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Chapter XII.—Argument:  Moreover, What Will Happen to the Christians Themselves After Death, May Be Anticipated from the Fact that Even Now They are Destitute of All Means, and are Afflicted with the Heaviest Calamities and Miseries.

“Neither do you at least take experience from things present, how the fruitless expectations of vain promise deceive you.  Consider, wretched creatures, (from your lot) while you are yet living, what is threatening you after death.17501750    Otherwise, “while you consider, while you are yet alive, poor wretches, what is threatening after death.”  Behold, a portion of you—and, as you declare, the larger and better portion—are in want, are cold, are labouring in hard work and hunger; and God suffers it, He feigns; He either is not willing or not able to assist His people; and thus He is either weak or inequitable.  Thou, who dreamest over a posthumous immortality, when thou art shaken by danger,17511751    Some read, “with shivering.” when thou art consumed with fever, when thou art torn with pain, dost thou not then feel thy real condition?  Dost thou not then acknowledge thy frailty?  Poor wretch, art thou unwillingly convinced of thine infirmity, and wilt not confess it?  But I omit matters that are common to all alike.  Lo, for you there are threats, punishments, tortures, and crosses; and that no longer as objects of adoration, but as tortures to be undergone; fires also, which you both predict and fear.  Where is that God who is able to help you when you come to life again, since he cannot help you while you are in this life?  Do not the Romans, without any help from your God, govern, reign, have the enjoyment of the whole world, and have dominion over you?  But you in the meantime, in suspense and anxiety, are abstaining from respectable enjoyments.  You do not visit exhibitions; you have no concern in public displays; you reject the public banquets, and abhor the sacred contests; the meats previously tasted by, and the drinks made a libation of upon, the altars.  Thus you stand in dread of the gods whom you deny.  You do not wreath your heads with flowers; you do not grace your bodies with odours; you reserve unguents for funeral rites; you even refuse garlands to your sepulchres—pallid, trembling beings, worthy of the pity even of our gods!  Thus, wretched as you are, you neither rise again, nor do you live in the meanwhile.  Therefore, if you have any wisdom or modesty, cease from prying into the regions of the sky, and the destinies and secrets of the world:  it is sufficient to look before your feet, especially for untaught, uncultivated, boorish, rustic people:  they who have no capacity for understanding civil matters, are much more denied the ability to discuss divine.


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