Book IV. (C0nt.)
For, in the first place, he is of opinion that “thunders, and lightnings, and rains are not the works of God,” – thus showing more clearly at last his Epicurean leanings; and in the second place, that “even if one were to grant that these were the works of God, they are brought into existence not more for the support of us who are human beings, than for that of plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns,” – maintaining, like a true Epicurean, that these things are the product of chance, and not the work of Providence. For if these things are of no more use to us than to plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns, it is evident either that they do not proceed from Providence at all, or from a providence which does not provide for us in a greater degree than for trees, and herbs, and thorns. Now, either of these suppositions is impious in itself, and it would be foolish to refute such statements by answering any one who brought against us the charge of impiety; for it is manifest to every one, from what has been said, who is the person guilty of impiety. In the next place, he adds: “Although you may say that these things, viz., plants, and trees, and herbs, and thorns, grow for the use of men, why will you maintain that they grow for the use of men rather than for that of the most savage of irrational animals?” Let Celsus then say distinctly that the great diversity among the products of the earth is not the work of Providence, but that a certain fortuitous concurrence of atoms234 gave birth to qualities so diverse, and that it was owing to chance that so many kinds of plants, and trees, and herbs resemble one another, and that no disposing reason gave existence to them,235 and that they do not derive their origin from an understanding that is beyond all admiration. We Christians, however, who are devoted to the worship of the only God, who created these things, feel grateful for them to Him who made them, because not only for us, but also (on our account) for the animals which are subject to us, He has prepared such a home,236 seeing “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man, that He may bring forth food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.” (cf. Psa_104:14, Psa_104:15) But that He should have provided food even for the most savage animals is not matter of surprise, for these very animals are said by some who have philosophized (upon the subject) to have been created for the purpose of affording exercise to the rational creature. And one of our own wise men says somewhere: “Do not say, What is this? or Wherefore is that? for all things have been made for their uses. And do not say, What is this? or Wherefore is that? for everything shall be sought out in its season.” (cf. Ecclesiasticus 39:21, and Ecclesiasticus 39:16, 17.)
After this, Celsus, desirous of maintaining that Providence created the products of the earth, not more on our account than on that of the most savage animals, thus proceeds: “We indeed by labour and suffering earn a scanty and toilsome subsistence,237 while all things are produced for them without their sowing and ploughing.” He does not observe that God, wishing to exercise the human understanding in all countries (that it might not remain idle and unacquainted with the arts), created man a being full of wants,238 in order that by virtue of his very needy condition he might be compelled to be the inventor of arts, some of which minister to his subsistence, and others to his protection. For it was better that those who would not have sought out divine things, nor engaged in the study of philosophy, should be placed in a condition of want, in order that they might employ their understanding in the invention of the arts, than that they should altogether neglect the cultivation of their minds, because their condition was one of abundance. The want of the necessaries of human life led to the invention on the one hand of the art of husbandry, on the other to that of the cultivation of the vine; again, to the art of gardening, and the arts of carpentry and smithwork, by means of which were formed the tools required for the arts which minister to the support of life. The want of covering, again, introduced the art of weaving, which followed that of wool-carding and spinning; and again, that of house-building: and thus the intelligence of men ascended even to the art of architecture. The want of necessaries caused the products also of other places to be conveyed, by means of the arts of sailing and pilotage,239 to those who were without them; so that even on that account one might admire the Providence which made the rational being subject to want in a far higher degree than the irrational animals, and yet all with a view to his advantage. For the irrational animals have their food provided for them, because there is not in them even an impulse240 towards the invention of the arts. They have, besides, a natural covering; for they are provided either with hair, or wings, or scales, or shells. Let the above, then, be our answer to the assertions of Celsus, when he says that “we indeed by labour and suffering earn a scanty and toilsome subsistence, while all things are produced for them without their sowing and ploughing.”
In the next place, forgetting that his object is to accuse both Jews and Christians, he quotes against himself an iambic verse of Euripides, which is opposed to his view, and, joining issue with the words, charges them with being an erroneous statement. His words are as follow: “But if you will quote the saying of Euripides, that
‘The Sun and Night are to mortals slaves,’241
why should they be so in a greater degree to us than to ants and flies? For the night is created for them in order that they may rest, and the day that they may see and resume their work.” Now it is undoubted, that not only have certain of the Jews and Christians declared that the sun and the heavenly bodies242 are our servants; but he also has said this, who, according to some, is the philosopher of the stage,243 and who was a hearer of the lectures on the philosophy of nature delivered by Anaxagoras. But this man asserts that all things in the world are subject to all rational beings, – one rational nature being taken to represent all, On the principle of a part standing for the whole;244 which, again, clearly appears from the verse: –
“The Sun and Night are to mortals slaves.”
Perhaps the tragic poet meant the day when he said the sun, inasmuch as it is the cause of the day, – teaching that those things which most need the day and night are the things which are under the moon, and other things in a less degree than those which are upon the earth. Day and night, then, are subject to mortals, being created for the sake of rational beings. And if ants and flies, which labour by day and rest by night, have, besides, the benefit of those things which were created for the sake of men, we must not say that day and night were brought into being for the sake of ants and flies, nor must we suppose that they were created for the sake of nothing, but, agreeably to the design of Providence, were formed for the sake of man.
He next proceeds further to object against himself245 what is said on behalf of man, viz., that the irrational animals were created on his account, saying: “If one were to call us the lords of the animal creation because we hunt the other animals and live upon their flesh, we would say, Why were not we rather created on their account, since they hunt and devour us? Nay, we require nets and weapons, and the assistance of many persons, along with dogs, when engaged in the chase; while they are immediately and spontaneously provided by nature with weapons which easily bring us under their power.” And here we may observe, that the gift of understanding has been bestowed upon us as a mighty aid, far superior to any weapon which wild beasts may seem to possess. We, indeed, who are far weaker in bodily strength than the beasts, and shorter in stature than some of them, yet by means of our understanding obtain the mastery, and capture the huge elephants. We subdue by our gentle treatment those animals whose nature it is to be tamed, while with those whose nature is different, or which do not appear likely to be of use to us when tamed, we take such precautionary measures, that when we desire it, we keep such wild beasts shut up; and when we need the flesh of their bodies for food, we slaughter them, as we do those beasts which are not of a savage nature. The Creator, then, has constituted all things the servants of the rational being and of his natural understanding. For some purposes we require dogs, say as guardians of our sheep-folds, or of our cattle-yards, or goat-pastures, or of our dwellings; and for other purposes we need oxen, as for agriculture; and for others, again, we make use of those which bear the yoke, or beasts of burden. And so it may be said that the race of lions, and bears, and leopards, and wild boars, and such like, has been given to us in order to call into exercise the elements of the manly character that exists within us.
