Temple CHEVALLIER, A translation of the Apology of Tertullian, 2nd edition, London:Rivington (1851)
CLEMENT OF ROME, POLYCARP,
JUSTIN MARTYR AND TERTULLIAN:
[Online: Tertullian only]
WITH AN INTRODUCTION,
AND BRIEF NOTES ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF
THE FIRST TWO CENTURIES.
BY THE REV.
TEMPLE CHEVALLIER, B.D.
LATE FELLOW AND TUTOR OF CATHARINE HALL, CAMBRIDGE,
PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS AND ASTRONOMY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM
AND HONORARY CANON OF DURHAM,
FRANCIS & JOHN RIVINGTON,
ST. PAUL'S CHURCH YARD, AND WATERLOO PLACE; AND
GILBERT AND RIVINGTON, PRINTERS,
ST. JOHN'S SQUARE.
IN the history of the Christian Church, there are few periods of greater interest and importance than that which succeeded the death of the Apostles. As long as any of those holy men survived, who had personally received instruction from our Lord, they connected the Church on earth with its spiritual Head. The miraculous powers with which the Apostles were endowed, and the undisputed authority with which their high office invested them, placed them in a position, which none of their successors could ever occupy. In. cases of difficulty and doubt, an appeal to their more than human wisdom was the last resource: in times of peril, their example and their prayers strengthened the wavering, and confirmed the faithful: and at all periods they were justly regarded as the pillars, on which the Christian Church securely rested.
But when the Apostles were removed from the scene of their earthly labours, the condition of the Church was changed. The efforts of its enemies were exerted with greater energy to suppress Christianity, as the numbers of those who professed the faith increased; while the apparent means of defence were |iv materially impaired. Our attention is therefore roused to inquire what men they were, who, on this trying occasion, stood forth in defence of Christianity; with what weapons they combated their enemies; with what zeal they laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
These early ages of the Church claim our attention for another reason. In contemplating the history of that period, we view Christianity, as a system of ecclesiastical polity, in its nascent state. It was then that the Canon of Scripture was formed; that Church government took a consistent form. The oral teaching of the Apostles and their immediate successors was still vividly impressed upon the minds of those who had heard them; and many passages of Scripture, which to us appear ambiguous, might by such means be then clearly understood.
Hence the conclusions, which the primitive Christian Church formed, respecting questions, which in after ages have been fruitful subjects of controversy, are entitled to the highest regard: not, indeed, as infallible; but as representing the doctrines maintained by sincere and earnest inquirers after the truth, by men who were best able to form a sound determination, before their judgment was warped by prejudice, or modified by system.
The writings of the early Christian Fathers will therefore be carefully consulted by all who would trace the Scriptures up to the period in which they were written, and learn the doctrines which were taught as essential, in the times nearest to the Apostolic age. |v
These early ages of the Church possess also a charm peculiar to themselves. The records of ecclesiastical history in subsequent years too often display a melancholy picture. The turbulent passions of the worldly-minded, the fiery zeal of the intemperate, the arts of the designing, the follies of the weak, all present themselves in dazzling colours and in prominent positions: while it requires a practised eye and a patient investigation to discover the milder and retiring forms of unobtrusive Christian piety. The earlier Christians were not, as individuals, free from the infirmities and sins of human nature. But the primitive Christian Church did certainly stand forth in a purity and simplicity which it has never since enjoyed. And the contemplation of the age in which this goodly spectacle was presented to the world, has ever been a delightful employment to minds endowed with a kindred feeling.
Of late years a considerable impulse has been given, among ourselves, to the study of the early Christian writers. The labours of the learned Bishop of Lincoln, in elucidating the works of Justin Martyr and Tertullian, and those of Dr. Burton, are specimens of the valuable matter which is yet to be extracted from the stores of Christian antiquity.
The present work lays claim to no such pretensions. Its object is to put the English reader in possession of some of the genuine remains of Christian writers of the first and second centuries, and to furnish occasional information upon such points as seem to require explanation. For this purpose it appeared more advisable to give the whole of such pieces as should be |vi selected, than to select certain parts only. Extracts must always fail to give a faithful representation of the whole manner of reasoning and train of thought which characterized the first advocates of Christianity; and may unintentionally give erroneous notions of their opinions. It is well known that detached passages are quoted from these writings, in favour of very different notions. To judge therefore of the real sentiments of the writers, the general tendency of their argument is to be regarded, more than the mere verbal expression of particular parts. If we would know how these Fathers of the Church thought and wrote, we are not at liberty to omit what may appear to us superfluous and fanciful in illustration, or diffuse and inconclusive in reasoning; or simply uninteresting, because it refers to errors which have long since passed away. The very manner of treating a subject is an indication of the habits of thought and of the moral condition of the age in which it was discussed. A more striking and graphic representation is often given of the state of society, and of the condition of the Christian world in general, by an application of a passage of Scripture, by a slight allusion to an objection against the religion of the Gospel, by a casual reference to some difficulty which its professors encountered, or by some elaborate refutation of an absurd calumny, than we should have received from a detailed description of the circumstances.
Besides, those very parts of the writings of the early Fathers, which seem least valuable both for style and matter, have this incidental advantage, that they set in a clear point of view the immeasurable |vii superiority of the Scriptures of the New Testament. The inspired books were written principally by men who had not the same advantages of education and literary training, as some of the Ecclesiastical writers enjoyed : yet they are totally free from the blemishes which disfigure the most elaborate productions of later ages of the Church.
Had not the pens of the Evangelists and Apostles been guided by a wisdom superior to any which those writers possessed by ordinary means, they never could have produced a work, which, even as a specimen of plain yet majestic narration, and of consistent, sober, rational discussion of the most abstruse questions, is entirely unrivalled. We should have found--as we do find in the writings even of those who had been thoroughly instructed in Scriptural truth, and had deeply imbibed the spirit of Christianity--some error mixed with truth; some inconclusive reasoning; some vague declamation; some incautious over-statement of doctrine or fact; some merely mystical application of the Scriptures of the Old Testament; some exaggerated sentiment.
In uninspired writers we should have detected the prejudices of their education and of the age in which they lived. We should have found some extravagant eulogies of martyrdom; some fanciful notions respecting spiritual beings; some captious and scrupulous objection to practices in themselves indifferent. And, in their public defences of the faith before their adversaries, we should have perceived them, not only speaking boldly, as they ought to speak, but sometimes displaying a subtilty too nearly allied to the craftiness |viii of the disputer of this world; and on other occasions indulging in sarcasm or invective against the various errors of heathen worship.
In the Scriptures of the New Testament, we find none of these faults: they are uniformly dignified, simple, reasonable. But a very limited acquaintance with the writings of those who endeavoured to follow their steps will show that, if the Apostles and Evangelists were preserved from such extravagance and error, they owed it to a wisdom which was not of this world.
The works, which have been chosen for the present purpose, are the Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians; that of Polycarp; the genuine Epistles of Ignatius, with the accounts of the Martyrdom of Ignatius and Polycarp; the first Apology of Justin Martyr; and the Apology of Tertullian.
These Epistles, and the short histories of the Martyrdoms, have been long known to the English reader, in Archbishop Wake's very valuable translation. It may appear presumptuous to have changed, in any degree, language which is at once so faithful and so Scriptural as that which he has employed. And no alteration has been made, except after due deliberation. In Archbishop Wake's translation, however, the quotations from the Scriptures are given in the words of the authorised English Version. Now the original quotations from the Old Testament are often taken from the Septuagint or some other Version, so as to differ considerably from the Hebrew text, and consequently from the English Version: and in other instances, references are made to the Old and New |ix Testaments in such a manner as to express the general sense of passages, rather than the words. As the intention of this work is to give as accurate a representation of these writings of the Fathers as the difference of idiom will admit, it seemed advisable to translate these quotations also as faithfully as possible, even in the instances in which they deviate from the literal sense of the original Scriptures. It is not always easy to determine how closely a writer intended to quote a passage; and in many cases, such references may be regarded as a kind of comment upon the text to which allusion is made.
[Introductions to other writers on pp. x-lxvi have been omitted from the online text]
QUINTUS SEPTIMUS FLORENS TERTULLIANUS, as he is usually called, was born at Carthage, about the year His father was a soldier, a centurion in constant |lxvii attendance upon the Proconsul of Africa. Tertullian is believed to have been a Gentile : and the supposition is favoured by several passages of his works 1 in which he seems to describe himself as having been among those whose errors he exposes. His education appears to have extended to every kind of literature which was studied at the period in which he lived. His knowledge of the Greek language is evident from the fact of his having composed 2 three treatises in it, which are now lost. And the quotations with which his works abound imply a wide range of knowledge in poetry, natural philosophy, and medical science. Eusebius 3 observes that he was particularly well skilled in the Roman laws, as is indicated indeed by his familiar use of legal terms. His ability and learning were always highly celebrated. Jerome informs us4 that Cyprian never passed a day without reading some of the works of Tertullian, whom he called "his master."
Jerome also says that Tertullian was a Presbyter; and it is believed that he held that office in the Church of Rome. That he was a married man, is known from the writings which he has left addressed to his wife.
Whether Tertullian were educated as a Christian, or converted after he had reached a mature age, the number of his works shows that he was a most zealous and active defender of the opinions which he embraced. |lxviii It would be difficult to point out a writer whose style of thought and expression is so peculiar as Tertullian's. He pours forth with profusion, and with little discrimination, the varied stores of acquired knowledge with which his mind was enriched; displaying unrivalled keenness of sarcasm, and great brilliancy of imagination. Yet with these advantages he could scarcely have been an attractive writer, even to those who were familiar with his frequent and pointed allusions to facts now little known.
His style is thus described with great accuracy and discrimination by one who is peculiarly well qualified for forming a correct opinion upon such a subject. "He frequently hurries his hearers along by his vehemence, and surprises them by the vigour, as well as inexhaustible fertility of his imagination; but his copiousness is without selection, and there was in his character a propensity to exaggeration, which affected his language, and rendered it inflated and unnatural. He is indeed the harshest and most obscure of writers, and the least capable of being accurately represented in a translation5."
Still, there is in the writings of Tertullian a manly vigour of conception and a vivacity of expression, which amply repay the labour which must be undergone in order to comprehend them.
Jerome, in his account of Tertullian, asserts that he was driven to embrace the errors of Montanus, in |lxix consequence of the contumelious treatment of the Romish Clergy. The year 199 is usually assigned as the probable period of this remarkable change in Tertullian's views. From a passage in his works6, it is evident that he was attached to that sect before the year 207, the fifteenth year of the Emperor Severus. The greater part of his writings, which have been preserved, were composed after he became a Montanist7. Whether his Apology was one of these is doubted. The subject of that address did not call upon him to profess any of the peculiar opinions of that sect; and the marks of time which are found in it have led to different conclusions respecting its date. Mosheim in his Dissertation on the date of this Apology8, fixes on the year 198. Du Pin assigns it to the year 200, and conceives that it was written before Tertullian embraced the opinions of Montanus. Tillemont is in favour of the same date. Cave and Dodwell think that it was composed in 202, Basnage in 203, Pagi in 205, Scaliger in 211, and Allix assigns so late a date as 217.
The Bishop of Lincoln 9, after observing that "the allusion to conspiracies which were daily detected at the very time when the book was written10, as well as the enumeration of the barbarous nations11 which either then were, or had recently been, at war with Rome, correspond to the events which took place during the reign of Severus," suggests that the work |lxx may with probability be referred to about the year 204.
The Apology was written at Carthage, and addressed to the governors of Proconsular Africa12. The Christians, at the time in which it was written, were exposed to great sufferings, as well from the unrestrained violence of the people, as from the action of laws which were still in force13. "How frequently," he says14, "do ye use violence against the Christians, sometimes at the instigation of private malice, and sometimes according to the forms of law. How often also--not to mention yourselves--do the common people in their rage attack us of their own accord with stones and flames:" and, in another place15, "there are no greater persecutors of the Christians than the vulgar." Their general insecurity was increased when the governor of the province in which they lived was cruel or rapacious; and, on the other hand, they enjoyed a temporary security, if, from a sense of justice or the feelings of humanity, he chanced to treat them with indulgence.
The Christians at Carthage were not thus favoured. Just before the period at which Tertullian's Apology was written, the governors had proceeded with great severity against some members of their own families16, in consequence of their professing the Christian faith. And, the way of public justice being obstructed, Tertullian was anxious that the truth might still be |lxxi presented to the governors, by the means of a written Apology.
He demands, therefore, that before the Christians are condemned, they may be allowed to answer for themselves; alleging, with great truth, that the refusal to hear them was a tacit confession that the charges against them were unfounded17. He shows that all other criminals, however guilty, enjoy every legal privilege; are heard in their own defence, and permitted to have an advocate to plead their cause. He dwells upon the injustice and contradictory character of the edict of Trajan; and complains that while others are tortured only to compel them to confess their guilt, the Christians are racked, to force them to deny the charge of which they are accused 18.
Tertullian then appeals to the indirect testimony which even their adversaries bore to the strictly moral conduct which characterized those who were converted to Christianity: and obviates an objection which was brought against the very name which they bore19. He shows, by examples of recent changes in the laws, that those which existed against the Christians might be also abrogated 20; that those sanguinary laws had been invariably proposed by emperors of the most cruel and unjust character, while the mild and just princes had favoured the Christians21. But Tertullian is not contented with resting merely on the defensive. He makes vigorous attacks upon his adversaries themselves; and shows in a strain of bitter satire how much the |lxxii subjects of the Roman Empire had degenerated from their ancestors 22.
He next notices the horrible calumnies which were circulated respecting the Christians,--such as the murder of children, and incest--shows that they originate in nothing but mere common report23, and are utterly incredible and false24. On this point also Tertullian assails his opponents, and shows that the abominations and cruelties of heathen nations might make them credit such unnatural charges, although the purity of life which marked the Christians, was a complete proof of their innocence of these specific crimes25. Another frequent accusation against the Christians was that they refused to worship the gods of the heathen, and to offer sacrifice for the safety of the emperors. This charge Tertullian repels by at once showing that the gods so worshipped were merely men, to whom, after their death, divine honours were paid 26: and argues closely and forcibly that the supposition, that they were deified, necessarily implies the existence of some Supreme Deity, who had the power of conferring so high a privilege: that he could have no need of such agents, and would never have extended his favour to such unworthy objects 27.
Tertullian proceeds to show the absurdity of idol-worship28, and the indignity with which the heathens themselves treated their divinities, by making them the object of sale29, defrauding them by the sacrifice of imperfect victims; degrading them by absurd fables 30; |lxxiii and making them the subject of ridicule in their dramatic exhibitions31.
Tertullian, after refuting32 calumnies which were circulated respecting the object of Christian worship, declares, in a passage of great beauty33, who the God is whom they adore: that he is one God, the Creator and sustainer of all things, immensely great, and, although faintly discernible in these his lowest works, yet fully intelligible to himself alone: that the soul of man itself, when not disturbed by any delusion, recognizes this One God, by the phrases which it involuntarily uses, as "God knows," "I leave it to God," and the like. He shows that God had from the beginning made known his will, by inspiring the prophets with his Holy Spirit; and that the writings of those prophets still remained, both in the original Hebrew and in the Greek translation 34.
Tertullian advances the high antiquity of Moses, and the priority of the prophets to the heathen philosophers, as an argument of the superiority of the doctrines contained in the Scriptures of the Old Testament35; and refers to the prophecies, which had been fulfilled and were fulfilling, as a proof of the inspiration of Scripture36.
Such having been the origin of the Jewish religion, Tertullian shows in what manner the Christian religion is founded upon it, and connected with it by a chain of prophecy. He declares that Jesus Christ was the Son of God; and endeavours to illustrate the manner of his generation, by a comparison with the procession of |lxxiv a ray of light from a luminous body. He shows that the miracles of Christ proved him to be the Word of God: declares that his sufferings and death were voluntary, the fulfilment of his own predictions; and appeals to the annals of the Roman Empire in attestation of the miraculous darkness at the crucifixion. Tertullian relates the resurrection and ascension of Christ; and asserts that Pontius Pilate sent a written account of those transactions to Tiberius. He makes a strong appeal to the testimony which the Christians gave even unto death; and desires to put the question upon the issue whether the divinity of Christ be real or not37.
After this, Tertullian declares his opinions respecting the existence and employment of evil spirits, or demons 38: and demands that any one confessedly under the influence of demoniacal possession may be brought out before the tribunal; and promises that, at the bidding of any Christian, the demon shall depart39.
Tertullian then shows how unjustly the Christians are treated, since, when all others are permitted to choose their own divinities for worship, the Christians alone are prevented 40.
An objection was sometimes brought against Christianity, that the prosperity which the Roman Empire had attained was a proof of the Divine favour. Tertullian meets that objection by showing that the worship which the Romans paid to many of their deities was not established till long after their power had greatly increased; and that their conquests, which spared not the temples more than the houses of the |lxxv vanquished, ought rather to have brought down upon them the vengeance of the gods, had they been really divine41. This therefore was rather an argument in favour of the existence of One Supreme God, who governs the whole world 42.
Tertullian then refers to a temptation to which Christians were sometimes exposed, by their adversaries suggesting that they might outwardly comply with the rites of heathenism, while they mentally retained their own sentiments. He rejects such a notion with disdain, as unworthy of a true Christian, and as a suggestion of evil spirits 43. He shows, that although the Christians refused to sacrifice for the emperors, which was, in the eyes of their accusers, a worse offence than neglecting the worship of idols, they acted with a proper sense of the dignity of the emperor, in not subjecting him to his inferiors44: but that they did pray for the safety of the emperor, not to dumb idols, but to the living God; lifting up holy hands, and beseeching him to grant to the emperor a happy reign and a long life, with all prosperity for himself and his people 45: and that in so doing they fulfilled the commands given them in the Word of God, their Scriptures 46. Another reason for their praying for the safety of the emperor was, their conviction that the day of judgment was delayed only by the continuance of the Roman Empire47.
While the Christians reverenced the emperor as their sovereign, they paid him greater honour than if they flattered him with a title to which he had no |lxxvi claim; a title which the best of emperors refused to receive 48.
Tertullian then exposes the folly of showing loyalty to the emperor by rioting and festivity; when the conspiracies which were daily occurring showed that this attachment was merely feigned49.
The Christians, on the other hand, are required to do good to all men, and therefore especially to the sovereign : they are bound to love their enemies, and the proof that they do so is found in their forbearance, when their numbers are already so great that, if they chose, they might set the empire at defiance, or destroy it effectually by merely withdrawing themselves to some distant part of the world 50.
The innocent lives of the Christians furnish another reason for their being leniently treated 51.
In the concluding part of the Apology, Tertullian gives an instructive and interesting account of the Christian Church in his time. He describes their meeting for the purposes of prayer, for reading the Holy Scriptures, and receiving instruction: their government, under the presidency of "certain approved elders, who have obtained that honour not by purchase but by public testimony:" and their monthly or occasional contributions for the relief of the aged and destitute. He dwells upon the exemplary love which the Christians displayed towards one another; and alludes to the temperate banquets which they held in common, seasoned with holy conversation, and sanctified with prayer 52.
Notwithstanding their blameless lives, Tertullian |lxxvii shows that every national calamity, the overflowing of the waters of the Tiber, or the failure of those of the Nile, were all attributed to the Christians : yet nothing could be more absurd than such an accusation; since, as he had before shown, the like calamities occurred before the Christian religion began 53; and the Romans themselves were more truly the cause of such misfortunes, since they despised the true God, and worshipped images. The temporal dispensations of Providence, however, form no sure mark of the favour or anger of God. The troubles of the world are sent for the purpose of admonition, as well as of punishment54.
Another accusation against the Christians was that they were unfit for the ordinary business of life. Tertullian refutes this charge, by showing that they refused compliance with no innocent custom; and were useless to none but to those whose occupations were disgraceful55. The records of the courts of justice would prove that no Christian was ever accused of a crime 56. This freedom from open guilt arose from the superiority which divine laws possess over those which are of human invention 57.
There were others who represented Christianity as merely a system of philosophy. Had this been the case, Tertullian argues that those who professed it were entitled to the same tolerance as was extended to other philosophers. But Christianity is actually as superior to any philosophy in morality as in its authority58. Indeed, the poets and philosophers of old were indebted to Christianity for many of their tenets, which they |lxxviii borrowed without acknowledgment, and distorted to serve their own purposes59. Yet philosophers were permitted to hold their doctrines, such as that of the transmigration of souls, without any interference; while Christians were punished for believing the resurrection. Tertullian argues that a resurrection is necessary, in order that man should be judged in the same body, which had been the instrument of his actions: that it is not so incredible, that a body should be restored to life, as that it should have been formed at first: and that this restoration is rendered highly probable by the analogy with many changes in the natural world. Thus the succession of day and night, the order of the seasons, the decay and growth of the seed in the earth, are all emblems of a resurrection. Tertullian anticipates. the objection,--that these vicissitudes would rather imply a succession of changes from death to life, than a single death followed by an unchangeable eternity, --by observing, that had such been the will of God, man must have submitted : but that the Word of God establishes the fact that there shall be one final resurrection of all mankind; after which the righteous shall be for ever clothed upon with immortality in the presence of God; and the wicked shall be consigned to everlasting punishment60.
It is, then, most unreasonable that the Christians should be punished for maintaining opinions, which, if sincerely entertained, must make them better members of society; while tenets, for which the philosophers are indebted to their imitation of Christianity, |lxxix are eulogized as the highest attainments of human wisdom. Christians suffer for their religion; but they suffer voluntarily: choosing rather to be condemned by men, than to fail in their duty towards God 61.
Tertullian answers an objection, which the patience of the Christians might suggest, that they really took delight in the sufferings which they endured with so great fortitude. He observes that Christians did, indeed, submit to persecution; but they did it with the feelings of a soldier whose duty called upon him to expose his life. He would gladly escape the peril, although, when necessary, he shrinks not from it. Yet this contempt of pain and death, which is eulogized in patriots and philosophers, when practised by Christians is derided and despised. Tertullian, in conclusion, defies the utmost malice of the enemies of the faith: declaring that, if they were bent on destroying Christianity, their attempt would be fruitless; and that the example of patience, exhibited by those who were called to suffer, was the most convincing argument of the truth of their religion 62.
There is no record of the effect which this Apology produced. It was, however, most highly prized by Christians in all ages. It was at an early period translated into Greek, and is the only writing of Tertullian which is expressly quoted by Eusebius 63. Cyprian not only looked up to Tertullian as his master, and frequently copied him, but especially in his Treatise de Idolorum Vanitate, closely imitated parts of Tertullian's Apology.
The object of Tertullian in this Apology did not |lxxx lead him to make frequent mention of the Scriptures of the New Testament. We find him, however, referring to them on several occasions, under the title of "Scriptures," and "Holy Scriptures64," appealing to them as "the Word of God, our Scriptures65," open and accessible to all; and declaring that one of the principal objects of the Christians publicly assembling was to read the Scriptures66.
In the passage67 in which an appeal is made to the Scriptures, Tertullian quotes words now found in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke; and others which are in substance written in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, the first Epistle to Timothy, the Epistle to Titus, and the first Epistle of St. Peter.
There is probably also an allusion to the first Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians68; and to the Epistle to the Hebrews69.
In other parts of his writings, the testimony of Tertullian to the inspiration 70 and sufficiency71 of the Holy Scriptures, his frequent quotation of the books of the New Testament, his reference to four Gospels, and no more, written by Apostles, or apostolic men 72, and the deference which he always pays to the Holy Scriptures, render his works most valuable as tending to prove the genuineness and integrity of the Scriptures |lxxxi of the New Testament. So copious are these allusions, that Lardner remarks73, "There are perhaps more and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament, in this one Christian author, than of all the works of Cicero, though of so uncommon excellence for thought and style, in the writers for several ages."
Tertullian's Apology contains very interesting information respecting the condition of the Christian Church, especially in Africa, in the second and third centuries. He bears testimony to the wide diffusion of Christianity in his time74; and shows that the Christians were distinguished, both by themselves, and by their adversaries, for their mutual love75. Their harmless and tranquil life76; their habits of domestic piety; their constant use of prayer, in private and in public77; their charity towards all men; their love of their enemies78; their patience under persecution and distress79, complete a picture which is the more striking when contrasted with the scene which the pagan world presented at the same time. The character of Tertullian himself is a proof of the power of religion : no other influence could have subdued the fiery spirit of such a man.
The Apology forms so small a portion of Tertullian's works, that any conclusions from it, respecting the doctrine of the Church in his time, would be very incomplete, unless supported by numerous references to his other writings.
The limits of this Introduction will not admit of |lxxxii so extended an examination; and the task has been lately performed with such accuracy and judgment by the learned Bishop of Lincoln, that any further labours in the same field would be superfluous.
Little is necessary to be said of the remaining part of Tertullian's life. At a period, which was either a little before, or soon after, the publication of his Apology, he avowed himself a follower of Montanus. The harsh and ascetic tenets of that visionary heretic agreed with the naturally austere character of Tertullian. But his defection was in matters rather of discipline than of faith: and in the latter period of his life he again seceded from the Montanists, and founded a sect, called after his name, Tertullianists. The remnants of this sect continued to exist after his death till they were finally dispersed by Augustin80.
The period of Tertullian's death is unknown. Jerome informs us that he lived to a great age: and the year 220 is usually assigned. There is every reason to believe that he died a natural death.
The heretical opinions of Tertullian doubtless threw a cloud over his fame; but they were not able to eclipse the reputation which his great talents, piety, and learning, had deservedly acquired. Hence, even those who blamed his errors united in paying a just tribute to his sincerity and great mental endowments. The character given to him by Vincentius Lirinensis, in the fifth century, may be taken as a proof of the great estimation in which he was held. It is conceived in terms of high panegyric: but the context shows |lxxxiii that it was written by one, who was as sensible of the errors as of the excellencies of Tertullian. After having shown the dangerous innovations which Origen introduced, he describes Tertullian, notwithstanding his erroneous opinions, as far superior to all the Latin Christian writers. "Who," says he, "ever excelled him in learning? Who had greater proficiency in all knowledge, sacred and profane? His astonishing capacity embraced in its comprehensive grasp all the various branches and sects of philosophy, the original founders and supporters of the different schools, and the course of discipline adopted by each, together with a wide range of history and other studies. Such also was the vigour and force of his intellect, that, whatever position he attacked, he either penetrated it by his subtilty, or crushed it with the weight of his reasoning. The peculiar character of his style surpasses all praise. The arguments are connected in so indissoluble a chain of reasoning, as to compel the assent of those who would not be persuaded : every word is a sentence; every sentence a victory over his adversaries. The followers of Marcion, Apelles, Praxeas, and Hermogenes; the Jew, the Gentile, the Gnostic, had full experience of this: against all their blasphemies he hurled the ponderous masses of his voluminous works, and overthrew them, as with a thunderbolt81." |lxxxiv
With respect to the present translations, it has already been observed, that the Epistles of Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius, and the accounts of the Martyrdom of the two last, are in substance taken from Archbishop Wake's version. The language of that version has been happily styled by Lardner "Apostolical English:" and it would have been a needless affectation of originality to have injured, by any unnecessary alteration, what had already been expressed so faithfully and so well. My first intention was to have simply reprinted those Epistles, with such illustrations as they might seem to require. A comparison of the present translation with that of Archbishop Wake will show that, with the exception of the quotations, his version has been here closely, but not servilely, followed.
In translating the Apologies of Justin Martyr and Tertullian, my object has been to express with fidelity the sentiments of the originals, in such a manner as to be intelligible to a reader who may not be able to consult the works themselves. Those who are best acquainted with the nature of such a task will be the most lenient in overlooking any harshness or want of fluency, which, in such a translation, it is so difficult to |lxxxv avoid. The version of Tertullian is necessarily more paraphrastic than that of Justin, in order to render intelligible the brief allusions and sudden transitions which characterize his style. Should there be any instances in which I have not succeeded in representing the sense of Tertullian, I would willingly refer to the character of his writings, which has before been quoted, that "he is indeed the harshest and most obscure of writers; and the least capable of being accurately represented in a translation."
[Footnotes to the introduction have been moved here]
1. 2 Apol. c. 18. p. 362. De Poenitentia, c. 1. De Fuga in Persecut. c. 6. Adv. Marcion. iii. c. 21.
2. 3 De Corona, cf. 6. De Baptismo, c. 19. De Resurrectione Carnis c. 49.
3. 4 H. E. ii. 2.
4. 5 Catalogus Scriptorum Eccles.
5. 6 Bishop of Lincoln's Tertullian, c. 1. p. 66.
Lactantius, v. 1. says, Septimius quoque Tertullianus fuit omni genere literarum peritus, sed in eloquendo parum facilis, et minus comptus, et multum obscurus fuit.
6. 7 Adv. Marcion. i. cc. 15. 63.
7. 8 See Bp. of Lincoln's Tertullian, c. 1. p. 61.
8. 9 Disquisitio Chronologico-critica de vera aetate Apologetici a Tertulliano Conscripti. Lug. Bat. 1720.
9. 1 Tertullian, c. 1. p. 53.
10. 2 c. 35.
11. 3 c. 37.
12. 4 See note (1), c. 1
13. 5 See note (1), c. 4.
14. 6 Apol. c. 37. p. 430.
15. 7 c. 35.
16. 8 Apol. c. 1.
17. 9 c. 1.
18. 1 c. 2.
19. 2 c. 3
20. 3 c. 4.
21. 4 c. 5.
22. 5 c. 6.
23. 6 c. 7.
24. 7 c. 8.
25. 8 c. 9.
26. 9 c. 10.
27. 1 c. 11.
28. 2 c. 12.
29. 3 c. 13.
30. 4 c. 14.
31. 5 c. 15.
32. 6 c. 16.
33. 7 c. 17.
34. 8 c. 18.
35. 9 c. 19.
36. 1 c. 20.
37. 2 c. 21.
38. 3 c. 22.
39. 4 c. 23.
40. 5 c. 24.
41. 6 c. 25.
42. 7 c. 26.
43. 8 c. 27.
44. 9 cc. 28, 29.
45. 1 c. 30.
46. 2 c. 31.
47. 3 c. 32.
48. 4 cc. 33, 34.
49. 5 c. 35.
50. 6 c. 36.
51. 7 c. 38.
52. 8 c. 39
53. 9 c. 40.
54. 1 c. 41.
55. 2 cc. 42, 43.
56. 3 c. 44.
57. 4 c. 45.
58. 5 c. 46.
