Lactantius (Cont.)The Divine Institutes. (Cont.)Book 6. (Cont.)

The Divine Institutes. (Cont.)

Book VI. (Cont.)

Chap. XVIII. – Of Some Commands of God, and of Patience.

But let us leave the philosophers, who either know nothing at all, and hold forth this very ignorance as the greatest knowledge; or who, inasmuch as they think they know that of which they are ignorant, are absurdly and arrogantly foolish. Let us therefore (that we may return to our purpose), to whom alone the truth has been revealed by God, and wisdom has been sent from heaven, practise those things which God who enlightens us commands: let us sustain and endure the labours of life, by mutual assistance towards each other; nor, however, if we shall have done any good work, let us aim at glory from it. For God admonishes us that the doer of justice ought not to be boastful, lest he should appear to have discharged the duties of s benevolence, not so much from a desire of obeying the divine commands, as of pleasing men, and should already have the reward of glory which he has aimed at, and should not receive the recompense of that heavenly and divine reward. The other things which the worshipper of God ought to observe are easy, when these virtues are comprehended, that no one should ever speak falsely for the sake of deceiving or injuring. For it is unlawful for him who cultivates truth to be deceitful in anything, and to depart from the truth itself which he follows. In this path of justice and all the virtues there is no place for falsehood. Therefore the true and just traveller will not use the saying of Lucilius:119 – 

“It is not for me to speak falsely to a man who is a friend and acquaintance;”

but he will think that it is not his part to speak falsely even to an enemy and a stranger; nor will he at any time so act, that his tongue, which is the interpreter of his mind, should be at variance with his feeling and thought. If he shall have lent any money, he will not receive interest, that the benefit may be unimpaired which succours necessity, and that he may entirely abstain from the property of another. For in this kind of duty he ought to be content with that which is his own; since it is his duty in other respects not to be sparing of his property, in order that he may do good; but to receive more than he has given is unjust. And he who does this lies in wait in some manner, that he may gain booty from the necessity of another.

But the just man will omit no opportunity of doing anything mercifully: nor will he pollute himself with gain of this kind; but he will so act that without any loss to himself, that which he lends may be reckoned among his good works. He must not receive a gift from a poor man; so that if he himself has afforded anything, it may be good, inasmuch as it is gratuitous. If any one reviles, he must answer him with a blessing; (Mat_5:44; Luk_6:28; Rom_12:14) he himself must never revile, that no evil word may proceed out of the mouth of a man who reverences the good Word.120 Moreover, he must also diligently take care, lest by any fault of his he should at any time make an enemy; and if any one should be so shameless as to inflict injury on a good and just man, he must bear it with calmness and moderation, and not take upon himself his revenge, but reserve it for the judgment of God. (Rom_12:19; Heb_10:30) He must at all times and in all places guard innocence. And this precept is not limited to this, that he should not himself inflict injury, but that he should not avenge it when inflicted on himself. For there sits on the judgment-seat a very great and impartial Judge, the observer and witness of all. Let him prefer Him to man; let him rather choose that He should pronounce judgment respecting his cause, whose sentence no one can escape, either by the advocacy of any one or by favour. Thus it comes to pass, that a just man is an object of contempt to all; and because it will be thought that he is unable to defend himself, he will be regarded as slothful and inactive; but if any one shall have avenged himself upon his enemy, he is judged a man of spirit and activity – aIl honour and reverence him. And although the good man has it in his power to profit many, yet they look up to him who is able to injure, rather than to him who is able to profit. But the depravity of men will not be able to corrupt the just man, so that he will not endeavour to obey God; and he would prefer to be despised, provided that he may always discharge the duty of a good man, and never of a bad man. Cicero says in those same books respecting Offices: “But if any one should wish to unravel this indistinct conception of his soul,121 let him at once teach himself that he is a good man who profits those whom he can, and injures no one122 unless provoked by injury.”

Oh how he marred a simple and true sentiment by the addition of two words! For what need was there of adding these words, “unless provoked by injury?” that he might append vice as a most disgraceful tail to a good man, and might represent him as without patience, which is the greatest of all the virtues. He said that a good man would inflict injuries if he were provoked: now he must necessarily lose the name of a good man from this very circumstance, if he shall inflict injury. For it is not less the part of a bad man to return an injury than to inflict it. For from what source do contests, from what source do fightings and contentions, arise among men, except that impatience opposed to injustice often excites great tempests? But if you meet injustice with patience, than which virtue nothing can be found more true, nothing more worthy of a man, it will immediately be extinguished, as though you should pour water upon a fire. But if that injustice which provokes opposition has met with impatience equal123 to itself, as though overspread with oil, it will excite so great a conflagration, that no stream can extinguish it, but only the shedding of blood. Great, therefore, is the advantage of patience, of which the wise man has deprived the good man. For this alone causes that no evil happens; and if it should be given to all, there will be no wickedness and no fraud in the affairs of men. What, therefore, can be so calamitous to a good man, so opposed to his character, as to let loose the reins to anger, which deprives him not only of the title of a good man, but even of a man; since to injure another, as he himself most truly says, is not in accordance with the nature of man? For if you provoke cattle or horses,124 they turn against you either with their hoof or their horn; and serpents and wild beasts, unless you pursue them that you may kill them, give no trouble. And to return to examples of men, even the inexperienced and the foolish, if at any time they receive an injury, are led by a blind and irrational fury, and endeavour to retaliate upon those who injure them. In what respect, then, does the wise and good man differ from the evil and foolish, except that he has invincible patience, of which the foolish are destitute; except that he knows how to govern himself, and to mitigate his anger, which those, because they are without virtue, are unable to curb? But this circumstance manifestly deceived him, because, when inquiry is made respecting virtue, he thought that it is the part of virtue to conquer in every kind of contention. Nor was he able in any way to see, that a man who gives way to grief and anger, and who indulges these affections, against which he ought rather to struggle, and who rushes wherever injustice shall have called him, does not fulfil the duty of virtue. For he who endeavours to return an injury, desires to imitate that very person by whom he has been injured. Thus he who imitates a bad man can by no means be good.

