Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 7: 7.01.07 Lactantius - Divine Institutes 2 - Ch 13-End

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Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 7: 7.01.07 Lactantius - Divine Institutes 2 - Ch 13-End

TOPIC: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 7 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 7.01.07 Lactantius - Divine Institutes 2 - Ch 13-End

Other Subjects in this Topic:

Lactantius (Cont.)

The Divine Institutes. (Cont.)

Book II. (Cont.)

Chap. XIII. - Why Man Is of Two Sexes; What Is His First Death, and What the Second and of the Fault and Punishment of Our First Parents.

When, therefore, He had first formed the male after His own likeness, then He also fashioned woman after the image of the man himself, that the two by their union might be able to perpetuate their race, and to fill the whole earth with a multitude. But in the making of man himself He concluded and completed the nature of those two materials which we have spoken of as contrary to each other, fire and water. For having made the body, He breathed into it a soul from the vital source of His own Spirit, which is everlasting, that it might bear the similitude of the world itself, which is composed of opposing elements. For he175 consists of soul and body, that is, as it were, of heaven and earth: since the soul by which we live, has its origin, as it were, out of heaven from God, the body out of the earth, of the dust of which we have said that it was formed. Empedocles - whom you cannot tell whether to reckon among poets or philosophers, for he wrote in verse respecting the nature of things, as did Lucretius and Varro among the Romans - determined that there were four elements, that is, fire, air, water, and earth; perhaps following Trismegistus, who said that our bodies were composed of these four elements by God, for he said that they contained in themselves something of fire, something of air, something of water, and something of earth, and yet that they were neither fire, nor air, nor water, nor earth. And these things indeed are not false; for the nature of earth is contained in the flesh, that of moisture in the blood, that of air in the breath, that of fire in the vital heat. But neither can the blood be separated from the body, as moisture is from the earth; nor the vital heat from the breath, as fire from the air: so that of all things only two elements are found, the whole nature of which is included in the formation of our body. Man, therefore, was made from different and opposite substances, as the world itself was made from light and darkness, from life and death; and he has admonished us that these two things contend against each other in man: so that if the soul, which has its origin from God, gains the mastery, it is immortal, and lives in perpetual light; if, on the other hand, the body shall overpower the soul, and subject it to its dominion, it is in everlasting darkness and death.176 And the force of this is not that it altogether annihilates177 the souls of the unrighteous, but subjects them to everlasting punishment.178

We term that punishment the second death, which is itself also perpetual, as also is immortality. We thus define the first death: Death is the dissolution of the nature of living beings; or thus: Death is the separation of body and 62 soul. But we thus define the second death: Death is the suffering of eternal pain; or thus: Death is the condemnation of souls for their deserts to eternal punishments. This does not extend to the dumb cattle, whose spirits, not being composed of God, (Ecc_3:18-21. Answered, Ecc_12:7) but of the common air, are dissolved by death. Therefore in this union of heaven and earth, the image of which is developed179 in man, those things which belong to God occupy the higher part, namely the soul, which has dominion over the body; but those which belong to the devil occupy the lower180 part, manifestly the body: for this, being earthly, ought to be subject to the soul, as the earth is to heaven. For it is, as it were, a vessel which this heavenly spirit may employ as a temporary dwelling. The duties of both are - for the latter, which is from heaven and from God, to command; but for the former, which is from the earth and the devil, to obey. And this, indeed, did not escape the notice of a dissolute man, Sallust,181 who says: “But all our power consists in the soul and body; we use the soul to command, the body rather to obey.” It had been well if he had lived in accordance with his words; for he was a slave to the most degrading pleasures, and he destroyed the efficacy of his sentiment by the depravity of his life. But if the soul is fire, as we have shown, it ought to mount up to heaven as fire, that it may not be extinguished; that is, it ought to rise to the immortality which is in heaven. And as fire cannot burn and be kept alive unless it be nourished182 by some rich fuel183 in which it may have sustenance, so the fuel and food of the soul is righteousness alone, by which it is nourished unto life. After these things, God, having made man in the manner in which I have pointed out, placed him in paradise, (Gen_2:1-25) that is, in a most fruitful and pleasant garden, which He planted in the regions of the East with every kind of wood and tree, that he might be nourished by their various fruits; and being free from all labours.184 might devote himself entirely to the service of God his Father.