59. 6 c. 47.
60. 7 c. 48.
61. 8 c. 49.
62. 9 c. 50.
63. 1 H. E. ii. 2.
64. 2 c. 22, p. 380. Apud literas sanctas ordine cognoscitur, c. 23, p. 391. Ipsi literarum nostrarum fidem accendunt.
65. 3 c. 31, p. 414. Inspice Dei voces, literas nostras, quas neque ipsi supprimimus, et plerique casus ad extraneos referunt.
66. 4 c. 39, p. 436. Coimus ad literarum divinarum commemorationem.
67. 5 c. 31, p. 414.
68. 6 c. 12, p. 340. Compare c. 10, p. 329.
69. 7 c. 30, p. 412.
70. 8 Adv. Marcion, v. c. 7. De Anima, c. 2.
71. 9 Contra Hermogenem, c. 22. Adoro Scripturae plenitudinem.
72. 1 Adv. Marcion, iv. c. 2. 5.
73. 2 Credibility, part ii. 27. 23.
74. 3 cc. 1. 37.
75. 4 c. 39.
76. 5 c. 42.
77. 6 cc. 30. 39.
78. 7 cc. 31.37.
79. 8 cc. 37. 50.
80. 9 Augustin de Haeres, c. 86.
81. 1 Sed et Tertulliani quoque eadem ratio est. Nam sicut ille (Origenes) apud Graecos, ita hic apud Latinos nostrorum omnium facile princeps judicandus est. Quid enim hoc viro doctius? quid in divinis atque humanis rebus exercitatius? Nempe omnem Philosophiam et cunctas philosophorum sectas, auctores adsertoresque sectarum, omnesque eorum disciplinas, omnem historiarum ac studiorum varietatem, mira quadam mentis capacitate complexus est. Ingenio vero nonne tam gravi ac vehementi excelluit, ut nihil sibi paene ad expugnandum proposuerit, quod non aut acumine inruperit, aut pondere eliserit? Jam porro orationis suae laudes quis exequi valeat? quae tanta nescio qua rationum necessitate conserta est, ut ad consensum sui, quos suadere non potuerit, impellat. Cujus quot paene verba, tot sententiae sunt; quot sensus, tot victoriae. Sciunt hoc Marciones, Apelles, Praxeae, Hermogenes, Judaei, Gentiles, ceterique quorum ille blasphemias multis ac magnis voluminum suorum molibus, velut quibusdam fulminibus evertit.
Vincentius Lirinensis Commonitorium, Lib. i. c. 26.
THE APOLOGY OF TERTULLIAN.
|i||THE Christians, under Severus, not being permitted to speak in their own defence, Tertullian addresses this written Apology to the Governors of Proconsular Africa. He shows that their religion, founded on truth, requires no favour but demands justice||228|
|--||The hatred which her enemies entertain towards her is manifestly unjust||229|
|--||All Christians glory in their faith||232|
|ii.||Christians, even if guilty, ought to be treated in the same manner as other criminals||--|
|--||The edict of Trajan was self-contradictory||233|
|--||Other criminals are tortured to make them confess; Christians, to make them deny||234|
|--||The name alone of Christian, not the fact of professing Christianity, is made a crime||235|
|iii.||The enemies of Christianity bear unwilling testimony to its excellence||237|
|--||Yet permit their hatred to prevail over the benefit which they derive from Christianity||238|
|--||The name of Christian is harmless, both in its own signification, and as it relates to its author||239|
|--||And is therefore no reasonable ground of accusation||240|
|iv.||Tertullian prepares to answer the charges against Christianity||--|
|--||But first shows that, even if laws exist against the Christians, they may be repealed, as many laws have been||241|
|--||And that laws, which would punish a name, not a crime, are foolish as well as unjust||244|
|v.||The gods of the Romans could not be consecrated without the consent of the Senate||245|
|--||Tiberius is said to have proposed to introduce Jesus Christ among the Roman gods||246|
|--||The bad emperors were persecutors, the good, protectors, of the Christians||--|
|--||The Thundering Legion||248|
|vi.||The Romans had abrogated many laws of their ancestors; and greatly degenerated from their severity of life||--|
|vii.||Tertullian refers to many calumnies brought against the Christians||251|
|--||And demands that they may be investigated||--|
|--||Common fame is their only accuser||253|
|viii.||These accusations are in themselves incredible||254|
|ix.||Heathen nations themselves practised the atrocities of which they accused the Christians||256|
|--||As human sacrifices||257|
|--||The tasting of blood||259|
|--||And the crime of incest||260|
|--||From all which Christians are free||261|
|x.||Christians are accused of neither worshipping the gods nor sacrificing to the safety of the Emperors||--|
|--||They do this, knowing them to be no gods||262|
|--||Thus, Saturn was the oldest of the heathen deities, and yet was a man||263|
|xi.||Those persons, who were once men, were never made gods||264|
|--||This supposition would imply the existence of a Supreme Deity, who would have no need of dead men; and would certainly not have chosen such men for their virtues||265|
|xii.||The absurdity of idol-worship||268|
|xiii.||They who conceive these false gods to be objects of worship, do themselves neglect and insult them||269|
|xiv.||Their sacrifices are disgraceful; and their mythological history derogatory to the dignity of their gods||272|
|xv.||Their gods were made the subject of ridicule in their fables and dramas||273|
|--||Their temples were constantly desecrated||--|
|xvi.||Calumnies founded upon the alleged objects of Christian worship||276|
|--||They are falsely accused of adoring|
|An Asses head||277|
|Or a being of monstrous form||280|
|xvii.||The object of the Christian worship is One God, the Creator of all things||--|
|--||To whom the soul of man naturally bears witness||281|
|xviii.||God hath revealed to us his written word||282|
|--||The prophets taught of old||283|
|--||These Scriptures were translated from Hebrew into Greek, by the command of Ptolemy|
|xix.||These Scriptures are most ancient||284|
|--||Moses might be proved to have been antecedent to all heathen writers, and philosophers||285|
|xx.||The authority of Scripture is proved by prophecy||286|
|xxi.||The religion of the Christians must not be confounded with that of the Jews||287|
|--||Christians worship Christ not as a human being, but as God||288|
|--||Christ is God, and the Son of God||289|
|--||His procession from the Father compared with that of light from the sun||290|
|--||Two comings of Christ are predicted||291|
|--||The Jews ascribed his miracles to magic||--|
|--||They put him to death||292|
|--||But he rose from the dead||--|
|--||And showed himself to chosen witnesses||293|
|--||Pilate wrote an account to Tiberius||--|
|--||This statement ought at once to repress all false asser tions respecting Christianity||294|
|xxii.||Tertullian declares his sentiments respecting the existence and occupation of demons||295|
|--||And ascribes the ancient oracles to their agency||297|
|xxiii.||The demons and the heathen gods were the same||298|
|--||Tertullian offers to rest the truth of Christianity on the power of any Christian publicly to expel a demon||299|
|--||Jesus Christ is the Virtue, Spirit, Word, Wisdom, Reason, and Son of God||302|
|xxiv.||The acknowledgment of inferior gods implies the existence of One superior||303|
|--||This God is worshipped by the Christians: and they claim the same right which is allowed all others||304|
|xxv.||The great prosperity of the Roman Empire was not the reward of the devotion of the Romans to their gods||306|
|--||For the rise of their power preceded the greater part of their worship||308|
|--||And their conquests spared not the temples of the gods themselves||309|
|xxvi.||It is God, therefore, who rules the world||310|
|xxvii.||The Christians cannot be guilty of any offence against gods, who have no existence||--|
|--||The persecution of the Christians is instigated by the malice of demons||311|
|--||Compulsory worship could never be acceptable to the gods||312|
|--||As the Christians are innocent of sacrilege, so also they are not guilty of treason against the Emperors||--|
|xxix.||To sacrifice for the Emperors, to those who are no gods, is but a mockery||313|
|xxx.||Christians pray constantly to the true God for the Emperors, and for the well-being of the state||314|
|xxxi.||This they are commanded to do by their Scriptures||316|
|xxxii.||Christians pray for the continuance of the Roman Empire, after which they expect the day of judgment||317|
|xxxiii.||Christians reverence the Emperor, as appointed by God: but not as a god||319|
|xxxiv.||Augustus would not be called Lord||320|
|xxxv.||The immoral festivities of the heathen are a disgrace, rather than an honour, to the Emperor||321|
|--||Their congratulations are insincere||--|
|xxxvi.||Christians are bound to do good to all men||324|
|xxxvii.||If they were enemies of the state, their numbers would enable them to avenge themselves||325|
|--||The rapid increase of the number of Christians||327|
|xxxviii.||The harmless character of Christians ought to protect them||328|
|xxxix.||Christians met constantly for public worship, and reading the Scriptures||329|
|--||Elders presided; and distributed the common fund||330|
|--||The mutual love of Christians||331|
|--||Their simple feast in common, hallowed by prayer, and religious converse||332|
|xl.||Public calamities were unjustly ascribed to the Christians||334|
|xli.||But rather arise from the impiety of the heathens||337|
|--||All calamities are not judgments||--|
|xlii.||A refutation of the calumny that Christians were useless members of society||338|
|xliii.||Infamous men only had reason to complain of the Christians||341|
|xliv.||The innocency of Christians||--|
|xlv.||Which arises from the principles which they profess||342|
|xlvi.||Christianity is not a species of philosophy||343|
|--||Christians are superior to philosophers in their knowledge of God||345|
|--||In the purity of their lives||--|
|--||In humility, and moral virtue||346|
|xlvii.||The heathen philosophers borrowed largely from the Scriptures; but perverted their meaning||347|
|xlviii.||Those who, with the Pythagoreans, believe a trans migration of souls, may well believe the possibility of a resurrection||350|
|--||The restoration of man to life after death is not so difficult to conceive as his first formation from nothing||351|
|--||The changes of the natural world render a resurrection probable||352|
|--||The phenomena of lightning and volcanos may be regarded as affording a presumption that the punishment of the wicked in eternal fire is possible||356|
|xlix.||If the opinions of the Christians are prejudices, they are at least innocent||--|
|l.||Christians would gladly avoid suffering, although they cheerfully submit to it||358|
|--||Their resolution is courage, not obstinacy : and similar to that which is applauded in others||359|
|--||But persecution cannot crush Christianity||360|
|--||The blood of Christians is the seed of the faith||361|
|--||And their patience under martyrdom the most effectual preacher||--|
IF ye, rulers 1 of the Roman Empire, sitting judicially upon your open and lofty seat of judgment, and occupying, as it were, the most elevated position in the state, are yet unable openly to inquire, and closely to examine, what is the real truth, in questions respecting the Christian religion,--if in this case alone your authority in matters of justice is either afraid or ashamed to inquire,--or if, as hath recently occurred2, |229 the great severity with which ye have persecuted this sect in your own families prevents your listening to an impartial defence,--the truth may still be permitted to reach your ears by the secret means of a written apology. Truth demands no favour in her cause; for she wonders not at her own condition. She knows that she is a sojourner upon earth; that she must find enemies among strangers; but that her origin, her home, her hopes, her honours, her dignities are placed in heaven. She hath but one desire, not to be condemned unknown. What injury can the authority of the laws suffer, which are absolute in their own realm, if the truth be heard3? Nay, their power will be more manifested, if they even condemn her, after she is heard. But if they condemn her unheard, in addition to the odium attached to injustice, they will deservedly incur the suspicion, that they wilfully refused to hear, knowing that, if they had heard, they could not have condemned her.
This, therefore, is the first reason which we allege, to prove how unjust is the hatred borne towards the name of Christian; an injustice, which is at once aggravated and proved to exist, by the very cause, which at first appears to excuse it, namely, ignorance 4. For what can be more unjust than that men should hate that of which they are ignorant, even if the subject should deserve their hatred? For then only can any thing be said to deserve such treatment, when the fact |230 is clearly ascertained. And where there is no knowledge of what are the true merits of the case, upon what grounds can the justice of the hatred be defended, when that justice must be proved, not from the fact that hatred exists, but from previous knowledge of the grounds on which it rests? Since, therefore, their only reason for hatred is that they are ignorant what it is which they hate, why may not the subject be really of such a nature as not to deserve hatred? Hence we establish the unreasonableness of our adversaries in each case, by proving that they are in ignorance, while they hate, and that, while they are thus in ignorance, their hatred is unjust. A proof of this ignorance, which, while it excuses their injustice, doth yet condemn it, is this, that all who once were enemies, through ignorance, as soon as they have ceased to be ignorant, cease also to hate. They are changed from what they were, and become Christians, as soon as they learn what that religion really is5; they begin to hate what they were, and to profess the opinions which they hated, and are become as numerous as we are shown to be. Our enemies exclaim that the whole state is overrun with us 6: they lament it as a great calamity, that Christians are found in the country, in cities, in the islands; that persons of each sex, and of all ages, and station, and dignity, come over to that name. Yet not even this fact is sufficient to rouse their minds to imagine that there is some latent good in Christianity. They permit themselves not to entertain any more reasonable suspicion, nor to investigate the truth more clearly. In this instance alone the curiosity natural to man is not excited; they please |231 themselves in ignorance of that, which others are delighted to have known. Anacharsis 7 permitted none but those skilled in the science, to judge of music : with how much greater justice might he have accused these men of folly, who, in their utter ignorance, presume to form a judgment respecting those, who have diligently inquired and learned the truth? They prefer ignorance of Christianity, because they already hate it : yet, by thus voluntarily encouraging ignorance, they tacitly confess their conviction that, if they did know what it was, they would be unable to hate it: since, if no just ground of hatred should be discovered, they would certainly act a wiser part in dismissing an unjust hatred; but if, on the other hand, sufficient cause for hatred should appear, the hostility, which now exists, would not only be continued, but acquire fresh reason and encouragement, even on the authority of justice itself.
But, it is said, the numbers, who are persuaded to embrace Christianity, afford no proof that the religion is good in itself; for how many are prone to evil? how many desert the paths of truth for error? Doubtless : yet not even they, who are led away by that which is evil in itself, dare to defend it, as good. Nature herself hath spread over every thing which is evil, either fear or shame. Evil doers are anxious for concealment; avoid publicity; when detected, tremble; when accused, deny; even under torture, do not readily, nor always, confess: at all events, when they are condemned, they grieve; they reflect upon themselves |232 with remorse; they attribute the sins, which arise from an evil heart, either to fate, or to the stars: for they would not have that, which they acknowledge to be evil, to belong to themselves. But what similarity is there between this and the conduct of a Christian? No one is ashamed, no one is sorry, except that he was not a Christian long before. If he is pointed out, he glories in the charge: if accused, he makes no defence; if questioned, he confesses, even of his own accord; if condemned, he returns thanks. What kind of evil, then, is this, which hath none of the natural attributes of evil, fear, shame, subterfuge, repentance, sorrow? What kind of evil is this, in which the culprit delights; the accusation of which is the completion of his wishes; and its punishment, his happiness? You cannot call this madness, since you are proved to be entirely ignorant of the real cause.
IF, however, it be ascertained that we are really most guilty, why are we treated differently from other criminals, our fellows? since similar offences ought to receive the same treatment. When others are accused of the offences, which are laid to our charge, they are permitted freely to speak, and to employ an advocate to prove their innocence: they have the privilege of replying, and objecting; since it is illegal that any should be condemned, entirely undefended or unheard. Christians alone are not permitted to advance any thing which may repel the charge, or defend the truth, or justify the judge. That alone is required, which the public hatred renders necessary, a confession of the name of Christian, not any inquiry into the offence. |233 Whereas when ye examine any other accused person, ye are not induced to pronounce sentence, as soon as he hath confessed himself guilty of murder, or sacrilege, or incest, or treason, (to speak of the ordinary heads of accusation against ourselves,) without demanding in corroboration proof of the nature of the act, the number of the perpetrators, the place, manner, time, accomplices, companions. In our case, no care of this kind is taken; although it is equally necessary that whatever is now falsely asserted should be elicited; upon how many infants each had already fed 8; how many incestuous crimes he had hidden in darkness; who were employed to prepare the human banquet; what dogs to extinguish the lights. Great would be the glory of that president, who could discover one who had already devoured an hundred infants! Yet we find that even inquiry into our cases has been forbidden. For the younger Pliny, when he had the command of a province, and had condemned some Christians, and removed others from their offices, was yet perplexed at their number, and at that time consulted the emperor Trajan9 what he should do with the remainder, declaring that, with the exception of their obstinate refusal to sacrifice, he had discovered nothing respecting their religious obligations, than that they assembled at daybreak to sing to Christ as God, and to unite in the exercises of their religion, prohibiting murder, adultery, fraud, perfidy, and all other crimes. Upon this, Trajan returned for answer, that persons of this persuasion should not be inquired after, but should be punished if brought before him. |234 What a self-contradictory sentence! He assumes their innocence, when he directs inquiry not to be made; yet commands them to be punished, as guilty. He is lenient, and cruel; he connives, and censures. Why do you thus contradict yourself in your own determination? If you condemn, why do you not also inquire? If you inquire, why do you not also acquit? Throughout every province, military stations are established for the discovery of robbers. Against those guilty of treason and public offences every man is a soldier: strict inquiry is made even into the companions and accomplices of such offenders. In the case of a Christian alone, inquiry is forbidden, accusation is permitted: as if inquiry itself were intended for any other purpose than as the foundation of an accusation. Ye condemn, therefore, him who is brought before you, although no one wished him to be inquired for; and it seems, that the accused did not deserve punishment, because he was guilty, but because he was discovered, in opposition to the edict which forbade inquiry to be made. Again, ye violate, in our case, the ordinary process, which is followed in the investigation of crimes; since ye torture other criminals, to make them confess; Christians alone, to compel them to deny: whereas, if that of which we are accused were evil, we should deny the fact, and ye, would compel us by tortures to confess. For ye ought not to think it needless to make inquiry respecting the crimes alleged, on the plea that they are admitted, by the very confession of the name of Christian; since, at this day, although ye well know what murder is, ye still think it necessary to extract the circumstances of his crime, even from one who confesses himself guilty of murder. Nay, still more unreasonably, having presumed our guilt, from the mere confession of the name of Christian, ye compel us by tortures to retract our |235 confession; as if, by denying the name, we should at once deny the crimes, which, from that confession, ye had presumed to exist. But, we are, perhaps, to imagine, ye wish us not to perish, bad as ye consider us to be. Your custom may be to entreat the murderer to deny his crime; to torture the sacrilegious, if he persists in his confession. If this is not the principle upon which ye act towards us, as guilty, then ye consider us most innocent; since, as most innocent, ye will not permit us to continue in that confession, which, as ye well know, ye condemn from compulsion; rather than from a sense of justice. A man exclaims, I am a Christian. He speaks the truth: ye desire to hear what is not the truth. Ye, who preside for the purpose of extorting truth, from us alone endeavour to hear falsehood. The accused declares, I am, such as ye inquire whether I am. Why do ye seek to mislead me by torture? I confess; and ye torture me: what would ye do, if I denied? When others deny, ye believe them not readily; when we deny, ye believe us at once. This contradiction might alone lead you to suspect, that there is some secret force, which instigates you in opposition to the very forms and nature of judicial proceedings, and to the very laws themselves. For, if I rightly judge, the laws require the guilty to be discovered, not concealed; they pronounce that those who confess should be punished, not acquitted. The decrees of the senate, the commands of princes, the supreme power, of which ye are the ministers, dictate this. Your authority is legal, not tyrannical: for with tyrants, tortures form also a part of punishment: with you, they are used only for eliciting the truth. Maintain this your law, respecting the application of torture, until confession is made. And if torture is anticipated by a confession, it will be superseded, and sentence should be passed. The |236 malefactor is to be discharged 10 from the punishment due to his offences, by its infliction, not by its remission. No one, in fact, desires to release him, or is permitted to entertain such a wish. Hence, no one is ever compelled to deny. Whereas ye regard a Christian as a man stained with every crime, the enemy of the gods, of the emperors, of the laws, of morals, of all nature; and compel him to deny, that ye may absolve him; since, without his denial, ye could not extend mercy to him. Thus ye pervert the laws11. Would ye then have him deny his guilt, that ye may treat him as innocent, and absolve him, even against his will, of all previous guilt? Whence is this inconsistency? Consider ye not, that his voluntary confession was far more credible than his compulsory denial? Or that, if he be compelled to retract, his disavowal may be insincere; and that, when dismissed, he will again become a Christian, and smile, behind your judgment seat, at the absurdity of your hatred?
Since, then, your treatment of us is entirely different from that of other criminals; since this is your only object, that we should be deprived of the name of Christians,--for we are deprived of it, if we act as those who are not Christians--ye may understand12 that there is no crime in the fact itself; but that some active principle of hatred pursues the very name of Christian, and produces especially this effect, that men are determined not to acquire any certain knowledge of a subject, of which they well know they are totally |237 ignorant. Hence it is, that they believe circumstances respecting us, which are not proved; and will not inquire, lest those accusations should be proved to be false, which they would rather wish to be believed; that the name, which is so opposed to that principle of hatred, should be condemned simply on its confession; upon the presumption, not upon the proof, of guilt. Hence we are tortured, if we confess; and punished, if we persevere; and absolved, if we deny; because the question regards the name only.
Moreover, why, in the accusation, do ye charge a person as a Christian? If a Christian be a murderer, or incestuous, why not accuse him of murder, or of any other crime, of which ye believe us guilty13? In our case alone, is there the least scruple or hesitation to declare the crimes of which any one is accused. The term Christian14, if it implies no crime, is nugatory; if it implies merely the crime of professing that name, it must surely possess some very peculiar and hateful meaning.
IT is almost needless to observe, that the greater part follow their hatred of Christianity so blindly, that, even when they bear testimony to any one's good qualities, they still upbraid him with the name which he bears. "Caius Seius," they say, "is a good man, except that he is a Christian." Another observes, "I |238 am quite surprised that so wise a man as Lucius Titius should have suddenly become a Christian." No one thinks of demanding in return, whether Caius is not good, or Lucius prudent, because he is a Christian; or a Christian, because he is prudent and good. They praise what they know; they blame what they know not; at the same time distorting what they know, by reasons drawn from that of which they are ignorant; although justice would rather require them to form an opinion of that which is unknown, from that which is known, than to condemn what is evident, from that which is secret. Others, in describing persons, whom, before their profession of Christianity, they had known to be given up to licentiousness, to every base lust, and immorality, use terms, which are really those of approbation; thus, in the blindness of their hatred, bearing unwilling testimony to the excellence of that which they condemn. They say of a woman, "How wanton, how gay she used to be!" of a young man, "What a libertine, what a profligate, he was! now they are both become Christians!" Thus the name is coupled with their reformation.
Some would even make a compromise with their hatred of Christianity, to their own disadvantage; being well satisfied to be injured in the tenderest points, provided they are freed from the intrusion of such objects of hatred in their own homes. The husband, who hath now no longer any reason for jealousy, expels his now virtuous wife from his house: the father, formerly indulgent, disinherits his now obedient son: the master, once lenient, sends his now faithful servant from his sight. Each one becomes hateful, in proportion as he is amended by the profession of this faith. The improvement, which hath followed from it, is not sufficient to counteract the general hatred towards the Christians. |239
Further, then, if the hatred belongs to the name, what guilt can be attached to any appellation? what accusation can be founded on a word? unless it be said, that the very name itself hath a barbarous sound, or is of evil omen, or scandalous, or immodest. Now the term Christian, as to its meaning, is derived from a word, which signifies to anoint. And even when ft is mis-pronounced Chrestian by you15,--for ye are in ignorance even of the name itself--that appellation would, from its derivation, imply sweetness or benignity. Hence even a harmless name is hated, in men who are harmless too.
But, it will be said, the sect16 is hated for the name of its author. Is it then a new thing that persons, holding peculiar tenets, should receive an appellation from the name of the author of them? Are not philosophers denominated from Plato, Epicurus, and Pythagoras; or even Stoics and Academics from their places of meeting, and ordinary resort? Have not physicians been named from Erasistratus, grammarians from Aristarchus, and even cooks from Apicius? Yet no one ever took offence at a name, thus |240 transmitted from the founder of a system with his peculiar tenets.
If, indeed, any one proves that the author of any opinions was bad, or his sect bad, he will then prove that the name ought to be hated for the faults of the sect, and of its author. Wherefore, before hatred of the name of Christian should have been indulged, a judgment ought to have been formed, either of the sect from its author, or of the author from his sect. But now, without the slightest inquiry or knowledge of either, the name is made the subject of detention and accusation: and the appellation alone at once condemns the sect, and the author, equally unknown; because they bear this name, not because their guilt is proved.
HAVING, then, premised these remarks, to expose the injustice of the public hatred against us, I shall now proceed to establish the plea of our innocence; and not only disprove what is objected against us, but also retort the charge upon our accusers: that hence all may know, that practices do not prevail among the Christians, which actually exist among themselves, without their knowledge: and that they may be put to the blush, when accusations are thus brought--I say not by men of the worst character against the best,--but, if they will have it so, against men like themselves. We shall answer every separate charge, both what we are accused of doing in secret, and what we openly avow: the actions in which we are regarded as impious, or foolish, or culpable, or ridiculous. But since, even when our plain statement of the truth hath |241 removed all reasonable objections, we are, after all, borne down by the authority of the laws themselves, and 17 by the assertion, that, when laws are once established, no alteration must be made in them, or that judges must, however unwillingly, prefer absolute obedience to the laws, to the plain investigation of truth; I will first argue with you, as with the guardians of the laws.
Now, in the first place, when ye pronounce your decision, in these words, "Ye are not permitted to exist;" and deliver this command, without any more lenient modification, ye act by arbitrary force, and an iniquitous and absolute power, if ye forbid our existence, because it is contrary to your will, not because we ought not to be. But, if ye determine that, because we ought not to exist, therefore we shall, not; doubtless that which is evil in itself ought not to be allowed; yet this very conclusion implies that what is good ought to be permitted. If I shall discover that what your law forbids is in itself good, shall I not at once prove, that the law cannot forbid that which, if it |242 were evil, it might justly prohibit18? If your law hath erred, it is, I imagine, of human origin; it fell not from heaven19. Is it astonishing, that man could either err in framing laws, or show his better judgment in amending them? Did not the amendment of the laws of Lycurgus himself by the Lacedaemonians cause such grief to their author, that he starved himself to death in his retirement20. Do not even ye yourselves, in daily endeavouring to throw light upon the darkness of antiquity, clear away and fell all the old and unsightly forest of laws, by the renovating axes of the rescripts and edicts of your princes? Did not Severus, that most determined of your emperors, but yesterday abrogate those most absurd Papian laws21, |243 which inflicted a penalty, if children were not born to persons, before they had attained the age, at which the Julian laws required them to have contracted marriage; and that too, after the laws had acquired all the authority of long duration? There were also laws22 providing, that those, who were previously condemned, might be cut in pieces by their creditors: but by public consent this cruel enactment was erased : and the capital punishment was commuted for a mark of disgrace. The confiscation of a man's goods was directed against his feelings of shame, not against his |244 life23. How many laws of yours yet remain to be reformed, which are maintained neither by their own antiquity, nor by the dignity of those who enacted them, but by justice alone; and, therefore, when they are proved to be unjust, they, which condemn others, are justly condemned themselves. But why should we call them simply unjust? If they punish a mere name, they are foolish too. And if they punish men for, their actions, why, in our case, do they punish such actions on the presumption of the name alone, while, in other cases, they require them to be proved from circumstances, not from the mere name? Suppose I am guilty of incest: why do not the laws inquire into the offence? Suppose I have murdered an infant: why do they not put me to the torture? Suppose I have committed a crime against the gods, against Caesar: why am I not heard, when I have the means of clearing myself? No law forbids the investigation of an action which it disallows. Since not even a judge can rightly put the law in force, unless he first ascertains that a crime hath been committed : neither can a citizen faithfully obey the law, while he is ignorant what offence is punished. Every law is required to give proof of its justice, not only to itself, but to those from whom it expects obedience. And any law is justly suspected, which will not submit to proof; and unjust, if, without proof, it yet exercises arbitrary power, |245
Now, to refer in some measure to the origin of laws of this kind, there was an old decree 24, that no Deity should be consecrated by the Emperor, without the approbation of the senate. Marcus Emilius knows this well, in the matter of his god Alburnus. This circumstance also is in our favour, that the divinity of your gods depends upon the estimation of man. A god is no god, unless he pleases man; and man must now be propitious to the god. Tiberius25, then, in |246 whose time the name of Christian entered into the world, laid before the senate intelligence, which had been sent from Palestine, and proved the truth of the Divine power there displayed, and added the influence of his own vote. The Senate rejected the proposal, because it had not itself first approved it. The Emperor persisted in his opinion; and threatened those with punishment, who should accuse the Christians. Consult your own records; ye will there find that Nero was the first who wielded the sword of the empire against the Christian religion, then first springing up in Rome. And we justly glory in the fact, that our first persecutor was such a man. For whoever knows his character may understand that nothing but what was excellently good would be persecuted by Nero. Domitian also, who had a portion of Nero's cruelty, made a similar attempt; but retaining some sentiments of humanity 26, soon desisted, and even permitted those whom he had banished to return. Such have ever been our persecutors; the unjust, the ungodly the vile; men of such character, that ye yourselves have been accustomed to condemn them, and to restore those whom they have condemned. But from that time down to the present reign, out of so many emperors who were acquainted with religion or humanity, we |247 challenge you to mention one, who was an enemy of the Christians. On the contrary, we appeal to a protector, if the letters of that most worthy Emperor Marcus Aurelius are examined27, in which he testifies, that, in Germany, the thirst of his troops was dispelled by a shower, obtained by the prayers of some Christian |248 soldiers, who happened to be in his army. That Emperor, although he did not publicly abrogate the punishments directed against the Christians, averted them by another public act, by subjecting their accusers to a punishment of a still more severe nature.
What then are these laws, which none but the impious, the unjust, the vile, the trifling, the insane enforce? of which Trajan partly frustrated the effect, by forbidding inquiry to be made after Christians? which neither Adrian, although a searcher out of all new and curious doctrines, nor Vespasian, although the conqueror of the Jews, nor Pius 28, nor Verus put into action. Now it is plain, that men, as bad as Christians are represented to be, would be destroyed by all the best princes, who would naturally be opposed to them, rather than by those who were like themselves.
