Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. XVI.—That demons have no power over those who are established in the faith
Chap. XVI.—That Demons Have No Power Over Those Who are Established in the Faith.
And the nature of all these deceits 328 is obscure to those who are without the truth. For they think that those demons profit them when they cease to injure, whereas they have no power except to injure. 329 Some one may perchance say that they are therefore to be worshipped, that they may not injure, since they have the power to injure. They do indeed injure, but those only by whom they are feared, whom the powerful and lofty hand of God does not protect, who are p. 65 uninitiated in the mystery 330 of truth. But they fear the righteous, 331 that is, the worshippers of God, adjured by whose name they depart 332 from the bodies of the possessed: for, being lashed by their words as though by scourges, they not only confess themselves to be demons, but even utter their own names—those which are adored in the temples—which they generally do in the presence of their own worshippers; not, it is plain, to the disgrace of religion, but 333 to the disgrace of their own honour, because they cannot speak falsely to God, by whom they are adjured, nor to the righteous, by whose voice they are tortured. Therefore ofttimes having uttered the greatest howlings, they cry out that they are beaten, and are on fire, and that they are just on the point of coming forth: so much power has the knowledge of God, and righteousness! Whom, therefore, can they injure, except those whom they have in their own power? In short, Hermes affirms that those who have known God are not only safe from the attacks of demons, but that they are not even bound by fate. “The only protection,” he says, “is piety, for over a pious man neither evil demon nor fate has any power: for God rescues the pious man from all evil; for the one and only good thing among men is piety.” And what piety is, he testifies in another place, in these words: “For piety is the knowledge of God.” Asclepius also, his disciple, more fully expressed the same sentiment in that finished discourse which he wrote to the king. Each of them, in truth, affirms that the demons are the enemies and harassers of men, and on this account Trismegistus calls them wicked angels; so far was he from being ignorant that from heavenly beings they were corrupted, and began to be earthly.
Augustine gives an account of these deceits, De Civit. Dei, ix. 18.64:329
Thus the ancient Romans worshipped Fever, Fear, etc., to avoid injury from them.65:330
See Acts of Apostles xvi. 18, and xix. 15, 16. In the Gospels the demons say to Jesus, “Art Thou come to torment us before the time?” [Suggestive of 2 Pet. ii. 4.]65:332
The practise of exorcism was used in the early ages of the Church, and the faithful were supposed to possess power over demons. See book iv. ch. 27. Justin, Tertullian and other writers attest the same. There were also exorcists in the Jewish synagogues. See Acts xix. 13.65:333
Sed. Other editions read et; but the one adopted in the text brings out the meaning more distinctly by contrast = they did not disgrace religion, but their own honour.
Next: Chap. XVII.—That astrology, soothsaying, and similar arts are the invention of demons
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