Book VIII. (C0nt.)
The Psalmist bears witness that divine justice employs certain evil angels to inflict calamities upon men: “He cast upon them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, sent by evil angels.” (Psa_78:49) Whether demons ever go beyond this when they are suffered to do what they are ever ready, though through the restraint put upon them they are not always able to do, is a question to be solved by that man who can conceive, in so far as human nature will allow, how it accords with the divine justice, that such multitudes of human souls are separated from the body while walking in the paths which lead to certain death. “For the judgments of God are so great,” that a soul which is still clothed with a mortal body cannot comprehend them; “and they cannot be expressed: therefore by unnurtured souls” (Wisdom of Solomon 17:1) they are not in any measure to be understood. And hence, too, rash spirits, by their ignorance in these matters, and by recklessly setting themselves against the Divine Being, multiply impious objections against providence. It is not from demons, then, that men receive any of those things which meet the necessities of life, and least of all ourselves, who have been taught to make a proper use of these things. And they who partake of corn and wine, and the fruits of trees, of water and of air, do not feed with demons, but rather do they feast with divine angels, who are appointed for this purpose, and who are as it were invited to the table of the pious man, who hearkens to the precept of the word, which says, “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1Co_10:31) And again, in another place it is written, “Do all things in the name of God.” (Col_3:17) When, therefore, we eat and drink and breathe to the glory of God, and act in all things according to what is right, we feast with no demons, but with divine angels: “For every creature is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (1Ti_4:4, 1Ti_4:5) But it could not be good, and it could not be sanctified, if these things were, as Celsus supposes, entrusted to the charge of demons.
From this it is evident that we have already met the next statement of Celsus, which is as follows: “We must either not live, and indeed not come into this life at all, or we must do so on condition that we give thanks and first-fruits and prayers to demons, who have been set over the things of this world: and that we must do as long as we live, that they may prove good and kind.” We must surely live, and we must live according to the word of God, as far as we are enabled to do so. And we are thus enabled to live, when, “whether we eat or drink, we do all to the glory of God;” and we are not to refuse to enjoy those things which have been created for our use, but must receive them with thanksgiving to the Creator. And it is under these conditions, and not such as have been imagined by Celsus, that we have been brought into life by God; and we are not placed under demons, but we are under the government of the Most High God, through Him who hath brought us to God – Jesus Christ. It is not according to the law of God that any demon has had a share in worldly affairs, but it was by their own lawlessness that they perhaps sought out for themselves places destitute of the knowledge of God and of the divine life, or places where there are many enemies of God. Perhaps also, as being fit to rule over and punish them, they have been set by the Word, who governs all things, to rule over those who subjected themselves to evil and not to God. For this reason, then, let Celsus, as one who knows not God, give thank-offerings to demons. But we give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a sacred body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it.
Celsus would also have us to offer first-fruits to demons. But we would offer them to Him who said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself upon the earth.” (Gen_1:11) And to Him to whom we offer first-fruits we also send up our prayers, “having a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God,” and “we hold fast this profession” (Heb_4:14) as long as we live; for we find God and His only-begotten Son, manifested to us in Jesus; to be gracious and kind to us. And if we would wish to have besides a great number of beings who shall ever prove friendly to us, we are taught that “thousand thousands stood before Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand ministered unto Him.” (Dan_7:10) And these, regarding all as their relations and friends who imitate their piety towards God, and in prayer call upon Him with sincerity, work along with them for their salvation, appear unto them, deem it their office and duty to attend to them, and as if by common agreement they visit with all manner of kindness and deliverance those who pray to God, to whom they themselves also pray: “For they are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation.” (Heb_1:14) Let the learned Greeks say that the human soul at its birth is placed under the charge of demons: Jesus has taught us not to despise even the little ones in His Church, saying, “Their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven.” (Mat_18:10) And the prophet says, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.” (Psa_34:7) We do not, then, deny that there are many demons upon earth, but we maintain that they exist and exercise power among the wicked, as a punishment of their wickedness. But they have no power over those who “have put on the whole armour of God,” who have received strength to “withstand the wiles of the devil,” (Eph_6:11) and who are ever engaged in contests with them, knowing that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph_6:12)
Now let us consider another saying of Celsus, which is as follows: “The satrap of a Persian or Roman monarch, or ruler or general or governor, yea, even those who fill lower offices of trust or service in the state, would be able to do great injury to those who despised them; and will the satraps and ministers of earth and air be insulted with impunity?” Observe now how he introduces servants of the Most High – rulers, generals, governors, and those filling lower offices of trust and service – as, after the manner of men, inflicting injury upon those who insult them. For he does not consider that a wise man would not wish to do harm to any, but would strive to the utmost of his power to change and amend them; unless, indeed, it be that those whom Celsus makes servants and rulers appointed by the Most High are behind Lycurgus, the lawgiver of the Lacedaemonians, or Zeno of Citium. For when Lycurgus had had his eye put out by a man, he got the offender into his power; but instead of taking revenge upon him, he ceased not to use all his arts of persuasion until he induced him to become a philosopher. And Zeno, on the occasion of some one saying, “Let me perish rather than not have my revenge on thee,” answered him, “But rather let me perish if I do not make a friend of thee.” And I am not yet speaking of those whose characters have been formed by the teaching of Jesus, and who have heard the words, “Love your enemies, and pray for them which despitefully use you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Mat_5:44, Mat_5:45) And in the prophetical writings the righteous man says, “O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; if I have returned evil to those who have done evil to me, let me fall helpless under mine enemies: let my enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth.” (Psa_7:3-5)
But the angels, who are the true rulers and generals and ministers of God, do not, as Celsus supposes, “injure those who offend them;” and if certain demons, whom Celsus had in mind, do inflict evils, they show that they are wicked, and that they have received no office of the kind from God. And they even do injury to those who are under them, and who have acknowledged them as their masters; and accordingly, as it would seem that those who break through the regulations which prevail in any country in regard to matters of food, suffer for it if they are under the demons of that place, while those who are not under them, and have not submitted to their power, are free from all harm, and bid defiance to such spirits; although if, in ignorance of certain things, they have come under the power of other demons, they may suffer punishment from them. But the Christian – the true Christian, I mean – who has submitted to God alone and His Word, will suffer nothing from demons, for He is mightier than demons. And the Christian will suffer nothing, for “the angel of the Lord will encamp about them that fear Him, and will deliver them,” (Psa_34:7) and his “angel,” who “always beholds the face of his Father in heaven,” (Mat_18:10) offers up his prayers through the one High Priest to the God of all, and also joins his own prayers with those of the man who is committed to his keeping. Let not, then, Celsus try to scare us with threats of mischief from demons, for we despise them. And the demons, when despised, can do no harm to those who are under the protection of Him who can alone help all who deserve His aid; and He does no less than set His own angels over His devout servants, so that none of the hostile angels, nor even he who is called “the prince of this world,” (Joh_14:30) can effect anything against those who have given themselves to God.
