Book IV. (Cont.)
Chap. XX. – Of the Departure of Jesus into Galilee After His Resurrection; And of the Two Testaments, the Old and the New.
Therefore He went into Galilee, for He was unwilling to show Himself to the Jews, lest He should lead them to repentance, and restore them from their impiety to a sound mind.242 And there He opened to His disciples again assembled the writings of Holy Scripture, that is, the secrets of the prophets; which before His suffering could by no means be understood, for they told of Him and of His passion. Therefore Moses, and the prophets also themselves, call the law which was given to the Jews a testament: for unless the testator shall have died, a testament cannot be confirmed; nor can that which is written in it be known, because it is closed and sealed. And thus, unless Christ had undergone death, the testament could not have been opened; that is, the mystery of God could not have been unveiled243 and understood.
But all Scripture is divided into two Testaments. That which preceded the advent and passion of Christ – that is, the law and the prophets – is called the Old; but those things which were written after His resurrection are named the New Testament. The Jews make use of the Old, we of the New: but yet they are not discordant, for the New is the fulfilling of the Old, and in both there is the same testator, even Christ, who, having suffered death for us, made us heirs of His everlasting kingdom, the people of the Jews being deprived and disinherited.244 As the prophet Jeremiah testifies when he speaks such things: (Jer_31:31, Jer_31:32) “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new testament245 to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not according to the testament which I made to their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; for they continued not in my testament, and I disregarded246 them, saith the Lord.” Also in another place he says in like manner: (Jer_12:7, Jer_12:8) “I have forsaken my house, I have given up mine heritage into the hand of its enemies. Mine heritage is become unto me as a lion in the forest; it hath cried out against me, therefore have I hated it.” Since the inheritance is His heavenly kingdom, it is evident that He does not say that He hates the inheritance itself, but the heirs, who have been ungrateful towards Him, and impious. Mine heritage, he says, is become unto me as a lion; that is, I am become a prey and a devouring to my heirs, who have slain me as the flock. It hath cried out against me; that is, they have pronounced against me the sentence of death and the cross. For that which He said above, that He would make247 a new testament to the house of Judah, shows that the old testament which was given by Moses was not perfect;248 but that that which was to be given by Christ would be complete. But it is plain that the house of Judah does not signify the Jews, whom He casts off, but us, who have been called by Him out of the Gentiles, and have by adoption succeeded to their place, and are called sons249 of the Jews, which the Sibyl declares when she says: –
“The divine race of the blessed, heavenly Jews.”
But what that race was about to be, Isaiah teaches, in whose book the Most High Father addresses His Son: (Isa_13:1-22,Isa_6:1-13, Isa_7:1-25) “I the Lord God have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thine hand, and will keep Thee:250 and I have given Thee for covenant of my race,251 for a light of the Gentiles; to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.” When, therefore, we who were in time past as it were blind, and as it were shut up in the prison of folly, were sitting in darkness, ignorant of God and of the truth, we have been enlightened by Him, who adopted us by His testament; and having freed us from cruel chains, and brought us out to the light of wisdom, He admitted us to the inheritance of His heavenly kingdom.
Chap. XXI. – Of the Ascension of Jesus, and the Foretelling of It; And of the Preaching and Actions of the Disciples.
But when He had made arrangements with His disciples for the preaching of the Gospel and His name, a cloud suddenly surrounded Him, and carried Him up into heaven, on the fortieth day after His passion, as Daniel had shown that it would be, saying: (Dan_7:13) “And, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days.” But the disciples, being dispersed through the provinces, everywhere laid the foundations of the Church, themselves also in the name of their divine252 Master doing many and almost incredible miracles; for at His departure He had endowed them with power and strength, by which the system253 of their new announcement might be founded and confirmed. But He also opened to them all things which were about to happen, which Peter and Paul preached at Rome; and this preaching being written for the sake of remembrance,254 became permanent, in which they both declared other wonderful things, and also said that it was about to come to pass, that after a short time God would send against them a king who would subdue255 the Jews, and level their cities to the ground, and besiege the people themselves, worn out with hunger and thirst. Then it should come to pass that they should feed on the bodies of their own children, and consume one another. Lastly, that they should be taken captive, and come into the hands of their enemies, and should see their wives most cruelly harassed before their eyes, their virgins ravished and polluted, their sons torn in pieces, their little ones dashed to the ground; and lastly, everything laid waste with fire and sword, the captives banished for ever from their own lands, because they had exulted over the well-beloved and most approved Son of God. And so, after their decease, when Nero had put them to death, Vespasian destroyed the name and nation of the Jews, and did all things which they had foretold as about to come to pass.
Chap. XXII. – Arguments of Unbelievers Against the Incarnation of Jesus.
I have now confirmed, as I imagine, the things which are thought false and incredible by those who are not instructed in the true knowledge of heavenly learning. But, however, that we may refute those also who are too wise, not without injury to themselves and who detract from the credit due to divine things, let us disprove their error, that they may at length perceive that the fact ought to have been as we show that it actually was. And although with good judges either testimonies are of sufficient weight without arguments, or arguments without testimonies, we, however, are not content with the one or the other, since we are supplied with both, that we may not leave room for any one of depraved ingenuity either to misunderstand or to dispute on the opposite side. They say that it was impossible for anything to be withdrawn256 from an immortal nature. They say, in short, that it was unworthy of God to be willing to become man, and to burthen Himself with the infirmity of flesh; to become subject of His own accord to sufferings, to pain, and death: as though it had not been easy for Him to show Himself to men without257 the weakness incident to a body, and to teach them righteousness (if He so wished) with greater authority, as of one who acknowledged258 Himself to be God. For in that case all would have obeyed the heavenly precepts, if the influence and power of God enjoining them had been united with them. Why, then (they say), did He not come as God to teach men? Why did He render Himself so humble and weak, that it was possible for Him both to be despised by men and to be visited with punishment? why did He suffer violence from those who are weak and mortal? why did He not repel by strength, or avoid by His divine knowledge,259 the hands of men? why did He not at least in His very death reveal His majesty? but He was led as one without strength to trial, was condemned as one who was guilty, was put to death as one who was mortal. I will carefully refute these things, nor will I permit any one to be in error. For these things were done by a great and wonderful plan; and he who shall understand this, will not only cease to wonder that God was tortured by men, but also will easily see that it could not have been believed that he was God if those very things which he censures had not been done.