Then He gave to him fixed commands, by the observance of which he might continue immortal; or if he transgressed them, be punished with death. It was enjoined that he should not taste of one tree only which was in the midst of the garden,185 in which He had placed the knowledge of good and evil. Then the accuser, envying the works of God, applied all his deceits and artifices to beguile186 the man, that he might deprive him of immortality. And first he enticed the woman by fraud to take the forbidden fruit, and through her instrumentality he also persuaded the man himself to transgress the law of God. Therefore, having obtained the knowledge of good and evil, he began to be ashamed of his nakedness, and hid himself from the face of God, which he was not before accustomed to do. Then God drove out the man from the garden, having passed sentence upon the sinner, that he might seek support for himself by labour. And He surrounded187 the garden itself with fire, to prevent the approach of the man until He execute the last judgment on earth; and having removed death, recall righteous men, His worshippers, to the same place; as the sacred writers teach. and the Erythræan Sibyl, when she says: “But they who honour the true God inherit everlasting life, themselves inhabiting together paradise, the beautiful garden, for ever.” But since these are the last things,188 we will treat of them in the last part of this work. Now let us explain those which are first. Death therefore followed man, according to the sentence of God, which even the Sibyl teaches in her verse, saying: “Man made by the very hands of God, whom the serpent treacherously beguiled that he might come to the fate of death, and receive the knowledge of good and evil.” Thus the life of man became limited in duration;189 but still, however, long, inasmuch as it was extended to a thousand190 years. And when Varro was not ignorant of this, handed down as it is in the sacred writings, and spread abroad by the knowledge of all, he endeavoured to give reasons why the ancients were supposed to have lived a thousand years. For he says that among the Egyptians months are accounted191 as years: so that the circuit of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac does not make a year, but the moon, which traverses that sign-bearing circle in the space of thirty days; which argument is manifestly false. For no one then exceeded the thousandth year. But now they who attain to the hundredth year, which frequently happens, 63 undoubtedly live a thousand and two hundred months. And competent192 authorities report that men are accustomed to reach one hundred and twenty years.193 But because Varro did not know why or when the life of man was shortened, he himself shortened it, since he knew that it was possible for man to live a thousand and four hundred months.

Chap. XIV. - Of Noah the Inventor of Wine, Who First Had Knowledge of the Stars, and of the Origin of False Religions.

But afterwards God, when He saw the earth filled with wickedness and crimes, determined to destroy mankind with a deluge; but, however, for renewing the multitude, He chose one man, who,194 when all were corrupted, stood forth pre-eminent, as a remarkable example of righteousness. He, when six hundred years old, built an ark, as God had commanded him, in which he himself was saved, together with his wife and three sons, and as many daughters-in-law, when the water had covered all the loftiest mountains. Then when the earth was dry, God, execrating the wickedness of the former age, that the length of life might not again be a cause of meditating evils, gradually diminished the age of man by each successive generation, and placed a limit at a hundred and twenty years,195 which it might not be permitted to exceed. But he, when he went forth from the ark, as the sacred writings inform us, diligently cultivated the earth, and planted a vineyard with his own hand. From which circumstance they are refuted who regard Bacchus as the author of wine. For he not only preceded Bacchus, but also Saturn and Uranus, by many generations. And when he had first taken the fruit from the vineyard, having become merry, he drank even to intoxication, and lay naked. And when one of his sons, whose name was Cham,196 had seen this, he did not cover his father’s nakedness, but went out and told the circumstance to his brothers also. But they, having taken a garment, entered with their faces turned backwards, and covered their father. (Gen_9:23) And when their father became aware of what had been done, he disowned and sent away his son. But he went into exile, and settled in a part of that land which is now called Arabia; and that land was called from him Chanaan, and his posterity Chanaanites. This was the first nation which was ignorant of God, since its prince and founder did not receive from his father the worship of God, being cursed by him;197 and thus he left to his descendants ignorance of the divine nature.198

