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The determined conservative who, in passing near some mutilated corpses of the martyrs of Lyons, said to himself, “They have been too gentle; some more severe punishments must be invented!” was not more narrow than those politicians who, in all ages, have believed they could arrest religious or social movements by punishments. Religious and social movements are fought with by time and the progress of reason. The sectarian socialism of 1848 has disappeared in twenty years without special laws of repression. If Marcus-Aurelius, instead of employing the lions and the red-hot chair, had used the primary school and the teaching of a rationalist State, it would have better prevented the seduction of the world by Christian supernaturalism. Unfortunately, they were not placed upon the true ground. To combat religions by maintaining, by exaggerating even the religious principle, is the worst calculation. To show the emptiness of everything supernatural, this is the radical cure for fanaticism. Now scarcely any one was at that point of view. The Roman philosopher Celsus, an educated man, of great good sense, who had anticipated on several 200points the results of modern criticism, wrote a book against Christianity, not to prove to Christians that their style of conceiving of the intervention of God in the affairs of the world was contrary to what we know of the reality, but to show that they were wrong in not practising the religion which they found established.

This Celsus was the friend of Lucian, and appears at bottom to have shared the scepticism of the great laugher of Samosate. It was at his request that Lucian composed the intellectual essay upon Alexander of Abonoticus, where the foolishness of believing in the supernatural is so well exposed. Lucian, with him heart to heart, represents him as an unreserved admirer of that grand liberating philosophy which has saved man from the phantoms of superstition, and which preserves him from all vain beliefs and errors. The two friends, exactly like Lucretius, look upon Epicurus as a saint, a hero, a benefactor of the human race, a divine genius, the only one who had seen the truth and has dared to speak it. Lucian, on the other hand, speaks of his friend as an accomplished man; he boasts of his wisdom, his justice, his love of the truth, the sweetness of his manners, and the charm of his conversation. His writings appear to him the most useful and beautiful of the age, capable of opening the eyes of all those who have any reason. Celsus in fact has taken as his speciality to discover the snares to which poor humanity is subject. He had a strong antipathy to the Goetes and the introducers of false gods after the manner of Alexander of Abonoticus. As to general principles, he appears to have been less firm than Lucian. He wrote against magic, rather to unveil the charlatanism of the magicians than to show the absolute emptiness of their art. His criticism in what concerns the supernatural is identical with that of the Epicureans; but 201he does not stop there. He puts upon the same footing astrology, music, natural history, magic, and divination. He repels most spells as impostures, but he admits some. He does not believe in the legends of Paganism, but he considers them great, marvellous, and useful to men. Prophets in general appear to him charlatans, and yet he does not treat as a simple dream the art of foretelling the future. He is eclectic, deistical, or, if it is preferred, a Platonist. His religion resembles much that of Marcus-Aurelius, Maximus of Tyre, and that which later shall be the religion of the Emperor Julian.

God, universal order, delegates his power to some special gods, a sort of demons or ministers, to whom is presented the worship of polytheism. This cult is lawful, or at least very acceptable, when it is not carried to excess. It becomes a strict duty when it is the national religion, each one having as his duty the adoration of the divine according to the form which has been transmitted to him by his ancestors. True worship is to hold always one’s thoughts raised towards God, the common father of all men. Internal piety is essential, the sacrifices are nothing but the sign. As to the adorations which people make to the demons, those obligations are of little consequence and may be satisfied by a movement of the hand, although it is good to treat them seriously. The demons do not need anything, and it is necessary not to delight too much in magic or magical operations; but one must not be too ungrateful, and, besides, all piety is salutary. To serve the inferior gods is to please the great God whom they extol. Christians may well yield some extraordinary honours to a son of God appearing recently in the world! Like Maximus of Tyre, Celsus has a philosophy of religion which allows him to admit all cults. He would admit Christianity on the same 202footing as the other beliefs if Christianity had only a pretension limited to the truth.

