earth. Or, on the other hand, if they will take wives, and bring up children, and taste of the fruits of the earth, and partake of all the blessings of life, and bear its appointed sorrows (for nature herself has allotted sorrows to all men; for sorrows must exist, and earth is the only place for them), then must they discharge the duties of life until they are released from its bonds, and render due honour to those beings who control the affairs of this life, if they would not show themselves ungrateful to them. For it would be unjust in them, after receiving the good things which they dispense, to pay them no tribute in return. To this we reply, that there appears to us to be no good reason for our leaving this world, except when piety and virtue require it; as when, for example, those who are set as judges, and think that they have power over our lives, place before us the alternative either to live in violation of the commands of Jesus, or to die if we continue obedient to them. But God has allowed us to marry, because all are not fit for the higher, that is, the perfectly pure life; and God would have us to bring up all our children, and not to destroy any of the offspring given us by His providence. And this does not conflict with our purpose not to obey the demons that are on the earth; for,
being armed with the whole armour of God, we stand as athletes of piety against the race of demons that plot against us.
Although, therefore, Celsus would, in his own words,
drive us with all haste out of life, so that
such a race may become extinct from the earth; yet we, along with those who worship the Creator, will live according to the laws of God, never consenting to obey the laws of sin. We will marry if we wish, and bring up the children given to us in marriage; and if need be, we will not only partake of the blessings of life, but bear its appointed sorrows as a trial to our souls. For in this way is divine Scripture accustomed to speak of human afflictions, by which, as gold is tried in the fire, so the spirit of man is tried, and is found to be worthy either of condemnation or of praise. For those things which Celsus calls evils we are therefore prepared, and are ready to say,
Try me, O Lord, and prove me; purge my reins and my heart. For
no one will be crowned, unless here upon earth, with this body of humiliation,
he strive lawfully. Further, we do not pay honours supposed to be due to those whom Celsus speaks of as being set over the affairs of the world. For we worship the Lord our God, and Him only do we serve, and desire to be followers of Christ, who, when the devil said to Him,
All these things will I give you if you will fall down and worship me, answered him by the words,
You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. Wherefore we do not render the honour supposed to be due to those who, according to Celsus, are set over the affairs of this world; for
no man can serve two masters, and we
cannot serve God and mammon, whether this name be applied to one or more. Moreover, if any one
by transgressing the law dishonours the lawgiver, it seems clear to us that if the two laws, the law of God and the law of mammon, are completely opposed to each other, it is better for us by transgressing the law of mammon to dishonour mammon, that we may honour God by keeping His law, than by transgressing the law of God to dishonour God, that by obeying the law of mammon we may honour mammon.
Celsus supposes that men
discharge the duties of life until they are loosened from its bonds, when, in accordance with commonly received customs, they offer sacrifices to each of the gods recognised in the state; and he fails to perceive the true duty which is fulfilled by an earnest piety. For we say that he truly discharges the duties of life who is ever mindful who is his Creator, and what things are agreeable to Him, and who acts in all things so that he may please God. Again, Celsus wishes us to be thankful to these demons, imagining that we owe them thank-offerings. But we, while recognising the duty of thankfulness, maintain that we show no ingratitude by refusing to give thanks to beings who do us no good, but who rather set themselves against us when we neither sacrifice to them nor worship them. We are much more concerned lest we should be ungrateful to God, who has loaded us with His benefits, whose workmanship we are, who cares for us in whatever condition we may be, and who has given us hopes of things beyond this present life. And we have a symbol of gratitude to God in the bread which we call the Eucharist. Besides, as we have shown before, the demons have not the control of those things which have been created for our use; we commit no wrong, therefore, when we partake of created things, and yet refuse to offer sacrifices to beings who have no concern with them. Moreover, as we know that it is not demons, but angels, who have been set over the fruits of the earth, and over the birth of animals, it is the latter that we praise and bless, as having been appointed by God over the things needful for our race; yet even to them we will not give the honour which is due to God. For this would not be pleasing to God, nor would it be any pleasure to the angels themselves to whom these things have been committed. Indeed, they are much more pleased if we refrain from offering sacrifices to them than if we offer them; for they have no desire for the sacrificial odours which rise from the earth.
