SPIRITUAL WARFARE IN EARLY CHURCH HISTORY
“numerous accounts of demonization and exorcism as well as descriptions of the deceptive work of demons in pagan religions fill the writings of the church fathers.” Clinton Arnold
This survey of the historical writings, characters, and confessions of the Christian Church reinforces the importance of having an historical understanding of spiritual warfare. Early Christian references to the demonic can be found in the writings of Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Athanasius and many other early church fathers. Not only is spiritual warfare documented constantly “through the whole time period of the ancient church,” but spiritual warfare is also seen during the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and the early post-Reformation.
Exorcism practices seem “to diminish in the Middle Ages,” but are still referenced among the Germanic tribes, Norwegians, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Martin Luther, the Catholic Church’s 1614 Rituale Romanum (exorcism guidelines), and other sources. The existence and activity of the devil and demons are widely evidenced and commonly believed across the history of the church until the post-Enlightenment era.
Ante-Nicene Church Fathers
Who were the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers? They were church leader before the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325) and they were both numerous and diverse. They almost all show some concern in addressing spiritual warfare issues among Christians and the church
Clement of Rome - Clement of Rome, or Pope Clement I, is believed to have been a disciple of Peter and a co-worker with Paul (Phil 4:3; AD 57) and one of the first leaders of the church. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Clement references the war-like nature of the call for Christians to “act the part of soldiers” in following the commandments of Christ. (Clement, First Epistle of the Blessed Clement the Disciple of Peter (ANF 1:5) )
Clement of Rome - pseudo-Clementine writings. Such empowered warriors put their own flesh to death and seek the “power of the Holy Spirit” through “fastings and prayers and perpetual watching, together with your other good works”. Connects the practice of exorcism with healing. Commends exorcism as a gift from the Lord and a practice that will be rewarded.
Mathetes - The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus (c. AD 130) is an early writing. The author or recipient of the letter is unknown, but Mathetes “was possibly a catechumen of St. Paul or of one of the apostle's associates” and “is, perhaps, the first of the apologists.” References the serpent multiple times. His references surround the serpent’s attempts to deceive and place false knowledge into the lives of believers.
Polycarp - Polycarp (AD 69-155) was a disciple of John and other apostles, in contact with many eyewitnesses of Christ, and an early leader of the Christian church. Mentions little concerning spiritual warfare, but does point to the fact that “whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil.” “Whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist”, that “whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan.” Does not reinforce any specific encounter approaches. Reveals that there is significance in understanding that all humanity is allied with either Christ or the devil.
Ignatius - Ignatius was an early church father (AD 30-107) linked with the Apostle John, Eusebius, and Polycarp. “Scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of the testimony which the Ignatian letters offer to the dogmatic character of Apostolic Christianity.” (John Bonaventure O’Connor, “St. Ignatius of Antioch,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia 7 ). Includes seven credible letters but early church history reveals eight additional writings that are likely later, spurious forgeries, two credible letters and three spurious letters contain spiritual warfare language. Refers to Satan as literally warring against him. Ignatius fights back through “meekness, by which the devil, the prince of this world, is brought to nought. The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians refers to Satan as the “wicked one” , “put on your guard” and to “forsee the snares of the devil.” Asserting that “all evil spirits have departed from the servants of God”. He is “an enemy to these [spirits]” in destroying “all the devices of these [evil spirits].” Clarity and certainty with which Ignatius describes demonic spirits shows that he believes the battle is real holds that believers should actively oppose Satan and his demons.
Spurious writings communicate many more references to spiritual warfare, particularly to the power encounter approach. “I salute the sub-deacons, the readers, the singers, the doorkeepers, the labourers, the exorcists, the confessors.” (Ignatius, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians (ANF 1:110)). Mary of Cassobelæ to Ignatius, describes some “who were possessed of a wicked spirit as being false in their speech, and deceivers of the people” as well as referencing the “deceit of the demons.” Activity of both the demons and the possessed focuses on deception. The Epistle to the Philippians, contains perhaps the most references to Satan in many of the ancient church writings with half of the chapter titles directly referencing Satan Despite the biblical nature of many of the spiritual warfare references in the fraudulent writings, their inconsistencies lend little weight to an early date. These spurious writings, with additional emphasis on exorcism, possession, and spiritual warfare, cause concern that there was an attempt to over-emphasize and influence theology and practice where the early church did not.
