For if he answers, as one who is unlearned and ignorant of philosophy, that the injury sustained is one which regards things that are outside of us, it will be plainly manifest that he knows nothing of that famous saying of Socrates,
Anytus and Melitus may kill me, but they cannot injure me; for it is impossible that the better should ever be injured by the worse. But if by injury he means a wicked impulse or an evil habit, it is plain that no injury of this kind would befall the wise, by one man serving two wise men in different places. If this sense does not suit his purpose, it is evident that his endeavours are vain to weaken the authority of the passage,
No man can serve two masters; for these words can be perfectly true only when they refer to the service which we render to the Most High through His Son, who leads us to God. And we will not serve God as though He stood in need of our service, or as though He would be made unhappy if we ceased to serve Him; but we do it because we are ourselves benefited by the service of God, and because we are freed from griefs and troubles by serving the Most High God through His only-begotten Son, the Word and Wisdom.
Celsus then proceeds to say that
we shrink from raising altars, statues, and temples; and this, he thinks,
has been agreed upon among us as the badge or distinctive mark of a secret and forbidden society. He does not perceive that we regard the spirit of every good man as an altar from which arises an incense which is truly and spiritually sweet-smelling, namely, the prayers ascending from a pure conscience. Therefore it is said by John in the Revelation,
The odours are the prayers of saints; and by the Psalmist,
Let my prayer come up before You as incense. And the statues and gifts which are fit offerings to God are the work of no common mechanics, but are wrought and fashioned in us by the Word of God, to wit, the virtues in which we imitate
the First-born of all creation, who has set us an example of justice, of temperance, of courage, of wisdom, of piety, and of the other virtues. In all those, then, who plant and cultivate within their souls, according to the divine word, temperance, justice, wisdom, piety, and other virtues, these excellences are their statues they raise, in which we are persuaded that it is becoming for us to honour the model and prototype of all statues:
the image of the invisible God, God the Only-begotten. And again, they who
put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that has created him, in taking upon them the image of Him who has created them, do raise within themselves a statue like to what the Most High God Himself desires. And as among statuaries there are some who are marvellously perfect in their art, as for example Pheidias and Polycleitus, and among painters, Zeuxis and Apelles, while others make inferior statues, and others, again, are inferior to the second-rate artists,— so that, taking all together, there is a wide difference in the execution of statues and pictures—in the same way there are some who form images of the Most High in a better manner and with a more perfect skill; so that there is no comparison even between the Olympian Jupiter of Pheidias and the man who has been fashioned according to the image of God the Creator. But by far the most excellent of all these throughout the whole creation is that image in our Saviour who said,
My Father is in Me.
And every one who imitates Him according to his ability, does by this very endeavour raise a statue according to the image of the Creator, for in the contemplation of God with a pure heart they become imitators of Him. And, in general, we see that all Christians strive to raise altars and statues as we have described them and these not of a lifeless and senseless kind and not to receive greedy spirits intent upon lifeless things, but to be filled with the Spirit of God who dwells in the images of virtue of which we have spoken, and takes His abode in the soul which is conformed to the image of the Creator. Thus the Spirit of Christ dwells in those who bear, so to say, a resemblance in form and feature to Himself. And the Word of God, wishing to set this clearly before us, represents God as promising to the righteous,
I will dwell in them, and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And the Saviour says,
If any man hear My words, and do them, I and My Father will come to him, and make Our abode with him. Let any one, therefore, who chooses compare the altars which I have described with those spoken of by Celsus, and the images in the souls of those who worship the Most High God with the statues of Pheidias, Polycleitus, and such like, and he will clearly perceive, that while the latter are lifeless things, and subject to the ravages of time, the former abide in the immortal spirit as long as the reasonable soul wishes to preserve them.
He further supposes, that
because we join along with the worship of God the worship of His Son, it follows that, in our view, not only God, but also the servants of God, are to be worshipped. If he had meant this to apply to those who are truly the servants of God, after His only-begotten Son,— to Gabriel and Michael, and the other angels and archangels, and if he had said of these that they ought to be worshipped,— if also he had clearly defined the meaning of the word
worship, and the duties of the worshippers,— we might perhaps have brought forward such thoughts as have occurred to us on so important a subject. But as he reckons among the servants of God the demons which are worshipped by the heathen, he cannot induce us, on the plea of consistency, to worship such as are declared by the word to be servants of the evil one, the prince of this world, who leads astray from God as many as he can. We decline, therefore, altogether to worship and serve those whom other men worship, for the reason that they are not servants of God. For if we had been taught to regard them as servants of the Most High, we would not have called them demons. Accordingly, we worship with all our power the one God, and His only Son, the Word and the Image of God, by prayers and supplications; and we offer our petitions to the God of the universe through His only-begotten Son. To the Son we first present them, and beseech Him, as
the propitiation for our sins, and our High Priest, to offer our desires, and sacrifices, and prayers, to the Most High. Our faith, therefore, is directed to God through His Son, who strengthens it in us; and Celsus can never show that the Son of God is the cause of any sedition or disloyalty in the kingdom of God. We honour the Father when we admire His Son, the Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and Righteousness, and all that He who is the Son of so great a Father is said in Scripture to be. So much on this point.