Therefore by two words he has taken away from the good and wise man two of the greatest virtues, innocence and patience. But, as Sallustius relates was said by Appius, because he himself practised that canine125 eloquence, he wished man also to live after the manner of a dog, so as, when attacked, to bite in return. And to show how pernicious this repayment of insult is, and what carnage it is accustomed to produce, from what can a more befitting example be sought, than from the most melancholy disaster of the teacher himself, who, while he desired to obey these precepts of the philosophers, destroyed himself? For if, when attacked with injury, he had preserved patience – if he had learned that it is the part of a good man to dissemble and to endure insult, and his impatience, vanity, and madness had not poured forth those noble orations, inscribed with a name derived from another source,126 he would never, by his head affixed to them, have polluted the rostra on which he had formerly distinguished himself, nor would that proscription have utterly destroyed the state. Therefore it is not the part of a wise and good man to wish to contend, and to commit himself to danger, since to conquer is not in our power, and every contest is doubtful; but it is the part of a wise and excellent man not to wish to remove his adversary, which cannot be done without guilt and danger, but to put an end to the contest itself, which may be done with advantage and with justice. Therefore patience is to be regarded as a very great virtue; and that the just man might obtain this, God willed, as has been before said, that he should be despised as sluggish. For unless he shall have been insulted, it will not be known what fortitude he has in restraining himself. Now if, when provoked by injury, he has begun to follow up his assailant with violence, he is overcome. But if he shall have repressed that emotion by reasoning, he altogether has command over himself: he is able to rule himself. And this restraining127 of oneself is rightly named patience, which single virtue is opposed to all vices and affections. This recalls the disturbed and wavering mind to its tranquillity; this mitigates, this restores a man to himself. Therefore, since it is impossible and useless to resist nature, so that we are not excited at all; before, however, the emotion bursts forth to the infliction of injury, as far128 as is possible let it be calmed129 in time. God has enjoined us not to let the sun go down upon our wrath, (Eph_4:26) lest he should depart as a witness of our madness. Finally, Marcus Tullius, in opposition to his own precept, concerning which I have lately spoken, gave the greatest praises to the forgetting of injuries. “I entertain hopes,” he says, “O Cæsar, who art accustomed to forget nothing except injuries.”130 But if he thus acted – a man most widely removed not only from heavenly, but also from public and civil justice – how much more ought we to do this, who are, as it were, candidates for immortality?


Chap. XIX. – Of the Affections and Their Use; And of the Three Furies.

When the Stoics attempt to uproot the affections from man as diseases, they are opposed by the Peripatetics, who not only retain, but also defend them, and say that there is nothing in man which is not produced in him with great reason and foresight. They say this indeed rightly, if they know the true limits of each subject. Accordingly they say that this very affection of anger is the whetstone of virtue, as though no one could fight bravely against enemies unless he were excited by anger; by which they plainly show that they neither know what virtue is, nor why God gave anger to man. And if this was given to us for this purpose, that we may employ it for the slaying of men, what is to be thought more savage than man, what more resembling the wild beasts, than that animal which God formed for communion and innocence? There are, then, three affections which drive men headlong to all crimes: (1) anger, (2) desire, and (3) lust.131 On which account the poets have said that there are three furies which harass the minds of men: anger longs for revenge, desire for riches, lust for pleasures. But God has appointed fixed limits to all of these; and if they pass these limits and begin to be too great, they must necessarily pervert their nature, and be changed into diseases and vices. And it is a matter of no great labour to show what these limits are.132 Cupidity133 is given us for providing those things which are necessary for life; concupiscence,134 for the procreation of offspring; the affection of indignation,135 for restraining the faults of those who are in our power, that is, in order that tender age may be formed by a severer discipline to integrity and justice: for if this time of life is not restrained by fear,136 licence will produce boldness, and this will break out into every disgraceful and daring action. Therefore, as it is both just and necessary to employ anger towards the young, so it is both pernicious and impious to use it towards those of our own age. It is impious, because humanity is injured; pernicious, because if they oppose, it is necessary either to destroy them or to perish. But that this which I have spoken of is the reason why the affection of anger has been given to man, may be understood from the precepts of God Himself, who commands that we should not be angry with those who revile and injure us, but that we should always have our hands over the young; that is, that when they err, we should correct them with continual stripes,137 lest by useless love and excessive indulgence they should be trained to evil and nourished to vices. But those who are inexperienced in affairs and ignorant of reason, have expelled those affections which have been given to man for good uses, and they wander more widely than reason demands. From this cause they live unjustly and impiously. They employ anger against their equals in age: hence disagreements, hence banishments, hence wars have arisen contrary to justice. They use desire for the amassing of riches: hence frauds, hence robberies, hence all kinds of crimes have originated. They use lust only for the enjoyment of pleasures: hence debaucheries, hence adulteries, hence all corruptions have proceeded. Whoever, therefore, has reduced those affections within their proper limits, which they who are ignorant of God cannot do, he is patient, he is brave, he is just.138


Chap. XX. – Of the Senses, and Their Pleasures in the Brutes and in Man; And of Pleasures of the Eyes, and Spectacles.

It remains that I should speak against the pleasures of the five senses, and this briefly, for the measure of the book itself now demands moderation; all of which, since they are vicious and deadly, ought to be overcome and subdued by virtue, or, as I said a little before respecting the affections, be recalled to their proper office. The other animals have no pleasure, except the one only which relates to generation. Therefore they use their senses for the necessity of their nature: they see, in order that they may seek those things which are necessary for the preservation of life; they hear one another, and distinguish one another, that they may be able to assemble together; they either discover from the smell, or perceive from the taste, the things which are useful for food; they refuse and reject the things which are useless, they measure the business of eating and drinking by the fulness of their stomach. But the foresight of the most skilful Creator gave to man pleasure without limit, and liable to fall into vice, because He set before him virtue, which might always be at variance with pleasure, as with a domestic enemy. Cicero says, in the Cato Major:139 “In truth, debaucheries, and adulteries, and disgraceful actions are excited by no other enticements than those of pleasure. And since nature or some God has given to man nothing more excellent than the mind, nothing is so hostile to this divine benefit and gift as pleasure. For when lust bears sway there is no place for temperance, nor can virtue have any existence when pleasure reigns supreme.” But, on the other hand, God gave virtue on this account, that it might subdue and conquer pleasure, and that, when it passed the boundaries assigned to it, it might restrain it within the prescribed limits, lest it should soothe and captivate man with enjoyments, render him subject to its control, and punish him with everlasting death.

