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Title: A Dissertation on the Books of Origen against Celsus
Author: Cunningham, Francis A. (Francis Aloysius)
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1812 J. Smith edition by David Price, email

                              HULSEAN ESSAY
                               _For_ 1811.

                                * * * * *

                                  ON THE
                   BOOKS _of_ ORIGEN _against_ CELSUS,
                               WITH A VIEW
                        TO ILLUSTRATE THE ARGUMENT
                                  TO THE
                          TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY.

                                * * * * *

_Published in pursuance of the Will of the Rev._ J. HULSE, _as having
gained the_ ANNUAL PRIZE, _instituted by him in the University of

                                * * * * *

                           FRANCIS CUNNINGHAM,
                           OF QUEEN’S COLLEGE.

                                * * * * *

    “Quippe in his (_nimirum Origenis contra Celsum libris_) communem
    Christianorum doctrinam, adversus instructissimum Religionis nostræ
    hostem propugnat: hi summo Auctoris studio maxima eruditione,
    elucubrati fuere.”  _Bull._ _Def._ _Fid._ _Nic._ Cap. ix. Sec. 2.

                                * * * * *

           PRINTED _by_ J. SMITH, PRINTER _to the_ UNIVERSITY;
                          _HATCHARD_, _LONDON_.

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *

                                  TO THE
                   _Very Rev. the_ DEAN _of_ CARLISLE,
                        PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS,
                              THE PRESIDENT,
                      _To the Reverend and Learned_
                               THE FELLOWS
                          _OF QUEEN’S COLLEGE_,
                                THIS ESSAY
                               IS DEDICATED
                               THE AUTHOR.

                                * * * * *


Introduction                               1
                  CHAP. I.
History and Writings of the Jews           5
                 CHAP. II.
The Scriptures                            12
                 CHAP. III.
History of Christ                         19
                 CHAP. IV.
Miracles                                  24
                  CHAP. V.
Character of the early Christians         33
                 CHAP. VI.
Doctrines of the early Christians         39
                 CHAP. VII.
Conclusion                                49


THE Book of Celsus, {1a} entitled “The True Discourse,” {1b} is supposed
to have been written during the fifth persecution, {1c} in the reign of
Marcus Antoninus, and in the one hundred and seventieth year of the
Christian era.  Of his history nothing is known, but that he was an
epicurean philosopher, {1d} and a friend of Lucian, who inscribed a book
{1e} to him.  The object of his work was an attack upon Christianity, and
as such, it is one of the most malignant and unreserved upon record.  He
is indebted to his opponents for bringing down any account of his
writings to posterity, for they have otherwise perished.

Origen died in the year of our Lord {2a} two hundred and fifty-four.  He
undertook, at the request of Ambrose, {2b} to answer the work of Celsus,
and “to leave no part without examination.”  His Treatise is divided into
eight books; but this division seems rather to be founded upon caprice,
{2c} than upon any design of methodically discussing the argument.  The
reasonings of Celsus are discussed in the order in which they occur,
which is without method, or connection.  The extracts which are made by
Origen from the works of his adversary are very copious, so much so,
that, considering his object, of fully discussing every part of the
original work, it is probable nothing of importance is omitted.  The
accuracy of the quotations of Origin is guaranteed both by his
acknowledged veracity, {3a} and by the risk of refutation to which he
would otherwise have exposed himself, from opponents who had the original
writing in their hands.  The work of Origen has been considered both by
ancients and moderns, as a master-piece of eloquence and argument.
Eusebius {3b} and Jerome {3c} have given it their highest approbation.
Many of our own writers, {3d} and many more of the French, {3e} both
Catholic and Protestant, have pronounced it to be the completest, and
best written apology for the Christian Religion which has been bequeathed
to us by the ancients.

The want of order, both in the attack of Celsus, and the reply of Origen,
renders it impracticable to follow, precisely in their steps.  Time will
be gained, and perspicuity promoted, by endeavouring to bring their
perplexed argument into a more regular form.  We shall therefore single
out the main topics discussed by each, and by stating the objections of
the one, and the replies of the other, strive to collect the evidence
which each furnishes to the truth of Christianity.  Taking the more
prominent topics therefore, we shall consider in order; the History and
Writings of the Jews—the Scriptures—the History of Christ—the Conduct and
the Principles of the early Christians.  After which it will be useful to
sum up the evidence to Christianity, supplied by the whole argument.


THE evidence in favour of Christianity, to be deduced from the history
and writings of the Jews, is so important, that it was a primary object
with Celsus, to render it nugatory.  This he endeavours to effect, first,
by disputing the antiquity of Moses; and secondly, by condemning his
narration.  We shall examine his statement on these points, and some
important acknowledgments he makes, of the existence of the prophetic

He says that “the Jews, {5a} who were originally fugitive slaves from
Egypt, pretended, on the authority of the Books of Moses, to a very
ancient genealogy; {5b} that they lived together in a corner of
Palestine, in profound ignorance; {5c} not having heard of the things
long before celebrated by Hesiod, and many other men divinely inspired.”
He then particularizes much of the history of Genesis, which he calls “an
old woman’s story, full of impiety;” {6a} and asserts that “many of its
facts are taken from the heathens.”  To this Origen {6b} replies by
referring to Josephus {6c} and Tatian {6d} for external proof of the
history of the Jews: He affirms that they have all the evidence of their
existence which other nations have, {6e} that they have records which
others have not; {6f} that other nations are allowed to have existed who
bear testimony to the Jews; {6g} that it would have been impossible for
so small a band, to have opposed itself to the whole power of Egypt; that
it must have changed its language; and that, in changing, it has not
assumed one resembling the neighbouring nations.  He then urges the
wisdom of the Jewish Institutions; infers from their perfect
preservation, the esteem in which they were held; and challenges a
comparison, {7a} as to sublimity of doctrine, and purity of morals, with
any other system, proposed to mankind.