I SHOULD now wish that they who make such a profession of scrupulously protecting and observing the laws and institutions of their fathers, would answer a question as to the faithfulness with which they have themselves honoured and respected them. Is there no law which they have violated? none which they have transgressed? Have they not abrogated the most necessary and wholesome parts of ancient discipline? What is become of those laws, which were enacted to restrain luxury and ostentation; which commanded |249 that no more than an hundred pence should be expended upon an entertainment, nor more than one fowl, and that not fatted, should be set before the guests; which removed from the Senate, as a man of notorious ostentation, one who possessed ten pounds of silver; which immediately destroyed the theatres, which were then beginning to be raised, as tending to the destruction of morals; and permitted no one, without just and sufficient cause, to assume the dignity, and adopt the distinctions, of noble birth? For now I see that the expense of entertainments is to be reckoned by hundreds, not of pence, but of pounds; and that massive silver is formed into dishes, not for senators only, but for men just freed from slavery, and hardly yet escaped from the lash. I see that one theatre alone is not sufficient; they must be both numerous and covered 29: and we are to suppose the Lacedaemonians invented that odious cloak, lest winter should throw a chill upon the immodest pleasures of the theatre 30. I recognize no longer any distinction of dress, between a matron and a prostitute. And all those regulations of our ancestors have fallen into disuse, which favoured modesty and sobriety in the conduct of women : when no woman wore a gold ring on more than one finger, that, namely, on which it was placed at her espousal: when women abstained from the use of wine so scrupulously, that a matron was starved to death by her family, for having broken open the vaults of a wine cellar: and, in the time of |250 Romulus, a woman, who had touched wine, was killed with impunity by her husband Mecenius. Hence the custom arose for them to salute their near relations with a kiss, that their breath might detect them. Where is now that happiness of the marriage state, which accompanied the severity of ancient manners, so that not one family was sullied by a divorce for nearly six hundred years after the foundation of the city of Rome? Now, as for your women, their whole person is weighed down with gold; their breath universally betrays their indulgence in wine; and divorce is now a part of the marriage vow, as if it were the natural consequence of matrimony. Even the very decrees, which your ancestors have wisely enacted respecting your gods, ye, their most obedient followers, have rescinded. The consuls, with the authority of the Senate, banished the worship of Bacchus, with its mysteries, not only from the city (of Rome), but from all Italy. Although Piso and Gabinius were no Christians, yet in their consulship they forbade Serapis, Isis, and Harpocrates, with his accompanying deity having a dog's head, to be brought into the capitol; which was, in fact, expelling them from the assembly of the gods; and overthrew their altars, in their anxiety to suppress the abuses of their base and idle superstitions. Now these very deities ye have restored, and invested with supreme authority. Where, then, is your religion? Where is the reverence which ye owe to your ancestors? In dress, in diet, in equipage, in expense, nay, even in language, ye have degenerated from your forefathers. Ye are constantly praising the ancients; ye live daily as moderns. And in this it is made manifest, that, in departing from the good institutions of your ancestors, ye retain and observe what ye ought not, while ye observe not what ye ought. Thus ye maintain, with the utmost fidelity, the law |251 delivered down from your ancestors, by which ye principally condemn the Christians, that law respecting the worship of strange gods, which was one of the greatest errors of antiquity. Still, although ye have restored the altars of Serapis, now made a Roman god; although ye have introduced all the furious orgies dedicated to Bacchus, now naturalized in Italy, I will yet take occasion to show in its proper place31, that ye have in fact despised, and neglected, and destroyed, the authority of your ancestors. For at present I shall answer the infamous accusation of secret atrocities, with which we are charged, to clear the way for the vindication of the actions which we avowedly perform.
IT is said, then, that we are guilty of most horrible crimes; that, in the celebration of our sacrament, we put a child to death 32, which we afterwards devour; and at the end of our banquet revel in incest; that we employ dogs, as ministers of our impure delights, to overthrow the lights, and thus to provide darkness, and remove all shame, which might interfere with these impious lusts. But this is always mere assertion : and ye take no pains to prove what for so long a time, ye continue to assert. Either therefore investigate the truth, if ye believe the charge, or cease to believe, what ye have not proved. Your dissimulation in this matter plainly implies, that crimes, which ye |252 dare not investigate, have no existence. Ye impose upon your executioner very different commands respecting the Christians; not that they should confess what they do, but deny what they are.
That religion, as we have already declared, arose in the reign of Tiberius. At its very first appearance, truth was an object of detestation and hostility. It had as many enemies, as there were strangers: for instance, the Jews from a spirit of envy; the soldiers, from interested motives; our very domestics, from their natural hostility to their superiors. We are every day pursued and betrayed; we are especially attacked in our very places of public resort, and in our religious assemblies. Yet who ever surprised us with an infant weeping in the manner described? Who ever kept us to be brought before the judge, with our faces red with blood, as he found us, like the Cyclops or Syrens? Who ever detected the slightest traces of indelicacy, even in their wives (who have become Christians?) who is there, who having made such discoveries, was either silent, or bribed to conceal them 33, thus betraying his duty towards mankind? Besides, if our actions are always so secret, when were they ever made known? Nay, by whom could they be made public? not, certainly, by those who committed them; since a profound silence is part of the very essence of all mysteries. No one divulges the secrets of the Samothra-cian and Eleusinian mysteries; how much more, then, would such rites be kept secret, as, if once betrayed would provoke the rigour of human laws, while they are exposed to the vengeance of divine wrath?
If, then, our accusation comes not from ourselves, it |253 comes from strangers. And whence have strangers this knowledge? since even in initiations, which are regarded as religious, the profane are excluded, and no witnesses admitted; unless it can be conceived that they, who are conscious of impiety, would be less fearful.
The nature of common fame is known to all. One of your own poets 34 declares,
"Fame is an ill, swifter than all besides :"
Why doth he call fame an evil? is it because she is swift? because she gives intelligence? or because she is generally mendacious? For even when what she reports is true, she still is not free from the guilt of falsehood, by diminishing, or increasing, or distorting the plain truth. In fact, her condition is such, that, as soon as she ceases to be false, she ceases to exist. She lives no longer, than while she fails to prove her assertions. For as soon as she hath proved them, she ceases to be. Her office of relating being, as it were, at an end, she declares a fact; and thenceforth it is considered as a fact, and so denominated. No one, for instance, says, "It is reported that such a circumstance hath happened at Rome," or, "The rumour is, that he hath obtained such a province;" but, "He hath the province," and "It hath taken place at Rome." Fame, the very name of which implies that it is uncertain, hath no existence when a fact is certain. And who, but a man of no reflection, would ever believe common report? for no wise man trusts to what is uncertain. All men are competent to judge upon this point; with whatever perseverance it is disseminated, upon whatever strength of asseveration it is built. It must have had its origin from one source, and thence have been |254 transmitted through many tongues and ears. Thus the circumstances, which have gathered round a rumour, so hide the error and meanness of its origin, that no one inquires whether the first reporter did not disseminate a falsehood; a circumstance which frequently happens, either from an envious disposition, or by the aggravation of a mere suspicion, or by the habitual and natural pleasure which some take in lying.
Well is it, that according to your own proverbs and sayings, Time reveals all things; that events are so ordered by the constitution of nature, that nothing is long concealed, even though fame should never have reported it.
Yet this common fame is the only accuser, which ye bring against us; an accuser, which hath never yet been able to prove, what it hath at different times asserted, and for so long a period endeavoured to corroborate.
IN answer to those who think these accusations credible, I would appeal to the testimony of nature herself. Suppose that we promise a reward for these atrocities, even eternal life. Conceive this for a moment. And then I demand, whether, if you believed this, you would think eternity itself worth purchasing at the price of such a burden on the conscience? Suppose a man were thus addressed: "Come, plunge your steel into an infant, who can have committed no offence, can be no one's enemy, and may be anyone's child. Or, if this murderous office falls to another, merely be present, while a human being dies, almost before he is brought to life; wait for the departure of the soul but just united with the body; catch the scarcely-formed |255 blood, saturate your bread with it, eat freely. Meanwhile, as you recline at the banquet, observe the places where your mother and your sister sit; mark them well; that when the dogs shall have put out the lights, you may be sure to make no mistake; for it will be a mortal sin, if you fail to commit incest. Thus initiated and thus sealed you shall live for ever." I would have you answer me, whether eternity is worth all this; and if not, that you will allow the charge to be incredible. Even if you believed such promises as these, I am persuaded you would not comply; even if you would, I know you could not. Why, then, should others be able to do so, if ye cannot? why are ye unable to do it, if others can? Are we conceived to be of a different nature from yourselves35, monsters, like those described in India and in Africa, with the heads of dogs, and feet which would overshadow the body? Are our teeth set differently from yours, or our bodies so framed as to be peculiarly fitted for incestuous passion? If you can believe this of any human being, you are yourself capable of committing it: you yourself are a man; and so is a Christian. What you could not do, you ought not to believe. For a Christian too is a human being; and in all respects such as you are.
But, it will be said, none but the ignorant are imposed upon, and seduced into the commission of these atrocities: men who never knew that crimes like these were ascribed to the Christians. But surely, in such cases, every one would observe and diligently examine for himself.
It is, I imagine, customary for all those, who are desirous of being initiated, first to apply to the chief |256 priest, and to ascertain what preparation is to be made. We are to believe, then, that when this enquiry is made by any one who is desirous of becoming a Christian, he is told, "You must procure a young and tender child, one who knows not what death is, and will smile under your knife: you must have some bread too, to suck up every drop of blood which flows; and besides these, candlesticks and lights; and some dogs, and bits of meat to draw them off, so as to throw down the candles. Above all, take care and come with your mother and your sister." What is the poor candidate to do, if he cannot persuade them to accompany him, or should have none at all? What becomes of all Christians who have no such relations? No one, I suppose, can be a regular Christian, unless he be a brother, or a son.
But suppose that all these preparations are made without the knowledge of the new Christians. At all events, they know all this afterwards, and yet submit to it, and allow it. They fear to be punished, while, if they proclaimed the truth, they would deserve universal approbation; and ought rather to prefer death, than submit to live with such a burden on their conscience. And even if they feared to disclose the past, why do they also persevere for the future? For surely no one would continue to be such as he would never have been, had he been forewarned.
FOR the more complete refutation of these accusations, I will now show, that these very atrocities are committed by yourselves, partly in public, and partly in secret, whence probably ye are so ready to believe us |257 also guilty of them. In Africa, infants were openly sacrificed, until the time of Tiberius36, who exposed the priests themselves alive, upon crosses made of the trees, to which their votive offerings used to be suspended, in the very groves of the temples which had overshadowed their murderous rites. In proof of this fact, we can appeal to the soldiers of our own country, who were employed by the proconsul in the execution of this very duty. And even now the same horrible sacrifice is secretly continued. Your ordinances are despised by others besides the Christians; no atrocity is for ever abrogated: no deity changes his habits37. Since Saturn spared not his own children, he continued implacable to those of others. Nay, the very parents offered up their own children, paid their vows with the greatest alacrity, and soothed their infants, that they might not be sacrificed while in tears. Surely this murder of children by their parents is a far greater crime than homicide itself.
Adults were sacrificed to Mercury by the Gauls. I refer to the fables of the Tauric Chersonese, to the theatres, where they are such favourite subjects: but even in the most religious city of the pious descendants of Aeneas, there is a Jupiter (Latiaris), whom they sprinkle with human blood at his annual games.
But the blood thus shed, ye will say, is merely that of men already condemned to the beasts. As if this were not equally the murder of a human being; and an offering still more dishonourable to a god, inasmuch as it is that of a bad man. At all events, such bloodshed is murder. How truly is Jupiter thus a Christian, |258 as ye conceive Christians to be, and the only son of his father for cruelty!
But since the guilt of infanticide is by no means different, whether the crime be committed out of superstition or voluntarily,--although it is a great aggravation that the parents should be the agents--I will turn to the people. How many of those who stand around, and are so eager to shed the blood of the Christians, nay, how many of you who preside with such justice and severity in receiving the accusations against us, will be cut to the heart, when your consciences accuse you of the murder of your own children!
There is a difference also in the manner of inflicting death; and yours is more cruel than any of which we are accused; ye drown the breath of infants in the waters, or expose them to perish by cold, or famine, or the dogs. Surely any one able to make a choice would prefer the sword to such an end as this.
Our religion, on the contrary, not only forbids murder, but protects the fruit conceived in the womb, while yet the tender elements are scarcely formed into a human being. To prevent the birth is anticipated homicide: to take away life or to interrupt it in its natural course is equally culpable. That, which is to be a man, hath all the rights of humanity; the whole future fruit is concentrated in the seed.
With respect to feeding upon human blood, and other tragic banquets of a like nature, see if it be not related, I believe by Herodotus 38, that certain nations ratified their treaties by mutually tasting the blood drawn from each other's arms. Something of the same kind is told of Catiline39. And it is reported that, |259 among some nations of the Scythians, every one, as soon as he dies, is devoured by his own family. But I need not seek so far for an example. At this very day, blood drawn by incisions in the thighs and given in the hand 40 to drink, marks those who are consecrated to Bellona. Again, where are those who, for the cure of epilepsy, eagerly drink the fresh blood which flows from the throats of the condemned gladiators, who are stabbed in the arena? those too who feed upon the animals which are slain in public combat; who ask with eagerness for a piece of the boar or the stag? That boar tore, in the mortal struggle, the man whose blood he shed : that stag lay down in the gore which flowed from the gladiator's wound. The very entrails of wild boars are required for food, before they have themselves digested the human flesh, which they have devoured: and one human being is gorged to repletion with the flesh of animals which lived upon men. While ye practise such atrocities, how far are ye yourselves from the horrible banquets of which ye accuse the Christians? And the still more ineffable abominations, which some of you commit41, exceed in enormity even the crime of devouring children which is ascribed to us. Ye, who act thus, may blush at the Christians, who consider the blood even of animals forbidden food; and abstain from things strangled, and from such as die naturally, lest we should contract impurity by unwittingly feeding upon some portion of blood contained in the body. |260
Besides, among the trials to which ye expose Christians, one is to offer him to eat food prepared with the blood of animals, well knowing that the act, by which ye thus tempt them to transgress, is forbidden by our laws. Now, how can it be believed, that those, who thus abhor the blood of animals, should eagerly devour human blood? unless perhaps ye have yourselves tasted it, and found it sweeter. If that be the case, he who undertakes to examine a Christian should offer this to him, instead of the fire and incense, which is now used for the purpose. Christians would be known, by their taste for human blood, as well as they now are, by refusing to offer sacrifice; and should be put to death, if they tasted the blood, as they now are, if they sacrifice not. And, as long as ye conduct the accusation and condemnation of prisoners in the same manner as at present, there would be no lack of human blood, with which to make the experiment.
With respect to the alleged crime of incest, who was ever so great an example of this crime as Jupiter himself? Ctesias relates, how common the union of sons with their own mothers was, among the Persians. And the Macedonians are suspected of the same enormity, since, when they first witnessed the representation of the tragedy of Oedipus, they ridiculed the grief which he expressed for his involuntary crime, crying out ἤλαυνε τὴν ματέρα.
Consider, now, how wide a field is opened to the involuntary commission of this crime of incest among yourselves, by the universal licentiousness which prevails. In the first place, ye expose your sons, as soon as they are born, to be taken up by the casual pity of some passing stranger; or give them up for adoption to others, who will make better parents than yourselves. The memory of a race thus dispersed must sometimes be lost. And if once such an error is committed, it |261 will soon be aggravated by the addition of the crime of incest to the original guilt. Wherever ye go, at home, abroad, or beyond the sea, ye carry your unbridled passions with you: and this licentiousness may well, in some instances, produce a race of children springing up, without their fathers' knowledge, as if they grew from seed scattered at random: and this promiscuous race, in the ordinary vicissitudes of human intercourse, is liable to unite with those of their own blood, and thus fall unwittingly into the perpetration of incest.
The constant and entire chastity, which we observe, defends us from this danger: we are as secure from the commission of incest, as we are free from all excesses and licentiousness after marriage. Some of us, with still greater security, prevent the possibility of errors of this nature, by preserving an immaculate continence, retaining in their old age the virgin purity of youth.
If ye properly consider, that all these enormities exist among yourselves, ye would at once perceive, that they are not found among the Christians. The same light would inform you of both these facts. But two kinds of blindness are frequently united, that which sees not what is, and that which thinks it sees what is not.
I shall show how true this is, in all particulars. But first I will treat of what is most obvious.
YE accuse us Christians, of neither worshipping the gods, nor offering sacrifice for the safety of the Emperors. It follows, as a necessary consequence, that we |262 sacrifice not for others, since we do not sacrifice even for ourselves, nor ever pay reverence to the gods. Hence we are accused at once of sacrilege and treason. This is the main part of the accusation against us; nay, it is the whole of it, and well worthy to be investigated, if judgment be formed without prejudice, and without injustice; the former of which hath no hope that the truth can be established, and the latter refuses to hear its voice.
We have refused to worship your gods, from the time that we were convinced that they were no gods 42, Ye ought, therefore, to require us to prove that they are no gods, and therefore ought not to be worshipped : for undoubtedly they are worthy of all reverence, if only they be truly gods. Then also ought the Christians to be punished, if it should appear, that those are gods, whom they refused to worship, believing them not to be so. But, ye say, in our estimation they are gods. Here, then, we appeal at once from yourselves to your own conscience. That shall judge us; that shall condemn us, if it can deny that all those, whom ye consider gods, were once men. If your conscience denies this, it shall be convinced by a reference to your own works of antiquity, from which your knowledge of your deities is derived: for these bear testimony at the present day, both to the cities, in which they were born, and to the countries, in which they left traces of their achievements, and where their burial-places are even now shown. It will be needless for me to enumerate every individual of such an endless variety, new and old, barbarian, Greek, Roman, or foreign; such as were captives, or adopted; national or general; male or female; attached to the country or the town; naval or |263 military. It would be tedious and useless even to mention all their titles. I will then make a compendious summary; and this, not for the purpose of instructing, but of reminding you, for ye act as if ye had forgotten the facts.
There is, among you, no god before Saturn: from his date, every other deity, although more esteemed or better known, is to be reckoned. Whatever, then, is established respecting the origin, will be true of those derived from it. Now, as far as your records extend, neither Diodorus the Greek, nor Thallus, nor Cassius Severus, nor Cornelius Nepos, nor any other writer of antiquity of the same kind, speaks of Saturn as any other than a man. If we refer to facts, I find none better attested any where than in Italy itself, in which Saturn took up his abode, after many wanderings, and after he had been entertained in Attica, being received by Janus, or Janes, as the Salii call him. The mountain, in which he dwelt, is called Saturnius; the city, which he founded, retains the name of Saturnia to this day: and all Italy, which before was called Oenotria, received the appellation of Saturnia. From him was first received the knowledge of written characters, and the art of making impressions upon coins: whence he is the deity, who is supposed to preside over the treasury. If, then, Saturn was a man, he was of human birth; and if of human birth, he derived not his origin from the heaven and the earth. It was however an easy fiction to call him, whose true parents were unknown, the son of those elements, of which we all may seem to be the offspring. For who is there, who speaks not of the heaven and the earth as his mother and father, under a feeling of reverence and honour, or by the ordinary custom, by which those, who appear suddenly or unexpectedly, are said to have come from the skies? Hence it happened, that, wherever Saturn |264 came suddenly, he received the appellation of heaven-born 43. Just as even now those, whose descent is unknown, are commonly said to spring from the earth. I say nothing of the fact, that men were then in so rude and uncultivated a state, that they regarded the appearance of every stranger as something divine: since, even civilized as they now are, they consecrate among the gods those, whom, but a few days before, they confessed to be mortal, by the public mourning for their death. These few words are sufficent to show, what Saturn really was.
We shall hereafter show, that Jupiter is also a man, and of human origin; and that the whole swarm of that race of beings are both mortal, and of the same nature with the stock whence they arose.
SINCE, then, ye dare not deny that these were men, but have taken upon yourselves to assert that they were made gods, after their death, let us consider the causes, which have produced this. Now, first ye must admit, that there is some superior Deity, who hath the power of conferring divinity, and thus deifies mortals. For they could not themselves assume a divine nature, which they never had; nor could any one confer it, upon those who possessed it not, unless it were inherent in himself. And, if there were no person to make |265 them gods, by removing the supposition of such an agent, ye destroy the possibility that they ever should have been made gods. For, assuredly, had they been able to make themselves, they never would have existed as men, while they had the power of assuming a more excellent nature. If, therefore, there exists some Being, who hath the power of making men into gods, I return to the consideration of the causes, which should induce him to exercise this power; and I find none, except that such a supreme Deity might require instruments and agents, for performing the offices belonging to divinity. Now, in the first place, it is a supposition unworthy of the Divine nature, that the Supreme Being should stand in need of the aid of any one, much less of a dead man; since, had he been liable to require such assistance, it would have been more conformable with his dignity, to have at once created some god. But I see no room for such a supposition. For the universe, whether we regard it, with Pythagoras, as self-existent and uncreated, or, with Plato, as taking its origin from a creator, was, at all events, disposed once for all in the original design, and so framed and ordered; since every part is regulated by the guidance of reason. Now that, which brought every thing to perfection 44, could not itself be imperfect. It required not the aid of Saturn and his race. Men would be foolish indeed, not to be certain, that, from the beginning of the world, rain fell from heaven, and the stars sent forth their beams, and the light shone, and the thunder roared, so that Jupiter, in whose hand ye place the thunderbolt, did himself tremble at it. In like manner it must be conceived, that all kinds of fruit abounded, before the time of Bacchus, and Ceres, and |266 Minerva; nay, even before the existence of the first man, whoever he was; since nothing, which was devised for the support and maintenance of man, could be introduced after man himself. Besides, those deities' are said to have discovered those necessaries of life, not to have created them: now that which is discovered, already exists: and that which was in existence must not be ascribed to him who discovered its use, but to him who made it; for it was formed before it could be discovered. And if Bacchus is therefore a god, because he first showed the use of the vine, Lucullus was hardly used, who first introduced the cherry out of Pontus into Italy, that he was not consecrated as the creator of a new fruit; since he invented it, and showed its use. If, therefore, the universe was originally ordained and destined for the due performance of certain offices, there is no pretence, on these grounds, for adopting the human into the divine nature; since the stations and powers which ye attribute to them, were from the beginning such as they would have been, even if ye had not made them gods.
Ye have recourse, however, to another reason, asserting that their deification was intended as the reward of their merit; assuming, I suppose, that the God, who deified them, excels injustice, so as to dispense so magnificent a reward neither without consideration, nor upon unworthy objects, nor with undue profusion. I should wish, therefore, to enumerate their merits, and see whether they are of such a nature as to raise them to heaven, and not rather to sink them to the bottom of Tartarus, which ye and many others affirm to be the place of infernal punishments. For to that place are usually sent the impious, those who have committed incest with parents or sisters, adulterers, ravishers of virgins, corrupters of youth; men who commit violence, or murder, or theft; those who |267 deceive, or are like any of those gods of yours, not one of whom ye can prove to be free from such vices or crimes, unless ye deny that he was once a man. But since ye cannot pretend to deny that they were men, they are also branded with such marks, as prevent us from believing that they should afterwards be made gods. For, if ye preside on your judgment seats, for the purpose of punishing crimes like these--if every one of you, who is upright, avoids all intercourse, conversation, or society with men of such infamous and base character,-- and yet that supreme God, whom ye suppose, raised men like these to partake of his majesty, --why do ye condemn, in men, the qualities, which ye adore in your god? Your administration of justice is a reflection upon heaven. Ye ought to deify all your vilest offenders, to please your gods. Their honour is involved in the consecration of their fellows.
But, to dwell no longer upon their unworthiness, I will suppose that they were honest and spotless and good. Yet how many far better men have ye left in the shades below? Men celebrated, for instance, as Socrates, for wisdom; Aristides, for his integrity; Themistocles, for his valour; Alexander, for his magnanimity; Polycrates, for his good fortune; Croesus, for his riches; Demosthenes, for his eloquence? Which of those, whom ye have made gods, was more distinguished for gravity and wisdom, than Cato; for justice and military skill, than Scipio; for grandeur of soul, than Pompey; for success, than Sylla; for wealth, than Crassus; for eloquence, than Cicero? How much more worthily would your supreme God have waited to confer divinity upon those men, well knowing that these better men would exist. But we are to suppose he hastened, and once for all shut the gates of heaven, and now blushes, when he sees so many far better men murmuring in the shades below. |268
I SHALL pursue these observations no further, well knowing that I can truly show what they are not, by setting forth what they really are. Now, in the persons of your gods, I perceive nothing but the names of certain men long since dead; I hear nothing but fables; I recognize only sacred rites founded on fables. And as for the images themselves, I discover nothing but the mothers and sisters 45, as it were, of vessels and common utensils, or things, which, by the act of consecration, and the transforming power of art, change their destination with those vessels and utensils. Yet even this dedication is not unaccompanied with insult and sacrilege, in the very act itself; so that we, who are punished principally on account of the gods, may derive some consolation from the reflection, that they themselves underwent similar treatment, in the act of fabrication. If ye impale the Christians upon crosses, and stakes, every image of a god hath been first constructed upon a cross and stake, and plastered with cement. The body of your god is first dedicated upon a gibbet.. If ye tear the bodies of Christians with your nails; your hatchets, and planes, and files are more unmercifully used upon all the members of your gods. If we lay our heads upon the block; your deities have no heads, before the lead, and the solder, and the rivets are applied. If we are exposed to the beasts; those animals are the same, which ye make the constant attendants on Bacchus, Cybele, and Ceres. If we are burned in the fire; the substance, of which they are |269 composed, was first submitted to the same trial. If we are condemned to the mines; thence come they, whom ye believe to be gods46. If we are banished into islands; an island is the favourite spot for the birth or death of every god. If this constitutes divinity, those who are punished are consecrated; to be condemned is to be deified. But, in good truth, your gods are as unconscious of the insults, thus offered to them in their fabrication, as they are of the worship, which is paid to them. "Impious assertions!" I hear you exclaim--"sacrilegious insult!" But however great may be your rage and fury against us, ye at the same time approve of a Seneca, who inveighs at greater length and with greater bitterness against your superstition. If, then, we refuse to adore statues and images cold as death, the real nature of which birds, and mice and spiders well understand47, are we not rather worthy of praise than blame, for rejecting an acknowledged error? For how can we seem to injure those, whom we assuredly know to be nothing in the world48? That, which is not, can be in no way affected by that which is.
IN our estimation, however, ye say, they are gods. If so, how impious and sacrilegious and irreligious are ye proved to be towards these gods, in neglecting those, |270 whose existence ye believe, destroying the objects of your fear, and insulting those, whose rights ye defend. Judge, yourselves, whether I speak truth or not. In the first place, since some of you worship one god, and some another, ye undoubtedly offend those whom ye do not worship: ye cannot prefer one without offering an insult to others; nor choose one, without rejecting another. Ye despise, therefore, those whom ye reject, and have no fear of so offending them. For, as we have before noticed, the condition of every god depended upon the estimation in which the Senate held him. He was no god, if the men, who deliberated upon the question, determined against his claim, and, by refusing to admit him, condemned him. As for your family gods, which ye call Lares, ye treat them, as other household articles, with arbitrary power, by pledging, or selling them, or by changing a statue of Saturn or Minerva into the basest utensils, whenever it is battered or worn out with the length of service paid to it, or when any one finds his domestic distress a more powerful deity than his household gods. Ye publicly commit a like outrage against your public gods, whom ye expose in catalogues, and sell by auction. The Capitol and the herb-market are sold in the same manner49. The divinity of your gods itself is put up to sale by the same voice of the crier, at the same appointed place, under the same inspection of the Quaestor. Estates, however, liable to a tax are on that account less valuable; the persons of men who are subject to tribute are less noble; for all these are marks of servitude. But your gods are the more holy, the greater the tribute is, to which they are subject; or rather, those who are most holy, are most heavily |271 taxed. Their majesty is made a source of gain. Religion goes round the taverns begging. Ye demand payment for entering the temple, and for a place at festivals. No one can become acquainted with the gods for nothing; access to them is purchased. What do ye for their honour, more than for your dead? The temples and altars are precisely the same. They have the same dress and ornaments upon their statues. The age, the profession, the occupation of the dead man are preserved in his effigy; and it is the same with the god. What difference is there in the feast of Jupiter, and in that made for aged men at a funeral50? between the vessel, in which wine is poured out in sacrifices, and that with which libations are made to the dead? between an augur, who predicts by observation of the entrails, and an embalmer? for he performs the office of an augur to the dead. But ye consistently enough confer the honour of divinity upon your dead emperors, since ye ascribe it to them in their lives. Your gods will feel deeply indebted to you, and be delighted that those who have ruled even over them, are put upon a level with them. But when ye introduce Larentina51, a common prostitute,--I should have preferred, at all events, Lajs or Phryne,-- among such goddesses as Juno, and Ceres, and Diana; when ye honour Simon Magus with a statue 52, and an inscription, bearing the title of holy god, when ye introduce one of the infamous pages53 of the court into the council of the gods; although your ancient gods could boast of no more noble origin, yet they will |272 think ye use them ill, by conferring a dignity upon others, to which they conceive their antiquity gives them a prescriptive right.
I WILL not observe upon your religious rites, nor mention the shameful manner in which ye perform your, sacrifices, slaying for that purpose any animals which are emaciated, or rotten, or diseased, and cutting off from the fat and entire carcases the useless head and hoofs, which even at home ye would have thrown to the dogs, or given to slaves; and place upon the altar of Hercules not a third part of the tenth, which is his share. In all this, I rather praise your wisdom, in reserving something from that which would otherwise be totally lost. But I will turn to your literature, whence ye derive your instruction in prudence and the liberal sciences; what absurdities are there found? I read of gods, who fought like pairs of gladiators, for Trojans and Greeks: of Venus being wounded by an arrow, directed by a human hand, in her anxiety to save her son Aeneas, who was on the point of being slain by the same man, Diomede: of Mars almost worn out, by an imprisonment of thirteen months in chains: of Jupiter, who was freed by the aid of some monster (Briareus), when he was in danger of suffering the same treatment from the immortals; and, at one time, weeping for the fate of Sarpedon, at another, reviving his passion for Juno, his sister, by a disgraceful enumeration of his former adulteries, in none of which he was so enamoured 54. After this, what poet is there |273 who hath not followed the prince of poets, in calumniating the gods? One gives Apollo, to keep the sheep of King Admetus; another lets out Neptune, to build walls for Laomedon. There is also the celebrated lyric poet, Pindar55, who declares Esculapius to have been deservedly struck by lightning, for his avarice in exercising the art of medicine to a bad purpose. If this was Jupiter's thunder, he acted ill; with injustice towards his grandson, and with envy towards the inventor of so noble an art. Among men so very religious, these facts, if true, ought never to have been betrayed; if false, ought never to have been invented. Even the writers of tragedy and comedy are not more cautious; but take for their subject the miseries, or the crimes, of some of your gods. I say nothing of your philosophers, being content to mention Socrates, who, out of contempt for your gods, used to swear by an oak, a goat, and a dog. But, ye will say, Socrates was put to death, for destroying the authority of the gods. So indeed he was, for, aforetime, as ever, truth is hated. Yet when the Athenians afterwards repented of their error, punished the accusers of Socrates, and placed a golden statue of him in a temple, the repeal of the sentence restored the testimony of Socrates to its original importance. Besides this, Diogenes turned Hercules into ridicule; and the Roman cynic Varro introduces three hundred Joves, or Jupiters, without heads.