The pleasure arising from the eyes is various and manifold, which is derived from the sight of objects which are pleasant in intercourse with men, or in nature or workmanship. The philosophers rightly took this away. For they say that it is much more excellent and worthy of man to look upon the heaven140 rather than carved works, and to admire this most beautiful work adorned with the lights of the stars shining through,141 as with flowers, than to admire things painted and moulded, and varied with jewels. But when they have eloquently exhorted us to despise earthly things, and have urged us to look up to the heaven, nevertheless they do not despise these public spectacles. Therefore they are both delighted with these, and are gladly present at them; though, since they are the greatest incitement to vices, and have a most powerful tendency to corrupt our minds, they ought to be taken away from us; for they not only contribute in no respect to a happy life, but even inflict the greatest injury. For he who reckons it a pleasure, that a man, though justly condemned, should be slain in his sight, pollutes his conscience as much as if he should become a spectator and a sharer of a homicide which is secretly committed.142 And yet they call these sports in which human blood is shed. So far has the feeling of humanity departed from the men, that when they destroy the lives of men, they think that they are amusing themselves with sport, being more guilty than all those whose blood-shedding they esteem a pleasure.

I ask now whether they can be just and pious men, who, when they see men placed under the stroke of death, and entreating mercy, not only suffer them to be put to death, but also demand it, and give cruel and inhuman votes for their death, not being satiated with wounds nor contented with bloodshed. Moreover, they order them, even though wounded and prostrate, to be attacked again, and their caresses to he wasted143 with blows, that no one may delude them by a pretended death. They are even angry with the combatants, unless one of the two is quickly slain; and as though they thirsted for human blood, they hate delays. They demand that other and fresh combatants should be given to them, that they may satisfy their eyes as soon as possible. Being imbued with this practice, they have lost their humanity. Therefore they do not spare even the innocent, but practise upon all that which they have learned in the slaughter of the wicked. It is not therefore befitting that those who strive to keep to the path of justice should be companions and sharers in this public homicide. For when God forbids us to kill, He not only prohibits us from open violence,144 which is not even allowed by the public laws, but He warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men. Thus it will be neither lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself, nor to accuse any one of a capital charge, because it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or rather by the sword, since it is the act of putting to death itself145 which is prohibited. Therefore, with regard to this precept of God, there ought to be no exception at all; but that it is always unlawful to put to death a man, whom God willed to be a sacred animal.146

Therefore let no one imagine that even this is allowed, to strangle147 newly-born children, which is the greatest impiety; for God breathes into their souls for life, and not for death. But men, that there may be no crime with which they may not pollute their hands, deprive souls as yet innocent and simple of the light which they themselves have not given. Can any one, indeed, expect that they would abstain from the blood of others who do not abstain even from their own? But these are without any controversy wicked and unjust. What are they whom a false piety148 compels to expose their children? Can they be considered innocent who expose their own offspring149 as a prey to dogs, and as far as it depends upon themselves, kill them in a more cruel manner than if they had strangled them? Who can doubt that he is impious who gives occasion150 for the pity of others? For, although that which he has wished should befall the child – namely, that it should be brought up – he has certainly consigned his own offspring either to servitude or to the brothel? But who does not understand, who is ignorant what things may happen, or are accustomed to happen, in the case of each sex, even through error? For this is shown by the example of dipus alone, confused with twofold guilt. It is therefore as wicked to expose as it is to kill. But truly parricides complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children; as though, in truth, their means were in the power of those who possess them, or God did not daily make the rich poor, and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from marriage151 than with wicked hands to mar the work of God.

If, then, it is in no way permitted to commit homicide, it is not allowed us to be present at all,152 lest any bloodshed should overspread the conscience, since that blood is offered for the gratification of the people. And I am inclined to think that the corrupting influence of the stage is still more contaminating.153 For the subject of comedies are the dishonouring of virgins, or the loves of harlots; and the more eloquent they are who have composed the accounts of these disgraceful actions, the more do they persuade by the elegance of their sentiments; and harmonious and polished verses more readily remain fixed in the memory of the hearers. In like manner, the stories of the tragedians place before the eyes the parricides and incests of wicked kings, and represent tragic154 crimes. And what other effect do the immodest gestures of the players produce, but both teach and excite lusts? whose enervated bodies, rendered effeminate after the gait and dress of women, imitate155 unchaste women by their disgraceful gestures. Why should I speak of the actors of mimes,156 who hold forth instruction in corrupting influences, who teach adulteries while they feign them, and by pretended actions train to those which are true? What can young men or virgins do, when they see that these things are practised without shame, and willingly beheld by all? They are plainly admonished of what they can do, and are inflamed with lust, which is especially excited by seeing; and every one according to his sex forms157 himself in these representations. And they approve of these things, while they laugh at them, and with vices clinging to them, they return more corrupted to their apartments; and not boys only, who ought not to be inured to vices prematurely, but also old men, whom it does not become at their age to sin.

What else does the practice of the Circensian games contain but levity, vanity, and madness? For their souls are hurried away to mad excitement with as great impetuosity as that with which the chariot races are there carried on; so that they who come for the sake of beholding the spectacle now themselves exhibit more of a spectacle, when they begin to utter exclamations, to be thrown into transports, and to leap from their seats. Therefore all spectacles ought to be avoided, not only that no vice may settle in our breasts, which ought to be tranquil and peaceful; but that the habitual indulgence of any pleasure may not soothe and captivate us, and turn us aside from God and from good works.158 For the celebrations of the games are festivals in honour of the gods, inasmuch as they were instituted on account of their birthdays, or the dedication of new temples. And at first the huntings, which are called shows, were in honour of Saturnus, and the scenic games in honour of Liber, but the Circensian in honour of Neptune. By degrees, however, the same honour began to be paid also to the other gods, and separate games were dedicated to their names, as Sisinnius Capita teaches in his book on the games. Therefore, if any one is present at the spectacles to which men assemble for the sake of religion, he has departed from the worship of God, and has betaken himself to those deities whose birthdays and festivals he has celebrated.160


Chap. XXI. – Of the Pleasures of the Ears, and of Sacred Literature.