Celsus goes on to say:
Let any one inquire of the Egyptians, and he will find that everything, even to the most insignificant, is committed to the care of a certain demon. The body of man is divided into thirty-six parts, and as many demons of the air are appointed to the care of it, each having charge of a different part, although others make the number much larger. All these demons have in the language of that country distinct names; as Chnoumen, Chnachoumen, Cnat, Sicat, Biou, Erou, Erebiou, Ramanor, Reianoor, and other such Egyptian names. Moreover, they call upon them, and are cured of diseases of particular parts of the body. What, then, is there to prevent a man from giving honour to these or to others, if he would rather be in health than be sick, rather have prosperity than adversity, and be freed as much as possible from all plagues and troubles? In this way, Celsus seeks to degrade our souls to the worship of demons, under the assumption that they have possession of our bodies, and that each one has power over a separate member. And he wishes us on this ground to put confidence in these demons of which he speaks, and to serve them, in order that we may be in health rather than be sick, have prosperity rather than adversity, and may as far as possible escape all plagues and troubles. The honour of the Most High God, which cannot be divided or shared with another, is so lightly esteemed by him, that he cannot believe in the ability of God, if called upon and highly honoured, to give to those who serve Him a power by which they may be defended from the assaults directed by demons against the righteous. For he has never beheld the efficacy of those words,
in the name of Jesus, when uttered by the truly faithful, to deliver not a few from demons and demoniacal possessions and other plagues.
Probably those who embrace the views of Celsus will smile at us when we say,
At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, of things on earth, and of things under the earth, and every tongue is brought to
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. But although they may ridicule such a statement, yet they will receive much more convincing arguments in support of it than Celsus brings in behalf of Chnoumen, Chnachoumen, Cnat, Sicat, and the rest of the Egyptian catalogue, whom he mentions as being called upon, and as healing the diseases of different parts of the human body. And observe how, while seeking to turn us away from our faith in the God of all through Jesus Christ, he exhorts us for the welfare of our bodies to faith in six-and-thirty barbarous demons, whom the Egyptian magi alone call upon in some unknown way, and promise us in return great benefits. According to Celsus, then, it would be better for us now to give ourselves up to magic and sorcery than to embrace Christianity, and to put our faith in an innumerable multitude of demons than in the almighty, living, self-revealing God, who has manifested Himself by Him who by His great power has spread the true principles of holiness among all men throughout the world; yea, I may add without exaggeration, He has given this knowledge to all beings everywhere possessed of reason, and needing deliverance from the plague and corruption of sin.
Celsus, however, suspecting that the tendency of such teaching as he here gives is to lead to magic, and dreading that harm may arise from these statements, adds:
Care, however, must be taken lest any one, by familiarizing his mind with these matters, should become too much engrossed with them, and lest, through an excessive regard for the body, he should have his mind turned away from higher things, and allow them to pass into oblivion. For perhaps we ought not to despise the opinion of those wise men who say that most of the earth-demons are taken up with carnal indulgence, blood, odours, sweet sounds, and other such sensual things; and therefore they are unable to do more than heal the body, or foretell the fortunes of men and cities, and do other such things as relate to this mortal life. If there is, then, such a dangerous tendency in this direction, as even the enemy of the truth of God confesses, how much better is it to avoid all danger of giving ourselves too much up to the power of such demons, and of becoming turned aside from higher things, and suffering them to pass into oblivion through an excessive attention to the body; by entrusting ourselves to the Supreme God through Jesus Christ, who has given us such instruction, and asking of Him all help, and the guardianship of holy and good angels, to defend us from the earth-spirits intent on lust, and blood, and sacrificial odours, and strange sounds, and other sensual things! For even, by the confession of Celsus, they can do nothing more than cure the body. But, indeed, I would say that it is not clear that these demons, however much they are reverenced, can even cure the body. But in seeking recovery from disease, a man must either follow the more ordinary and simple method, and have recourse to medical art; or if he would go beyond the common methods adopted by men, he must rise to the higher and better way of seeking the blessing of Him who is God over all, through piety and prayers.
