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Home > Fathers of the Church > Divine Institutes (Lactantius) > Book VI

Divine Institutes, Book VI (Of True Worship)

Chapter 1. Of the Worship of the True God, and of Innocency, and of the Worship of False Gods.

We have completed that which was the object of our undertaking, through the teaching of the Divine Spirit, and the aid of the truth itself; the cause of asserting and explaining which was imposed upon me both by conscience and faith, and by our Lord Himself, without whom nothing can be known or clearly set forth. I come now to that which is the chief and greatest part of this work— to teach in what manner or by what sacrifice God must be worshipped. For that is the duty of man, and in that one object the sum of all things and the whole course of a happy life consists, since we were fashioned and received the breath of life from Him on this account, not that we might behold the heaven and the sun, as Anaxagoras supposed, but that we might with pure and uncorrupted mind worship Him who made the sun and the heaven. But although in the preceding books, as far as my moderate talent permitted, I defended the truth, yet it may especially be elucidated by the mode of worship itself. For that sacred and surpassing majesty requires from man nothing more than innocence alone; and if any one has presented this to God, he has sacrificed with sufficient piety and religion. But men, neglecting justice, though they are polluted by crimes and outrages of all kinds, think themselves religious if they have stained the temples and altars with the blood of victims, if they have moistened the hearths with a profusion of fragrant and old wine. Moreover, they also prepare sacred feasts and choice banquets, as though they offered to those who would taste something from them. Whatever is rarely to be viewed, whatever is precious in workmanship or in fragrance, that they judge to be pleasing to their gods, not by any reference to their divinity, of which they are ignorant, but from their own desires; nor do they understand that God is in no want of earthly resources.

For they have no knowledge of anything except the earth, and they estimate good and evil things by the perception and pleasure of the body alone. And as they judge of religion according to its pleasure, so also they arrange the acts of their whole life. And since they have turned away once for all from the contemplation of the heaven, and have made that heavenly faculty the slave of the body, they give the reins to their lusts, as though they were about to bear away pleasure with themselves, which they hasten to enjoy at every moment; whereas the soul ought to employ the service of the body, and not the body to make use of the service of the soul. The same men judge riches to be the greatest good. And if they cannot obtain them by good practices, they endeavour to obtain them by evil practices; they deceive, they carry off by violence, they plunder, they lie in wait, they deny on oath; in short, they have no consideration or regard for anything, if only they can glitter with gold, and shine conspicuous with plate, with jewels, and with garments, can spend riches upon their greedy appetite, and always walk attended with crowds of slaves through the people compelled to give way. Thus devoting themselves to the service of pleasures, they extinguish the force and vigour of the mind; and when they especially think that they are alive, they are hastening with the greatest precipitation to death. For, as we showed in the second book, the soul is concerned with heaven, the body with the earth. They who neglect the goods of the soul, and seek those of the body, are engaged with darkness and death, which belong to the earth and to the body, because life and light are from heaven; and they who are without this, by serving the body, are far removed from the understanding of divine things. The same blindness everywhere oppresses the wretched men; for as they know not who is the true God, so they know not what constitutes true worship.

Chapter 2. Of the Worship of False Gods and the True God.

Therefore they sacrifice fine and fat victims to God, as though He were hungry; they pour forth wine to Him, as though He were thirsty; they kindle lights to Him, as though He were in darkness. But if they were able to conjecture or to conceive in their mind what those heavenly goods are, the greatness of which we cannot imagine, while we are still encompassed with an earthly body, they would at once know that they are most foolish with their empty offices. Or if they would contemplate that heavenly light which we call the sun, they will at once perceive how God has no need of their candles, who has Himself given so clear and bright a light for the use of man. And when, in so small a circle, which on account of its distance appears to have a measure no greater than that of a human head, there is still so much brilliancy that mortal eye cannot behold it, and if you should direct your eye to it for a short time mist and darkness would overspread your dimmed eyes, what light, I pray, what brightness, must we suppose that there is in God, with whom there is no night? For He has so attempered this very light, that it might neither injure living creatures by excessive brightness or vehement heat, and has given it so much of these properties as mortal bodies might endure or the ripening of the crops require. Is that man, therefore, to be thought in his senses, who presents the light of candles and torches as an offering to Him who is the Author and Giver of light? The light which He requires from us is of another kind, and that indeed not accompanied with smoke, but (as the poet says) clear and bright; I mean the light of the mind, on account of which we are called by the poets photes, which light no one can exhibit unless he has known God. But their gods, because they are of the earth, stand in need of lights, that they may not be in darkness; and their worshippers, because they have no taste for anything heavenly, are recalled to the earth even by the religious rites to which they are devoted. For on the earth there is need of a light, because its system and nature are dark. Therefore they do not attribute to the gods a heavenly perception, but rather a human one. And on this account they believe that the same things are necessary and pleasing to them as to us, who, when hungry, have need of food; or, when thirsty, of drink; or, when we are cold, require a garment; or, when the sun has withdrawn himself, require a light that we may be able to see.

From nothing, therefore, can it be so plainly proved and understood that those gods, since they once lived, are dead, as from their worship itself, which is altogether of the earth. For what heavenly influence can there be in the shedding of the blood of beasts, with which they stain their altars? Unless by chance they imagine that the gods feed upon that which men shrink from touching. And whoever shall have offered to them this food, although he be an assassin, an adulterer, a sorcerer, or a parricide, he will he happy and prosperous. Him they love, him they defend, to him they afford all things which he shall wish for. Persius therefore deservedly ridicules superstitions of this kind in his own style: With what bribe, he says, do you win the ears of gods? Is it with lungs and rich intestines? He plainly perceived that there is no need of flesh for appeasing the majesty of heaven, but of a pure mind and a just spirit, and a breast, as he himself says, which is generous with a natural love of honour. This is the religion of heaven— not that which consists of corrupt things, but of the virtues of the soul, which has its origin from heaven; this is true worship, in which the mind of the worshipper presents itself as an undefiled offering to God. But how this is to be obtained, how it is to be afforded, the discussion of this book will show; for nothing can be so illustrious and so suited to man as to train men to righteousness.

In Cicero, Catulus in the Hortensius, while he prefers philosophy to all things, says that he would rather have one short treatise respecting duty, than a long speech in behalf of a seditious man Cornelius. And this is plainly to be regarded not as the opinion of Catulus, who perhaps did not utter this saying, but as that of Cicero, who wrote it. I believe that he wrote it for the purpose of recommending these books which he was about to write on Offices, in which very books he testifies that nothing in the whole range of philosophy is better and more profitable than to give precepts for living. But if this is done by those who do not know the truth, how much more ought we to do it, who are able to give true precepts, being taught and enlightened by God? Nor, however, shall we so teach as though we were delivering the first elements of virtue, which would be an endless task, but as though we had undertaken the instruction of him who, with them, appears to be already perfect. For while their precepts remain, which they are accustomed to give correctly, with a view to uprightness, we will add to them things which were unknown to them, for the completion and consummation of righteousness, which they do not possess. But I will omit those things which are common to us with them, that I may not appear to borrow from those whose errors I have determined to convict and bring to light.