Providence, divination, the prodigies of the temples, the oracles, the immortality of the soul, future rewards and punishments appeared to Celsus as integral parts of a State doctrine. It must be recollected that the possibility of magic was at that time almost a dogma. They were Epicureans, atheists, impious, and ran the risk of their lives who dared to deny it. All sects, the Epicureans excepted, taught its reality. Celsus seriously believed in it. His reason shows him the falsity of generally admitted supernatural beliefs; but the insufficiency of his scientific education and his political prejudices prevented him from being consequent; he maintains, at least in principle, certain beliefs quite as little rational as those he combats. The feeble knowledge which people had then of the laws of nature made all such credulousness possible. Tacitus has certainly an enlightened mind, and yet he does not dare to repel completely the most puerile prodigies. The apparitions of the temples and divine dreams were considered to be facts. Elien was soon to write his books to demonstrate, by pretended facts, that those who deny the miraculous manifestations of the gods are “more unreasonable than children,” that those who believe in the gods are blessed, while the most fearful adventures happen to the incredulous and blasphemers.

What Celsus was eminently is, a subject devoted to the emperor—a patriot. We suppose him to have been a Roman or Italian; it is certain that Lucian, loyal as he is, has not such a pronounced sympathy for the empire. The fundamental reasoning of Celsus is this: the Roman religion has been a phenomenon concomitant with the Roman grandeur; therefore, it is true. Like the Gnostics, 203Celsus believes that every nation has its gods, who protect it in proportion as it adores them as they wish to be adored. To abandon its gods is, for a nation, the equivalent of suicide. Celsus is thus the reverse of a Tatian, the bitter enemy of Hellenism and Roman society. Tatian sacrifices the Hellenic civilisation entirely to Judaism and Christianity. Celsus attributes all that is good among the Jews or Christians to the borrowings made from the Greeks. Plato and Epictetes are for him the two poles of wisdom. If he had not known Marcus-Aurelius he would have certainly loved and admired him. From such a point of view, he could not look on Christianity but as an evil; but he does not indulge in calumnies, he acknowledges that the manners of the sectaries are gentle and well regulated; it is the grounds of credibility in the sect which he would discuss. Celsus made a thorough investigation on the subject, read the Christian and Jewish books, and conversed with both classes. The result of his researches was a work entitled A True Discourse, which naturally enough has not come down to us, but which it is possible to reconstruct from the quotations and the analyses which Origen has given of it.

It is beyond doubt that Celsus knew better than any other Pagan writer Christianity, and the books which served as its basis. Origen, in spite of his remarkable Christian instruction, is astonished to have so many things to learn from him. As to erudition Celsus is a Christian doctor. His journeys in Palestine, Phœnicia, and Egypt have opened his mind on the matters of religious history. He has read attentively the Greek translations of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, the Prophets, including Jonah, Daniel, Enoch, and the Psalms. He knew the Sibylline writings, and he saw their fraud; the emptiness of the tentatives of allegorical exegesis 204did not escape him. Among the writings of the New Testament he knew the four Canonical Gospels and many others, perhaps the Acts of Pilate. While decidedly preferring Matthew, he takes good account of the different retouchings to which the Gospel texts have been subjected, especially in view of the Apology. It is doubtful if he had in his hands St. Paul’s writings; like St. Justin he never names him; yet he recalls some of his maxims and is not ignorant of his doctrines. As to ecclesiastical history he has read the dialogue of Jason and Papiscus, numerous Gnostic and Marcionite writings, especially the Heavenly Dialogue, a writing of which there is no mention elsewhere. He does not appear to have had the writings of St. Justin, although the way in which he thinks of Christian theology, Christology, and the Canon are exactly agreeable to the theology, Christology, and Canon of St. Justin. The Jewish legend of Jesus was familiar to him. The mother of Jesus had committed adultery with the soldier, Pantherus; she had been rejected by her husband, the carpenter. Jesus wrought his miracles by means of the secret sciences which he had learned in Egypt.

It was especially in exegesis that Celsus astonishes us by his penetration. Voltaire has not triumphed better over Biblical history, the impossibilities of Genesis taken in its natural sense, that which is artlessly childish in the stories of the creation, of the deluge and the ark. The bloody, hard egotistical character of Jewish history; the bizarrerie of the divine choice in fixing on such a race to make of them the people of God, are well brought to light. The bitterness of the Jewish scoffs against the other sects is set forth in a lively manner as acts of injustice and pride. All the Messianic plan of the Judeo-Christian history, having 205as its base the exaggerated importance which men, and in particular the Jews, claim in the universe, is refuted by the hand of a master. Why should God come down to earth? Could it be to know what was passing among men? But does he not know all things? Is his power so limited that he cannot correct anything without coming into the world or sending some one here? Could this be known? It is to impute to him an emptiness entirely human. And then why so late? Why rather at one moment than another? Why rather in one country than another? The Apocalyptic theories of the final conflagration and of the Resurrection are in the same way victoriously refuted. Bizarre pretension, to render immortal dust, putrefaction! Celsus triumphs by opposing to this religious materialism his pure idealism, his absolute God who does not manifest himself in the progress of finished things.