For consider with yourself which disposition of mind will be more acceptable to the Most High, whose power is supreme and universal, and who directs all for the welfare of mankind in body, and in mind, and in outward things — whether that of the man who gives himself up to God in all things, or that of the man who is curiously inquisitive about the names of demons, their powers and agency, the incantations, the herbs proper to them, and the stones with the inscriptions graven on them, corresponding symbolically or otherwise to their traditional shapes? It is plain even to the least intelligent, that the disposition of the man who is simpleminded and not given to curious inquiries, but in all things devoted to the divine will, will be most pleasing to God, and to all those who are like God; but that of the man who, for the sake of bodily health, of bodily enjoyment, and outward prosperity, busies himself about the names of demons, and inquires by what incantations he shall appease them, will be condemned by God as bad and impious, and more agreeable to the nature of demons than of men, and will be given over to be torn and otherwise tormented by demons. For it is probable that they, as being wicked creatures, and, as Celsus confesses, addicted to blood, sacrificial odours, sweet sounds, and such like, will not keep their most solemn promises to those who supply them with these things. For if others invoke their aid against the persons who have already called upon them, and purchase their favour with a larger supply of blood, and odours, and such offerings as they require, they will take part against those who yesterday sacrificed and presented pleasant offerings to them.
In a former passage, Celsus had spoken at length on the subject of oracles, and had referred us to their answers as being the voice of the gods; but now he makes amends, and confesses that
those who foretell the fortunes of men and cities, and concern themselves about mortal affairs, are earth-spirits, who are given up to fleshly lust, blood, odours, sweet sounds, and other such things, and who are unable to rise above these sensual objects. Perhaps, when we opposed the theological teaching of Celsus in regard to oracles, and the honour done to those called gods, some one might suspect us of impiety when we alleged that these were stratagems of demoniacal powers, to draw men away to carnal indulgence. But any who entertained this suspicion against us, may now believe that the statements put forth by Christians were well-founded, when they see the above passage from the writings of one who is a professed adversary of Christianity, but who now at length writes as one who has been overcome by the spirit of truth. Although, therefore, Celsus says that
we must offer sacrifices to them, in so far as they are profitable to us, for to offer them indiscriminately is not allowed by reason, yet we are not to offer sacrifices to demons addicted to blood and odours; nor is the Divine Being to be profaned in our minds, by being brought down to the level of wicked demons. If Celsus had carefully weighed the meaning of the word
profitable, and had considered that the truest profit lies in virtue and in virtuous action, he would not have applied the phrase
as far as it is profitable to the service of such demons, as he has acknowledged them to be. If, then, health of body and success in life were to come to us on condition of our serving such demons, we should prefer sickness and misfortune accompanied with the consciousness of our being truly devoted to the will of God. For this is preferable to being mortally diseased in mind, and wretched through being separate and outcasts from God, though healthy in body and abounding in earthly prosperity. And we would rather go for help to one who seeks nothing whatever but the well-being of men and of all rational creatures, than to those who delight in blood and sacrificial odours.