From this nation all the nearest people flowed as the multitude increased. But the descendants of his father were called Hebrews, among whom the religion of the true God was established.199 But from these also in after times, when their number was multiplied exceedingly, since the small extent of their settlements could not contain them, then young men, either sent by their parents or of their own accord, by the compulsion of poverty, leaving their own lands to seek for themselves new settlements, were scattered in all directions, and filled all the islands and the whole earth; and thus being torn away from the stem of their sacred root, they established for themselves at their own discretion new customs and institutions. But they who occupied Egypt were the first of all who began to look up to and adore the heavenly bodies. And because they did not shelter themselves in houses on account of the quality of the atmosphere, and the heaven is not overspread with any clouds in that country, they observed the courses of the stars, and their obscurations,200 while in their frequent adorations they more carefully and freely beheld them. Then afterwards, induced by certain prodigies, they invented monstrous figures of animals, that they might worship them; the authors of which we will presently disclose. But the others, who were scattered over the earth, admiring the elements of the world, began to worship the heaven, the sun, the earth, the sea, without any images and temples, and offered sacrifices to them in the open air, until in process of time they erected temples and statues to the most powerful kings, and originated the practice of honouring them with victims and odours; and thus wandering from the knowledge of God, they began to be heathens. They err, therefore, who contend that the worship of the gods was from the beginning of the world, and that heathenism was prior to the religion of God: for they think that this was discovered afterwards, because they are ignorant of the source and origin of the truth. Now let us return to the beginning of the world.

Chap. XV. - Of the Corruption of Angels, and the Two Kinds of Demons.

When, therefore, the number of men had begun to increase, God in His forethought, lest the devil, to whom from the beginning He had given power over the earth, should by his subtilty either corrupt or destroy men, as he had done at first, sent angels for the protection and improvement201 of the human race; and inasmuch as He had given these a free will, He enjoined them above all things not to defile themselves with contamination from the earth, and thus lose the dignity of their heavenly nature.202 He plainly prohibited them from doing that which He knew that they would do, that they might entertain no hope of pardon. Therefore, while they abode among men, that most deceitful ruler203 of the earth, by his very association, gradually enticed them to vices, and polluted them by intercourse with women. Then, not being admitted into heaven on account of the sins into which they had plunged themselves, they fell to the earth. Thus from angels the devil makes them to become his satellites and attendants. But they who were born from these, because they were neither angels nor men, but bearing a kind of mixed204 nature, were not admitted into hell, as their fathers were not into heaven. Thus there came to be two kinds of demons; one of heaven, the other of the earth. The latter are the wicked205 spirits, the authors of all the evils which are done, and the same devil is their prince. Whence Trismegistus calls him the ruler of the demons. But grammarians say that they are called demons, as though dæmones,206 that is, skilled and acquainted with matters: for they think that these are gods. They are acquainted, indeed, with many future events, but not all, since it is not permitted them entirely to know the counsel of God; and therefore they are accustomed to accommodate207 their answers to ambiguous results. The poets both know them to be demons, and so describe them. Hesiod thus speaks: -

“These are the demons according to the will of Zeus, Good, living on the earth, the guardians of mortal men.”

And this is said for this purpose, because God had sent them as guardians to the human race; but they themselves also, though they are the destroyers of men, yet wish themselves to appear as their guardians, that they themselves may be worshipped, and God may not be worshipped. The philosophers also discuss the subject of these beings. For Plato attempted even to explain their natures in his “Banquet;” and Socrates said that there was a demon continually about him, who had become attached to him when a boy, by whose will and direction his life was guided. The art also and power of the Magi altogether consists in the influences208 of these; invoked by whom they deceive the sight of men with deceptive illusions,209 so that they do not see those things which exist, and think that they see those things which do not exist. These contaminated and abandoned spirits, as I say, wander over the whole earth, and contrive a solace for their own perdition by the destruction of men. Therefore they fill every place with snares, deceits, frauds, and errors; for they cling to individuals, and occupy whole houses from door to door, and assume to themselves the name of genii; for by this word they translate demons in the Latin language. They consecrate these in their houses, to these they daily pour out210 libations of wine, and worship the wise demons as gods of the earth, and as averters of those evils which they themselves cause and impose. And these, since spirits are without substance211 and not to be grasped, insinuate themselves into the bodies of men; and secretly working in their inward parts, they corrupt the health, hasten diseases, terrify their souls with dreams, harass their minds with phrenzies, that by these evils they may compel men to have recourse to their aid.