“Jews and Christians present to me the effect of a lot of field mice or pismires leaving their hole, or frogs settled in a marsh, or worms in the corner of a ditch . . . . . and saying among themselves: ‘It is to us that God reveals and announces everything; he has no concern for the rest of the world; he leaves the heavens and the earth to roll on at their own fancy, to occupy himself with us alone. We are the only beings with whom he communicates by his messengers, the only ones with whom he desires to have society, for he has made us like himself. Everything is subordinated to us, the earth, the water, the air, and the stars, all has been done for us and destined for our service, and it is because it has so happened that certain among us have sinned that God himself will come or will send his own Son to burn up the wicked, but to make us enjoy eternal life with him.’”

The discussion on the life of Jesus is conducted 206exactly according to the method of Reimarus and Strauss. The impossibilities of the Gospel history, if one may take it as history, have never been better shown. The appearance of God in Jesus appears to our philosophy unseemly and useless, the evangelical miracles are paltry, the walking magicians have done quite as much without being regarded as the Son of God. The life of Jesus is that of a miserable Goëte hatred of God. His character is provoking, his manner of speaking decidedly indicates a man who is powerless to persuade; it is unseemly for a God or even a man of sense. Jesus ought to have been beautiful, strong, majestic, eloquent. Now his disciples confess that he was little, uncomely, and without nobleness. Why, if God wished to save the human race, did he send his Son only to a corner of the world? He should rather have sent his Spirit into many bodies, and commanded his celestial envoys in different directions, since he knew that the messenger destined to the Jews should be put to death. Why also two opposing revelations, that of Moses and that of Jesus? Jesus has risen, do they say? That is reported of a crowd of others, Zamolxis, Pythagoras, Rhampsinit.

Perhaps it first ought to be made a subject of examination whether any man really dead has risen with the same body. Why treat the adventures of others as fables without verisimilitude, as if the issue of your tragedy had a better appearance and was credible, with the cry that your Jesus threw on high from the cross while expiring amid the shaking of the earth and the darkness? Living he has been able to do nothing for himself; dead do you say he rose, and showed the marks of his suffering, the holes in his hands? But who has seen all that? A woman with an evil spirit, as you yourselves confess, or otherwise possessed in the same way, whether the pretended witness had dreamed that which his troubled spirit suggested to him, or that his abused imagination had given a substance to its desires (which happens so open), or rather that he had wished to strike the minds of men by a marvellous story, and by the help of this imposture to furnish material for charlatans.. . . . At his tomb there were present, some say, one angel, others say two, to announce to the women that he had 207risen; for the Son of God, as he appeared to be, had not the power alone to open his tomb; he needed some one to come and displace the stone. . . . If Jesus wished really to make his divine power to shine he must have shown it to his enemies, to the judge who had condemned him, to the whole world, for since he was dead, and God besides, as you pretend, he had nothing more to fear from anyone and that was not apparently that he should remain concealed that he had been sent. By the some necessity, to place his divinity in the full light, he ought to have disappeared all at once from the cross. . . Dead he only causes himself to he seen in secret by a woman and her companions. His suffering had had innumerable witnesses; his resurrection has only one. It is the reverse of what should have taken place.

“If you had such a strong desire to do something new, how much better would it have been to choose to deify some one of those who died manfully, and who are worthy of a divine fable. If you object to take Hercules or Æsculapius, or any one of the ancient heroes, who already are honoured with worship, you have Orpheus, an inspired man, as no one disputes, and who perished by a violent death. Perhaps you will say that there were no more to take. Be it so; but then you have an Anaxarcus, who, cast one day into a mortar that they might pound hint, cruelly made game of his executioner. ‘Pound pound, the case of Anaxarcus, for as for himself you cannot touch him’—a word full of a divine spirit. Here again will it be said you have been prevented. . . . Ah, well, then will you not take Epictetes? As his master twisted his leg, he, calm and smiling, said, ‘You are breaking it,’ and the leg was indeed broken. ‘I told you that you were going to break it.’ What has your God said like that in his agonies? And the sibyl, whose authority many of you quote from, why do you not take her? You would have had the best grounds for calling her the daughter of God. You are content to introduce wrongly, and across each other fraudulently, a number of blasphemies into his books, and you give us for a God a personage who has finished by a wretched death an infamous life. Come, you would have been better to choose Jonas, who escaped safe and sound from a great fish; or Daniel, who escaped from the lions; or some other one, concerning whom you have told us things more ridiculous still.”