After having said so much of the demons, and of their fondness for blood and the odour of sacrifices, Celsus adds, as though wishing to retract the charge he had made:
The more just opinion is, that demons desire nothing and need nothing, but that they take pleasure in those who discharge towards them offices of piety. If Celsus believed this to be true, he should have said so, instead of making his previous statements. But, indeed, human nature is never utterly forsaken by God and His only-begotten Son, the Truth. Wherefore even Celsus spoke the truth when he made the demons take pleasure in the blood and smoke of victims; although, by the force of his own evil nature, he falls back into his errors, and compares demons with men who rigorously discharge every duty, even to those who show no gratitude; while to those who are grateful they abound in acts of kindness. Here Celsus appears to me to get into confusion. At one time his judgment is darkened by the influence of demons, and at another he recovers from their deluding power, and gets some glimpses of the truth. For again he adds:
We must never in any way lose our hold of God, whether by day or by night, whether in public or in secret, whether in word or in deed, but in whatever we do, or abstain from doing. That is, as I understand it, whatever we do in public, in all our actions, in all our words,
let the soul be constantly fixed upon God. And yet again, as though, after struggling in argument against the insane inspirations of demons, he were completely overcome by them, he adds:
If this is the case, what harm is there in gaining the favour of the rulers of the earth, whether of a nature different from ours, or human princes and kings? For these have gained their dignity through the instrumentality of demons. In a former part, Celsus did his utmost to debase our souls to the worship of demons; and now he wishes us to seek the favour of kings and princes, of whom, as the world and all history are full of them, I do not consider it necessary to quote examples.
There is therefore One whose favour we should seek, and to whom we ought to pray that He would be gracious to us — the Most High God, whose favour is gained by piety and the practice of every virtue. And if he would have us to seek the favour of others after the Most High God, let him consider that, as the motion of the shadow follows that of the body which casts it, so in like manner it follows, that when we have the favour of God, we have also the good-will of all angels and spirits who are friends of God. For they know who are worthy of the divine approval, and they are not only well disposed to them, but they co-operate with them in their endeavours to please God: they seek His favour on their behalf; with their prayers they join their own prayers and intercessions for them. We may indeed boldly say, that men who aspire after better things have, when they pray to God, tens of thousands of sacred powers upon their side. These, even when not asked, pray with them, they bring succour to our mortal race, and if I may so say, take up arms alongside of it: for they see demons warring and fighting most keenly against the salvation of those who devote themselves to God, and despise the hostility of demons; they see them savage in their hatred of the man who refuses to serve them with the blood and fumes of sacrifices, but rather strives in every way, by word and deed, to be in peace and union with the Most High through Jesus, who put to flight multitudes of demons when He went about
healing, and delivering
all who were oppressed by the devil.
Moreover, we are to despise ingratiating ourselves with kings or any other men, not only if their favour is to be won by murders, licentiousness, or deeds of cruelty, but even if it involves impiety towards God, or any servile expressions of flattery and obsequiousness, which things are unworthy of brave and high-principled men, who aim at joining with their other virtues that highest of virtues, patience and fortitude. But while we do nothing which is contrary to the law and word of God, we are not so mad as to stir up against us the wrath of kings and princes, which will bring upon us sufferings and tortures, or even death. For we read:
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God. These words we have in our exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, to the best of our ability, explained at length, and with various applications; but for the present we have taken them in their more obvious and generally received acceptation, to meet the saying of Celsus, that
it is not without the power of demons that kings have been raised to their regal dignity. Here much might be said on the constitution of kings and rulers, for the subject is a wide one, embracing such rulers as reign cruelly and tyrannically, and such as make the kingly office the means of indulging in luxury and sinful pleasures. We shall therefore, for the present, pass over the full consideration of this subject. We will, however, never swear by
the fortune of the king, nor by ought else that is considered equivalent to God. For if the word
fortune is nothing but an expression for the uncertain course of events, as some say, although they seem not to be agreed, we do not swear by that as God which has no existence, as though it did really exist and was able to do something, lest we should bind ourselves by an oath to things which have no existence. If, on the other hand (as is thought by others, who say that to swear by the fortune of the king of the Romans is to swear by his demon), what is called the fortune of the king is in the power of demons, then in that case we must die sooner than swear by a wicked and treacherous demon, that ofttimes sins along with the man of whom it gains possession, and sins even more than he.