Chap. XXIII. – Of Giving Precepts, and Acting.
If any one gives to men precepts for living, and moulds the characters of others, I ask whether he is bound himself to practise the things which he enjoins, or is not bound. If he shall not do so, his precepts are annulled. For if the things which are enjoined are good, if they place the life of men in the best condition, the instructor ought not to separate himself from the number and assemblage of men among whom he acts; and he ought himself to live in the same manner in which he teaches that men ought to live, lest, by living in another way, he himself should disparage260 his own precepts, and make his instruction of less value, if in reality he should relax the obligations of that which he endeavours to establish by his words. For every one, when he hears another giving precepts, is unwilling that the necessity of obeying should be imposed upon him, as though the right of liberty were taken from him. Therefore he answers his teacher in this manner: I am not able to do the things which you command, for they are impossible. For yon forbid me to be angry, you forbid me to covet, you forbid me to be excited by desire, you forbid me to fear pain or death; but this is so contrary to nature, that all animals are subject to these affections. Or if you are so entirely of opinion that it is possible to resist nature, do you yourself practise the things which you enjoin, that I may know that they are possible? But since you yourself do not practise them, what arrogance is it, to wish to impose upon a free man laws which you yourself do not obey! You who teach, first learn; and before you correct the character of others, correct your own. Who could deny the justice of this answer? Nay! a teacher of this kind will fall into contempt, and will in his turn be mocked, because he also will appear to mock others.
What, therefore, will that instructor do, if these things shall be objected to him? how will he deprive the self-willed261 of an excuse, unless he teach them by deeds before their eyes262 that he teaches things which are possible? Whence it comes to pass, that no one obeys the precepts of the philosophers.263 For men prefer examples rather than words, because it is easy to speak, but difficult to accomplish.264 Would to heaven that there were as many who acted well as there are who speak well! But they who give precepts, without carrying them out into action, are distrusted;265 and if they shall be men, will be despised as inconsistent:266 if it shall be God, He will be met with the excuse of the frailty of man’s nature. It remains that words should be confirmed by deeds, which the philosophers are unable to do. Therefore, since the instructors themselves are overcome by the affections which they say that it is our duty to overcome, they are able to train no one to virtue, which they falsely proclaim;267 and for this cause they imagine that no perfect wise man has as yet existed, that is, in whom the greatest virtue and perfect justice were in harmony with the greatest learning and knowledge. And this indeed was true. For no one since the creation of the world has been such, except Christ, who both delivered wisdom by His word, and confirmed His teaching by presenting virtue to the eyes of men.268
Chap. XXIV. – The Overthrowing of the Arguments Above Urged by Way of Objection.
Come, let us now consider whether a teacher sent from heaven can fail to be perfect. I do not as yet speak of Him whom they deny to have come from God. Let us suppose that some one were to be sent from heaven to instruct the life of men in the first principles of virtue, and to form them to righteousness. No one can doubt but that this teacher, who is sent from heaven, would be as perfect in the knowledge of all things as in virtue, lest there should be no difference between a heavenly and an earthly teacher. For in the case of a man his instruction can by no means be from within and of himself.269 For the mind, shut in by earthly organs, and hindered by a corrupt270 body, of itself can neither comprehend nor receive the truth, unless it is taught from another source.271 And if it had this power in the greatest degree, yet it would be unable to attain to the highest virtue, and to resist all vices, the materials of which are contained in our bodily272 organs. Hence it comes to pass, that an earthly teacher cannot be perfect. But a teacher from heaven, to whom His divine nature gives knowledge, and His immortality gives virtue, must of necessity in His teaching also, as in other things, be perfect and complete. But this cannot by any means happen, unless He should take to Himself a mortal body. And the reason why it cannot happen is manifest. For if He should come to men as God, not to mention that mortal eyes cannot look upon and endure the glory of His majesty in His own person, assuredly God will not be able to teach virtue; for, inasmuch as He is without a body, He will not practise the things which He will teach, and through this His teaching will not be perfect. Otherwise, if it is the greatest virtue patiently to endure pain for the sake of righteousness and duty, if it is virtue not to fear death itself when threatened, and when inflicted to undergo it with fortitude; it follows that the perfect teacher ought both to teach these things by precept, and to confirm them by practice. For he who gives precepts for the life, ought to remove every method273 of excuse, that he may impose upon men the necessity of obedience, not by any constraint, but by a sense of shame, and yet may leave them liberty, that a reward may be appointed for those who obey, because it was in their power not to obey if they so wished; and a punishment for those who do not obey, because it was in their power to obey if they so wished. How then can excuse be removed, unless the teacher should practise what he teaches, and as it were go before274 and hold out his hand to one who is about to follow? But how can one practise what he teaches, unless he is like him whom he teaches? For if he be subject to no passion, a man may thus answer him who is the teacher: It is my wish not to sin, but I am overpowered; for I am clothed with frail and weak flesh: it is this which covets, which is angry, which fears pain and death. And thus I am led on against my will;275 and I sin, not because it is my wish, but because I am compelled. I myself perceive that I sin; but the necessity imposed by my frailty, which I am unable to resist, impels me. What will that teacher of righteousness say in reply to these things? How will he refute and convict a man who shall allege the frailty of the