Barnabas - The Epistle of Barnabas is a writing whose authorship is circumspect in many ways.
Its dating is early, but its veiled authorship leaves some wondering as to its actual importance and significance. “Before we believed in God, the habitation of our heart was corrupt and weak, as being indeed like a temple made with hands. For it was full of idolatry, and was a habitation of demons, through our doing such things as were opposed to [the will of] God.”
Justin Martyr -(AD 110-165), a Gentile born in Samaria, was a philosopher who came to Christ upon witnessing the “extraordinary fearlessness which the Christians displayed in the presence of death.” In the arena of spiritual warfare, Justin Martyr provides the most significant insight into the Christian understanding of spiritual warfare in the early church.
Justin Martyr - The First Apology
“since of old these evil demons, effecting apparitions of themselves, both defiled women and corrupted boys, and showed such fearful sights to men, that those who did not use their reason in judging of the actions that were done, were struck with terror; and being carried away by fear, and not knowing that these were demons, they called them gods, and gave to each the name which each of the demons chose for himself”
“wicked and impious demons.”
demons are accusers who seek to “divert you from reading and understanding” the writing and teaching of Christian leaders
manifestations through “appearances in dreams” and “by magical impositions” to subdue hold mankind as “slaves and servants.”
asserts that the believer is to “stand aloof from them (i.e. demons)” and “embrace chastity” while dedicating themselves to God and valuing Him above all other things
Putting on righteousness is a key emphasis of Martyr’s approach to spiritual warfare
Justin expounds on how “the demons still mislead men” through the example of the Samaritans Simon and Meander, “who did many mighty works by magic, and deceived many, and still keep them deceived”
Simon appeared before the Roman people and senate during the reign of Claudius Cæsar, leading to his deification and honor through a statue
shows an integration of manifestation with deception through the examples of men
asks for the destruction of Simon’s statue as well as a reminder not to “be entangled by that man’s doctrines” but rather to “learn the truth, and so be able to escape error”
emphasizes a truth encounter approach to spiritual warfare but also upholds the importance of destroying objects of false, demonic worship
explains how some of the false religions, specifically in the temples of Greek gods, are but demonic imitations of biblical worship.
He evidences this imitation in the practices of washings, libations, burnt offerings, sprinkling, and shoe removal, directly connecting this with a mockery of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush.
Justin Martyr - The Second Apology
He describes “the evil demons” as hating Christians and endeavoring to keep unbelievers “subject to themselves”
specifically credits the demons as influencing human judges with the purpose of putting Christians to death.
credits the “influence of the wicked demons” for the suffering and persecution of some “earnest men, such as Socrates,” while others such as “Sardanapalus, Epicurus, and the like, seem to be blessed in abundance and glory”
Justin upholds each man’s personal responsibility for his actions, asserting, “each man by free choice acts rightly or sins.”
Demonic influence towards sin occurs through a multitude of avenues, “partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and the punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they were enslaved by lustful passions.”
Justin reminds us that Christ was incarnate partially “for the destruction of the demons.”
Justin points to the practice of exorcism. This is one of the earliest and most well attested references to the practice and office of exorcist. He describes “numberless demoniacs throughout the whole world, and in your city,” and how “many of our Christian men [are] exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” He points out how these Christians “have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of the men, though they could not be cured by all the other exorcists, and those who used incantations and drugs.”
Justin Martyr - The Dialogue with Trypho
This work is historically significant as “it is the first elaborate exposition of the reasons for regarding Christ as the Messiah of the Old Testament, and the first systematic attempt to exhibit the false position of the Jews in regard to Christianity.”
characterizes Satan principally as a liar, “as therefore the devil lied at the beginning, so did he also in the end.”
Satan’s battle is clearly to “to deceive and lead astray the mind of man into disobeying the commandments of God, and gradually to darken the hearts of those who would endeavour to serve him, to the forgetting of the true God, but to the adoration of himself as God.”
call for believers to “pray to be kept by Him from strange, i.e., from wicked and deceitful, spirits.”
before conversion, believers served such demons, but now they have the power of Jesus’ name that “even the demons do fear; and at this day, when they are exorcised in the name of Jesus Christ, crucified under Pontius Pilate, governor of Judæa, they are overcome.”
describing non-believers, Justin categorizes them alongside the demonic, as both refuse to obey the will of God and “do the works of the devil.”
he affirms that there is no middle ground or neutral territory in spiritual warfare.
that false religious practices originate with the devil and are but imitations of God’s great work
points biblically to the Magi in Egypt and the false prophets in Elijah’s days but then connects such false worship to Greek gods such as Bacchus son of Jupiter, Semele, Hercules, Jove of Alcmene, and Æsculapius.
reminds the believer of his authority in Christ they “exorcise all demons and evil spirits, have them subjected to us.”
this authority to overcome and subdue the evil spirits is effective over “every demon.”
