Therefore on the next day, Peter going out with his companions, and coming to the former place, and taking his stand, proceeded to say:
God having cut off by water all the impious men of old, having found one alone amongst them all that was pious, caused him to be saved in an ark, with his three sons and their wives. Whence may be perceived that it is His nature not to care for a multitude of wicked, nor to be indifferent to the salvation of one pious. Therefore the greatest impiety of all is forsaking the sole Lord of all, and worshipping many, who are no gods, as if they were gods.
If, therefore, while I expound and show you that this is the greatest sin, which is able to destroy you all, it occur to your mind that you are not destroyed, being great multitudes, you are deceived. For you have the example of the old world deluged. And yet their sin was much less than that which is chargeable against you. For they were wicked with respect to their equals, murdering or committing adultery. But you are wicked against the God of all, worshipping lifeless images instead of Him or along with Him, and attributing His divine name to every kind of senseless matter. In the first place, therefore, you are unfortunate in not knowing the difference between monarchy and polyarchythat monarchy, on the one hand, is productive of concord, but polyarchy is effective of wars. For unity does not fight with itself, but multitude has occasion of undertaking battle one against another.
Therefore straightway after the flood, Noe continued to live three hundred and fifty years with the multitude of his descendants in concord, being a king according to the image of the one God. But after his death many of his descendants were ambitious of the kingdom, and being eager to reign, each one considered how it might be effected; and one attempted it by war, another by deceit, another by persuasion, and one in one way and another in another; one of whom was of the family of Ham, whose descendant was Mestren, from whom the tribes of the Egyptians and Babylonians and Persians were multiplied.
Of this family there was born in due time a certain one, who took up with magical practices, by name Nebrod, who chose, giant-like, to devise things in opposition to God. Him the Greeks have called Zoroaster. He, after the deluge, being ambitious of sovereignty, and being a great magician, by magical arts compelled the world-guiding star of the wicked one who now rules, to the bestowal of the sovereignty as a gift from him. But he, being a prince, and having authority over him who compelled him, wrathfully poured out the fire of the kingdom, that he might both bring to allegiance, and might punish him who at first constrained him.
Therefore the magician Nebrod, being destroyed by this lightning falling on earth from heaven, for this circumstance had his name changed to Zoroaster, on account of the living (ζῶσαν) stream of the star (ἀστέρος) being poured upon him. But the unintelligent amongst the men who then were, thinking that through the love of God his soul had been sent for by lightning, buried the remains of his body, and honoured his burial-place with a temple among the Persians, where the descent of the fire occurred, and worshipped him as a god. By this example also, others there bury those who die by lightning as beloved of God, and honour them with temples, and erect statues of the dead in their own forms. Thence, in like manner, the rulers in different places were emulous of like honour, and very many of them honoured the tombs of those who were beloved of them, though not dying by lightning, with temples and statues, and lighted up altars, and ordered them to be adored as gods. And long after, by the lapse of time, they were thought by posterity to be really gods.
Thus, in this fashion, there ensued many partitions of the one original kingdom. The Persians, first taking coals from the lightning which fell from heaven, preserved them by ordinary fuel, and honouring the heavenly fire as a god, were honoured by the fire itself with the first kingdom, as its first worshippers. After them the Babylonians, stealing coals from the fire that was there, and conveying it safely to their own home, and worshipping it, they themselves also reigned in order. And the Egyptians, acting in like manner, and calling the fire in their own dialect Phthaë, which is translated Hephaistus or Osiris, he who first reigned amongst them is called by its name. Those also who reigned in different places, acting in this fashion, and making an image, and kindling altars in honour of fire, most of them were excluded from the kingdom.
But they did not cease to worship images, by reason of the evil intelligence of the magicians, who found excuses for them, which had power to constrain them to the foolish worship. For, establishing this things by magical ceremonies, they assigned them feasts from sacrifices, libations, flutes, and shoutings, by means of which senseless men, being deceived, and their kingdom being taken from them, yet did not desist from the worship that they had taken up with. To such an extent did they prefer error, on account of its pleasantness, before truth. They also howl after their sacrificial surfeit, their soul from the depth, as it were by dreams, forewarning them of the punishment that is to befall such deeds of theirs.
