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36. But this crime is not enough: the persons of the most sacred gods are mixed up with farces also, and scurrilous plays. And that the idle onlookers may be excited to laughter and jollity, the deities are hit at in jocular quips, the spectators shout and rise up, the whole pit resounds with the clapping of hands and applause. And to the debauched scoffers42654265    Lit., “debauched and scoffers.” at the gods gifts and presents are ordained, ease, freedom from public burdens, exemption and relief, together with triumphal garlands,—a crime for which no amends can be made by any apologies. And after this do you dare to wonder whence these ills come with which the human race is deluged and overwhelmed without any interval, while you daily both repeat and learn by heart all these things, with which are mixed up libels upon the gods and slanderous sayings; and when42664266    So Orelli, reading et quando; ms. and other edd. et si—“and if ever.” you wish your inactive minds to be occupied with useless dreamings, demand that days be given to you, and exhibition made without any interval? But if you felt any real indignation on behalf of your religious beliefs, you should rather long ago have burned these writings, destroyed those books of yours, and overthrown these theatres, in which evil reports of your deities are daily made public in shameful tales. For why, indeed, have our writings deserved to be given to the flames? our meetings to be cruelly broken up,42674267    Arnobius is generally thought to refer here to the persecution under Diocletian mentioned by Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., viii. 2. in which prayer is made to the Supreme God, peace and pardon are asked for all in authority, for soldiers, kings, friends, enemies, for those still in life, and those freed from the bondage of the flesh;42684268    The service in which these prayers were offered was presided over by the bishop, to whom the dead body was brought: hymns were then sung of thanksgiving to God, the giver of victory, by whose help and grace the departed brother had been victorious. The priest next gave thanks to God, and some chapters of the Scriptures were read; afterwards the catechumens were dismissed; the names of those at rest were then read in a clear voice, to remind the survivors of the success with which others had combated the temptations of the world. The priest again prayed for the departed, at the close beseeching God to grant him pardon, and admission among the undying. Thereafter the body was kissed, anointed, and buried.—Dionysius, Eccl. Hier., last chapter quoted by Heraldus. Cf. Const. Apost., viii. 41. With the Church’s advance in power there was an accession of pomp to these rites. [Elucidation IV.] in which all that is said is such as to make men humane,42694269    Cf. the younger Pliny, Epist., x. 97: “They affirmed that they bound themselves by oath not for any wicked purpose, but to pledge themselves not to commit theft, robbery, or adultery, nor break faith, or prove false to a trust.” gentle, modest, virtuous, chaste, generous in dealing with their substance, and inseparably united to all embraced in our brotherhood?42704270    Lit., “whom our society joins together,” quos solidet germanitas. [Lardner justly argues that this passage proves our author’s familiarity with rites to which catechumens were not admitted. Credibil., vol. iii. p. 458.]


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