Celsus then notices many of the Old Testament characters: He ridicules
the relation of “the Fall, {7b} the Deluge, Children born of old Persons,
Brothers who kill each other, Mothers who deceive, the Sin of Lot, the
Animosity of Esau, the Deceit of the Sons of Jacob, the History of
Joseph,” &c.  Origen replies that such facts alone are selected by Celsus
from the writings of Moses, as supply a ground of attack; that the
simplicity of his narration proves the integrity of its author; and he
then apologizes for these causes of offence by the necessity of the case,
he contrasts with them the greater profligacy of the heathen, or
fancifully explains them upon the scheme of allegory.

No direct admission of Celsus, relating to Jewish prophecy, is to be
found.  There are however many observations, which prove the coming of
Christ to have been expected by the Jews, and this expectation must have
been the result of prophecy.  The remarks of Celsus, with regard to this
topic, are of this kind.  That the “Jews {8a} and Christians believe,
that the Spirit of God had promised there would come a Saviour; but they
could not agree, whether or no, he had already come;” {8b} that “the
prophecies which the Christians apply to Christ refer equally to other
persons;” {8c} that “others had lived who had applied the prophecies of
Christ to themselves,” &c. &c.  Thus he plainly admits prophecies to have
existed of some great person, who was to come; and that Jews and
Christians believed in them, but that it was uncertain whether they were

The inferences to be collected from the preceding observations, are as

First, The Jewish Scriptures are of older date, than the birth of Christ.
For if these writings had been compiled since that time, some rumours of
such an event must have reached Celsus; and this fact which would have
ruined all the pretensions of Jewish antiquity, would have been urged by
the heathens as a primary objection to their claims.  The Jews themselves
moreover could not have been deceived, if this had been a cunningly
devised fable; for they were a widely extended people, and in so short a
space of time, it would have been impossible to make them the dupes of
such an imposture.  Secondly, It may be inferred from the admission of
Celsus, that the prophecies were found in the Jewish Scriptures _in his
time_; and _since_ then no alteration has been made in them by the Jews.
But if so, this is the strongest presumption, that the Jews had never
altered them _before_.  For, if, when by the fulfilment of the
prophecies, in the person of Christ, they were most tempted to erase
predictions, so hostile to their own creed, they made no change, much
less, would they do it, when the temptation was diminished.  Thirdly, If
little is to be collected from the writings of Celsus, in favour of those
prophecies which he has attacked, something may be inferred in favour of
those which he has failed to attack.  Their existence is admitted, and
his spirit of hostility is such, that we must attribute his silence not
to his forbearance, but to his disingenuousness.  Fourthly, The admission
that some important character was expected, not only by the Jews, but by
the heathens, at the era of Christ’s advent, is very important to
religion.  Where could the expectation originate, except in the Jewish
Scriptures?  The sages, poets, and historians of antiquity, appear to
have drunk at this sacred source.  The Arabians {10a} came from a far
country to greet it; Herod destroyed {10b} the Jewish genealogies that
the family of David might not be known, {10c} undertook the building of
the temple, a work it was thought the Messias was to perform, and
murdered {11a} his own son in fear that the promised King should dethrone
him.  Virgil, building upon the popular persuasion, applied it on two
occasions to Augustus. {11b}  This expectation is also mentioned by
Cicero, {11c} Sallust, {11d} Suetonius, {11e} and Tacitus. {11f}  If the
origin of this expectation was with the Jews, where else can we look for
the accomplishment.  Who has fulfilled their wide-spread expectations?
Where is this hope of all nations to be sought, if not in the person of


CELSUS in his general mode of argument against the Christians, renders a
very important testimony to the truth of their Scriptures: for his
charges are not grounded on facts or doctrines, not there recorded; but
almost every one of them may be directly traced, to some important and
obvious passage of the Bible.

He seemed therefore to consider, that he could most effectually destroy
Christianity, by overturning the authority of the writings which the
Christians believed to have been delivered to them by inspiration, and
which they considered the authority, the guide and the security of their

He acknowledges {13a} that there were “writings concerning the affairs of
Christ made by his disciples;” using the word _disciple_ distinctly from
the _follower_ of Christ, and plainly in the sense of the immediate
attendant upon his person.  Whence may be inferred the general belief, in
his time, that the Gospels proceeded from their accredited authors.

He states the Christians to have “preached their doctrines to the poor
and wicked, without partiality or respect of persons;” {13b} a statement
admitted by Origen, to be conformable to the genius of the Gospel, and
fulfilling its own declarations, “that to the poor the Gospel is
preached;” {13c} and that “Christ came not to call the righteous, but
sinners to repentance.” {13d}  This statement also proves the Gospel to
have been publicly promulged.

He charges the Christians with so “mutilating the Scriptures, that if one
expression was attacked they might take refuge in another;” {14a} but the
charge rests alone upon his assertion.  Origen confidently challenges any
proof of it; imputes the mutilations of Scripture, exclusively, to
Marcion and Valentinus; but denies their claim to the title of

The quotations of Celsus from the New Testament are so numerous, {14b}
that from them a great part of the History of Christ, a statement of his
doctrines, his character, and that of his disciples, might be gathered.
These quotations are taken from the Gospels, in general, but more
particularly from Saint Matthew, from the Acts of the Apostles, from the
various Epistles of St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John.  They are so
faithful a transcript of our New Testament, as to leave no doubt, that he
had it before him.  Now and then, however, he mutilates passages, as if
to show the contempt in which he held the whole relation.  Thus in
mentioning the disciples of Christ, he says, “that he took ten or eleven
abjects, vile publicans and sailors.” {15}  This error is plainly one,
rather of contempt, than of ignorance.

It is also worthy of notice, that Celsus has taken very few stories from
the heretical writings, which assumed to themselves equal authority with
the Gospels, and which abounded in his days.  These stories, wherever
they occur, are disallowed by Origen, and their authors, at once, given
up as uninspired.  The concessions of Celsus may be taken in evidence,
that the canon of Scripture was already so well established, that it
would have been in vain for him to mis-state it.

