Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. XVII.—That astrology, soothsaying, and similar arts are the invention of demons
Chap. XVII.—That Astrology, Soothsaying, and Similar Arts are the Invention of Demons.
These were the inventors of astrology, and soothsaying, and divination, and those productions which are called oracles, and necromancy, and the art of magic, and whatever evil practices besides these men exercise, either openly or in secret. Now all these things are false of themselves, as the Erythræan Sibyl testifies:—“Since all these things are erroneous,
Which foolish men search after day by day.”
But these same authorities by their countenance 334 cause it to be believed that they are true. Thus they delude the credulity of men by lying divination, because it is not expedient for them to lay open the truth. These are they who taught men to make images and statues; who, in order that they might turn away the minds of men from the worship of the true God, cause the countenances of dead kings, fashioned and adorned with exquisite beauty, to be erected and consecrated, and assumed to themselves their names, as though they were assuming some characters. But the magicians, and those whom the people truly call enchanters, 335 when they practice their detestable arts, call upon them by their true names, those heavenly names which are read in the sacred writings. Moreover, these impure and wandering spirits, that they may throw all things into confusion, and overspread the minds of men with errors, interweave and mingle false things with true. For they themselves feigned that there are many heavenly beings, and one king of all, Jupiter; because there are many spirits of angels in heaven, and one Parent and Lord of all, God. But they have concealed the truth under false names, and withdrawn it from sight.
For God, as I have shown in the beginning, 336 does not need a name, since He is alone; nor do the angels, inasmuch as they are immortal, either suffer or wish themselves to be called gods: for their one and only duty is to submit to the will of God, and not to do anything at all except at His command. For we say that the world is so governed by God, as a province is by its ruler; and no one would say that his attendants 337 are his sharers in the administration of the province, although business is carried on by their service. And yet these can effect something contrary to the commands of the ruler, through his ignorance; which is the result of mans condition. But that guardian of the world and ruler of the universe, who knows all things, from whose divine eyes nothing is concealed, 338 has alone with His Son the power over all things; nor is there anything in the angels except the necessity of obedience. Therefore they wish no honour to be paid to them, since all their honour is in God. But they who have revolted from the service of God, because they are enemies of the truth, and betrayers 339 of God attempt to claim for themselves the name and worship of gods; not that they desire any honour p. 66 (for what honour is there to the lost?), nor that they may injure God, who cannot be injured, but that they may injure men, whom they strive to turn away from the worship and knowledge of the true Majesty, that they may not be able to obtain immortality, which they themselves have lost through their wickedness. Therefore they draw on darkness, and overspread the truth with obscurity, that men may not know their Lord and Father. And that they may easily entice them, they conceal themselves in the temples, and are close at hand at all sacrifices; and they often give prodigies, that men, astonished by them, may attach to images a belief in their divine power and influence. Hence it is that the stone was cut by the augur with a razor; that Juno of Veii answered that she wished to remove to Rome; that Fortuna Muliebris 340 announced the threatening danger; that the ship followed the hand of Claudia; that Juno when plundered, and the Locrian Proserpine, and the Milesian Ceres, punished the sacrilegious; that Hercules exacted vengeance from Appius, and Jupiter from Atinius, and Minerva from Cæsar. Hence it was that the serpent sent for from Epidaurus freed the city of Rome from pestilence. For the chief of the demons was himself carried thither in his own form, without any dissembling; if indeed the ambassadors who were sent for that purpose brought with them a serpent of immense size.
But they especially deceive in the case of oracles, the juggleries of which the profane 341 cannot distinguish from the truth; and therefore they imagine that commands, 342 and victories, and wealth, and prosperous issues of affairs, are bestowed by them,—in short, that the state has often been freed from imminent dangers by their interposition; 343 which dangers they have both announced, and when appeased with sacrifices, have averted. But all these things are deceits. For since they have a presentiment 344 of the arrangements of God, inasmuch as they have been His ministers, they interpose themselves in these matters, that whatever things have been accomplished or are in the course of accomplishment by God, they themselves may especially appear to be doing or to have done; and as often as any advantage is hanging over any people or city, according to the purpose of God, either by prodigies, or dreams, or oracles, they promise that they will bring it to pass, if temples, honours, and sacrifices are given to them. And on the offering of these, when the necessary 345 result comes to pass, they acquire for themselves the greatest veneration. Hence temples are vowed, and new images consecrated; herds of victims are slain; and when all these things are done, yet the life and safety of those who have performed them are not the less sacrificed. But as often as dangers threaten, they profess that they are angry on account of some light and trifling cause; as Juno was with Varro, because he had placed a beautiful boy on the carriage 346 of Jupiter to guard the dress, and on this account the Roman name was almost destroyed at Cannæ. But if Juno feared a second Ganymede, why did the Roman youth suffer punishment? Or if the gods regard the leaders only, and neglect the rest of the multitude, why did Varro alone escape who acted thus, and why was Paulus, who was innocent, 347 slain? Assuredly nothing then happened to the Romans by “the fates of the hostile Juno,” 348 when Hannibal by craft and valour despatched two armies of the Roman people. For Juno did not venture either to defend Carthage, where were her arms and chariot, or to injure the Romans; for“She had heard that sons of Troy
Were born her Carthage to destroy.” 349
But these are the delusions of those who, concealing themselves under the names of the dead, lay snares for the living. Therefore, whether the impending danger can be avoided, they wish it to appear that they averted it, having been appeased; or if it cannot be avoided, they contrive that it may appear to have happened through disregard 350 of them. Thus they acquire to themselves authority and fear from men, who are ignorant of them. By this subtilty and by these arts they have caused the knowledge of the true and only God to fail 351 among all nations. For, being destroyed by their own vices, they rage and use violence that they may destroy others. Therefore these enemies of the human race even devised human victims, to devour as many lives as possible.
By their presence.65:335
Malefici—evil doers. The word is specially used of enchanters.65:336
Book i. ch. vi.65:337
Apparitors. The word is especially applied to public servants, as lictors, etc.65:338
Surrounded, shut in.65:339
Prævaricatores. The word is properly applied to an advocate who is guilty of collusion with his antagonist, and thus betrays his client.66:340
At their nod, or suggestion.66:344
That which was necessary according to the purpose and arrangement of God.66:346
Tensa; a carriage on which the images of the gods were carried to the circus at the Circensian games.66:347
Deserved nothing, had nothing worthy of punishment. Varro and Paulus Æmilius were the two consuls who commanded at Cannæ. Varro escaped, Paulus was slain.66:348
Virg., Æn., viii. 292.66:349
Ibid., i. 19.66:350
They have made old.
Next: Chap. XVIII.—Of the patience and vengeance of God, the worship of demons, and false religions
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