Many forms of worship, then, having passed away in the world, we come, bringing to you, as good merchantmen, the worship that has been handed down to us from our fathers, and preserved; showing you, as it were, the seeds of plants, and placing them under your judgment and in your power. Choose that which seems good unto you. If, therefore, ye choose our wares, not only shall ye be able to escape demons, and the sufferings which are inflicted by demons, but yourselves also putting them to flight, and having them reduced to make supplication to you, shall for ever enjoy future blessings.
Since, on the other hand, you are oppressed by strange sufferings inflicted by demons, on your removal from the body you shall have your souls also punished for ever; not indeed by God's inflicting vengeance, but because such is the judgment of evil deeds. For the demons, having power by means of the food given to them, are admitted into your bodies by your own hands; and lying hid there for a long time, they become blended with your souls. And through the carelessness of those who think not, or even wish not, to help themselves, upon the dissolution of their bodies, their souls being united to the demon, are of necessity borne by it into whatever places it pleases. And what is most terrible of all, when at the end of all things the demon is first consigned to the purifying fire, the soul which is mixed with it is under the necessity of being horribly punished, and the demon of being pleased. For the soul, being made of light, and not capable of bearing the heterogeneous flame of fire, is tortured; but the demon, being in the substance of his own kind, is greatly pleased, becoming the strong chain of the soul that he has swallowed up.
But the reason why the demons delight in entering into men's bodies is this. Being spirits, and having desires after meats and drinks, and sexual pleasures, but not being able to partake of these by reason of their being spirits, and wanting organs fitted for their enjoyment, they enter into the bodies of men, in order that, getting organs to minister to them, they may obtain the things that they wish, whether it be meat, by means of men's teeth, or sexual pleasure, by means of men's members. Hence, in order to the putting of demons to flight, the most useful help is abstinence, and fasting, and suffering of affliction. For if they enter into men's bodies for the sake of sharing pleasures, it is manifest that they are put to flight by suffering. But inasmuch as some, being of a more malignant kind, remain by the body that is undergoing punishment, though they are punished with it, therefore it is needful to have recourse to God by prayers and petitions, refraining from every occasion of impurity, that the hand of God may touch him for his cure, as being pure and faithful.
But it is necessary in our prayers to acknowledge that we have had recourse to God, and to bear witness, not to the apathy, but to the slowness of the demon. For all things are done to the believer, nothing to the unbeliever. Therefore the demons themselves, knowing the amount of faith of those of whom they take possession, measure their stay proportionately. Wherefore they stay permanently with the unbelieving, tarry for a while with the weak in faith; but with those who thoroughly believe, and who do good, they cannot remain even for a moment. For the soul being turned by faith, as it were, into the nature of water, quenches the demon as a spark of fire. The labour, therefore, of every one is to be solicitous about the putting to flight of his own demon. For, being mixed up with men's souls, they suggest to every one's mind desires after what things they please, in order that he may neglect his salvation.
Whence many, not knowing how they are influenced, consent to the evil thoughts suggested by the demons, as if they were the reasoning of their own souls. Wherefore they become less active to come to those who are able to save them, and do not know that they themselves are held captive by the deceiving demons. Therefore the demons who lurk in their souls induce them to think that it is not a demon that is distressing them, but a bodily disease, such as some acrid matter, or bile, or phlegm, or excess of blood, or inflammation of a membrane, or something else. But even if this were so, the case would not be altered of its being a kind of demon. For the universal and earthly soul, which enters on account of all kinds of food, being taken to excess by over-much food, is itself united to the spirit, as being cognate, which is the soul of man; and the material part of the food being united to the body, is left as a dreadful poison to it. Wherefore in all respects moderation is excellent.
