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Chapter XXXVIII.—Argument:  Christians Abstain from Things Connected with Idol Sacrifices, Lest Any One Should Think Either that They Yield to Demons, or that They are Ashamed of Their Religion.  They Do Not Indeed Despise All the Colour and Scent of Flowers, for They are Accustomed to Use Them Scattered About Loosely and Negligently, as Well as to Entwine Their Necks with Garlands; But to Crown the Head of a Corpse They Think Superfluous and Useless.  Moreover, with the Same 197Tranquillity with Which They Live They Bury Their Dead, Waiting with a Very Certain Hope the Crown of Eternal Felicity.  Therefore Their Religion, Rejecting All the Superstitions of the Gentiles, Should Be Adopted as True by All Men.

“But that we despise the leavings of sacrifices, and the cups out of which libations have been poured, is not a confession of fear, but an assertion of our true liberty.  For although nothing which comes into existence as an inviolable gift of God is corrupted by any agency, yet we abstain, lest any should think either that we are submitting to demons, to whom libation has been made, or that we are ashamed of our religion.  But who is he who doubts of our indulging ourselves in spring flowers, when we gather both the rose of spring and the lily, and whatever else is of agreeable colour and odour among the flowers?  For these we both use scattered loose and free, and we twine our necks with them in garlands.  Pardon us, forsooth, that we do not crown our heads; we are accustomed to receive the scent of a sweet flower in our nostrils, not to inhale it with the back of our head or with our hair.  Nor do we crown the dead.  And in this respect I the more wonder at you, in the way in which you apply to a lifeless person, or to one who does not feel, a torch; or a garland18371837    The probable reading here is, “You apply to a lifeless person, either if he has feeling, a torch; or, if he feels not, a garland.” to one who does not smell it, when either as blessed he does not want, or, being miserable, he has no pleasure in, flowers.  Still we adorn our obsequies with the same tranquillity with which we live; and we do not bind to us a withering garland, but we wear one living with eternal flowers from God, since we, being both moderate and secure in the liberality of our God, are animated to the hope of future felicity by the confidence of His present majesty.  Thus we both rise again in blessedness, and are already living in contemplation of the future.  Then let Socrates the Athenian buffoon see to it, confessing that he knew nothing, although boastful in the testimony of a most deceitful demon; let Arcesilaus also, and Carneades, and Pyrrho, and all the multitude of the Academic philosophers, deliberate; let Simonides also for ever put off the decision of his opinion.  We despise the bent brows of the philosophers, whom we know to be corrupters, and adulterers, and tyrants, and ever eloquent against their own vices.  We who18381838    “We who do not,” etc., is a conjectural reading, omitting the subsequent “we.” bear wisdom not in our dress, but in our mind, we do not speak great things, but we live them; we boast that we have attained what they have sought for with the utmost eagerness, and have not been able to find.  Why are we ungrateful? why do we grudge if the truth of divinity has ripened in the age of our time?  Let us enjoy our benefits, and let us in rectitude moderate our judgments; let superstition be restrained; let impiety be expiated; let true religion be preserved.


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