In his judgments upon the Church, such as it was at his time, Celsus shows himself singularly malevolent. Apart from some honest and gentle men the Church appears to him to be a mass of sectaries hurting one another. It is a new race of men, born yesterday, without country, without ancient traditions, leagued against civil and religious institutions, pursued by justice, marked with infamy, and glorying in public execration. Their assemblies are clandestine and unlawful; they bind themselves 208there by an oath to break the laws and to suffer everything for a barbarous doctrine, which would in any case need to be perfected and purified by Greek reason. A secret and dangerous doctrine! The courage which they put forth to sustain it is praiseworthy; it is good to die rather than abjure or feign to abjure the faith which one has embraced. But yet it is necessary that faith should be founded on reason, and should not have for its only foundation a part taken upon no examination. The Christians besides have not invented martyrdom; every creed has given examples of ardent conviction. They mock at powerless gods who do not know how to revenge their injuries. But has the supreme God of the Christians revenged his crucified Son? Their presumption in deciding questions over which the wisest hesitate is the act of people who only know how to seduce the simple. All that they have of good, Plato and the philosophers have said better before them. The Scriptures are nothing but a translation in a gross style of what the philosophers, and especially Plato, have said in an elegant style.

Celsus is struck by the divisions of Christianity, and by the anathemas which the different churches pronounce upon each other. At Rome, where, according to the most likely opinion, the book was written, all sects flourished. Celsus knew the Marcionites and the Gnostics. He saw, nevertheless, that in the midst of this labyrinth of sects there was the orthodox Church, “the Great Church which had no other name than that of Christian.” The Montanist extravagances, the sibylline impostures inspire him naturally only with contempt. Certainly, if he had known better the learned Episcopate of Asia, such men as Melito for example, who dreamed of concordats between Christianity and the empire, his judgment would have 209been less severe. What hurt him was the extreme social meanness of the Christians, and the small intelligence of the means by which they exercised their propaganda; those whom they wished to gain were base people—slaves, women, and children. Like charlatans, they avoided as much as they could honest people who would not allow themselves to be deceived, taking into their nets the ignorant and the foolish, the ordinary provender of knaves.

“What harm is it then to be well educated, to love fine learning, to be wise, and to pass for such? Is that an obstacle to the knowledge of God? Are they not rather helps to attain to the truth? What are these fair-runners, these jugglers doing? Do they address themselves to men of sense, to tell them their good news? No, but if they see somewhere a group of children, of street porters, or low people, it is there they ply their industry and cause themselves to be admired. It is the same way inside families; here are some wool-carders, some shoemakers, some fullers, some people of the lowest ignorance, and quite destitute of education. Before masters, men of experience and judgment, they dare not open their mouths; but if they surprise the children of the house, or women who have no more reason than themselves, they set themselves to work wonders. Only such can believe; the father and the preceptors are fools who do not know the true good and are incapable of understanding it. Those preachers alone know how they ought to live; the children are found following them, and through them good fortune will come to all the family. If while they are speaking some serious person, one of the preceptors, or the father himself, come in unexpectedly, the more timid keep silence; the bolder are not allowed to excite the children to shake off the yoke, insinuating in a low 210voice what they would not say before their father or preceptor, so as not to expose themselves to the brutality of those corrupted people who would chastise them. Those who want to know the truth have only to brave the father and preceptors, and go with the women and brats to their part of the house, or to the bootmakers’ stall, or the fullers’ shop, to understand the absolute! See how they act to gain converts. . . . Whoever is a sinner, whoever is without understanding, whoever is weak in mind, in a word whoever is miserable, let him draw near; the kingdom of God is for him.”

One may imagine how such an overturning of the authority of the family in education would he hateful to a man who perhaps exercised the functions of a tutor. The whole Christian idea that God had been sent to save sinners revolts Celsus. He only wants justice. The privilege of the prodigal son is to him incomprehensible.