Then Celsus, following the example of those who are under the influence of demons— at one time recovering, at another relapsing, as though he were again becoming sensible — says:
If, however, any worshipper of God should be ordered to do anything impious, or to say anything base, such a command should in no way be regarded; but we must encounter all kinds of torment, or submit to any kind of death, rather than say or even think anything unworthy of God. Again, however, from ignorance of our principles, and in entire confusion of thought, he says:
But if any one commands you to celebrate the sun, or to sing a joyful triumphal song in praise of Minerva, you will by celebrating their praises seem to render the higher praise to God; for piety, in extending to all things, becomes more perfect. To this our answer is, that we do not wait for any command to celebrate the praises of the sun; for we have been taught to speak well not only of those creatures that are obedient to the will of God, but even of our enemies. We therefore praise the sun as the glorious workmanship of God, which obeys His laws and hearkens to the call,
Praise the Lord, sun and moon, and with all your powers show forth the praises of the Father and Creator of all. Minerva, however, whom Celsus classes with the sun, is the subject of various Grecian myths, whether these contain any hidden meaning or not. They say that Minerva sprang fully armed from the brain of Jupiter; that when she was pursued by Vulcan, she fled from him to preserve her honour; and that from the seed which fell to the ground in the heat of Vulcan's passion, there grew a child whom Minerva brought up and called Erichthonius,
That owed his nurture to the blue-eyed maid,
But from the teeming furrow took his birth,
The mighty offspring of the foodful earth.
It is therefore evident, that if we admit Minerva the daughter of Jupiter, we must also admit many fables and fictions which can be allowed by no one who discards fables and seeks after truth.
And to regard these myths in a figurative sense, and consider Minerva as representing prudence, let any one show what were the actual facts of her history, upon which this allegory is based. For, supposing honour was given to Minerva as having been a woman of ancient times, by those who instituted mysteries and ceremonies for their followers, and who wished her name to be celebrated as that of a goddess, much more are we forbidden to pay divine honours to Minerva, if we are not permitted to worship so glorious an object as the sun, although we may celebrate its glory. Celsus, indeed, says that
we seem to do the greater honour to the great God when we sing hymns in honour of the sun and Minerva; but we know it to be the opposite of that. For we sing hymns to the Most High alone, and His Only-begotten, who is the Word and God; and we praise God and His Only-begotten, as do also the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the host of heaven. For these all form a divine chorus, and unite with the just among men in celebrating the praises of the Most High God and His Only-begotten. We have already said that we must not swear by a human king, or by what is called
the fortune of the king. It is therefore unnecessary for us again to refute these statements:
If you are commanded to swear by a human king, there is nothing wrong in that. For to him has been given whatever there is upon earth; and whatever you receive in this life, you receive from him. We deny, however, that all things which are on the earth have been given to the king, or that whatever we receive in this life we receive from him. For whatever we receive rightly and honourably we receive from God, and by His providence, as ripe fruits, and
grain which strengthens man's heart, and the pleasant vine, and wine which rejoices the heart of man. And moreover, the fruit of the olive-tree, to make his face to shine, we have from the providence of God.