In the next place, Celsus forgets that he is addressing Christians, who pray to God alone through Jesus; and mixing up other notions with theirs, he absurdly attributes them all to Christians. “If,” says he, “they who are addressed are called upon by barbarous names, they will have power, but no longer will they have any if they are addressed in Greek or Latin.” Let him, then, state plainly whom we call upon for help by barbarous names. Any one will be convinced that this is a false charge which Celsus brings against us, when he considers that Christians in prayer do not even use the precise names which divine Scripture applies to God; but the Greeks use Greek names, the Romans Latin names, and every one prays and sings praises to God as he best can, in his mother tongue. For the Lord of all the languages of the earth hears those who pray to Him in each different tongue, hearing, if I may so say, but one voice, expressing itself in different dialects.13 For the Most High is not as one of those who select one language, Barbarian or Greek, knowing nothing of any other, and caring nothing for those who speak in other tongues.
He next represents Christians as saying what he never heard from any Christian; or if he did, it must have been from one of the most ignorant and lawless of the people. “Behold,” they are made to say, “I go up to a statue of Jupiter or Apollo, or some other god: I revile it, and beat it, yet it takes no vengeance on me.” He is not aware that among the prohibitions of the divine law is this, “Thou shalt not revile the gods,”14 and this is intended to prevent the formation of the habit of reviling any one whatever; for we have been taught, “Bless, and curse not,” (Rom_12:14) and it is said that “revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Co_6:10) And who amongst us is so foolish as to speak in the way Celsus describes, and to fail to see that such contemptuous language can be of no avail for removing prevailing notions about the gods? For it is matter of observation that there are men who utterly deny the existence of a God or of an overruling providence, and who by their impious and destructive teaching have founded sects among those who are called philosophers, and yet neither they themselves, nor those who have embraced their opinions, have suffered any of those things which mankind generally account evils: they are both strong in body and rich in possessions. And yet if we ask what loss they have sustained, we shall find that they have suffered the most certain injury. For what greater injury can befall a man than that he should be unable amidst the order of the world to see Him who has made it? and what sorer affliction can come to any one than that blindness of mind which prevents him from seeing the Creator and Father of every soul?
After putting such words into our mouth, and maliciously charging Christians with sentiments which they never held, he then proceeds to give to this supposed expression of Christian feeling an answer, which is indeed more a mockery than an answer, when he says, “Do you not see, good sir, that even your own demon is not only reviled, but banished from every land and sea, and you yourself, who are as it were an image dedicated to him, are bound and led to punishment, and fastened to the stake, whilst your demon – or, as you call him, ‘the Son of God’ – takes no vengeance on the evil-doer?” This answer would be admissible if we employed such language as he ascribes to us; although even then he would have no right to call the Son of God a demon. For as we hold that all demons are evil, He who turns so many men to God is in our view no demon, but God the Word, and the Son of God. And I know not how Celsus has so far forgotten himself as to call Jesus Christ a demon, when he nowhere alludes to the existence of any evil demons. And finally, as to the punishments threatened against the ungodly, these will come upon them after they have refused all remedies, and have been, as we may say, visited with an incurable malady of sinfulness.
Such is our doctrine of punishment; and the inculcation of this doctrine turns many from their sins. But let us see, on the other hand, what is the response given on this subject by the priest of Jupiter or Apollo of whom Celsus speaks. It is this: “The mills of the gods grind slowly.”15 Another describes punishment as reaching “to children’s children, and to those who came after them.”16 How much better are those words of Scripture: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children for the fathers. Every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deu_24:16) And again, “Every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer_31:30) And, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Eze_18:20) If any shall say that the response, “To children’s children, and to those who come after them,” corresponds with that passage, “Who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me,” (Exo_20:5) let him learn from Ezekiel that this language is not to be taken literally; for he reproves those who say, “Our fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge,” (Eze_18:2-4) and then he adds, “As I live, saith the Lord, every one shall die for his own sin.” As to the proper meaning of the figurative language about sins being visited unto the third and fourth generation, we cannot at present stay to explain.
