Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. LI.—Of the death of Christ on the cross
Chap. LI.—Of the Death of Christ on the Cross.
I will now speak of the mystery of the cross, lest any one should happen to say, If death must be endured by Him, it should have been not one p. 243 that was manifestly infamous and dishonourable, but one which had some honour. I know, indeed, that many, while they dislike the name of the cross, shrink from the truth, though there is in it great reasonableness and power. For since He was sent for this purpose, that He might open to the lowest men the way to salvation, He made Himself humble that He might free them. Therefore He underwent that kind of death which is usually inflicted on the humble, that an opportunity of imitation might be given to all. Moreover, since He was about to rise again, it was not allowable that His body should be in any way mutilated, or a bone broken, which happens to those who are beheaded. Therefore the cross was preferred, which reserved the body with the bones uninjured for the resurrection.
To these grounds it was also added, that having undertaken to suffer and to die, it was befitting that He should be lifted up. Thus the cross exalted Him both in fact and in emblem, 1564 so that His majesty and power became known to all, together with His passion. For in that He extended His hands on the cross, He plainly stretched out His wings towards the east and the west, under which all nations from either side of the world might assemble and repose. But of what great weight this sign is, and what power it has, is evident, since all the host of demons is expelled and put to flight by this sign. And as He Himself before His passion put to confusion demons by His word and command, so now, by the name and sign of the same passion, unclean spirits, having insinuated themselves into the bodies of men, are driven out, when racked and tormented, and confessing themselves to be demons, they yield themselves to God, who harasses them. What therefore can the Greeks expect from their superstitions and with their wisdom, when they see that their gods, whom they do not deny to be demons also, are subdued by men through the cross?
Next: Chap. LII.—The hope of the salvation of men consists in the knowledge of the true God, and of the hatred of the heathens against the Christians
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