Celsus goes on to say:
We must not disobey the ancient writer, who said long ago, 'Let one be king, whom the son of crafty Saturn appointed;' and adds:
If you set aside this maxim, you will deservedly suffer for it at the hands of the king. For if all were to do the same as you, there would be nothing to prevent his being left in utter solitude and desertion, and the affairs of the earth would fall into the hands of the wildest and most lawless barbarians; and then there would no longer remain among men any of the glory of your religion or of the true wisdom. If, then,
there shall be one lord, one king, he must be, not the man
whom the son of crafty Saturn appointed, but the man to whom He gave the power, who
removes kings and sets up kings, and who
raises up the useful man in time of need upon earth. Sirach 10:4 For kings are not appointed by that son of Saturn, who, according to Grecian fable, hurled his father from his throne, and sent him down to Tartarus (whatever interpretation may be given to this allegory), but by God, who governs all things, and who wisely arranges whatever belongs to the appointment of kings. We therefore do set aside the maxim contained in the line,
Whom the son of crafty Saturn appointed;
for we know that no god or father of a god ever devises anything crooked or crafty. But we are far from setting aside the notion of a providence, and of things happening directly or indirectly through the agency of providence. And the king will not
inflict deserved punishment upon us, if we say that not the son of crafty Saturn gave him his kingdom, but He who
removes and sets up kings. And would that all were to follow my example in rejecting the maxim of Homer, maintaining the divine origin of the kingdom, and observing the precept to honour the king! In these circumstances the king will not
be left in utter solitude and desertion, neither will
the affairs of the world fall into the hands of the most impious and wild barbarians. For if, in the words of Celsus,
they do as I do, then it is evident that even the barbarians, when they yield obedience to the word of God, will become most obedient to the law, and most humane; and every form of worship will be destroyed except the religion of Christ, which will alone prevail. And indeed it will one day triumph, as its principles take possession of the minds of men more and more every day.
Celsus, then, as if not observing that he was saying anything inconsistent with the words he had just used,
if all were to do the same as you, adds:
You surely do not say that if the Romans were, in compliance with your wish, to neglect their customary duties to gods and men, and were to worship the Most High, or whatever you please to call him, that he will come down and fight for them, so that they shall need no other help than his. For this same God, as yourselves say, promised of old this and much more to those who served him, and see in what way he has helped them and you! They, in place of being masters of the whole world, are left with not so much as a patch of ground or a home; and as for you, if any of you transgresses even in secret, he is sought out and punished with death. As the question started is,
What would happen if the Romans were persuaded to adopt the principles of the Christians, to despise the duties paid to the recognised gods and to men, and to worship the Most High? this is my answer to the question. We say that
if two of us
shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of the Father of the just,
which is in heaven; for God rejoices in the agreement of rational beings, and turns away from discord. And what are we to expect, if not only a very few agree, as at present, but the whole of the empire of Rome? For they will pray to the Word, who of old said to the Hebrews, when they were pursued by the Egyptians,
The Lord shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace; and if they all unite in prayer with one accord, they will be able to put to flight far more enemies than those who were discomfited by the prayer of Moses when he cried to the Lord, and of those who prayed with him. Now, if what God promised to those who keep His law has not come to pass, the reason of its nonfulfilment is not to be ascribed to the unfaithfulness of God. But He had made the fulfilment of His promises to depend on certain conditions — namely, that they should observe and live according to His law; and if the Jews have not a plot of ground nor a habitation left to them, although they had received these conditional promises, the entire blame is to be laid upon their crimes, and especially upon their guilt in the treatment of Jesus.
But if all the Romans, according to the supposition of Celsus, embrace the Christian faith, they will, when they pray, overcome their enemies; or rather, they will not war at all, being guarded by that divine power which promised to save five entire cities for the sake of fifty just persons. For men of God are assuredly the salt of the earth: they preserve the order of the world; and society is held together as long as the salt is uncorrupted: for
if the salt have lost its savour, it is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill; but it shall be cast out, and trodden under foot of men. He that has ears, let him hear the meaning of these words. When God gives to the tempter permission to persecute us, then we suffer persecution; and when God wishes us to be free from suffering, even in the midst of a world that hates us, we enjoy a wonderful peace, trusting in the protection of Him who said,
Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. And truly He has overcome the world. Wherefore the world prevails only so long as it is the pleasure of Him who received from the Father power to overcome the world; and from His victory we take courage. Should He even wish us again to contend and struggle for our religion, let the enemy come against us, and we will say to them,
I can do all things, through Christ Jesus our Lord, which strengthens me. For of
two sparrows which are sold for a farthing, as the Scripture says,
not one of them falls on the ground without our Father in heaven. And so completely does the Divine Providence embrace all things, that not even the hairs of our head fail to be numbered by Him.