In the next place, in answer to the human race, who perceive their own superiority, which far exceeds that of the irrational animals, he says: “With respect to your assertion, that God gave you the power to capture wild beasts, and to make your own use of them, we would say that, in all probability, before cities were built, and arts invented, and societies such as now exist were formed, and weapons and nets employed, men were generally caught and devoured by wild beasts, while wild beasts were very seldom captured by men.” Now, in reference to this, observe that although men catch wild beasts, and wild beasts make prey of men, there is a great difference between the case of such as by means of their understanding obtain the mastery over those whose superiority consists in their savage and cruel nature, and that of those who do not make use of their understanding to secure their safety from injury by wild beasts. But when Celsus gays, “before cities were built, and arts invented, and societies such as now exist were formed,” he appears to have forgotten what he had before said, that “the world was uncreated and incorruptible, and that it was only the things on earth which underwent deluges and conflagrations, and that all these things did not happen at the same time.” Now let if be granted that these admissions on his part are entirely in harmony with our views, though not at all with him and his statements made above; yet what does it all avail to prove that in the beginning men were mostly captured and devoured by wild beasts, while wild beasts were never caught by men? For, since the world was created in conformity with the will of Providence, and God presided over the universe of things, it was necessary that the elements246 of the human race should at the commencement of its existence be placed under some protection of the higher powers, so that there might be formed from the beginning a union of the divine nature with that of men. And the poet of Ascra, perceiving this, sings: –
“For common then were banquets, and common were seats,
Alike to immortal gods and mortal men.”247
Those holy Scriptures, moreover, which bear the name of Moses, introduce the first men as hearing divine voices and oracles, and beholding sometimes the angels of God coming to visit them.248 For it was probable that in the beginning of the world’s existence human nature would be assisted to a greater degree (than afterwards), until progress had been made towards the attainment of understanding and the other virtues, and the invention of the arts, and they should thus be able to maintain life of themselves, and no longer stand in need of superintendents, and of those to guide them who do so with a miraculous manifestation of the means which subserve the will of God. Now it follows from this, that it is false that “in the beginning men were captured and devoured by wild beasts, while wild beasts were very seldom caught by men.” And from this, too, it is evident that the following statement of Celsus is untrue, that “in this way God rather subjected men to wild beasts.” For God did not subject men to wild beasts, but gave wild beasts to be a prey to the understanding of man, and to the arts, which are directed against them, and which are the product of the understanding. For it was not without the help of God249 that men desired for themselves the means of protection against wild beasts, and of securing the mastery over them.
Our noble opponent, however, not observing how many philosophers there are who admit the existence of Providence, and who hold that Providence created all things for the sake of rational beings, overturns as far as he can those doctrines which are of use in showing the harmony that prevails in these matters between Christianity and philosophy; nor does he see how great is the injury done to religion from accepting the statement that before God there is no difference between a man and an ant or a bee, but proceeds to add, that “if men appear to be superior to irrational animals on this account, that they have built cities, and make use of a political constitution, and forms of government, and sovereignties,250 this is to say nothing to the purpose, for ants and bees do the same. Bees, indeed, have a sovereign, who has followers and attendants; and there occur among them wars and victories, and slaughterings of the vanquished,251 and cities and suburbs, and a succession of labours, and judgments passed upon the idle and the wicked; for the drones are driven away and punished.” Now here he did not observe the difference that exists between what is done after reason and consideration, and what is the result of an irrational nature, and is purely mechanical. For the origin of these things is not explained by the existence of any rational principle in those who make them, because they do not possess any such principle; but the most ancient Being, who is also the Son of God, and the King of all things that exist, has created an irrational nature, which, as being irrational, acts as a help to those who are deemed worthy of reason. Cities, accordingly, were established among men, with many arts and well-arranged laws; while constitutions, and governments, and sovereignties among men are either such as are properly so termed, and which exemplify certain virtuous tendencies and workings, or they are those which are improperly so called, and which were devised, so far as could be done, in imitation of the former: for it was by contemplating these that the most successful legislators established the best constitutions, and governments, and sovereignties. None of these things, however, can be found among irrational animals, although Celsus may transfer rational names, and arrangements which belong to rational beings, as cities and constitutions, and rulers and sovereignties, even to ants and bees; in respect to which matters, however, ants and bees merit no approval, because they do not act from reflection. But we ought to admire the divine nature, which extended even to irrational animals the capacity, as it were, of imitating rational beings, perhaps with a view of putting rational beings to shame; so that by looking upon ants, for instance, they might become more industrious and more thrifty in the management of their goods; while, by considering the bees, they might place themselves in subjection to their Ruler, and take their respective parts in those constitutional duties which are of use in ensuring the safety of cities.
Perhaps also the so-called wars among the bees convey instruction as to the manner in which wars, if ever there arise a necessity for them, should be waged in a just and orderly way among men. But the bees have no cities or suburbs; while their hives and hexagonal cells, and succession of labours, are for the sake of men, who require honey for many purposes, both for cure of disordered bodies, and as a pure article of food. Nor ought we to compare the proceedings taken by the bees against the drones with the judgments and punishments inflicted on the idle and wicked in cities. But, as I formerly said, we ought on the one hand in these things to admire the divine nature, and on the other to express our admiration of man, who is capable of considering and admiring all things (as co-operating with Providence), and who executes not merely the works which are determined by the providence of God, but also those which are the consequences of his own foresight.