Chap. XVI. - That Demons Have No Power Over Those Who Are Established in the Faith.

And the nature of all these deceits212 is obscure to those who are without the truth. For they think that those demons profit them when they cease to injure, whereas they have no power except to injure.213 Some one may perchance say that they are therefore to be worshipped, that they may not injure, since they have the power to injure. They do indeed injure, but those only by whom they are feared, whom the powerful and lofty hand of God does not protect, who are 65 uninitiated in the mystery214 of truth. But they fear the righteous,215 that is, the worshippers of God, adjured by whose name they depart216 from the bodies of the possessed: for, being lashed by their words as though by scourges, they not only confess themselves to be demons, but even utter their own names - those which are adored in the temples - which they generally do in the presence of their own worshippers; not, it is plain, to the disgrace of religion, but217 to the disgrace of their own honour, because they cannot speak falsely to God, by whom they are adjured, nor to the righteous, by whose voice they are tortured. Therefore ofttimes having uttered the greatest howlings, they cry out that they are beaten, and are on fire, and that they are just on the point of coming forth: so much power has the knowledge of God, and righteousness! Whom, therefore, can they injure, except those whom they have in their own power? In short, Hermes affirms that those who have known God are not only safe from the attacks of demons, but that they are not even bound by fate. “The only protection,” he says, “is piety, for over a pious man neither evil demon nor fate has any power: for God rescues the pious man from all evil; for the one and only good thing among men is piety.” And what piety is, he testifies in another place, in these words: “For piety is the knowledge of God.” Asclepius also, his disciple, more fully expressed the same sentiment in that finished discourse which he wrote to the king. Each of them, in truth, affirms that the demons are the enemies and harassers of men, and on this account Trismegistus calls them wicked angels; so far was he from being ignorant that from heavenly beings they were corrupted, and began to be earthly.

Chap. XVII. - That Astrology, Soothsaying, and Similar Arts Are the Invention of Demons.

These were the inventors of astrology, and soothsaying, and divination, and those productions which are called oracles, and necromancy, and the art of magic, and whatever evil practices besides these men exercise, either openly or in secret. Now all these things are false of themselves, as the Erythræan Sibyl testifies: -

“Since all these things are erroneous,

Which foolish men search after day by day.”

But these same authorities by their countenance218 cause it to be believed that they are true. Thus they delude the credulity of men by lying divination, because it is not expedient for them to lay open the truth. These are they who taught men to make images and statues; who, in order that they might turn away the minds of men from the worship of the true God, cause the countenances of dead kings, fashioned and adorned with exquisite beauty, to be erected and consecrated, and assumed to themselves their names, as though they were assuming some characters. But the magicians, and those whom the people truly call enchanters,219 when they practise their detestable arts, call upon them by their true names, those heavenly names which are read in the sacred writings. Moreover, these impure and wandering spirits, that they may throw all things into confusion, and overspread the minds of men with errors, interweave and mingle false things with true. For they themselves feigned that there are many heavenly beings, and one king of all, Jupiter; because there are many spirits of angels in heaven, and one Parent and Lord of all, God. But they have concealed the truth under false names, and withdrawn it from sight.