Chapter 3. Of the Ways, and of Vices and Virtues; And of the Rewards of Heaven and the Punishments of Hell.

There are two ways, O Emperor Constantine, by which human life must proceed— the one which leads to heaven, the other which sinks to hell; and these ways poets have introduced in their poems, and philosophers in their disputations. And indeed philosophers have represented the one as belonging to virtues, the other to vices; and they have represented that which belongs to virtues as steep and rugged at the first entrance, in which if any one, having overcome the difficulty, has climbed to the summit, they say that he afterwards has a level path, a bright and pleasant plain, and that he enjoys abundant and delightful fruits of his labours; but that those whom the difficulty of the first approach has deterred, glide and turn aside into the way of vices, which at its first entrance appears to be pleasant and much more beaten, but afterwards, when they have advanced in it a little further, that the appearance of its pleasantness is withdrawn, and that there arises a steep way, now rough with stones, now overspread with thorns, now interrupted by deep waters or violent with torrents, so that they must be in difficulty, hesitate, slip about, and fall. And all these things are brought forward that it may appear that there are very great labours in undertaking virtues, but that when they are gained there are the greatest advantages, and firm and incorruptible pleasures; but that vices ensnare the minds of men with certain natural blandishments, and lead them captivated by the appearance of empty pleasures to bitter griefs and miseries—an altogether wise discussion, if they knew the forms and limits of the virtues themselves. For they had not learned either what they are, or what reward awaits them from God: but this we will show in these two books.

But these men, because they were ignorant or in doubt that the souls of men are immortal, estimated both virtues and vices by earthly honours or punishments. Therefore all this discussion respecting the two ways has reference to frugality and luxury. For they say that the course of human life resembles the letter Y, because every one of men, when he has reached the threshold of early youth, and has arrived at the place where the way divides itself into two parts, is in doubt, and hesitates, and does not know to which side he should rather turn himself. If he shall meet with a guide who may direct him wavering to better things— that is, if he shall learn philosophy or eloquence, or some honourable arts by which he may turn to good conduct, which cannot take place without great labour— they say that he will lead a life of honour and abundance; but if he shall not meet with a teacher of temperance, that he falls into the way on the left hand, which assumes the appearance of the better—that is, he gives himself up to idleness, sloth, and luxury, which seem pleasant for a time to one who is ignorant of true goods, but that afterwards, having lost all his dignity and property, he will live in all wretchedness and ignominy. Therefore they referred the end of those ways to the body, and to this life which we lead on earth. The poets perhaps did better, who would have it that this twofold way was in the lower regions; but they are deceived in this, that they proposed these ways to the dead. Both therefore spoke with truth, but yet both incorrectly; for the ways themselves ought to have been referred to life, their ends to death. We therefore speak better and more truly, who say that the two ways belong to heaven and hell, because immortality is promised to the righteous, and everlasting punishment is threatened to the unrighteous.

But I will explain how these ways either exalt to heaven or thrust down to hell, and I will set forth what these virtues are of which the philosophers were ignorant; then I will show what are their rewards, and also what are vices, and what their punishments. For perhaps some one may expect that I shall speak separately of vices and virtues; whereas, when we discuss the subject of good or evil, that which is contrary may also be understood. For, whether you introduce virtues, vices will spontaneously depart; or if you take away vices, virtues will of their own accord succeed. The nature of good and evil things is so fixed, that they always oppose and drive out one another: and thus it comes to pass that vices cannot be removed without virtues, nor can virtues be introduced without the removal of vices. Therefore we bring forward these ways in a very different manner from that in which the philosophers are accustomed to present them: first of all, because we say that a guide is proposed to each, and in each case an immortal: but that the one is honoured who presides over virtues and good qualities, the other condemned who presides over vices and evils. But they place a guide only on the right side, and that not one only, nor a lasting one; inasmuch as they introduce any teacher of a good art, who may recall men from sloth, and teach them to be temperate. But they do not represent any as entering upon that way except boys and young men; for this reason, that the arts are learned at these ages. We, on the other hand, lead those of each sex, every age and race, into this heavenly path, because God, who is the guide of that way, denies immortality to no human being. The shape also of the ways themselves is not as they supposed. For what need is there of the letter Y in matters which are different and opposed to one another? But the one which is better is turned towards the rising of the sun, the other which is worse towards its setting: since he who follows truth and righteousness, having received the reward of immortality, will enjoy perpetual light; but he who, enticed by that evil guide, shall prefer vices to virtues, falsehood to truth, must be borne to the setting of the sun, and to darkness. I will therefore describe each, and will point out their properties and habits.

Chapter 4. Of the Ways of Life, of Pleasures, Also of the Hardships of Christians.

There is one way, therefore, of virtue and the good, which leads, not, as the poets say, to the Elysian plains, but to the very citadel of the world:—

The left gives sinners up to pain,
And leads to Tartarus' guilty reign.

For it belongs to that accuser who, having invented false religions, turns men away from the heavenly path, and leads them into the way of perdition. And the appearance and shape of this way is so composed to the sight, that it appears to be level and open, and delightful with all kinds of flowers and fruits. For there are placed in it all things which are esteemed on earth as good things— I mean wealth, honour, repose, pleasure, all kinds of enticements; but together with these also injustice, cruelty, pride, perfidy, lust, avarice, discord, ignorance, falsehood, folly, and other vices. But the end of this way is as follows: When they have reached the point from which there is now no return, it is so suddenly removed, together with all its beauty, that no one is able to foresee the fraud before that he falls headlong into a deep abyss. For whoever is captivated by the appearance of present goods, and occupied with the pursuit and enjoyment of these, shall not have foreseen the things which are about to follow after death, and shall have turned aside from God; he truly will be cast down to hell, and be condemned to eternal punishment.