After Celsus has finished speaking of the bees, in order to depreciate (as far as he can) the cities, and constitutions, and governments, and sovereignties not only of us Christians, but of all mankind, as well as the wars which men undertake on behalf of their native countries, he proceeds, by way of digression, to pass a eulogy upon the ants, in order that, while praising them, he may compare the measures which men take to secure their subsistence with those adopted by these insects,252 and so evince his contempt for the forethought which makes provision for winter, as being nothing higher than the irrational providence of the ants, as he regards it. Now might not some of the more simple-minded, and such as know not how to look into the nature of all things, be turned away (so far, at least, as Celsus could accomplish it) from helping those who are weighed down with the burdens (of life), and from sharing their toils, when he says of the ants, that “they help one another with their loads, when they see one of their number toiling under them?” For he who needs to be disciplined by the word, but who does not at all understand253 its voice, will say: “Since, then, there is no difference between us and the ants, even when we help those who are weary with bearing their heavy burdens, why should we continue to do so to no purpose?” And would not the ants, as being irrational creature, be greatly puffed up, and think highly of themselves, because their works were compared to those of men? while men, on the other hand, who by means of their reason are enabled to hear how their philanthropy254 towards others is contemned, would be injured, so far as could be effected by Celsus and his arguments: for he does not perceive that, while he wishes to turn away from Christianity those who read his treatise, he turns away also the sympathy of those who are not Christians from those who bear the heaviest burdens (of life). Whereas, had he been a philosopher, who was capable of perceiving the good which men may do each other, he ought, in addition to not removing along with Christianity the blessings which are found amongst men, to have lent his aid to co-operate (if he had it in his power) with those principles of excellence which are common to Christianity and the rest of mankind. Moreover, even if the ants set apart in a place by themselves those grains which sprout forth, that they may not swell into bud, but may continue throughout the year as their food, this is not to be deemed as evidence of the existence of reason among ants, but as the work of the universal mother, Nature, which adorned even irrational animals, so that even the most insignificant is not omitted, but bears traces of the reason implanted in it by nature. Unless, indeed, by these assertions Celsus means obscurely to intimate (for in many instances he would like to adopt Platonic ideas) that all souls are of the same species, and that there is no difference between that of a man and those of ants and bees, which is the act of one who would bring down the soul from the vault of heaven, and cause it to enter not only a human body, but that of an animal. Christians, however, will not yield their assent to such opinions: for they have been instructed before now that the human soul was created in the image of God; and they see that it is impossible for a nature fashioned in the divine image to have its (original) features altogether obliterated, and to assume others, formed after I know not what likeness of irrational animals.
And since he asserts that, “when ants die, the survivors set apart a special place (for their interment), and that their ancestral sepulchres such a place is,” we have to answer, that the greater the laudations which he heaps upon irrational animals, so much the more does he magnify (although against his will) the work of that reason which arranged all things in order, and points out the skill255 which exists among men, and which is capable of adorning by its reason even the gifts which are bestowed by nature on the irrational creation. But why do I say “irrational,” since Celsus is of opinion that these animals, which, agreeably to the common ideas of all men, are termed irrational, are not really so? Nor does he regard the ants as devoid of reason, who professed to speak of “universal nature,” and who boasted of his truthfulness in the inscription of his book. For, speaking of the ants conversing with one another, he uses the following language: “And when they meet one another they enter into conversation, for which reason they never mistake their way; consequently they possess a full endowment of reason, and some common ideas on certain general subjects, and a voice by which they express themselves regarding accidental things.”256 Now conversation between one man and another is carried on by means of a voice, which gives expression to the meaning intended, and which also gives utterances concerning what are called “accidental things;” but to say that this was the case with ants would be a most ridiculous assertion.
He is not ashamed, moreover, to say, in addition to these statements (that the unseemly character257 of his opinions may be manifest to those who will live after him): “Come now, if one were to look down from heaven upon earth, in what respect would our actions appear to differ from those of ants and bees?” Now does he who, according to his own supposition, looks from heaven upon the proceedings of men and ants, look upon their bodies alone, and not rather have regard to the controlling reason which is called into action by reflection;258 while, on the other hand, the guiding principle of the latter is irrational, and set in motion irrationally by impulse and fancy, in conjunction with a certain natural apparatus?259 But it is absurd to suppose that he who looks from heaven upon earthly things would desire to look from such a distance upon the bodies of men and ants, and would not rather consider the nature of the guiding principles, and the source of impulses, whether that be rational or irrational. And if he once look upon the source of all impulses, it is manifest that he would behold also the difference which exists, and the superiority of man, not only over ants, but even over elephants. For he who looks from heaven will see among irrational creatures, however large their bodies, no other principle260 than, so to speak, irrationality;261 while amongst rational beings he will discover reason, the common possession of men, and of divine and heavenly beings, and perhaps of the Supreme God Himself, on account of which man is said to have been created in the image of God, for the image of the Supreme God is his reason.262
Immediately after this, as if doing his utmost to reduce the human race to a still lower position, and to bring them to the level of the irrational animals, and desiring to omit not a single circumstance related of the latter which manifests their greatness, he declares that “in certain individuals among the irrational creation there exists the power of sorcery;” so that even in this particular men cannot specially pride themselves, nor wish to arrogate a superiority over irrational creatures. And the following are his words: “If, however, men entertain lofty notions because of their possessing the power of sorcery, yet even in that respect are serpents and eagles their superiors in wisdom; for they are acquainted with many prophylactics against persons and diseases, and also with the virtues of certain stones which help to preserve their young. If men, however, fall in with these, they think that they have gained a wonderful possession.” Now, in the first place, I know not why he should designate as sorcery the knowledge of natural prophylactics displayed by animals, – whether that knowledge be the result of experience, or of some natural power of apprehension;263 for the term “sorcery” has by usage been assigned to something else. Perhaps, indeed, he wishes quietly, as an Epicurean, to censure the entire use of such arts, as resting only on the professions of sorcerers. However, let it be granted him that men do pride themselves greatly upon the knowledge of such arts, whether they are sorcerers or not: how can serpents be in this respect wiser than men, when they make use of the well-known fennel264 to sharpen their power of vision and to produce rapidity of movement, having obtained this natural power not from the exercise of reflection, but from the constitution of their body,265 while men do not, like serpents, arrive at such knowledge merely by nature, but partly by experiment, partly by reason, and sometimes by reflection and knowledge? So, if eagles, too, in order to preserve their young in the nest, carry thither the eagle-stone266 when they have discovered it, how does it appear that they are wise, and more intelligent than men, who find out by the exercise of their reflective powers and of their understanding what has been bestowed by nature upon eagles as a gift?