Celsus again, as is usual with him, gets confused, and attributes to us things which none of us have ever written. His words are:
Surely it is intolerable for you to say, that if our present rulers, on embracing your opinions, are taken by the enemy, you will still be able to persuade those who rule after them; and after these have been taken you will persuade their successors and so on, until at length, when all who have yielded to your persuasion have been taken, some prudent ruler shall arise, with a foresight of what is impending, and he will destroy you all utterly before he himself perishes. There is no need of any answer to these allegations: for none of us says of our present rulers, that if they embrace our opinions, and are taken by the enemy, we shall be able to persuade their successors; and when these are taken, those who come after them, and so on in succession. But on what does he ground the assertion, that when a succession of those who have yielded to our persuasion have been taken because they did not drive back the enemy, some prudent ruler shall arise, with a foresight of what is impending, who shall utterly destroy us? But here he seems to me to delight in inventing and uttering the wildest nonsense.
Afterwards he says:
If it were possible, implying at the same time that he thought it most desirable,
that all the inhabitants of Asia, Europe, and Libya, Greeks and Barbarians, all to the uttermost ends of the earth, were to come under one law; but judging this quite impossible, he adds,
Any one who thinks this possible, knows nothing. It would require careful consideration and lengthened argument to prove that it is not only possible, but that it will surely come to pass, that all who are endowed with reason shall come under one law. However, if we must refer to this subject, it will be with great brevity. The Stoics, indeed, hold that, when the strongest of the elements prevails, all things shall be turned into fire. But our belief is, that the Word shall prevail over the entire rational creation, and change every soul into His own perfection; in which state every one, by the mere exercise of his power, will choose what he desires, and obtain what he chooses. For although, in the diseases and wounds of the body, there are some which no medical skill can cure, yet we hold that in the mind there is no evil so strong that it may not be overcome by the Supreme Word and God. For stronger than all the evils in the soul is the Word, and the healing power that dwells in Him; and this healing He applies, according to the will of God, to every man. The consummation of all things is the destruction of evil, although as to the question whether it shall be so destroyed that it can never anywhere arise again, it is beyond our present purpose to say. Many things are said obscurely in the prophecies on the total destruction of evil, and the restoration to righteousness of every soul; but it will be enough for our present purpose to quote the following passage from Zephaniah:
Prepare and rise early; all the gleanings of their vineyards are destroyed. Therefore wait upon Me, says the Lord, on the day that I rise up for a testimony; for My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kings, to pour upon them Mine indignation, even all My fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My suppliants, even the daughter of My dispersed, shall bring My offering. In that day shall you not be ashamed for all your doings, wherein you have transgressed against Me: for then I will take away out of the midst of you them that rejoice in your pride; and you shall no more be haughty because of My holy mountain. I will also leave in the midst of you an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord . The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. I leave it to those who are able, after a careful study of the whole subject, to unfold the meaning of this prophecy, and especially to inquire into the signification of the words,
When the whole earth is destroyed, there will be turned upon the peoples a language according to their race, as things were before the confusion of tongues. Let them also carefully consider the promise, that all shall call upon the name of the Lord, and serve Him with one consent; also that all contemptuous reproach shall be taken away, and there shall be no longer any injustice, or vain speech, or a deceitful tongue. And thus much it seemed needful for me to say briefly, and without entering into elaborate details, in answer to the remark of Celsus, that he considered any agreement between the inhabitants of Asia, Europe, and Libya, as well Greeks as Barbarians, was impossible. And perhaps such a result would indeed be impossible to those who are still in the body, but not to those who are released from it.