ALL your inventors of wanton tales minister to your pleasures, by disgraceful stories of your gods. Examine the |274 most admired beauties of your Lentuli and Hostilii; in the jokes and tricks which are there displayed, are the actors or the gods the subjects of your derision? When, for instance, ye laugh at an adulterous Anubis, at a Moon of the male sex, at Diana being flogged, at the reading of the will of Jupiter after his death, and at three half-starved Hercules. Besides, your dramatic literature describes all their most disgraceful actions. Ye are delighted to hear the Sun grieving for his son Phaeton, cast down from heaven; ye blush not to hear Cybele sighing for a shepherd, who rejects her with disdain: and ye tolerate the enumeration of all the infamous tales attributed to Jupiter, and the judgment which a shepherd passed upon Juno, Venus, and Minerva. Again, how disgraceful is it, that the mask, which is formed to represent one of your gods, should be worn by a man of infamous and notorious character; that one personally dissolute, and with his frame rendered effeminate for the purpose, should represent sometimes a Minerva, and sometimes an Hercules. Do ye not applaud, while the majesty of your gods is thus insulted, and their divinity abused? Ye are, however, I presume, more scrupulous in your arenae, where the gods are introduced dancing in the midst of the blood of the gladiators, and the pollution of capital punishments, affording the plot and history, in the course of which these wretched victims maybe put to death; not to mention that the culprits themselves sometimes support the character of some of your gods. We have formerly seen a man mutilated in the character of Atys, your god from Pessinum; and one, who personated Hercules, burnt alive. We have joined in the laugh, at the cruel entertainments, with which ye beguile the middle of the day, when Mercury went about to try with a red-hot caduceus, whether the bodies were really dead. We have seen also Pluto, the brother of |275 Jupiter, dragging off the corpses of the gladiators, with a hammer in his hand.
But who can enumerate every particular of this kind? If such representations injure the honour of the divine character, if they lay its majesty in the dust, they infer a contempt of the gods, both in those who act in any thing of the kind, and in those for whose entertainment they are performed.
But, ye will say, this is merely in sport. If, however, I should add, what your consciences would admit to be equally true, that adulterous assignations are made in your temples; that before your very altars, the violation of chastity is contrived; that acts of the grossest kind are usually committed in the very houses of the ministers and priests of the temples; while the garlands, and ornaments, and purple vestments of the priesthood are still upon them, and the incense is still burning.; I fear your gods would have more reason to complain of you, than of the Christians themselves.
At all events, all those, who are found guilty of sacrilege, are of your religion; for the Christians never enter your temples, even in the day time: had they entered them to worship, perhaps they too would have been led to rob them. What, then, is likely to be the object of adoration to men, who refuse to worship objects such as these? From this very circumstance it may be inferred, that they worship the truth; since they have desisted from worshipping falsehood. It is unlikely that they should again fall into an error, which they had ceased to commit, as soon as they came to the knowledge of themselves.
I would have you, then, first weigh this fact attentively, and then proceed to learn all the particulars of our religion, after I shall first have refuted certain false prejudices. |276
SOME of you have adopted an absurd notion, that an ass's head is our God. Cornelius Tacitus first promulgated this report. In the fifth book of his History56, he begins his description of the Jewish war with an account of the origin of that people; and, in discussing this question, offers his own opinion respecting their name and religion. He states, that the Jews were liberated, or, as he conceives, expelled, from Egypt, and wandered in the extended plains of Arabia, where there was the greatest scarcity of water: while they were suffering from intense thirst, they observed certain wild asses proceeding, as they imagined, to drink after pasture. Following their guidance, they discovered a spring, and, in commemoration of this benefit, consecrated the head of an animal of the same kind. Hence, I imagine, hath arisen the erroneous notion, that in our religion, which is conceived to be closely connected with that of the Jews, the same image is worshipped. Yet the same Cornelius Tacitus--whose loquacity in falsehood agrees but ill with his name-- in another part of the same history57 relates, that Cneius Pompeius, when he had taken Jerusalem, and entered the Temple, to witness the secret rites of the Jewish religion, found there no image at all. If, however, any object represented in a bodily form had been worshipped, it would surely have been found in the most holy place; and so much the more, as the worsnip, however absurd, was in no danger of the intrusion of strangers: since none but the priests were allowed to enter; and a veil hid that part of the temple, even from the sight of all other men. Ye, however, will |277 not deny, that all kinds of beasts of burden, and not merely the heads, but the whole bodies of geldings, with their goddess Epona, are objects of adoration to you. This, I suppose, is our crime, that among the worshippers of cattle, and beasts of all kinds, we adore an ass only.
Those, again, who conceive that we pay too much honour to the cross, are themselves our fellow-worshippers 58. If adoration is paid to any wood, the particular |278 shape signifies nothing, provided the material is the same: the form is of no importance, if that be regarded as the substance of a god. But in what way can the Athenian Minerva and the Pharian Ceres be distinguished from the wood of a cross, when each is formed of a rough block and unfinished timber? Every stake, which is erected, is but part of a cross; we, at all events, worship a whole and perfect deity. We have before shown59, that the very images of your gods are obtained by models, formed upon a cross-like frame. Besides this, ye adore the goddess of victory, while a cross is made the foundation, on which your trophies are hung. The whole religion of your camp teaches your soldiers to adore their standards, to swear by them, to prefer them to all other gods. All those series of images, suspended around your standards, are so many necklaces to a cross; all those pendant hangings of your standards and ensigns are but the robes of a cross. I admire your care: ye would not consecrate simple and unadorned crosses.
Others, again, with more probability and reason, believe that the Sun is the object of our adoration. If this be the case, we are joined with the Persians, although we do not adore its image painted upon a banner; since we have the Sun itself with us, wherever we go, set in the heavens as in a shield. This suspicion, however, hath arisen from our well-known custom of turning towards the East when we pray60. |279 And many even of yourselves, out of an affectation of sometimes adoring the heavenly bodies also, move your lips towards the quarter, in which the sun rises. In like manner if we do observe Sunday, as a day of festivity, not from any worship which we pay to the Sun, but from a very different reason, we are, in that custom, closely allied to such of you as set apart the Saturday for a day of ease and feasting; although, |280 even in that, they deviate from the Jewish custom, which they have ignorantly followed.
But a new calumny hath recently been published, in the city of Rome, against the God whom we worship; where a vile wretch, who had for money exposed himself with criminals to fight with wild beasts, carried about a picture with this inscription, The God of the Christians, ONOKOITIΣ. This figure was painted with asses' ears, having a hoof upon one foot; carrying a book in his hand, and wearing a robe. We smiled at the absurdity of the name, and the extravagance of the figure. But the idolatrous heathen ought at once to fall down and worship the twofold divinity; since they have already received into the number of their gods those who had the head of a dog and of a lion united, and others horned like a buck, or a ram, and with loins like a goat, and with their lower extremities like a serpent, or with wings upon their back or feet.
I have mentioned this absurdity, although there was no necessity for noticing it, that I might not incur the imputation of purposely omitting any rumour against the Christians. Having then cleared away all these charges, we will proceed to the proof of what our religion really is.
THE object of our worship is One God, who made out of nothing the whole frame of this universe, furnished with all the elements, and bodies, and spirits, by his word, which commanded; by his wisdom, which ordained; by his power, which ruled; for the glory of |281 his own majesty; whence also the Greeks denominated the world by a word 61, which implies order and beauty. God is invisible, although plainly seen; incomprehensible by touch, although represented to us by his gracious revelation; inappreciable, although all our senses bear testimony to his existence. Hence he is the true God, since he is immensely great. But that which can be seen by the ordinary senses, or touched, or defined, is less than the eyes, by which it is discerned, and the hands, by the contact of which it is defiled, and the senses, by which it is discovered. But that which is immense is known to itself alone. This it is which causes God to become intelligible, although he cannot be fully understood. The immensity of his being presents him to our minds as at once known and unknown. And in this, in short, consists the guilt of those who will not know him, of whom they cannot be ignorant. Would ye have this proved from his manifold and great works, by which we are surrounded, and sustained, and filled, sometimes with delight, and sometimes with alarm? Would ye have this proved, from the testimony of the soul itself, which, although weighed down and confined by its prison, the body, although surrounded by evil customs, although enervated by lusts and passions, although enslaved to false gods, yet, when it doth come to itself as it were from intoxication, or sleep, or some grievous sickness, from which it is restored to its natural state of health, then speaks of God by this name only, because it is the proper name of the true God. Then "the Great God," "the Good God'," and "What God shall give," is the language in every one's mouth. In like manner, the ordinary expressions, "God knows," "I leave it to God," and " God will restore it to me," |282 all testify that he is the universal judge 62. O glorious testimony of the soul, naturally impressed with the truths of Christianity! And when she gives utterance to these sentiments, her eyes are directed not to the Capitol, but to heaven. For she knows, that there is the habitation of the living God, that he is the author of her being, and there the place whence she came down.
BUT, in order that we might approach to a more full and clear knowledge, both of himself, and of his disposition and will towards man, God hath further given us his written word; that all, who desire, may inquire respecting God; and gradually proceed from inquiry to knowledge, and from knowledge to belief, and from belief to obedience. For God, from the beginning, sent forth into the world men, whose righteousness and innocence qualified them to understand, and make known his will; and poured down upon them his Holy Spirit, by which they were enabled to declare, that there is One God, who created all things, and formed man of the dust of the earth :--for he is the true Prometheus 63,--who ordered the world to be governed |283 by a certain course of time and seasons; and afterwards gave signs of his majesty in judgment, by water, and by fire; who established laws, which ye either know not, or forsake, for obtaining his favour; and hath prepared rewards for those who observe and keep them; for, at the end of the world, he will by his judgment restore his worshippers to eternal life, but will condemn the wicked to endless streams of fire; all who have ever lived being raised from the dead, and restored to their bodies, and judged, every man according to his works. We too, as well as yourselves, once derided all this. We were of your party: for Christians are made, not born so. Those preachers, of whom we speak, were called prophets, from their office of foretelling the future. Their words, and the signs which they performed, as proofs of their divine mission, still remain in the treasures of the Scriptures, and are now no longer hidden. The most learned of the Ptolemies, surnamed Philadelphia, was a prince who made the most diligent search into all branches of literature. Being desirous of imitating, as I imagine, the fame of Pisistratus in the formation of a library, he collected from all quarters such books as had acquired celebrity for their antiquity or curiosity. Among these, at the suggestion of Demetrius Phalereus, the most celebrated grammarian of the age, to whom he had entrusted the care of his library, he procured from the Jews also their Scriptures written in their own native language, and kept in their possession alone: for the prophets had always been raised up among the Jews, and had spoken to them, who, from the love which God bore to their forefathers, were his peculiar people. Those who are now Jews, were formerly Hebrews; whence the Scriptures were written in the Hebrew character, and in the Hebrew language. Lest, however, the contents of these volumes should remain unknown, the Jews |284 sent to Ptolemy also seventy-two interpreters, whom Menedemus the philosopher, the asserter of a Divine Providence, treats with great respect, as agreeing with him in opinion. Aristeas also assures us of this fact. Thus Ptolemy left these documents plainly translated into the Greek language. At this very day, in the temple of Serapis, the library of Ptolemy is in existence, with the Hebrew copy itself. The Jews read it openly; it is a privilege to which their tribute entitles them 64. All constantly go thither every Sabbath. Whoever hears those Scriptures, will discover what God is : and whoever studies to comprehend him, will be compelled to believe in him also.
THESE records, then, have the greatest claim to our attention, by the authority which is due to their high |285 antiquity; and, even among yourselves, it is as it were a part of your religion to pay regard to any observance in proportion to its age. Now the writings of one only of the Prophets, Moses, which are in themselves a treasure of all the Jewish religion, and consequently of our own, are by many ages superior in antiquity to your most ancient records. They surpass writings of all kinds, upon whatever fabric or substance, and the very earliest origin, and rude beginnings of all the most ancient inscriptions: nay, they are prior to almost all nations and distinguished cities, to the earliest traces of history and tradition, even to the invention of pictorial characters, which were long the only records of events: and they surpass--what are of far less antiquity--your gods themselves, their temples, oracles, and sacred rites. If ye have ever heard mention made of Moses, he was contemporary with the Argive Inachus: and wanted but seven years to be four centuries before Danaus, who is himself the most ancient of any among yourselves: he lived about a thousand years before the death of Priam. I should have good authority for placing him full five hundred years before the time of Homer.
Although the other prophets also are later than Moses, yet the last of them are earlier than your first philosophers, lawgivers, and historians. We could easily give reasons sufficient to prove this to you, if it were not beyond our present design : the task would not be difficult, although tedious. It would be necessary to sit down quietly, with all the leisure and means for computation; and to open the archives of the most ancient nations, the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Phoenicians; to call upon those natives of the several nations, who furnish us with information, such as Manetho among the Egyptians, and Berosus among the Chaldeans. We should be obliged to have recourse |286 to Iromus the Phoenician, king of Tyre; and to the followers of these ancient testimonies, Ptolemy of Mendes, Menander the Ephesian, Demetrius Phalereus, King Juba, Appion, Thallus, and Josephus, who wrote the history and antiquities of his own countrymen the Jews, and either confirms or refutes the more ancient writers. It would also be necessary to compare the historical records of the Greeks, and to notice the time when each event took place, in order that the connexion of the different periods might be made apparent, and the order of all the facts be clearly set forth. It would be necessary to digress into the history and literature of the whole world. However, we have in some degree introduced a part of this proof, by touching upon the manner in which it might be effected. But it will be better to defer all this, for the present, lest either our want of time should prevent us from following the inquiry to a sufficient extent, or, if we followed it, we should wander too widely from our present subject.
WE shall now make more than amends for deferring the consideration of this question, by proving the majesty and authority of Scripture, if not its antiquity; we shall establish its divine origin, even if a doubt should still remain respecting its age. This requires us not to search long, nor at any great distance: the grounds of proof are obvious, namely, the state of the world, the history of all ages, and the general course of events. Whatever is now done was foretold : whatever is now seen, was first heard. If earthquakes swallow up cities, if islands are invaded by the sea; if foreign and domestic wars distract states; if kingdom |287 rises up against kingdom; if there are famine, and pestilence, and slaughters, in divers places; if the wild beasts of the mountains lay waste many regions; if the humble are exalted, and the lofty are laid low; if justice is rare, and iniquity abounds; if the regard for every good and wholesome discipline waxes cold; if even the times and seasons vary from their appointed order; and the natural form of animals is violated, by the production of monsters and prodigies; all these have been predicted by the providence of God. While we suffer these calamities, we read of them : when we recognize them as the objects of prophecy, the truth of the Scriptures, which predict them, is proved. The daily fulfilment of prophecy is, surely, a full proof, of revelation. Hence, then, we have a well-founded belief in many things which are yet to come, namely, the confidence arising from our knowledge of the past; because some events, still future, were foretold at the same time with others which are past. The voice of prophecy speaks alike of each; the Scriptures record them equally; the same spirit taught the prophets both. In the predictions, there is no distinction of time: if there be any such distinction, it is made by men; while the gradual course of time makes that present, which was future, and that past, which was present. How can we, then, be blamed for believing also what is predicted respecting the future, when our confidence is founded upon the fulfilment of prophecies relating to the present and the past?
SINCE, however, we have declared our religion to be founded upon those most ancient writings of the Jews, |288 --although almost every one knows, and we acknowledge, that Christianity is of recent origin, having sprung up in the reign of Tiberius,--there may, perchance, at this point arise an objection, that we are desirous of sheltering ourselves from some of the odium which attaches to us, under the shadow of a religion which hath been long known, and is, at all events, tolerated: whereas, besides the very different degrees of antiquity in the Jewish and Christian faith, we do not agree with them, either in abstinence from certain kinds of food, or in the observance of certain festivals, or in the peculiar rite of circumcision, or in the name which we profess; in all of which there ought to be no difference, if we were subject to the same God. Besides, every one of you considers Christ to have been a man, such as the Jews believe him to have been; whence the error might the more easily arise, that we worship some human being.
We are not, however, ashamed of Christ; since we count it our highest privilege to be accused and condemned in his name, nor are our opinions respecting God different from those of the Jews.
It will be necessary then, to speak a few words of Christ as God.
The people of the Jews were so highly favoured of God, on account of the remarkable justice and faith of their forefathers; whence their numbers were multiplied, and their kingdom flourished, and increased; and so great were their privileges, that the voice of God which instructed them, taught them how to obtain his favour, and avoid his anger. Yet their present condition, even without their own confession, sufficiently proves, with what vain confidence in the merits of their ancestors they were urged to madness, and driven profanely to desert their ordinances. They are dispersed and vagabond, wandering as exiles from their |289 native soil throughout the whole world; without either man or God for their king, and not even permitted as strangers to set foot upon their own land 65. Now all the sacred scriptures, with one voice, predicted that this would be their condition; that, in the last days, God would gather together from every nation, and people, and country, more faithful servants, to whom he would impart a fuller portion of his grace, in proportion to the measure which the founder of this faith should be capable of receiving. The author, then, and master of this grace and this religion, who was to enlighten the world, and lead the human race in the way of salvation, was predicted as the Son of God, yet not born in such a manner as to be ashamed of the title of a Son, or of his descent from his Father. In your fables, Jupiter is represented to have been the father of some of your heroes, by incest with a sister, or by violence committed upon a daughter, or by adultery, in the form of a serpent, or of a bull, or of a swan, or of a shower of gold. The true Son of God was born in no such manner; he had no mother, after the flesh, even in lawful matrimony, for she who bare him had not known man.
I will first, however, declare what was the nature of his substance; and then the manner of his nativity will plainly appear. We have already declared, that God created this Universe of the world by his Word, and Reason, and Power. Even your philosophers agree in ascribing the creation of the Universe to the Logos, that is, to the Word or Reason. For Zeno asserts that this was the maker, who formed every thing in its order; and he called it Fate, and God, and the Mind of Jupiter, and Necessity, the compulsory cause of all things. Cleanthes ascribes all this to the Spirit, which, |290 he declares, pervades the Universe. Now we also consider the Spirit to be the proper substance of the Word, and Reason, and Power, by which we have declared that God made all things; since it was by the Word that he prophesied, by reason that he ordained, and by power that he perfected all things. We have been taught, that he came forth from God, and was begotten by that procession, and so is the Son of God, and called God from the unity of his substance: for God also is a Spirit. Thus, when a ray of light issues from the sun, it is a part from the whole: but the sun will be in the ray of light, because it is a ray of the sun; and the substance is not separated, but extended. Thus, Spirit comes from Spirit, and God from God, as light is kindled from light66. The matter, which is the origin, remains whole and unimpaired, although you should derive from it many other substances which transmit the same qualities. In the same manner, that which proceeds from God, is God, and the Son of God; and both are one. Thus a Spirit of a Spirit, and God of God, makes one different in order, not in number; in gradation, not in nature : it proceeds from its origin, but is not separated from it. That emanation, therefore, of the Divinity, as was always before predicted, being sent down upon a virgin, and in her womb made flesh, was born God united with man. His flesh, animated with the Spirit, was nourished, grew up, spake, taught, acted, and was Christ.
Ye can surely have no difficulty in receiving this, for a time, even as a fable, for it is like your own; while we show in what manner the true character of Christ is demonstrated. Those amongst you, who devised fables of a similar nature, for the destruction of the |291 truth, well knew this. The Jews also, to whom the prophets foretold that Christ should come, knew this. For even to this day they look for his coming; and one of the greatest points of controversy between us and them is, that they believe not that he is come already. For since the Scriptures speak of two comings of Christ67,--the first which he hath already fulfilled, by appearing in the humility of the human nature; and the second, which is now at hand, when, at the consummation of all things, he shall be manifested in the sublimity of his divine power,--they, who understood not his first coming, considered it to be the same as his second coming, which they conceive to be more clearly predicted. For their guilt well deserved this punishment, that they should not understand his first coming, inasmuch as, had they understood it, they would have believed; and had they believed, they would have been saved. They themselves read the scripture in which it is written, that they were deprived of wisdom and knowledge, and of the use of their eyes and ears68.
Since, then, they considered Christ, in consequence of his humility, to be a mere man, it naturally followed that they should regard him as a magician, in consequence of his preternatural power; when he cast out devils by a word, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, restored the palsied to strength, and, lastly, by a word raised the dead to life; when he ruled the very elements, calmed the storms, walked upon the sea, and showed himself to be the Logos of God, that is, the original Word, the first-begotten, endued with divine power and with reason, and sustained by the Spirit69.
But at his doctrine, by which the teachers and |292 leaders of the Jews were condemned, they were so exasperated, especially when a great multitude were converted to him, that, at the last, by the urgency of their violence, they compelled Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Syria, before whom he had been brought, to give him up to them to be crucified. Christ himself had foretold that they would do so. But this, in itself, would have been an inconsiderable fact, had not the prophets also of old predicted the same. Yet when he was crucified, he voluntarily gave up the ghost, with a word addressed to his heavenly Father; and thus anticipated the last office of the executioner. At the same moment, the mid-day was deprived of the sun, which hid its light. Those who were ignorant that this also was predicted respecting Christ, thought, doubtless, that it was a natural eclipse, and when they could not account [for an eclipse of the sun at the time of the full moon], they denied the fact; although ye have the occurrence related in your annals70.
After that, the Jews took him down from the cross, and placed him in a sepulchre, which they carefully surrounded with a military guard, lest, since he had predicted that he would rise again from the dead, on the third day, his disciples coming secretly should escape their vigilance, and steal the body away. But, behold, on the third day, suddenly there was a great earthquake, and the stone which closed the sepulchre was rolled away; the guards were struck down with fear; and, without any of his disciples being there, there was nothing found in the tomb, but the clothes in which he had been buried. Yet the chief of the Jews, whose interest it was to promulgate a falsehood, |293 and recall the people from their belief in Christ, to be tributary and enslaved to them, declared that his disciples had stolen him away.
Yet Christ did not show himself to all the people; lest the wicked should be compelled to forsake their error; and in order that faith, to which so high a reward was to be attached, should not be attained without difficulty. He remained, however, with some of his disciples in Galilee, a region of Judaea, for the space of forty days, teaching them what they were themselves to teach others. After this, having ordained them to the office of preaching the Gospel throughout the world, he was taken up into heaven, concealed in a cloud, in a manner far more real than that which such witnesses as Proculus report of Romulus, and your other kings.
Pilate, who in his conscience was persuaded of the innocence of Christ, sent a full account of all these transactions to Tiberius Caesar71. And even emperors would have believed in Christ, if either emperors were not necessary for conducting the affairs of this world, or Christians could also be emperors. His disciples also scattered throughout the world were obedient to the commands of God their master, and, confident in the faith, suffered many things from the Jews who persecuted them, and lastly shed their Christian blood in Rome, by the cruelty of Nero.
We will however show you sufficient witnesses of the truth of Christ, those very gods which ye adore. It will be a great point, if I can so produce them as testimonies, that ye may embrace the Christian faith, by means of those who now persuade you to disbelieve the Christians. Meanwhile, this is the manner of our argument. We declare to you the origin of |294 our religion and of our name, and who was the author of it.
Let no one, therefore, any longer bring against us those infamous accusations, or ascribe to our religion any other origin; since, in matters of faith, it is the highest impiety for any one to speak differently from the truth. For, from the moment that any one professes that he worships any other deity than the real object of his adoration, he denies that which he worships, he transfers his devotion to another; and, by such a change, ceases at once to worship the Being whom he denies. Now we declare, and openly profess in the midst of all your tortures; while torn and bleeding, we cry out, We worship God through Christ. Ye consider him to be a mere man. Suppose this, were true, still it is through him that God will have himself known and worshipped. In answer to the Jews, we say, that they have learned to worship God by the mediation of Moses; in answer to the Greeks, that Orpheus upon the mountain Pieria, Musaeus at Athens, Melampus at Argos, and Trophonius in Boeotia, all introduced their religious ceremonies into their country. And with reference to yourselves, who are the masters of the world, Pompilius Numa was a man, although he loaded the Romans with the most burdensome superstitions. Surely then Christ may be permitted to set forth the divinity, which properly belongs to him. He did not, like Numa, reduce to civilization men yet rude and uncultivated, astonishing them by an enumeration of so great a multitude of fictitious gods, whose favour must be propitiated; but led to the sight and knowledge of the truth men who were already polished, and led astray even by the errors of their mental cultivation. Examine, then, whether the divinity of Christ is real or not. If his claim to the divine character be such, that by knowledge of it a |295 man is formed anew to every thing which is good, it follows, that all other pretended gods, which are discovered to be contrary to him, must be renounced as false; and, above all, those deities are by every means to be repudiated, which, hiding themselves under the names and appearances of dead men, endeavour to procure belief in their divine nature, by means of certain signs, and miracles, and oracles.
WE assert, then, that there are certain spiritual substances, the name of which is well known. Your philosophers acknowledge the existence of demons, for Socrates himself was guided by the counsel of one of them. This is plain; for he said that a demon attended him from his very youth, and constantly dissuaded him--and, so, doubtless, it did--from all good. All your poets are well acquainted with them. And even now, the uninstructed vulgar, in their imprecations, frequently call upon Satan, the chief of this evil race; and thus by the very terms which they use in cursing, betray what are the inward sentiments of their minds. Plato also denies not the existence of angels; and even those who profess the practice of magical arts confess the existence of both demons and angels. Now it is known from the holy Scriptures, in what manner from certain angels, who voluntarily corrupted themselves, there arose a still more depraved race 72, condemned of |296 God together with the authors of their being, and with him whom we have spoken of as their chief. It will here be sufficient to explain the manner of their agency. Their ordinary occupation is the injury of man; as the malice of evil spirits from the beginning contrived the perdition of the human race. Hence they bring upon the body diseases and certain grievous accidents, and violently affect the mind with sudden and extraordinary passions. Their surprising subtility and tenuity give them the facility of thus entering into the body and mind of man. As spirits, they possess the astonishing power of being invisible and insensible; so that their influence is perceived rather in the effects which it produces, than at the time of its action. In the same manner as it often happens in fruit or in grain, that some secret blight in the air blasts the blossom, kills the produce in the seed, or destroys it when it hath arrived at maturity; or that the air, affected by some unknown cause, breathes forth pestilence and death. By some influence equally obscure, the inspiration of angels and demons agitates the corrupt passions of the mind with fury and disgraceful excesses, and inordinate lusts, together with various errors. One of the |297 principal of these is the delusion, which recommends those gods to the blinded and prejudiced minds of men, in order that the demons may procure for themselves their proper food, the odour of the fat and the blood of the sacrifices offered to those shadows and images. But what they pursue with still greater anxiety is, to remove man from the knowledge of the true God, by the subtil craftiness of false divination. How they effect this, I will show. Every spirit flies: and angels and demons possess this faculty. Hence they are every where in a moment. The whole world is to them one place: they know, with the same readiness with which they declare it, what is done, and where. This velocity is taken for a proof of divinity, because the nature of all spiritual substances is not understood. Thus they sometimes wish to appear to have done what they only relate : and so indeed they sometimes are the causes of the evil, but never of the good. They formerly obtained a knowledge of the intentions of God, from the declarations of the prophets, and now gather it from hearing their writings read aloud. Thus, collecting some conjectural knowledge of the future, they emulate the divine authority, by means of the power of divination, which they have surreptitiously obtained.
With what dexterity, in their oracles, they framed their answers so ambiguously as to apply to either event, such men as Croesus and Pyrrhus well know. But the Pythian Apollo was able, in the manner which we have described, to bring back word that Croesus73 was cooking a tortoise with the flesh of a lamb; he had been to Lydia, and returned in an instant. From their dwelling in the air, and their vicinity to the stars, and their acquaintance with the clouds, they are able to know what changes are taking place in the |298 atmosphere, so that they can predict rain, which they already perceive forming. Even in the means which they are believed to possess of curing sickness, their evil nature is displayed : for they first inflict an injury, and then propose remedies, which appear so new as to be miraculous, or even of a directly contrary nature; and after this, they desist from injuring, and are believed to have cured. It is needless for me to dwell upon the other contrivances, or even upon the powers of deception which these spirits possess: such as the appearances of Castor and Pollux, the sieve which contained water, a ship drawn by the girdle of a vestal, a beard which changed colour, and became red by a touch 74. All these were illusions devised to persuade men to believe images of stone to be gods, and not to seek for the true God.
MOREOVER, if the practisers of magical arts call forth spectres, and even injure and insult the souls of the dead,--if they throw boys into convulsions75, to |299 prepare them to give utterance to the words of the oracle, --if by means of juggling tricks, they pretend to perform numerous miracles,--if they inspire dreams too, by having the powerful assistance of the angels and demons once invited to attend them, by whose means even kids and tables have been made the instruments of divination,--how much more should that spiritual power be exerted of its own accord, and for its own objects, to produce the same effects, which it thus performs for the advantage of another? Or, if angels and demons perform the same operations which your gods perform, where then is that supreme excellence of divinity, which must be believed superior to all other authority1? Would it not be a more reasonable assumption, that they were truly gods, who made themselves so, since they perform the very same actions which cause you to believe the divine nature of your gods, than that they are gods simply because they are equal to angels and demons? We are to conceive, I suppose, that the difference of place causes a distinction : that the divinity of your gods is acknowledged in their temples, but not in any other place: that the madness which urges one man to leap from a consecrated tower, is different from that which makes another throw himself from a neighbouring house; and a man, who mutilates his body, or lacerates his arms, labours under a different insanity from that which causes another to cut his own throat. The end of these different acts of madness is the same, and they are incited by the same cause.