flesh as an excuse for his faults, unless he himself also shall be clothed with flesh, so that he may show that even the flesh is capable of virtue? For obstinacy cannot be refuted except by example. For the things which you teach cannot have any weight unless you shall be the first to practise them; because the nature of men is inclined to faults, and wishes to sin not only with indulgence, but also with a reasonable plea.276 It is befitting that a master and teacher of virtue should most closely resemble man, that by overpowering sin he may teach man that sin may be overpowered by him. But if he is immortal, he can by no means propose an example to man. For there will stand forth some one persevering in his opinion, and will say: You indeed do not sin, because you are free from this body; you do not covet, because nothing is needed by an immortal; but I have need of many things for the support of this life. You do not fear death, because it can have no power against you. You despise pain, because you can suffer no violence. But I, a mortal, fear both, because they bring upon me the severest tortures, which the weakness of the flesh cannot endure. A teacher of virtue therefore ought to have taken away this excuse from men, that no one may ascribe it to necessity that he sins, rather than to his own fault. Therefore, that a teacher may be perfect, no objection ought to be brought forward by him who is to be taught, so that if he should happen to say, You enjoin impossibilities; the teacher may answer, See, I myself do them. But I am clothed with flesh, and it is the property of flesh to sin.277 I too bear the same flesh, and yet sin does not bear rule in me. It is difficult for me to despise riches, because otherwise I am unable to live in this body. See, I too have a body, and yet I contend against every desire. I am not able to bear pain or death for righteousness, because I am frail. See, pain and death have power over me also; and I overcome those very things which you fear, that I may make you victorious over pain and death. I go before you through those things which you allege that it is impossible to endure: if you are not able to follow me giving directions, follow me going before you. In this way all excuse is taken away, and you must confess that man is unjust through his own fault, since he does not follow a teacher of virtue, who is at the same time a guide. You see, therefore, how much more perfect is a teacher who is mortal, because he is able to be a guide to one who is mortal, than one who is immortal, for he is unable to teach patient endurance who is not subject to passions. Nor, however, does this extend so far that I prefer man to God; but to show that man cannot be a perfect teacher unless he is also God, that he may by his heavenly authority impose upon men the necessity of obedience; nor God, unless he is clothed with a mortal body, that by carrying out his precepts to their completion278 in actions, he may bind others by the necessity of obedience. It plainly therefore appears, that he who is a guide of life and teacher of righteousness must have a body, and that his teaching cannot otherwise be full and perfect, unless it has a root and foundation, and remains firm and fixed among men; and that he himself must undergo weakness of flesh and body, and display in himself279 the virtue of which he is a teacher, that he may teach it at the same time both by words and deeds. Also, he must be subject to death and all sufferings, since the duties of virtue are occupied with the enduring of suffering, and the undergoing death; all which, as I have said, a perfect teacher ought to endure, that he may teach the possibility of their being endured.
Chap. XXV. – Of the Advent of Jesus in the Flesh and Spirit, That He Might Be Mediator Between God and Man.
Let men therefore learn and understand why the Most High God, when He sent His ambassador and messenger to instruct mortals with the precepts of His righteousness, willed that He should be clothed with mortal flesh, and be afflicted with torture, and be sentenced to death. For since there was no righteousness on earth, He sent a teacher, as it were a living law, to found a new name and temple,280 that by His words and example He might spread throughout the earth a true and holy worship. But, however, that it might be certain that He was sent by God, it was befitting that He should not be born as man is born, composed of a mortal on both sides;281 but that it might appear that He was heavenly even in the form of man, He was born without the office of a father. For He had a spiritual Father, God; and as God was the Father of His spirit without a mother, so a virgin was the mother of His body without a father. He was therefore both God and man, being placed in the middle between God and man. From which the Greeks call Him Mesites,282 that He might be able to lead man to God – that is, to immortality: for if He had been God only (as we have before said), He would not have been able to afford to man examples of goodness; if He had been man only, He would not have been able to compel men to righteousness, unless there had been added an authority and virtue greater than that of man.
For, since man is composed of flesh and spirit, and the spirit must earn283 immortality by works of righteousness, the flesh, since it is earthly, and therefore mortal, draws with itself the spirit linked to it, and leads it from immortality to death. Therefore the spirit, apart from the flesh, could by no means be a guide to immortality for man, since the flesh hinders the spirit from following God. For it is frail, and liable to sin; but sin is the food and nourishment284 of death. For this cause, therefore, a mediator came – that is, God in the flesh – that the flesh might be able to follow Him, and that He might rescue man from death, which has dominion over the flesh. Therefore He clothed Himself with flesh, that the desires of the flesh being subdued, He might teach that to sin was not the result of necessity, but of man’s purpose and will. For we have one great and principal struggle to maintain with the flesh, the boundless desires of which press upon the soul, nor allow it to retain dominion, but make it the slave of pleasures and sweet allurements, and visit it with everlasting death. And that we might be able to overcome these, God has opened and displayed to us the way of overcoming the flesh. And this perfect and absolutely complete285 virtue bestows on those who conquer, the crown and reward of immortality.
Chap. XXVI. – Of the Cross, and Other Tortures of Jesus, and of the Figure of the Lamb Under the Law.