Such authority is only definitively extended in the name of Christ, never in the names of “kings, or righteous men, or prophesy, or patriarchs” and only possibly if exorcised in the name of “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
reminds Trypho of how other Jewish and Gentile exorcists attempt exorcism with craft, but to no avail
Justin Martyr - a summary
exposes a comprehensive and thoroughly biblical understanding of spiritual warfare
demonic possession and exorcism did not cease with the apostolic age but continued into the early church
power of Christ’s name and the knowledge of truth while condemning human-crafted techniques in spiritual warfare
some of Justin’s other writings reveal some spiritual warfare themes, the Apologies and The Dialogue with Trypho presents an accurate understanding of his views and practices
Irenæus - (AD 120-202) was a young leader in the church, a student under Polycarp, who quickly rose against the Gnostic heresies
Against Heresies, Irenæus connects the heresies to the work of the devil to include a similar
reference as Justin Martyr did to Simon Menander.
Satan is “accustomed to lie against God, for the purpose of leading men astray.”
work from the beginning was to murder and lie, and “the truth is not in him.”
“Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called ‘Paredri’ (familiars) and ‘Oniropompi’ (dream- senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service. They also have an image of Simon fashioned after the likeness of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Minerva; and these they worship. In fine, they have a name derived from Simon, the author of these most impious.” Irenæus, Irenæus Against Heresies (ANF 1:348)
length and subject of Irenæus’ work might lead one to believe he might make more spiritual warfare references
Irenæus’ focus is principally on directly addressing the Gnostic heresies, he indicates an understanding of the underlying problem.
Hermas - The Pastor of Hermas (c. AD 160) was “one of the most popular books, if not the most popular book, in the Christian church during the second, third, and fourth centuries. It occupied a position analogous in some respects to that of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in modern times.”
authorship is not certain, but its writing was early and it influence was immense. Origen considered it “divinely inspired,” while “Irenæus quotes it as Scripture,” and Eusebius mentions that many considered it an “admirable introduction to the Christian faith”
second book of The Pastor of Hermas has three “commandments” with overtly spiritual warfare focused titles.
The sixth Commandment is titled, “How to Recognise the Two Spirits Attendant on Each Man, and How to Distinguish the Suggestions of the One from Those of the Other.”
The seventh Commandments is titled, “On Fearing God, and Not Fearing the Devil.”
The twelfth Commandment is titled “On the Twofold Desire. The Commandments of God Can Be Kept, and Believers Ought Not to Fear the Devil.”
The sixth Commandment describes believers as inhabited by two angels, the angel of righteousness and the angel of iniquity
“understand them, and trust the angel of righteousness; but depart from the angel of iniquity, because his instruction is bad in every deed.”
best understood to describe the spiritual battle for our minds. The writer seeks to inspire the reader to awareness of and resistance to Satan’s temptations both in deceit and in behavior
seventh Commandment to encourage the believer not to fear the devil, “for, fearing the Lord, you will have dominion over the devil, for there is no power in him.”
fear the Lord in such a way that one not only avoids “that which is evil,” but does “that which is good.”
proper understanding of the power of the Lord is essential to a biblical understanding and application of the fear of the Lord.
twelfth Commandment of Hermas again encourages the believer not to fear the devil because he cannot “hold sway over the servants of God, who with all their heart place their hopes in Him.”
argues that the devil can wrestle against believers but true believers will resist the devil strongly and cannot be overthrown
Satan has no way of entering into (possessing) believers and instead goes into those whom are empty (non-believers)
the “angel of repentance” reminds believers that he was sent to be with those “who repent with all your heart, and to make you strong in faith.”
In the midst of repentance, there is not only strengthening, but there is healing of “former sins” by Christ
No matter the “threats of the devil,” the believer must “fear them not at all, for he is powerless as the sinews of a dead man.”