The general testimony furnished by Origen to the Scriptures, may be
viewed in some degree distinctly from that of Celsus.  It must be
considered as coming about fifty years after. {16a}  In this work he
quotes from twenty-nine books of the Old Testament, {16b} from all but
three in the New, {16c} and from five books of the Apocrypha. {16d}  His
quotations agree very accurately with our Text, and many passages, which
since have been disputed, {16e} are held by him as authentic.  He allows
no objection to lie against the plenary inspiration of Scripture; he
indeed admits {16f} some differences to have existed, as to the
interpretation of passages, but adverts to none respecting their

Origen frankly avows the _difficulties_ of Scripture; and it is to cut
his way through these, that he is tempted to employ the weapon of
allegorical interpretation; a weapon, which never fails to wound the hand
of the employer, and to injure the cause it is designed to serve.  His
rashness in this method of interpretation may be estimated by the
following specimen. {17a}  “O daughter of Babylon, who art to be
destroyed; happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be, who taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the
stones.” {17b}  “The little ones, the children of Babylon,” he says, “are
to be interpreted vexatious thoughts, the offspring of confusion, which
vice has produced; and he who is happy in dashing them against the
stones, is he, who crushes these thoughts against the solidity of
reason.”  Such excesses, whilst they betray the unsoundness of an
expositor of Scripture, evince his faith in its authority: and it is
rather the authority of the text, than the universal sobriety of its
interpreters, which we are anxious to defend.


THE attack of Celsus, upon the History of Christ, maybe arranged under
the three divisions, of his birth; his life; his death.

In adverting to the birth of Christ, Celsus introduces a Jew, charging
Christ with being privately born {19a} in a little village of Judea, his
mother being driven out by the Carpenter, to whom she was betrothed,
because convicted of adultery {19b} with a soldier named Panther.  He
imputes to him that he was privately educated, and went to earn his
livelihood in Egypt.

It is enough to say of all this, that it is mere assertion; that no proof
of it is either established or offered.  Origen, however, justly asks, if
it be probable, that a person, the purity of whose life and doctrine is
so remarkably opposite to the imputation laid against his birth, {20a}
should have been born and educated by a profligate parent.  Perhaps, even
the idolatrous worship of the Virgin Mary, in the Church of Rome, of
which the first elements are discernible at a very early period, may in a
measure serve, (the only good purpose it ever served) to vindicate her
moral character. {20b}

Against the Life of Christ, no charge is brought by Celsus; {20c} except
that he did not answer to _his_ conception {20d} of the appearance of a
Deity on earth.  It is obvious that this objection is founded on a
misconception of the object of his advent.  Celsus believed that other
gods had descended {20e} from heaven to earth, and framed his notion of
the appearance of deity, upon the model with which the fictions of
heathen poetry and history supplied him.  To satisfy his perverted
imagination, {21a} God must descend in showers of gold, {21b} or armed
with celestial thunders.  And indeed had Jesus Christ appeared, like the
gods of heathenism, to gratify lust, or decide the fate of empires; the
ensigns of pomp and power would have been adapted to his commission.  But
when it is remembered, that he came to establish a spiritual religion,
{21c} to wean men from the world, {21d} to live with the poor, {21e} and
above all to die for the guilty; {21f} then it is evident, that the
character which became him, was that of a “Man of Sorrows.” {21g}  Moral
grandeur was the only grandeur with which he could invest himself,
righteousness his sceptre, {21h} and his throne a cross.  Had Celsus
indeed been disposed to examine, or enabled to appreciate, the moral
dignity of his character, he would have shrunk with disgust from the
fabled descents of Jupiter.  He would have seen that this Pillar of Cloud
{22a} had a bright side; that if he was a man in suffering, in the
grandeur with which he suffered he was truly God.

Celsus states, even to minuteness, the facts recorded by the Sacred
Historians, as to the Death of Christ.  He says, that he was “betrayed,”
{22b} “bound,” “scourged,” “stretched upon the Cross;” {22c} that he
“drank vinegar;” {22d} that after his death, he was “said to have
appeared twice,” {22e} but that “he did not appear to his enemies.” {22f}
To the objection conveyed in the last clause it is an obvious reply, that
his appearance to his enemies cannot be claimed, except by those who
contend that God is bound to increase evidence to the persons who shut
their eyes against it.  Those who, after the evidence of the miracles of
Jesus Christ, could continue to doubt, would not have believed, though he
“had risen from the dead” {23} in their view.

The objections of Celsus to the character of Christ being thus dismissed,
and they are really unworthy even of the scanty space here bestowed upon
them, it is plain that all the _facts_ admitted by him are so much to be
added to the scale of evidence.  It is thus proved, that, either
influenced by universal persuasion, or borne down by overwhelming
testimony, men, who desired to be infidels, were compelled to admit the
facts of Christianity.  It is also proved, that nothing can be charged
against the life of Christ, except that he most accurately maintained the
character in which he condescended to appear.


THE strongest evidence in favour of Christianity is supplied by the
Miracles, which accompanied its promulgation.  We shall proceed to
consider the light cast by the work before us, on this important topic;
and examine, first, the testimony of Origen and Celsus to the miraculous
effects that were produced; secondly, the pretensions which these works
had to a Divine original.