But some of the maleficent demons deceive in another way. For at first they do not even show their existence, in order that care may not be taken against them; but in due time, by means of anger, love, or some other affection, they suddenly injure the body, by sword, or halter, or precipice, or something else, and at last bring to punishment the deceived souls of those who have been mixed up with them, as we said, withdrawing into the purifying fire. But others, who are deceived in another way, do not approach us, being seduced by the instigations of maleficent demons, as if they suffered these things at the hands of the gods themselves, on account of their neglect of them, and were able to reconcile them by sacrifices, and that it is not needful to come to us, but rather to flee from and hate us. And at the same time they hate and flee from those who have greater compassion for them, and who follow after them in order to do good to them.
Therefore shunning and hating us they are deceived, not knowing how it happens that they devise things opposed to their health. For neither can we compel them against their will to incline towards health, since now we have no such power over them, nor are they able of themselves to understand the evil instigation of the demon; for they know not whence these evil instigations are suggested to them. And these are they whom the demons affright, appearing in such forms as they please. And sometimes they prescribe remedies for those who are diseased, and thus they receive divine honours from those who have previously been deceived. And they conceal from many that they are demons, but not from us, who know their mystery, and why they do these things, changing themselves in dreams against those over whom they have power; and why they terrify some, and give oracular responses to others, and demand sacrifices from them, and command them to eat with them, that they may swallow up their souls.
For as dire serpents draw sparrows to them by their breath, so also these draw to their own will those who partake of their table, being mixed up with their understanding by means of food and drink, changing themselves in dreams according to the forms of the images, that they may increase error. For the image is neither a living creature, nor has it a divine spirit, but the demon that appeared abused the form. How many, in like manner, have been seen by others in dreams; and when they have met one another when awake, and compared them with what they saw in their dream, they have not accorded: so that the dream is not a manifestation, but is either the production of a demon or of the soul, giving forms to present fears and desire. For the soul, being struck with fear, conceives forms in dreams. But if you think that images, as being alive, can accomplish such things, place them on a beam accurately balanced, and place an equipoise in the other scale, then ask them to become either heavier or lighter: and if this be done, then they are alive. But it does not so happen. But if it were so, this would not prove them to be gods. For this might be accomplished by the finger of the demon. Even maggots move, yet they are not called gods.
But that the soul of each man embodies the forms of demons after his own preconceptions, and that those who are called gods do not appear, is manifest from the fact that they do not appear to the Jews. But some one will say, How then do they give oracular responses, forecasting future things? This also is false. But suppose it were true, this does not prove them to be gods; for it does not follow, if anything prophesies, that it is a god. For pythons prophesy, yet they are cast out by us as demons, and put to flight. But some one will say, They work cures for some persons. It is false. But suppose it were true, this is no proof of Godhead; for physicians also heal many, yet are not gods. But, says one, physicians do not completely heal those of whom they take charge, but these heal oracularly. But the demons know the remedies that are suited to each disease. Wherefore, being skilful physicians, and able to cure those diseases which can be cured by men, and also being prophets, and knowing when each disease is healed of itself, they so arrange their remedies that they may gain the credit of producing the cure.
For why do they oracularly foretell cures after a long time? And why, if they are almighty, do they not effect cures without administering any medicine? And for what reason do they prescribe remedies to some of those who pray to them, while to some, and it may be more suitable cases, they give no response? Thus, whenever a cure is going to take place spontaneously, they promise, in order that they may get the credit of the cure; and others, having been sick, and having prayed, and having recovered spontaneously, attributed the cure to those whom they had invoked, and make offerings to them. Those, however, who, after praying, have failed, are not able to offer their sacrifices. But if the relatives of the dead, or any of their children, inquired into the losses, you would find the failures to be more than the successes. But no one who has been taken in by them is willing to exhibit an accusation against them, through shame or fear; but, on the other hand, they conceal the crimes which they believe them to be guilty of.
And how many also falsify the responses given and the cures effected by them, and confirm them with an oath! And how many give themselves up to them for hire, undertaking falsely to suffer certain things, and thus proclaiming their suffering, and being restored by remedial means, they say that they oracularly promised them healing, in order that they may assign as the cause the senseless worship! And how many of these things were formerly done by magical art, in the way of interpreting dreams, and divining! Yet in course of time these things have disappeared. And how many are there now, who, wishing to obtain such things, make use of charms! However, though a thing be prophetical or healing, it is not divine.