And we are not to believe in demons, although Celsus urges us to do so; but if we are to obey God, we must die, or endure anything, sooner than obey demons. In the same way, we are not to propitiate demons; for it is impossible to propitiate beings that are wicked and that seek the injury of men. Besides, what are the laws in accordance with which Celsus would have us propitiate the demons? For if he means laws enacted in states, he must show that they are in agreement with the divine laws. But if that cannot be done, as the laws of many states are quite inconsistent with each other, these laws, therefore, must of necessity either be no laws at all in the proper sense of the word, or else the enactments of wicked men; and these we must not obey, for
we must obey God rather than men. Away, then, with this counsel, which Celsus gives us, to offer prayer to demons: it is not to be listened to for a moment; for our duty is to pray to the Most High God alone, and to the Only-begotten, the First-born of the whole creation, and to ask Him as our High Priest to present the prayers which ascend to Him from us, to His God and our God, to His Father and the Father of those who direct their lives according to His word. And as we would have no desire to enjoy the favour of those men who wish us to follow their wicked lives, and who give us their favour only on condition that we choose nothing opposed to their wishes, because their favour would make us enemies of God, who cannot be pleased with those who have such men for their friends—in the same way those who are acquainted with the nature, the purposes, and the wickedness of demons, can never wish to obtain their favour.
The Psalmist bears witness that divine justice employs certain evil angels to inflict calamities upon men:
He cast upon them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, sent by evil angels. Whether demons ever go beyond this when they are suffered to do what they are ever ready, though through the restraint put upon them they are not always able to do, is a question to be solved by that man who can conceive, in so far as human nature will allow, how it accords with the divine justice, that such multitudes of human souls are separated from the body while walking in the paths which lead to certain death.
For the judgments of God are so great, that a soul which is still clothed with a mortal body cannot comprehend them;
and they cannot be expressed: therefore by unnurtured souls they are not in any measure to be understood. And hence, too, rash spirits, by their ignorance in these matters, and by recklessly setting themselves against the Divine Being, multiply impious objections against providence. It is not from demons, then, that men receive any of those things which meet the necessities of life, and least of all ourselves, who have been taught to make a proper use of these things. And they who partake of grain and wine, and the fruits of trees, of water and of air, do not feed with demons, but rather do they feast with divine angels, who are appointed for this purpose, and who are as it were invited to the table of the pious man, who hearkens to the precept of the word, which says,
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. And again, in another place it is written,
Do all things in the name of God. When, therefore, we eat and drink and breathe to the glory of God, and act in all things according to what is right, we feast with no demons, but with divine angels:
For every creature is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. But it could not be good, and it could not be sanctified, if these things were, as Celsus supposes, entrusted to the charge of demons.
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From this it is evident that we have already met the next statement of Celsus, which is as follows:
We must either not live, and indeed not come into this life at all, or we must do so on condition that we give thanks and first-fruits and prayers to demons, who have been set over the things of this world: and that we must do as long as we live, that they may prove good and kind. We must surely live, and we must live according to the word of God, as far as we are enabled to do so. And we are thus enabled to live, when,
whether we eat or drink, we do all to the glory of God; and we are not to refuse to enjoy those things which have been created for our use, but must receive them with thanksgiving to the Creator. And it is under these conditions, and not such as have been imagined by Celsus, that we have been brought into life by God; and we are not placed under demons, but we are under the government of the Most High God, through Him who has brought us to God— Jesus Christ. It is not according to the law of God that any demon has had a share in worldly affairs, but it was by their own lawlessness that they perhaps sought out for themselves places destitute of the knowledge of God and of the divine life, or places where there are many enemies of God. Perhaps also, as being fit to rule over and punish them, they have been set by the Word, who governs all things, to rule over those who subjected themselves to evil and not to God. For this reason, then, let Celsus, as one who knows not God, give thank-offerings to demons. But we give thanks to the Creator of all, and, along with thanksgiving and prayer for the blessings we have received, we also eat the bread presented to us; and this bread becomes by prayer a sacred body, which sanctifies those who sincerely partake of it.
He next represents Christians as saying what he never heard from any Christian; or if he did, it must have been from one of the most ignorant and lawless of the people.