But these are mere words: we now appeal to a matter of fact, as a proof that the nature of your gods and of the demons is the same under different titles. Let any one, who is confessedly under the influence of demoniacal possession, be brought out here before your |300 tribunal. If the spirit be commanded by any Christian to speak, he shall as truly confess himself to be a demon, as, in other places, he falsely professes himself to be a god 76. In like manner, let any one of those be produced, who are believed to be influenced by your gods, who inhale the inspiration of divinity by breathing the fumes of the altars, who are bent double in the agonies of suppressed divination, and pant for breath in giving utterance to their oracles. If that very heavenly virgin, Juno, who promises you rain, if Esculapius himself, the inventor of medicine, who gave life to Socordius, and Thanatius, and Asclepiadotus,-- men who must yet die some other day,--do not confess themselves to be demons, not daring to lie to a Christian, then shed the blood of that most impudent Christian upon the spot. What can be plainer than such an appeal to facts? What can be more impartial than such a mode of proof? Truth is before you in all her simplicity: she is supported by her own power alone. There is no room for suspicion.
Will ye say that this effect is produced by magic, or by some fallacy of that kind? The testimony of your own eyes and ears will not suffer you to be so deceived. And what can be objected to that which |301 shows itself in naked simplicity? If, on the one hand, they are truly gods, why do they falsely confess themselves demons? Is it in subserviency to us? If so, whatever their divinity be, it is subject to the Christians. And surely that can be no real divinity at all, which is subject to men, and, to add to the disgrace, to men who confess a rival divinity. If, on the other hand, they are demons or angels, why do they on other occasions represent themselves to be gods? For as those, who bear the title of gods, if they were really divine, would not degrade themselves from the majesty of their nature by acknowledging themselves to be merely demons, so those, whom by their own confession ye know to be demons, would not dare to pass for gods on other occasions, if there actually were any such gods, as those whose names they usurp; for they would fear to insult the majesty of those, who are doubtless superior to themselves, and the objects of their reverence.
So absolutely nugatory is that divinity of your gods, which ye maintain : since, if it existed, it would neither be assumed by demons, nor denied by the gods themselves. Since, therefore, each party agrees in one confession, acknowledging that they are no gods, do ye confess that the two are actually one kind, that is, that they are demons.
Inquire, then, of each of them, which are really gods: for those, whom ye formerly considered to be such, ye now acknowledge to be demons. But since, by our exertions, we have extorted from your gods this avowal, among many others, that neither they nor any such beings are truly divine, ye may immediately proceed to discover who truly is God; whether he is the same, and he alone, whom we Christians profess, and whether he is to be believed in, and worshipped, according to the Christian faith and discipline. |302
Some, however, will say on this occasion, And who is this Christ, with his marvellous tale? As if he were a mere ordinary man, or a practiser of magic; as if he were stolen from his grave by his disciples, and were really now with the dead; as if he were not in heaven, whence he shall quickly come, with a terrible commotion of the whole world, with distress of nations and wailing of all men, except Christians; as the Virtue of God77, as the Spirit of God, as the Word, and the Wisdom, and the Reason, and the Son of God. Let your pretended gods join with you in any such profane ridicule; let them deny that Christ will come to judge every soul which ever lived, reunited to the body; let them assert their belief, before the tribunal, if haply they agree with Plato and the poets, in regarding this office of judgment to belong to Minos and Rhadamanthus, and at least avoid the stigma of their present infamy and future damnation. Let them deny that they are foul spirits, a fact which might at once be understood even from their food, which is blood, and smoke, and disgusting sacrifices of animals; and from the impure tongues of their very priests. Let them deny, that, for their wickedness, they are already condemned to that day of judgment, with all their worshippers and accomplices.
Now all the dominion and power, which we exercise |303 over them, is obtained by the name of Christ, and by reminding them of the punishment which will come upon them from God by Christ their judge. Fearing Christ in God, and God in Christ, they are subject to the servants of God and Christ. Hence at our touch, or at our breath, they are alarmed with the contemplation and representation of that fire, and at our command depart even from the bodies of men, with reluctance and grief, and blushing with shame at your presence.
Believe them, when they speak the truth of themselves, since ye believe them, when they speak falsely. No one speaks a falsehood to disgrace himself, but to enhance his credit; they are therefore more entitled to belief, when they confess against themselves, than when they deny in their own favour. Finally, the testimony thus borne by your gods frequently converts men to Christianity: since, by giving full credit to it, we believe in our Lord Christ. Those very gods animate our faith in the Scriptures; and establish the confidence of our hope. Ye appease them, I well know, even with the blood of Christians. If, therefore, they dared to deny the truth, when any Christian desires by their confession to prove to you what the truth is, they surely would not lose you, who are such profitable and sedulous servants to them.
ALL this confession of your deities, in which they acknowledge that they are not gods, and that there is none other God but one, whom we serve, is at once a sufficient answer to the accusation of treason against |304 the public and peculiarly Roman form of religion. For, if they are assuredly no gods, their religion can have no solid foundation. And if their religion is nugatory, because they are assuredly no gods, then we, assuredly, are not guilty of treason against religion. But, on the contrary, from the real nature of the facts, the charge will be turned against yourselves, since, in worshipping a lie, ye not only neglect, but openly oppose, the true religion of the true God, and thus commit the real crime of actual irreligion.
But even if it should now be granted that those are gods, will not ye allow, according to the common opinion, that there is some Being of greater dignity and power, who is the supreme governor of the world, of infinite might and majesty? For this is the manner, in which most of your philosophers conceive the Divine power to be exercised, that the absolute authority is vested in one, but that the various offices are divided among many: as Plato describes the supreme Jupiter in heaven accompanied with a numerous train of gods and demons. If so, procurators and prefects and presidents ought all to receive the same respect which is paid to the Emperor. Yet of what offence is any man guilty, who turns his whole attention, and directs all his hopes, to deserve the favour of Caesar himself; and, as he gives the name of Emperor to none but Caesar, ascribes divinity to the supreme God alone? since it is considered a capital offence to speak or hear of any other sovereign than Caesar.
Let one, however, be at liberty to worship God, another Jupiter; let one lift his hands in supplication towards heaven, another towards the altar of Faith; let one address his prayers to the clouds--if ye so think of our worship--and another to the decorated ceilings of a temple; let one devote his own soul to his God, and another sacrifice the life of a goat. For |305 beware, lest, in addition to the charge of irreligion, ye expose yourselves to the accusation of taking away religious liberty, and forbidding a person to make choice of the deity, which he will worship, so that I may not pay my adorations where I will, but be compelled to pay them where I would not. No one, not even a man, would choose to be treated with forced respect: hence even the Egyptians have permission granted them to practise their vain superstition, to consecrate birds and beasts, and to condemn to death those who should kill any of those deities. Besides, every province and state hath its own god. Thus Atargatis is worshipped in Syria, Dusares in Arabia, Belenus in Noricum, the heavenly Virgin in Africa, in Mauritania their princes. All these, which I have enumerated, are, I believe, Roman provinces; yet the gods, which they worship, are not Roman gods, for they are not worshipped at Rome, any more than those are, which are consecrated, throughout Italy also, as the municipal deities of particular cities; such as Delventinus at Casinum, Visidianus at Narnia, Ancharia at Aesculum, Nortia at Volsinium, Valentia at Ocriculum, Hostia at Sutrium; and among the Falisci, Juno succeeded to the honour once paid to her father Cures, and thence received a peculiar appellation. We alone are forbidden to exercise our own religion: we offend the Romans, and are not considered to be Romans, because we worship not the god of the Romans. Our happiness is to know that there is one God of all, whose servants we all are, whether we will obey, or whether we will forbear. But with you, permission is given to worship any god, except the true God: as if he, whose we all are, were not peculiarly the God of all. |306
I HAVE already, I trust, sufficiently proved which is the false, and which is the true God, having established the fact, in the foregoing demonstration, not only by reasoning and argument, but by the very testimony of those, whom ye believe to be gods : so that no further discussion is necessary upon that point. But since incidental mention hath been made of the name of the Romans, I will not elude the further question, which is offered by those who maintain that the Romans have been raised to such a degree of prosperity as to govern the whole world, in consequence of their diligent observance of their religion: and that the objects of their worship are certainly gods, since those who are their most faithful adherents, are blessed with prosperity above all others.
We are to suppose then, I presume, that these benefits have been conferred by the Roman gods, as the reward of piety towards them. Sterculus, and Mutunus, and Larentina have raised the empire to its present height. For I can never imagine that foreign gods would have favoured a strange nation, more than they did their own, and given to a people from beyond the sea their own country, in which they were born, and brought up, and deified, and buried. Let Cybele say, whether her love to the city of Rome arose from her attachment to the memory of the Trojan race, who were her natural protectors against the Greeks; and whether she foresaw that she was then passing over to her avengers, who, she knew, would subdue Greece, the destroyer of Troy. She hath, therefore, even in our time, given a striking proof what that divinity is, which she transferred to the city of Rome; since, when the Emperor Marcus Aurelius died at Syrmium, |307 on the seventeenth of March, her chief priest, that most venerable prince of Eunuchs, was offering the accustomed vows for the safety of the Emperor, Marcus, and to enforce his prayers, was drinking the impure blood which flowed from his lacerated arms, seven days after the Emperor's death! Oh! lazy messengers! oh! tardy despatches! by whose delay it happened, that Cybele was not sooner acquainted with the death of the Emperor, that so the Christians might have had no cause to deride so sage a deity.
But, if the gods had that power of protecting and rewarding their worshippers, surely Jupiter would never have suffered his own Crete to be subdued by the Roman power: he never would so soon have forgotten that cave of Ida, and the brazen cymbals of the Corybantes, and the delightful odour of his nursing-mother the goat. Would he not have rendered his own tomb far superior to the whole Capitol, that so the land which contained the ashes of Jupiter should be chosen, in preference to any other, as the mistress of the world? Again, would Juno have suffered Carthage, that colony of the Phoenicians, for love of which she neglected Samos, to be destroyed, especially by the descendants of Aeneas? I well know,
" ---- Here were her arms,
And here her chariot stood : this favourite realm
The goddess loved and cherish'd, as the seat
Of universal empire, if the fates
Should smile propitious 78."
The unhappy wife and sister of Jupiter could do nothing against the fates: in fact,
"Even mighty Jove himself must bend to fate."
Yet, although the fates thus gave Carthage up to the |308 Romans, against the will and intention of Juno, they never received half so much honour from the Romans as was paid to that most abandoned harlot Larentina.
Again, it is an acknowledged fact, that many of your gods were sovereigns on earth. If, then, they possess the power of conferring terrestrial dominion, from whom did they receive their royal authority when they reigned? Whom did Saturn and Jupiter adore? Some such god as Sterculus, I suppose, with the other native. Italian gods, who are since so honoured at Rome 79. And even if some of your gods were not sovereigns, at all events, some, at that time, reigned who were not their worshippers; for they were not yet accounted gods. Hence the power of conferring dominion is vested in some one else; since royal sway was exercised, long before one of their idols was ever carved, and his titles engraved.
But how unreasonable is it to ascribe the extent of the Roman power to their scrupulous observance of their religious ordinances, when their religion hath received its principal advancement since the Empire hath been established, and raised by gradual accession to its present state. For although Numa first introduced the peculiarities of your superstition, yet, in his time, the service of your gods was conducted without images or temples. Your religion was then frugal, and its rites simple: there were no Capitols lifting their heads to heaven, but altars casually made of turf, and vessels merely of earth, whence the odour of the offerings arose; and no statues of the gods were any where seen. The invention of the Greeks and Tuscans had not yet been exercised to inundate the |309 city with statues. The Romans, then, were not thus religious, until they were great: and, therefore, did not become great, because they were religious. Nay, how could their greatness be the reward of their religion, when it was obtained by irreligion? For I suppose it will be granted, that all dominion is acquired by war, and extended by victories. Now war and victories are usually signalized by the capture and destruction of the enemies' cities: and that cannot be effected, without injuring their gods. Walls and temples fall in one common ruin: the sword spares neither citizens nor priests; and rapine commits equal ravages upon sacred and profane wealth. The sacrileges of the Romans, therefore, are as numerous as their trophies: their triumphs are celebrated equally over the gods and over the nations: the statues of captive deities still existing are so many spoils of war.
These very gods, then, suffer themselves to be adored by their enemies, and reward with endless empire those, whom they ought rather to punish for their outrages, than to favour for their adulation. But on beings without consciousness, as injuries may be committed with impunity, so honour is vainly bestowed. No one can, surely, believe, that a people have risen to power for their religion, who, as we have shown, have either augmented their power by injuring religion, or injured religion by that very increase. For even all those nations, whose independent kingdoms are now united to form the Roman Empire, had their own several religions, at the time when they lost their power. |310
CONSIDER, then, whether he is not the dispenser of kingdoms, to whom belongs the world, which is governed, and man, who governs it: whether he hath not ordained all the changes of empire, in their several periods during all ages; who was, before all time; who framed eternity into a regular succession of time; whether it is not he who raises and depresses states, under whom the human race once existed without any kind of civil government. Why do ye err in this matter? Rome, in her humble and rustic state, was prior to some of her own gods : she reigned, before the circuit of the Capitol was erected. The Babylonian monarchy was established before your priests; the Medes reigned before your Quindecimviri; the Egyptians before the Salii; the Assyrians before the Luperci; the Amazons before your Vestal virgins. Finally, if the religion of the Romans had the power of conferring kingdoms, Judea, which despised all those gods alike, would never have reigned in times past. And yet ye Romans honoured the God of the Jews with victims, and his temple with gifts, and the people, at various periods, with treaties; and, would never have subdued that nation, if in the end it had not filled up the measure of its iniquities, by its treatment of Christ.
WE have now sufficiently answered the accusation of treason against your religion; and proved that we are not guilty of any injury against the divinity of your gods, by showing it hath no existence. When, |311 therefore, we are invited to offer sacrifice, we strenuously defend ourselves, by advancing the faithful testimony of our own conscience, which assures us what persons they really are, to whom those rites are consecrated, by the dedication of images, and the deification of human names. Some, however, think it mere madness in us, obstinately to prefer perseverance to safety: we might, easily, they think, offer sacrifice for the present, and depart uninjured, still mentally retaining our own sentiments. Thus ye yourselves suggest means, by which we might deceive you. But we know what enemy it is, who suggests all these expedients, who causes all this vexation, and strives to overcome our constancy, sometimes by cunning craftiness of persuasion, and sometimes by the severity of punishment. It is that spirit, who partakes at once of the nature of devils and of angels; who, in consequence of his own fall, being jealous of us, and envious of the divine grace which is given unto us, influences your minds against us, moulding and leading them by his secret inspiration to that violation of justice, and that iniquity of punishment, which I have already exposed in the beginning of this Apology. For although all the power of demons and of spirits of a like nature is subject to us, they still are like vicious servants, who add contumacy to their fear, and strive to injure those, whom they otherwise reverence: for fear itself inspires hatred. Besides this, their desperate condition of eternal damnation finds some kind of consolation in the indulgence of malice; while their punishment is yet delayed. Yet, when they are taken, they are at once subdued, and yield to the necessity of their condition; at a distance they fight against those, whose mercy they supplicate when near at hand. Hence, when they exercise their malice against us, in whose power they are, and cause us to be condemned, like disobedient and |312 rebellious slaves, to labour in prisons, or in the mines, or to undergo any other kind of servile punishment, they know well how unequal in power they are, and that their real nature is the more surely betrayed 80 by these abortive attempts. We, therefore, oppose these evil spirits as it were upon equal ground; we resist them by persisting in the cause which they oppose; and are never more triumphant over them, than when we are condemned to suffer for our perseverance in the faith.
IT would easily appear how unjust it is that free men should be driven to sacrifice to the gods, when in all other instances a willing mind is required as an indispensable qualification for any office of religion; but, at all events, it must seem the height of absurdity, that any one should be compelled to honour the gods, whom he ought to propitiate for their own sake; that he may not have the liberty of saying, I will not have Jupiter propitious to me. Who are you? Let Janus meet me with anger seated upon either of his brows. What right have you to interfere with me? Ye are, in fact, urged by the same spirits, to compel us to sacrifice for the safety of the Emperor. The necessity of compelling us is as obligatory upon you, as the duty of suffering for our faith is upon us.
We now come to the second charge of treason against a Majesty more august than that of your gods. For ye reverence Csesar with greater apprehension, and more fervent timidity81, than the Olympian Jove |313 himself; and with good reason, if ye knew the truth. For is not every living person far better than any dead one82? Neither do ye even this so much from the dictates of reason, as from the respect which ye bear to his immediate and intrinsic power. Thus, in this instance also, ye are proved to be guilty of irreverence towards your gods, since ye pay greater respect to human power. In fact, among you, a man had better forswear himself by all the gods, than by the simple genius of Caesar.
YE ought, then, first to prove, whether they, to whom sacrifice is offered, are able to give prosperity to the Emperor, or to any man; and then to accuse us for neglecting to comply. If angels or demons, in their own nature the worst kind of spirits, confer any benefit; if the lost can save; if the condemned can liberate; if the dead--as your conscience confesses them to be-- can defend the living; then let them first protect their own statues, and images, and temples, which, now I fancy, require the nightly protection of the imperial guard. Nay, I imagine the very materials, of which they are composed, come from Caesar's mines; and every temple depends upon Caesar's will. Besides, many gods have had an enemy in Caesar. Even if he is propitious, this strengthens our cause, that he should be able so to exercise his liberality, and to confer privileges upon them. Now, how should they, who are in Caesar's power, who depend entirely upon him, have the prosperity of Caesar in their power? How can they grant to him what they might more easily obtain from him? |314
This, then, is the amount of our crime against the Emperors, that we will not subject them to what is their own; that we do not join in ridiculous addresses for their welfare, nor believe them to be in hands, which require to be fastened with lead. Ye, I presume, are the only religious persons, who seek for prosperity for your Emperors, where it cannot be found; who demand it of him, who hath it not to give; while ye pass over him, in whose power it is: and, besides, persecute those who know how to ask for it; and by such knowledge would be able to obtain it.
FOR the God whom we invoke for the safety of the Emperors, is the eternal God, the true God, the living God, whom the Emperors themselves would wish to propitiate above all others. They know who it is who hath given them power: they know, as human beings, who hath given them life also. They perceive that he is God alone, in whose power alone they are, under whom they hold the second place, after whom they occupy the first rank, before all and above all gods. For they are superior to all men living; and all who live are surely superior to the dead 83. They consider how far the bounds of their power extends; and thus understand what God is. They acknowledge that their power is derived from him, against whom their authority avails nothing. Let any Emperor make war on heaven, lead heaven captive in his triumphal procession, set a guard over heaven, and impose a tribute upon it. He can do no such thing. His power arises only from this, that he is inferior to heaven. For he belongs to |315 that Being, in whose power is heaven and every creature. He hath no other origin as Emperor, than he had, as a man, before he was Emperor: his power and his life are alike the gifts of God. To that God we Christians look up with hands extended, because they are innocent; with head uncovered, because we have nothing of which we are ashamed; and pray without a prompter 84, because we pray from the heart. We all pray without ceasing for all Emperors, beseeching for them a long life, a secure reign; that their families may be preserved in safety, their armies brave, the senate faithful, the people honest, the whole world peaceful, and whatever other things either the people or the Emperor can desire. I can prefer these prayers to Him only, who I know will grant them, since it is he alone, in whose power they are; and I am one whom he will hear, one of those who alone are his servants. For his sake I am killed. To him I offer the rich and more excellent sacrifice, which he himself hath ordained85, prayer out of a clean heart, and innocent mind, and sanctified spirit. I offer not a grain of frankincense which is sold for one farthing, nor the tears of an Arabian tree, nor two drops of wine, nor the blood of a cast-away ox, which would be glad to die; and after all other abominations, even a defiled |316 conscience; so that it is a wonder, when the most reprobate priests are appointed to examine your victims, why the inquiry is made into the hearts of the sacrifices, rather than into those of the sacrificers.
When, then, we are thus stretching forth our hands in prayer to God, let piercing instruments lacerate our flesh, let crosses sustain, and flames devour us, let swords strike off our heads, and wild beasts rend us; the very attitude of a Christian in prayer is prepared for every kind of punishment.
Take especial care of this86, ye excellent and just judges: rack the soul which is praying to God for the Emperor. This will be a crime, when truth and devotion to God is.
BUT perhaps it will be said, we merely flatter the Emperor, and counterfeit the vows, which we have mentioned, to avoid punishment. The accusation of this deceit is not without its advantage; for ye permit us to prove what we allege in our defence. Ye, therefore, who think we care nothing for the safety of the Emperors, examine the word of God, our Scriptures; we conceal them not, and many accidents bring them to the knowledge of those who are strangers to our faith. Learn from them, that we are commanded, in the overflowing fulness of Christian charity, to pray to God even for our enemies, and to supplicate all good things for our persecutors87. Who are greater enemies |317 and persecutors of the Christians, than those against whom we are accused of treason? Whereas we are commanded plainly and expressly, in these words, "Pray for kings, and for princes, and authorities, that all things may be peaceable to you88." For when the whole empire is shaken, by the disturbance of its other members, we too, although entirely removed from all civil contentions, must yet be found in some place exposed to accidental injuries.
WE have another and greater necessity, which urges us to pray for the Emperors, and for the prosperity of the whole Empire and condition of the Romans, since we know that the violent commotions which are impending over the whole world, and even the end of all things, which threatens the most horrible desolation, is retarded by the continuance of the Roman Empire89. We would willingly avoid these evils; and |318 while we pray that they may be deferred, we favour the duration of the Roman power.
Moreover, if we swear not by the genius of the Emperors90, we swear by their safety, which is an oath of greater respect than any genius. Can ye possibly be ignorant, that the genii are called Demons, and thence by a diminutive, Daemonia? We reverence, in the Emperors, the providence of God, who placed them on their throne91. We know that the power which they possess is in conformity to the will of God; and we therefore are desirous that what is the will of God should be safe; and we regard this as a powerful oath. But, with respect to the demons, that is the genii of which ye speak, our custom is to adjure92 them, in |319 order to cast them out of men, and not to swear by them, as if we attributed to them divine honour.
BUT why should I longer dwell upon the religion and piety of the Christians towards the Emperor, whom we must necessarily reverence as the person whom our Lord hath chosen, and who, I might justly say, is to us something more than Caesar, since he is appointed by our God. Hence I act the more efficaciously for his welfare in this respect, that I not only pray for it to Him who is able to grant it, and, as a Christian, deserve to obtain it, but by subjecting the majesty of Caesar to God, I commend him the more to God, to whom alone I make him subject. And in thus subjecting him to God, I do not make him equal to God. For I will never call the Emperor god, not only because I cannot lie, but because I dare not insult him by pretended devotion, and because he would not wish himself to be called a god. If he be a man, it is the true interest of every human being to give way to God : it is sufficient for him to be called Emperor. Even this is a noble title, which is given to him by God. He who calls him a god, deprives him of the title of Emperor93. He is not an Emperor unless he be a man. He is admonished of his human nature, even when he is riding in triumphal procession in his lofty chariot; for even then a person placed behind him whispers in his ear, "Look back : remember that thou art a man." And, in fact, the necessity that he should be thus admonished |320 of his condition, adds to the satisfaction which he feels at the splendour which glitters around him. He would be really less, if he were then called a god; because it would be false. He is greater when he is recalled to himself, that he may not esteem himself a god.
AUGUSTUS, the founder of the Empire, would never permit himself to be styled even Lord94. For this also is a name peculiar to God. I may simply call the Emperor, lord, but as an ordinary appellation, not when I am forced to call him Lord, in the place of God, But I am his free subject95: for I have but one Lord, the omnipotent and eternal God, who is also his Lord. How can he, who is properly styled the Father of his country, be its lord. Besides, the name which entitles him to filial respect is more grateful than that which implies absolute power. Any one, in his own family, would rather be called father than lord. So far is the Emperor from being entitled to be called God; a supposition indeed which never could be believed, except by an adulation as pernicious as it is base. It is as if, when ye have one Emperor, ye addressed yourselves to another. By so doing, would ye not unpardonably offend your own Emperor, and expose him, whom ye address, to fearful danger? Be rather religious towards God, if ye would have him favourable to the Emperor. Cease to regard any other as God, and thus to call him a god, who himself hath need of God. And if your |321 adulation be of such a nature that it blushes not to assert such a falsehood, in addressing a man as God, at least let it be afraid of the ill omen which it implies. It is nothing less than a malediction to address Caesar as a god, before his apotheosis.
FOR this reason, then, the Christians are treated as public enemies, because they refuse to ascribe vain, and lying, and unauthorized honours to the Emperors; because, in the spirit of true religion, their services are seated in the heart, rather than displayed in wanton excess. It is, forsooth, a great instance of zealous attachment, to bring out publicly fire and couches, to feast throughout all the streets, to turn the whole city into one tavern, to spill wine upon the ground, and run about in troops to commit every act of violence, and indecency, and lust. Is the public joy thus expressed by the public disgrace? Are acts proper to be performed on the festal day of the Prince 96, which are improper on all other days97? Shall they who, out of respect to Caesar, usually observe discipline, on his account cast it off? Shall piety be an excuse for licentiousness; religion an occasion of luxury?
O how justly are we to be condemned! For why do we make our vows, and keep our festivities for Caesar, with chastity, and sobriety, and moderation? Why, on the day of public rejoicing, do we not cover |322 our doors with laurel, and violate the light of day by an artificial display of lamps? When a public solemnity requires it, to decorate your house as if it were some new brothel, is a mark of respectability. With respect, however, to the religion which ye say is due to some second degree of divine authority,--and for which ye accuse us Christians of a second sacrilege, because we refuse to celebrate the festivals of the Emperors, in a manner not permitted by modesty, or bashfulness, or sobriety, and introduced rather as an occasion of unlawful enjoyment, than in compliance with the persuasion of right reason,--I am desirous to show what is your own fidelity and truth, lest, haply, those who will not permit us to be regarded as Romans, but as enemies of the Roman sovereigns, should in this instance also be found worse than the Christians themselves. I appeal to the citizens of Rome, to the populace, who dwell upon the seven hills, whether their language spares any one of the Caesars? The low habitations on the border of the Tiber, and the shows of wild beasts, which are the schools where the multitude learn their manners, bear sufficient testimony to this. In fact, had nature placed some transparent substance in every man's breast, on whose heart would there not be found imprinted the scene of another and again another Caesar, presiding at the distribution of the largess on his accession; and that too in the very hour when they are shouting,
"Jove, take our years to lengthen Caesar's life."
A Christian would be as far from pronouncing such a prayer, as he would be from wishing for a new Emperor.
But these, ye will say, are the mere vulgar. But if they are the vulgar, they are yet Romans; and there are no greater persecutors of the Christians than |323 the vulgar. Of course, however, all the other orders of the state are scrupulously faithful, in proportion to their rank: no treason was ever breathed from the Senate itself, from the Equestrian order, from the military, or from the very court. Whence then came a Cassius 98, a Niger, an Albinus? Whence arose those who attacked the Emperor (Commodus) between the two groves of laurel? and those who exercised themselves in wrestling to acquire strength to strangle him? Whence came those who rushed in arms into the palace, [to murder Pertinax,] in a more audacious manner than Sigerius and Parthenius employed [in the murder of Domitian?] The actors in all these scenes were Romans, T fancy, that is, were not Christians. Hence all of them, up to the very breaking out of their treason, constantly sacrificed for the welfare of the Emperor, and sware by his genius. In all of them there was a great difference between their outward deportment and their inward sentiments: and doubtless they gave the Christians the name of public enemies. Nay, look at those who are daily discovered as the accomplices and abettors of similar wicked attempts, a gleaning of the full vintage of parricide: how careful were they to fill their door-ways with the freshest and most umbrageous laurels? how did they cover the entrance of their houses with the loftiest and brightest lamps? how did they divide the forum among themselves by a display of the most highly decorated and splendid couches? All this they did, not as partaking in the celebration of the public festivity, but that they might pay their vows for the success of their own schemes, in a solemnity appointed for a different purpose, and inaugurate an emblem and |324 image of their own hopes, changing in their hearts the name of the Emperor.
Those also perform their duty in the same manner, who consult astrologers and soothsayers, and augurs, and magicians, respecting the person of the Emperor; arts to which Christians never have recourse, even in their own private affairs, inasmuch as they were delivered by fallen angels, and are forbidden by God. For who can need to make any inquiry about the welfare of the Emperor, unless he designs or wishes something contrary to it, or encourages the expectation of some benefit after his death? For a consultation of this nature is made with a very different spirit respecting a man's friends and his sovereign. The solicitude of natural affection is very different from that of slavery.
IF, then, they are proved to be enemies, who yet were called Romans, why are we refused the name of Romans, because we are presumed to be enemies? Is it impossible that we should be Romans, and yet not enemies, because some are found to be enemies, who were called Romans? Piety, and religion, and fidelity to the Emperors consist not in those observances, which rather serve as a cloak for the purposes of hostility, but in conduct which obliges us to display our respect to the Emperor as truly as our kindly disposition towards all men. For the exercise of good will is not required of us with respect to the Emperors alone. We are bound to do good without respect of persons; for we do it for our own sakes, and look for a return of commendation and reward |325 not from men but from God, who requires and will repay disinterested charity. We trust our Emperors and our neighbours alike. For we are alike forbidden to wish, or to do, or to say, or to think any evil of any one. What we are forbidden to do towards the Emperor, we are not permitted to do towards any one else. What we may do to no one else, we are perhaps still more bound not to do to him. whom God hath raised to such an elevation.