He then goes on to rail against us after the manner of old wives. “You,” says he, “mock and revile the statues of our gods; but if you had reviled Bacchus or Hercules in person, you would not perhaps have done so with impunity. But those who crucified your God when present among men, suffered nothing for it, either at the time or during the whole of their lives. And what new thing has there happened since then to make us believe that he was not an impostor, but the Son of God? And forsooth, he who sent his Son with certain instructions for mankind, allowed him to be thus cruelly treated, and his instructions to perish with him, without ever during all this long time showing the slightest concern. What father was ever so inhuman? Perhaps, indeed, you may say that he suffered so much, because it was his wish to bear what came to him. But it is open to those whom you maliciously revile, to adopt the same language, and say that they wish to be reviled, and therefore they bear it with patience; for it is best to deal equally with both sides, – although these (gods) severely punish the scorner, so that he must either flee and hide himself, or be taken and perish.” Now to these statements I would answer that we revile no one, for we believe that “revilers will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Co_6:10) And we read, “Bless them that curse you; bless, and curse not;” also, “Being reviled, we bless.” And even although the abuse which we pour upon another may seem to have some excuse in the wrong which we have received from him, yet such abuse is not allowed by the word of God. And how much more ought we to abstain from reviling others, when we consider what a great folly it is! And it is equally foolish to apply abusive language to stone or gold or silver, turned into what is supposed to be the form of God by those who have no knowledge of God. Accordingly, we throw ridicule not upon lifeless images, but upon those only who worship them. Moreover, if certain demons reside in certain images, and one of them passes for Bacchus, another for Hercules, we do not vilify them: for, on the one hand, it would be useless; and, on the other, it does not become one who is meek, and peaceful, and gentle in spirit, and who has learnt that no one among men or demons is to be reviled, however wicked he may be.
There is an inconsistency into which, strangely enough, Celsus has fallen unawares. Those demons or gods whom he extolled a little before, he now shows to be in fact the vilest of creatures, punishing more for their own revenge than for the improvement of those who revile them. His words are, “If you had reviled Bacchus or Hercules when present in person, you would not have escaped with impunity.” How any one can hear without being present in person, I leave any one who will to explain; as also those other questions, “Why he is sometimes present, and sometimes absent?” and, “What is the business which takes demons away from place to place?” Again, when he says, “Those who crucified your God himself, suffered no harm for doing so,” he supposes that it is the body of Jesus extended on the cross and slain, and not His divine nature, that we call God; and that it was as God that Jesus was crucified and slain. As we have already dwelt at length on the sufferings which Jesus suffered as a man, we shall purposely say no more here, that we may not repeat what we have said already. But when he goes on to say that “those who inflicted death upon Jesus suffered nothing afterwards through so long a time,” we must inform him, as well as all who are disposed to learn the truth, that the city in which the Jewish people called for the crucifixion of Jesus with shouts of “Crucify him, crucify him,” (Luk_23:21, Luk_23:25) preferring to have the robber set free, who had been cast into prison for sedition and murder and Jesus, who had been delivered through envy, to be crucified, – that this city not long afterwards was attacked, and, after a long siege, was utterly overthrown and laid waste; for God judged the inhabitants of that place unworthy of living together the life of citizens. And yet, though it may seem an incredible thing to say, God spared this people in delivering them to their enemies; for He saw that they were incurably averse to any amendment, and were daily sinking deeper and deeper into evil. And all this befell them, because the blood of Jesus was shed at their instigation and on their land; and the land was no longer able to bear those who were guilty of so fearful a crime against Jesus.
Some new thing, then, has come to pass since the time that Jesus suffered, – that, I mean, which has happened to the city, to the whole nation, and in the sudden and general rise of a Christian community. And that, too, is a new thing, that those who were strangers to the covenants of God, with no part in His promises, and far from the truth, have by a divine power been enabled to embrace the truth. These things were not the work of an impostor, but were the work of God, who sent His Word, Jesus Christ, to make known His purposes.17 The sufferings and death which Jesus endured with such fortitude and meekness, show the cruelty and injustice of those who inflicted them, but they did not destroy the announcement of the purposes of God; indeed, if we may so say, they served rather to make them known. For Jesus Himself taught us this when He said, “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth by itself alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (Joh_12:24) Jesus, then, who is this grain of wheat, died, and brought forth much fruit. And the Father is ever looking forward for the results of the death of the grain of wheat, both those which are arising now, and those which shall arise hereafter. The Father of Jesus is therefore a tender and loving Father, though “He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up” as His lamb “for us all,” (Rom_8:32) that so “the Lamb of God,” by dying for all men, might “take away the sin of the world.” It was not by compulsion, therefore, but willingly, that He bore the reproaches of those who reviled Him. Then Celsus, returning to those who apply abusive language to images, says: “Of those whom you load with insults, you may in like manner say that they voluntarily submit to such treatment, and therefore they bear insults with patience; for it is best to deal equally with both sides. Yet these severely punish the scorner, so that he must either flee and hide himself, or be taken and perish.” It is not, then, because Christians cast insults upon demons that they incur their revenge, but because they drive them away out of the images, and from the bodies and souls of men. And here, although Celsus perceives it not, he has on this subject spoken something like the truth; for it is true that the souls of those who condemn Christians, and betray them, and rejoice in persecuting them, are filled with wicked demons.