Apart from Justin Martyr, the writer of The Pastor of Hermas provides the most depth and understanding to seeing the spiritual warfare beliefs and practices of the early church
Tatian - Tatian (AD 110-72) was an Assyrian believer and a student of Justin Martyr who eventually lived in Antioch.
Address of Tatian to the Greeks, he depicts demons in a frenzied attack against mankind, attacking through attempts to pervert their minds.
describes these demons as sometimes making themselves seen, exhibiting themselves in a way that leads men to fear or honor them
Demons, Tatian holds, “depart in terror” when “smitten by the word of God” which then leads to the sick being healed.
Tatian describes people entering into relationships with visiting demons
Those struggling with sickness, love, hatred, and revenge seek demonic assistance under false promises and assurances
Tertullian - (c.AD 145-220) was an early and extensively published author in the church
In his premier work, Apology, he affirms the existence of demons, saying that they are well known by both believers and philosophers
Socrates himself as self-attesting to a relationship with a demonic spirit from childhood
subtleness while unashamedly seeking the ruin and destruction of mankind through disease, calamity, and temptations
“we are not cognizant of their actions save by its effects” due to their invisible and intangible nature
the only “authority and power we have over them is from our naming the name of Christ, and recalling to their memory the woes with which God threatens them at the hands of Christ.”
with this fear of Christ’s judgment that demons do become “subject to the servants of God” and “at our touch and breathing . . . they leave at our command the bodies they have entered, unwilling, and distressed, and before your very eyes put to an open shame.”
Historian, Henry Kelly, explains that “No one was more aware than Tertullian of the demonic influences that surrounded the people of his day.
“Tertullian did not indicate the existence of, or feel the need for, any special rite designed to set men free from the demonic influence when they became members of the Christian community—in addition, that is to the act of renunciation, and, of course, baptism itself.”
Tertullian, in his lengthy description on repentance and baptism, places great emphasis on the confession of sins
“They who are about to enter baptism ought to pray with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee, and vigils all the night through, and with the confession of all bygone sins, that they may express the meaning even of the baptism of John: ‘They were baptized,’ saith (the Scripture), ‘confessing their own sins.’ To us it is matter for thankfulness if we do now publicly confess our iniquities or our turpitudes: for we do at the same time both make satisfaction for our former sins, by mortification of our flesh and spirit, and lay beforehand the foundation of defences against the temptations which will closely follow. ‘Watch and pray,’ saith (the Lord), ‘lest ye fall into temptation.’”
Tertullian’s description of exorcism is consistent with an emphasis on the power of Christ’s name with minimal focus on human power techniques
The power lies in the truth of God contained in the name of Christ.
The vast scope of Tertullian’s writings necessitates much greater attention than this section allows.
Minucius Felix - contemporary of Tertullian who penned Octavius (c.AD 210) as a feigned dialogue between a pagan and a Christian
describes the work of demons at several points, describing both their possession and mental attacks.
describes in detail how the demons are connected with idols, statues, mediums, oracles, and predictive signs
demons “are both deceived, and they deceive.”
These false spirits “weigh men downwards from heaven, and call them away from the true God to material things”
vividly describes demonic possession, exorcism, and dialogue as well, explaining how they have communicated themselves as the gods of the Greeks and seek to keep unbelievers away from Christians.
describes a plethora of power-encounter type approaches to spiritual warfare while reinforcing that their goal is to deceive and distract humanity away from the truth of God
“They disturb the life, render all men unquiet; creeping also secretly into human bodies, with subtlety, as being spirits, they feign diseases, alarm the minds, wrench about the limbs; that they may constrain men to worship them, being gorged with the fumes of altars or the sacrifices of cattle, that, by remitting what they had bound, they may seem to have cured it. These raging maniacs also, whom you see rush about in public, are moreover themselves prophets without a temple; thus they rage, thus they rave, thus they are whirled around. In them also there is a like instigation of the demon, but there is a dissimilar occasion for their madness. . . . A great many, even some of your own people, know all those things that the demons themselves confess concerning themselves, as often as they are driven by us from bodies by the torments of our words and by the fires of our prayers...”