Behold, they are made to say,
I go up to a statue of Jupiter or Apollo, or some other god: I revile it, and beat it, yet it takes no vengeance on me. He is not aware that among the prohibitions of the divine law is this,
You shall not revile the gods, and this is intended to prevent the formation of the habit of reviling any one whatever; for we have been taught,
Bless, and curse not, and it is said that
revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God. And who among us is so foolish as to speak in the way Celsus describes, and to fail to see that such contemptuous language can be of no avail for removing prevailing notions about the gods? For it is matter of observation that there are men who utterly deny the existence of a God or of an overruling providence, and who by their impious and destructive teaching have founded sects among those who are called philosophers, and yet neither they themselves, nor those who have embraced their opinions, have suffered any of those things which mankind generally account evils: they are both strong in body and rich in possessions. And yet if we ask what loss they have sustained, we shall find that they have suffered the most certain injury. For what greater injury can befall a man than that he should be unable amidst the order of the world to see Him who has made it? And what sorer affliction can come to any one than that blindness of mind which prevents him from seeing the Creator and Father of every soul?
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Celsus supposes that men
discharge the duties of life until they are loosened from its bonds, when, in accordance with commonly received customs, they offer sacrifices to each of the gods recognised in the state; and he fails to perceive the true duty which is fulfilled by an earnest piety. For we say that he truly discharges the duties of life who is ever mindful who is his Creator, and what things are agreeable to Him, and who acts in all things so that he may please God. Again, Celsus wishes us to be thankful to these demons, imagining that we owe them thank-offerings. But we, while recognising the duty of thankfulness, maintain that we show no ingratitude by refusing to give thanks to beings who do us no good, but who rather set themselves against us when we neither sacrifice to them nor worship them. We are much more concerned lest we should be ungrateful to God, who has loaded us with His benefits, whose workmanship we are, who cares for us in whatever condition we may be, and who has given us hopes of things beyond this present life. And we have a symbol of gratitude to God in the bread which we call the Eucharist. Besides, as we have shown before, the demons have not the control of those things which have been created for our use; we commit no wrong, therefore, when we partake of created things, and yet refuse to offer sacrifices to beings who have no concern with them. Moreover, as we know that it is not demons, but angels, who have been set over the fruits of the earth, and over the birth of animals, it is the latter that we praise and bless, as having been appointed by God over the things needful for our race; yet even to them we will not give the honour which is due to God. For this would not be pleasing to God, nor would it be any pleasure to the angels themselves to whom these things have been committed. Indeed, they are much more pleased if we refrain from offering sacrifices to them than if we offer them; for they have no desire for the sacrificial odours which rise from the earth.
Probably those who embrace the views of Celsus will smile at us when we say,
At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, of things on earth, and of things under the earth, and every tongue is brought to
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. But although they may ridicule such a statement, yet they will receive much more convincing arguments in support of it than Celsus brings in behalf of Chnoumen, Chnachoumen, Cnat, Sicat, and the rest of the Egyptian catalogue, whom he mentions as being called upon, and as healing the diseases of different parts of the human body. And observe how, while seeking to turn us away from our faith in the God of all through Jesus Christ, he exhorts us for the welfare of our bodies to faith in six-and-thirty barbarous demons, whom the Egyptian magi alone call upon in some unknown way, and promise us in return great benefits. According to Celsus, then, it would be better for us now to give ourselves up to magic and sorcery than to embrace Christianity, and to put our faith in an innumerable multitude of demons than in the almighty, living, self-revealing God, who has manifested Himself by Him who by His great power has spread the true principles of holiness among all men throughout the world; yea, I may add without exaggeration, He has given this knowledge to all beings everywhere possessed of reason, and needing deliverance from the plague and corruption of sin.
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Celsus also urges us to
take office in the government of the country, if that is required for the maintenance of the laws and the support of religion. But we recognise in each state the existence of another national organization, founded by the Word of God, and we exhort those who are mighty in word and of blameless life to rule over Churches. Those who are ambitious of ruling we reject; but we constrain those who, through excess of modesty, are not easily induced to take a public charge in the Church of God. And those who rule over us well are under the constraining influence of the great King, whom we believe to be the Son of God, God the Word. And if those who govern in the Church, and are called rulers of the divine nation— that is, the Church— rule well, they rule in accordance with the divine commands, and never suffer themselves to be led astray by worldly policy. And it is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but that they may reserve themselves for a diviner and more necessary service in the Church of God— for the salvation of men. And this service is at once necessary and right. They take charge of all— of those that are within, that they may day by day lead better lives, and of those that are without, that they may come to abound in holy words and in deeds of piety; and that, while thus worshipping God truly, and training up as many as they can in the same way, they may be filled with the word of God and the law of God, and thus be united with the Supreme God through His Son the Word, Wisdom, Truth, and Righteousness, who unites to God all who are resolved to conform their lives in all things to the law of God.