Celsus lived in an age when by the testimony of all history, the Miracles
of Christ were objects of notoriety.  The disciples had yet the power of
working them, {24a} and they propounded {24b} them as the
incontrovertible proof of the truth of their religion.  It was impossible
therefore, in a general work against Christianity, that Celsus should not
refer to the subject of Miracles, or that he should, in the face of their
public performance, flatly deny their existence.  He has then taken the
only method by which he could obviate this difficulty.  He makes a
“_supposition_ {25a} that Christ did perform many marvellous works;”
these however he imputes to “the same magical power that is made use of
in the market-places of Egypt.”  We shall first examine how far this
concession on the part of Celsus may stand as an admission that Miracles
were really performed.  Writers have differed about the meaning to be
attached to these words; but the greater part of those, whose opinion is
of highest authority, {25b} have considered them as an acknowledgment
that these wonderful works could not be denied by him.  Considering the
peculiarly difficult circumstances in which Celsus was placed, he could,
by a supposition of this kind alone, escape from the dilemma; and as he
did not dare on such a subject to assert a falsehood, he endeavoured at
least to excite a doubt.  This opinion is moreover strengthened by the
line of argument he pursues, “that if the by-standers had really thought
these works to be Miracles, they could not but have believed;” then he
proceeds to undervalue the worth of these performances, by comparing them
with those of Æsculapius. {26a}

After reading the passage, in which our Lord foretells that “many should
come in his name, doing many wondrous things;” {26b} he exclaims, “how
great is the force of truth!—Christ carries with him his own refutation,
for he acknowledges a certain Satan, should work the same miracles that
he did.”  Of this objection it may be observed, that it cuts two ways.
If it invalidates the Miracles of Christ, yet the event corresponding
with the prediction establishes his prophetical character, and thus
authenticates his religion.

Origen continually proclaims, {27a} in bold and eloquent language, in the
name of himself, and his fellow Christians, their faith in Christianity
to be founded upon miracles, wrought in the name of Christ; of which
{27b} they themselves had been eye-witnesses.

It may be asked whether modern infidels who have ventured to contradict
the Miracles of Christ, a weapon Celsus was afraid to take up, have
estimated the rashness of their enterprize.  Are they competent to deny
what a spectator no less malevolent than themselves was compelled to
admit.  Has the lapse of eighteen hundred years enabled them to ascertain
a fact of daily occurrence with more accuracy than a by-stander?  Are
objects best seen at the greatest distance?

Having then stated the admission of the occurrence of certain
supernatural events, both by the friend, and enemy of Christianity; we
shall say a few words upon the _source_, to which they are ascribed by

Origen, in considering this topic, admits {28a} the faculty of healing to
be not necessarily divine; but says, that the nature of the power by
which wonders of this kind were performed, must be ascertained, first, by
the character of the agent, and secondly, by the nature of the fact.  He
then shews that the Miracles of Christ {28b} were not wrought like those
of the Egyptians, for vain exhibition; that their object was to heal
disease, or to assuage grief; and that those miracles, more peculiarly
characteristic of their ministry, namely, the conversion of the heart
from sin to God, {28c} were such as the magicians neither felt the
disposition nor professed the power to perform.

The question however may be differently argued.  All miracles, and
therefore those of Egypt, must be allowed to originate in the permission
of God.  For as the strongest proof of the existence of the Deity is the
creation and regular course of nature, so, that this proof may remain,
the suspension of the power of nature must also be attributed to him.
There is the same proof, that miracles were performed by the power of
God, as that the world was made, and is regulated by him.

If, however, it is admitted, that the Divine Being has, under certain
circumstances, permitted the influence of Satanic agency: it will still
be evident that the miracles of Christianity were not works of this
class.  To suppose that they were, would involve a variety of
conclusions, unsupported by reason or analogy.

For, if they were, then God, contrary to the whole course of his
dispensations, has suffered his laws to be suspended, in order to betray
millions of his creatures, for a succession of ages, into a false
theology.—If they were; then, contrary also to all precedent, he has
suffered the interpositions of devils to outstrip his own.  Even the
magicians of Egypt, {30a} were compelled to recognise the supremacy of
God.—If they were; then, contrary to all experience, a large body of men,
through a long period of time, have been found willing to incur reproach,
{30b} to endure pain, and even to suffer death, in the support of
miracles which they knew to be the grossest frauds.—If they were; then
the kingdom of Satan {30c} must, in the most signal manner, have been
“divided against itself;” since, upon this hypothesis, miracles which
were wrought by devils, were employed to dispossess them, and finally
accomplished the subversion of the Pagan Mythology, the most formidable
system of machinery, by which Satan ever perpetrated his designs upon

The evidence then furnished by this Work, on the subject of Miracles, is
considerable.  Celsus admits their existence; Origen appeals to them, as
what he, and many others had seen.  There is indeed incontrovertible
evidence for their existence, till the conversion of the Roman Empire
invested Christianity with temporal power, and raised her to universal
dominion.  With the necessity, the possession of the miraculous powers
ceased.  From this period the Gospel was left to the ordinary grace of
God, to its own resources, and to the human powers of its followers.
When a body of illiterate fishermen were commissioned to publish it to
all nations, then God supplied the powers by which all men “heard them
speak in their own language.” {31}  Now that learning and wealth are the
handmaids of religion, they are left in a great measure to do the work of
miracles.  All our faculties should be therefore bent to this sacred
cause, and all our spoils be offered at the foot of the cross.  Nor is
the evidence furnished even now to Christianity through the channel of
miracles by any means small.  Although miracles of one class have ceased,
men may see in the true Christian, the greatest of all miracles; a man by
nature, cold, corrupt, indolent, selfish, transformed under the creative
hand of the Gospel, into the bold, generous, active, disinterested,
enterprizing, apostle of truth.


ALTHOUGH the character of an individual, professing a particular faith,
is not sufficient of itself either to establish, or condemn his creed,
the character of a whole body, professedly living under the influence of
the same principles, bears the most convincing testimony, either for, or
against them.  Accordingly the mixed indolence, sensuality, and ferocity
of the Mahometan character, have always been deemed a sufficient
objection, to the principles of the Koran.  And the ancient Christian
writers tell us, that the arm of their tormentors, was sometimes
suspended, by the purity of the Christian victim: and that they heard
with astonishment men supplicating blessings on the heads of their
persecutors.  Now it may be of importance to enquire, what testimony is
supplied by the work of Origen, to the character of the early Christians,
and, through them, to religion itself.

