XV. (73) And yet it is well for us, speaking with all proper freedom, to say to those who have shown themselves so devoid of sense; “My good men, the best of all prayers, and the end, and proper object of happiness, is to attain to a likeness to God. (74) Do you therefore pray to become like those erections of yours, that so you may reap the most supreme happiness, neither seeing with your eyes, nor hearing with your ears, nor respiring, nor smelling with your nostrils, nor speaking, nor tasting with your mouth, nor taking, nor giving, nor doing anything with your hands, nor walking with your feet, nor doing anything at all with any one of your members, but being as it were confined and guarded in the temple, as if in a prison, and day and night continually imbibing the steam from the sacrifices offered up; for this is the only one good thing which can be attributed to any kind of building or erection.” (75) But I think that when they hear these things, they will be indignant, as if they were listening not to prayers, but to curses, and that they will take refuge in such defence as chance may furnish them with, bringing retaliatory accusations; which may be the greatest proof of the manifest and undesirable impiety of those men, who look upon those beings as gods, to whom they themselves would never wish to have their own natures assimilated.

XVI. (76) Let no one therefore of those beings who are endowed with souls, worship any thing that is devoid of a soul; for it would be one of the most absurd things possible for the works of nature to be diverted to the service of those things which are made by hand; and against Egypt, not only is that common accusation brought, to which the whole country is liable, but another charge also, which is of a more special character, and with great fitness; for besides falling down to statues, and images they have also introduced irrational animals, to the honours due to the gods, such as bulls, and rams, and goats, inventing some prodigious fiction with regard to each of them; (77) and as to these particular animals, they have indeed some reason for what they do, for they are the most domestic, and the most useful to life. The bull, as a plougher, draws furrows for the reception of the seed, and is again the most powerful of all animals to thresh the corn out when it is necessary to purify it of the chaff; the ram gives us the most beautiful garments for the coverings of our persons; for if our bodies were naked, they would easily be destroyed either through heat, or though intense cold, caused at one time by the blaze of the sun, and at another by the cooling of the air. (78) But as it is they go beyond these animals, and select the most fierce, and untameable of all wild animals, honouring lions, and crocodiles, and of reptiles the poisonous asp, with temples, and sacred precincts, and sacrifices, and assemblies in their honour, and solemn processions, and things of that kind. For if they were to seek out in both elements, among all the things given to man for his use by God, searching through earth and water, they would never find any animal on the land more savage than the lion, or any aquatic animal more fierce than the crocodile, both which creatures they honour and worship; (79) they have also deified many other animals, dogs, ichneumons, wolves, birds, ibises, and hawks, and even fish, taking sometimes the whole, and sometimes only a part; and what can be more ridiculous than this Conduct?{5}{this was one of the things which especially excited the ridicule of the Romans. Juvenal says, Sat. 15.1, (as it is translated by Gifford)–“Who knows not to what monstrous gods, my friend, / The mad inhabitants of Egypt bend? / The snake devouring ibis, these enshrine / Those think the crocodile alone divine; / Others, where Thebes’ vast ruins strew the ground / And shattered Memnon yields a magic sound, / Set up a glittering brute of uncouth shape, / And bow before the image of an ape! / Thousands regard the hound with holy fear, / Not one Diana.”} (80) And, accordingly, the first foreigners who arrived in Egypt were quite worn out with laughing at and ridiculing these superstitions, till their minds had become impregnated with the conceit of the natives; but all those who have tasted of right instruction, are amazed and struck with consternation, at their system of ennobling things which are not noble, and pity those who give into it, thinking the men, as is very natural, more miserable than even the objects which they honour, since they in their souls are changed into those very animals, so as to appear to be merely brutes in human form, now returning to their original nature. (81) Therefore, God, removing out of his sacred legislation all such impious deification of undeserving objects, has invited men to the honour of the one true and living God; not indeed that he has any need himself to be honoured; for being all-sufficient for himself, he has no need of any one else; but he has done so, because he wished to lead the race of mankind, hitherto wandering about in trackless deserts, into a road from which they should not stray, that so by following nature it might find the best and end of all things, namely, the knowledge of the true and living God, who is the first and most perfect of all good things; from whom, as from a fountain, all particular blessings are showered upon the world, and upon the things are people in it.