For God, as I have shown in the beginning,220 does not need a name, since He is alone; nor do the angels, inasmuch as they are immortal, either suffer or wish themselves to be called gods: for their one and only duty is to submit to the will of God, and not to do anything at all except at His command. For we say that the world is so governed by God, as a province is by its ruler; and no one would say that his attendants221 are his sharers in the administration of the province, although business is carried on by their service. And yet these can effect something contrary to the commands of the ruler, through his ignorance; which is the result of man’s condition. But that guardian of the world and ruler of the universe, who knows all things, from whose divine eyes nothing is concealed,222 has alone with His Son the power over all things; nor is there anything in the angels except the necessity of obedience. Therefore they wish no honour to be paid to them, since all their hononr is in God. But they who have revolted from the service of God, because they are enemies of the truth, and betrayers223 of God attempt to claim for themselves the name and worship of gods; not that they desire any honour 66 (for what honour is there to the lost?), nor that they may injure God, who cannot be injured, but that they may injure men, whom they strive to turn away from the worship and knowledge of the true Majesty, that they may not be able to obtain immortality, which they themselves have lost through their wickedness. Therefore they draw on darkness, and overspread the truth with obscurity, that men may not know their Lord and Father. And that they may easily entice them, they conceal themselves in the temples, and are close at hand at all sacrifices; and they often give prodigies, that men, astonished by them, may attach to images a belief in their divine power and influence. Hence it is that the stone was cut by the augur with a razor; that Juno of Veii answered that she wished to remove to Rome; that Fortuna Muliebris224 announced the threatening danger; that the ship followed the hand of Claudia; that Juno when plundered, and the Locrian Proserpine, and the Milesian Ceres, punished the sacrilegious; that Hercules exacted vengeance from Appius, and Jupiter from Atinius, and Minerva from Cæsar. Hence it was that the serpent sent for from Epidaurus freed the city of Rome from pestilence. For the chief of the demons was himself carried thither in his own form, without any dissembling; if indeed the ambassadors who were sent for that purpose brought with them a serpent of immense size.

But they especially deceive in the case of oracles, the juggleries of which the profane225 cannot distinguish from the truth; and therefore they imagine that commands,226 and victories, and wealth, and prosperous issues of affairs, are bestowed by them, - in short, that the state has often been freed from imminent dangers by their interposition;227 which dangers they have both announced, and when appeased with sacrifices, have averted. But all these things are deceits. For since they have a presentiment228 of the arrangements of God, inasmuch as they have been His ministers, they interpose themselves in these matters, that whatever things have been accomplished or are in the course of accomplishment by God, they themselves may especially appear to be doing or to have done; and as often as any advantage is hanging over any people or city, according to the purpose of God, either by prodigies, or dreams, or oracles, they promise that they will bring it to pass, if temples, honours, and sacrifices are given to them. And on the offering of these, when the necessary229 result comes to pass, they acquire for themselves the greatest veneration. Hence temples are vowed, and new images consecrated; herds of victims are slain; and when all these things are done, yet the life and safety of those who have performed them are not the less sacrificed. But as often as dangers threaten, they profess that they are angry on account of some light and trifling cause; as Juno was with Varro, because he had placed a beautiful boy on the carriage230 of Jupiter to guard the dress, and on this account the Roman name was almost destroyed at Cannæ. But if Juno feared a second Ganymede, why did the Roman youth suffer punishment? Or if the gods regard the leaders only, and neglect the rest of the multitude, why did Varro alone escape who acted thus, and why was Paulus, who was innocent,231 slain? Assuredly nothing then happened to the Romans by “the fates of the hostile Juno,”232 when Hannibal by craft and valour despatched two armies of the Roman people. For Juno did not venture either to defend Carthage, where were her arms and chariot, or to injure the Romans; for

“She had heard that sons of Troy

Were born her Carthage to destroy.”233

But these are the delusions of those who, concealing themselves under the names of the dead, lay snares for the living. Therefore, whether the impending danger can be avoided, they wish it to appear that they averted it, having been appeased; or if it cannot be avoided, they contrive that it may appear to have happened through disregard234 of them. Thus they acquire to themselves authority and fear from men, who are ignorant of them. By this subtilty and by these arts they have caused the knowledge of the true and only God to fail235 among all nations. For, being destroyed by their own vices, they rage and use violence that they may destroy others. Therefore these enemies of the human race even devised human victims, to devour as many lives as possible.

Chap. XVIII. - Of the Patience and Vengeance of God, the Worship of Demons, and False Religions.

