Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Apologetic/On Idolatry/Concerning Festivals in Honour of Emperors, Victories, and the Like. Examples of the Three Children and Daniel
Chapter XV.—Concerning Festivals in Honour of Emperors, Victories, and the Like. Examples of the Three Children and Daniel.
But “let your works shine,” saith He; but now all our shops and gates shine! You will now-a-days find more doors of heathens without lamps and laurel-wreaths than of Christians. What does the case seem to be with regard to that species (of ceremony) also? If it is an idol’s honour, without doubt an idol’s honour is idolatry. If it is for a man’s sake, let us again consider that all idolatry is for man’s sake; let us again consider that all idolatry is a worship done to men, since it is generally agreed even among their worshippers that aforetime the gods themselves of the nations were men; and so it makes no difference whether that superstitious homage be rendered to men of a former age or of this. Idolatry is condemned, not on account of the persons which are set up for worship, but on account of those its observances, which pertain to demons. “The things which are Cæsar’s are to be rendered to Cæsar.” It is enough that He set in apposition thereto, “and to God the things which are God’s.” What things, then, are Cæsar’s? Those, to wit, about which the consultation was then held, whether the poll-tax should be furnished to Cæsar or no. Therefore, too, the Lord demanded that the money should be shown Him, and inquired about the image, whose it was; and when He had heard it was Cæsar’s, said, “Render to Cæsar what are Cæsar’s, and what are God’s to God;” that is, the image of Cæsar, which is on the coin, to Cæsar, and the image of God, which is on man, to God; so as to render to Cæsar indeed money, to God yourself. Otherwise, what will be God’s, if all things are Cæsar’s? “Then,” do you say, “the lamps before my doors, and the laurels on my posts are an honour to God?” They are there of course, not because they are an honour to God, but to him who is honour in God’s stead by ceremonial observances of that kind, so far as is manifest, saving the religious performance, which is in secret appertaining to demons. For we ought to be sure if there are any whose notice it escapes through ignorance of this world’s literature, that there are among the Romans even gods of entrances; Cardea (Hinge-goddess), called after hinges, and Forculus (Door-god) after doors, and Limentinus (Threshold-god) after the threshold, and Janus himself (Gate-god) after the gate: and of course we know that, though names be empty and feigned, yet, when they are drawn down into superstition, demons and every unclean spirit seize them for themselves, through the bond of consecration. Otherwise demons have no name individually, but they there find a name where they find also a token. Among the Greeks likewise we read of Apollo Thyræus, i.e. of the door, and the Antelii, or Anthelii, demons, as presiders over entrances. These things, therefore, the Holy Spirit foreseeing from the beginning, fore-chanted, through the most ancient prophet Enoch, that even entrances would come into superstitious use. For we see too that other entrances are adored in the baths. But if there are beings which are adored in entrances, it is to them that both the lamps and the laurels will pertain. To an idol you will have done whatever you shall have done to an entrance. In this place I call a witness on the authority also of God; because it is not safe to suppress whatever may have been shown to one, of course for the sake of all. I know that a brother was severely chastised, the same night, through a vision, because on the sudden announcement of public rejoicings his servants had wreathed his gates. And yet himself had not wreathed, or commanded them to be wreathed; for he had gone forth from home before, and on his return had reprehended the deed. So strictly are we appraised with God in matters of this kind, even with regard to the discipline of our family. Therefore, as to what relates to the honours due to kings or emperors, we have a prescript sufficient, that it behoves us to be in all obedience, according to the apostle’s precept, “subject to magistrates, and princes, and powers;” but within the limits of discipline, so long as we keep ourselves separate from idolatry. For it is for this reason, too, that that example of the three brethren has forerun us, who, in other respects obedient toward king Nebuchodonosor rejected with all constancy the honour to his image, proving that whatever is extolled beyond the measure of human honour, unto the resemblance of divine sublimity, is idolatry. So too, Daniel, in all other points submissive to Darius, remained in his duty so long as it was free from danger to his religion; for, to avoid undergoing that danger, he feared the royal lions no more than they the royal fires. Let, therefore, them who have no light, light their lamps daily; let them over whom the fires of hell are imminent, affix to their posts, laurels doomed presently to burn: to them the testimonies of darkness and the omens of their penalties are suitable. You are a light of the world, and a tree ever green. If you have renounced temples, make not your own gate a temple. I have said too little. If you have renounced stews, clothe not your own house with the appearance of a new brothel.
- ↑ Matt. v. 16.
- ↑ See chap. ix. p. 152, note 4.
- ↑ Matt. xxii. 21; Mark xii. 17; Luke xx. 25.
- ↑ See Gen. i. 26, 27; ix. 6; and comp. 1 Cor. xi. 7.
- ↑ The word is the same as that for “the mouth” of a river, etc. Hence Oehler supposes the “entrances” or “mouths” here referred to to be the mouths of fountains, where nymphs were supposed to dwell. Nympha is supposed to be the same word as Lympha. See Hor. Sat. i. 5, 97; and Macleane’s note.
- ↑ [He seems to refer to some Providential event, perhaps announced in a dream, not necessarily out of the course of common occurrences.]
- ↑ Rom. xiii. 1, etc.; 1 Pet. ii, 13, 14.
- ↑ Tit. iii. 1.
- ↑ Dan. iii.
- ↑ Dan. vi.
- ↑ Matt. v. 14; Phil. ii. 15.
- ↑ Ps. i. 1–3; xcii. 12–15.