For God is almighty. For He is good and righteous, now long-suffering to all, that those who will, repenting of the evils which they have done, and living well, may receive a worthy reward in the day in which all things are judged. Wherefore now begin to obey God by reason of good knowledge, and to oppose your evil lusts and thoughts, that you may be able to recover the original saving worship which was committed to humanity. For thus shall blessings straightway spring up to you, which, when you receive, you will thenceforth quit the trial of evils. But give thanks to the Giver; being kings for ever of unspeakable good things, with the King of peace. But in the present life, washing in a flowing river, or fountain, or even in the sea, with the thrice-blessed invocation, you shall not only be able to drive away the spirits which lurk in you; but yourselves no longer sinning, and undoubtingly believing God, you shall drive out evil spirits and dire demons, with terrible diseases, from others. And sometimes they shall flee when you but look on them. For they know those who have given themselves up to God. Wherefore, honouring them, they flee affrighted, as you saw yesterday, how, when after the address I delayed praying for those who were suffering these maladies, through respect towards the worship they cried out, not being able to endure it for a short hour.
Not Almost, But Altogether Such as I Am.
Do not then suppose that we do not fear demons on this account, that we are of a different nature from you. For we are of the same nature, but not of the same worship. Wherefore, being not only much but altogether superior to you, we do not grudge you becoming such as we are; but, on the other hand, counsel you, knowing that all these demons beyond measure honour and fear those who are reconciled to God.
For, in like manner as the soldiers who are put under one of Cæsar's captains know to honour him who has received authority on account of him who gave it, so that the commanders say to this one, Come, and he comes, and to another, Go, and he goes; so also he who has given himself to God, being faithful, is heard when he only speaks to demons and diseases; and the demons give place, though they be much stronger than they who command them. For with unspeakable power God subjects the mind of every one to whom He pleases. For as many captains, with whole camps and cities, fear Cæsar, who is but a man, every one's heart being eager to honour the image of all for the will of God, all things being enslaved by fear, do not know the cause; so also all disease-producing spirits, being awed in some natural way, honour and flee from him who has had recourse to God, and who carries right faith as His image in his heart.
But still, though all demons, with all diseases, flee before you, you are not to rejoice in this only, but in that, through grace, your names, as of the ever-living, are written in heaven. Thus also the Divine Holy Spirit rejoices because man has overcome death; for the putting of the demons to flight makes for the safety of another. But this we say, not as denying that we ought to help others, but that we ought not to be inflated by this and neglect ourselves. It happens, also, that the demons flee before some wicked men by reason of the honoured name, and both he who expels the demon and he who witnesses it are deceived: he who expels him, as if he were honoured on account of righteousness, not knowing the wickedness of the demon. For he has at once honoured the name, and by his flight has brought the wicked man into a thought of his righteousness, and so deceived him away from repentance. But the looker-on, associating with the expeller as a pious man, hastens to a like manner of life, and is ruined. Sometimes also they pretend to flee before adjurations not made in the name of God, that they may deceive men, and destroy them whom they will.
This then we would have you know, that unless any one of his own accord give himself over as a slave to demons, as I said before, the demon has no power against him. Choosing, therefore, to worship one God, and refraining from the table of demons, and undertaking chastity with philanthropy and righteousness, and being baptized with the thrice-blessed invocation for the remission of sins, and devoting yourselves as much as you can to the perfection of purity, you can escape everlasting punishment, and be constituted heirs of eternal blessings.
Having thus spoken, he ordered those to approach who were distressed with diseases; and thus many approached, having come together through the experience of those who had been healed yesterday. And he having laid his hands upon them and prayed, and immediately healed them, and having charged them and the others to come earlier, he bathed and partook of food, and went to sleep.
Source. Translated by Peter Peterson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/080809.htm>.