In the next place, Celsus urges us
to help the king with all our might, and to labour with him in the maintenance of justice, to fight for him; and if he requires it, to fight under him, or lead an army along with him. To this our answer is, that we do, when occasion requires, give help to kings, and that, so to say, a divine help,
putting on the whole armour of God. And this we do in obedience to the injunction of the apostle,
I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; and the more any one excels in piety, the more effective help does he render to kings, even more than is given by soldiers, who go forth to fight and slay as many of the enemy as they can. And to those enemies of our faith who require us to bear arms for the commonwealth, and to slay men, we can reply:
Do not those who are priests at certain shrines, and those who attend on certain gods, as you account them, keep their hands free from blood, that they may with hands unstained and free from human blood offer the appointed sacrifices to your gods; and even when war is upon you, you never enlist the priests in the army. If that, then, is a laudable custom, how much more so, that while others are engaged in battle, these too should engage as the priests and ministers of God, keeping their hands pure, and wrestling in prayers to God on behalf of those who are fighting in a righteous cause, and for the king who reigns righteously, that whatever is opposed to those who act righteously may be destroyed! And as we by our prayers vanquish all demons who stir up war, and lead to the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, we in this way are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs, when along with righteous prayers we join self-denying exercises and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures, and not to be led away by them. And none fight better for the king than we do. We do not indeed fight under him, although he require it; but we fight on his behalf, forming a special army — an army of piety— by offering our prayers to God.
And if Celsus would have us to lead armies in defense of our country, let him know that we do this too, and that not for the purpose of being seen by men, or of vainglory. For
in secret, and in our own hearts, there are prayers which ascend as from priests in behalf of our fellow citizens. And Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens, and inculcate piety to the Supreme Being; and they promote those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy, to a divine and heavenly city, to whom it may be said,
You have been faithful in the smallest city, come into a great one, where
God stands in the assembly of the gods, and judges the gods in the midst; and He reckons you among them, if you no more
die as a man, or fall as one of the princes.
Celsus also urges us to
take office in the government of the country, if that is required for the maintenance of the laws and the support of religion. But we recognise in each state the existence of another national organization, founded by the Word of God, and we exhort those who are mighty in word and of blameless life to rule over Churches. Those who are ambitious of ruling we reject; but we constrain those who, through excess of modesty, are not easily induced to take a public charge in the Church of God. And those who rule over us well are under the constraining influence of the great King, whom we believe to be the Son of God, God the Word. And if those who govern in the Church, and are called rulers of the divine nation — that is, the Church— rule well, they rule in accordance with the divine commands, and never suffer themselves to be led astray by worldly policy. And it is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but that they may reserve themselves for a diviner and more necessary service in the Church of God— for the salvation of men. And this service is at once necessary and right. They take charge of all — of those that are within, that they may day by day lead better lives, and of those that are without, that they may come to abound in holy words and in deeds of piety; and that, while thus worshipping God truly, and training up as many as they can in the same way, they may be filled with the word of God and the law of God, and thus be united with the Supreme God through His Son the Word, Wisdom, Truth, and Righteousness, who unites to God all who are resolved to conform their lives in all things to the law of God.
You have here, reverend Ambrosius, the conclusion of what we have been enabled to accomplish by the power given to us in obedience to your command. In eight books we have embraced all that we considered it proper to say in reply to that book of Celsus which he entitles A True Discourse. And now it remains for the readers of his discourse and of my reply to judge which of the two breathes most of the Spirit of the true God, of piety towards Him, and of that truth which leads men by sound doctrines to the noblest life. You must know, however, that Celsus had promised another treatise as a sequel to this one, in which he engaged to supply practical rules of living to those who felt disposed to embrace his opinions. If, then, he has not fulfilled his promise of writing a second book, we may well be contented with these eight books which we have written in answer to his discourse. But if he has begun and finished that second book, pray obtain it and send it to us, that we may answer it as the Father of truth may give us ability, and either overthrow the false teaching that may be in it, or, laying aside all jealousy, we may testify our approval of whatever truth it may contain.
Glory Be to You, Our God; Glory Be to You.
Source. Translated by Frederick Crombie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04168.htm>.
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