But when the souls of those who die for the Christian faith depart from the body with great glory, they destroy the power of the demons, and frustrate their designs against men. Wherefore I imagine, that as the demons have learnt from experience that they are defeated and overpowered by the martyrs for the truth, they are afraid to have recourse again to violence. And thus, until they forget the defeats they have sustained, it is probable that the world will be at peace with the. Christians. But when they recover their power, and, with eyes blinded by sin, wish again to take their revenge on Christians, and persecute them, then again they will be defeated, and then again the souls of the godly, who lay down their lives for the cause of godliness, shall utterly destroy the army of the wicked one. And as the demons perceive that those who meet death victoriously for the sake of religion destroy their authority, while those who give way under their sufferings, and deny the faith, come under their power, I imagine that at times they feel a deep interest in Christians when on their trial, and keenly strive to gain them over to their side, feeling as they do that their confession is torture to them, and their denial is a relief and encouragement to them. And traces of the same feeling may be seen in the demeanour of the judges; for they are greatly distressed at seeing those who bear outrage and torture with patience, but are greatly elated when a Christian gives way under it. Yet it is from no feeling of humanity that this arises. They see well, that, while “the tongues” of those who are overpowered by the tortures “may take the oath, the mind has not sworn.”18 And this may serve as an answer to the remark of Celsus: “But they severely punish one who reviles them, so that he must either flee and hide himself, or be taken and perish.” If a Christian ever flees away, it is not from fear, but in obedience to the command of his Master, that so he may preserve himself, and employ his strength for the benefit of others.
Let us see what Celsus next goes on to say. It is as follows: “What need is there to collect all the oracular responses, which have been delivered with a divine voice by priests and priestesses, as wall as by others, whether men or women, who were under a divine influence? – all the wonderful things that have been heard issuing from the inner sanctuary? – all the revelations that have been made to those who consulted the sacrificial victims? – and all the knowledge that has been conveyed to men by other signs and prodigies? To some the gods have appeared in visible forms. The world is full of such instances. How many cities have been built in obedience to commands received from oracles; how often, in the same way, delivered from disease and famine! Or again, how many cities, from disregard or forgetfulness of these oracles, have perished miserably! How many colonies have been established and made to flourish by following their orders! How many princes and private persons have, from this cause, had prosperity or adversity! How many who mourned over their childlessness, have obtained the blessing they asked for! How many have turned away from themselves the anger of demons! How many who were maimed in their limbs, have had them restored! And again, how many have met with summary punishment for showing want of reverence to the temples – some being instantly seized with madness, others openly confessing their crimes, others having put an end to their lives, and others having become the victims of incurable maladies! Yea, some have been slain by a terrible voice issuing from the inner sanctuary.” I know not how it comes that Celsus brings forward these as undoubted facts, whilst at the same time he treats as mere fables the wonders which are recorded and handed down to us as having happened among the Jews, or as having been performed by Jesus and His disciples. For why may not our accounts be true, and those of Celsus fables and fictions? At least, these latter were not believed by the followers of Democritus, Epicurus, and Aristotle, although perhaps these Grecian sects would have been convinced by the evidence in support of our miracles, if Moses or any of the prophets who wrought these wonders, or Jesus Christ Himself, had come in their way.
It is related of the priestess of Apollo, that she at times allowed herself to be influenced in her answers by bribes; but our prophets were admired for their plain truthfulness, not only by their contemporaries, but also by those who lived in later times. For through the commands pronounced by the prophets cities were founded, men were cured, and plagues were stayed. Indeed, the whole Jewish race went out as a colony from Egypt to Palestine, in accordance with the divine oracles. They also, when they followed the commands of God, were prosperous; when they departed from them, they suffered reverses. What need is there to quote all the princes and private persons in Scripture history who fared well or ill according as they obeyed or despised the words of the prophets? If we refer to those who were unhappy because they were childless, but who, after offering prayers to the Creator of all, became fathers and mothers, let any one read the accounts of Abraham and Sarah, to whom at an advanced age was born Isaac, the father of the whole Jewish nation: and there are other instances of the same thing. Let him also read the account of Hezekiah, who not only recovered from his sickness, according to the prediction of Isaiah, but was also bold enough to say, “Afterwards I shall beget children, who shall declare Thy righteousness.”19 And in the fourth book of Kings we read that the prophet Elisha made known to a woman who had received him hospitably, that by the grace of God she should have a son; and through the prayers of Elisha she became a mother.20 The maimed were cured by Jesus in great numbers. And the books of the Maccabees relate what punishments were inflicted upon those who dared to profane the Jewish service in the temple at Jerusalem.
But the Greeks will say that these accounts are fabulous, although two whole nations are witnesses to their truth. But why may we not consider the accounts of the Greeks as fabulous rather than those? Perhaps some one, however, wishing not to appear blindly to accept his own statements and reject those of others, would conclude, after a close examination of the matter, that the wonders mentioned by the Greeks were performed by certain demons; those among the Jews by prophets or by angels, or by God through the means of angels; and those recorded by Christians by Jesus Himself, or by His power working in His apostles. Let us, then, compare all these accounts together; let us examine into the aim and purpose of those who performed them; and let us inquire what effect was produced upon the persons on whose account these acts of kindness were performed, whether beneficial or hurtful, or neither the one nor the other. The ancient Jewish people, before they sinned against God, and were for their great wickedness cast off by Him, must evidently have been a people of great wisdom.21 But Christians, who have in so wonderful a manner formed themselves into a community, appear at first to have been more induced by miracles than by exhortations to forsake the institutions of their fathers, and to adopt others which were quite strange to them. And indeed, if we were to reason from what is probable as to the first formation of the Christian society, we should say that it is incredible that the apostles of Jesus Christ, who were unlettered men of humble life, could have been emboldened to preach Christian truth to men by anything else than the power which was conferred upon them, and the grace which accompanied their words and rendered them effective; and those who heard them would not have renounced the old-established usages of their fathers, and been induced to adopt notions so different from those in which they had been brought up, unless they had been moved by some extraordinary power, and by the force of miraculous events.