Pleasure of the ears is received from the sweetness of voices and strains, which indeed is as productive of vice as that delight of the eyes of which we have spoken. For who would not deem him luxurious and worthless who should have scenic arts at his house? But it makes no difference whether you practise luxury alone at home, or with the people in the theatre. But we have already spoken of spectacles:161 there remains one thing which is to be overcome by us, that we be not captivated by those things which penetrate to the innermost perception. For all those things which are unconnected with words, that is, pleasant sounds of the air and of strings, may be easily disregarded, because they do not adhere to its, and cannot be written. But a well-composed poem, and a speech beguiling with its sweetness, captivate the minds of men, and impel them in what direction they please. Hence, when learned men have applied themselves to the religion of God, unless they have been instructed162 by some skilful teacher, they do not believe. For, being accustomed to sweet and polished speeches or poems, they despise the simple and common language of the sacred writings as mean. For they seek that which may soothe the senses. But whatever is pleasant to the ear effects persuasion, and while it delights fixes itself deeply within the breast. Is God, therefore, the contriver both of the mind, and of the voice, and of the tongue, unable to speak eloquently? Yea, rather, with the greatest foresight, He wished those things which are divine to be without adornment, that all might understand the things which He Himself spoke to all.

Therefore he who is anxious for the truth, who does not wish to deceive himself, must lay aside hurtful and injurious pleasures, which would bind the mind to themselves, as pleasant food does the body: true things must be preferred to false, eternal things to those which are of short duration, useful things to those which are pleasant. Let nothing be pleasing to the sight but that which you see to be done with piety and justice; let nothing be agreeable to the hearing but that which nourishes the soul and makes you a better man. And especially this sense ought not to be distorted to vice, since it is given to us for this purpose, that we might gain the knowledge of God. Therefore, if it be a pleasure to hear melodies and songs, let it be pleasant to sing and hear the praises of God. This is true pleasure, which is the attendant and companion of virtue. This is not frail and brief, as those which they desire, who, like cattle, are slaves to the body; but lasting, and affording delight without any intermission. And if any one shall pass its limits, and shall seek nothing else from pleasure but pleasure itself, he designs for himself death; for as there is perpetual life in virtue, so there is death in pleasure. For he who shall choose temporal things will be without things eternal; he who shall prefer earthly things will not have heavenly things.


Chap. XXII. – Of the Pleasures of Taste and Smell.

But with regard to the pleasures of taste and smell, which two senses relate only to the body, there is nothing to be discussed by us; unless by chance any one requires us to say that it is disgraceful to a wise and good man if he is the slave of his appetite, if he walks along besmeared with unguents and crowned with flowers: and he who does these things is plainly foolish and senseless, and is worthless, and one whom not even a notion of virtue has reached. Perhaps some one will say, Why, then, have these things been made, except that we may enjoy them? However, it has often been said that there would have been no virtue unless it had things which it might overpower. Therefore God made all things to supply a contest between two things. Those enticements of pleasures, then, are the instruments of that whose only business it is to subdue virtue, and to shut out justice from men. With these soothing influences and enjoyments it captivates their souls; for it knows that pleasure is the contriver of death. For as God calls man to life only through virtue and labour, so the other calls us to death by delights and pleasures; and as men arrive at real good through deceitful evils, so they arrive at real evil through deceitful goods. Therefore those enjoyments are to be guarded against, as snares or nets, lest, captivated by the softness of enjoyments, we should be brought under the dominion of death with the body itself, to which we have enslaved ourselves.


Chap. XXIII.163 – De Tactus Voluptate et Libidine, Atque de Matrimonio et Continentiâ.

Venio nunc ad eam, quæ percipitur ex tactu, voluptatem: qui sensus est quidem totius corporis. Sed ego non de ornamentis, aut vestibus, sed de solâ libidine dicendum mihi puto; quæ maximè coercenda est, quia maximè nocet. Cum excogitasset Deus duorum sexuum rationem, attribuit iis, ut se invicem appeterent, et conjunctione gauderent. Itaque ardentissimam cupiditatem cunctorum animantium corporibus admiscuit, ut in hos affectus avidissimè ruerent, eâque ratione propagari et multiplicari genera possent. Quæ cupiditas et appetentia in homine vehementior et acrior invenitur; vel quia hominum multitudinem voluit esse majorem, vel quoniam virtutem soli homini dedit, ut esset laus et gloria in coercendis voluptatibus, et abstinentiâ sui. Scit ergò adversarius ille noster, quanta sit vis hujus cupiditatis, quam quidam necessitatem dicere maluerunt; eamque a recto et bono, ad malum et pravum transfert. Illicita enim desideria immittit, ut aliena contaminent, quibus habere propria sine delicto licet. Objicit quippe oculis irritabiles formas, suggeritque fomenta, et vitiis pabulum subministrat: tum intimis visceribus stimulos omnes conturbat et commovet, et naturalem illum incitat atque inflammat ardorem, donec irretitum hominem implicatumque decipiat. Ac ne quis esset, qui pœnarum metu abstineret alieno, lupanaria quoque constituit; et pudorem infelicium mulierum publicavit, ut ludibrio haberet tam eos qui faciunt, quàm quas pati necesse est.

His obscœnitatibus animas, ad sanctitatem genitas, velut in cœni gurgite demersit, pudorem extinxit, pudicitiam profligavit. Idem etiam mares maribus admiscuit; et nefandos coitus contra naturam contraque institutum Dei machinatus est: sic imbuit homines, et armavit ad nefas omne. Quid enim potest esse sanctum iis, qui ætatem imbecillam et præsidio indigentem, libidini suæ depopulandam fœdandamque substraverint? Non potest hæc res pro magnitudine sceleris enarrari. Nihil amplius istos appellare possum, quàm impios et parricidas, quibus non sufficit sexus a Deo datus, nisi eliare suum profanè ac petulanter illudant. Hæc tamen apud illos levia, et quasi honesta sunt. Quid dicam de iis, qui abominandam non libidinem, sed insaniam potius exercent! Piget dicere: sed quid his fore credamus, quos non piget facere? et tamen dicendum est, quia fit. De istis loquor, quorum teterrima libido et execrabilis furor ne capiti quidem parcit. Quibus hoc verbis, aut quâ indignatione tantum nefas prosequar? Vincit officium linguæ sceleris magnitudo. Cum igitur libido hæc edat opera, et hæc facinora designet, armandi adversus eam virtute maximâ sumus. Quisquis affectus illos frænare non potest, cohibeat eos intra præscriptum legitimi tori, ut et illud, quod avidè expetat, consequatur, et tamen in peccatum non incidat. Nam quid sibi homines perditi volunt? Nempe honesta opera voluptas sequitur: si ipsam per se appetunt, justâ et legitimâ frui licet.