I have spoken of humiliation, and frailty, and suffering – why God thought fit to undergo them. Now an account must be taken of the cross itself, and its meaning must be related. What the Most High Father arranged from the beginning, and how He ordained all things which were accomplished, not only the foretelling by the prophets, which preceded and was proved true286 in Christ, but also the manner of His suffering itself teaches. For whatever sufferings He underwent were not without meaning;287 but they had a figurative meaning288 and great significance, as had also those divine works which He performed, the strength and power of which had some weight indeed for the present, but also declared something for the future. Heavenly influence opened the eyes of the blind, and gave light to those who did not see; and by this deed He signified that it would come to pass that, turning to the nations which were ignorant of God, He might enlighten the breasts of the foolish with the light of wisdom, and open the eyes of their understanding to the contemplation of the truth. For they are truly blind who, not seeing heavenly things, and surrounded with the darkness of ignorance, worship earthly and frail things. He opened the ears of the deaf. It is plain that this divine power did not limit its exercise to this point;289 but He declared that it would shortly come to pass, that they who were destitute of the truth would both hear and understand the divine words of God. For you may truly call those deaf who do not hear the things which are heavenly and true, and worthy of being performed. He loosed the tongues of the dumb, so that they spake plainly.290 A power worthy of admiration,291 even when it was in operation: but there was contained in this display292 of power another meaning, which showed that it would shortly come to pass that those who were lately ignorant of heavenly things, having received the instruction of wisdom, might speak respecting God and the truth. For he who is ignorant of the divine nature, he truly is speechless and dumb, although he is the most eloquent of all men. For when the tongue has begun to speak truth – that is, to set forth the excellency and majesty of the one God – then only does it discharge the office of its nature; but as long as it speaks false things it is not rightly employed:293 and therefore he must necessarily be speechless who cannot utter divine things. He also renewed the feet of the lame to the office of walking, – a strength of divine work worthy of praise; but the figure implied this, that the errors of a worldly and wandering life being restrained, the path of truth was opened by which men might walk to attain the favour of God. For He is truly to be considered lame, who, being enwrapped in the gloom and darkness of folly, and ignorant in what direction to go, with feet liable to stumble and fall, walks in the way of death.
Likewise He cleansed the stains and blemishes of defiled bodies, – no slight exercise of immortal power; but this strength prefigured that by the instruction of righteousness His doctrine was about to purify those defiled by the stains of sins and the blemishes of vices. For they ought truly to be accounted as leprous and unclean,294 whom either boundless lusts compel to crimes, or insatiable pleasures to disgraceful deeds, and affect with an everlasting stain those who are branded with the marks of dishonourable actions. He raised the bodies of the dead as they lay prostrate; and calling them aloud by their names, He brought them back from death. What is more suitable to God, what more worthy of the wonder of all ages, than to have recalled295 the life which has run its course, to have added times to the completed times of men, to have revealed the secrets of death? But this unspeakable power was the image of a greater energy, which showed that His teaching was about to have such might, that the nations throughout the world, which were estranged from God and subject to death, being animated by the knowledge of the true light, might arrive at the rewards of immortality. For you may rightly deem those to be dead, who, not knowing God the giver of life, and depressing their souls from heaven to earth, run into the snares of eternal death. The actions, therefore, which He then performed for the present, were representations of future things; the things which He displayed in injured and diseased bodies were figures296 of spiritual things, that at present He might display to us the works of an energy which was not of earth, and for the future might show the power of His heavenly majesty.297
Therefore, as His works had a signification also of greater power, so also His passion did not go before us as simple, or superfluous, or by chance. But as those things which He did signified the great efficacy and power of His teaching, so those things which He suffered announced that wisdom would be held in hatred. For the vinegar which they gave Him to drink, and the gall which they gave Him to eat, held forth hardships and severities298 in this life to the followers of truth. And although His passion, which was harsh and severe in itself, gave to us a sample of the future torments which virtue itself proposes to those who linger in this world, yet drink and food of this kind, coming into the mouth of our teacher, afforded us an example of pressures, and labours, and miseries. All which things must be undergone and suffered by those who follow the truth; since the truth is bitter, and detested by all who, being destitute of virtue, give up their life to deadly pleasures. For the placing of a crown of thorns upon His head, declared that it would come to pass that He would gather to Himself a holy people from those who were guilty. For people standing around in a circle are called a corona.299 But we, who before that we knew God were unjust, were thorns – that is, evil and guilty, not knowing what was good; and estranged from the conception and the works of righteousness, polluted all things with wickedness and lust. Being taken, therefore, from briars and thorns, we surround the sacred head of God; for, being called by Himself, and spread around Him, we stand beside God, who is our Master and Teacher, and crown Him King of the world, and Lord of all the living.
But with reference to the cross, it has great force and meaning, which I will now endeavour to show. For God (as I have before explained), when He had determined to set man free, sent as His ambassador to the earth a teacher of virtue, who might both by salutary precepts train men to innocence, and by works and deeds before their eyes300 might open the way of righteousness, by walking in which, and following his teacher, man might attain to eternal life. He therefore assumed a body, and was clothed in a garment of flesh, that He might hold out to man, for whose instruction He had come, examples of virtue and incitements to its practice. But when He had afforded an example of righteousness in all the duties of life, in order that He might teach man also the patient endurance of pain and contempt of death, by which virtue is rendered perfect and complete, He came into the hands of an impious nation, when, by the knowledge of the future which He had, He might have avoided them, and by the same power by which He did wonderful works He might have repelled them. Therefore He endured tortures, and stripes, and thorns. At last He did not refuse even to undergo death, that under His guidance man might triumph over death, subdued and bound in chains with all its terrors. But the reason why the Most High Father chose that kind of death in preference to others, with which He should permit Him to be visited, is this. For some one may perchance say: Why, if He was God, and chose to die, did He not at least suffer by some honourable kind of death? why was it by the cross especially? why by an infamous kind of punishment, which may appear unworthy even of a man if he is free,301 although guilty? First of all, because He, who had come in humility that He might bring assistance to the humble and men of low degree, and might hold out to all the hope of safety, was to suffer by that kind of punishment by which the humble and low usually suffer, that there might be no one at all who might not be able to imitate Him. In the next place, it was in order that His body might be kept unmutilated,302 since He must rise again from the dead on the third day.