In the next place, Celsus, after referring to the enthusiasm with which men will contend unto death rather than abjure Christianity, adds strangely enough some remarks, in which he wishes to show that our doctrines are similar to those delivered by the priests at the celebration of the heathen mysteries. He says, “Just as you, good sir, believe in eternal punishments, so also do the priests who interpret and initiate into the sacred mysteries. The same punishments with which you threaten others, they threaten you. Now it is worthy of examination, which of the two is more firmly established as true; for both parties contend with equal assurance that the truth is on their side. But if we require proofs, the priests of the heathen gods produce many that are clear and convincing, partly from wonders performed by demons, and partly from the answers given by oracles, and various other modes of divination.” He would, then, have us believe that we and the interpreters of the mysteries equally teach the doctrine of eternal punishment, and that it is a matter for inquiry on which side of the two the truth lies. Now I should say that the truth lies with those who are able to induce their hearers to live as men who are convinced of the truth of what they have heard. But Jews and Christians have been thus affected by the doctrines they hold about what we speak of as the world to come, and the rewards of the righteous, and the punishments of the wicked. Let Celsus then, or any one who will, show us who have been moved in this way in regard to eternal punishments by the teaching of heathen priests and mystagogues. For surely the purpose of him who brought to light this doctrine was not only to reason upon the subject of punishments, and to strike men with terror of them, but to induce those who heard the truth to strive with all their might against those sins which are the causes of punishment. And those who study the prophecies with care, and are not content with a cursory perusal of the predictions contained in them, will find them such as to convince the intelligent and sincere reader that the Spirit of God was in those men, and that with their writings there is nothing in all the works of demons, responses of oracles, or sayings of soothsayers, for one moment to be compared.
Let us see in what terms Celsus next addresses us: “Besides, is it not most absurd and inconsistent in you, on the one hand, to make so much of the body as you do – to expect that the same body will rise again, as though it were the best and most precious part of us; and yet, on the other, to expose it to such tortures as though it were worthless? But men who hold such notions, and are so attached to the body, are not worthy of being reasoned with; for in this and in other respects they show themselves to be gross, impure, and bent upon revolting without any reason from the common belief. But I shall direct my discourse to those who hope for the enjoyment of eternal life with God by means of the soul or mind, whether they choose to call it a spiritual substance, an intelligent spirit, holy and blessed, or a living soul, or the heavenly and indestructible offspring of a divine and incorporeal nature, or by whatever name they designate the spiritual nature of man. And they are rightly persuaded that those who live well shall be blessed, and the unrighteous shall all suffer everlasting punishments. And from this doctrine neither they nor any other should ever swerve.” Now, as he has often already reproached us for our opinions on the resurrection, and as we have on these occasions defended our opinions in what seemed to us a reasonable way, we do not intend, at each repetition of the one objection, to go into a repetition of our defence. Celsus makes an unfounded charge against us when he ascribes to us the opinion that “there is nothing in our complex nature better or more precious than the body;” for we hold that far beyond all bodies is the soul, and especially the reasonable soul; for it is the soul, and not the body, which bears the likeness of the Creator. For, according to us, God is not corporeal, unless we fall into the absurd errors of the followers of Zeno and Chrysippus.
But since he reproaches us with too great an anxiety about the body, let him know that when that feeling is a wrong one we do not share in it, and when it is indifferent we only long for that which God has promised to the righteous. But Celsus considers that we are inconsistent with ourselves when we count the body worthy of honour from God, and therefore hope for its resurrection, and yet at the same time expose it to tortures as though it were not worthy of honour. But surely it is not without honour for the body to suffer for the sake of godliness, and to choose afflictions on account of virtue: the dishonourable thing would be for it to waste its powers in vicious indulgence. For the divine word says: “What is an honourable seed? The seed of man. What is a dishonourable seed? The seed of man.”22 Moreover, Celsus thinks that he ought not to reason with those who hope for the good of the body, as they are unreasonably intent upon an object which can never satisfy their expectations. He also calls them gross and impure men, bent upon creating needless dissensions. But surely he ought, as one of superior humanity, to assist even the rude and depraved. For society does not exclude from its pale the coarse and uncultivated, as it does the irrational animals, but our Creator made us on the same common level with all mankind. It is not an undignified thing, therefore, to reason even with the coarse and unrefined, and to try to bring them as far as possible to a higher state of refinement – to bring the impure to the highest practicable degree of purity – to bring the unreasoning multitude to reason, and the diseased in mind to spiritual health.