But that heavenly way is set forth as difficult and hilly, or rough with dreadful thorns, or entangled with stones jutting out; so that every one must walk with the greatest labour and wearing of the feet, and with great precautions against falling. In this he has placed justice, temperance, patience, faith, chastity, self-restraint, concord, knowledge, truth, wisdom, and the other virtues; but together with these, poverty, ignominy, labour, pain, and all kinds of hardship. For whoever has extended his hope beyond the present, and chosen better things, will be without these earthly goods, that, being lightly equipped and without impediment, he may overcome the difficulty of the way. For it is impossible for him who has surrounded himself with royal pomp, or loaded himself with riches, either to enter upon or to persevere in these difficulties. And from this it is understood that it is easier for the wicked and the unrighteous to succeed in their desires, because their road is downward and on the decline; but that it is difficult for the good to attain to their wishes, because they walk along a difficult and steep path. Therefore the righteous man, since he has entered upon a hard and rugged way, must be an object of contempt, derision, and hatred. For all whom desire or pleasure drags headlong, envy him who has been able to attain to virtue, and take it ill that any one possesses that which they themselves do not possess. Therefore he will be poor, humble, ignoble, subject to injury, and yet enduring all things which are grievous; and if he shall continue his patience unceasingly to that last step and end, the crown of virtue will be given to him, and he will be rewarded by God with immortality for the labours which he has endured in life for the sake of righteousness. These are the ways which God has assigned to human life, in each of which he has shown both good and evil things, but in a changed and inverted order. In the one he has pointed out in the first place temporal evils followed by eternal goods, which is the better order; in the other, first temporal goods followed by eternal evils, which is the worse order: so that, whosoever has chosen present evils together with righteousness, he will obtain greater and more certain goods than those were which he despised; but whoever has preferred present goods to righteousness, will fall into greater and more lasting evils than those were which he avoided. For as this bodily life is short, therefore its goods and evils must also be short; but since that spiritual life, which is contrary to this earthly life, is everlasting, therefore its goods and evils are also everlasting. Thus it comes to pass, that goods of short duration are succeeded by eternal evils, and evils of short duration by eternal goods.

Since, therefore, good and evil things are set before man at the same time, it is befitting that every one should consider with himself how much better it is to compensate evils of short duration by perpetual goods, than to endure perpetual evils for short and perishable goods. For as, in this life, when a contest with an enemy is set before you, you must first labour that you may afterwards enjoy repose, you must suffer hunger and thirst, you must endure heat and cold, you must rest on the ground, must watch and undergo dangers, that your children, and house, and property being preserved, you may be able to enjoy all the blessings of peace and victory; but if you should choose present ease in preference to labour, you must do yourself the greatest injury: for the enemy will surprise you offering no resistance, your lands will be laid waste, your house plundered, your wife and children become a prey, you yourself will be slain or taken prisoner; to prevent the occurrence of these things, present advantage must be put aside, that a greater and more lasting advantage may be gained—so in the whole of this life, because God has provided an adversary for us, that we might be able to acquire virtue, present gratification must be laid aside, lest the enemy should overpower us. We must be on the watch, must post guards, must undertake military expeditions, must shed our blood to the uttermost; in short, we must patiently submit to all things which are unpleasant and grievous, and the more readily because God our commander has appointed for us eternal rewards for our labours. And since in this earthly warfare men expend so much labour to acquire for themselves those things which may perish in the same manner as that in which they were acquired, assuredly no labour ought to be refused by us, by whom that is gained which can in no way be lost.

For God, who created men to this warfare, desired that they should stand prepared in battle array, and with minds keenly intent should watch against the stratagems or open attacks of our single enemy, who, as is the practice of skilful and experienced generals, endeavours to ensnare us by various arts, directing his rage according to the nature and disposition of each. For he infuses into some insatiable avarice, that, being chained by their riches as by fetters, he may drive them from the way of truth. He inflames others with the excitement of anger, that while they are rather intent upon inflicting injury, he may turn them aside from the contemplation of God. He plunges others into immoderate lusts, that, giving themselves to pleasure of the body, they may be unable to look towards virtue. He inspires others with envy, that, being occupied with their own torments, they may think of nothing but the happiness of those whom they hate. He causes others to swell with ambitious desires. These are they who direct the whole occupation and care of their life to the holding of magistracies, that they may set a mark upon the annals, and give a name to the years. The desire of others mounts higher, not that they may rule provinces with the temporal sword, but with boundless and perpetual power may wish to be called lords of the whole human race. Moreover, those whom he has seen to be pious he involves in various superstitions, that he may make them impious. But to those who seek for wisdom, he dashes philosophy before their eyes, that he may blind them with the appearance of light, lest any one should grasp and hold fast the truth. Thus he has blocked up all the approaches against men, and has occupied the way, rejoicing in public errors; but that we might be able to dispel these errors, and to overcome the author of evils himself, God has enlightened us, and has armed us with true and heavenly virtue, respecting which I must now speak.

Chapter 5. Of False and True Virtue; And of Knowledge.

But before I begin to set forth the separate virtues, I must mark out the character of virtue itself, which the philosophers have not rightly defined, as to its nature, or in what things it consisted; and I must describe its operation and office. For they only retained the name, but lost its power, and nature, and effect. But whatever they are accustomed to say in their definition of virtue, Lucilius puts together and expresses in a few verses, which I prefer to introduce, lest, while I refute the opinions of many, I should be longer than is necessary:

It is virtue, O Albinus, to pay the proper price,
To attend to the matters in which we are engaged, and in which we live.
It is virtue for a man to know the nature of everything.
It is virtue for a man to know what is right and useful and honourable,
What things are good, and what are evil.
What is useless, base, and dishonourable.
It is virtue to know the end of an object to be sought and the means of procuring it
It is virtue to be able to assign their value to riches.
It is virtue to give that which is really due to honour;
To be the enemy and the foe of bad men and manners, but, on the other hand, the defender of good men and manners;
To esteem these highly, to wish them well, to live in friendship with them,
Moreover, to consider the interest of one's country first;
Then those of parents, to put our own interests in the third and last place.

From these definitions, which the poet briefly puts together, Marcus Tullius derived the offices of living, following Panætius the Stoic, and included them in three books.

But we shall presently see how false these things are, that it may appear how much the divine condescension has bestowed on us in opening to us the truth. He says that it is virtue to know what is good and evil, what is base, what is honourable, what is useful, what is useless. He might have shortened his treatise if he had only spoken of that which is good and evil; for nothing can be useful or honourable which is not also good, and nothing useless and base which is not also evil. And this also appears to be thus to philosophers, and Cicero shows it likewise in the third book of the above-mentioned treatise. But knowledge cannot be virtue, because it is not within us, but it comes to us from without. But that which is able to pass from one to the other is not virtue, because virtue is the property of each individual. Knowledge therefore consists in a benefit derived from another; for it depends upon hearing. Virtue is altogether our own; for it depends upon the will of doing that which is good. As, therefore, in undertaking a journey, it is of no profit to know the way, unless we also have the effort and strength for walking, so truly knowledge is of no avail if our virtue fails. For, in general, even they who sin perceive what is good and evil, though not perfectly; and as often as they act improperly, they know that they sin, and therefore endeavour to conceal their actions. But though the nature of good and evil does not escape their notice, they are overpowered by an evil desire to sin, because they are wanting in virtue, that is, the desire of doing right and honourable things. Therefore that the knowledge of good and evil is one thing, and virtue another, appears from this, because knowledge can exist without virtue, as it has been in the case of many of the philosophers; in which, since not to have done what you knew to be right is justly censurable, a depraved will and a vicious mind, which ignorance cannot excuse, will be justly punished. Therefore, as the knowledge of good and evil is not virtue, so the doing that which is good and the abstaining from evil is virtue. And yet knowledge is so united with virtue, that knowledge precedes virtue, and virtue follows knowledge; because knowledge is of no avail unless it is followed up by action. Horace therefore speaks somewhat better: Virtue is the fleeing from vice, and the first wisdom is to be free from folly. But he speaks improperly, because he defined virtue by its contrary, as though he should say, That is good which is not evil. For when I know not what virtue is, I do not know what vice is. Each therefore requires definition, because the nature of the case is such that each must be understood or not understood.

