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Chapter XXIII.—Argument:  Although the Heathens Acknowledge Their Kings to Be Mortal, Yet They Feign that They are Gods Even Against Their Own Will, Not Because of Their Belief in Their Divinity, But in Honour of the Power that They Have Exerted.  187Yet a True God Has Neither Rising Nor Setting.  Thence Octavius Criticises the Images and Shrines of the Gods.

“It is needless to go through each individual case, and to develope the entire series of that race, since in its first parents their mortality is proved, and must have flowed down into the rest by the very law of their succession, unless perhaps you fancy that they were gods after death; as by the perjury of Proculus, Romulus became a god; and by the good-will of the Mauritanians, Juba is a god; and other kings are divine who are consecrated, not in the faith of their divinity, but in honour of the power that they exercised.  Moreover, this name is ascribed to those who are unwilling to bear it.  They desire to persevere in their human condition.  They fear that they may be made gods; although they are already old men, they do not wish it.  Therefore neither are gods made from dead people, since a god cannot die; nor of people that are born, since everything which is born dies.  But that is divine which has neither rising nor setting.  For why, if they were born, are they not born in the present day also?—unless, perchance, Jupiter has already grown old, and child-bearing has failed in Juno, and Minerva has grown grey before she has borne children.  Or has that process of generation ceased, for the reason that no assent is any longer yielded to fables of this kind?  Besides, if the gods could create,17961796    “Be created” is a more probable reading. they could not perish:  we should have more gods than all men together; so that now, neither would the heaven contain them, nor the air receive them, nor the earth bear them.  Whence it is manifest, that those were men whom we both read of as having been born, and know to have died.  Who therefore doubts that the common people pray to and publicly worship the consecrated images of these men; in that the belief and mind of the ignorant is deceived by the perfection of art, is blinded by the glitter of gold, is dimmed with the shining of silver and the whiteness of ivory?  But if any one were to present to his mind with what instruments and with what machinery every image is formed, he would blush that he had feared matter, treated after his fancy by the artificer to make a god.17971797    Otherwise, “that he had rashly been so deceived by the artificer in the material, as to make a god.”  For a god of wood, a portion perhaps of a pile, or of an unlucky log, is hung up, is cut, is hewn, is planed; and a god of brass or of silver, often from an impure vessel, as was done by the Egyptian king,17981798    [Footbaths.  See vol. ii., Theophilus, p. 92, and Athenagoras, p. 143.] is fused, is beaten with hammers and forged on anvils; and the god of stone is cut, is sculptured, and is polished by some abandoned man, nor feels the injury done to him in his nativity, any more than afterwards it feels the worship flowing from your veneration; unless perhaps the stone, or the wood, or the silver is not yet a god.  When, therefore, does the god begin his existence?  Lo, it is melted, it is wrought, it is sculptured—it is not yet a god; lo, it is soldered, it is built together—it is set up, and even yet it is not a god; lo, it is adorned, it is consecrated, it is prayed to—then at length it is a god, when man has chosen it to be so, and for the purpose has dedicated it.

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