Some one will say, Why then does God permit these things to be done, and not apply a remedy to such disastrous errors? That evils may be at variance with good; that vices may be opposed to virtues; that He may have some whom He may punish, and others whom He 67 may honour. For He has determined at the last times to pass judgment on the living and the dead, concerning which judgment I shall speak in the last book. He delays,236 therefore, until the end of the times shall come, when He may pour out His wrath with heavenly power and might, as

“Prophecies of pious seers

Ring terror in the ’wildered ears.”237

But now He suffers men to err, and to be impious even towards Himself, just, and mild, and patient as He is. For it is impossible that He in whom is perfect excellence should not also be of perfect patience. Whence some imagine, that God is altogether free from anger, because He is not subject to affections, which are perturbations of the mind; for every animal which is liable to affections and emotions is frail. But this persuasion altogether takes away truth and religion. But let this subject of discussing the anger of God be laid aside for the present; because the matter is very copious, and to be more widely treated in a work devoted to the subject. Whoever shall have worshipped and followed these most wicked spirits, will neither enjoy heaven nor the light, which are God’s; but will fall into those things which we have spoken of as being assigned in the distribution of things to the prince of the evil ones himself, - namely, into darkness, and hell, and everlasting punishment.

I have shown that the religious rites of the gods are vain in a threefold manner: In the first place, because those images which are worshipped are representations of men who are dead; and that is a wrong and inconsistent thing, that the image of a man should be worshipped by the image of God, for that which worships is lower and weaker than that which is worshipped: then that it is an inexpiable crime to desert the living in order that you may serve memorials of the dead, who can neither give life nor light to any one, for they are themselves without it: and that there is no other God but one, to whose judgment and power every soul is subject. In the second place, that the sacred images themselves, to which most senseless men do service, are destitute of all perception, since they are earth. But who cannot understand that it is unlawful for an upright animal to bend itself that it may adore the earth? which is placed beneath our feet for this purpose, that it may be trodden upon, and not adored by us, who have been raised from it, and have received an elevated position beyond the other living creatures, that we may not turn ourselves again downward, nor cast this heavenly countenance to the earth, but may direct our eyes to that quarter to which the condition of their nature has directed, and that we may adore and worship nothing except the single deity of our only Creator and Father, who made man of an erect figure, that we may know that we are called forth to high and heavenly things. In the third place, because the spirits which preside over the religious rites themselves, being condemned and cast off by God, wallow238 over the earth, who not only are unable to afford any advantage to their worshippers, since the power of all things is in the hands of one alone, but even destroy them with deadly attractions and errors; since this is their daily business, to involve men in darkness, that the true God may not be sought by them. Therefore they are not to be worshipped, because they lie under the sentence of God. For it is a very great crime to devote239 one’s self to the power of those whom, if you follow righteousness, you are able to excel in power, and to drive out and put to flight by adjuration of the divine name. But if it appears that these religious rites are vain in so many ways as I have shown, it is manifest that those who either make prayers to the dead,240 or venerate the earth, or make over241 their souls to unclean spirits, do not act as becomes men, and that they will suffer punishment for their impiety and guilt, who, rebelling against God, the Father of the human race, have undertaken inexpiable rites, and violated every sacred law.

Chap. XIX. - Of the Worship of Images and Earthly Objects.

Whoever, therefore, is anxious to observe the obligations to which man is liable, and to maintain a regard for his nature, let him raise himself from the ground, and, with mind lifted up, let him direct his eyes to heaven: let him not seek God under his feet, nor dig up from his footprints an object of veneration, for whatever lies beneath man must necessarily be inferior to man; but let him seek it aloft, let him seek it in the highest place: for nothing can be greater than man, except that which is above man. But God is greater than man: therefore He is above, and 68 not below; nor is He to be sought in the lowest, but rather in the highest region. Wherefore it is undoubted that there is no religion wherever there is an image.242 For if religion consists of divine things, and there is nothing divine except in heavenly things; it follows that images are without religion, because there can be nothing heavenly in that which is made from the earth. And this, indeed, may be plain to a wise man from the very name.243 For whatever is an imitation, that must of necessity be false; nor can anything receive the name of a true object which counterfeits the truth by deception and imitation. But if all imitation is not particularly a serious matter, but as it were a sport and jest, then there is no religion in images, but a mimicry of religion. That which is true is therefore to be preferred to all things which are false; earthly things are to be trampled upon, that we may obtain heavenly things. For this is the state of the case, that whosoever shall prostrate his soul, which has its origin from heaven, to the shades244 beneath, and the lowest things, must fall to that place to which he has cast himself. Therefore he ought to be mindful of his nature and condition, and always to strive and aim at things above. And whoever shall do this, he will be judged altogether wise, he just, he a man: he, in short, will be judged worthy of heaven whom his Parent will recognise not as abject, nor cast down to the earth after the manner of the beasts,245 but rather standing and upright as He made him.