In the next place, he expresses his approval of those who “hope that eternal life shall be enjoyed with God by the soul or mind, or, as it is variously called, the spiritual nature, the reasonable soul, intelligent, holy, and blessed;” and he allows the soundness of the doctrine, “that those who had a good life shall be happy, and the unrighteous shall suffer eternal punishments.” And yet I wonder at what follows, more than at anything that Celsus has ever said; for he adds, “And from this doctrine let not them or any one ever swerve.” For certainly in writing against Christians, the very essence of whose faith is God, and the promises made by Christ to the righteous, and His warnings of punishment awaiting the wicked, he must see that, if a Christian were brought to renounce Christianity by his arguments against it, it is beyond doubt that, along with his Christian faith, he would cast off the very doctrine from which he says that no Christian and no man should ever swerve. But I think Celsus has been far surpassed in consideration for his fellow-men by Chrysippus in his treatise, On the Subjugation of the Passions. For when he sought to apply remedies to the affections and passions which oppress and distract the human spirit, after employing such arguments as seemed to himself to be strong, he did not shrink from using in the second and third place others which he did not himself approve of. “For,” says he, “if it were held by any one that there are three kinds of good, we must seek to regulate the passions in accordance with that supposition; and we must not too curiously inquire into the opinions held by a person at the time that he is under the influence of passion, lest, if we delay too long for the purpose of overthrowing the opinions by which the mind is possessed, the opportunity for curing the passion may pass away.” And he adds, “Thus, supposing that pleasure were the highest good, or that he was of that opinion whose mind was under the dominion of passion, we should not the less give him help, and show that, even on the principle that pleasure is the highest and final good of man, all passion is disallowed.” And Celsus, in like manner, after having embraced the doctrine, “that the righteous shall be blessed, and the wicked shall suffer eternal punishments,” should have followed out his subject; and, after having advanced what seemed to him the chief argument, he should have proceeded to prove and enforce by further reasons the truth that the unjust shall surely suffer eternal punishment, and those who lead a good life shall be blessed.
For we who have been persuaded by many, yea by innumerable, arguments to lead a Christian life, are especially anxious to bring all men as far as possible to receive the whole system of Christian truth; but when we meet with persons who are prejudiced by the calumnies thrown out against Christians, and who, from a notion that Christians are an impious people, will not listen to any who offer to instruct them in the principles of the divine word, then, on the common principles of humanity, we endeavour to the best of our ability to convince them of the doctrine of the punishment of the wicked, and to induce even those who are unwilling to become Christians to accept that truth. And we are thus anxious to persuade them of the rewards of right living, when we see that many things which we teach about a healthy moral life are also taught by the enemies of our faith. For you will find that they have not entirely lost the common notions of right and wrong, of good and evil. Let all men, therefore, when they look upon the universe, observe the constant revolution of the unerring stars, the converse motion of the planets, the constitution of the atmosphere, and its adaptation to the necessities of the animals, and especially of man, with all the innumerable contrivances for the well-being of mankind; and then, after thus considering the order of the universe, let them beware of doing ought which is displeasing to the Creator of this universe, of the soul and its intelligent principle; and let them rest assured that punishment shall be inflicted on the wicked, and rewards shall be bestowed upon the righteous, by Him who deals with every one as he deserves, and who will proportion His rewards to the good that each has done, and to the account of himself that he is able to give.23 And let all men know that the good shall be advanced to a higher state, and that the wicked shall be delivered over to sufferings and torments, in punishment of their licentiousness and depravity, their cowardice, timidity, and all their follies.
Having said so much on this subject, let us proceed to another statement of Celsus: “Since men are born united to a body, whether to suit the order of the universe, or that they may in that way suffer the punishment of sin; or because the soul is oppressed by certain passions until it is purged from these at the appointed period of time, – for, according to Empedocles, all mankind must be banished from the abodes of the blessed for 30,000 periods of time, – we must therefore believe that they are entrusted to certain beings as keepers of this prison-house.” You will observe that Celsus, in these remarks, speaks of such weighty matters in the language of doubtful human conjecture. He adds also various opinions as to the origin of man, and shows considerable reluctance to set down any of these opinions as false. When he had once come to the conclusion neither indiscriminately to accept nor recklessly to reject the opinions held by the ancients, would it not have been in accordance with that same rule of judging, if, when he found himself not disposed to believe the doctrines taught by the Jewish prophets and by Jesus, at any rate to have held them as matters open to inquiry? And should he not have considered whether it is very probable that a people who faithfully served the Most High God, and who ofttimes encountered numberless dangers, and even death, rather than sacrifice the honour of God, and what they believed to be the revelations of His will, should have been wholly overlooked by God? Should it not rather be thought probable that people who despised the efforts of human art to represent the Divine Being, but strove rather to rise in thought to the knowledge of the Most High, should have been favoured with some revelation from Himself? Besides, he ought to have considered that the common Father and Creator of all, who sees and hears all things, and who duly esteems the intention of every man who seeks Him and desires to serve Him, will grant unto these also some of the benefits of His rule, and will give them an enlargement of that knowledge of Himself which He has once bestowed upon them. If this had been remembered by Celsus and the others who hate Moses and the Jewish prophets, and Jesus, and His faithful disciples, who endured so much for the sake of His word, they would not thus have reviled Moses, and the prophets, and Jesus, and His apostles; and they would not have singled out for their contempt the Jews beyond all the nations of the earth, and said they were worse even than the Egyptians, – a people who, either from superstition or some other form of delusion, went as far as they could in degrading the Divine Being to the level of brute beasts. And we invite inquiry, not as though we wished to lead any to doubt regarding the truths of Christianity, but in order to show that it would be better for those who in every way revile the doctrines of Christianity, at any rate to suspend their judgment, and not so rashly to state about Jesus and His apostles such things as they do not know, and as they cannot prove, either by what the Stoics call “apprehensive perception,”24 or by any other methods used by different sects of philosophers as criteria of truth.