“What harm is there in being free from sin? Let the unjust, they say, humble himself by the feeling of his misery, and God will receive him. But if the righteous, trusting in his virtue, raises his eyes towards God, what! will he be rejected? Conscientious magistrates do not suffer the accused to melt into lamentations, lest they should be seduced into sacrificing justice to pity. God, in his judgments, is then accessible to flattery? Why has he such a preference for sinners? . . . Did these theories come from the desire of drawing around him a more numerous clientèle? Will it be said that it is proposed by this indulgence to improve the sinners? What an illusion! The nature of people does not change; the bad are not improved either by force or gentleness. Would God not be unjust it he showed himself complaisant to sinners, who know the art of affecting 211him, and if he abandon the good, who have not the talent for that?”

Celsus would have no bounty extended to false humility, to importunity, to humble prayers. His God is the God of noble and right minds, not the God of pardon, the consoler of the afflicted, the patron of the wretched. He evidently sees a great danger, from the point of view of politics and also from the point of view of his profession as a man of public instruction, that it should be permissible to say that, to be dear to God, it is good to have been guilty, and that the humble, the poor, and the minds without culture have because of this special advantages.

“Listen to their professors. ‘The sages,’ they say, ‘repel our teaching, led away and prevented as they are by their wisdom.’ What man of judgment, in fact, could allow himself to accept a doctrine so ridiculous? It is sufficient to look at the crowd who embrace it to despise it. Their masters seem like quacks who offer to give healing to a sick person, on condition that the learned doctor shall not be called in, lest they should discover their ignorance. They are obliged to show suspicious knowledge. ‘Leave me to do it,’ they say; ‘I will save you, I only; the ordinary doctors kill those whom they boast that they will cure.’ They speak like drunken men, who among themselves accuse men of being overcome by wine, or the short-sighted who would persuade those like themselves that those who have good eyes do not see at all.”

It is especially as a patriot and friend of the State that Celsus shows himself the enemy of Christianity. The idea of an absolute religion, without distinction of nations, appears to him a chimera. All religion is, in his eyes, national; religion has no raison d’être but as national. He 212certainly does not love Judaism; he thinks it full of pride and badly-founded pretensions, inferior in everything to Hellenism; but inasmuch as the religion of the Jews is national, Judaism has its rights. The Jews ought to conserve the customs and beliefs of their fathers as other peoples do, although the powers to whom Judea has been entrusted may be inferior to the gods of the Romans who conquered them. One is a Jew by birth; one is a Christian by choice. That is why Rome never seriously thought of abolishing Judaism, even after the fearful wars of Titus and Hadrian. As to Christianity, it is the national religion of no one; it is the religion which men adopt as a protest against the national religion by a collective and corporate spirit.

“They refuse to observe the public ceremonies and to render homage to those who preside; then they renounce also the wearing of the manly robe, marriage, becoming fathers, or filling the functions of life; let them go forth altogether far from here, without leaving the least seed of themselves, and that the earth may be disembarrassed of their breed! But if they would marry, if they would have children, if they would share in the things of life, good as well as evil, it is proper that they should render to those who are charged with administering everything the proper honours. . . . We ought continually, both in word and action, and even when we do not speak or act, to have our souls raised towards God. This being granted, what harm is there in seeking the good of those who have received this power from God, and specially that of the kings r.nd the powerful of the earth? It is, indeed, not without the intervention of a divine energy that they have been raised to the rank they occupy.”

In good logic Celsus was wrong. He does not 213limit himself to demand political confraternity; he would have also religious confraternity. He is not limited to say to them, “Keep your beliefs; serve the same country with us, and we demand nothing contrary to your principles.” No, he would have Christians taking part in ceremonies opposed to their ideas. He makes some bad reasonings, to show them that the Polytheistic cult should not horrify them.

“Doubtless,” he says, “if a pious man were compelled to commit impious action, or to pronounce some shameful word, it would be right for him to endure all punishments rather than act thus; but it is not the same when we command you to honour the sun or to chant a beautiful hymn in honour of Athene. There are there certain forms of piety, and we cannot have too much piety. You believe in angels: why don’t you admit the existence of demons or secondary gods? If the idols are nothing, what harm is there in taking part in the public festivals? If there are demons, servants of the all-powerful God, should not pious men render them homage? You would appear, indeed, so much the more to honour the great God as you would glorify these secondary divinities. By applying itself thus to everything, piety becomes more complete.”