Let it be granted, however, that there are other prophylactics against poisons known to animals: what does that avail to prove that it is not nature, but reason, which leads to the discovery of such things among them? For if reason were the discoverer, this one thing (or, if you will, one or two more things) would not be (exclusive267 of all others) the sole discovery made by serpents, and some other thing the sole discovery of the eagle, and so on with the rest of the animals; but as many discoveries would have been made amongst them as among men. But now it is manifest from the determinate inclination of the nature of each animal towards certain kinds of help, that they possess neither wisdom nor reason, but a natural constitutional tendency implanted by the Logos268 towards such things in order to ensure the preservation of the animal. And, indeed, if I wished to join issue with Celsus in these matters, I might quote the words of Solomon from the book of Proverbs, which run thus: “There be four things which are little upon the earth, but these are wiser than the wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; the conies269 are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; the locusts have no king, yet go they forth in order at one command; and the spotted lizard,270 though leaning upon its hands, and being easily captured, dwelleth in kings’ fortresses.” (cf. Pro_30:24-28) I do not quote these words, however, as taking them in their literal signification, but, agreeably to the title of the book (for it is inscribed “Proverbs”), I investigate them as containing a secret meaning. For it is the custom of these writers (of Scripture) to distribute into many classes those writings which express one sense when taken literally,271 but which convey a different signification as their hidden meaning; and one of these kinds of writing is “Proverbs.” And for this reason, in our Gospels too, is our Saviour described as saying: “These things have I spoken to you in proverbs, but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs.” (Joh_16:25) It is not, then, the visible ants which are “wiser even than the wise,” but they who are indicated as such under the “proverbial” style of expression. And such must be our conclusion regarding the rest of the animal creation, although Celsus regards the books of the Jews and Christians as exceedingly simple and commonplace,272 and imagines that those who give them an allegorical interpretation do violence to the meaning of the writers. By what we have said, then, let it appear that Celsus calumniates us in vain, and let his assertions that serpents and eagles are wiser than men also receive their refutation.
And wishing to show at greater length that even the thoughts of God entertained by the human race are not superior to those of all other mortal creatures, but that certain of the irrational animals are capable of thinking about Him regarding whom opinions so discordant have existed among the most acute of mankind – Greeks and Barbarians – he continues: “If, because man has been able to grasp the idea of God, he is deemed superior to the other animals, let those who hold this opinion know that this capacity will be claimed by many of the other animals; and with good reason: for what would any one maintain to be more divine than the power of foreknowing and predicting future events? Men accordingly acquire the art from the other animals, and especially from birds. And those who listen to the indications furnished by them, become possessed of the gift of prophecy. If, then, birds, and the other prophetic animals, which are enabled by the gift of God to foreknow events, instruct us by means of signs, so much the nearer do they seem to be to the society of God, and to be endowed with greater wisdom, and to be more beloved by Him. The more intelligent of men, moreover, say that the animals hold meetings which are more sacred than our assemblies, and that they know what is said at these meetings, and show that in reality they possess this knowledge, when, having previously stated that the birds have declared their intention of departing to some particular place, and of doing this thing or the other, the truth of their assertions is established by the departure of the birds to the place in question, and by their doing what was foretold. And no race of animals appears to be more observant of oaths than the elephants are, or to show greater devotion to divine things; and this, I presume, solely because they have some knowledge of God.” See here now how he at once lays hold of, and brings forward as acknowledged facts, questions which are the subject of dispute among those philosophers, not only among the Greeks, but also among the Barbarians, who have either discovered or learned from certain demons some things about birds of augury and other animals, by which certain prophetic intimations are said to be made to men. For, in the first place, it has been disputed whether there is an art of augury, and, in general, a method of divination by animals, or not. And, in the second place, they who admit that there is an art of divination by birds, are not agreed about the manner of the divination; since some maintain that it is from certain demons or gods of divination273 that the animals receive their impulses to action – the birds to flights and sounds of different kinds, and the other animals to movements of one sort or another. Others, again, believe that their souls are more divine in their nature, and fitted to operations of that kind, which is a most incredible supposition.
Celsus, however, seeing he wished to prove by the foregoing statements that the irrational animals are more divine and intelligent than human beings, ought to have established at greater length the actual existence of such an art of divination, and in the next place have energetically undertaken its defence, and effectually refuted the arguments of those who would annihilate such arts of divination, and have overturned in a convincing manner also the arguments of those who say that it is from demons or from gods that animals receive the movements which lead them to divination, and to have proved in the next place that the soul of irrational animals is more divine than that of man. For, had he done so, and manifested a philosophical spirit in dealing with such things, we should to the best of our power have met his confident assertions, refuting in the first place the allegation that irrational animals are wiser than men, and showing the falsity of the statement that they have ideas of God more sacred than ours, and that they hold among themselves certain sacred assemblies. But now, on the contrary, he who accuses us because we believe in the Supreme God, requires us to believe that the souls of birds entertain ideas of God more divine and distinct than those of men. Yet if this is true, the birds have clearer ideas of God than Celsus himself; and it is not matter of surprise that it should be so with him, who so greatly depreciates human beings. Nay, so far as Celsus can make it appear, the birds possess grander and more divine ideas than, I do not say we Christians do, or than the Jews, who use the same Scriptures with ourselves, but even than are possessed by the theologians among the Greeks, for they were only human beings. According to Celsus, indeed, the tribe of birds that practise divination, forsooth, understand the nature of the Divine Being better than Pherecydes, and Pythagoras, and Socrates and Plato! We ought then to go to the birds as our teachers, in order that as, according to the view of Celsus, they instruct us by their power of divination in the knowledge of future events, so also they may free men from doubts regarding the Divine Being, by imparting to them the clear ideas which they have obtained respecting Him! It follows, accordingly, that Celsus, who regards birds as superior to men, ought to employ them as his instructors, and not one of the Greek philosophers.
