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Shall not we also, ascending by reasoning into a certain elevated part of the soul, dare to survey the footsteps of deity, that we may discover where he resides, and what is his nature? We must, however, be satisfied with an obscure vision.
For there are not only thirty thousand gods, the sons and friends of God, but the multitude of divine essences is innumerable; partly consisting of the natures of the stars in the heavens, and partly of dæmoniacal essences in æther. But I wish to indicate to you what I have said, by a more perspicuous image. Conceive a mighty empire, and powerful kingdom, in which all things voluntarily assent to the best and most honourable of kings. But let the boundary of this empire be, not the river Halys, nor the Hellespont, nor the Mœotis, nor the shores of the ocean, but heaven and earth; that above, and this beneath: heaven, like a circular infrangible wall of brass, comprehending everything in its embrace; and earth like a prison in which noxious bodies are bound; while the mighty king himself, stably seated, as if he were law, imparts to the obedient the safety which he contains in himself. The associates of this empire are many visible, and many invisible gods, some of them encircling the vestibules themselves, as messengers of a nature most allied to the king, his domestics and the associates of his table; but others being subservient to these, and again others possessing a still more subordinate nature. You see a succession and an order of dominion descending from divinity to the earth.
Maximus of Tyre, in his dissertation on the question “Whether injuries are to be returned?” can be seen as providing a Hellenistic complement to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus, of course, gives an answer to the question which transcends the one of Maximus. Nonetheless, Maximus can be shown as providing the philosophical foundation for the Christian rejection of vengeance. Maximus tells us that one who returns injury commits an offense and can no longer be seen as innocent and pure. Jesus goes further and tells us we must do good to those who would injure us, to love them even if they would not love us back (cf. Matt. 5:44-8). It is amazing that a non-Christian philosopher (from the second century of the common era) is able to appreciate the truth behind the Sermon of the Mount and proclaim it while many who claim Christ as their own do not.
After this manner conceive that a flatterer differs from a friend: for it often happens to both that they engage in the same employments and the same associations; but the one differs from the other in use, in the end, and in the disposition of the soul: for the friend considers that which appears to him to be good to belong also in common to his friend; and, whether this proves to be painful or pleasant, he partakes equally of it with him; but the flatterer, following his own desires, conducts the association to his own advantage. The friend desires an equality of good, the flatterer his own private good. The one aspires after equal honour in virtue, the other after superiority in pleasure. The one in conversation desires an equal freedom of speech, the other servile submission. The one loves truth in association, the other deception; and the one looks to future emolument, but the other to present delight. The one requires to be reminded of his good actions, the other wishes them to be involved in oblivion. The one takes care of the possessions of his friend, as of things common, the other destroys them, as being the property of another. The company of a friend in prosperity is most opportune, and in calamity is most equal; but a flatterer can never be satiated with prosperity, and in adversity he is never to be seen. Friendship is laudable, flattery detestable; for friendship attends to equality of retribution, but this flattery mutilates: for he who pays servile attention to another through indigence, that his wants may be supplied, so far as he does not receive an equal submission in return, will reprobate the inequality. A friend, when his friendship is concealed, is unhappy; on the contrary, a flatterer is miserable when is flattery is not concealed. Friendship when tried is strengthened, flattery is confuted, by time. Friendship requires not to be corroborated by advantage, but flattery cannot subsist without profit; and if men have any communion with the divinities, the pious man is a friend to divinity, but the superstitious is a flatterer of divinity; and the pious man is blessed, but the superstitious is miserable.