Nor ought any one to be ignorant of this, that He Himself, speaking before of His passion, also made it known that He had the power, when He willed it, of laying down His life and of taking it again. Therefore, because He had laid down His life while fastened to the cross, His executioners did not think it necessary to break His bones (as was their prevailing custom), but they only pierced His side. Thus His unbroken body was taken down from the cross, and carefully enclosed in a tomb. Now all these things were done lest His body, being injured and broken, should be rendered unsuitable303 for rising again. That also was a principal cause why God chose the cross, because it was necessary that He should be lifted up on it, and the passion of God become known to all nations. For since he who is suspended upon a cross is both conspicuous to all and higher than others, the cross was especially chosen, which might signify that He would be so conspicuous, and so raised on high, that all nations from the whole world should meet together at once to know and worship Him. Lastly, no nation is so uncivilized, no region so remote, to which either His passion or the height of His majesty would be unknown. Therefore in His suffering He stretched forth His hands and measured out the world, that even then He might show that a great multitude, collected together out of all languages and tribes, from the rising of the sun even to his setting, was about to come under His wings, and to receive on their foreheads that great and lofty sign.304 And the Jews even now exhibit a figure of this transaction when they mark their thresholds with the blood of a lamb. For when God was about to smite the Egyptians, to secure the Hebrews from that infliction He had enjoined them to slay a white305 lamb without spot, and to place on their thresholds a mark from its blood. And thus, when the first-born of the Egyptians had perished in one night, the Hebrews alone were saved by the sign of the blood: not that the blood of a sheep had such efficacy in itself as to be the safety of men, but it was an image of things to come. For Christ was the white lamb without spot; that is, He was innocent, and just, and holy, who, being slain by the same Jews, is the salvation of all who have written on their foreheads the sign of blood – that is, of the cross, on which He shed His blood. For the forehead is the top of the threshold in man, and the wood sprinkled with blood is the emblem306 of the cross. Lastly, the slaying of the lamb by those very persons who perform it is called the paschal feast, from the word “paschein,”307 because it is a figure of the passion, which God, foreknowing the future, delivered by Moses to be celebrated by His people. But at that time the figure was efficacious at the present for averting the danger, that it may appear what great efficacy the truth itself is about to have for the protection of God’s people in the extreme necessity of the whole world. But in what manner or in what region all will be safe who have marked on the highest part of their body this sign of the true and divine blood,308 I will show in the last book.
Chap. XXVII. – Of the Wonders Effected by the Power of the Cross, and of Demons.
At present it is sufficient to show what great efficacy the power of this sign has. How great a terror this sign is to the demons, he will know who shall see how, when adjured by Christ, they flee from the bodies which they have besieged. For as He Himself, when He was living among men, put to flight all the demons by His word, and restored to their former senses the minds of men which had been excited and maddened by their dreadful attacks; so now His followers, in the name of their Master, and by the sign of His passion, banish the same polluted spirits from men. And it is not difficult to prove this. For when they sacrifice to their gods, if any one bearing a marked forehead stands by, the sacrifices are by no means favourable.309
“Nor can the diviner, when consulted, give answers.”310
And this has often been the cause of punishment to wicked kings. For when some of their attendants who were of our religion311 were standing by their masters as they sacrificed, having the sign placed on their foreheads, they caused the gods of their masters to flee, that they might not be able to observe312 future events in the entrails of the victims. And when the soothsayers understood this, at the instigation of the same demons to whom they had sacrificed,313 complaining that profane men were present at the sacrifices, they drove their princes to madness, so that they attacked the temple of the god, and contaminated themselves by true sacrilege, which was expiated by the severest punishments on the part of their persecutors. Nor, however, are blind men able to understand even from this, either that this is the true religion, which contains such great power for overcoming, or that that is false, which is not able to hold its ground or to come to an engagement.
But they say that the gods do this, not through fear, but through hatred; as though it were possible for any one to hate another, unless it be him who injures, or has the power of injuring. Yea, truly, it would be consistent with their majesty to visit those whom they hated with immediate punishment,314 rather than to flee from them. But since they can neither approach those in whom they shall see the heavenly mark, nor injure those whom the immortal sign315 as an impregnable wall protects, they harass them by men, and persecute them by the hands of others: and if they acknowledge the existence of these demons, we have overcome; for this must necessarily be the true religion, which both understands the nature of demons, and understands their subtlety, and compels them, vanquished and subdued, to yield to itself. If they deny it, they will be refuted by the testimonies of poets and philosophers. But if they do not deny the existence and malignity of demons, what remains except that they affirm that there is a difference between gods and demons?316 Let them therefore explain to us the difference between the two kinds, that we may know what is to be worshipped and what to be held in execration; whether they have any mutual agreement, or are really opposed to one, another. If they are united by some necessity, how shall we distinguish them? or how shall we unite the honour and worship of each kind? If, on the other hand, they are enemies, how is it that the demons do not fear the gods, or that the gods cannot put to flight the demons? Behold, some one excited by the impulse of the demon is out of his senses, raves, is mad: let us lead him into the temple of the excellent and mighty Jupiter; or since Jupiter knows not how to cure men, into the lane of Æsculapius or Apollo. Let the priest of either, in the name of his god, command the wicked spirit to come out of the man: that can in no way come to pass. What, then, is the power of the gods, if the demons are not subject to their control? But, in truth, the same demons, when adjured by the name of the true God, immediately flee. What reason is there why they should fear Christ, but not fear Jupiter, unless that they whom the multitude esteem to be gods are also demons? Lastly, if there should be placed in the midst one who is evidently suffering from an attack of a demon, and the priest of the Delphian Apollo, they will in the same manner dread the name of God; and Apollo will as quickly depart from his priest as the spirit of the demon from the man; and his god being adjured and put to flight, the priest will be for ever silent.317 Therefore the demons, whom they acknowledge to be objects of execration, are the same as the gods to whom they offer supplications.
