The Divine Institutes, Books I–VII (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 49)

The Divine Institutes, Books I–VII (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 49)

Translated by SISTER MARY FRANCIS McDONALD
Copyright Date: 1964
Pages: 587
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt31nk6q
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  • Book Info
    The Divine Institutes, Books I–VII (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 49)
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    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1149-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. GENERAL INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xxvi)

    Lucius caelius (caecilius) firmianus or Lactantius, as he is generally called, lived through one of the greatest turning points in the history of Europe. It has been aptly described as the moment when the old world of paganism was in travail, when against its will it gave birth to the Christian Empire.¹ The writings of this author are, together with those of Eusebius,² the principal sources for the period of the great persecution of Diocletian and for the first years of the peace of the Church after the Edict of Milan. For the period of the Council of Nicaea there...

  4. THE DIVINE INSTITUTES
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 3-14)

      The principal work of lactantius, the Divine Instructions, might be entitled An Introduction to the True Religion. This apology for Christianity, directed to pagan intellectuals or to those recently converted, consists of two parts: the one polemical, which is very short; the other, dogmatic, which considers the substance of the whole system of Christian doctrine. Although at times the work lacks exactness and depth, a study of it is essential for forming an adequate concept of the state of religious thought in the early years of the fourth century. For the historian it offers a wealth of information on the...

    • BOOK ONE: ON FALSE RELIGION
      (pp. 15-93)

      Whenever men of great and excellent character gave themselves completely to a doctrine, they bore whatever labor could be expended in despising all things, even private and public concerns, for the pursuit of searching after truth. It was their belief that to investigate and learn the reason of things human and divine was much more splendid than to cling to the amassing of wealth and the accumulation of honors; for by these things, since they are fragile and earthly and pertain solely to the cultivation of the body, no one can be made better; no one can become more just....

    • BOOK TWO: THE ORIGIN OF ERROR
      (pp. 94-163)

      Although i have shown in book I that the religions of the gods are false, because those, whose varied and dissimilar cults men have adopted by custom, consent, and foolish conviction throughout the world, were mortal and, having discharged their lot in life, were molded to divine usage at their death; however, lest any doubt should remain, I will reveal these errors in this second book at their very source. It will explain all the causes by which men were deceived and believed in the beginning that such were gods, and then, later on with inveterate persuasion, continued in the...

    • BOOK THREE: ON FALSE PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 164-244)

      Since truth is thought to be still lying in obscurity, either through the error and inexperience of the common people in subservience to varied and foolish superstitions, or through the philosophers who are distorting it rather than making it clear by the depravity of their abilities (although Marcus Tullius was not such, for his was outstanding and admirable), I would wish that some power very close to eloquence were mine. Then, as much as the truth is strong by its own proper strength, it might somehow function just so much, relying on the strength of genius also, and bring most...

    • BOOK FOUR: TRUE WISDOM AND RELIGION
      (pp. 245-325)

      It seems to me, as I think about it and often reconsider it in my mind, that that former state of the human race is equally strange and unbecoming, because, through the foolishness of one age or generation taking up various religions and believing that there are many gods, man has suddenly come into such great ignorance of himself that when truth was removed from the sight, neither the religion of the true God nor the reason of humanity was held by men seeking their highest good, not in heaven but on earth. And for this reason, of course, the...

    • BOOK FIVE: CONCERNING JUSTICE
      (pp. 326-390)

      There is no doubt in my mind that if any one of those foolishly religious persons, as they are exceedingly intolerant of superstition, should come upon this work of ours in which claim is made for that singular Creator of all things and the Ruler of this immense universe, he would rail against it even with maledictions, and after scarcely reading the beginning perhaps, he would attack it, reject it, and curse it, and think himself contaminated and bound up with crime if he should read these chapters patiently or listen to them being read.¹ However, of this one we...

    • BOOK SIX: ON TRUE WORSHIP
      (pp. 391-469)

      Under the instruction of the Divine Spirit and with the aid of Truth Itself, we have completed the duty of the work which we undertook. Science and the faith and Our Lord Himself imposed upon me the cause of investigating and revealing the truth. Without Him it is not possible for anything either to be known or to be explained. I come now to that topic which is the highest and most essential of this work, namely, to show by what rite or by what sacrifice God is to be fittingly worshiped. For that is the duty of man and...

    • BOOK SEVEN: ON THE BLESSED LIFE
      (pp. 470-542)

      It holds well; the foundations have been laid,’¹ as the distinguished orator says.” We have not only laid the foundations which were firm and suitable for completing the work, but we have brought the entire structure almost up to its conclusion by great and vigorous efforts. There remains that which is much easier, either to cover it, or adorn it. Without this part of the work, however, the earlier efforts are not useful and are unpleasant. What is the good of being set free from false religions or of understanding the true one? What advantage to see through the vanity...

  5. INDICES
    (pp. 545-561)