Quod si aliqua necessitas prohibebit tum verò maxima adhibenda virtus erit, ut cupiditati continentia reluctetur. Nec tantum alienis, quæ attingere non licet, verùm etiam publicis vulgatisque corporibus abstinendum, Deus præcepit; docetque nos, cùm duo inter se corpora fuerint copulata, unum corpus efficere. Ita qui se cœno immerserit, cœno sit oblitus necesse est; et corpus quidem citò ablui potest: mens autem contagione impudici corporis inquinata non potest, nisi et longo tempore, et multis bonis operibus, ab eâ quæ inhæserit colluvione purgari. Oportet ergo sibi quemque proponere, duorum sexuum conjunctionem generandi causâ datam esse viventibus, eamque legem his affectibus positam, ut successionera parent. Sicut autem dedit nobis oculos Deus, non ut spectemus, voluptatemque capiamus, sed ut videamus propter eos actus, qui pertinent ad vitæ necessitatem, ita genitalem corporis partem, quod nomen ipsum docet, nullâ aliâ causâ nisi efficiendæ sobolis accepimus. Huic divinæ legi summâ devotione parendum est. Sint omnes, qui se discipulos Dei profitebuntur, ita morati et instituti, ut imperare sibi possint. Nam qui voluptatibus indulgent, qui libidini obsequuntur, ii animam suam corpori mancipant, ad mortemque condemnant: quia se corpori addixerunt, in quod habet mors potestatem. Unusquisque igitur, quantum potest, formet se ad verecundiam, pudorem colat, castitatem conscientiâ et mente tueatur; nec tantum legibus publicis pareat: sed sit supra omnes leges, qui legem Dei sequitur. Quibus bonis si assueverit, jam pudebit eum ad deteriora desciscere: modò placeant recta et honesta, quæ melioribus jucundiora sunt quàm prava et inhonesta pejoribus.

Nondum omnia castitatis officia exsecutus sum: quam Deus non modo intra privatos parietes, sed etiam præscripto lectuli terminat; ut cùm quis habeat uxorem, neque servam, neque liberam habere insuper velit, sed matrimonio fidem server. Non enim, sicut juris publici ratio est, solo mulier adultera est, quæ habet alium, maritus autem, etiam si plures habeat, a crimine adulterii solutus est. Sed divina lex ita duos in matrimonium, quod est in corpus unum, pari jure conjungit, ut adulter habeatur, quisquis compagem corporis in diversa distraxerit. Nec ob aliam cansam Deus, cùm cæteras animantes suscepto fœtu maribus repugnare voluisset, solam omnium mulierem patientem viri fecit; scilicet ne fœminis repugnantibus, libido cogeret viros aliud appetere, eoque facto, castitatis gloriam non tenerent.164 Sed neque mulier virtutem pudicitiæ caperet, si peccare non posset. Nam quis mutum animal pudicum esse dixerit, quòd suscepto fœtu mari repugnat? Quod ideo facit, quia necesse est in dolorem atque in periculum veniat, si admiserit. Nulla igitur laus est, non facere quod facere non possis. Ideo autem pudicitia in homine laudatur, quia non naturalis est, sed voluntaria. Servanda igitur fides ab utroque alteri est: immo exemplo continentiæ: docenda uxor, ut se caste gerat. Iniquum est enim, ut id exigas, quod præstare ipse non possis. Quæ iniquitas effecit profectò, ut essent adulteria, fœminis ægre ferentibus præstare se fidem non exhibentibus mutuam charitatem. Denique nulla est tam perditi pudoris adultera, quæ non hanc causam vitiis suis prætendat; injuriam se peccando non facere, sed referre. Quod optimè Quintilianus expressit: Homo, inquit, neque alieni matrimonii abstinens, neque sui custos, quæ inter se naturâ connexa sunt. Nam neque maritus circa corrumpendas aliorum conjuges occupatus potest vacare domesticæ sanctitati; et uxor, cùm in tale incidit matrimonium, exemplo ipso concitata, out imitari se putat, out vindicari.

Cavendum igitur, ne occasionem vitiis nostrâ intemperantiâ demus: sed assuescant invicem mores duorum, et jugum paribus animis ferant. Nos ipsos in altero cogitemus. Nam fere in hoc justitiæ summa consistit, ut non facias alteri, quidquid ipse ab altero pati nolis. Hæc sunt quæ ad continentiam præcipiuntur a Deo. Sed tamen ne quis divina præcepta circumscribere se putet posse, adduntur illa, ut omnis calumnia, et occasio fraudis removeatur, adulterum esse, qui a marito dimissam duxerit, et eum qui præter crimen adulterii uxorem dimiserit, ut alteram ducat; dissociari enim corpus et distrahi Deus noluit. Præterea non tantum adulterium esse vitandum, sed etiam cogitationem; ne quis aspiciat alienam, et animo concupiscat: adulteram enim fieri mentem, si vel imaginem voluptatis sibi ipsa depinxerit. Mens est enim profecto quæ peccat; quæ immoderatæ libidinis fructum cogitatione complectitur; in hâc crimen est, in hâc omne delictum. Nam etsi corpus nullâ sit labe maculatum, non constat tamen pudicitiæ ratio, si animus incestus est; nec illibata castitas videri potest, ubi conscientiam cupiditas inquinavit. Nec verò aliquis existimet, difficile esse frænos imponere voluptati, eamque vagam et errantem castitatis pudicitiæque limitibus includere, cùm propositum sit hominibus etiam vincere, ac plurimi beatam atque incorruptam corporis integritatem retinuerint, multique sint, qui hoc cœlesti genere vitæ felicissimè perfruantur. Quod quidem Deus non ita fieri præcepit, tanquam astringat, quia generari homines oportet; sed tanquam sinat. Scit enim, quantam his affectibus imposuerit necessitatem. Si quis hoc, inquit, facere potuerit, habebit eximiam incomparabilemque mercedem. Quod continentiæ genus quasi fastigium est, omniumque consummatio virtutum. Ad quam si quis eniti atque eluctari potuerit, hunc servum dominus, hunc discipulum magister agnoscet; hic terrain triumphabit, hic erit consimilis Deo, qui virtutem Dei cepit. Hæc quidem difficilia videntur; sed de eo loquimur, cui calcatis omnibus terrenis, iter in cœlum paratur. Nam quia virtus in Dei agnitione consistit, omnia gravia sunt, dum ignores; ubi cognoveris, facilia: per ipsas difficultates nobis exeundum est, qui ad summum bonum tendimus.