If they imagine that we are unworthy of belief, let them believe Homer, who associated the supreme Jupiter318 with the demons; and also other poets and philosophers, who speak of the same beings at one time as demons, and at another time as gods, – of which names one is true, and the other false. For those most wicked spirits, when they are adjured, then confess that they are demons; when they are worshipped, then falsely say that they are gods; in order that they may lead men into errors,319 and call them away from the knowledge of the true God, by which alone eternal death can be escaped. They are the same who, for the sake of overthrowing man, have founded various systems of worship for themselves through different regions,320 – under false and assumed names, however, that they might deceive. For because they were unable by themselves to aspire to divinity, they took to themselves the names of powerful kings, under whose titles they might claim for themselves divine honours; which error may be dispelled, and brought to the light of truth. For if any one desires to inquire further into the matter, let him assemble those who are skilled in calling forth spirits from the dead. Let them call forth321 Jupiter, Neptune, Vulcan, Mercury, Apollo, and Saturnus the father of all. All will answer from the lower regions; and being questioned they will speak, and confess respecting themselves and God. After these things let them call up Christ; He will not be present, He will not appear, for He was not more than two days in the lower regions. What proof can be brought forward more certain than this? I have no doubt that Trismegistus arrived at the truth by some proof of this kind, who spoke many things322 respecting God the Son which are contained in the divine secrets.
Chap. XXVIII. – Of Hope and True Religion, and of Superstition.
And since these things are so, as we have shown, it is plain that no other hope of life is set before man, except that, laying aside vanities and wretched error, he should know God,323 and serve God; except he renounce this temporary life, and train himself by the principles of righteousness for the cultivation of true religion. For we are created on this condition, that we pay just and due obedience to God who created us, that we should know and follow Him alone. We are bound and tied to God by this chain of piety;324 from which religion itself received its name, not, as Cicero explained it, from carefully gathering,325 for in his second book respecting the nature of the gods he thus speaks: “For not only philosophers, but our ancestors also, separated superstition from religion. For they who spent whole days in prayers and sacrifices, that their children might survive326 them, were called superstitious. But they who handled again, and as it were carefully gathered all things which related to the worship of the gods, were called religious from carefully gathering,327 as some were called elegant from choosing out, and diligent from carefully selecting and intelligent from understanding. For in all these words there is the same meaning of gathering which there is in the word religious: thus it has come to pass, that in the names superstitious and religious, the one relates to a fault, the other belongs to praise.” How senseless this interpretation is, we may know from the matter itself. For if both religion and superstition are engaged in the worship of the same gods, there is little or rather no difference between them. For what cause will he allege why he should think that to pray once for the health of sons is the part of a religious man, but to do the same ten times is the part of a superstitious man? For if it is an excellent thing to pray once, how much more so to do it more frequently! If it is well to do it at the first hour, then it is well to do it throughout the day. If one victim renders the deity propitious, it is plain that many victims must render him more propitious, because multiplied services oblige328 rather than offend. For those servants do not appear to us hateful who are assiduous and constant in their attendance, but more beloved. Why, therefore, should he be in fault, and receive a name which implies censure,329 who either loves his children more, or sufficiently honours the gods; and he, on the contrary, be praised, who loves them less? And this argument has weight also from the contrary. For if it is wrong330 to pray and sacrifice during whole days, therefore it is wrong to do so once. If it is faulty frequently to wish for the preservation of our children, therefore he also is superstitious who conceives that wish even rarely. Or why should the name of a fault be derived from that, than which nothing can be wished more honourable, nothing more just? For as to his saying, that they who diligently take in hand again the things relating to the worship of the gods are called religious from their carefully gathering; how is it, then, that they who do this often in a day lose the name of religious men, when it is plain from their very assiduity that they more diligently gather those things by which the gods are worshipped?
What, then, is it? Truly religion is the cultivation of the truth, but superstition of that which is false. And it makes the entire difference what you worship, not how you worship, or what prayer you offer.331 But because the worshippers of the gods imagine themselves to be religious, though they are superstitious, they are neither able to distinguish religion from superstition, nor to express the meaning of the names. We have said that the name of religion is derived from the bond of piety,332 because God has tied man to Himself, and bound him by piety;333 for we must serve Him as a master, and be obedient to Him as a father. And therefore Lucretius334 better explained this name, who says that He loosens the knots of superstitions.335 But they are called superstitious, not who wish their children to survive them, for we all wish this; but either those who reverence the surviving memory of the dead, or those who, surviving their parents, reverenced their images at their houses as household gods. For those who assumed to themselves new rites, that they might honour the dead as gods, whom they supposed to be taken from men and received into heaven, they called superstitious. But those who worshipped the public and ancient gods336 they named religious. From which Virgil says:337 –
“Superstition vain, and ignorant of ancient gods.”
But since we find that the ancient gods also were consecrated in the same manner after their death, therefore they are superstitious who worship many and false gods. We, on the other hand, are religious, who make our supplications to the one true God.
Chap. XXIX. – Of the Christian Religion, and of the Union of Jesus with the Father.
Some one may perhaps ask how, when we say that we worship one God only, we nevertheless assert that there are two, God the Father and God the Son: which assertion has driven many into the greatest error. For when the things which we say seem to them probable, they consider that we fail in this one point alone, that we confess that there is another God, and that He is mortal. We have already spoken of His mortality: now let us teach concerning His unity. When we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate each: because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father, since the name of Father338 cannot be given without the Son, nor can the Son be begotten without the Father. Since, therefore, the Father makes the Son, and the Son the Father, they both have one mind, one spirit, one substance; but the former339 is as it were an overflowing fountain, the latter340 as a stream flowing forth from it: the former as the sun, the latter as it were a ray341 extended from the sun. And since He is both faithful to the Most High Father, and beloved by Him, He is not separated from Him; just as the stream is not separated from the fountain, nor the ray from the sun: for the water of the fountain is in the stream, and the light of the sun is in the ray: just as the voice cannot be separated from the mouth, nor the strength or hand from the body. When, therefore, He is also spoken of by the prophets as the hand, and strength, and word of God, there is plainly no separation; for the tongue, which is the minister of speech, and the hand, in which the strength is situated, are inseparable portions of the body.