Celsus objects to the Christians, that they invited every person, {34a}
however ignorant, or simple, or wretched, or wicked, to their mysteries;
and thereby made such a society, as was fit only for a company of

To this Origen replies by admitting their willingness to receive every
body into their society.  He glories in their desire, to give knowledge
to the ignorant, wisdom to the simple, peace to the wretched, and
reformation to the wicked.  He says that “all are cordially received; and
food administered, according to their different wants.”  But he adds,
that, as the great object of Christianity was conversion from sin, {34b}
so, before any were allowed to partake of the mysteries of religion, they
were subjected to considerable trial; that the very acceptance of
Christianity implied a conversion from these sins, and that if the
converts of the Christians {35a} were examined, they would be found far
better than the rest of men.

Some of the other objections serve, in a striking manner, to shew the
superiority both of Christianity and its followers, to the prevailing
system and current characters of the day.  “Now a days,” {35b} says he,
“you die with Christ;” you teach {35c} such precepts as “resist not
injuries.”  This charge Origen is naturally unwilling to refute.  He
admits that such is the genius of his religion, that many Christians
devote themselves to perpetual celibacy; “We renounce luxury {35d} to
devote ourselves to God; we expose our body {35e} to all manner of
sufferings; and are strangled like sheep without daring to resist.”

In order to repel some charges of Celsus, against the Christians, as
subjects, and citizens, Origen appeals to the evidence of facts;
institutes a comparison between the Christians and the heathens, {36a}
under the same government, at Athens, Corinth, and other cities.  “Their
religion,” says he, “teaches, that union with God, and each other, is
supreme happiness.”

Celsus charges them with holding secret assemblies. {36b} His opponent,
whilst he invites enquiry into the nature and conduct of these meetings,
asks if their actual circumstances did not debar them from meeting in any
other manner.

He objects to them also, that they have no temples of worship; {36c} but
is at once refuted, by a statement of the impossibility of erecting them.
The error also is stated, of imagining that God can dwell in temples made
with hands; and the sublime article {37a} of our creed avowed, that the
“heaven of heavens cannot contain him!” {37b}

While therefore, the paucity and weakness of the charges alleged by the
enemies of Christianity, against its followers, is established by this
work, much is incidentally advanced, which substantiates the superiority
of the character of Christians.  They had indeed degenerated even in the
days of Celsus.  The stream had not flowed even thus far, without being
tinged with many impurities.  But enough virtue was left to vindicate the
religion; enough to enable her champions to demonstrate the superior
efficacy of the faith, because it made the best citizens and the most
useful men.

The allegations of Celsus, and the defence of Origen, alike prove the
extent of the sufferings to which the Christians were subjected.  And it
may be truly said, that the best defence of Christianity is written with
the blood of its persecuted followers.  It is not credible, that those
should either be deceived, or conspire to deceive others, whose lives
were almost necessarily to pay the forfeit of their mistake, or of their


IT would be a material defect in an Essay purporting to state the
contents of the reply of Origen to Celsus, and the evidence supplied by
it in favour of Christianity, not to notice the doctrines of the early
Christians, as they may be collected from the work before us.

In the first place then it appears, both from the objections of the one,
and the direct assertion of the other, that the Christians of that age
admitted in the fullest sense the Divinity of Christ.  “Let them,” says
Celsus, “account him an angel, but is he the first and only one that is
come?” {39}  Hence it is plain, that however Celsus might confound angels
and Christ, the Christians did not.

The assertions of Origen however are unequivocal, and decisive.  Three
distinct propositions form a prominent part {40a} in his writings.
First, That Christ was (ἀγένετος) uncreated.  Secondly, That the Maker of
the World is to be worshipped.  Thirdly, That Christ is the Maker of the
World.  As to the first point it is sufficient to refer to a passage
where Jesus Christ is expressly called the “uncreated Son of God.” {40b}
He preserves a precise distinction between creatures, (δημιουργημάτα) and
their Creator; and he brings {40c} them together into comparison as to
the respect that is due to them.  In the next place he says that we ought
to worship {40d} no creatures (δημιουργημάτα), but the Creator; {40e}
that we can only lift up our eyes {40f} to the Creator of all the
magnificence of Nature, to see whom we ought to admire, serve, and adore.
Then he proclaims Jesus Christ {41a} as the Creator of the Universe; that
God working with him said at the creation, “Let there be Light, let _us_
make Man.” {41b}  But Origen is yet more distinct in the statement of his
opinions.  He says that the Father is indeed eminently God; {41c} but
that the worship of the Son {41d} is not an inferior but a Divine
worship; he applies the same expression to the adoration of Jesus Christ
{41e} by the Magi that he does to the worship of God; he speaks of the
Father {41f} and the Son being jointly worshipped as one God; he admits
{41g} the worship of the Son in his distinct individual character; he
attributes to him immutability, {41h} omnipresence, {41i} and other
qualities {41j} which are characteristic only of the Most High. {41k}

The personality of the Holy Ghost is distinctly admitted by Origen; {42}
and his descent upon earth at the day of Pentecost.  He also frequently
asserts, that miracles were performed upon earth by the agency {43a} of
the Holy Spirit.

To the doctrine of the Atonement continual references are made.

The recognition is not less distinct, both by Celsus, and Origen, of the
doctrine of Justification by Faith, as the opinion of the early
Christians.  “You tell sinners,” says Celsus, “not to examine, but
believe; and their faith will save them.” {43b}  This is precisely the
language in which an uncandid opponent might be expected to state that
doctrine.  A more patient examination of the system would have taught
him, that “examine yourselves,” {43c} and “search the Scriptures,” {43d}
were lessons taught by the same Master who insisted upon the efficacy of
a true and living faith.

There are two doctrines, original sin, and the eternity of punishment, as
to one of which the language of Origen is contradictory, and as to the
other it is heterodox.