IF, then, we are commanded to love our enemies, as I have before shown, whom have we to hate? If, when injured, we are forbidden to return evil for evil, lest we should be like our adversaries, whom can we hurt? And on this point do ye yourselves be judges. For how frequently do ye use violence against the Christians, sometimes at the instigation of private malice, and sometimes according to the forms of law! How often also--not to mention yourselves--do the common people in their rage attack us of their own accord with stones and flames! In the furious orgies of the Bacchanalians, they spare not even the dead bodies of the Christians: they draw them forth, from the resting-place of the grave, from the asylum of death; they cut in pieces, and drag asunder, corpses which cannot be recognized, and are no longer entire. But among all those, against whom such cruelties are exercised, and who are so provoked, even to death, what instance did ye ever discover, in which the injury was retaliated? Although even one night, with the aid of a torch or two, would afford abundant means of revenge, |326 if we were permitted to return evil for evil. But God forbid that our religion should require the fires of the incendiary to prove its divine origin, or should grieve at sufferings by which its truth is tried. For if we wished to act, not as secret avengers, but as open enemies, think ye that we should lack numbers and forces? As well might ye say that any one nation, such as the Mauri, the Marcomanni, the Parthians themselves, or any other tribe confined to its own territory, was more numerous than the rest of the world united. We are but of yesterday, and have already filled all your empire, your towns, islands, forts, boroughs, councils, your very camp, every tribe and quarter of the city, the palace, the senate, the forum 99. |327 We leave you nothing but your temples. We can calculate the number of your armies: the Christians of one province would exceed it. Even with inferior numbers, for what war should we not be ready, and fitted, when we possess such passive courage as to submit patiently to death, if our principles did not instruct us rather to be slain than to slay? We might, indeed, effectually oppose you even without arms, and without active resistance or revolt, by merely separating ourselves from you. For if such a multitude of men, as we are, should suddenly remove to some remote extremity of the world, the loss of so many citizens, of whatever kind they were, would overwhelm your whole empire with shame, and punish it simply by desertion. Without all doubt ye would be terrified at the solitude in which ye found yourselves placed, at the silence of all things around you, and, as it were, at the awful stillness of a dead world; and would look about in vain for subjects to govern. Ye would have more enemies than citizens left. For even now ye have fewer enemies than ye otherwise would have, on account of the multitude of Christians, since almost all the citizens of almost all cities are Christians.
But, notwithstanding this, ye prefer calling us enemies of the human race. Whereas who else would rescue you from enemies, which are secretly in all directions destroying your souls, and undermining your health? I speak of the incursions of demons, which we repel from you without fee or reward 100.
This alone would afford us an ample revenge, that |328 we should leave you in the undisturbed possession of unclean spirits. Yet ye repay us not for this invaluable protection, but treat a race of men, who are not only harmless, but necessary to your welfare, as enemies; and enemies indeed we are, not of the human race, but rather of all kinds of error.
OUR religion, therefore, ought to be still more leniently regarded, among those sects which are tolerated; since we commit none of those enormities, which are apprehended from such factions as are disallowed. For, doubtless, the legitimate object of government, in prohibiting factions, is to guard the public peace, and prevent the state from being divided into various parties; since this would soon create disturbance in your assemblies, in your councils, your courts, your meetings, and even in your public spectacles, by the conflict of those who favour different parties, especially at a time when men are found, who from vile and mercenary motives will lend themselves to the perpetration of any violence. But we, who are dead to all desires of glory and dignity, have no occasion to join in any assemblies; and no life is more alien from our habits than public life. We look upon ourselves as citizens of one state only, which is the whole world. In like manner we renounce your public spectacles, since we know they originated in superstition; and have no dealings with what is there transacted. What we speak, and see, and hear, hath nothing in common with the madness of the circus, the indecency of the theatre, the cruelty of the arena, or the vanity of your athletic exercises. Ye permitted the Epicureans to boast that |329 they had discovered the true secret of pleasure. Why are ye offended at us if we have recourse to other pleasures of our own? If we will be ignorant of the art of enjoyment, the loss is ours; at all events, not yours. But we renounce what pleases yon, and our occupations delight you not.
I SHALL now set forth the facts relating to the Christian faith; that, having refuted the calumnies advanced against it, I may display its goodness, by a representation of the truth. We are a body united in the profession of religion, in the same rights of worship, and in the bond of a common hope. We meet in one place, and form an assembly, that we may, as it were, come before God in one united body, and so address him in prayer. This is a violence, which is well pleasing to God. We pray also for the Emperors, and for those in authority under them, for the powers of this world, for the maintenance of peace, and for the delay of final judgment.
We meet, also, for reading the holy Scriptures, as the circumstances of the times require us to receive instruction for the future, or remembrance of the past. By the study of those holy words we most surely nourish our faith, elevate our hope, confirm our assurance, and strengthen our attachment to its precepts, even under persecution 101. In the same place we deliver exhortations, reproofs, and the religious censure of excommunication. For our judgments are given |330 with great solemnity, as among men who are conscious that they are in the sight of God; and it is the surest anticipation of future judgment, if any one who offends is therefore banished from all communion of prayer, and from our public assemblies, and from all holy intercourse.
There preside over us certain approved elders 102, who have obtained that honour not by purchase, but by public testimony: for no office of God is to be bought with money. If there is a public chest, the money collected is no dishonourable sum, as if it belonged to a purchased religion. Every one makes a small contribution, on a certain day of the month, or when he chooses, provided only he is willing and able: for no one is compelled; all is voluntary. The amount is, as it were, a common fund of piety. Since it is expended . not in feasting, or drinking, or indecent excess, but in feeding and burying the poor, and in supporting children of either sex, who have neither parents nor means of subsistence, and old men now confined to their houses, and incapable of work; in relieving those also who have been shipwrecked: and if there are any in the mines, or in the islands, or in prison, provided they |331 suffer for the cause of God's religion, they are the almsmen of the bounty, to which their confession entitles them.
But even the working of a charity like this is by some made a cause of censure against us. "See," say they, "how these Christians love one another!" For they themselves hate one another: and, "How ready each one is to die for the other!" For they themselves are much more ready to put one another to death. If, again, we are blamed for styling one another brethre.n, this can, I imagine, be made matter of reproach for this reason only, that among themselves all names of kindred are affected only for feigned purposes. We acknowledge ourselves to be even your brethren, having one nature as our common mother, although ye have forfeited your title to be considered human beings, because ye are bad brethren. With how much more reason, then, are we both called and esteemed brethren, who have all recognized one Father, even God, who have all drunk of one spirit of holiness, who have all trembled with astonishment, when we have been born, as it were, from the same womb of ignorance, into the same light of truth!
But, it may be, we are the less regarded as real brethren, because no tragedy derives materials for declamation from our brotherhood, or because, as brethren, we unite in the use of our common property, which, with you, is the greatest cause of discord among brethren. Hence we, who are of one mind and one soul, hesitate not to communicate what we possess one with another. All things which we have are in common, except our wives. Our community of property ceases, in that very point, in which alone other men have any thing in common; for they not only violate the marriage bed of others, but most patiently allow their friends access to their own; following, I imagine, |332 the lessons of those wisest of men, the Grecian Socrates, and the Roman Cato 103, who lent to their friends the wives whom they had married, that they might bear children to others. How far this was against the consent of their wives, I know not: for why should they be careful of their chastity, of which their husbands so easily disposed? Oh! wisdom of Athens! oh! rare example of Roman gravity! The Philosopher and the Censor each disposes of his wife's virtue.
What wonder is it, then, if, maintaining such good will towards each other, we should feast together. For, I understand, our moderate entertainments are not only accused as scenes of infamy, but censured as extravagantly expensive. Whereas, in truth, Diogenes might have alluded to us, when he said, "The people of Megara feast as if they were to die to-morrow, and build as if they were to live for ever." But every one sees a mote in another's eye, sooner than a beam in his own. The whole air is soured with the gross exhalations of all your tribes, and wards, and quarters of your city, at their feasts. The Salii cannot sup, without borrowing money to pay for the banquet. Accountants are necessary expressly to calculate the expense of the tithes and offerings made to Hercules. An especial levy of cooks is made for the Apaturia, or mysteries of Bacchus104. At the smoke of the supper of Serapis, firemen are called out. Yet the only complaint which is made, is at the simple meal of the Christians. Our supper sufficiently shows its meaning by its very name. It is called by a term which in Greek signifies love. Whatever may be its |333 cost, an expense incurred in the cause of religion is in fact a gain, since by this refreshment we assist all who are in need; not in the manner in which parasites with you eagerly expose themselves to every kind of indignity and ill usage, which the licentiousness of the banquet may inspire, to gratify their appetite; but with the full conviction that God more especially regards the poor.
If the cause of our feast be honourable, consider the order of the rest of our regulations, how appropriate it is to the duties of religion. It admits nothing indecorous, nothing indecent. We sit not down to eat, until prayer to God be made, as it were, the first morsel105. We eat as much as will satisfy hunger, and drink as much as is useful for the temperate. We commit no excess, for we remember that even during the night we are to make our prayers to God. Our conversation is that of men who are conscious that the Lord hears them. After water is brought for the hands, and lights, we are invited to sing to God, according as each one can propose a subject from the |334 Holy Scriptures, or of his own composing. This is the proof in what manner we have drunk.
Prayer in like manner concludes the feast. Thence we depart, not to join a crowd of disturbers of the peace, nor to follow a troop of brawlers; nor to break out in any excess of wanton riot; but "to maintain the same staid and modest demeanour, as if we were departing, not from a supper, but from a lecture.
This society of the Christians is truly unlawful, if it be like those which are unlawful: and ought indeed to be condemned, if it be not contrary to those which are condemned; if any one brings an accusation against it, such as is alleged against other factions. Whom have we ever injured in our assemblies? We are the same when we are collected, as when dispersed; the same united, as we are separated; injuring no one, grieving no one. When men of probity, and goodness, and piety, and chastity, are thus assembled, the meeting is not to be called a faction, but a court.
ON the contrary, the name of a faction is appropriately applied to those who unite in hatred of the just and good, who join in the outcry against innocent blood, however they may cover their malice with the vain pretext, that the Christians are the cause of every public calamity and every inconvenience which the people suffer. If the Tiber rises against the walls of the city, or the Nile does not overflow its banks, if there is drought, or earthquake, or famine, or pestilence, the cry at once is, "Take the Christians to the lion!"-- What! so many to one beast?
Tell me, pray, before the reign of Tiberius, that is, |335 before the birth of Christ, how many misfortunes afflicted the empire and the city of Rome? We read of the islands Hiera, Anaphe, Delos, Rhodes, and Cos having been desolated, with the loss of many thousand men. Plato also mentions a tract of land, greater than Asia and Africa, to have been swallowed up by the sea. An earthquake engulphed part of the Corinthian sea; and the force of the waves cut off Lucania from Italy, and caused its name to be changed to Sicily. Now all these changes doubtless occurred not without injury to the inhabitants. But where were then,--I say not the Christians who despise your gods, but where were your gods themselves,--when the deluge destroyed the whole world; or, as Plato supposed, the plains only? For the very cities, in which your deities were bom and died, and those which they founded, unite in proving that they were subsequent to the destruction caused by the deluge. For had not the cities been posterior to that period, they never would have remained to this day.
The swarm of the Jewish nation had not yet settled in Palestine, nor had the origin of the Christian religion been there laid, when a shower of fire burnt up the neighbouring region of Sodom and Gomorrha. The whole earth there still retains the smell of fire, and the fruit of any tree which endeavours to bear, is fair to the eye, but dissolves to ashes at the touch.
Again, neither Tuscany nor Campania complained of the Christians, when fire from heaven overwhelmed the city Volsinii, and flames from their own mountain consumed Pompeii. There were, at Rome, no worshippers of the true God, when Hannibal, at Cannse, measured in a bushel the rings of the Romans who were slain in battle. All your gods were universally adored, when the Gauls besieged the very Capitol. It is remarkable, too, that when any misfortune befel the |336 cities, the temples suffered as well as the walls; so that even from this fact I might prove, that the calamities were not sent by your gods, since they happened to themselves.
The human race hath always deserved punishment, from God: in the first place, because they served him not; but, when they understood him in part, they not only sought him riot out as an object of reverence and fear, but speedily made for themselves other gods : and then, because seeking him not as the rewarder of! innocence and the judge and avenger of guilt, they have given themselves up to all kinds of vices and crimes. If, on the other hand, they had sought him, they would assuredly have found him; and, when found, they would have served him, and, by serving him would have been the objects of his mercy rather than of his anger. But now it is just that they should be exposed to the anger of God, in the same manner as they were before the name of Christian was ever heard. Since they experienced benefits from him, long before their own gods were feigned to exist, why should they not understand that their misfortunes have come from him, whose benefits they had not noticed? They are justly subject to condemnation, in that they are ungrateful.
If, however, we compare former calamities with the present, we shall find that the world is now less severely visited, since God gave Christians to inhabit it. For from that period, their innocence hath tempered the depravity of the age; and they have begun to be intercessors with God.
Finally, when ye suffer so from drought, that your summer is as barren as your winter, and ye fear even for the natural return of the seasons, feeding daily to the full, and running from one excess of gluttony to another, after having indulged in your baths and in taverns and brothels, ye sacrifice offerings to Jupiter to |337 obtain rain, command the people to walk barefoot in processions, seek for heaven in the Capitol, and look for a supply of rain to the ceilings of your temples, forgetful alike of God and of heaven. Meanwhilewe, shrunk with fasting, and worn out with abstinence of every kind, cut off from all enjoyment of life, foiling in sackcloth and ashes, weary heaven with the importunity of our prayers, and reach the ear of God : and when we have thus extorted mercy, ye give honour to Jupiter, and neglect God.
YE, therefore, are the causes of calamity to mankind: ye bring misfortune and evil upon the state, by despising the true God and adoring images. For it is plainly more probable that he who is neglected should be angry, rather than they who are worshipped. Or surely they are of all others the most unjust, if, for the sake of the Christians, they injure even their own worshippers, whom they ought to keep separate from the offences of the Christians. But, ye will say, this is an argument which may be retorted against the God whom ye Christians worship, since he too permits his followers to be injured on account of the profane. First, however, admit the dispositions of his Providence to be what they really are, and ye will no longer turn this argument against us. For he, who hath decreed an eternal judgment once for all, after the end of this world, hastens not that separation, which is the peculiar act of judgment, until the last day. Meanwhile, he is impartial towards the whole human race, both in his mercy and in his chastisement. His will is, that good and evil should happen alike to the profane and to the believer; that we might all alike experience both the |338 goodness and the severity of God. Since we have been so taught of him. we love his goodness, and fear his severity, whereas ye, on the contrary, despise both. Hence all the troubles of this world, if they happen to fall upon us, are for our admonition; if upon you, they are regarded as a punishment sent from God. All these things, however, injure us not: in the first place, because we have no further concern with this world than how we may most quickly depart from it; and also, because if we suffer any affliction, we ascribe it to. your sins. And even if any of these affect us also, as being connected with you, we rather rejoice, inasmuch as we perceive in them the fulfilment of the divine predictions, which confirm the confidence and faith of our hope. But if all these evils come upon you, for our sake, from the gods whom ye worship, why do ye persevere in serving such ungrateful and unjust gods, who ought rather to assist and relieve you, to the grief and discomfort of the Christians?
BUT we are called upon to answer another charge: we are said to be useless for the ordinary business of life. How can such an accusation be maintained against men who live among yourselves, using the same food and raiment and habits of living, and the same necessaries of life? We are not like the Brachmans, or the Gymnosophists of the Indians, dwellers in the woods, and exiles from ordinary life. We remember the gratitude which we owe to God our Lord and Creator. We reject no fruit of his works; albeit we are temperate, so as to use them not to excess, nor in an improper manner. Hence, while we live in this world, we frequent your market, your shambles, your baths, |339 your taverns, your shops, your inns, your fairs, and all other places of resort. We unite with you in navigation, and in war, and in husbandry, and in trade. We give you all the benefit of our arts and of our labour. How then we can be accused of being useless to your ordinary business, when we live with you and by you, I know not. If. I frequent not your religious ceremonies, yet, on the day appointed for them, I am still a human being, as on other days. At the period of your Saturnalia, I bathe not, like yourselves, at night, lest I should lose the night and the day too: but I do yet bathe at my usual hour, which is the most salubrious, and by those means preserve the warmth of my body, and the wholesome condition of my blood. It will be time enough for me to be stiff and pale after bathing, when I am dead. At the feasts in honour of your gods, I sit not down in public to the banquet, as those unhappy men do, who take their last meal, before they are thrown to the wild beasts; but. wherever I sup, I eat of the same provisions as yourself. I purchase no crown for my head106; how can ye be affected with the |340 manner in which I choose to dispose of the flowers, which I yet purchase? I conceive them to be more grateful, when they are permitted to fall freely, and loosely, and without constraint. But even if we form them into a crown, we place them so as to be more agreeable to the sense of smelling. Let those give as rational an account of their custom, who act as if their hair were the organ of that sense. We assemble not, it is true, at your public spectacles: but if I require any of the conveniences, which are so frequently sold at those occasions of public resort, I prefer procuring them in their proper places. We purchase not frankincense. If the people of Arabia complain, let them remember that their spices are consumed in greater profusion, and at a higher cost, in preparing the bodies of Christians for burial, than in burning incense to your gods. "But," ye say, "the revenues of our temples continually decrease. How few now pay their appointed tribute to the gods?" This charge may be true: for we cannot afford to relieve your mendicant gods, while we succour men who are in want. Resides, we give to those only who ask. Let Jupiter, then, hold out his hand, and he shall receive; for our charity dispenses more in every street, than your religion in each temple. But tribute of every other kind is deeply indebted to the Christians, who pay that which is due, with the fidelity with which we abstain from all fraud. Whereas, if an account were kept of the injury which the commonwealth suffers by the fraud and falsehood which ye exercise, it would plainly appear, that the accurate statement, which we make, of the tribute which we owe, was much more than a compensation for any complaint which ye make upon any other point. |341
I WILL, however, frankly confess, that there may be some who have reason to complain of the little support which they receive from the Christians. Among the first of these will be the vile panders and slaves of every kind of lust; in the next place, murderers, poisoners, magicians, fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and astrologers. To be fruitless to such as these, is itself a great gain. Yet, whatever loss ye may incur from our religion, it may assuredly be counterbalanced by some advantage. How much are ye indebted to men --I say not now, who cast out devils from among you; I say not now, who offer prayers even for you to the true God, because perhaps ye believe nothing of this-- but to men from whom ye have nothing to fear?
MEANWHILE no one pays attention to a loss, which the state is suffering, as great as it is real: no one considers the public injury inflicted, when so many just men among us are consumed, when so many innocent suffer. For we confidently appeal to your own records, kept by those of you who preside in courts of justice, and make a distinct enumeration of the crimes of those who are brought before you. Out of so great a number of criminals as are there recorded, each with his own accusation, what murderer among them, what thief, what man guilty of sacrilege or of corrupting youth, what pilferer107, is described also as a Christian? |342 or when any Christians are brought before you to answer to the charge of being such, who among them is found to be like so many of your own criminals? They are men of your own who fill your prisons; the sighs which rise from the mines are breathed by men of your religion; the wild beasts feed upon your men, and the vile herds of gladiators are replenished from the same source. Among these no Christian is found, unless the name of Christian be his only offence; or if he be accused of any other crime, he hath already ceased to be a Christian.
BUT, it will be asked, are we Christians, then, the only men who live innocently? What wonder is this, if it be a necessary consequence, as it really is, of the principles which we and others profess? Since it is God himself who hath taught us to live innocently, we have learned perfect obedience as revealed by a perfect master; and we faithfully keep his commandments, since they are delivered by one whose scrutiny we cannot despise. Now the opinion of man hath given the rules for your innocence; and human authority hath imposed the law. Hence your precepts are neither so full nor so authoritative as they ought to be, to establish innocence of life in all its truth. To what extent can the prudence of man reach in showing what is truly good? What authority can it exert to enforce its commands? The one can as easily be deceived as the other despised. Thus, which is the more extensive command, that which says, Thou shalt not kill, or that which declares, Thou shalt not even be angry? Which is the more perfect, for a law to prohibit adultery, or |343 to forbid even the impurity of an unchaste look? Whether is it wiser to interdict the doing or the speaking evil? Whether is it more effectual to forbid injury, or not to suffer even retaliation? We have already spoken of the antiquity of Moses, that ye may know that even those very laws of yours, which may seem to tend to the encouragement of innocence of life, have borrowed their enactments from the divine law, which is older than they.
But, after all, what is the authority of human laws? since a man may usually evade them, by escaping detection, and sometimes set them at naught, by pleading that his offence was involuntary, or compulsory: especially when it is remembered, that the punishment which they can inflict is short; since, at the worst, it is terminated by death. Thus it was that Epicurus taught men to despise all pain and torture, declaring that if it were small, it was unworthy of regard; if great, it was of short duration. Whereas we, who are to give our account to God who sees all things, and know that he will inflict eternal punishment, are justly considered the only persons whe uphold innocency of life, as well from the extent of God's knowledge, as from, the difficulty of escape, and the greatness of a punishment which is not only of long, but of eternal duration; for we fear him, who ought to be the object of fear even to the judge, who condemns us, because we fear God, and not the proconsul.
WE have now, I trust, sufficiently answered every charge which hath served as a pretext for requiring |344 the blood of the Christians. We have shown the whole of our real condition, and by what means we can prove it to be what we assert, namely, by the fidelity and antiquity of the sacred Scriptures, and by the confession of spiritual powers. If there be any one bold enough to attempt to confute us, he must endeavour to establish the truth, not by the mere artifice of a verbal dispute, but in the same manner in which we have established our proof.
But, while our truth is made manifest to every one, the incredulity of our adversaries--being no longer able to deny the goodness of our religion, which hath already been established even with reference to the daily intercourse and transactions of life--hath recourse to the excuse, that our faith is not of divine origin, but rather a species of philosophy. The philosophers, they say, preach and profess the same virtues with yourselves, innocence, justice, patience, sobriety, chastity. If this be true, why do we not enjoy the same impunity for professing our doctrines, which those possess, to whom we are thus compared? Or why is it, that, while we are exposed to the greatest danger, for refusing to perform certain services, they are not compelled to do the same? For who ever thought of obliging a philosopher to sacrifice, or to swear by your gods, or vainly to light candles at noon-day? Yet they openly oppose the worship of your gods, and in their writings also, which ye receive with applause, inveigh against your superstitions. Many of them also receive your support while they attack your princes, and are rather honoured with statues and pensions, than sentenced to be exposed to the wild beasts; and justly so, since they are denominated philosophers, not Christians. Will this name of philosophers cast out devils? How should it do so, when philosophers place those demons in the rank of gods? It is an expression of Socrates, |345 "If the demon permit." The same philosopher, when he had attained some knowledge of the truth, in that he denied your gods, did yet, in his last moments, order a cock to be sacrificed to Esculapius; I suppose in honour of his father Apollo, who had pronounced Socrates the wisest of mortals. O thoughtless Apollo! he gave testimony in favour of the wisdom of the man, who denied the existence of the gods. In proportion to the hatred to which truth is exposed, is the offence which is given by him, who faithfully maintains truth. But he who perverts and corrupts the truth, by that very action obtains the favour of those who oppose truth, by deriding and contemning it. The philosophers affect to imitate the truth, but by that very imitation they corrupt it; since they seek only vain glory. Christians, on the other hand, necessarily seek truth, and maintain it with constancy, since they regard their own salvation.
Hence we are not, as ye suppose, like the philosophers, either in our doctrine or in our discipline. For what certain knowledge did Thales, the prince of natural philosophers, give to Croesus, who inquired of him respecting the divinity? Did he not disappoint his expectations by requesting to delay his answer, without effect? Now the meanest Christian knows and can declare what God is; and hence he can actually show that which is sought by those who endeavour to find out God : although Plato declares that it is not easy to discover the Maker of the universe; and most difficult, when discovered, to make him known to others.
Again, if a comparison is made between our chastity and that of the philosophers, I read a part of the sentence pronounced by the Athenians against Socrates, in which he is called a corrupter of youth. The love of a Christian is confined to its proper and natural |346 objects. Diogenes himself is accused of gratifying a base passion with the harlot Phryne. A certain Speusippus, of the school of Plato, is said to have perished in the act of adultery. A Christian knows none but his own wife. Democritus blinded himself, because he could not look upon women without desire, and was grieved if he could not satisfy his passion; thus declaring his incontinence, by the very means which he took to amend it. But a Christian, without injuring his eyes, looks not upon women; in his mind he is blind to lust.
If I am to defend Christians against the accusation of pride, we may see Diogenes treading upon the proud couches of Plato, with muddy feet; thus displaying, by that very action, pride of another kind : a Christian shows no pride, even towards the poor. If there is any question respecting moderation, we may appeal to Pythagoras among the Thurians, and Zeno among the people of Priene, each affecting absolute power. A Christian is not ambitious of the meanest office. If a comparison is proposed respecting the equanimity of the Christian and the philosopher; Lycurgus chose his life to be shortened, because the Spartans amended his laws 108; the Christian, even when condemned to death, returns thanks. If a question is made respecting the fidelity of each; Anaxagoras denied a pledge to his guests; a Christian is acknowledged to be faithful, even to strangers. If I am to defend Christians upon the ground of simplicity; Aristotle made his friend Hermias disgracefully give way to himself: a Christian injures not even his enemy. The same Aristotle was as basely subservient in adulation to Alexander, whom he ought rather to have governed, as Plato was to Dionysius, for the sake of his appetite. Aristippus, |347 under an exterior of great gravity gave himself up to excess, clothed in purple; and Hippias was slain, while he was plotting against the state. No Christian ever had recourse to such means for his fellows, with whatever severity they may be persecuted.
But, some one will say, there are some even among ourselves, who deviate from the strict rules of our discipline. If so, we consider them Christians no, longer. Whereas philosophers among yourselves, who do the like, continue to enjoy the name and distinctions attached to the wisdom which they profess.
Such, and no other, is the degree of similitude between a philosopher and a Christian; between a disciple of Greece and of heaven; between one who seeks fame, and one who strives for salvation; between one who confines himself to words, and one who is virtuous in deeds; between one who builds, and one who destroys; between one who introduces error, and one who supports truth; between one who despoils truth, and one who preserves it.
THE antiquity of the sacred Scriptures hath been already alleged in our behalf109; whence it may easily be believed, that they have been the treasure whence all real wisdom hath been extracted. And unless I were desirous of restraining my work within proper bounds, I might easily expatiate also upon this point of the proof. Who is there of the poets and sophists, who hath not drunk at the fountain of the prophets? Hence, then, the philosophers also have secretly satisfied their thirst of information. For the comparison |348 between us and them is founded upon the fact, that they have some of our opinions. Hence, I imagine, it is, that philosophy was banished by certain laws, as, for instance, by those of Thebes, Sparta, and Argos. While men, whose only passion--as we have said--was the desire of glory and eloquence, thus endeavoured to approach to some of our tenets, if they met with any thing in the sacred Scriptures with which they were offended, they immediately remodelled them according to the dictates of their own fancy, and perverted them to serve their own purposes. They hesitated not thus to interpolate the Scriptures, since they did not sufficiently believe their divine inspiration, nor sufficiently understand that they were yet in some measure obscure, and concealed from the Jews themselves, to whom they seemed peculiarly to belong. And even where there was nothing but the simplicity of truth, yet, from this cause, the weakness of human judgment, unsupported by faith, was the more in doubt; whence they changed into uncertainty that which they found certain. For when they had simply discovered that there was a God, they were not contented to declare what they had discovered, but entered into disquisitions upon his quality and nature and the place of his abode. Some asserted that he had not a bodily shape, others that he had, as they were respectively of the Platonic or Stoic schools; others conceived that he was composed of atoms; others that he was formed from the composition of various numbers, as either Epicurus or Pythagoras was followed : others imagined he was composed of fire, as was the fancy of Hera-clitus. The Platonic philosophers, again, contended that God was the governor of all things; the Epicureans, that he was inert and inactive, and a nonentity, so to speak, in human affairs. The Stoics considered that he was placed without the world, and |349 directed the motion of the universe as a potter that of his vessel. The Platonics imagined that he was within the world, which he directed, as a pilot steers a ship, while remaining in it.
A similar disagreement was found in their opinions respecting the world itself; whether it were created or uncreated; whether it would or would not remain for ever: and concerning the nature of the soul, which some considered to be divine and eternal, others to be mortal: every one according to his own notions advanced his opinions, or changed those already established.
It is no wonder, indeed, if the ingenuity of philosophers perverted the Old Testament, since men sprung from them have corrupted even the New Testament by their opinions, so as to support the tenets of their philosophy: and have cut many oblique and intricate paths from the one only way. I mention this, that the well-known variety among professors of our religion may not furnish another point of resemblance between ourselves and the philosophers; and that no one may form an opinion respecting the truth, by the variety of means employed in our defence. We at once, however, remind those who forsake our doctrines, that the rule of truth is that which proceeds from Christ, and was transmitted by his companions; and all those different heretical teachers will be proved to be somewhat later than those apostles. Every thing which is written against the truth is formed after the model of the truth, the imitation being effected by the operation of the spirits of error. By them have been established the false pretences to this wholesome discipline: by them certain fables have been introduced, which, by their likeness to the truth, might weaken the faith of believers in it, or, if possible, induce men to give credit to them; so that an |350 inquirer might be led to think Christians unworthy of serious belief, because he disbelieved poets and philosophers; or, because he disbelieved the Christians, might be more ready to trust poets and philosophers. Hence it is, that when we preach that God will come to judge the world, we are derided; for in like manner poets and philosophers teach that there is a tribunal in the regions below. If we threaten hell, which is a secret fire laid up for punishment beneath the earth, we are equally laughed to scorn; for the heathen also have a river of fire flowing through the regions of the dead. If again we speak of Paradise, a place full of divine pleasures, prepared for the reception of the spirits of holy men, and separated from the knowledge of the world in general by means of a wall of that fiery zone; the story of the Elysian fields hath already obtained credit. Whence, then, have the philosophers and poets derived all these circumstances, so similar to the truth, except from our religion? If they derive them from our religion, which is the older, then our account is more faithful and more credible, since even the imitation of it obtains belief. If they derive them from their own inventions, it would follow that our religion was the image of something which was posterior to itself, which is impossible; since the shadow never precedes the substance, nor an imitation that which it represents.