Chap. XXIV. – Of Repentance, of Pardon, and the Commands of God.

Nor, however, let any one be disheartened, or despair concerning himself, if, overcome by passion, or impelled by desire, or deceived by error, or compelled by force, he has turned aside to the way of unrighteousness. For it is possible for him to be brought back, and to be set free, if he repents of his actions, and, turning to better things, makes satisfaction to God. Cicero, indeed. thought that this was impossible, whose words in the third book of the Academics165 are: “But if, as in the case of those who have gone astray on a journey, it were permitted those who have followed a devious course to correct their error by repentance, it would be more easy to amend rashness.” It is altogether permitted them. For if we think that our children are corrected when we perceive that they repent of their faults, and though we have disinherited and cast them off, we again receive, cherish, and embrace them, why should we despair that the mercy of God our Father may again be appeased by repentance? Therefore He who is at once the Lord and most indulgent Parent promises that He will remit the sins of the penitent, and that He will blot out all the iniquities of him who shall begin afresh to practise righteousness. For as the uprightness of his past life is of no avail to him who lives badly, because the subsequent wickedness has destroyed his works of righteousness, so former sins do not stand in the way of him who has amended his life, because the subsequent righteousness has effaced the stain of his former life. For he who repents of that which he has done, understands his former error; and on this account the Greeks better and more significantly speak of metanoia,166 which we may speak of in Latin as a return to a right understanding.167 For he returns to a right understanding, and recovers his mind as it were from madness, who is grieved for his error; and he reproves himself of madness, and confirms his mind to a better course of life: then he especially guards against this very thing, that he may not again be led into the same snares. In short, even the dumb animals, when they are ensnared by fraud, if by any means they have extricated themselves so as to escape, become more cautious for the future, and always avoid all those things in which they have perceived wiles and snares. Thus repentance makes a man cautious and diligent to avoid the faults into which he has once fallen through deceit.

For no one can be so prudent and so circumspect as not at some time to slip; and therefore God, knowing our weakness, of His compassion168 has opened a harbour of refuge for man, that the medicine of repentance might aid this necessity to which our frailty is liable.169 Therefore, if any one has erred, let him retrace his step, and as soon as possible recover and reform himself.

“But upward to retrace the way,

 And pass into the light of day,

 Then comes the stress of labour.”170

For when men have tasted sweet pleasures to their destruction,171 they can scarcely be separated from them: they would more easily follow right things if they had not tasted their attractions. But if they tear themselves away from this pernicious slavery, all their error will be forgiven them, if they shall have corrected their error by a better life. And let not any one imagine that he is a gainer if he shall have no witness of his fault: for all things are known to Him in whose sight we live; and if we are able to conceal anything from all men, we cannot conceal it from God, to whom nothing can be hidden, nothing secret. Seneca closed his exhortations with an admirable sentiment: “There is,” he says,” some great deity, and greater than can be imagined; and for him we endeavour to live. Let us approve ourselves to him. For it is of no avail that conscience is confirmed; we lie open to the sight of God.” What can be spoken with greater truth by him who knew God, than has been said by a man who is ignorant of true religion? For he both expressed the majesty of God, by saying that it is too great for the reflecting powers of the human mind to receive; and he touched upon the very fountain of truth, by perceiving that the life of men is not superfluous,172 as the Epicureans will have it, but that they make it their endeavour to live to God, if indeed they live with justice and piety. He might have been a true worshipper of God, if any one had pointed out to him God;173 and he might assuredly have despised Zeno, and his teacher Sotion, if he had obtained a true guide of wisdom. Let us approve ourselves to him, he says. A speech truly heavenly, had it not been preceded by a confession of ignorance. It is of no avail that conscience is confined; we lie open to the sight of God. There is then no room for falsehood, none for dissimulation; for the eyes of men are removed by walls, but the divine power of God cannot be removed by the inward parts from looking through and knowing the entire man. The same writer says, in the first book of the same work: “What are you doing? what are you contriving? what are you hiding? Your guardian follows you; one is withdrawn from you by foreign travel, another by death, another by infirm health; this one adheres to you, and you can never be without him. Why do you choose a secret place, and remove the witness? Suppose that you have succeeded in escaping the notice of all, foolish man! What does it profit you not to have a witness,174 if you have the witness of your own conscience?

And Tully speaks in a manner no less remarkable concerning conscience and God: “Let him remember,” he says, “that he has God as a witness, that is, as I judge, his own mind, than which God has given nothing more divine to man.”175 Likewise, in speaking of the just and good man, he says: “Therefore such a man will not dare, not merely to do, but even to think, anything which he would not dare to proclaim.” Therefore let us cleanse our conscience, which is open to the eyes of God; and, as the same writer says, “let us always so live as to remember that we shall have to give an account;”176 and let us reckon that we are looked upon at every moment, not, as he said, in some theatre of the world by men, but from above by Him who is about to be both the judge and also the witness, to whom, when He demands an account of our life, it will not be permitted any one to deny his actions. Therefore it is better either to flee from conscience, or ourselves to open our mind of our own accord, and tearing open our wounds to pour forth destruction; which wounds no one else can heal but He alone who made the lame to walk, restored sight to the blind, cleansed the polluted limbs, and raised the dead. He will quench the ardour of desires, He will root out lusts, He will remove envy, He will mitigate anger. He will give true and lasting health. This remedy should be sought by all, inasmuch as the soul is harassed by greater danger than the body, and a cure should be applied as soon as possible to secret diseases. For if any one has his eyesight clear, all his limbs perfect, and his entire body in the most vigorous health, nevertheless I should not call him sound if he is carried away by anger, swollen and puffed up with pride, the slave of lust, and burning with desires; but I should rather call him sound who does not raise his eyes to the prosperity of another, who does not admire riches, who looks upon another’s wife with chaste eye, who covets nothing at all, does not desire that which is another’s, envies no one, disdains no one; who is lowly, merciful, bountiful, mild, courteous: peace perpetually dwells in his mind.