Chap. XX. - Of Philosophy and the Truth.

A great and difficult portion of the work which I have undertaken, unless I am deceived, has been completed; and the majesty of heaven supplying the power of speaking, we have driven away inveterate errors. But now a greater and more difficult contest with philosophers is proposed to us, the height of whose learning and eloquence, as some massive structure, is opposed to me. For as in the former246 case we were oppressed by a multitude, and almost by the universal agreement of all nations, so in this subject we are oppressed by the authority of men excelling in every kind of praise. But who can be ignorant that there is more weight in a smaller number of learned men than in a greater number of ignorant persons?247 But we must not despair that, under the guidance of God and the truth, these also may be turned aside from their opinion; nor do I think that they will be so obstinate as to deny that they behold with sound and open eyes the sun as he shines in his brilliancy. Only let that be true which they themselves are accustomed to profess, that they are possessed with the desire of investigation, and I shall assuredly succeed in causing them to believe that the truth which they have long sought for has been at length found, and to confess that it could not have been found by the abilities of man.



175 i.e., man.

176 It was necessary to remove ambiguity from the heathen, to whom the word death conveys no such meaning. In the sacred writings the departure of the soul from the body is often spoken of as sleep, or rest. Thus Lazarus is said to sleep. 1Th_4:14, “Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him,” - an expression of great beauty and propriety as applied to Christians. On the other hand, the prophets speak of “the shadow of death.”

177 Extinguishes. Compare the words of Christ Himself, Joh_5:29; Act_24:15.

178 [Must not be overlooked. See vol. 4. p. 495, and elucidation (after book iv.) on p. 542.]

179 Portrayed or expressed.

180 It is not to be supposed that Lactantius, following the error of Marcion, believed that the body of man had been formed by the devil, for he has already described its creation by god. He rather speaks of the devil as exercising a power permitted to him over the earth and the bodies of men. Compare 2Co_4:4.

181 Preface to Catiline.

182 The word teneo is used in this sense by Cicero (De Nat. Deor., 11, 54): “Tribus rebus animanitium vita tenetur, cibo, potione, spiritu.”

183 Material.

184 We are not to understand this as asserting that the man lived in idleness, and without any employment in paradise; for this would be inconsistent with the Scripture narrative, which tells us that Adam was placed there to keep the garden and dress it. It is intended to exclude painful and anxious labor, which is the punishment of sin. See. Gen_3:17.

185 Paradise.

186 Another reading is, ad dejiciendum hominem, “to overthrow the man.”

187 Circumvallavit, “placed a barrier round.” See. Gen_3:24: “He placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

188 [Not novissima, but extrema here. He refers to book vii. cap. 11, etc.

189 Temporary. The word is opposed to everlasting.

190 No one actually lived a thousand years. They who approached nearest to it were Methuselah, who lived 969 years, Jared 962, and Noah 950.

191 It appears that the practice of the Egyptians varied as to the computation of the year.

192 Philo and Josephus.

193 [“Old Parr,” born in Shropshire. a.d. 1483, died in 1635; i.e., born before the discovery of America, he lived to the beginning of Hampden’s career in England.

194 The reading is quod, which in construction refers not to the preceding, but to the following substantive. Qui has been suggested as a preferable reading.

195 Lactantius understands the hundred and twenty years (mentioned Gen_6:3) as a mark of severity on God’s part. But Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, and most commentators, regard it rather as a sign of God’s patience and long-suffering, in giving them that space for repentance. And this appears to be confirmed by the Apostle Peter, 1Pe_3:20, “When once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing.”

196 Ham.

197 This refers to that prophetic denunciation of divine judgment on the impiety of Ham, which Noah, by the suggestion of the Holy Spirit, uttered against the posterity of the profane man. Gen_9:25: “Cursed be Canaan.” The curse was not uttered in a spirit of vengeance or impatience on account of the injury received, but by the prophetic impulse of the Divine Spirit. [The prophet fixes on the descendant of Ham, whose impiety was foreseen, and to whom it brought a curse so signal.]