“.... Saturn himself, and Serapis, and Jupiter, and whatever demons you worship, overcome by pain, speak out what they are; and assuredly they do not lie to their own discredit, especially when any of you are standing by. Since they themselves are the witnesses that they are demons, believe them when they confess the truth of themselves; for when abjured by the only and true God, unwillingly the wretched beings shudder in their bodies, and either at once leap forth, or vanish by degrees, as the faith of the sufferer assists or the grace of the healer inspires. Thus they fly from Christians when near at hand, whom at a distance they harassed by your means in their assemblies. And thus, introduced into the minds of the ignorant, they secretly sow there a hatred of us by means of fear. . . . Thus they take possession of the minds and obstruct the hearts, that men may begin to hate us before they know us; lest, if known, they should either imitate us, or not be able to condemn us.”
Origen -(AD 185–254) was an early leader of the church at Alexandria, helping to develop many of the foundational doctrines of the early church. Although some of his hypotheses would later be exposed as incorrect and heretical, his writings and teachings are of immense value to understanding the theology of the early church
Origen de Principiis, he describes the devil and his demons and how “the Church has laid down that these beings exist” but “had not explained with sufficient clearness” what they are or how they exist”
describes a renunciation of the devil in baptism, “We come to that moment when we made these promises, this declaration to the devil. Each of the faithful recalls when he came to the waters of baptism, when he received the first seal of the faith and approach the fount of salvation, the words that he pronounced then; he recalls his renunciation of the devil. He promised to resort to none of his pomps and his works and not to submit to any of his servitudes and his pleasures”
Contra Celsus, Origen references the exorcisms that Christ performed and refers to how Christians of the day powerfully performed exorcisms through the “grace which is in the word of Christ,” rather than through the wisdom and learning of men
emphasizing the power of prayer in exorcism of both humans and animals
directly connects false religions and their worship in idols, altars, and temples to direct demonic worship
“Because for the most part it is unlettered persons who perform this work; thus making manifest the grace which is in the word of Christ, and the despicable weakness of demons, which, in order to be overcome and driven out of the bodies and souls of men, do not require the power and wisdom of those who are mighty in argument, and most learned in matters of faith.” Origen, Contra Celsus (ANF 4:395, 613)
“For ourselves, so far are we from wishing to serve demons, that by the use of prayers and other means which we learn from Scripture, we drive them out of the souls of men, out of places where they have established themselves, and even sometimes from the bodies of animals; for even these creatures often suffer from injuries inflicted upon them by demons.” (Origen, Contra Celsus (ANF 4:639))
“Hence we are determined to avoid the worship of demons even as we would avoid death; and we hold that the worship, which is supposed among the Greeks to be rendered to gods at the altars, and images, and temples, is in reality offered to demons” (Origen, Contra Celsus (ANF 4:640))
Cyprian - (AD 200-258) was the “spiritual son and pupil of Tertullian” but also known as the “Ignatius of the West.”
Treatises, he begins by emphasizing the unity of the church. He argues that as Satan’s schemes are thwarted, such as when Christians leave false religions, he attacks in new ways through infiltration and division.
Cyprian specifically describes these enemy attacks as occurring through “flattering and deceiving” and by Satan equipping his own ministers to invade the Christian church.
Cyprian’s awareness of the reality of spiritual warfare continues to reveal itself throughout his work in reference to the enemy and his ongoing, strategic attacks
Eusebius - Eusebius of Cæsarea (c.AD 260-340) was especially known for his historical accounts of the early church
His writings offer early and extensive accounts of the office of exorcist when referencing the existence of “52 exorcists” during the time of a Roman bishop named Cornelius (c.AD 250)
Eusebius references how a convert named Novatian, who would eventually become a presbyter, was delivered of Satan’s possession by the exorcists.
Eusebius describes Novatian’s possession spatially, saying Satan “entered and dwelt in him for a long time” but does not relate how that possession manifested itself.
He also describes how following his exorcism he became sick to the point of death. Novatian’s illness continued, but was relieved immediately following his baptism which is described as “irregular” due to it being conducted by affusion as a “clinical baptism”
“but Satan, who entered and dwelt in him for a long time, became the occasion of his believing. Being delivered by the exorcists, he fell into a severe sickness; and as he seemed about to die, he received baptism by affusion, on the bed where he lay; if indeed we can say that such a one did receive it.”
“There is no reason to doubt that Novatian received clinical baptism, as here stated by Cornelius. This does not imply, as is commonly supposed, that he was of heathen parentage, for many Christians postponed baptism as long as possible, in order not to sacrifice baptismal grace by sins committed after baptism. We do not know whether his parents were heathen or Christians. Upon the objection to Novatian’s ordination, based upon his irregular baptism.”