That man is sound, he is just, he is perfect. Whoever, therefore, has obeyed all these heavenly precepts, he is a worshipper of the true God, whose sacrifices are gentleness of spirit, and an innocent life, and good actions. And he who exhibits all these qualities offers a sacrifice as often as he performs any good and pious action. For God does not desire the sacrifice of a dumb animal, nor of death and blood, but of man and life. And to this sacrifice there is neither need of sacred boughs, nor of purifications,177 nor of sods of turf, which things are plainly most vain, but of those things which are put forth from the innermost breast. Therefore, upon the altar of God, which is truly very great,178 and which is placed in the heart of man, and cannot be defiled with blood, there is placed righteousness, patience, faith, innocence, chastity, and abstinence. This is the truest ceremony, this is that law of God, as it is called by Cicero, illustrious and divine, which always commands things which are right and honourable, and forbids things which are wrong and disgraceful; and he who obeys this most holy and certain law cannot fail to live justly and lawfully. And I have laid down a few chief points of this law, since I promised that I would speak only of those things which completed the character179 of virtue and righteousness. If any one shall wish to comprise all the other parts, let him seek them from the fountain itself, from which that stream flowed to us.


Chap. XXV. – Of Sacrifice, and of an Offering Worthy of God, and of the Form of Praising God.

Now let us speak briefly concerning sacrifice itself. “Ivory,” says Plato, “is not a pure offering to God.” What then? Are embroidered and costly textures? Nay, rather nothing is a pure offering to God which can be corrupted or taken away secretly. But as he saw this, that nothing which was taken from a dead body ought to be offered to a living being, why did he not see that a corporeal offering ought not to be presented to an incorporeal being? How much better and more truly does Seneca speak: “Will you think of God as great and placid, and a friend to be reverenced with gentle majesty, and always at hand? not to be worshipped with the immolation of victims and with much blood – for what pleasure arises from the slaughter of innocent animals? – but with a pure mind and with a good and honourable purpose. Temples are not to be built to Him with stones piled up on high; He is to be consecrated by each man in his own breast.” Therefore, if any one thinks that garments, and jewels, and other things which are esteemed precious, are valued by God, he is altogether ignorant of what God is, since he thinks that those things are pleasing to Him which even a man would be justly praised for despising. What, then, is pure, what is worthy of God, but that which He Himself has demanded in that divine law of His?

There are two things which ought to be offered, the gift180 and the sacrifice; the gift as a perpetual offering, the sacrifice for a time. But with those who by no means understand the nature of the Divine Being, a gift is anything which is wrought of gold or silver; likewise anything which is woven of purple and silk: a sacrifice is a victim, and as many things as are burnt upon the altar. But God does not make use either of the one or the other, because He is free from corruption, and that is altogether corruptible. Therefore, in each case, that which is incorporeal must be offered to God, for He accepts this. His offering is innocency of soul; His sacrifice praise and a hymn.181 For if God is not seen, He ought therefore to be worshipped with things which are not seen. Therefore no other religion is true but that which consists of virtue and justice. But in what manner God deals with the justice of man is easily understood. For if man shall be just, having received immortality, he will serve God for ever. But that men are not born except for justice, both the ancient philosophers and even Cicero suspects. For, discussing the Laws,182 he says: “But of all things which are discussed by learned men, nothing assuredly is of greater importance than that it should be entirely understood that we are born to justice.” We ought therefore to hold forth and offer to God that alone for the receiving of which He Himself produced us. But how true this twofold kind of sacrifice is, Trismegistus Hermes is a befitting witness, who agrees with us, that is, with the prophets, whom we follow, as much in fact as in words. He thus spoke concerning justice: “Adore and worship this word, O son.” But the worship of God consists of one thing, not to be wicked. Also in that perfect discourse, when he heard Asclepius inquiring from his son whether it pleased him that incense and other odours for divine sacrifice were offered to his father, exclaimed: “Speak words of good omen, O Asclepius. For it is the greatest impiety to entertain any such thought concerning that being of pre-eminent goodness. For these things, and things resembling these, are not adapted to Him. For He is full of all things, as many as exist, and He has need of nothing at all. But let us give Him thanks, and adore Him. For His sacrifice consists only of blessing.” And he spoke rightly. (Psa_50:23)

For we ought to sacrifice to God in word; inasmuch as God is the Word, as He Himself confessed. Therefore the chief ceremonial in the worship of God is praise from the mouth of a just man directed towards God. (Psa_50:23) That this, however, may be accepted by God, there is need of humility, and fear, and devotion in the greatest degree, lest any one should chance to place confidence in his integrity and innocence, and thus incur the charge of pride and arrogance, and by this deed lose the recompense of his virtue. But that he may obtain the favour of God, and be free from every stain, let him always implore the mercy of God, and pray for nothing else but pardon for his sins, even though he has none.183 If he desires anything else, there is no need of expressing it in word to one who knows what we wish; if anything good shall happen to him, let him give thanks; if any evil, let him make amends,184 and let him confess that the evil has happened to him on account of his faults; and even in evils let him nothing less give thanks, and make amends in good things, that he may be the same at all times, and be firm, and unchangeable, and unshaken. And let him not suppose that this is to be done by him only in the temple, but at home, and even in his very bed. In short, let him always have God with himself, consecrated in his heart, inasmuch as he himself is a temple of God. But if he has served God, his Father and Lord, with this assiduity, obedience, and devotion, justice is complete and perfect; and he who shall keep this, as we before testified, has obeyed God, and has satisfied the obligations of religion and his own duty.







119 [Homini amico ac familiari non est mentiri meum.]

120 i.e., Jesus Christ the Son of God = the Word of God.