On the doctrine of original sin, he asserts, in one place, “that no soul
came vicious from the hands of God, {44a} but that many persons so
corrupt themselves by bad education, or example, or advice, that sin
becomes as it were natural; but that it is not very difficult, much less
impossible to conquer this, corruption by the word of God.”  In the
latter clause he supposes the assistance of the Spirit of God, because he
elsewhere says, “We cannot give ourselves a pure heart, without the help
of the Holy Spirit: {44b} we must therefore pray, Create in me a new
heart, O God.” {44c}  He acknowledges in another place that Adam sinned,
and that we, in our bodies, {44d} are naturally prone to sin by our
descent from him.  Celsus states the doctrine after the manner of the
Fatalists; asserting an original bias to evil, and accounting that bias
to be insurmountable.

The language of Origen as to the doctrine of future punishments is so
obscure, as to make it difficult to determine what were his opinions.  He
seems however, in general to speak the language {45} of Plato, upon a
state of future existence, rather than that of Christ; and to furnish a
convenient basis for the doctrine of purgatory, which the Church of Rome
afterwards introduced among the credenda of Christianity.  Although he
distinctly states his own opinion upon this subject, yet he treats it
with a caution almost amounting to suspicion, as to its practical
consequences.  This proves to us two things.  First, That a belief of the
eternity of future punishment was generally held by the Christians, or he
would have stated his own opinion without reserve.  Secondly, That Origen
in some measure apprehended that the doctrine on this subject which he
held, was not consistent in its operation with that gospel, which teaches
that, “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,
righteously, and godly, in this present life.” {46a}  Could he fear this
and yet be firmly convinced of the truth of his own doctrines?  Could he
believe that the different parts of Christianity had an opposite
tendency—that its Almighty framer would pull down with one arm what he
erected with the other.  It is remarkable that we learn from Celsus, what
Origen as to this point might not have taught us; that the eternity of
punishments was the common faith of the Christian Church.  His words are,
“They (the Christians) persuade themselves that the good, {46b} after
this life, shall be happy, the wicked shall be plunged into everlasting
wretchedness: from which opinion, neither let them, nor any other mortal

Such is a slight sketch of the doctrines of Christianity, as held by the
Church at the period when this work was written.

That the faith of those times is the faith of the purest Churches in our
own days, that the creed of one century is the creed of many ages, in
itself, affords very convincing testimony to our religion.

The sameness of the faith, proves in the first place, the integrity of
the Scriptures from which it is drawn.  It proves also, that it is, by
one and the same Divine Spirit, that all true Christians, in all
successive periods, are taught and influenced.—It proves that Christians,
instead of yielding themselves like the heathens, disciples to every
succeeding philosopher, and “calling many men master,” have called only
one their “teacher,” their “guide,” their “master,” which is God.  It
proves the superiority of Christianity to time and place; that it is a
religion suited to all men, in all ages, and in all circumstances, and
that it therefore bears the impress of a religion sent from God, and
designed to be the faith of the universe.  It enables us lastly, to
consider our Creed, not as the conception of a solitary enthusiast, not a
cunningly devised fable, or the scheme of an ambitious innovator; but to
cast ourselves back, as it were, upon the faith of nations, and lay hold
confidently of that Tree of Life which was planted by Christ, and whose
fruit has been gathered by the hand, and whose root has been fed by the
blood of saints in all ages.


HAVING thus noticed, in succession, the several topics which are chiefly
insisted on in the Work before us; and having endeavoured to deduce from
each, the distinct evidence in favour of Christianity, which it seemed to
afford, it remains only to sum up the general testimony thus borne to our

Let the evidence be first considered, which arises from the concessions
and objections of Celsus.  In the first place then he proves the
existence of the Scriptures in his own times, he relates some facts
extracted from them, and he corroborates many others, which would
otherwise stand upon their unsupported authority; and thus he
authenticates both the religion, and the Bible.

In the next place, as Celsus is usually considered the most subtle and
malignant of the assailants of Christianity, the weakness of his assault
discovers the difficulty of the attack, or, in other words, the strength
of the religion.

In the third place, his admission of many facts, which he would have
rejoiced to deny, is a strong testimony to the general belief of the
facts, at the period at which he wrote.

Fourthly, His wary suppression of some circumstances incontrovertibly
established by the authority of other persons, of much evidence which
strengthened, and many writers who had served the Christian cause, {50}
betrays his conviction that such facts could not be promulgated with
safety to his argument.

Let us turn next to the reasonings and the reply of Origen, and to the
evidence for Christianity supplied by them.

In the first place, as the infidel may find in the objections, all the
weapons by which he is now accustomed to assault religion, so the
believer may find in the answers of Origen, the shield which has
repelled, and is sufficient to repel them for ever.

The confidence with which Origen appeals to the Scriptures, evinces the
reverence in which they were held at an age when their spuriousness, if
they had not been genuine, could so readily have been detected.

The exact correspondence of the Scriptural passages extracted by him,
with our own copies, establishes the integrity of the sacred canon.

The confidence with which he challenges an investigation of the miracles,
and the miraculous powers of the Church, for some ages, leaves us no room
to doubt of their existence.

The firm faith of such a man as Origen, at a period when the evidence of
Christianity lay most open to a scrutiny, is no small testimony of the
truth of the religion.

The very rashness which is charged, and justly charged upon Origen, is so
far satisfactory, that it assures us, the friends of Christianity,
however injudicious, could open no avenues of attack through which the
most dextrous adversaries could successfully assault the citadel of our

Finally, The effect wrought upon the character of Origen, and his
contemporaries, to which he continually refers, at once gives weight to
their testimony, and vindicates the claim set up by Christianity, to a
Divine efficacy accompanying its doctrines.  Let Origen himself be
examined.  Such was his superiority to worldly attraction, that he {52}
was content to live and die, a humble catechist at Alexandria.  Such was
his devotion to the sacred cause, that he sold {53a} his possessions for
a daily allowance that would enable him to pursue the duties of piety and
usefulness, without distraction.  Such was his zeal, that he is said to
have bequeathed to his fellow-creatures six thousand volumes, {53b} the
fruits of his own labour.  Nor is his character a solitary instance, upon
the annals of Christianity.  The great mass of individuals who drank at
or near the fountain-head of the religion, were evidently “made whole.”
{53c}  They were animated by another spirit, and quickened into another
life.  “Old things passed away, and all things became new.” {53d}  It was
moreover in the power of these men to examine the sources of objection
which were opened to them by Celsus; this they had certainly done, but
their belief gathered strength by enquiry, and they sealed their
testimony by their blood.  We have in their conduct a proof of the
impression which the arguments of Celsus made on their minds.

