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Chapter LIV.

When Celsus adds, “We must therefore believe that men are entrusted to certain beings who are the keepers of this prison-house,” our answer is, that the souls of those who are called by Jeremiah “prisoners of the earth,”49444944    Lam. iii. 34. when eager in the pursuit of virtue, are even in this life delivered from the bondage of evil; for Jesus declared this, as was foretold long before His advent by the prophet Isaiah, when he said that “the prisoners would go forth, and they that were in darkness would show themselves.”49454945    Isa. xlix. 9.  And Jesus Himself, as Isaiah also foretold of Him, arose as “a light to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,”49464946    Isa. ix. 2. so that we may therefore say, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords from us.”49474947    Ps. ii. 3.  If Celsus, and those who like him are opposed to us, had been able to sound the depths of the Gospel narratives, they would not have counselled us to put our confidence in those beings whom they call “the keepers of the prison-house.”  It is written in the Gospel that a woman was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.  And when Jesus beheld her, and perceived from what cause she was bowed together, he said, “Ought not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years, to be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”49484948    Luke xiii. 11, 16.  And how many others are still bowed down and bound by Satan, who hinders them from looking up at all, and who would have us to look down also!  And no one can raise them up, except the Word, that came by Jesus Christ, and that aforetime inspired the prophets.  And Jesus came to release those who were under the dominion of the devil; and, speaking of him, He said with that depth of meaning which characterized His words, “Now is the prince of this world judged.”  We are, then, indulging in no baseless calumnies against demons, but are condemning their agency upon earth as destructive to mankind, and show that, under cover of oracles and bodily cures, and such other means, they are seeking to separate from God the soul which has descended to this “body of humiliation;” and those who feel this humiliation exclaim, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”49494949    Rom. vii. 24.  It is not in vain, therefore, that we expose our bodies to be beaten and tortured; for surely it is not in vain for a man to submit to such sufferings, if by that means he may avoid bestowing the name of gods on those earthly spirits that unite with their worshippers to bring him to destruction.  Indeed, we think it both reasonable in itself and well-pleasing to God, to suffer pain for the sake of virtue, to undergo torture for the sake of piety, and even to suffer death for the sake of holiness; for “precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints;”49504950    Ps. cxvi. 15. and we maintain that to overcome the love of life is to enjoy a great good.  But when Celsus compares us to notorious criminals, who justly suffer punishment for their crimes, and does not shrink from placing so laudable a purpose as that which we set before us upon the same level with the obstinacy of criminals, he makes himself the brother and companion of those who accounted Jesus among criminals, fulfilling the Scripture, which saith, “He was numbered with transgressors.”49514951    Isa. liii. 12.


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