But we have a few remarks to make, out of a larger number, in answer to these statements of Celsus, that we may show the ingratitude towards his Maker which is involved in his holding these false opinions.274 For Celsus, although a man, and “being in honour,” (Psa_49:12) does not possess understanding, and therefore he did not compare himself with the birds and the other irrational animals, which he regards as capable of divining; but yielding to them the foremost place, he lowered himself, and as far as he could the whole human race with him (as entertaining lower and inferior views of God than the irrational animals), beneath the Egyptians, who worship irrational animals as divinities. Let the principal point of investigation, however, be this: whether there actually is or not an art of divination, by means of birds and other living things believed to have such power. For the arguments which tend to establish either view are not to be despised. On the one hand, it is pressed upon us not to admit such an art, lest the rational being should abandon the divine oracles, and betake himself to birds; and on the other, there is the energetic testimony of many, that numerous individuals have been saved from the greatest dangers by putting their trust in divination by birds. For the present, however, let it be granted that an art of divination does exist, in order that I may in this way show to those who are prejudiced on the subject, that if this be admitted, the superiority of man over irrational animals, even over those that are endowed with power of divination, is great, and beyond all reach of comparison with the latter. We have then to say, that if there was in them any divine nature capable of foretelling future events, and so rich (in that knowledge) as out of its superabundance to make them known to any man who wished to know them, it is manifest that they would know what concerned themselves far sooner (than what concerned others); and had they possessed this knowledge, they would have been upon their guard against flying to any particular place Where men had planted snares and nets to catch them, or where archers took aim and shot at them in their flight. And especially, were eagles aware beforehand of the designs formed against their young, either by serpents crawling up to their nests and destroying them, or by men who take them for their amusement, or for any other useful purpose or service, they would not have placed their young in a spot where they were to be attacked; and, in general, not one of these animals would have been captured by men, because they were more divine and intelligent than they.
But besides, if birds of augury converse with one another,275 as Celsus maintains they do, the prophetic birds having a divine nature, and the other rational animals also ideas of the divinity and foreknowledge of future events; and if they had communicated this knowledge to others, the sparrow mentioned in Homer would not have built her nest in the spot where a serpent was to devour her and her young ones, nor would the serpent in the writings of the same poet have failed to take precautions against being captured by the eagle. For this wonderful poet says, in his poem regarding the former: –
“A mighty dragon shot, of dire portent;
From Jove himself the dreadful sign was sent.
Straight to the tree his sanguine spires he rolled,
And curled around in many a winding fold.
The topmost branch a mother-bird possessed;
Eight callow infants filled the mossy nest;
Herself the ninth: the serpent, as he hung,
Stretched his black jaws, and crashed the dying young;
While hovering near, with miserable moan,
The drooping mother wailed her children gone.
The mother last, as round the nest she flew,
Seized by the beating wing, the monster slew:
Nor long survived: to marble turned, he stands
A lasting prodigy on Aulis’ sands.
Such was the will of Jove; and hence we dare
Trust in his omen, and support the war.”276
And regarding the second – the bird – the poet says: –
“Jove’s bird on sounding pinions beat the skies;
A bleeding serpent of enormous size,
His talons twined; alive, and curling round,
He stung the bird, whose throat received the wound.
Mad with the smart, he drops the fatal prey,
In airy circles wings his painful way,
Floats on the winds, and rends the heaven with cries;
Amidst the host, the fallen serpent lies.
They, pale with terror, mark its spires unrolled,
And Jove’s portent with beating hearts behold.”277
Did the eagle, then, possess the power of divination, and the serpent (since this animal also is made use of by the augurs) not? But as this distinction can be easily refuted, cannot the assertion that both were capable of divination be refuted also? For if the serpent had possessed this knowledge, would not he have been on his guard against suffering what he did from the eagle? And innumerable other instances of a similar character may be found, to show that animals do not possess a prophetic soul, but that, according to the poet and the majority of mankind, it is the “Olympian himself who sent him to the light.” And it is with a symbolical meaning278 that Apollo employs the hawk279 as his messenger, for the hawk280 is called the “swift messenger of Apollo.”281
In my opinion, however, it is certain wicked demons, and, so to speak, of the race of Titans or Giants, who have been guilty of impiety towards the true God, and towards the angels in heaven, and who have fallen from it, and who haunt the denser parts of bodies, and frequent unclean places upon earth, and who, possessing some power of distinguishing future events, because they are without bodies of earthly material, engage in an employment of this kind, and desiring to lead the human race away from the true God, secretly enter the bodies of the more rapacious and savage and wicked of animals, and stir them up to do whatever they choose, and at whatever time they choose: either turning the fancies of these animals to make flights and movements of various kinds, in order that men may be caught by the divining power that is in the irrational animals, and neglect to seek after the God who contains all things; or to search after the pure worship of God, but allow their reasoning powers to grovel on the earth, and amongst birds and serpents, and even foxes and wolves. For it has been observed by those who are skilled in such matters, that the clearest prognostications are obtained from animals of this kind; because the demons cannot act so effectively in the milder sort of animals as they can in these, in consequence of the similarity between them in point of wickedness; and yet it is not wickedness, but something like wickedness,282 which exist in these animals.