Eusebius - The office of exorcist.
“Eusebius also references exorcists being persecuted along with other leaders of the churches in “Asia Minor and Syria during the time of the emperor Diocletian (c.AD 284-305).”
“What was to be seen after this exceeds all description. A vast multitude were imprisoned in every place; and the prisons everywhere, which had long before been prepared for murderers and robbers of graves, were filled with bishops, presbyters and deacons, readers and exorcists.”
19th century explanatory note: “Explanatory Note number 2125: ‘The Exorcists likewise constituted one of the inferior orders of the clergy; but although we find exorcism very frequently referred to by the Fathers of the second century, there seems to have been no such office until the third century, the present being the earliest distinct reference to it. In the fourth century we find the office in all parts of the Church East and West. Their duty was to take charge of those supposed to be possessed of an evil spirit; to pray with them, care for them, and exorcise the demon when possible.’ See Bingham, ibid. chap. 4.” (Arthur C. McGiffert “The Life and writings of Eusebius of Cæsarea” (NPNF2 1:3))
Eusebius graphically describes this time of persecution, explaining, “What was to be seen after this exceeds all description. A vast multitude were imprisoned in every place; and the prisons everywhere, which had long before been prepared for murderers and robbers of graves, were filled with bishops, presbyters and deacons, readers and exorcists, so that room was no longer left in them for those condemned for crimes.”
Eusebius - Martyrdom of exorcists.
One of the first martyrs was Procopius who was “a lector, interpreter, and exorcist in the church.”
Alphæus was another martyr who was “a reader and exorcist in the church of Cæsarea.
One of the more graphic accounts is of Romanus, another exorcist who also served as a deacon in the parish of Cæsarea. Romanus’s execution in Antioch is described with great detail for his level of boldness and courage in facing death
“Being arrested for his boldness, he proved a most noble witness of the truth, if there ever was one. For when the judge informed him that he was to die by fire, he received the sentence with cheerful countenance and most ready mind, and was led away. When he was bound to the stake, and the wood piled up around him, as they were awaiting the arrival of the emperor before lighting the fire, he cried, “Where is the fire for me?”. . . Having said this, he was summoned again before the emperor, and subjected to the unusual torture of having his tongue cut out. But he endured this with fortitude and showed to all by his deeds that the Divine Power is present with those who endure any hardship whatever for the sake of religion, lightening their sufferings and strengthening their zeal. When he learned of this strange mode of punishment, the noble man was not terrified, but put out his tongue readily, and offered it with the greatest alacrity to those who cut it off”
Eusebius - Demonic sacrifices
helpfully provides examples of the ongoing demon worship during the time of the early church
He describes a human sacrifice at Cæsarea Philippi when a Christian named Astyrius boldly intervened for God to rebuke the demon in order to “bring the men’s delusion to an end.”
Immediately following his request to God, his prayer was publicly answered as “the sacrifice floated on the surface of the fountain. And thus the miracle departed; and no wonder was ever afterward performed at the place.”
“Among these is also the following wonder. At Cæsarea Philippi, which the Phoenicians call Paneas, springs are shown at the foot of the Mountain Panius, out of which the Jordan flows. They say that on a certain feast day, a victim was thrown in, and that through the power of the demon it marvelously disappeared and that which happened was a famous wonder to those who were present. Astyrius was once there when these things were done, and seeing the multitude astonished at the affair, he pitied their delusion; and looking up to heaven he supplicated the God over all through Christ, that he would rebuke the demon who deceived the people, and bring the men’s delusion to an end. And they say that when he had prayed thus, immediately the sacrifice floated on the surface of the fountain. And thus the miracle departed; and no wonder was ever afterward performed at the place.” (Eusebius, The Church History of Eusebius (NPNF2 1:783))
Much more research is available here: (http://digital.library.sbts.edu/handle/10392/4605) (See chapter 3, p.110-150 of “An Analysis and Critique of Neil T. Anderson’s Approach to Spiritual Warfare in Evangelism and Discipleship” by Jonathan Carl)
Henry A. Kelly, The Devil at Baptism
This is also a helpful resource that describes apotropaic practice at one’s baptism with the purpose
of preventing future attacks or to diminish their power, directed against lapses into sin in the future