121 Animi sui complicitam notionem evolvere.

122 [Nisi lacessitus injuria.]

123 Comparem. Injustice and impatience are here represented as a pair of gladiators well matched against each other.

124 Pecudes, including horses and cattle.

125 Caninam, i.e., resembling a dog, cutting.

126 The allusion is to the Philippics of Cicero, a title borrowed from Demosthenes.

127 Sustentatio sui.

128 Quoad fieri potest. Others read, “quod fieri postest.”

129 Maturius sopiatur.

130 Cicero, Pro Ligar., 12.

131 [Rather, indignation, cupidity, and concupiscence, answering to our author’s “ira, cupiditas, libido.” The difference involved in this choice of words, I shall have occasion to point out.]

132 [Here he treats the “three furies” as not in themselves vices, but implanted for good purposes, and becoming “diseases” only when they pass the limits he now defines. Hence, while indignation is virtuous anger, it is not a disease; cupidity, while amounting to honest thrift, is not evil; and concupisence, until it becomes “evil concupisence” (επιθυμίαν κακὴν, Col_3:5), is but natural appetite, working to good ends.]

133 Desire. [See note 132, supra.]

134 Lust.

135 Anger.

136 [Quæ, nisi in metu cohibetur.]

137 [Assiduis verberibus. This might be rendered “careful punishments.”]

138 [Quod ignorantes Deum facere non possunt. In a later age Lactantius might have been charged with Semi-Pelagianism, many of his expressions about human nature being unstudied. But I note this passage, as, like many others, proving that he recognises the need of divine grace.]

139 C. 12.

140 Cœlum potius quâm cœlata. There appears to be a allusion tothe supposed derivation of “cœlum” from “cœlando.”

141 [Intermicantibus astrorum luninibus. It does not seem to me that the learned translator does full justice here to our author’s idea. “Adorned with the twinkling lights of the stars” would be an admissible rendering.]

142 [It is unbecoming for a Christian, unless as an officer of the law or a minister of mercy, to be a spectator of any execution of criminals. Blessed growth of Christian morals.]

143 Dissipari. [A very graphic description of the brutal shows of the arena, which were abolished by the first Christian emperor, perhaps influenced by these very pages.]

144 Lactrocinari.

145 i.e., without reference to the manner in which death is inflicted. [Lactantius goes further here than the Scriptures seem to warrant, if more than private warfare be in his mind. The influence of Tertullian is visible here. See Elucidation II. p. 76, and cap. xi. p. 99, vol. 3., this series.]

146 [Sanctum animal. See. p. 56, end of chap. ix., supra. But the primal law on this very subject contains a sanction which our author seems to forget. Because he is an animal of such sacred dignity, therefore “whoso sheddeth man’s blood,” etc. (Gen_9:6). The impunity of Cain had led to bloodshed (Gen_6:11), to which as a necessary remedy this sanction was prescribed.]

147 Oblidere.

148 They thought it less criminal to expose children than to strangle them.

149 Sanguinem suum.

150 i.e., by exposing them, that others may through compassion bring them up.

151 Ab uxoris congressione.

152 i.e., at the shows of gladiators.

153 [How seriously this warning should be considered in our days, when American theatricals have become so generally licentious beyond all bounds, I beg permission to suggest. See Elucidation I. p. 595. vol. 5.; also Ibid., pp. 277, sec. 8, 575, this series.]

154 Cothurnata scelera.

155 Mentiuntur.

156 The mimus was a species of dramatic representation, containing scenes from common life, which were expressed by gesture and mimicry more than by dialogue.

157 Præfigurat, not a word of classical usage.

158 [See Tertullian, vol. 3. cap. 25, p. 89, this series.]

160 [See p. 27, supra; also vol. 6. pp. 487, 488, secc. 33-37.]

161 [See p. 187, supra.]

162 Fundati, having the foundation well laid, trained. Some read, “Ab aliquo imperito doctore fundati.”163 It has been judged advisable to give this chapter in the original Latin. [Compare Clement, vol. 2. p. 259, notes 107, 109, this series.]

164 [Non bene conveniunt igitur legibus divinis quæ supradicta sunt auctore nostro (vide p. 143, apud n. 66) sed hæc verba de naturâ muliebri minime imperita, esse videntur.]

165 [From a lost book.]

166 μετάνοια. The word properly denotes a change of mind, resulting in a change of conduct.

167 Resipiscentiam. [Note the admitted superiority of the Greek.]

168 Pro pietate suâ. Augustine (De Civitate Dei, x. 1) explains the use of this expression as applied to God.

169 [Concerning the “planks after shipwreck,” see Tertullian, pp. 659 and 666, vol. 3., this series.]

170 Virg., Æneid, vi. 128.

171 Male.

172 Supervacuam, i.e., useless, without object. P. 171, [n. 59.]

173 [May I be pardoned for asking my reader to refer to The Task of the poet Cowper (book ii.): “All truth is from the sempiternal source,” etc. The concluding lines illustrate the kindly judgment of our author: – 

“How oft, when Paul has served us with a text,

 Has Epictetus, Plato, Tully, preached!

 Men that, if now alive, would sit content

 And humble learners of a Saviour’s worth,

 Preach it who might. Such was their love of truth,

 Their thirst of knowledge, and their candour too.”

But turn to our author’s last sentence in cap. 17, p. 183, supra.]

174 Conscium.

175 De Offic., iii, 10.

176 De Offic., iii, 19.

177 Februis, a word used in the Sabine language for purgations. Others read “fibris,” entrails, offered in sacrifice.

178 There is an allusion to the altar of Hercules, called “ara maxima.” [Christian philosophy is heard at last among the Latins.]

179 Quæ summum fastigium imponerent. The phrase properly means to complete a building by raising the pediment or gable. Hence its figurative use. [See cap. 2, p. 164.]

180 Donum, a free-will offering or gift. See Exo_25:2.

181 [i.e., “the Eucharist,” as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. And mark what follows, (Psa_50:23), infra.]

182 [Nos ad justitiam esse natos.]

183 i.e., no know sins. Thus the Psalmist prays: “Cleanse thou me from my secret faults.” [So St. Paul, 1Co_4:4, where the archaic “by” = adversus.]

184 Satifaciat, “let him make satisfaction by fruitsworthy of repentance.”