For which reason, whatever else there may be in the writings of Moses which excites my wonder, I would say that the following is worthy of admiration, viz. that Moses, having observed the varying natures of animals, and having either learned from God what was peculiar to them, and to the demons which are kindred to each of the animals, or having himself ascertained these things by his own wisdom, has, in arranging the different kinds of animals, pronounced all those which are supposed by the Egyptians and the rest of mankind to possess the power of divination to be unclean, and, as a general rule, all that are not of that class to be clean. And amongst the unclean animals mentioned by Moses are the wolf, and fox, and serpent, and eagle, and hawk, and such like. And, generally speaking, you will find that not only in the law, but also in the prophets, these animals are employed as examples of all that is most wicked; and that a wolf or a fox is never mentioned for a good purpose. Each species of demon, consequently, would seem to possess a certain affinity with a certain species of animal. And as among men there are some who are stronger than others, and this not at all owing to their moral character, so, in the same way, some demons will be more powerful in things indifferent than others;283 and one class of them employs one kind of animal for the purpose of deluding men, in accordance with the will of him who is called in our Scriptures the “prince of this world,” while others predict future events by means of another kind of animal. Observe, moreover, to what a pitch of wickedness the demons proceed, so that they even assume the bodies of weasels in order to reveal the future! And now, consider with yourself whether it is better to accept the belief that it is the Supreme God and His Son who stir up the birds and the other living creatures to divination, or that those who stir up these creatures, and not human beings (although they are present before them), are wicked, and, as they are called by our Scriptures, unclean demons.
But if the soul of birds is to be esteemed divine because future events are predicted by them, why should we not rather maintain, that when omens284 are accepted by men, the souls of those are divine through which the omens are heard? Accordingly, among such would be ranked the female slave mentioned in Homer, who ground the corn, when she said regarding the suitors: –
“For the very last time, now, will they sup here.”285
This slave, then, was divine, while the great Ulysses, the friend of Homer’s Pallas Athene, was not divine, but understanding the words spoken by this “divine” grinder of corn as an omen, rejoiced, as the poet says: –
“The divine Ulysses rejoiced at the omen.”286
Observe, now, as the birds are possessed of a divine soul, and are capable of perceiving God, or, as Celsus says, the gods, it is clear that when we men also sneeze, we do so in consequence of a kind of divinity that is within us, and which imparts a prophetic power to our soul. For this belief is testified by many witnesses, and therefore the poet also says: –
“And while he prayed, he sneezed.”287
And Penelope, too, said: –
“Perceiv’st thou not that at every word my son did sneeze?”288
The true God, however, neither employs irrational animals, nor any individuals whom chance may offer,289 to convey a knowledge of the future; but, on the contrary, the most pure and holy of human souls, whom He inspires and endows with prophetic power. And therefore, whatever else in the Mosaic writings may excite our wonder, the following must be considered as fitted to do so: “Ye shall not practise augury, nor observe the flight of birds;”290 and in another place: “For the nations whom the Lord thy God will destroy from before thy face, shall listen to omens and divinations; but as for thee, the Lord thy God has not suffered thee to do so.” (cf. Deu_18:14, cf. Deu_18:12) And he adds: “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you from among your brethren.” (cf. Deu_18:15) On one occasion, moreover, God, wishing by means of an augur to turn away (His people) from the practice of divination, caused the spirit that was in the augur to speak as follows: “For there is no enchantment in Jacob, nor is there divination in Israel. In due time will it be declared to Jacob and Israel what the Lord will do.” (cf. Num_23:23) And now, we who knew these and similar sayings wish to observe this precept with the mystical meaning, viz., “Keep thy heart with all diligence,” (Pro_4:23) that nothing of a demoniacal nature may enter into our minds, or any spirit of our adversaries turn our imagination whither it chooses. But we pray that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God may shine in our hearts, and that the Spirit of God may dwell in our imaginations, and lead them to contemplate the things of God; for “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (cf. Rom_8:14)
We ought to take note, however, that the power of foreknowing the future is by no means a proof of divinity; for in itself it is a thing indifferent, and is found occurring amongst both good and bad. Physicians, at any rate, by means of their professional skill foreknow certain things, although their character may happen to be bad. And in the same way also pilots, although perhaps wicked men, are able to foretell the signs291 (of good or bad weather), and the approach of violent tempests of wind, and atmospheric changes,292 because they gather this knowledge from experience and observation, although I do not suppose that on that account any one would term them “gods” if their characters happened to be bad. The assertion, then, of Celsus is false, when he says: “What could be called more divine than the power of foreknowing and foretelling the future?” And so also is this, that “many of the animals claim to have ideas of God;” for none of the irrational animals possess any idea of God. And wholly false, too, is his assertion, that “the irrational animals are nearer the society of God (than men),” when even men who are still in a state of wickedness, however great their progress in knowledge, are far removed from that society. It is, then, those alone who are truly wise and sincerely religious who are nearer to God’s society; such persons as were our prophets, and Moses, to the latter of whom, on account of his exceeding purity, the Scripture said: “Moses alone shall come near the Lord, but the rest shall not come nigh.” (cf. Exo_24:2)
How impious, indeed, is the assertion of this man, who charges us with impiety, that “not only are the irrational animals wiser than the human race, but that they are more beloved by God (than they)!” And who would not be repelled (by horror) from paying any attention to a man who declared that a serpent, and a fox, and a wolf, and an eagle, and a hawk, were more beloved by God than the human race? For it follows from his maintaining such a position, that if these animals be more beloved by God than human beings, it is manifest that they are dearer to God than Socrates, and Plato, and Pythagoras, and Pherecydes, and those theologians whose praises he had sung a little before. And one might address him with the prayer: “If these animals be dearer to God than men, may you be beloved of God along with them, and be made like to those whom you consider as dearer to Him than human beings!” And let no one suppose that such a prayer is meant as an imprecation; for who would not pray to resemble in all respects those whom he believes to be dearer to God than others, in order that he, like them, may enjoy the divine love? And as Celsus is desirous to show that the assemblies of the irrational animals are more sacred than ours, he ascribes the statement to that effect not to any ordinary individuals, but to persons of intelligence. Yet it is the virtuous alone who are truly wise, for no wicked man is so. He speaks, accordingly, in the following style: “Intelligent men say that these animals hold assemblies which are more sacred than ours, and that they know what is spoken at them, and actually prove that they are not without such knowledge, when they mention beforehand that the birds have announced their intention of departing to a particular place, or of doing this thing or that, and then show that they have departed to the place in question, and have done the particular thing which was foretold.” Now, truly, no person of intelligence ever related such things; nor did any wise man ever say that the assemblies of the irrational animals were more sacred than those of men. But if, for the purpose of examining (the soundness of) his statements, we look to their consequences, it is evident that, in his opinion, the assemblies of the irrational animals are more sacred than those of the venerable Pherecydes, and Pythagoras, and Socrates, and Plato, and of philosophers in general; which assertion is not only incongruous293 in itself, but full of absurdity. In order that we may believe, however, that certain individuals do learn from the indistinct sound of birds that they are about to take their departure, and do this thing or that, and announce these things beforehand, we would say that this information is imparted to men by demons by means of signs, with the view of having men deceived by demons, and having their understanding dragged down from God and heaven to earth, and to places lower still.