We may use an example more closely connected with us. When any one has a son whom he especially loves, who is still in the house, and in the power342 of his father, although he concede to him the name and power of a master, yet by the civil law the house is one, and one person is called master. So this world343 is the one house of God; and the Son and the Father, who unanimously inhabit the world, are one God, for the one is as two, and the two are as one. Nor is that wonderful, since the Son is in the Father, for the Father loves the Son, and the Father is in the Son; for He faithfully obeys the will of the Father, nor does He ever do nor has done anything except what the Father either willed or commanded. Lastly, that the Father and the Son are but one God, Isaiah showed in that passage which we have brought forward before,344 when he said: (Isa_45:14) “They shall fall down unto Thee, and make supplication unto Thee, since God is in Thee, and there is no other God besides Thee.” And he also speaks to the same purport in another place: (Isa_44:6) “Thus saith God the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the everlasting God; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” When he had set forth two persons, one of God the King, that is, Christ, and the other of God the Father, who after His passion raised Him from the dead, as we have said345 that the prophet Hosea showed, (Hos_13:14) who said, “I will redeem Him from the power of the grave:” nevertheless, with reference to each person, he introduced the words, “and beside me there is no God,” when he might have said “beside us;” but it was not right that a separation of so close a relationship should be made by the use of the plural number. For there is one God alone, free, most high, without any origin; for He Himself is the origin of all things, and in Him at once both the Son and all things are contained. Wherefore, since the mind and will of the one is in the other, or rather, since there is one in both, both are justly called one God; for whatever is in the Father346 flows on to the Son, and whatever is in the Son descends from the Father. Therefore that highest and matchless God cannot be worshipped except through the Son. He who thinks that he worships the Father only, as he does not worship the Son, so he does not worship even the Father. But he who receives the Son, and bears His name, he truly together with the Son worships the Father also, since the Son is the ambassador, and messenger, and priest of the Most High Father. He is the door of the greatest temple, He the way of light, He the guide to salvation, He the gate of life.
242 [A very feeble exposition of Luk_19:42, Luk_19:44.]
243 Revelari, to be laid bare, uncovered, brought to light.
244 Abdicato et exhæredato. The two expressions are joined together, to give strength. “Abdicati” were sons deprived of a share in their father’s possessions during his life; “exhæredati,” disinherited, those who have forfeited the right of succession after thier father’s death.
245 Or rather “covenant,” διαθήκη, for this signification is much more in accordance with the general meaning of the passage.
246 Neglexi; Gr. ἡμέλησα.
247 Consummaturum, “would complete,” “make perfect,” as in the next clause.
248 See Heb_8:13, “In that He saith, a new covenant, He hath made the first old.”
249 St. John’s testimony is more distinct, Joh_1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”
250 Confirmabo te, “will strengthen Thee.”
251 In testamentum generis mei. The word here rendered “covenant,” is the same (testamentum) as that translated in other places “testament,” which does not supply the sense here required. The attempt to give the meaning “testament” in all places causes much confusion, as in this passage.
252 Magistri Dei.
253 i.e., the new doctrine which they announced.
254 In memoriam scripta. This is said to have been the title of a spurious book now lost.
255 Expugnaret. The word properly signifies to take by storm.
256 Ut naturæ immortali quidquam decederet.
258 Professi Dei. The expression denotes one who shows himself in his real character, without any veiling or concealment. These is another reading – “professi Deum.”
260 Ipse præceptis suis fidem detrahat.
262 Præsentibus factis.
263 [See Augustine, quoted in elucidation, vol. 6. p. 541.]
265 Abest ab iis fides.
267 [What neither Platonists nor Censors, in their judgments, could effect by their sophia, the crucified Jesus has done by His Gospel. The impotence of philosophers as compared with the Carpenter’s Son, to change the morals of nations, cannot be gainsaid. See Young’s Christ of History.]
268 Præsenti virtute.
270 Tabe corporis.
271 Thus our Lord tells us that flesh and blood cannot reveal to us mysteries.
273 Omnium excusationum vias. [Here is the defect of Cicero’s philosophy. See William Wilberforce, Practical Christianity, p. 25, ed. London, 1815.]
275 Thus St. Paul complains, Rom_7:15: “What I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I;” and ver. 21, “I find then a law, that when I would do good, eveil is present with me.” But (Rom_8:3) he says, “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, condemned sin in the flesh.”
276 Cum ratione.
277 This is urged as an excuse by him to whom the precept is addressed. In this and the following sentences there is a dialogue between the teacher and the taught.
278 Præcepta sua factis adimplendo.
279 Virtutem in se recipere.
280 Thus, Heb_8:2, Christ is spoken of as “a minister of the sanctuary, and the true tabernacle.”
281 Having a father and mother.
282 μεσίτης, a mediator, one who stands between two parties to bring them together. Thus 1Ti_2:5, “There is one God, and one mediator (μεσίτης) between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” In the Epistle to the Hebrews Christ is spoken of as the “mediator of the new covenant.” And Gal_3:20, “A mediator is not of one;” the very idea of a mediator implies that he stands between two parties as a reconciler.
283 Emereri, “to earn or obtain.” The word is specially applied to soldiers who have served their time, and are entitled to their discharge.
285 Omnibus numeris absoluta.
286 i.e., was shown by the event to be true, not doubtful or deceptive.
287 Inania, “empty.”
289 Hactenus operata est.
290 In eloquium solvit.
291 See Mat_9:33, “The dumb spake, and the multitudes marvelled;” Mar_7:37, “They were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.”