198 [Our author falls into a hysteron-proteron: the curse did not work the ignorance, but wilful ignorance and idolatry wrought the curse, which was merely foretold, not fore-ordained.]

199 Resedit.

200 Eclipses.

201 Cultum.

202 Substantiæ, “essence.”

203 See 2Co_4:4, “the god of this world.”

204 Middle.

205 Unclean.

206 δαήμονες. Other derivations have been proposed; but the word probably comes from δαίω, “to distribute destinies.” Plato approves of the etymology given by Lactantius; for he says that good men, distinguished by great honours, after their death became demons, in accordance with this title of prudence and wisdom. [See the whole subject in Lewis’ Plato, etc. p. 347.]

207 To combine, qualify, or temperate.

208 Aspirations.

209 Blinding tricks, juggleries.

210 They lavish. The word implies a profuse and excessive liberality.

211 Thin, unsubstantial, as opposed to corporeal. The ancients inclined to the opinion that angels had a body, not like that of man, but of a slight and more subtle nature. Probably Lactantius refers to this idea in using the word tenuis. How opposed this view is to Scripture is manifest. [Not so manifest as our translator supposes. I do not assert what Lactantius says to be scripturally correct: but it certainly is not opposed to many facts as Scripture states them; whether figuratively or otherwise, I do not venture a suggestion.]

212 Augustine gives an account of these deceits, De Civit. Dei, ix. 18.

213 Thus the ancient Romans worshipped Fever, Fear, etc., to avoid injury from them.

214 Sacramento.

215 See Acts of Apostles Act_15:18 and Act_19:15, Act_19:16. In the Gospels the demons say to Jesus, “Art Thou come to torment us before the time?” [Suggestive of 2Pe_2:4.]

216 The practice of exorcism was used in the early ages of the Church, and the faithful were supposed to possess power over demons. See book iv. ch. 27. Justin, Tertullian, and other writers attest the same. There were also exorcists in the Jewish synagogues. See Act_19:13.

217 Sed. Other editions read et; but the one adopted in the text brings out the meaning more distinctly by contrast = they did not disgrace religion, but their own honour.

218 By their presence.

219 Malefici - evil-doers. The word is specially used of enchanters.

220 Book i. ch. vi.

221 Apparitors. The word is especially applied to public servants, as lictors, etc.

222 Surrounded, shut in.

223 Prævaricatores. The word is properly applied to an advocate who is guilty of collusion with his antagonist, and thus betrays his client.

224 Womanly Fortune.

225 Unbelievers.

226 Governments.

227 At their nod, or suggestion.

228 They presage.

229 That which was necessary according to the purpose and arrangement of God.

230 Tensa; a carriage on which the images of the gods were carried to the circus at the Circensian games.

231 Deserved nothing, had nothing worthy of punishment. Varro and Paulus Æmilius were the two consuls who commanded at Cannæ. Varro escaped, Paulus was slain.

232 Virg., Æn., viii. 292.

233 Virg., Æn., i. 19.

234 Contempt.

235 They have made old.

236 Jerome says: “Great is the anger of God when He does not correct sins, but punishes blindness with blindness. On this very account God sends strong delusion, as St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, that they should believe a lie, that they all may be damned who have not believed the truth. They are unworthy of the living fountain who dig for themselves cisterns.”

237 Virg., Æn., iv. 464. Some read priorum instead of piorum.

238 Roll themselves.

239 Addico, “to adjudge,” is the legal term, expressing the sentence by which the prætor gave effect to the right which he had declared to exist.

240 [Let this be noted.]

241 Mancipo. The word implies the making over or transferring by a formal act of sale. Debtors, who were unable to satisfy the demands of their creditors, were made over to tehm, and regarded as their slaves. They were termed addicti. Our Lord said (Joh_8:34), “Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.” Thus also St. Paul, Rom_6:16, Rom_6:17.

242 [Quare non est dubium quin religio nulla sit ubicunque simulacrum est. Such is the uniform Ante-Nicene testimony.]

243 Simulacrum, “an image,” from simulo, “to imitate.”

244 The infernal regions.

245 Quadrupeds.

246 In this second book.

247 [Quis autem nesciat plus esse momenti in paucioribus doctis, quam in pluribus imperitis?]