OBSERVE then, if any philosopher should affirm, as Laberius maintains after the opinion of Pythagoras, that a man may be formed out of a mule, or a snake out of a woman, and to establish this point should |351 display all the arts of oratory, would he not obtain the assent of some, and persuade them to abstain from animal food? And the principal ground of any one's alarm would be, lest in eating beef he should be devouring one of his ancestors. Whereas if a Christian assures you that a man shall himself be restored to life, that an individual shall be revived, it is at once received with reprobation, and the teacher is assailed not only with blows but with stones. As if whatever reason can be advanced, to prove the possibility of the transmigration of human souls into other bodies, doth not necessarily prove that they may be recalled into the same bodies; for to be again what they once were, is to be recalled into the same bodies. For, if they are not what they were before, that is, endued with the very identical human body which they then possessed, they are not the same as they once were. And if they are not the same, how can they be said to have returned to life? Either they are no longer the same, since they are become something else; or, if they remain the same, they can come from no where else. If we had leisure to expatiate upon this part of the question, we might here have ample room for ridicule, by inquiring into what kind of animal each man might be conceived to be changed. But what we advance is much more credible, that man will be reformed from man, each for himself, still retaining his human nature: that the same quality of the soul will be restored into the same condition although not into the same form; since the intention of judgment is to repay to every man according to his deeds. But for our argument it is rather necessary, that the very same person, who once was, should be restored to life, that he may receive from God the reward of good or evil. Hence the bodies also will re-appear; both because the soul is incapable of suffering any thing, without the |352 intervention of solid matter, that is the flesh110, and because the souls ought not to suffer by the judgment of God without those bodies, within which all their actions were performed.
But, it will be said, how can matter which hath once been dispersed be reunited? Consider thyself, O man, and thou wilt learn how to believe the fact. Think what thou wast, before thy existence began, that is, nothing; for hadst thou been any thing, thou wouldst now remember it. Since, therefore, thou wast nothing, before thou wast, and wast again |353 reduced to nothing, when thou didst cease to be, why shouldst thou not again be brought into existence from nothing, by the will of the same great Creator who determined that thou shouldst be from nothing? What new thing will happen unto thee? Thou, who wast not, wast made; when thou shalt again have ceased to be, thou shalt again be made. If thou canst give a reason how thou wast first made, then demand a reason how thou shalt again be made. Yet thou, who hast once been, may more easily be again made, since, without difficulty thou wast made what previously thou hadst never been111.
But some man will, perhaps, doubt respecting the power of God, who formed the vast frame of the universe from nothing, from no less than from a death of vacuity and annihilation, and animated it with a spirit which gives life to all creatures, and stamped it with examples of the resurrection of man, for a testimony to us. The light, which dies daily, shines again112; |354 and darkness in like manner succeeds with a constant variation: the stars, which lose their light, re-appear; periods of time begin again at the point where they close; the fruits of the earth are consumed and reproduced; and seeds rise not again with increase unless they are corrupted and die: all things are preserved by dissolution, all things are renewed by perishing. Shalt thou, O man, a being of so noble a nature, if thou rightly understandest thyself even as described by the Pythian oracle, the lord of an universe of beings which die and rise again, thyself die, merely to perish? In whatever place thy soul shall be separated from the body, whatever material means shall have destroyed thee, or swallowed thee up, or scattered thee, or reduced thee to nothing, shall again restore thee. He, who is Lord of all, can control even annihilation itself.
But, ye will object, if these things be so, we must continually die and rise again in constant succession. If such had been the will of the Lord of the universe, ye must, however unwilling, have submitted to the law of your nature. But now his will is no other than that which he hath revealed. The same Divine Reason which hath formed the universe of various substances, so that all should compose one whole, although the parts are of opposite natures,--as vacuity and solidity, animate and inanimate, comprehensible and incomprehensible, light and darkness, and even life and death,--hath also arranged the whole course of time itself in such an appointed and distinct order, that this |355 first period of our existence, after the beginning of all things, should come to a definite end, but the future life, for which we look, should continue to all eternity.
When, then, the end, and the interval of separation which is interposed, shall have arrived 113, and the condition of this world,--which is equally temporary, and is now spread forth, as it were, a curtain interrupting the prospect of that eternal disposition of all things,--shall be removed, then shall the whole human race be restored to life, to receive the good or the evil which they have deserved in that temporary life; and so will their condition be determined for the endless ages of eternity.
Hence there is no real death, nor a constant succession of resurrections; but we shall be the same persons as we are now, and shall so continue for ever; the worshippers of God, before him for ever, clothed upon114 with the peculiar substance of immortality: but the wicked, and those who have not given themselves wholly to God, in the punishment of equally eternal fire, which possesses from its very nature, which is divine, the means of continuing for ever without exhaustion. Your philosophers themselves acknowledge the difference between secret fire and that which |356 is before our eyes. Thus the nature of the fire, which serves the ordinary purposes of life, is very different from that of the fire which executes the judgments of God; whether it darts lightning from heaven, or bursts forth from the earth at the tops of the mountains. For this fire consumes not that which it burns; but, while it blasts, restores the substance. Thus the mountains, which are continually burning, still remain; and a body stricken by the lightning is thenceforth secure from the flames, for it cannot be burnt115. This, then, may seem as a testimony of eternal fire, an example of a judgment, which constantly produces the means of punishment. The mountains burn, and continue. Much more the wicked, and the enemies of God.
SUCH are the opinions which in us alone are regarded as prejudices, but in your philosophers and poets, marks of the height of wisdom and strength of intellect. They are prudent, we foolish; they are worthy of honour, we of ridicule, and even still further, of punishment. Suppose that the doctrines which we advocate are prejudices, and merely fanciful; they are yet necessary: if unfounded, they are yet useful, since those who maintain them are compelled to be better |357 men, from the fear of eternal punishment, and the hope of everlasting happiness. Those tenets, therefore, ought not to be called false or foolish, which it is the interest of every one to consider true. What is of universal benefit ought by no means to be condemned. The charge of prejudice falls upon you, for condemning that which is useful. Neither can these opinions be foolish: and even if they were both false and foolish, they yet injure no one: they are even then merely like many other notions, against which ye denounce no punishment; fanciful and fabulous, perhaps, but yet professed without danger of accusation or of punishment, because they are perfectly innocent. But in questions of this nature, if error is to be subject to ridicule, it at least ought not to expose us to sword and fire, to crucifixion and wild beasts; a degree of unjust cruelty, which is not only the delight of this blinded populace, but the boast of some even of yourselves, who court the favour of the people; as if all which we endure from you were not in our own power. Assuredly it is at my own option to be a Christian; ye will, therefore, then condemn me, when I am willing to be condemned. Since, therefore, all the power, which ye possess against me, ye possess not, unless I choose, your power no longer depends upon you, but upon my will. Hence also the pleasure which the people take in tormenting us is but a vain delight: for it is really our pleasure which they take to themselves, since we prefer to be so condemned, rather than to fall from God. On the other hand, they who hate us, ought rather to grieve than to rejoice, when we have attained the object of our choice. |358
"WHEREFORE, then," ye will say, "do ye Christians complain that we persecute you, when ye ought to love us as the instruments by which ye attain the object of your wishes?" We are, indeed, willing to suffer; but it is with the feelings of a soldier, who would not choose to expose himself to the perils of war, but involuntarily dreads the danger, which he is compelled to encounter. He yet fights with all his might; and he, who complained of the necessity of engaging in the battle, rejoices, when he hath fought and conquered in the battle, inasmuch as he hath obtained his reward of glory, and his portion of the spoil. It is our battle, to be called before the seats of judgment, there to contend for the truth at the hazard of our lives. And it is our victory, if we obtain that for which we strive. That victory obtains the glory of pleasing God, and the reward of eternal life. But, it will be said, we fall in the contest. We do fall, but it is when the victory is won: when we are slain, we are conquerors; when we fall, we gain the battle. Call us if you will by names of reproach116, derived from the stake, to which we are bound, and the fagots, with which we are surrounded, when burned to death. These are our ornaments of victory; this is our robe of state; this is our triumphal chariot.
It is no wonder, then, that we should displease those whom we conquer; and hence we are regarded |359 as men of desperate and obstinate resolution117. But this very desperation and this inflexibility of purpose, among yourselves, raise the standard of valour in the pursuit of glory and fame. Mutius voluntarily left his hand upon the altar : what sublimity of mind! Empedocles threw himself alive into the burning abyss of Etna : what strength of courage! She who founded Carthage married herself the second time to a funeral pile: what an eulogy of chastity! Regulus, that his life might not restore many enemies to his country, endured exquisite torture in his whole body: what a brave man, what a conqueror in his very captivity! Anaxarchus, when he was beaten with staves, as barley is beaten in a sack, exclaimed, "Beat on, beat on, upon the case of Anaxarchus, for you cannot beat Anaxarchus himself:" what magnanimity in a philosopher, who could thus sport under such a death! I omit those who have laid claim to praise, by falling upon their own sword, or by choosing some milder kind of death. Ye crown with approbation even those who struggle successfully against torture. A harlot of Athens, when the executioner was weary of tormenting her, at length bit off her tongue, and spit it forth against the angry tyrant, that she might thus spit forth her voice also, and be unable to confess who the conspirators were, if she even should relent and wish to betray them. Zeno Eleates, when asked by Dionysius118 what advantages were derived from philosophy, answered, "To have such a contempt of death as to be unmoved at its approach:" and when the tyrant commanded him to be scourged, he persisted in his opinion to the |360 very moment of his death. And doubtless the stripes which the Spartans endured with such firmness, aggravated by the presence of their nearest relatives who encouraged them, conferred honour upon their family, for the patience which was so displayed, in proportion to the blood which was shed. Here is a subject of glory, which is permitted, because it appertains to human nature. Here no blame is imputed for obstinate and inflexible perverseness, when death and all kinds of torture are despised; and men are permitted to undergo for a country, for a territory, for an empire, for private friendship, what they may not undergo for God. Yet for all these ye cast statues, and write inscriptions, and engrave titles, which are intended to last for ever: and, as far as monumental records can effect the purpose, ye yourselves give them, in some measure, a resurrection after death. Yet if he, who hopes for a true resurrection from God, doth as much for God, he is considered insane.
But be attentive, most worthy judges119, and ye will be in still greater favour with the people, if ye sacrifice the Christians to their fury. Torment, rack, condemn, crush us. For your injustice is the proof of our innocence. God permits us to suffer these things for that very purpose. For, on a late occasion, when ye sentenced a Christian woman to pollution, rather than to the lion120, ye confessed that, in our estimation, the loss of chastity was more to be dreaded than any punishment, or any kind of death. Yet the most exquisite cruelty, which ye can devise, avails you nothing, but rather induces the more to become Christians. As often as we are cut down by your persecutions, we |361 spring up the more abundantly: the blood of Christians is the seed of the faith.
Among yourselves, many have given exhortations to the patient endurance of pain and death; as Cicero in his Tusculan Disputations, Seneca in his Treatise on Accidents, Diogenes, Pyrrho, and Callinicus. Yet none of these verbal exhortations ever gained so many followers, as the Christians have obtained by the instruction which their actions have delivered. That very obstinacy, which ye blame, is the best teacher. For who is there that witnesses it, without being irresistibly led to inquire, What inward principle produces it? Who, when he hath so inquired, doth not embrace it? when he hath embraced it, is not himself anxious to suffer? that he may pay the utmost debt of gratitude to God, and obtain the fullest pardon from him by the sacrifice of his own blood? for to the martyr all his sins are remitted. Hence it is that we return thanks to you for the sentence which ye pronounce : for then there is a contest between things human and things divine, when we are condemned by you, and pardoned by God.
[Footnotes to the Apology]
1. 1 Antistites. In other parts of the Apology, Tertullian calls the same persons Praesides; as in c. 2, 9. 50. They were the governors of Proconsular Africa. Eusebius, indeed, H. E. v. 5, says that this Apology was addressed to the Roman Senate : but this is contradicted by internal evidence. Had it been written at Rome, or addressed to Romans, Tertullian would not have used such expressions as Hoc imperium, cujus ministri estis : c. 2. Ecce in illa religiosissima urbe Aeneadum : c. 9, or, Ipsos Quirites, ipsam vernaculam septem collium plebem, convenio, c. 35. The manner in which he contrasts the fear of God with that of the Proconsul, at the conclusion of c. 45, implies that the Apology was written in some province which was under a Proconsul.
It is most probable, that this Apology was both written and presented at Carthage.
2. 2 One of those, who is here addressed, had probably exercised some act of severity towards some of his own family, in consequence of their professing the Christian religion.
3. 3 The laws can never suffer any diminution of their authority, by permitting those who are accused to answer for themselves. The very demand for an audience is an acknowledgment of their power. Nay, if absolute authority must prevail, arbitrary power would appear more conspicuously, if it condemned, after having heard.
An (at) hoc magis gloriabitur potestas earum, quo etiam auditam damnabunt veritatem.
4. 4 Tertullian uses the same argument, in nearly the same words, Ad Nationes, i. c. i.
5. 5 "Utique de comperto." He contrasts the docility of a conscientious convert with the determined ignorance of their persecutors, who. continued to oppose a religion of which they were ignorant.
6. 6 Compare c. 37, and Ad Nationes, i. c. i.
7. 7 Plutarch, in his Life of Solon, relates that Anacharsis, witnessing judicial proceedings at Athens, expressed his surprise, that in so civilized a state wise men should plead causes, and fools determine them. Diogenes Laertius, in his Life of Anacharsis, has preserved a saying of the philosopher, which more closely resembles Tertullian's allusion : θαυμάζειν δὲ ἒφη, πῶς παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἀγωνίζονται μὲν οἱ τεχνίται, κρίνουσι δὲ οἱ μὴ τεχνίται.
8. 8 See Justin Martyr's Apology, c. 35, note (5) and Tertullian's Apology, cc. 7, 8.
9. 9 Pliny, Epist. x. 97. The Epistle and answer of Trajan, as translated by Melmoth, are subjoined, for convenience of reference, at the end of the volume.
10. 1 Expungendus est.
11. 2 Praevaricaris in leges. Having taken upon yourselves the office of accusers, ye so conduct your proceedings, as if your principal object were, not to investigate the guilt of the accused, but to give him every opportunity of escaping,
12. 3 Intelligere potestis, non scelus aliquod in causa esse, sed nomen, quod quaedam ratio aemulae operationis insequitur, hoc primum agens, ut homines nolint scire pro certo quod se nescire pro certo sciunt.
13. 4 Denique quid de tabella recitatis illum Christianum? cur non et homicidam? cur non et incestum? si homicida Christianus, vel quodcumque aliud esse nos creditis? (Havercamp.)
14. 5 Christianus, si nullius criminis nomen est, valde ineptum; si solius nominis crimen est, valde infestum.
15. 6 It is not surprising that gentile writers should have confounded the words Christus and Chrestus (Χρηστός). Thus Suetonius (Claud. xxv.) says "Judaeos, impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes, Roma expulit (Claudius)." The words of Suetonius do not necessarily imply, that he conceived Christ to have lived in the time of Claudius; but that tumults then arose in Rome among the Jews, respecting him, some of them affirming and others denying that he was the Messiah. The expulsion of the Jews from Rome, by Claudius, is mentioned, Acts xviii. 2. Lactantius, iv. 7, treats of the common error in the name of Christ; "Sed exponenda hujus nominis ratio est, propter ignorantium errorem, qui eum, immutata litera, Chrestum solent dicere."
The names Chrestus and Chresta were not uncommon among the Greeks and Romans.
16. 7 The word secta, like the corresponding term αἵρεσις, was originally indifferent in its application : it implied the adoption of certain opinions, without any such expression of disapprobation as the term heresy subsequently conveyed. (Havercamp.)
17. 8 This passage plainly shows, that, at the period when this Apology was written, certain laws were in existence against the Christian religion. Tertullian makes the same assertion in c. 5, and 37 : and in his first book ad Nationes, c. 7, he says, that the edicts of Nero against the Christians were still in force. "Et tamen permansit, erasis omnibus, hoc solum institutum Neronianum : justum denique, ut dissimile sui auctoris." Mosheim inadvertently states (Cent. ii. Part i. c. 2) that "In the beginning of the second century, there were no laws in force against the Christians : for the senate had annulled the cruel edicts of Nero : and Nerva had abrogated the sanguinary laws of his predecessor Domitian." Yet in c. 7, he says, "the imperial laws against the Christians were not abrogated, and the iniquitous edicts of Trajan and Marcus Antoninus were still in force; there was consequently a door open to the fury and injustice of corrupt magistrates, as often as they were pleased to exercise them on the Church." Gibbon, c. xvi. p. 540 (418), concludes, from the celebrated letter addressed by Pliny to Trajan, that at that period "there were no general laws or decrees of the senate in force against the Christians." See Bp. Kaye's Tertullian, p. 114.
18. 9 Si bonum invenero esse, quod lex tua prohibuit, nonne ex illo praejudico prohibere eam non posse, quod, si malum esset, jure prohiberet?
19. 1 Tertullian covertly alludes to the pretensions which Numa and other early Romans made, to praeternatural communications; and to the Ancilia, which were said to have fallen from heaven. Compare Acts xix. 35.
20. 2 Plutarch's account is, that Lycurgus starved himself, after having taken an oath of his citizens, that they would maintain his laws inviolate till his return.
21. 3 The Julian law, introduced by Augustus, A.U.C. 736, as a means of repairing the great waste of population in the civil wars, encouraged marriages by facilitating and regulating the nuptial contract, and imposing penalties on those who should continue unmarried after a certain age.
The Papian law, called also Papia Poppaea from the Consuls Papius and Poppaeus, was introduced A.U.C. 762, at the conclusion of the reign of Augustus. This offered greater advantages to married men, and established more severe penalties upon those who lived in a state of celibacy, and those who had no children, than the Julian law, or the previous customs of the Romans.
Thus married men had precedence in the public spectacles (Suetonius, Aug. 44); they had a priority in the election to public offices; and many other privileges. The same law confirmed the rights conferred upon those who had children : in all competition for public offices gave the preference to the candidates in proportion to the number of their family, and permitted those, who were fathers at an early age, to fill offices, for which their youth would otherwise have disqualified them.
The celebrated Jus trium liberorum had its origin in the Julian law.
The principal restrictions attached to a state of celibacy regarded the capability of inheriting property and receiving testamentary benefactions. Single men could inherit nothing, except from their most immediate relatives; and those who had no children could receive only the half of a legacy. Sozomen has noticed this circumstance, Eccles. Hist. i. 9.
Νόμος ἦν Ῥωμαίοις παλαιὸς ἀπὸ εἴκοσι καὶ πέντε ἐτῶν τῶν ἴσων ἀξιοῦσθαι κωλύων τοὺς ἀγάμους τοῖς μὴ τοιούτοις, περὶ ἄλλα τε πολλὰ, καὶ τὸ μηδὲν κερδαίνειν ἐκ διαθήκης τοὺς μὴ γένει ἐγγυτάτῳ προσήκοντας τοὺς δὲ ἄπαιδας, ζημιῶν τὸ ἥμισυ τῶν καταλελειμμένων.
Such legacies and inheritances were forfeited to the state. Tertullian, de Monogamia, c. 16, alludes to the same custom. "Aliud est, si et apud Christum legibus Juliis agi credunt, et existimant, caelibes et orbos ex testamento Dei solidum non posse capere."
The absurdity, here mentioned by Tertullian, is a contradiction which had subsisted for many years between the Julian and Papian laws. The Papian law subjected to restrictions those who were childless, a man at the age of twenty-five, and a woman at the age of twenty, a time of life, at which, by the Julian law, they were still permitted to remain unmarried.
The penalties against celibacy were removed by Constantine, to favour those Christians who continued in that state from motives of religion. Eusebius, Vit. Constantin. iv. 2, 6.
The substance of the Julian and Papian laws is given by Lipsius, in his Excursus ad Taciti Ann. iii. 25.
22. 4 The laws of the twelve tables, c. 8. Aul. Gellius, Noct. Att. xx. 1. Si plures forent, quibus reus esset judicatus, secare, si vellent, atque partiri corpus addicti sibi hominis permiserunt. Et quidem verba ipsa legis dicam, ne existimes invidiam me istam forte formidare. TERTIIS. inquit, NUNDINIS. PARTIS. SECANTO. SI. PLUS. MINUS. VE. SECUERUNT. SE. FRAUDE. ESTO.
Quinctilian, Instit. Orat. iii. 6. 84, alludes to the same law. Sunt enim quaedam non laudabilia natura, sed jure concessa: ut in xii. tabulis debitoris corpus inter creditores dividi licuit, quam legem mos publicus repudiavit.
23. 5 Bonorum adhibita proscriptio suffundere maluit hominis sanguinem quam effundere.
24. 6 The law is given in Cicero de Legibus, ii. Separatim nemo habessit Deos, neve novos; sed ne advenas, nisi publice adscitos, privatim colunto.
25. 7 The fact here mentioned, and repeated in c. 21, with the addition that Tiberius received the account from Pilate, who in his conscience was a Christian, rests solely on the authority of Tertullian. Eusebius, H. E. ii. 2, gives a translation of this passage, but refers to no other testimony in confirmation of it: and Justin Martyr, when, in two instances, he refers to the Acts of Pilate (Apol. cc. 45, 63), mentions no proposal made to the senate of Rome by Tiberius, respecting Christ.
It is not surprising that Jortin (Remarks on Eccles. Hist. vol. i. p. 2) and Gibbon (Decline and Fall, c. xvi. p. 556, 4to.) should agree with Le Clerc (Hist. Eccles. p. 324) in giving little credit to this statement. Dupin (Bibliotheque, tom. i. p. 24) considers the fact doubtful: and Bp. Kaye (Tertullian, c. ii. p. 112) is of opinion "that the story is liable to just suspicion :" and observes, "How happened it that so remarkable a fact, as a public proposal from the Emperor to the Senate to receive Christ among the gods of Rome, escaped the notice of every other writer?"
Lardner, in his Testimonies of Ancient Heathen Authors, c. 2, discusses this question at length : and concludes "that the accounts of those ancient authors Justin Martyr and Tertullian deserve some regard."
He observes, after Bp. Pearson, (Lection, in Act. Apost. iv. sect. 15, p. 65), that those two are early writers of good repute : that it was customary for governors of provinces to compose memoirs or acts, such as are here referred to : that, if Pilate wrote at all to Tiberius respecting Christ, he was likely to speak favourably and honourably of him : that it was not inconsistent with the known character of Tiberius to make such a proposal, nor improbable that the senate should not comply with it; that it is not necessary to suppose that the Emperor was well acquainted with the doctrines of Christianity, or at all inclined to be a Christian, since the very reverse is immediately asserted by Tertullian.
In his observations upon this question, Lardner has scarcely made sufficient distinction between the testimonies of Justin Martyr and Tertullian. Justin speaks of the Acts of Pilate, and appeals to them, as being accessible at the time when he wrote. But he does not expressly state even that the contents of those acts was made known to Tiberius.
Tertullian asserts, that Pilate did communicate with Tiberius, and that, in consequence of the extraordinary nature of that communication, he proposed to the senate that Jesus Christ should be received among the deities of Rome. The last fact rests upon the single testimony of Tertullian.
Christopher Iselin wrote a letter in defence of the truth of this fact, published in the Bibliothèque Germanique, tom. xxxii. p. 147, tom. xxii. p. 12. Lardner refers also to Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. i. St. Pierre, Art. 19. Sueur, Hist. de 1'Eglise et de l'Empire, tom. i. p. 130, and Grotius on Matt. xxiv. 11.
26. 8 ἅτε ἔχων τι συνέσεως. Euseb. H. E. iii. 20.
27. 1 At nos e contrario edimus protectorem, si literae Marci Aurelii gravissimi imperatoris requirantur, quibus illam Germanicam sitim, Christianorum forte militum precationibus impetrato imbri, discussam testatur. The same words, with an inconsiderable variation of expression, are given by Jerome in his Latin translation of Eusebius's Chronicon, p. 170.
Tertullian repeats the assertion in his Treatise ad Scapulam, c. 4. Marcus quoque Aurelius, in Germanica expeditione Christianorum militum orationibus ad Deum factis, imbres in siti illa impetravit. But he there makes no mention of the letter of Marcus Aurelius. Eusebius (H. E. v. 5), refers to this passage of Tertullian's Apology, as one of his authorities for the account which he gives of the Thundering Legion; and he and subsequent writers (Orosius, vii. 15. Nicephorus, iv. 12. Zonaras, Ann. tom. ii. 207), make considerable additions to the facts mentioned by Tertullian, Eusebius states, but in a manner which shows he doubted the authority on which the fact rested, that a violent storm of thunder and lightning put the enemy to flight, while a shower refreshed the Roman army which was about to perish with thirst.
The fact, that such a seasonable shower did happen, is expressly asserted by several heathen writers; and there is still extant the celebrated Antonine Column, which represents Jupiter Pluvius, under the appearance of an aged man with outstretched arms, pouring down a violent rain, which refreshes the Romans and discomfits their enemies. A coin of M. Aurelius records the same fact. Dion Cassius, 1. 71, ascribes the shower to the magical arts of Arnuphis, an Egyptian magician : and Suidas, on the word Arnuphis, says that others attributed it to the power of Julian a Chaldean.
Tertullian does not here state that he had seen the letter of Marcus Aurelius, to which he appeals. And such a letter is quite at variance with the general character of that Emperor, and with the persecutions to which the Christians were subject under his reign. Mosheim (De rebus Christianor. ante Constantin. sect, xvii.) is of opinion that Tertullian was thinking of the edict, which Antoninus Pius, who is often confounded with Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, wrote to the community of Asia. (Euseb. H. E. iv. 13.) See p. 278.
The letter on this subject, purporting to be written by Marcus Aurelius, and subjoined to Justin Martyr's Apology (p. 101, Paris edition), is generally believed to be spurious.
Lardner (Testimony of Ancient Heathens, Marcus Antoninus, sect, iii.) has collected the opinions of various writers upon this subject. See also a most luminous and accurate account in Bp. Kaye's Tertullian, p. 106.
28. 1 Antoninus Pius, to whom the Apology of Justin Martyr is addressed. It is doubtful whether the Verus, to whom this allusion is made, is Lucius Aelius Verus, the adopted son of Adrian, or his son Lucius Verus. See note (2) at the beginning of the Apology of Justin Martyr. The name Verus may even refer to Marcus Aurelius, to whom it was sometimes applied.
29. 2 The theatres were originally open : afterwards coverings of different kinds were devised to shelter the spectators from the heat of the sun.
30. 3 Nam (Jam) ne vel hyeme voluptas impudica frigeret, primi Lacedaemonii odium penulae ludis excogitaverunt.
Luxury hath reached such a point, that neither the heat of summer nor the cold of winter prevents the assembling of the people in the theatres. Even the thick cloak, which the Lacedaemonians invented, to defend themselves from the weather in war, might appear to have been invented to shelter from the cold our effeminate frequenters of the theatres.
31. 4 See c. 13.
32. 5 See Justin Martyr's Apology, c. 35. This calumny might possibly have originated from some misconception, or wilful perversion, of the solemnization of the Eucharist. See Athenagoras, Legatio pro Christianis, p. 15. Theophilus, ad Autolycum, lib.iii. Minucius Felix, Octavius, p. 288. Eusebius, H. E. iv. 7.
33. 6 Quis talia facinora, cum invenisset, celavit, aut vendidit, ipsos trahens homines?
Betraying his duty to society, which ought to have led him to prosecute men guilty of such atrocious crimes.
34. 7 Virgil, Aen. iv. 174.
35. 8 Alia nos, opinor, natura; Cynopaene an Sciapodes? Tertullian has the same expression, ad Nationes, i. c. 8. Plane tertium genus dicimur. Cynopennae (Cynopaene) aliqui, vel Sciapodes, vel aliqui sub terra Antipodes? Si qua istic apud vos saltem ratio est, edatis velim primum et secundum genus, ut ita de tertio constet.
36. 1 Usque ad proconsulatum Tiberii; until the time of a Proconsul of Africa, in the reign of Tiberius. Scaliger, Epist. ad Casaub. 66, proposes to read proconsulem.
37. 2 There are others, besides the Christians, who disobey your commands; since the secret sacrifices continue to be made, in honour of Saturn; although your laws have long since prohibited them.
38. 3 Herodotus, i. 74.
39. 4 Sallust mentions such a report : Bell. Catilin. c. 23. "Fuere ea tempestate, qui dicerent, Catilinam, oratione habita, cum ad jusjurandum populares sceleris sui adigeret, humani corporis sanguinem vino permistum in pateris circumtulisse : inde cum post execrationem omnes degustavissent, sicuti in solemnibus sacris fieri consuevit, dicitur aperuisse consilium."
40. 5 Palmula : perhaps we should read parmula, a shield.
41. 6 Minus autem et illi faciunt, qui libidine fera humanis membris inhiant quia vivos vorant? minus humano sanguine ad spurcitiam consecrantur, quia futurum sanguinem lambunt? non edunt infantes plane, sed magis, puberes.
42. 7 1 Cor. viii 4.
43. 8 Minucius Felix, Octavius, c. 22, adopts this argument of Tertullian.
Homo igitur utique qui fugit, homo utique qui latuit, et pater hominis, et natus ex homine : terrae enim et coeli filius, quod apud Italos esset ignotis parentibus proditus : ut in hodiernum inopinato visos, coelo missos : ignobiles et ignotos terras filios nominamus.
Lactantius (Divin. Institutionum lib. i. 11) appears to give Minucius the credit of inventing this explanation of the fable of Saturn.
44. 9 Imperfectum non potuit esse, quod perfecit omnia. The world, which at its first creation was formed perfect, so as to require no subsequent improvement.
45. 1 Nihil amplius deprehendo quam matres sorores esse vasculorum, &c.
The images of your worship are formed of the same material, and are equally worthless, with your most ordinary vessels. Compare Isa. xliv. 16, 17.
46. 2 Gods of silver, or gold, or marble. Compare c. 39. Puto autem et hae ipsae materiae de metallis Caesarum veniunt.
47. 3 Compare Baruch vi. 22. Minucius Felix, Octavius, c. 24. Quanta vero de diis vestris animalia muta naturaliter judicant? Mures, hirundines, milvi, non sentire eos sciunt, norunt; inculcant, insident, ac nisi abigatis, in ipso dei ore nidificant. Araneae vero faciem ejus intexunt, et ipso capite sua fila suspendunt.
48. 4 1 Cor. viii. 4.
49. 5 The revenue arising from the temples was let by public contract, in the same manner as the tolls arising from the markets. Compare Tertullian, Ad Nationes, I. c. 10.
50. 6 Quo differt ab epulo Jovis silicernium? a simpulo obba, ab aruspice pollinctor? nam et aruspex mortuis apparet.
Tertullian sarcastically compares the different offices paid to Jupiter in his dotage, with those which accompanied funerals.
51. 7 Larentina, or Larentia, was said to have been the nurse of Romulus. Tertullian, Ad Nationes, II. c. 10.; Lactantius, lib. i. 20.
52. 8 See Justin Martyr's Apology, c. 34.
53. 9 Antinous.
54. 1 Il. X. 314.
55. 2 Pythia, iii. 96; Antist. 3.