But let us do that which he ought to have done. It is a virtue to restrain anger, to control desire, to curb lust; for this is to flee from vice. For almost all things which are done unjustly and dishonestly arise from these affections. For if the force of this emotion which is called anger be blunted, all the evil contentions of men will be lulled to rest; no one will plot, no one will rush forth to injure another. Also, if desire be restrained, no one will use violence by land or by sea, no one will lead an army to carry off and lay waste the property of others. Also, if the ardour of lusts be repressed, every age and sex will retain its sanctity; no one will suffer, or do anything disgraceful. Therefore all crimes and disgraceful actions will be taken away from the life and character of men, if these emotions are appeased and calmed by virtue. And this calming of the emotions and affections has this meaning, that we do all things which are right. The whole duty of virtue then is, not to sin. And assuredly he cannot discharge this who is ignorant of God, since ignorance of Him from whom good things proceed must thrust a man unawares into vices. Therefore, that I may more briefly and significantly fix the offices of each subject, knowledge is to know God, virtue is to worship Him: the former implies wisdom, the latter righteousness.

Chapter 6. Of the Chief Good and Virtue, and or Knowledge and Righteousness.

I have said that which was the first thing, that the knowledge of good is not virtue; and secondly, I have shown what virtue is, and in what it consists. It follows that I should show this also, that the philosophers were ignorant of what is good and evil; and this briefly, because it has been almost made plain in the third book, when I was discussing the subject of the chief good. And because they did not know what the chief good was, they necessarily erred in the case of the other goods and evils which are not the chief; for no one can weigh these with a true judgment who does not possess the fountain itself from which they are derived. Now the source of good things is God; but of evils, he who is always the enemy of the divine name, of whom we have often spoken. From these two sources good and evil things have their origin. Those which proceed from God have this object, to procure immortality, which is the greatest good; but those which arise from the other have this office, to call man away from heavenly things and sink him in earthly things, and thus to consign him to the punishment of everlasting death, which is the greatest evil. Is it therefore doubtful but that all those were ignorant of what was good and evil, who neither knew God nor the adversary of God? Therefore they referred the end of good things to the body, and to this short life, which must be dissolved and perish: they did not advance further. But all their precepts, and all the things which they introduce as goods, adhere to the earth, and lie on the ground, since they die with the body, which is earth; for they do not tend to procure life for man, but either to the acquisition or increase of riches, honour, glory, and power, which are altogether mortal things, as much so indeed as he who has laboured to obtain them. Hence is that saying, It is virtue to know the end of an object to be sought, and the means of procuring it; for they enjoin by what means and by what practices property is to be sought, for they see that it is often sought unjustly. But virtue of this kind is not proposed to the wise man; for it is not virtue to seek riches, of which neither the finding nor the possession is in our power: therefore they are more easy to be gained and to be retained by the bad than by the good. Virtue, then, cannot consist in the seeking of those things in the despising of which the force and purport of virtue appears; nor will it have recourse to those very things which, with its great and lofty mind, it desires to trample upon and bruise under foot; nor is it lawful for a soul which is earnestly fixed on heavenly goods to be called away from its immortal pursuits, that it may acquire for itself these frail things. But the course of virtue especially consists in the acquisition of those things which neither any man, nor death itself, can take away from us. Since these things are so, that which follows is true: It is virtue to be able to assign their value to riches: which verse is nearly of the same meaning as the first two. But neither he nor any of the philosophers was able to know the price itself, either of what nature or what it is; for the poet, and all those whom he followed, thought that it meant to make a right use of riches,— that is, to be moderate in living, not to make costly entertainments, not to squander carelessly, not to expend property on superfluous or disgraceful objects.

Some one will perhaps say, What do you say? Do you deny that this is virtue? I do not deny it indeed; for if I should deny it, I should appear to prove the opposite. But I deny that it is true virtue; because it is not that heavenly principle, but is altogether of the earth, since it produces no effect but that which remains on the earth. But what it is to make a right use of wealth, and what advantage is to be sought from riches, I will declare more openly when I shall begin to speak of the duty of piety. Now the other things which follow are by no means true; for to proclaim enmity against the wicked, or to undertake the defence of the good, may be common to it with the evil. For some, by a pretence of goodness, prepare the way for themselves to power, and do many things which the good are accustomed to do, and that the more readily because they do them for the sake of deceiving; and I wish that it were as easy to carry out goodness in action as it is to pretend to it. But when they have begun to attain to their purpose and their wish in reaching the highest step of power, then, truly laying aside pretence, these men discover their character; they seize upon everything, and offer violence, and lay waste; and they press upon the good themselves, whose cause they had undertaken; and they cut away the steps by which they mounted, that no one may be able to imitate them against themselves. But, however, let us suppose that this duty of defending the good belongs only to the good man. Yet to undertake it is easy, to fulfil it is difficult; because when you have committed yourself to a contest and an encounter, the victory is placed at the disposal of God, not in your own power. And for the most part the wicked are more powerful both in number and in combination than the good, so that it is not so much virtue which is necessary to overcome them as good fortune. Is any one ignorant how often the better and the juster side has been overcome? From this cause harsh tyrannies have always broken out against the citizens. All history is full of examples, but we will be content with one. Cnœus Pompeius wished to be the defender of the good, since he took up arms in defence of the commonwealth, in defence of the senate, and in defence of liberty; and yet the same man, being conquered, perished together with liberty itself, and being mutilated by Egyptian eunuchs, was cast forth unburied.

It is not virtue, therefore, either to be the enemy of the bad or the defender of the good, because virtue cannot be subject to uncertain chances.

Moreover, to reckon the interests of our country as in the first place.

When the agreement of men is taken away, virtue has no existence at all; for what are the interests of our country, but the inconveniences of another state or nation?— that is, to extend the boundaries which are violently taken from others, to increase the power of the state, to improve the revenues,— all which things are not virtues, but the overthrowing of virtues: for, in the first place, the union of human society is taken away, innocence is taken away, the abstaining from the property of another is taken away; lastly, justice itself is taken away, which is unable to bear the tearing asunder of the human race, and wherever arms have glittered, must be banished and exterminated from thence. This saying of Cicero is true: But they who say that regard is to be had to citizens, but that it is not to be had to foreigners, these destroy the common society of the human race; and when this is removed, beneficence, liberality, kindness, and justice are entirely taken away. For how can a man be just who injures, who hates, who despoils, who puts to death? And they who strive to be serviceable to their country do all these things: for they are ignorant of what this being serviceable is, who think nothing useful, nothing advantageous, but that which can be held by the hand; and this alone cannot be held, because it may be snatched away.