To which the Christians had the right to reply: “That concerns our conscience; the State is not to reason with us on that point. Speak to us of civil and military duties, which have no religious character, and we shall fulfil them.” In other words, nothing which connects us with the State should be of a religious character. This solution appears very simple to us; but how are we to reproach politicians of the second century with not having put it into practice when in our days we find so many difficulties surrounding it?

More admirable, certainly, is the reasoning of our author as regards the oath in the name of the emperor.

There was there a simple adhesion to the established order, an order which was in itself only the defence of civilisation against barbarism, and without which Christianity would have been 214swept away like all the rest. But Celsus appears to us to be wanting in generosity, when he mixes up threatening with reasoning. “You do not pretend, doubtless,” said he, “that the Romans should abandon, to embrace your beliefs, their religious and civil traditions, that they should leave their gods, and put themselves under the protection of your Most High, who has not known how to defend his own people? The Jews no longer possess a rood of earth, and you, drawn from all parts, vagabonds, reduced to a small number, we should seek to end it with you?”

What is singular in fact is that, after having fought Christianity to the death, Celsus sometimes seems to come near it himself. We can see that at bottom Polytheism is only an embarrassment, and he envies it its one God. The idea that one day Christianity shall be the religion of the empire shone before his eyes, as before those of Melito. But he turns with horror from such a prospect. That would be the worst manner of dying. “A power more enlightened and far-seeing,” he said to them, “will destroy you root and branch, rather than perish itself through you.” Then his patriotism and his good sense show him the impossibility of such a religious policy. The book, which had commenced by the most bitter refutations, closes with proposals of conciliation. The State runs the greatest risks; it is concerned in saving civilisation; the barbarians are coming over on every side; gladiators and slaves are enrolled. Christianity shall lose as much as established society in the triumph of the barbarians. Concord is therefore easy. “Help the emperor with all your force; share with him in the defence of right; fight for him if circumstances demand it; aid him in the management of his provinces. For that purpose cease to decline the duties of civil 215life and military service; take your part in the public functions, if it be necessary for the safety of the laws and the cause of piety.”

That was easy to say. Celsus forgot that those whom he wished to rally thus were continually menaced with the cruellest torments. He especially forgot that, in maintaining the established cult, he asked the Christians to admit greater absurdities than those he combated among themselves. This appeal to patriotism could not be listened to. Tertullian said, proudly, “To destroy your empire we have only to withdraw; without us there would be nothing but inertia and death.” Abstention has always been the revenge of defeated conservatives. They know that they are the salt of the earth; that without them society is impossible. It is then natural that in their moments of annoyance they should simply say, “Pass us by!” To tell the truth, no one in the Roman world, at the time of which we speak, was prepared for liberty. The principle of the State religion was that of nearly all. The plan of the Christians is already to become the religion of the empire. Melito shows Marcus-Aurelius the establishment of the revealed religion to be the best use of his authority.

The book of Celsus was very little read at the time of its appearance. It was only seventy years after that Christianity knew of its existence. It was Ambrose, that Alexandrinian bibliophile and scholar, the teacher of Origen, who discovered the impious book, read it, sent it to his friend, and begged him to reply to it. The effect of the book was then very little felt. In the fourth century, Hierocles and Julian used it, and almost copied it; but it was too late. Celsus had not probably taken away a single disciple of Jesus. He was right from the point of view of good natural sense, but simple 216good sense, when it finds itself opposed to the wants of mysticism, is very little listened to.

The soil had not been prepared by a good ministry of public instruction. It must be remembered that the emperor was not himself free from all belief in the supernatural; the best minds in the century admitted the medical dreams and the miraculous cures in the temples of the gods. The number of pure rationalists, if considerable in the first century, is very much limited now. Those spirits who, like Cæcilius and Minucius Felix, professed a sort of atheism, held only more forcibly to the established religion. In the second half of the second century, we really only see a single man who, being above all superstition, had a good right to smile at all human follies, and to pity them likewise. That man, that mind, at once the most solid and the most charming of his age, was Lucian.

Here there is more ambiguity. Lucian absolutely rejected the supernatural. Celsus admits all religions; Lucian denies them all. Celsus thinks he is conscientiously bound to study Christianity up to its sources; Lucian, who anticipates what it will lead to, takes up a very superficial notion of it. His ideal is Demonax, who, quite unlike Celsus, made no sacrifices, nor initiated himself into any mystery, had no other religion than gaiety and universal benevolence.

