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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 22

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 22.—That We Must, Notwithstanding the Opinion of Apuleius, Reject the Worship of Demons.

None of these four alternatives, then, is to be chosen; for we dare not suppose such unbecoming things concerning the gods as the adoption of any one of them would lead us to think.  It remains, therefore, that no credence whatever is to be given to the opinion of Apuleius and the other philosophers of the same school, namely, that the demons act as messengers and interpreters between the gods and men to carry our petitions from us to the gods, and to bring back to us the help of the gods.  On the contrary, we must believe them to be spirits most eager to inflict harm, utterly alien from righteousness, swollen with pride, pale with envy, subtle in deceit; who dwell indeed in this air as in a prison, in keeping with their own character, because, cast down from the height of the higher heaven, they have been condemned to dwell in this element as the just reward of irretrievable transgression.  But, though the air is situated above the earth and the waters, they are not on that account superior in merit to men, who, though they do not surpass them as far as their earthly bodies are concerned, do nevertheless far excel them through piety of mind,—they having made choice of the true God as their helper.  Over many, however, who are manifestly unworthy of participation in the true religion, they tyrannize as over captives whom they have subdued,—the greatest part of whom they have persuaded of their divinity by wonderful and lying signs, consisting either of deeds or of predictions.  Some, nevertheless, who have more attentively and diligently considered their vices, they have not been able to persuade that they are gods, and so have feigned themselves to be messengers between the gods and men.  Some, indeed, have thought that not even this latter honor ought to be acknowledged as belonging to them, not believing that they were gods, because they saw that they were wicked, whereas the gods, according to their view, are all good.  Nevertheless they dared not say that they were wholly unworthy of all divine honor, for fear of offending the multitude, by whom, through inveterate superstition, the demons were served by the performance of many rites, and the erection of many temples.


Next: Chapter 23

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