I do not know, moreover, how Celsus could hear of the elephants’ (fidelity to) oaths, and of their great devotedness to our God, and of the knowledge which they possess of Him. For I know many wonderful things which are related of the nature of this animal, and of its gentle disposition. But I am not aware that any one has spoken of its observance of oaths; unless indeed to its gentle disposition, and its observance of compacts, so to speak, when once concluded between it and man, he give the name of keeping its oath, which statement also in itself is false. For although rarely, yet sometimes it has been recorded that, after their apparent tameness, they have broken out against men in the most savage manner, and have committed murder, and have been on that account condemned to death, because no longer of any use. And seeing that after this, in order to establish (as he thinks he does) that the stork is more pious than any human being, he adduces the accounts which are narrated regarding that creature’s display of filial affection294 in bringing food to its parents for their support, we have to say in reply, that this is done by the storks, not from a regard to what is proper, nor from reflection, but from a natural instinct; the nature which formed them being desirous to show an instance among the irrational animals which might put men to shame, in the matter of exhibiting their gratitude to their parents. And if Celsus had known how great the difference is between acting in this way from reason, and from an irrational natural impulse, he would not have said that storks are more pious than human beings. But further, Celsus, as still contending for the piety of the irrational creation, quotes the instance of the Arabian bird the phoenix, which after many years repairs to Egypt, and bears thither its parent, when dead and buried in a ball of myrrh, and deposits its body in the Temple of the Sun. Now this story is indeed recorded, and, if it be true,295 it is possible that it may occur in consequence of some provision of nature; divine providence freely displaying to human beings, by the differences which exist among living things, the variety of constitution which prevails in the world, and which extends even to birds, and in harmony with which He has brought into existence one creature, the only one of its kind, in order that by it men may be led to admire, not the creature, but Him who created it.
In addition to all that he has already said, Celsus subjoins the following: “All things, accordingly, were not made for man, any more than they were made for lions, or eagles, or dolphins, but that this world, as being God’s work, might be perfect and entire in all respects. For this reason all things have been adjusted, not with reference to each other, but with regard to their bearing upon the whole.296 And God takes care of the whole, and (His) providence will never forsake it; and it does not become worse; nor does God after a time bring it back to himself; nor is He angry on account of men any more than on account of apes or flies; nor does He threaten these beings, each one of which has received its appointed lot in its proper place.” Let us then briefly reply to these statements. I think, indeed, that I have shown in the preceding pages that all things were created for man, and every rational being, and that it was chiefly for the sake of the rational creature that the creation took place. Celsus, indeed, may say that this was done not more for man than for lions, or the other creatures which he mentions; but we maintain that the Creator did not form these things for lions, or eagles, or dolphins, but all for the sake of the rational creature, and “in order that this world, as being God’s work, might be perfect and complete in all things.” For to this sentiment we must yield our assent as being well said. And God takes care, not, as Celsus supposes, merely of the whole, but beyond the whole, in a special degree of every rational being. Nor will Providence ever abandon the whole; for although it should become more wicked, owing to the sin of the rational being, which is a portion of the whole, He makes arrangements to purify it, and after a time to bring back the whole to Himself. Moreover, He is not angry with apes or flies; but on human beings, as those who have transgressed the laws of nature, He sends judgments and chastisements, and threatens them by the mouth of the prophets, and by the Saviour who came to visit the whole human race, that those who hear the threatenings may be converted by them, while those who neglect these calls to conversion may deservedly suffer those punishments which it becomes God, in conformity with that will of His which acts for the advantage of the whole, to inflict upon those who need such painful discipline and correction. But as our fourth book has now attained sufficient dimensions, we shall here terminate our discourse. And may God grant, through His Son, who is God the Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and Righteousness, and everything else which the sacred Scriptures when speaking of God call Him, that we may make a good beginning of the fifth book, to the benefit of our readers, and may bring it to a successful conclusion, with the aid of His word abiding in our soul.
(Stated in obscure terms, with advantage.)
Turn back to the Second Apology of Justin (cap. ix.), “Eternal punishment not a mere threat;”297 also to Clement (Stromata, iv. cap. xxiv.), “the reason and end of divine punishments.”298 Now compare Gieseler299 (vol. i. p. 212) for what he so sweepingly asserts. And on the doctrine of Origen, let me quote a very learned and on such points a most capable judge, the late erudite and pious half-Gallican Dr. Pusey. He says: –
“Celsus and Origen are both witnesses that Christians believed in the eternity of punishment. Celsus, to weaken the force of the argument from the sufferings which the martyrs underwent sooner than abjure Christianity, tells Origen that heathen priests taught the same doctrine of eternal punishment as the Christians, and that the only question was, which was right.300
“Origen answers, ‘I should say that the truth lies with those who are able to induce their hearers to live as men convinced of the truth of what they have heard. Jews and Christians have been thus affected by the doctrines which they hold about the world to come, the rewards of the righteous, and the punishments of the wicked. Who have been moved in this way, in regard to eternal punishments, by the teaching of heathen priests and mystagogues?’