Whoever, then, has gained for his country these goods— as they themselves call them— that is, who by the overthrow of cities and the destruction of nations has filled the treasury with money, has taken lands and enriched his country-men— he is extolled with praises to the heaven: in him there is said to be the greatest and perfect virtue. And this is the error not only of the people and the ignorant, but also of philosophers, who even give precepts for injustice, lest folly and wickedness should be wanting in discipline and authority. Therefore, when they are speaking of the duties relating to warfare, all that discourse is accommodated neither to justice nor to true virtue, but to this life and to civil institutions; and that this is not justice the matter itself declares, and Cicero has testified. But we, he says, are not in possession of the real and life-like figure of true law and genuine justice, we have nothing but delineations and sketches; and I wish that we followed even these, for they are taken from the excellent copies made by nature and truth. It is then a delineation and a sketch which they thought to be justice. But what of wisdom? Does not the same man confess that it has no existence in philosophers? Nor, he says, when Fabricius or Aristides is called just, is an example of justice sought from these as from a wise man; for none of these is wise in the sense in which we wish the truly wise to be understood. Nor were they who are esteemed and called wise, Marcus Cato and Caius Lælius, actually wise, nor those well-known seven; but from their constant practice of the 'middle duties,' they bore a certain likeness and appearance of wise men. If therefore wisdom is taken away from the philosophers by their own confession, and justice is taken away from those who are regarded as just, it follows that all those descriptions of virtue must be false, because no one can know what true virtue is but he who is just and wise. But no one is just and wise but he whom God has instructed with heavenly precepts.

Chapter 7. Of the Way of Error and of Truth: that It is Single, Narrow, and Steep, and Has God for Its Guide.

For all those who, by the confessed folly of others, are thought wise, being clothed with the appearance of virtue, grasp at shadows and outlines, but at nothing true. Which happens on this account, because that deceitful road which inclines to the west has many paths, on account of the variety of pursuits and systems which are dissimilar and varied in the life of men. For as that way of wisdom contains something which resembles folly, as we showed in the preceding book, so this way, which belongs altogether to folly, contains something which resembles wisdom, and they who perceive the folly of men in general seize upon this; and as it has its vices manifest, so it has something which appears to resemble virtue: as it has its wickedness open, so it has a likeness and appearance of justice. For how could the forerunner of that way, whose strength and power are altogether in deceit, lead men altogether into fraud, unless he showed them some things which resembled the truth? For, that His immortal secret might be hidden, God placed in his way things which men might despise as evil and disgraceful, that, turning away from wisdom and truth, which they were searching for without any guide, they might fall upon that very thing which they desired to avoid and flee from. Therefore he points out that way of destruction and death which has many windings, either because there are many kinds of life, or because there are many gods who are worshipped.

The deceitful and treacherous guide of this way, that there may appear to be some distinction between truth and falsehood, good and evil, leads the luxurious in one direction, and those who are called temperate in another; the ignorant in one direction, the learned in another; the sluggish in one direction, the active in another; the foolish in one direction, the philosophers in another, and even these not in one path. For those who do not shun pleasures or riches, he withdraws a little from this public and frequented road; but those who either wish to follow virtue, or profess a contempt for things, he drags over certain rugged precipices. But nevertheless all those paths which display an appearance of honours are not different roads, but turnings off and bypaths, which appear indeed to be separated from that common one, and to branch off to the right, but yet return to the same, and all lead at the very end to one issue. For that guide unites them all, where it was necessary that the good should be separated from the bad, the strong from the inactive, the wise from the foolish; namely, in the worship of the gods, in which he slays them all with one sword, because they were all foolish without any distinction, and plunges them into death. But this way— which is that of truth, and wisdom, and virtue, and justice, of all which there is but one fountain, one source of strength, one abode— is both simple, because with like minds, and with the utmost agreement, we follow and worship one God; and it is narrow, because virtue is given to the smaller number; and steep, because goodness, which is very high and lofty, cannot be attained to without the greatest difficulty and labour.

Chapter 8. Of the Errors of Philosophers, and the Variableness of Law.

This is the way which philosophers seek, but do not find on this account, because they prefer to seek it on the earth, where it cannot appear. Therefore they wander, as it were, on the great sea, and do not understand whither they are borne, because they neither discern the way nor follow any guide. For this way of life ought to be sought in the same manner in which their course is sought by ships over the deep: for unless they observe some light of heaven, they wander with uncertain courses. But whoever strives to hold the right course of life ought not to look to the earth, but to the heaven: and, to speak more plainly, he ought not to follow man, but God; not to serve these earthly images, but the heavenly God; not to measure all things by their reference to the body, but by their reference to the soul; not to attend to this life, but the eternal life. Therefore, if you always direct your eyes towards heaven, and observe the sun, where it rises, and take this as the guide of your life, as in the case of a voyage, your feet will spontaneously be directed into the way; and that heavenly light, which is a much brighter sun to sound minds than this which we behold in mortal flesh, will so rule and govern you as to lead you without any error to the most excellent harbour of wisdom and virtue.

Therefore the law of God must be undertaken, which may direct us to this path; that sacred, that heavenly law, which Marcus Tullius, in his third book respecting the Republic, has described almost with a divine voice; whose words have subjoined, that I might not speak at greater length: There is indeed a true law, right reason, agreeing with nature, diffused among all, unchanging, everlasting, which calls to duty by commanding, deters from wrong by forbidding; which, however, neither commands nor forbids the good in vain, nor affects the wicked by commanding or forbidding. It is not allowable to alter the provisions of this law, nor is it permitted us to modify it, nor can it be entirely abrogated. Nor, truly, can we be released from this law, either by the senate or by the people; nor is another person to be sought to explain or interpret it. Nor will there be one law at Rome and another at Athens; one law at the present time, and another hereafter: but the same law, everlasting and unchangeable, will bind all nations at all times; and there will be one common Master and Ruler of all, even God, the framer, arbitrator, and proposer of this law; and he who shall not obey this will flee from himself, and, despising the nature of man, will suffer the greatest punishments through this very thing, even though he shall have escaped the other punishments which are supposed to exist. Who that is acquainted with the mystery of God could so significantly relate the law of God, as a man far removed from the knowledge of the truth has set forth that law? But I consider that they who speak true things unconsciously are to be so regarded as though they prophesied under the influence of some spirit. But if he had known or explained this also, in what precepts the law itself consisted, as he clearly saw the force and purport of the divine law, he would not have discharged the office of a philosopher, but of a prophet. And because he was unable to do this, it must be done by us, to whom the law itself has been delivered by the one great Master and Ruler of all, God.

Chapter 9. Of the Law and Precept of God; Of Mercy, and the Error of the Philosophers.

