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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 17

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 17.—Whether It is Proper that Men Should Worship Those Spirits from Whose Vices It is Necessary that They Be Freed.

Wherefore, to omit other things, and confine our attention to that which he says is common to the demons with us, let us ask this question:  If all the four elements are full of their own animals, the fire and the air of immortal, and the water and the earth of mortal ones, why are the souls of demons agitated by the whirlwinds and tempests of passions?—for the Greek word παθος means perturbation, whence he chose to call the demons “passive in soul,” because the word passion, p. 156 which is derived from πάθος, signified a commotion of the mind contrary to reason.  Why, then, are these things in the minds of demons which are not in beasts?  For if anything of this kind appears in beasts, it is not perturbation, because it is not contrary to reason, of which they are devoid.  Now it is foolishness or misery which is the cause of these perturbations in the case of men, for we are not yet blessed in the possession of that perfection of wisdom which is promised to us at last, when we shall be set free from our present mortality.  But the gods, they say, are free from these perturbations, because they are not only eternal, but also blessed; for they also have the same kind of rational souls, but most pure from all spot and plague.  Wherefore, if the gods are free from perturbation because they are blessed, not miserable animals, and the beasts are free from them because they are animals which are capable neither of blessedness nor misery, it remains that the demons, like men, are subject to perturbations because they are not blessed but miserable animals.  What folly, therefore, or rather what madness, to submit ourselves through any sentiment of religion to demons, when it belongs to the true religion to deliver us from that depravity which makes us like to them!  For Apuleius himself, although he is very sparing toward them, and thinks they are worthy of divine honors, is nevertheless compelled to confess that they are subject to anger; and the true religion commands us not to be moved with anger, but rather to resist it.  The demons are won over by gifts; and the true religion commands us to favor no one on account of gifts received.  The demons are flattered by honors; but the true religion commands us by no means to be moved by such things.  The demons are haters of some men and lovers of others, not in consequence of a prudent and calm judgment, but because of what he calls their “passive soul;” whereas the true religion commands us to love even our enemies.  Lastly, the true religion commands us to put away all disquietude of heart and agitation of mind, and also all commotions and tempests of the soul, which Apuleius asserts to be continually swelling and surging in the souls of demons.  Why, therefore, except through foolishness and miserable error shouldst thou humble thyself to worship a being to whom thou desirest to be unlike in thy life?  And why shouldst thou pay religious homage to him whom thou art unwilling to imitate, when it is the highest duty of religion to imitate Him whom thou worshippest?


Next: Chapter 18

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