56. 3 Tacitus, Hist. v. 3.
57. 4 Tacitus, Hist. v. 9.
58. 8 This passage has been alleged, to prove that, in Tertullian's time, some kind of worship was paid to the cross. It is plain, from the context, that it proves just the reverse. In this part of his Apology, he is refuting several calumnious or mistaken charges, which were brought against the Christians; and he applies to each of them the argument ad hominem, of which he was rather fond. He endeavours to show, that, even if they had been all true, the worshippers of false gods were equally exposed to blame.
The first calumny is, that an ass's head was the object of their worship; he shows this to be unfounded; and then retorts upon the accusers of the Christians, that all kinds of cattle were worshipped by the pagans.
The next accusation is that brought by those who imagined the Christians to be worshippers of the cross. (Sed et qui crucis nos religiosos putat, consecraneus erit noster.) And this too he answers, by showing that, even if it were true, the heathens also worshipped images of wood; and that the Christians had, even on that erroneous supposition, an advantage over them, in worshipping a whole and perfect god, and not a mere block, which was part of a cross.
(Nos, si forte, integrum et totum Deum colimus.) The phrase, si forte, is a favourite expression of Tertullian, when he repels an accusation, or retorts it upon his opponents.
He disposes of the other charges, the worship of the sun, and of a deity of monstrous form, by arguments of the same kind.
There is no doubt, that, in the age of Tertullian, great respect was paid to the sign of the cross. A well-known passage in his Treatise de Corona Militis, c. 3, shows, that the sign of the cross was used, not only in baptism, but on numerous other occasions, as a sign of the faith in Christ crucified. "Ad omnem progressum atque promotum, ad omnem aditum, et exitum, ad vestitum, ad calciatum, ad lavacra, ad mensas, ad lumina, ad cubilia, ad sedilia, quaecunque nos conversatio exercet, frontem crucis signaculo terimus." This respect, however, was very different from adoration. Minucius Felix, Octavius, c. 29, who imitates Justin Martyr, Apol. c. 72, and this passage of Tertullian's Apology, expressly states, that the cross was no object of worship.
Cruces etiam nec colimus nec optamus. Vos plane qui ligneos deos consecratis, cruces ligneos, ut deorum vestrorum partes, forsitan adoratis. Nam et signa ipsa, et vexilla castrorum, quid aliud quam inauratae cruces sunt et ornatae? Tropaea vestra victricia non tantum simplicis crucis faciem, verum et affixi hominis imitantur.
59. 6 c. 12.
60. 7 The custom of turning to the East in prayer was very ancient in the Christian Church. The East was considered an emblem of Christ, probably from such passages as Zech. iii. 8; vi. 12. Mal. iv. 2. Luke i. 78. Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromat. vii. p. 856, considers the custom to be significative of the rising of the Sun of Righteousness upon the benighted mind. Ἐπεὶ δὲ γενεθλίου ἡμέρας εἰκὼν ἡ ἀνατολὴ, κἀκεῖθεν τὸ φῶς αὔξεται ἐκ σκότους λάμψαν τὸ πρῶτον. ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς ἐν ἀγνοίᾳ κυλινδουμένοις ἀνέτειλε γνώσεως ἀληθείας ἡμέρα, κατὰ λόγον τοῦ ἡλίου. πρὸς τὴν ἑωθίνην ἀνατολὴν αἱ εὐχαί.
Augustin (De Sermone Domini, lib. ii. c. 5) refers to the same custom : Quum ad orationes stamus, ad orientem convertimur, unde coelum surgit: non tanquam ibi sit Deus, et quasi caeteras mundi partes deseruerit, qui ubique praesens non locorum spatiis sed majestate potentiae; sed ut admoneatur animus ad naturam excellentiorem se convertere, id est, ad Dominum.
Many other reasons, which might have led to this observance, are adduced from various early authorities, by Bingham, Eccles. Ant. Book xiii. c. 8. 15. Bingham is inclined to think that it arose from a ceremony in baptism, in which the convert, in renouncing the devil, turned his face to the West, as the region of darkness, and, in declaring his faith in Christ, turned to the East. Book xi. c. 7. 4. This, however, seems to have been rather a particular instance of the general custom, than its origin.
The same veneration for the East caused Churches to be usually built, in very early times, with the principal entrance to the West, and the altar towards the East. Tertullian seems to allude to this position of places of worship, as well as to the attitude of the worshippers; Advers. Valent. c. 3. Nostrae columbae etiam domus simplex, in editis semper et apertis, et ad lucem. Amat figura Spiritus sancti Orientem, Christi figuram.
The few exceptions to this position of the churches, which are occasionally found, show only that the custom was not general. There is one remarkable instance, in the splendid church erected at Tyre by Paulinus the Bishop, at the beginning of the fourth century. The entrance of that magnificent edifice was to the East, and the altar in the centre. (Eusebius, H. E. x, 14, p. 311, D. 312, B.) Socrates (H. E. v. 22, p. 235, D.) mentions that the church at Antioch in Syria was placed in a direction opposite to that which was usual, having the altar towards the West, instead of the East.
61. 8 κόσμος.
62. 9 Tertullian uses the same argument, in his Treatise de Resurrectione Carnis, c. 3. Utar ergo et sententia Platonis alicujus pronunciantis, Omnis anima immortalis. Utar et conscientia populi, contestantis Deum deorum. Utar et reliquis communibus sensibus, qui Deum judicem praedicarit; Deus videt; et, Deo commendo. He uses the same language, and argues upon it; De Testimonio Animae, cc. 2, 3, 4, 5, He is followed by Minucius Felix, Octavius, c. 18, p. 49. Quid, quod omnium de isto habeo consensum ? Audio vulgus, cum ad coelum manus tendunt, nihil aliud quam Deum dicunt: et, Deus magnus est, et, Deus verus est : et, si Deus dederit. Vulgi iste naturalis sermo est, an Christiani confitentis oratio?
63. 1 Tertullian makes the same allusion, Adv. Marcion. i. c. i. Quidni? Penes quem verus Prometheus, Deus omnipotens, blasphemiis lancinatur.
64. 2 Vectigalis libertas.
Some have concluded, from this passage, that the tribute alluded to was paid solely for the privilege of reading the Scriptures in the original Hebrew; that the Jews at first held the version of the Septuagint in the greatest estimation, but afterwards rejected it, because it was believed to favour Christianity more than the original Hebrew; and that they were therefore obliged to purchase the privilege of reading the Hebrew Scriptures every Sabbath. There is, however, no trace of such an impost; and it can scarcely be believed that Adrian felt any interest in the question whether the Jews read their Scriptures in Hebrew or Greek. The tribute here alluded to was, probably, the half shekel which the Jews paid, to secure the public exercises of their religion, of which reading the law was one.
The author of the Apostolical Constitutions (lib. vi. cc. 24, 25) asserts, without foundation, that, under the Romans, the Jews were not permitted to use their ordinances : and that they were forbidden by the law of Moses (Deut. xii. 14) to erect an altar in any place but Jerusalem, and to read the law without the bounds of Judea. The last assertion appears to have arisen from following the erroneous Septuagint Version of Amos iv. 5. Καὶ ἀνέγνωσαν ἔξω νόμον. See L. Cappellus, Critica Sacra, lib. iv. c. ii. 23.
65. 3 See Justin Martyr, c. 62.
66. 4 Compare Tertullian, Adv. Praxeam, c. 8. Protulit enim Deus Sermonem, quemadmodum etiam Paracletus docet, sicut radix fruticem, et fons fluvium, et sol radium.
67. 5 Tertullian refers to the same subject, Adv. Judaeos, c. 14.
68. 6 Isa. vi. 10.
69. 7 In most editions, there are here added the words, eundem, qui verbo omnia et faceret, et fecisset.
70. 8 Tertullian alludes, in like manner, to the miraculous darkness at the crucifixion, Adv. Judaeos, c. 10. Nam quod in passione ejus accidit, at media dies tenebresceret, Amos Propheta annunciat, dicens, Et erit, inquit, in die illa, dicit Dominus, occidet sol media die; &c. Amos viii. 9.
71. 9 Compare c. 5.
72. 1 Tertullian, in his Treatise de Virginibus Velandis, c. 7, refers to Gen. vi. 2, in proof that the angels married the virgin daughters of men. He repeats the same assertion, de Idololatria, c. 9. Unum propono, angelos esse illos desertores Dei, amatores foeminarum : and, in his Treatise de Cultu Foeminarum, lib. i. 2, 3, he quotes the Apocryphal book of Enoch to the same purpose. Josephus (Ant. Jud. lib. i. c. iv. 1) makes the same use of Gen. vi. 2.
It was imagined that from these corrupt angels arose the demons, a race still more corrupt, who injured and deceived men, and were principally employed in seducing them from the worship of the true God to that of idols.
The principal passages of Tertullian bearing upon this point, are collected in Bp. Kaye's Tertullian, p. 214.
Lactantius (lib. ii. c. 14) adopts the same fanciful notions: "Itaque illos cum hominibus commorantes dominator ille terrae fallacissimus consuetudine ipsa paulatim ad vitia pellexit, et mulierum congressibus inquinavit. Tum in coelum ob peccata, quibus se immerserant, non recepti, ceciderunt in terram. Sic eos Diabolus ex angelis Dei suos fecit satellites, ac ministros. Qui autem sunt ex his procreati quia neque homines fuerunt, sed mediam quandam naturam gerentes, non sunt ad inferos recepti, sicut nec in coelum parentes eorum."
73. 2 Herod. i. 46--48.
74. 3 Suetonius (Nero, c. 1) relates a report of this nature respecting Domitius, the ancestor of the Domitian family at Rome. "Aenobarbi auctorem originis, itemque cognominis habent L. Domitium : cui rure quondam revertenti, juvenes gemini augustiore forma ex occursu imperasse traduntur, nuntiaret senatui ac populo victoriam, de qua incertum adhuc erat: atque in fidem majestatis adeo permulsisse malas ut e nigro, rutilum, aerique assimilem capillum redderent. Quod insigne mansit et in posteris ejus, ac magna pars rutila barba fuerunt."
75. 4 Elidunt.
This refers either to the sacrificing of children, βρεφομαντεία, or παιδομαντεία, to propitiate the god, who was supposed to give the oracle, (see Justin Martyr's Apology, c. 24,) or else to the convulsion fits, into which boys were thrown, in order that the words which they uttered, in a state of mental alienation, might be taken for an oracular reply.
76. 5 Tertullian advances the like assertions respecting the power of Christians in expelling demons, in cc. 37. 43; De Testimonio Animae, c. 3; Ad Scapulam, c. 2; De Spectaculis, c. 29; De Idololatria, c. 11; De Corona, c. 11.
Bp. Kaye observes, (Tertullian, c. 2,) that Tertullian "casts a doubt upon the accuracy of his own statement by ascribing to Christians in general those extraordinary gifts, which even in the days of the Apostles appear to have been confined to them, and to the disciples upon whom they laid their hands."
The learned prelate discusses the question respecting the continuance of miraculous power in the Church with his well-known judgment and caution. He is of opinion that they ceased with the death of the last disciple, upon whom the Apostles laid their hands.
77. 6 Jesus Christ is in like manner spoken of in c. 21, as the Word, and Reason, and Power of God. Jam ediximus Deum universitatem hanc mundi Verbo, et Ratione, et Virtute molitum. And soon after, Et nos etiam Sermoni, atque Rationi, itemque Virtuti, per quae omnia molitum Deum ediximus, propriam substantiam Spiritum inscribimus, cui et sermo insit praenuntianti, et ratio adsit disponenti, et virtus praesit perficienti.
Tertullian uses the same expression, in his Treatise De Oratione, c. 1. Omnia de carnalibus in spiritalia renovavit nova Dei gratia, superducto Evangelio expunctore totius retro vetustatis, in quo et Dei Spiritus, et Dei Sermo, et Dei Ratio approbatus est Dominus noster Jesus Christus; spiritus quo valuit, sermo quo docuit, ratio qua venit.
78. 7 Aeneid. i. 16.
79. 8 Quem coluerat Saturnus et Jupiter? aliquem, opinor, Sterculum, sed Romae postea cum indigenis.
The words, "sed Romae postea," appear to be an interpolation.
80. 9 Hoc magis proditos: this is the reading of Havercamp's edition, instead of perditos.
81. 1 Calidiore timiditate.
82. 2 Eccles. ix. 4. See c. 4.
83. 3 Eccles. ix. 4.
84. 4 Denique sine monitore, quia de pectore, oramus.
It is plain that Tertullian is here not condemning the. use of set forms of prayer, but contrasting the hearty and earnest devotions, which the Christians offered for the Emperor, with the desultory and forced exclamations of the idolatrous people. Compare c. 35. There is probably also an allusion to the persons who were appointed, at the sacrifices of the Romans, to prompt the magistrates, lest they should incidentally omit a single word in the appropriate formulae, which would have vitiated the whole proceedings. "Vidimus certis precationibus obsecrasse summos magistratus : et ne quid verborum praetereatur, aut praeposterum dicatur, de scripto praeire aliquem, rursusque alium custodem dari qui attendat, alium vero praeponi qui favere linguis jubeat; tibicinem canere, ne quid aliud exaudiatur." Plin. Hist. Nat. xxviii. c. 2. See Bingham, Eccles. Ant. Book xiii. c. 5.5.
85. 5 Heb. xiii. 15. Hos. xiv. 2.
86. 6 Hoc agite, boni praesides.
Tertullian here makes a sarcastic allusion to the well-known institution of Numa, that, while the magistrates and priests were engaged in any religious ceremony, a herald should proclaim Hoc age, to fix the attention of the people.
87. 7 Matt. v. 44. Luke vi. 27. 35.
88. 8 Rom. xiii. 1. 1 Tim. ii. 2. Tit. iii. 1. 1 Pet. ii. 13.
89. 9 It was a prevailing opinion, in the early ages of the Church, that the day of judgment was at hand. Thus Cyprian, De Mortalitate, p. 165 (Fell).
Quod cum semper faciendum fuerit Dei servis, nunc fieri multo magis debet, corruente jam mundo, et malorum infestantium turbinibus obsesso : ut qui cernimus caepisse jam gravia, et scimus imminere graviora, lucrum maximum computemus, si istinc velocius recedamus. Si in habitaculo tuo parietes vetustate nutarent, tecta supertremerent, domus jam fatigata, jam lassa, aedificiis senectute labentibus ruinam proximam minaretur, nonne omni celeritate migrares? Si, navigante te, turbida et procellosa tempestas fluctibus violentius excitatis, praenunciaret futura naufragia, nonne portum velociter peteres? Mundus ecce nutat et labitur : et ruinam sui non jam senectute rerum sed fine testatur: et tu non Deo gratias agis, non tibi gratularis, quod exitu maturiore subtractus, minis, et naufragiis, et plagis imminentibus exuaris?
Tertullian, in many parts of his writings, as well as in this Apology, expresses his belief that the consummation of all things would immediately follow the dissolution of the Roman Empire: and in his Treatise de Resurrectione Carnis, c. 24, he thus interprets the prophecy of St. Paul (2 Thess. ii. 6), respecting the man of sin : "Et nunc quid detineat scitis, ad revelandum eum in suo tempore. Jam enim arcanum iniquitatis agitatur; tantum qui nunc tenet, teneat; donee de medio fiat." Quis, nisi Romanus status? Cujus abscessio in decem reges dispersa Antichristum superducet.
Hence, although, as in Resurrect. Carnis, c. 22, he sometimes represents the final judgment as the completion of the hopes of a Christian--vota nostra suspirant in seculi hujus occasum, in transitum mundi quoque ad diem Domini magnum, diem irae et retributionis : and in his Treatise de Oratione, c. 5, he appears to oppose those who pray for a longer continuance of the world, as contrary to the petition in the Lord's Prayer, Thy kingdom come--he yet speaks of the connexion between the day of judgment and the termination of the Roman power as a reason why Christians should earnestly pray for the Emperor and the Empire. Thus, ad Scapulam, c. 2, he says, Christianus nullius est hostis, nedum Imperatoris: quem sciens a Deo suo constitui, necesse est ut ipsum diligat et revereatur, et honoret, et salvum velit, cum toto Romano imperio, quousque saeculum stabit: tamdiu enim stabit.
90. 1 See note on the Martyrdom of Polycarp, c. 9.
91. 2 Thus the military oath, under the Christian Emperors, was altered, in compliance with the conscientious feelings of the Christian soldiers. Vegetius, de re militari, ii.5, has preserved the form : "Jurant per Deum, et per Christum, et per Spiritum Sanctum, et per majestatem Imperatoris, quae secundum Deum generi humano diligenda est et colenda."
92. 3 Adjurare consuevimus, ut illos de hominibus exigamus; non dejerare, ut illis honorem divinitatis conferamus.
93. 4 The Emperors were not deified till after their death. He, therefore, who calls them by the appellation of a god addresses them as if they were already dead, and either seems to wish for their death, or, at least, utters words of ill omen. See the end of c. 34.
94. 5 Suetonius, Aug. 53.
95. 6 Liber sum illi. I owe allegiance to the Emperor; but in matters of religion I am free to pay my worship to him who is the supreme and only God.
----Cras nato Caesare festus
Dat veniam somnumque dies; impune licebit
Aestivam sermone benigno tendere noctem.
HOR. Epist. i. 5. 9.
97. 8 Confer Herod. i. 133; Grot. on Matt. xiv. 6.
98. 9 Compare Tertullian Ad Nationes, i. c. 17. Ad Martyr, c. 6. Ad Scapulam, c. 2.
99. 1 This is a remarkable testimony to the rapid propagation of the Christian religion. Tertullian makes assertions of the same nature in his Apology, c. 1. (p. 283.) In his Treatise ad Scapulam, c. 2, he speaks of the Christians as forming almost the majority in every place--"tanta hominum multitudo, pars pene major civitatis cujusque." And at the conclusion of the same Treatise, c. ,5, he declares, that if the cruel laws against the Christians were rigidly enforced, Carthage would be decimated. "Hoc si placuerit et hic fieri, quid facies de tantis millibus hominum, tot viris ac feminis, omnis sexus, omnis aetatis, omnis dignitatis offerentibus se tibi? Quantis ignibus, quantis gladiis opus erit? Quid ipsa Carthago passura est decimanda a te, cum propinquos cum contubernales suos illie unus quisque cognoverit?--Parce ergo tibi, si non nobis. Parce Carthagini, si non tibi."
Compare also Ad Nationes, i. c. 8. In another place (Adv. Jud. c. 7), he speaks of the diffusion of Christianity throughout the world, and enumerates Spain, Gaul, and Britain, among many other places to which the Gospel had already extended.
"---- Getulorum varietates, et Maurorurn multi fines; Hispaniarurn omnes termini, et Galliarum diversae nationes, et Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo vero subdita: et Sarmatarum, et Dacorum, et Germanorum, et Scytharum, et abditarum multarum gentium; et provinciarum et insularum multarum nobis ignotarum, et quae enumerare minus possumus? In quibus omnibus locis Christi nomen, qui jam venit, regnat." De Corona, c. 12, he uses the incidental expression, "Et apud barbaros etiam Christus."
We must make considerable allowance for the strong manner in which Tertullian is in the habit of making his statements. But after all reasonable deduction on this account, we cannot but regard his testimony as very valuable in showing that the Christians formed a most numerous body in many places, and that the religion of the Gospel was then very widely diffused.
100. 2 Compare cc. 23, 47.
101. 3 Disciplinam praeceptorum nihilominus in compulsationibus densamus. Many editions have inculcationibus.
102. 4 Tertullian here speaks of the order of Bishops and Presbyters under the appellation of probati quique seniores. In his Treatise de Praescriptione Haereticorum, c. 3, he mentions the orders of Bishop and Deacon. Quid ergo si Episcopus, si diaconus----lapsus a regula fuerit. In other places, he enumerates the three orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; and makes a distinction between the Clergy and Laity.
Dandi quidem habet jus summus sacerdos, qui est Episcopus; dehinc Presbyteri et Diaconi : non tamen sine Episcopi auctoritate, propter Ecclesiae honorem; quo salvo, salva pax est. De Baptismo, c. 17. Sed quum ipsi auctores, id est, ipsi Diaconi, Presbyteri, et Episcopi fugiunt, quomodo laicus intelligere poterit, qua ratione dictum, Fugite de civitate in civitatem? De Fuga in Persecut. c. 11.
In his Treatise de Praescriptione Haereticorum, c. 41, he accuses the Heretics of confounding these distinctions : Itaque alius hodie Episcopus, eras alius : hodie Diaconus, qui eras Lector: hodie Presbyter, qui eras Laicus : nam et laicis sacerdotalia munera injungunt.
103. 5 Plutarch, in his life of Cato, the philosopher, great-grandson of Cato the Censor, says that he gave his wife Marcia to Quintus Hortensius, and, at his death, took her back again. Tertullian here confounds the two Catos, as, at the end of c. 11, he ascribes the virtues of the two Scipios to one person.
104. 6 The Eleusinian mysteries.
105. 7 See 1 Tim. iv. 5. That this custom of making prayer before meals was preserved in later ages of the Church, is plain from many occasional references to it. Thus Chrysostom, in his forty-ninth Homily on Matt. xiv., (torn. ii. p. 314. 32, Saville,) when speaking of our Lord blessing the bread, before he gave it to the multitude, observes that this was in. tended to teach us not to sit down to table, till we had first given thanks to him who provides us with food. Ὁμοῦ μὲν ταῦτα κατασκευάζων, ὁμοῦ δὲ ἅπερ εἶπον παιδεύων ἡμᾶς μὴ πρότερον ἅπτεσθαι τραπέζης, ἕως ἂν εὐχαριστήσωμεν τῷ τὴν τροφὴν ἡμῖν ταύτην παρέχοντι.
The character which Tertullian here gives of the manners of the primitive Christians in society, agrees entirely with the delightful representation made by Cyprian (Ad Donatum, ad fin. p. 10, Fell). Et quoniam feriata nunc quies, ac tempus est otiosum; quicquid inclinato jam sole in vesperam diei superest, ducamus hanc diem laeti: nec sit vel hora convivii gratiae caelestis immunis. Sonet psalmos convivium sobrium; et ut tibi tenax memoria est, vox canora; aggredere hoc munus ex more. Magis carissimos pasces, si sit nobis spiritalis auditio; prolectet aures religiosa mulcedo.
106. 8 Tertullian, in his Treatise de Corona Militis, argues upon the impropriety of a Christian using a custom, which to him appeared to imply a culpable compliance with the forms of idolatry. In c. 5, he dwells at some length upon the subject here alluded to. Hoc sint tibi flores, et inserti, et innexi, et in filo, et in scirpo, quod liberi, quod soluti : spectaculi scilicet et spiraculi res. Coronam si forte fascem existimas florum per seriem comprehensorum, ut plures simul portes, ut omnibus pariter utaris, jam vero et in sinum conde, si tanta munditia est; in lectulum sparge, si tanta mollitia est; et in poculum crede, si tanta innocentia est. Tot modis fruere, quot et sentis. Caeterum in capite quis sapor floris? qui coronae sensus? nisi vinculi tantum : quo neque color cernitur, neque odor ducitur, nec teneritas commendatur.
Minucius Felix, in his Octavius, c. 37 (p. 114, Rigalt), imitates and explains this passage of Tertullian.
Quis autem ille, qui dubitat vernis indulgere nos floribus, cum capiamus et rosam veris, et lilium, et quidquid aliud in floribus blandi coloris et odoris est? His enim et sparsis utimur mollibus ac solutis, et sertis colla complectimur. Sane quod caput non coronamus, ignoscite. Auram boni floris naribus ducere, non occipitio capillisve solemus haurire.
107. 9 Quis lavantium praedo : what robber of clothes from baths. This was a very common crime, and punished capitally, in consequence of the facility with which it could be committed.
108. 1 Tertullian gives the same account of Lycurgus in c. 4.
109. 2 C. 19.
110. 3 Tertullian maintains the same opinion respecting the impossibility of the soul receiving impressions, except by means of the body, in his Treatise de Testimonio Animae, c. 4.
Jam nunc, quod ad necessariorem sententiam tuam spectet, quantum et ad ipsum statum tuum tendit, affirmamus te manere post vitae dispunctionem, et expectare diem judicii, proque meritis aut cruciatui destinari, aut refrigerio, utroque sempiterno. Quibus sustinendis necessario tibi substantiam pristinam, ejusdemque hominis materiam et mernoriam reversuram, quod et nihil mali ac boni sentire possis sine carnis passionalis facultate, et nulla ratio sit judicii, sive ipsius exhibitione, qui meruit judicii passionem.
In his Treatises, de Anima, passim, de Resurrectione Carnis, c. 17, Adversus Marcion, v. c. 15, he expresses himself somewhat differently, maintaining that the soul is itself corporeal, possessing a peculiar substance, limited by space, possessing definite dimensions and a determinate shape; in consequence of which it is capable of sensation apart from the human body. For a full account of his notions on this abstruse subject, see Bp. Kaye's Tertullian, c. iii. p. 190--214. In the Treatise De Anima, c. 22, Tertullian thus recapitulates his opinions respecting the nature of the soul : "Definimus Animam, Dei flatu natam, immortalem, corporalem, effigiatam, substantia simplicem, de suo sapientem, varie procedentem, liberam arbitrii, accidentiis obnoxiam, per ingenia mutabilem, rationalem, dominatricem, divinatricem, ex una redundantem," or, in the language of his learned expositor, that the soul "derives its origin from the breath of God--that it is immortal, (in its own nature, compare De Res. Carnis, cc. 18, 34, 35,) corporeal; that it has a figure; is simple in substance; possessing within itself the principle of intelligence, operating in different ways (or through different channels); endued with free-will; affected by external circumstances, and thus producing that infinite variety of talent and disposition observable among mankind; rational; designed to rule the whole man; possessing an insight into futurity. Moreover the souls of all the inhabitants of the earth are derived from one common source, the soul of Adam."
111. 4 See Justin Martyr's Apology, c. 25, p. 169, note (3).
112. 5 Compare the Epistle of Clement, c. 24. Bp. Pearson, on the Creed, Art. xi. p. 376, adopts the same reasoning, which Tertullian uses here, and still more fully and more eloquently in his Treatise de Resurrectione Carnis, c. 12. "Aspice nunc ad ipsa quoque exempla divinae potestatis. Dies moritur in noctem, et tenebris usquequaque sepelitur. Funestatur mundi honor: omnis substantia denigratur. Sordent, silent, stupent cuncta : ubique justitium est. Ita lux amissa lugetur: et tamen rursus cum suo cultu, cum dote, cum sole, eadem et integra et tota universo orbi reviviscit; interficiens mortem suam, noctem; rescindens sepulturam suam, tenebras; haeres sibimet existens, donec et lux reviviscat, cum suo et illa suggestu. Redaccenduntur enim et stellarum radii, quos matutina succensio extinxerat. Reducuntur et siderum absentiae, quas temporalis distinctio exemerat. Redornantur et specula lunae, quae menstruus numerus attriverat. Revolvuntur hyemes et aestates, verna et autumna, cum suis viribus, moribus, fructibus. Quippe etiam terrae de coelo disciplina est arbores vestire post spolia, flores denuo colorare, herbas rursus imponere, exhibere eadem quae absumpta sint semina; nec prius exhibere, quam absumpta. Mira ratio : de fraudatrice servatrix; ut reddat, intercipit; ut custodiat, perdit; ut integret, vitiat; ut etiam ampliet, prius decoquit. Siquidem uberiora et cultiora restituit, quam exterminavit : revera fenore interitu, et injuria usura, et lucro damno. Semel dixerim, universa conditio recidiva est. Quodcunque conveneris, fuit: quodcunque amiseris, nihil non iterum est. Omnia in statum redeunt, quum abscesserint : omnia incipiunt, quum desierint: ideo finiuntur, ut fiant. Nihil deperit, nisi in salutem.
"Totus igitur hic ordo revolubilis rerum, testatio est resurrectionis mortuorum. Operibus eam praescripsit Deus, ante quam literis: viribus praedicavit, ante quam vocibus."
113. 6 Cum ergo finis et limes medius, qui interhiat, affuerit, ut etiam mundi ipsius species transferatur aeque temporalis, &c.
This is probably an allusion to the opinion of a Millennium, which Tertullian had adopted; as is evident from the fanciful account which he gives in his third Book against Marcion, c. 24, of a city which had been suspended in the skies in Judea for forty successive days, in the morning. This he conceived to be an image of the new Jerusalem. "Nam et confitemur in terra nobis regnum repromissum; sed ante coelum, sed alio statu : utpote post resurrectionem in mille annos, in civitate divini operis Hierusalem coelo delata, quam et Apostolus matrem nostrum sursum designat," &c.
114. 7 2 Cor. v. 2. So also Lactantius, vii. c. 21. Et tamen non erit caro illa, quam Deus homini superjecerit, huic terrenae similis, sed insolubilis, et permanens in aeternum.
115. 8 Ut qui de coelo tangitur saivus est, ut nullo jam igni decinerescat.
Minucius Felix, Octavius, c. 34, p. 105, seems to have understood Tertullian as asserting that the bodies of those who are killed by lightning, are apparently uninjured.
Nec tormentis aut modus ullus, aut terminus. Illic sapiens ignis membra urit et reficit; carpit et nutrit;. sicut ignes fulminum corpora tangunt, nee absumunt : sicut ignes Aetnae et Vesuvii, et ardentium ubique terrarum flagrant, nec erogantur. Ita poenale illud incendium non damnis ardentium pascitur, sed inexesa corporum laceratione nutritur.
116. 9 Licet nunc sarmenticios et semaxios appelletis, quia ad stipitem dimidii axis revincti sarmentorum ambitu exurimur.
The martyrs, who were burned alive, were usually fastened to a stake, of about six feet in length, called Semaxis; and surrounded or covered with fagots, Sarmenta. Hence the Christians were ridiculed by these names.
117. 1 The Christians were constantly accused of inflexible obstinacy; as, for instance, in the celebrated letter from Pliny to Trajan, at the end of the volume.
118. 2 Diogenes Laertius, in his life of Zeno Eleates, p. 645, A, says that the name of the tyrant, under whom this Zeno suffered, was either Nearchus or Diomedon.
119. 3 Hoc agite, boni praesides.
An allusion to the religious formula of the Romans, Hoc age; as in c. 30.
120. 4 Ad lenonem damnando Christianam potitis quam ad leonem.
Greek text in unicode.
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