The first head of this law is, to know God Himself, to obey Him alone, to worship Him alone. For he cannot maintain the character of a man who is ignorant of God, the parent of his soul: which is the greatest impiety. For this ignorance causes him to serve other gods, and no greater crime than this can be committed. Hence there is now so easy a step to wickedness through ignorance of the truth and of the chief good; since God, from the knowledge of whom he shrinks, is Himself the fountain of goodness. Or if he shall wish to follow the justice of God, yet, being ignorant of the divine law, he embraces the laws of his own country as true justice, though they were clearly devised not by justice, but by utility. For why is it that there are different and various laws among all people, but that each nation has enacted for itself that which it deemed useful for its own affairs? But how greatly utility differs from justice the Roman people themselves teach, who, by proclaiming war through the Fecials, and by inflicting injuries according to legal forms, by always desiring and carrying off the property of other, have gained for themselves the possession of the whole world. But these persons think themselves just if they do nothing against their own laws; which may be even ascribed to fear, if they abstain from crimes through dread of present punishment. But let us grant that they do that naturally, or, as the philosopher says, of their own accord, which they are compelled to do by the laws. Will they therefore be just, because they obey the institutions of men, who may themselves have erred, or have been unjust?— as it was with the framers of the twelve tables, who certainly promoted the public advantage according to the condition of the times. Civil law is one thing, which varies everywhere according to customs; but justice is another thing, which God has set forth to all as uniform and simple: and he who is ignorant of God must also be ignorant of justice.

But let us suppose it possible that any one, by natural and innate goodness, should gain true virtues, such a man as we have heard that Cimon was at Athens, who both gave alms to the needy, and entertained the poor, and clothed the naked; yet, when that one thing which is of the greatest importance is wanting— the acknowledgment of God— then all those good things are superfluous and empty, so that in pursuing them he has laboured in vain. For all his justice will resemble a human body which has no head, in which, although all the limbs are in their proper position, and figure, and proportion, yet, since that is wanting which is the chief thing of all, it is destitute both of life and of all sensation. Therefore those limbs have only the shape of limbs, but admit of no use, as much so as a head without a body; and he resembles this who is not without the knowledge of God, but yet lives unjustly. For he has that only which is of the greatest importance; but he has it to no purpose, since he is destitute of the virtues, as it were, of limbs.

Therefore, that the body may be alive, and capable of sensation, both the knowledge of God is necessary, as it were the head, and all the virtues, as it were the body. Thus there will exist a perfect and living man; but, however, the whole substance is in the head; and although this cannot exist in the absence of all, it may exist in the absence of some. And it will be an imperfect and faulty animal, but yet it will be alive, as he who knows God and yet sins in some respect. For God pardons sins. And thus it is possible to live without some of the limbs, but it is by no means possible to live without a head. This is the reason why the philosophers, though they may be naturally good, yet have no knowledge and no intelligence. All their learning and virtue is without a head, because they are ignorant of God, who is the Head of virtue and knowledge; and he who is ignorant of Him, though he may see, is blind; though he may hear, is deaf; though he may speak, is dumb. But when he shall know the Creator and Parent of all things, then he will both see, and hear, and speak. For he begins to have a head, in which all the senses are placed, that is, the eyes, and ears, and tongue. For assuredly he sees who has beheld with the eyes of his mind the truth in which God is, or God in whom the truth is; he hears, who imprints on his heart the divine words and life-giving precepts; he speaks, who, in discussing heavenly things, relates the virtue and majesty of the surpassing God. Therefore he is undoubtedly impious who does not acknowledge God; and all his virtues, which he thinks that he has or possesses, are found in that deadly road which belongs altogether to darkness. Wherefore there is no reason why any one should congratulate himself if he has gained these empty virtues, because he is not only wretched who is destitute of present goods, but he must also be foolish, since he undertakes the greatest labours in his life without any purpose. For if the hope of immortality is taken away, which God promises to those who continue in His religion, for the sake of obtaining which virtue is to be sought, and whatever evils happen are to be endured, it will assuredly be the greatest folly to wish to comply with virtues which in vain bring calamities and labours to man. For if it is virtue to endure and undergo with fortitude, want, exile, pain, and death, which are feared by others, what goodness, I pray, has it in itself, that philosophers should say that it is to be sought for on its own account? Truly they are delighted with superfluous and useless punishments, when it is permitted them to live in tranquillity.

For if our souls are mortal, if virtue is about to have no existence after the dissolution of the body, why do we avoid the goods assigned to us, as though we were ungrateful or unworthy of enjoying the divine gifts? For, that we may enjoy these blessings, we must live in wickedness and impiety, because virtue, that is, justice, is followed by poverty. Therefore he is not of sound mind, who, without having any greater hope set before him, prefers labours, and tortures, and miseries, to those goods which others enjoy in life. But if virtue is to be taken up, as is most rightly said by these, because it is evident that man is born to it, it ought to contain some greater hope, which may apply a great and illustrious solace for the ills and labours which it is the part of virtue to endure. Nor can virtue, since it is difficult in itself, be esteemed as a good in any other way than by having its hardship compensated by the greatest good. We can in no other way equally abstain from these present goods, than if there are other greater goods on account of which it is worth while to leave the pursuit of pleasures, and to endure all evils. But these are no other, as I have shown in the third book, than the goods of everlasting life. Now who can bestow these except God, who has proposed to us virtue itself? Therefore the sum and substance of everything is contained in the acknowledging and worship of God; all the hope and safety of man centres in this; this is the first step of wisdom, to know who is our true Father, and to worship Him alone with the piety which is due to Him, to obey Him, to yield ourselves to His service with the utmost devotedness: let our entire acting, and care, and attention, be laid out in gaining His favour.

Chapter 10. Of Religion Towards God, and Mercy Towards Men; And of the Beginning of the World.

I have said what is due to God, I will now say what is to be given to man; although this very thing which you shall give to man is given to God, for man is the image of God. But, however, the first office of justice is to be united with God, the second with man. But the former is called religion; the second is named mercy or kindness; which virtue is peculiar to the just, and to the worshippers of God, because this alone comprises the principle of common life. For God, who has not given wisdom to the other animals, has made them more safe from attack in danger by natural defences. But because He made him naked and defenceless, that He might rather furnish him with wisdom, He gave him, besides other things, this feeling of kindness; so that man should protect, love, and cherish man, and both receive and afford assistance against all dangers. Therefore kindness is the greatest bond of human society; and he who has broken this is to be deemed impious, and a parricide. For if we all derive our origin from one man, whom God created, we are plainly of one blood; and therefore it must be considered the greatest wickedness to hate a man, even though guilty. On which account God has enjoined that enmities are never to be contracted by us, but that they are always to be removed, so that we soothe those who are our enemies, by reminding them of their relationship. Likewise, if we are all inspired and animated by one God, what else are we than brothers? And, indeed, the more closely united, because we are united in soul rather than in body. Accordingly Lucretius does not err when he says: In short, we are all sprung from a heavenly seed; all have that same father. Therefore they are to be accounted as savage beasts who injure man; who, in opposition to every law and right of human nature, plunder, torture, slay, and banish.