This entire difference in the point of departure made Lucian to be less at a distance from the Christians than Celsus. He who had the best right of any one to be severe as to the supernatural shows himself, on the contrary, at times indulgent enough to them. Like the Christians, Lucian is a demolisher of Paganism, a subject resigned, but not loving, to Rome. Never was there any disquieted patriotism with him, or a single one of 217those anxieties for the State which devoured his friend Celsus. his laugh is like that of Peres, his diasyrnios made a chorus to that of Hermias. lie spoke of the immorality of the gods, of the contradiction of the philosophers, almost like Tatian. His ideal city singularly resembled a church. The Christians and he were allied in the same war, war against local superstitions, goëtes, oracles, and thaumaturges.

The chimerical and Utopian side of the Christians could not but displease him. It seemed, indeed, that he had thought often of them in tracing, in the Fugitives, that picture of a society of Bohemianism, impudent, ignorant, and insolent, raising a real tribute under the name of alms, austere in words, in reality debauchés, seducers of women, enemies of the Muses, people of pale face and shaven heads, parties in shameful orgies. The picture is less gloomy, but the allusion is perhaps more contemptuous, in Peregrinus. Certainly Lucian did not see, like Celsus, a danger for the State in those base sectaries, whom he shows us living as brethren and animated by the most ardent charity for each other. It is not he who shall ask who persecutes them. There are enough of fools in the world! Those are not by any means the most wicked.

Lucian certainly formed a strange idea of “the crucified sophist who introduced those new mysteries and succeeded in persuading his disciples not to adore him.” He pities such credulity. How should those unfortunates, who have taken it into their heads that they are immortal, be exposed to all aberrations? The cynic who vaporises himself at Olympia, the Christian martyr who seeks for death to be with Christ, appear to him fools of the same order. In view of these pompous deaths sought for willingly, his reflection is that of Arrius 218Antoninus: “If you so much desire to be roasted, do it among yourselves at your ease and without this theatrical ostentation.” This care to gather together the remains of the martyr, to raise them to the altars, this claim to obtain from them miracles of healing, to erect its pyre in a sanctuary of prophecy—common enough follies these to all sectaries. Lucian is of opinion that one might laugh at this if knavery were not mixed up with it. He did not regard the victims with favour, because they provoked the executioners.

It was the first appearance of this form of human genius, of which Voltaire has been the perfect incarnation, and which, in many points of view, is the truth. Man being incapable of resolving seriously any metaphysical problems which he had imprudently raised, what would the sage do in the middle of the war of religions and systems? To abstain, to smile, to preach tolerance, humanity, benevolence without pretension, that is to render a simple service to poor humanity. The radical remedy is that of Epicurus, who destroyed at a blow religion, and its object and the evil it brings with it. Lucian appears to us like a wise man wandered in a world of fools. He hates nothing, he laughs at everything, serious virtue excepted.

But at the time when we stop this history men of this kind become rare; they may be counted. The very intellectual Apulerius of Madaurus is, or at least affects to be, very much opposed to these strong minds. He had been invested with the priesthood. He detested the Christians as impious. He repelled the accusation of magic, not as chimerical, but as a fact not proved; all is complete for him, the gods and the demons. The true thinker was in some sort an isolated being, badly seen, and obliged to dissimulate. We produce with horror the history of a certain Euphronius, an 219obdurate Epicurean, who fell sick, and whose parents brought him into a temple of Æsculapius. There a divine oracle signified to him this recipe: “Burn the books of Epicurus, knead the ashes of them with soft wax, rub the belly with this liniment, and wrap the whole round with bandages.” We read also of the history of a cock of Tanagre which, wounded on the leg, was sent among them who sung a hymn to Æsculapius, and accompanied them with its song, while showing to the god its wounded leg. A revelation being made to bring about its cure, “they saw the cock beating its wings, lengthening its stride, raising its neck and shaking its comb, to proclaim that Providence which considers creatures wanting in reason.”

The overthrow of good sense was accomplished. The delicate railleries of Lucian, the just criticisms of Celsus, fell only as powerless protests. In one generation man in entering life shall have no other choice than that of superstition, and soon even that choice he shall have no longer.

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