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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter VIII.--Other Arts Made Subservient to Idolatry. Lawful Means of Gaining a Livelihood Abundant.

On Idolatry by Tertullian

Chapter VIII.--Other Arts Made Subservient to Idolatry. Lawful Means of Gaining a Livelihood Abundant.

There are also other species of very many arts which, although they extend not to the making of idols, yet, with the same criminality, furnish the adjuncts without which idols have no power. For it matters not whether you erect or equip: if you have embellished his temple, altar, or niche; if you have pressed out gold-leaf, or have wrought his insignia, or even his house: work of that kind, which confers not shape, but authority, is more important. If the necessity of maintenance is urged so much, the arts have other species withal to afford means of livelihood, without outstepping the path of discipline, that is, without the confiction of an idol. The plasterer knows both how to mend roofs, and lay on stuccoes, and polish a cistern, and trace ogives, and draw in relief on party-walls many other ornaments beside likenesses. The painter, too, the marble mason, the bronze-worker, and every graver whatever, knows expansions of his own art, of course much easier of execution. For how much more easily does he who delineates a statue overlay a sideboard! How much sooner does he who carves a Mars out of a lime-tree, fasten together a chest! No art but is either mother or kinswoman of some neighbour art: nothing is independent of its neighbour. The veins of the arts are many as are the concupiscences of men. |But there is difference in wages and the rewards of handicraft;| therefore there is difference, too, in the labour required. Smaller wages are compensated by more frequent earning. How many are the party-walls which require statues? How many the temples and shrines which are built for idols? But houses, and official residences, and baths, and tenements, how many are they? Shoe- and slipper-gilding is daily work; not so the gilding of Mercury and Serapis. Let that suffice for the gain of handicrafts. Luxury and ostentation have more votaries than all superstition. Ostentation will require dishes and cups more easily than superstition. Luxury deals in wreaths, also, more than ceremony. When, therefore, we urge men generally to such kinds of handicrafts as do not come in contact with an idol indeed and with the things which are appropriate to an idol; since, moreover, the things which are common to idols are often common to men too; of this also we ought to beware that nothing be, with our knowledge, demanded by any person from our idols' service. For if we shall have made that concession, and shall not have had recourse to the remedies so often used, I think we are not free of the contagion of idolatry, we whose (not unwitting) hands are found busied in the tendence, or in the honour and service, of demons.
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