Paganism began to tremble, when she saw that the new religion was not
only a new creed, but _a new power_; she anticipated her own downfall
when she exclaimed, “See how these Christians love one another.”  This
evidence is peculiar to the Gospel.  By this, under the Divine aid, it
ascended the throne, and grasped the sceptre of the world.  By this it
will continue to conquer, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against

Upon the whole, the reply of Origen to Celsus may be considered as one of
the most valuable legacies of antiquity.  The importance of the subject,
the talents of the contending authors, the ample evidence it affords to
our faith, claim for it our earnest consideration; the errors of Origen
are such as a little sagacity may correct, his merit will ever be
confessed, while religion shall need an apology, or talent and piety have
any claim to admiration.  It is true that the revolution of ages has
afforded, as might be expected, to truth additional evidence, and to
error fresh refutation.  So much however was effected, in their distinct
enterprizes by the early enemies and friends of Christianity, that the
vanity of unbelievers should be subdued, by discovering most of their
objections to have been before advanced, and the faith of Christians
should be confirmed, by knowing them to have been long since refuted.

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.


{1a}  The references made to the original work are to the edition of
Guliel.  Spencer, Cantabrigiensis, Collegii SS. Trinitatis Socius.  1658.

{1b}  “ἀληθὴς λόγος.”  Con. Cels.  P. lvi. 14.

{1c}  Lardner, vol. VIII. 6.

{1d}  Con. Cels.  P. viii. 186.

{1e}  Lucian, vol. I. p. 746.

{2a}  Euseb. B. vii. c. 19.

{2b}  Con. Cels. 231, &c.

{2c}  Con. Cels. 56.

{3a}  Milner, _Ec. Hist._ vol. I. 489.  “Great honesty of mind was, if I
mistake not, a ruling feature of Origen’s character.”  Paley, vol. I.

{3b}  Eus. con. Hieroc. 511.  Ed. _Paris_.

{3c}  Hieron. Ep. 83.  Op. Tom. IV. 655.  Ed. _Paris_.

{3d}  Cave, _Life of Origen_, Bull. def. Fid. Nic.

{3e}  Huet. Ev. d’Aviânches.  M. de la Motte.  Dupin.

{5a}  Con. Cels. 181.

{5b}  Ib. 183.

{5c}  Ib. 186.

{6a}  Con. Cels. 186.

{6b}  Con. Cels. xiv. 167.

{6c}  Jos. de _Jud. Antiq._

{6d}  Tatian ad Græ. Orat.

{6e}  Con. Cels. 13.

{6f}  Con. Cels. 167.

{6g}  Ib. 115.

{7a}  Con. Cels. 14. 260.

{7b}  Ib. 189. et seq.

{8a}  Con. Cels. 112.

{8b}  Ib. 39.

{8c}  Ib. 44.

{10a}  Matt. ch. ii.

{10b}  Afric. in Eus.

{10c}  Hospini de Orig. Tempi. c. iii.

{11a}  “Cum audisset (Augustus) inter pueros, quos in Syriâ Herodes rex
Judæoram intra bimatum jussit interfici, filium quoque ejus occisum, ait,
Melius esse Herodis Porcum esse quam Filium.”  _Macrob. Sat._ ii. 4.

{11b}  Eclogue 4th.  In which the expressions relating to the Golden Age,
of which he prophesied the advent, have the greatest similarity to those
applied to the Messiah by Isaiah.  See an admirable Essay, entitled,
“Observations on 4th Eclogue.”  _Miller_, 1810.

    “Tibi quem promitti sæpius audis.”  _Æneid_, lib. vi. 791.

{11c}  Cic. Or. 3 contr. Catilin. lin. 72.

{11d}  Bell. Catilin.

{11e}  “Pererebuerat oriente toto vetus et constans opinio, esse in
fatis, ut eo tempore Judæi profecti rerum potirentur.”  _Sueton.
Vespasian_, cap. iv. 8.

{11f}  “Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum literis contineri,
eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret oriens, profectique Judæâ rerum
potirentur.”  _Tac. His._ B. V. c. ix. 13.

{13a}  Con. Cels. 67.

{13b}  Con. Cels. 147.

{13c}  Matt. xi. 5.

{13d}  Luke v. 32.

{14a}  Con. Cels. 77.

{14b}  “There are about eighty quotations from the books of the New
Testament in Celsus.”  _Doddridge_.

{15}  Con. Cels. 47.

{16a}  The writings of Origen are esteemed of greater value than those of
any other of the Fathers in proof of the authenticity of Scripture.  Dr.
Mills says, “Si hæc (op. Orig.) integra superessent, versaretur utique
nobis ob oculos universus fere textus utriusque Testamenti qualis isto
seculo ferebatur.”  _Mill. Proleg._ 64.  Ed. _Ox._ 1707.

{16b}  Those omitted in his quotations: Ruth, 2 Chronicles, Ezra,
Nehemiah, Esther, Song of Solomon, Joel, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk.

{16c}  Philemon, 2 John, Jude.

{16d}  Tobit, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees.

{16e}  Matt. chap. ii. &c.

{16f}  Con. Cels. 117.

{17a}  Con. Cels. 346.

{17b}  Ps. cxxxvii. 8.

{19a}  Con. Cels. 22.

{19b}  Ib. 25.

{20a}  Con. Cels. 26.

{20b}  The Author is aware, that many very profligate persons have been
placed on the Calendar of Popish Saints.  Such cases however apply to a
later period in the Christian History than that to which he refers.

{20c}  Con. Cels. 369.

{20d}  Ib. 168.

{20e}  Ib. 164.