On account of this relationship of brotherhood, God teaches us never to do evil, but always good. And He also prescribes in what this doing good consists: in affording aid to those who are oppressed and in difficulty, and in bestowing food on those who are destitute. For God, since He is kind, wished us to be a social animal. Therefore, in the case of other men, we ought to think of ourselves. We do not deserve to be set free in our own dangers, if we do not succour others; we do not deserve assistance, if we refuse to render it. There are no precepts of philosophers to this purport, inasmuch as they, being captivated by the appearance of false virtue, have taken away mercy from man, and while they wish to heal, have corrupted. And though they generally admit that the mutual participation of human society is to be retained, they entirely separate themselves from it by the harshness of their inhuman virtue. This error, therefore, is also to be refuted, of those who think that nothing is to be bestowed on any one. They have introduced not one origin only, and cause of building a city; but some relate that those men who were first born from the earth, when they passed a wandering life among the woods and plains, and were not united by any mutual bond of speech or justice, but had leaves and grass for their beds, and caves and grottos for their dwellings, were a prey to the beasts and stronger animals. Then, that those who had either escaped, having been torn, or had seen their neighbours torn, being admonished of their own danger, had recourse to other men, implored protection, and at first made their wishes known by nods; then that they tried the beginnings of conversation, and by attaching names to each object, by degrees completed the system of speech. But when they saw that numbers themselves were not safe against the beasts, they began also to build towns, either that they might make their nightly repose safe, or that they might ward off the incursions and attacks of beasts, not by fighting, but by interposing barriers.

O minds unworthy of men, which produced these foolish trifles! O wretched and pitiable men, who committed to writing and handed down to memory the record of their own folly; who, when they saw that the plan of assembling themselves together, or of mutual intercourse, or of avoiding danger, or of guarding against evil, or of preparing for themselves sleeping-places and lairs, was natural even to the dumb animals, thought, however, that men could not have been admonished and learned, except by examples, what they ought to fear, what to avoid, and what to do, or that they would never have assembled together, or have discovered the method of speech, had not the beasts devoured them! These things appeared to others senseless, as they really were; and they said that the cause of their coming together was not the tearing of wild beasts, but rather the very feeling of humanity itself; and that therefore they collected themselves together, because the nature of men avoided solitude, and was desirous of communion and society. The discrepancy between them is not great; since the causes are different, the fact is the same. Each might have been true, because there is no direct opposition. But, however, neither is by any means true, because men were not born from the ground throughout the world, as though sprung from the teeth of some dragon, as the poets relate; but one man was formed by God, and from that one man all the earth was filled with the human race, in the same way as again took place after the deluge, which they certainly cannot deny. Therefore no assembling together of this kind took place at the beginning; and that there were never men on the earth who could not speak except those who were infants, every one who is possessed of sense will understand. Let us suppose, however, that these things are true which idle and foolish old men vainly say, that we may refute them especially by their own feelings and arguments.

If men were collected together on this account, that they might protect their weakness by mutual help, therefore we must succour man, who needs help. For, since men entered into and contracted fellowship with men for the sake of protection, either to violate or not to preserve that compact which was entered into among men from the commencement of their origin, is to be considered as the greatest impiety. For he who withdraws himself from affording assistance must also of necessity withdraw himself from receiving it; for he who refuses his aid to another thinks that he stands in need of the aid of none. But he who withdraws and separates himself from the body at large, must live not after the custom of men, but after the manner of wild beasts. But if this cannot be done, the bond of human society is by all means to be retained, because man can in no way live without man. But the preservation of society is a mutual sharing of kind offices; that is, the affording help, that we may be able to receive it. But if, as those others assert, the assembling together of men has been caused on account of humanity itself, man ought undoubtedly to recognise man. But if those ignorant and as yet uncivilized men did this, and that, when the practice of speaking was not yet established, what must we think ought to be done by men who are polished, and connected together by interchange of conversation and all business, who, being accustomed to the society of men, cannot endure solitude?

Chapter 11. Of the Persons Upon Whom a Benefit is to Be Conferred.

Therefore humanity is to be preserved, if we wish rightly to be called men. But what else is this preservation of humanity than the loving a man because he is a man, and the same as ourselves? Therefore discord and dissension are not in accordance with the nature of man; and that expression of Cicero is true, which says that man, while he is obedient to nature, cannot injure man. Therefore, if it is contrary to nature to injure a man, it must be in accordance with nature to benefit a man; and he who does not do this deprives himself of the title of a man, because it is the duty of humanity to succour the necessity and peril of a man. I ask, therefore, of those who do not think it the part of a wise man to be prevailed upon and to pity, If a man were seized by some beast, and were to implore the aid of an armed man, whether they think that he ought to be succoured or not? They are not so shameless as to deny that that ought to be done which humanity demands and requires. Also, if any one were surrounded by fire, crushed by the downfall of a building, plunged in the sea, or carried away by a river, would they think it the duty of a man not to assist him? They themselves are not men if they think so; for no one can fail to be liable to dangers of this kind. Yes, truly, they will say that it is the part of a human being, and of a brave man too, to preserve one who was on the point of perishing. If, therefore, in casualties of this nature which imperil the life of man, they allow that it is the part of humanity to give succour, what reason is there why they should think that succour is to be withheld if a man should suffer from hunger, thirst, or cold? But though these things are naturally on an equality with those accidental circumstances, and need one and the same humanity, yet they make a distinction between these things, because they measure all things not by the truth itself, but by present utility. For they hope that those whom they rescue from peril will make a return of the favour to them. But because they do not hope for this in the case of the needy, they think that whatever they bestow on men of this kind is thrown away. Hence that sentiment of Plautus is detestable:

He deserves ill who gives food to a beggar;
For that which he gives is thrown away, and
It lengthens out the life of the other to his misery.

But perhaps the poet spoke for the actor.

What does Marcus Tullius say in his books respecting Offices? Does he not also advise that bounty should not be employed at all? For thus he speaks: Bounty, which proceeds from our estate, drains the very source of our liberality; and thus liberality is destroyed by liberality: for the more numerous they are towards whom you practice it, the less you will be able to practice it towards many. And he also says shortly afterwards: But what is more foolish than so to act that you may not be able to continue to do that which you do willingly? This professor of wisdom plainly keeps men back from acts of kindness, and advises them carefully to guard their property, and to preserve their money-chest in safety, rather than to follow justice. And when he perceived that this was inhuman and wicked, soon afterwards, in another chapter, as though moved by repentance, he thus spoke: Sometimes, however, we must exercise bounty in giving: nor is this kind of liberality altogether to be rejected; and we must give from our property to suitable persons when they are in need of assistance. What is the meaning of suitable? Assuredly those who are able to restore and give back the favour. If Cicero were now alive, I should certainly exclaim: Here, here, Marcus Tullius, you have erred from true justice; and you have taken it away by one word, since you measured the offices of piety and humanity by utility. For we must not bestow our bounty on suitable objects, but as much as possible on unsuitable objects. For that will be done with justice, piety, and humanity, which you shall do without the hope of any return!