When Celsus adds, “We must therefore believe that men are entrusted to certain beings who are the keepers of this prison-house,” our answer is, that the souls of those who are called by Jeremiah “prisoners of the earth,” (Lam_3:34) when eager in the pursuit of virtue, are even in this life delivered from the bondage of evil; for Jesus declared this, as was foretold long before His advent by the prophet Isaiah, when he said that “the prisoners would go forth, and they that were in darkness would show themselves.” (Isa_49:9) And Jesus Himself, as Isaiah also foretold of Him, arose as “a light to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,” (Isa_9:2) so that we may therefore say, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords from us.” (Psa_2:3) If Celsus, and those who like him are opposed to us, had been able to sound the depths of the Gospel narratives, they would not have counselled us to put our confidence in those beings whom they call “the keepers of the prison-house.” It is written in the Gospel that a woman was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus beheld her, and perceived from what cause she was bowed together, he said, “Ought not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years, to be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luk_13:11, Luk_13:16) And how many others are still bowed down and bound by Satan, who hinders them from looking up at all, and who would have us to look down also! And no one can raise them up, except the Word, that came by Jesus Christ, and that aforetime inspired the prophets: And Jesus came to release those who were under the dominion of the devil; and, speaking of him, He said with that depth of meaning which characterized His words, “Now is the prince of this world judged.” We are, then, indulging in no baseless calumnies against demons, but are condemning their agency upon earth as destructive to mankind, and show that, under cover of oracles and bodily cures, and such other means, they are seeking to separate from God the soul which has descended to this “body of humiliation;” and those who feel this humiliation exclaim, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom_7:24) It is not in vain, therefore, that we expose our bodies to be beaten and tortured; for surely it is not in vain for a man to submit to such sufferings, if by that means he may avoid bestowing the name of gods on those earthly spirits that unite with their worshippers to bring him to destruction. Indeed, we think it both reasonable in itself and well-pleasing to God, to suffer pain for the sake of virtue, to undergo torture for the sake of piety, and even to suffer death for the sake of holiness; for “precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints;” (Psa_116:15) and we maintain that to overcome the love of life is to enjoy a great good. But when Celsus compares us to notorious criminals, who justly suffer punishment for their crimes, and does not shrink from placing so laudable a purpose as that which we set before us upon the same level with the obstinacy of criminals, he makes himself the brother and companion of those who accounted Jesus among criminals, fulfilling the Scripture, which saith, “He was numbered with transgressors.” (Isa_53:12)
Celsus goes on to say: “They must make their choice between two alternatives. If they refuse to render due service to the gods, and to respect those who are set over this service, let them not come to manhood, or marry wives, or have children, or indeed take any share in the affairs of life; but let them depart hence with all speed, and leave no posterity behind them, that such a race may become extinct from the face of the earth. Or, on the other hand, if they will take wives, and bring up children, and taste of the fruits of the earth, and partake of all the blessings of life, and bear its appointed sorrows (for nature herself hath allotted sorrows to all men; for sorrows must exist, and earth is the only place for them), then must they discharge the duties of life until they are released from its bonds, and render due honour to those beings who control the affairs of this life, if they would not show themselves ungrateful to them. For it would be unjust in them, after receiving the good things which they dispense, to pay them no tribute in return.” To this we reply, that there appears to us to be no good reason for our leaving this world, except when piety and virtue require it; as when, for example, those who are set as judges, and think that they have power over our lives, place before us the alternative either to live in violation of the commands of Jesus, or to die if we continue obedient to them. But God has allowed us to marry, because all are not fit for the higher, that is, the perfectly pure life; and God would have us to bring up all our children, and not to destroy any of the offspring given us by His providence. And this does not conflict with our purpose not to obey the demons that are on the earth; for, “being armed with the whole armour of God, we stand” (Eph_6:11) as athletes of piety against the race of demons that plot against us.
Although, therefore, Celsus would, in his own words, “drive us with all haste out of life,” so that “such a race may become extinct from the earth;” yet we, along with those who worship the Creator, will live according to the laws of God, never consenting to obey the laws of sin. We will marry if we wish, and bring up the children given to us in marriage; and if need be, we will not only partake of the blessings of life, but bear its appointed sorrows as a trial to our souls. For in this way is divine Scripture accustomed to speak of human afflictions, by which, as gold is tried in the fire, so the spirit of man is tried, and is found to be worthy either of condemnation or of praise. For those things which Celsus calls evils we are therefore prepared, and are ready to say, “Try me, O Lord, and prove me; purge my reins and my heart.” (Psa_26:2) For “no one will be crowned,” unless here upon earth, with this body of humiliation, “he strive lawfully.” (2Ti_2:5) Further, we do not pay honours supposed to be due to those whom Celsus speaks of as being set over the affairs of the world. For we worship the Lord our God, and Him only do we serve, and desire to be followers of Christ, who, when the devil said to Him, “All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me,” answered him by the words, “Thou shall worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.” (Mat_4:9, Mat_4:10) Wherefore we do not render the honour supposed to be due to those who, according to Celsus, are set over the affairs of this world; for “no man can serve two masters,” and we “cannot serve God and mammon,” whether this name be applied to one or more. Moreover, if any one “by transgressing the law dishonours the lawgiver,” it seems clear to us that if the two laws, the law of God and the law of mammon, are completely opposed to each other, it is better for us by transgressing the law of mammon to dishonour mammon, that we may honour God by keeping His law, than by transgressing the law of God to dishonour God, that by obeying the law of mammon we may honour mammon.