“Origen’s answer acknowledges that the doctrine of eternal punishment had been taught to Christians, that One [Christ] had taught it, and that it had produced the effects He had [in view] in teaching it; viz., to set Christians to strive with all their might to conquer the sin which produced it.”301
On this most painful subject my natural feelings are much with Canon Farrar; but, after lifelong application to the subject, I must think Dr. Pusey holds with his Master, Christ. I feel willing to leave it all with Him who died for sinners, and the cross shuts my mouth. “Herein is love;” and I cannot dictate to such love, from my limited mind, and capacity, and knowledge of His universe. Here let “every thought be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Let us sacrifice “imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself,” and leave our Master alike supreme in our affections and over our intellectual powers. He merits such subjection. Let us preach His words, and leave Him to explain them when He shall “condemn every tongue that shall rise against Him in judgment.”
Let me also refer to Bledsoe’s most solemn and searching reply to John Foster; also to his answer to Lord Kames’s effort to help the Lord out of a supposed difficulty.302 I am sorry that Tillotson exposed himself to a witty retort by the same author, in these words: “If the Almighty really undertook to deceive the world for its own good, it is a pity He did not take the precaution to prevent the archbishop from detecting the cheat, … not suffering his secret to get into the possession of one who has so indiscreetly published it.” The awful importance of the subject, and the recently awakened interest in its discussion, have led me to enlarge this annotation.
234 συντυχία τις ἀτόμων.
235 οὐδεὶς λόγος τεχνικὸς ὑπέστησεν αὐτά.
237 μόλις καὶ ἐπιπόνως.
239 διὰ ναυτικῆς καὶ κυβερνητικῆς.
241 cf. Eurip., Phoeniss., 546.
242 τὰ ἐν οὐρανῷ.
243 ὁ κατά τινας Σκηνικὸς φιλόσοφος. Euripides himself is the person alluded to. He is called by Athenaeus and Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom., v. xi., vol. 2. p. 461), ὁ ἐπὶ τῆς σκηνῆς φιλόσοφος. – De la Rue.
245 ἑαυτῷ ἀνθυποφέρει.
247 cf. Hesiod, Fragmenta Incerta, ed. Goettling, p. 231.
248 [cf. Wordsworth, Excursion: “He sat and talked, ” etc., book iv., circa med.]
249 οὐ γὰρ ἀθεεί.
251 τῶν ἡττημένων αἱρέσεις. “Nota αἱρέσεις hoc loco sumi pro internecionibus, caedibus. Haud scio an alibi reperiatur pari signigicatu. Forte etiam scribendum καθαιρέσεις.” – Ruaeus.
252 παραβάῃ τῷ λόγῳ πρὸς τοὺς μύρμηκας. “Verba: τῷ λόγῳ πρὸς τοὺς μύρμηκας addititia videntur et recidenda.” – Ruaeus.
254 τὸ κοινωνικόν.
256 οὐκοῦν καὶ λόγου συμπλήρωσίς ἐστι παρ αὐτοῖς, καὶ κοιναὶ ἔννοιαι καθολικῶν τινων, καὶ φωνὴ, καὶ τυγχάνοντα σημαινόμενα.
258 οὐκατανοεῖ δὲ τὸ λογικὸν ἡγεμονικὸν καὶ λογισμῷ κινούμενον;
259 μετά τινος φυσικῆς ὑποκατασκευῆς.
261 τὴν ἀλογίαν.
263 φυσικήν τινα κατάληψιν.
264 τῷ μαράθρῳ.
265 ἀλλ ἐκ κατασκευῆς.
266 [The ἀετίτης. See Pliny, N. H., x. 4.]
268 ὑπὸ τοῦ λόγου γεγενημένη.
269 χοιρογρύλλιοι. Hebrew שְׁפַנִּים.
273 θεῶν μαντικῶν.
274 τὴν ἀχάριστον ψευδοδοξιαν.
275 εἴπερ οἰωνοὶ οἰωνοῖς μάχονται. For μάχονται Ruaeus conjectures διαλέγονται, which is adopted by Lommatzsch.
276 Homer, Iliad, ii. 308 sq. (Pope’s translation).
277 Homer, Iliad, xii. 200 sq. (Pope’s translation).
278 κατὰ δέ τι σημεῖον.
280 κίρκος, “the hen harrier,” “Falco,” or “Circus pygargus.” cf. Liddell and Scott, s.v.
281 cf. Homer, Odyss., xv. 526.
282 καὶ οὐ κακίαν μὲν, οἱονεὶ δὲ κακίαν οὖσαν.
283 ἐν μέσοις.
285 cf. Homer, Odyss., iv. 685; cf. also xx. 116, 119.
286 cf. Homer, Odyss., xx. 120.
287 cf. Homer, Odyss., xvii. 541.
288 cf. Homer, Odyss., xvii. 545.
289 οὔτε τοῖς τυχοῦσι τῶν ἀνθρώπων.
290 cf. Lev_19:26. The Septuagint here differs from the Masoretic text.
295 [See vol. 1. pp. viii., 12, this series. Observe, Origen, in Egypt, doubts the story.]
296 ἀλλ εἰ μὴ πᾶν ἔργον. “Gelenius does not recognise these words, and Guietus regards them as superfluous.” They are omitted in the translation.
297 Our vol. 1. p. 191.
298 Our vol. 2. p. 437.
299 Ed. Philadelphia, 1836.
300 See this treatise, book viii, cap. xlviii.
301 What is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment? in reply to Dr. Farrar’s Challenge, 1879. By the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D., Oxford, 1881.
302 Theodicy, pp. 295-311 (answer to Foster), p. 81 (to Lord Kames), p. 310 (to Tillotson). I must confess that Bledsoe is paulo iniquior when he gives no reference to Tillotson’s language. If the retort is based on the sermon (xxxv. vol. iii. p. 350, ed. folio, 1720) on the “Eternity of Torment,” however, I do not think it just. The latitudinarian primate restricts himself therein to a very guarded statement of that reserved right by which any governor commutes or remits punishment, though he cannot modify a promise of reward. I wish modern apologists for the divine sovereignty had not gone farther.