{21a}  Con. Cels. 329.

{21b}  Horat. B. iii. Od. 16.  Ovid. Met. 4.

{21c}  John xviii. 36.

{21d}  1 John ii. 15.

{21e}  James ii. 5.

{21f}  Rom. v. 6.

{21g}  Isaiah liii. 3.

{21h}  Heb. i. 8.

{22a}  Exod. xiv. 20.

{22b}  Con. Cels. 72. 282. 79.

{22c}  Ib. 82. 95.

{22d}  Ib. 82. 340.

{22e}  Ib. 94.

{22f}  Ib. 98.

{23}  Luke xvi. 31.

{24a}  Euseb. v. c. 7.  Tert. ad Scap. 4.  Apol. 23.  Theophil.

{24b}  Con. Cels. 87.

{25a}  Con. Cels. 53.

{25b}  Doddridge—Sherlock—Chandler, Def. 429.

{26a}  Con. Cels. 124.

{26b}  Ib. 89.

{27a}  Con. Cels. 34. 53. 124. 127. 337.

{27b}  Ib. 34.

{28a}  Con. Cels. 125.

{28b}  Ib. 91.

{28c}  Ib. 88.

{30a}  Ex. viii. 19.

{30b}  Con. Cels. 87.

{30c}  Matt. xii. 26.

{31}  Acts ii. 6.

{34a}  Con. Cels. 147.

{34b}  Ib. 147.

{35a}  Con. Cels. 150.

{35b}  Ib. 86.

{35c}  Ib. 370.

{35d}  Ib. 365.

{35e}  Ib. 115.

{36a}  Con. Cels. 128.

{36b}  Ib. 4.

{36c}  Ib. 373.

{37a}  Con. Cels. 375.

{37b}  1 Kings viii. 27.

{39}  Con. Cels. 266.

{40a}  Waterland’s Def.

{40b}  Con. Cels. 287.

{40c}  Ib. 375.

{40d}  Ib. 237.

{40e}  Ib. 367.

{40f}  Ib. 158.

{41a}  Con. Cels. 308. 325.

{41b}  Ib. 63.

{41c}  Ib. 233.

{41d}  Ib. 382.

{41e}  Ib. 46. 160.  εὐσέβεια.

{41f}  Ib. 386.

{41g}  Ib. 239.

{41h}  Ib. 169.

{41i}  Ib. 164.

{41j}  Ib. 171. 342. 387. 386. &c. &c.

{41k}  It may be observed, that although charges were laid against some
of Origen’s doctrines after his death, none were made against his
orthodoxy on the subject of the Trinity, till after the time of Arius.
The Eustathians then opposed him on the ground of some expressions which
he had used against the Sabellians, by which he separated the hypostases
of the Godhead.  His orthodoxy was however maintained by St. Gregory
Nazianzen, St. Basil, St. Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Didymus.  The words
of St. Athanasius are “Verbum autem ab æterno esse cum patre, nec
alterius substantiæ vel hypostasis, sed ipsius paternæ substantiæ
proprium illum esse, quemadmodum dixerunt qui interfuerunt Synodo, liceat
nobis rursus audire etiam ex laborioso Origine.”—_Op. Athan._ T. 1. p.

Jerome about the year 390 said of Origen, “Quem post Apostolos,
Ecclesiarum Magistrum nemo nisi imperitus negabat.  _Præf. ad nom. Heb._”
His celebrated controversy with Ruffinus then began, and as the latter
was an admirer and translator of Origen’s writings, the character of
Origen was involved in the dispute, and Jerome heaped upon it all the
abuse he thought due to Ruffinus.  Bishop Bull says of this transaction,
“Hieronymus odiô suô in Originem seu potiùs in Origenis interpretem
Ruffinum, nimiùm indulgens, indeque omnia ejus verba dictaque in pessimum
sensum trahere amans.”—_Bullii. Op. Om._ p. 121.  And again, “Hieronymus
in hac Origenis accusatione, animum à candore alienum atque affectibus
abreptum ita manifestè prodidit, ut in cæteris criminationibus fidem sibi
omnem derogâsse videatur.”—_Bullii. Op. Om._ p. 123.

Milner (_Ecc. Hist._ I. 496) observes that the Arians who had so very
little assistance from precedents, were glad to catch at the shadow of an
argument drawn from Origen’s illustrious name, and they accordingly
sought out expressions obscure in themselves, but plainly contradictory
to the general tenor of his opinions, upon the ground of which they claim
him as their supporter.  Milner observes of these men (_Ecc. Hist._ II.
163) that every thing mean and sordid, cruel and inhuman, ambitious and
perfidious is on their side, and this is the character of their conduct
towards the writings of Origen.

Of modern writers the opinion is decisive.  Bishop Bull says, “Ita mecum
statuo Origenem in articulo de fillii divinitate adeoque de S. Trinitate
revera Catholicum fuisse.”—_Bullii. Op. Om._ p. 127.  Waterland,
Chandler, Fiddes, and Cudworth hold the same sentiment.

{42}  Con. Cels. 35.

{43a}  Con. Cels. 34.

{43b}  Ib. 8.

{43c}  2 Cor. xiii. 5.

{43d}  John v. 39.

{44a}  Con. Cels. 153.

{44b}  Ib. 354.

{44c}  Ps. li. 10.

{44d}  Con. Cels. 190.

{45}  Con. Cels. 242. 292. &c.

{46a}  Titus ii. 12.

{46b}  Con. Cels. 409.

{50}  Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Tatian.

{52}  Cave’s _Lives_.

{53a}  Euseb. B. VI. c. 3.

{53b}  Epiph. Epis. Const. contra Hær. p. 141.  Ed. 1617.

De Illust. Eccle. Script. 249.  Ed. _Colon._ 1580.

Geor. Cedr. Compen. Hist. 253.  Ed. _Par._ 1647.

Mic. Glycæ. An. 242.  Ed. _Par._ 1660.

{53c}  John v. 4.

{53d}  2 Cor. v. 17.

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