Celsus supposes that men “discharge the duties of life until they are loosened from its bonds,” when, in accordance with commonly received customs, they offer sacrifices to each of the gods recognised in the state; and he fails to perceive the true duty which is fulfilled by an earnest piety. For we say that he truly discharges the duties of life who is ever mindful who is his Creator, and what things are agreeable to Him, and who acts in all things so that he may please God. Again, Celsus wishes us to be thankful to these demons, imagining that we owe them thank-offerings. But we, while recognising the duty of thankfulness, maintain that we show no ingratitude by refusing to give thanks to beings who do us no good, but who rather set themselves against us when we neither sacrifice to them nor worship them. We are much more concerned lest we should be ungrateful to God, who has loaded us with His benefits, whose workmanship we are, who cares for us in whatever condition we may be, and who has given us hopes of things beyond this present life. And we have a symbol of gratitude to God in the bread which we call the Eucharist. Besides, as we have shown before, the demons have not the control of those things which have been created for our use; we commit no wrong, therefore, when we partake of created things, and yet refuse to offer sacrifices to beings who have no concern with them. Moreover, as we know that it is not demons, but angels, who have been set over the fruits of the earth, and over the birth of animals, it is the latter that we praise and bless, as having been appointed by God over the things needful for our race; yet even to them we will not give the honour which is due to God. For this would not be pleasing to God, nor would it be any pleasure to the angels themselves to whom these things have been committed. Indeed, they are much more pleased if we refrain from offering sacrifices to them than if we offer them; for they have no desire for the sacrificial odours which rise from the earth.
Celsus goes on to say: “Let any one inquire of the Egyptians, and he will find that everything, even to the most insignificant, is committed to the care of a certain demon. The body of man is divided into thirty-six parts, and as many demons of the air are appointed to the care of it, each having charge of a different part, although others make the number much larger. All these demons have in the language of that country distinct names; as Chnoumen, Chnachoumen, Cnat, Sicat, Biou, Erou, Erebiou, Ramanor, Reianoor, and other such Egyptian names. Moreover, they call upon them, and are cured of diseases of particular parts of the body. What, then, is there to prevent a man from giving honour to these or to others, if he would rather be in health than be sick, rather have prosperity than adversity, and be freed as much as possible from all plagues and troubles?” In this way, Celsus seeks to degrade our souls to the worship of demons, under the assumption that they have possession of our bodies, and that each one has power over a separate member. And he wishes us on this ground to put confidence in these demons of which he speaks, and to serve them, in order that we may be in health rather than be sick, have prosperity rather than adversity, and may as far as possible escape all plagues and troubles. The honour of the Most High God, which cannot be divided or shared with another, is so lightly esteemed by him, that he cannot believe in the ability of God, if called upon and highly honoured, to give to those who serve Him a power by which they may be defended from the assaults directed by demons against the righteous. For he has never beheld the efficacy of those words, “in the name of Jesus,” when uttered by the truly faithful, to deliver not a few from demons and demoniacal possessions and other plagues.
Probably those who embrace the views of Celsus will smile at us when we say, “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, of things on earth, and of things under the earth, and every tongue” is brought to “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phi_2:10, Phi_2:11) But although they may ridicule such a statement, yet they will receive much more convincing arguments in support of it than Celsus brings in behalf of Chnoumen, Chnachoumen, Cnat, Sicat, and the rest of the Egyptian catalogue, whom he mentions as being called upon, and as healing the diseases of different parts of the human body. And observe how, while seeking to turn us away from our faith in the God of all through Jesus Christ, he exhorts us for the welfare of our bodies to faith in six-and-thirty barbarous demons, whom the Egyptian magi alone call upon in some unknown way, and promise us in return great benefits. According to Celsus, then, it would be better for us now to give ourselves up to magic and sorcery than to embrace Christianity, and to put our faith in an innumerable multitude of demons than in the almighty, living, self-revealing God, who has manifested Himself by Him who by His great power has spread the true principles of holiness among all men throughout the world; yea, I may add without exaggeration, He has given this knowledge to all beings everywhere possessed of reason, and needing deliverance from the plague and corruption of sin.
13 [A very express testimony in favour “of speaking in the congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth” (Art. XXIV. of the Church of England). See Rev. H. Cary’s Testimonies of the Fathers of the First Four Centuries, etc., p. 287, Oxford, 1835. S.]
14 Exo_22:28 [ θεοὺς οὐ κακολογήσεις, Sept. S.]
15 “The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind to powder” (Plutarch): [De Sera Numinis Vindicta, sect. iii. S.]
16 Hom., Il., xx. 308.
17 ἀγγελμάτων. Spencer reads ἀγαλμάτων in this and the following sentences.
18 Euripides, Hippolytus, 612.
19 Isaiah 38:19, LXX
20 [2Ki_4:17. 4 Kings, Sept. and Vulg. S.]
22 Ecclesiasticus 10:19. In the LXX the last clause is, “What is a dishonourable seed? They that transgress the commandments.”
23 [Ecc_8:11. See cap. xl., supra. De Maistre has admirably annotated Plutarch’s Delay of the Divine Judgment.]
24 καταληπτικὴ φαντασία.