292 Inerat huic virtuti.
293 In usu suo non est.
294 Elephantiaci, those afflicted with “elephantiasis,” a kind of leprosy, covering the skin with incrustations resembling the hide of an elephant.
295 Resignasse, “to have unsealed or opened.”
296 Figuram gerebant.
297 [It is undoubtedly true that all our Lord’s miracles are also parables. Such also is the entire history of the Hebrews.]
298 Acerbitates et amaritudines.
299 The word “corona” denotes a crown, and also, as here, a “ring” of persons standing around. The play on the word cannot be kept up in English. [Thus “corona tibi et judices defuerunt.” Cicero, Nat. Deor., ii. 1. So Ignatius, στέφανον τοῦ πρεσβυτερίον = corona presbyterii, vol 1. p. 64, this series.]
301 The cross was the usual punishment of slaves.
303 A week and senseless reason. The true cause is given by St. Joh_19:36: “These things were done that the scripture should be fulfilled. A bone of Him shall not be broken.” [The previous question, however, remains: Why was the Paschal lamb to be of unbroken bones, and why the special providence that fulfilled the type? Doubtless He who raised up His body could have restored it, had the bones also been broken; but the preciousness of Christ’s body was thus indicated, as in the new tomb, because He had done no violence,” etc. – Isa_53:9.]
304 The sign of the cross used in baptism.
305 The account, Exo_12:1-51, makes no mention of colour. “Without spot” is equivalent to “without blemish.” [But the whiteness is implied. “Without spot” excludes “the ring-streaked and speckled,” and a black lamb a fortiori. – 1Pe_1:19. “Without spot” settles the case. Isa_1:18 proves that the normal wool is white.]
307 ἀπό τοῦ πάσχειν, “from suffering.” The word “pascha” is not derived from Greek, as Lactantius supposes, but from the Hebrew “pasach,” to pass over.
308 [See book vii., and the Epitome, cap. li., infra.]
309 Litant, a word peculiar to the soothsayers, used when the sacrifices are auspicious.
310 Virg., Georg., iii. 491.
311 Nostri, i.e., Christians.
312 Depingere; to make observations on the entrails of the victims, so as to foretell future events.
313 Prosecrârant. Others read “prosecârant,” a sacrificial word, properly denoting the setting apart some portion of the victim from offerings to the gods.
314 Præsentibus pœnis, “on the spot.”
315 i.e., the sign of the cross, with which the early Christians frequently marked themselves. [So long as Christians were mocked and despised as followers of a crucified one, there was a silent testimony and bold confession in this act which must be wholly separated from the mere superstition of degenerate Christians. It used to mean just what the Apostle says, Gal_6:14. In this sense it is retained among Anglicans.]
316 [See vol. 3. pp. 37, 179, 180, and 4. pp. 189-190.]
317 [The cessation of oracles is attested by Plutarch. See also Tertullian, vol. 3. p. 38, this series, and Minucius, vol. 4. p. 190. Demonology needs further exposition, for Scripture is express in its confirmation of patristic views of the subject.]
318 There is probably a reference to Iliad, i. 221, where Athène is represented as going to Olympus –
ἡ δ ̓ Οὔλυμπόνδε βεβήκει
δώματ ̓ ἐς αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς μετὰ δαίμονας ἄλλους.
319 Ut errores hominbus immittant.
320 Per diversa regionum. There is another reading, “perversâ religione” – by perverted religion.
321 The reference is to necromancy, or calling up the spirits of the dead by magic rites.
322 There is another reading: “qui de Deo patre omnia, et de filio locutus est multa;” but this is manifestly erroneous.
323 So our Lord, Joh_17:3; “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent.”
324 [“Hoc vinculo pietatis obstricti Deo et religati sumus.” He returns to this in the same chapter, infra.]
325 A religendo. There is little doubt that the true derivation of “religio” is from religere, not from religare. According to this, the primary meaning is, “the dwelling upon a subject, and continually recurring to it.”
326 Supersites, et superstitiosi.
327 [Here the famous passage should be given with accurate reference to its place, as much of its force vanishes in translation. Cicero’s etymology is thus given: “Qui autem omnia quæ ad cultum deorum pertinerent, diligentes retractarent et tamquam relegerent sunt dicti religosi, ex relegendo, ut elegantes ex eligendo, tamquam a diligendo diligentes, ex intelligendo intelligentes.” – De Nat. Deor., lib. ii. cap. 28.]
328 Demerentur, “they lay under an obligation.”
329 Criminis est.
331 [This seems very loose language when compared with Mat_6:9 and 1Co_11:1, 1Co_11:2. The whole epistle shows the how and the what to be important in worship, and that the Apostle had prescribed certain laws about these.]
332 [See note 325, supra.]
333 [Lactantius has generally been sustained by Christian criticism in the censures thus passed upon Cicero, and in making the word religio out of religare. His own words are desirable here, to be compared with those which he endeavours to refute (note 325, supra): “Diximus nomen religionis a vinculo pietatis esse deductum, quod hominem sibi Deus religarit,” etc.; i.e., it binds again what was loosed.]
334 Lucret., i. 931.
336 i.e., those worshipped in public temples, and with public sacrifices, as opposed to the household gods of a family, and ancient as opposed to those newly received as gods.
337 Virg., Ænid., viii. 187.
338 [i.e., the Everlasting Father implies the Everlasting Son.]
339 Ille, i.e., the Father.
340 Hic, i.e., the Son.
341 Thus, Heb_1:3, the Son is described as the effulgence of the Father’s glory: ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ.
342 In manu patris. Among the Romans the father had the power of death over his children.
343 [Mundus una Dei domus. World here = universe. See vol. 2. p. 136, note 39, this series.
344 Ch xiii.
345 Ch. xix.
346 Thus Christ Himself speaks, Joh_10:30, “I and my Father are one;” and Joh_3:35, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.”