This is that true and genuine justice, of which you say that you have no real and life-like figure. You yourself exclaim in many places that virtue is not mercenary; and you confess in the books of your Laws that liberality is gratuitous, in these words: Nor is it doubtful that he who is called liberal and generous is influenced by a sense of duty, and not by advantage. Why therefore do you bestow your bounty on suitable persons, unless it be that you may afterwards receive a reward? With you, therefore, as the author and teacher of justice, whosoever shall not be a suitable person will be worn out with nakedness, thirst, and hunger; nor will men who are rich and abundantly supplied, even to luxuriousness, assist his last extremity. If virtue does not exact a reward; if, as you say, it is to be sought on its own account, then estimate justice, which is the mother and chief of the virtues, at its own price, and not according to your advantage: give especially to him from whom you hope for nothing in return. Why do you select persons? Why do you look at bodily forms? He is to be esteemed by you as a man, whoever it is that implores you, because he considers you a man. Cast away those outlines and sketches of justice, and hold fast justice itself, true and fashioned to the life. Be bountiful to the blind, the feeble, the lame, the destitute, who must die unless you bestow your bounty upon them. They are useless to men, but they are serviceable to God, who retains them in life, who endues them with breath, who vouchsafes to them the light. Cherish as far as in you lies, and support with kindness, the lives of men, that they may not be extinguished. He who is able to succour one on the point of perishing, if he fails to do so, kills him. But they, because they neither retain their nature, nor know what reward there is in this, while they fear to lose, do lose, and fall into that which they chiefly guard against; so that whatever they bestow is either lost altogether, or profits only for the briefest time. For they who refuse a small gift to the wretched, who wish to preserve humanity without any loss to themselves, squander their property, so that they either acquire for themselves frail and perishable things, or they certainly gain nothing by their own great loss.

For what must be said of those who, induced by the vanity of popular favour, expend on the exhibition of shows wealth that would be sufficient even for great cities? Must we not say that they are senseless and mad who bestow upon the people that which is both lost to themselves, and which none of those on whom it is bestowed receives? Therefore, as all pleasure is short and perishable, and especially that of the eyes and ears, men either forget and are ungrateful for the expenses incurred by another, or they are even offended if the caprice of the people is not satisfied: so that most foolish men have even acquired evil for themselves by evil; or if they have thus succeeded in pleasing, they gain nothing more than empty favour and the talk of a few days. Thus every day the estates of most trifling men are expended on superfluous matters. Do they then act more wisely who exhibit to their fellow citizens more useful and lasting gifts? They, for instance, who by the building of public works seek a lasting memory for their name? Not even do they act rightly in burying their property in the earth; because the remembrance of them neither bestows anything upon the dead, nor are their works eternal, inasmuch as they are either thrown down and destroyed by a single earthquake, or are consumed by an accidental fire, or they are over through by some attack of an enemy, or at any rate they decay and fall to pieces by mere length of time. For there is nothing, as the orator says, made by the work of man's hand which length of time does not weaken and destroy. But this justice of which we speak, and mercy, flourish more every day. They therefore act better who bestow their bounty on their tribesmen and clients, for they bestow something on men, and profit them; but that is not true and just bounty, for there is no conferring of a benefit where there is no necessity. Therefore, whatever is given to those who are not in need, for the sake of popularity, is thrown away; or it is repaid with interest, and thus it will not be the conferring of a benefit. And although it is pleasing to those to whom it is given, still it is not just, because if it is not done, no evil follows. Therefore the only sure and true office of liberality is to support the needy and unserviceable.

Chapter 12. Of the Kinds of Beneficence, and Works of Mercy.

This is that perfect justice which protects human society, concerning which philosophers speak. This is the chief and truest advantage of riches; not to use wealth for the particular pleasure of an individual, but for the welfare of many; not for one's own immediate enjoyment, but for justice, which alone does not perish. We must therefore by all means keep in mind, that the hope of receiving in return must be altogether absent from the duty of showing mercy: for the reward of this work and duty must be expected from God alone; for if you should expect it from man, then that will not be kindness, but the lending of a benefit at interest; nor can he seem to have deserved well who affords that which he does, not to another, but to himself. And yet the matter comes to this, that whatever a man has bestowed upon another, hoping for no advantage from him, he really bestows upon himself, for he will receive a reward from God. God has also enjoined, that if at any time we make a feast, we should invite to the entertainment those who cannot invite us in return, and thus make us a recompense, so that no action of our life should be without the exercise of mercy. Nor, however, let any one think that he is debarred from intercourse with his friends or kindness with his neighbours. But God has made known to us what is our true and just work: we ought thus to live with our neighbours, provided that we know that the one manner of living relates to man, the other to God.

Therefore hospitality is a principal virtue, as the philosophers also say; but they turn it aside from true justice, and forcibly apply it to advantage. Cicero says: Hospitality was rightly praised by Theophrastus. For (as it appears to me) it is highly becoming that the houses of illustrious men should be open to illustrious guests. He has here committed the same error which he then did, when he said that we must bestow our bounty on suitable persons. For the house of a just and wise man ought not to be open to the illustrious, but to the lowly and abject. For those illustrious and powerful men cannot be in want of anything, since they are sufficiently protected and honoured by their own opulence. But nothing is to be done by a just man except that which is a benefit. But if the benefit is returned, it is destroyed and brought to an end; for we cannot possess in its completeness that for which a price has been paid to us. Therefore the principle of justice is employed about those benefits which have remained safe and uncorrupted; but they cannot thus remain by any other means than if they are be stowed upon those men who can in no way profit us. But in receiving illustrious men, he looked to nothing else but utility; nor did the ingenious man conceal what advantage he hoped from it. For he says that he who does that will become powerful among foreigners by the favour of the leading men, whom he will have bound to himself by the right of hospitality and friendship. O by how many arguments might the inconsistency of Cicero be proved, if this were my object! Nor would he be convicted so much by my words as by his own. For he also says, that the more any one refers all his actions to his own advantage, the less he is a good man. He also says, that it is not the part of a simple and open man to ingratiate himself in the favour of others, to pretend and allege anything, to appear to be doing one thing when he is doing another, to feign that he is bestowing upon another that which he is bestowing upon himself; but that this is rather the part of one who is designing and crafty, deceitful and treacherous. But how could he maintain that that ambitious hospitality was not evil intention? Do you run round through all the gates, that you may invite to your house the chief men of the nations and cities as they arrive, that by their means you may acquire influence with their citizens; and wish yourself to be called just, and kind, and hospitable, though you are studying to promote your own advantage? But did he not say this rather incautiously? For what is less suitable for Cicero? But through his ignorance of true justice he knowingly and with foresight fell into this snare. And that he might be pardoned for this, he testified that he does not give precepts with reference to true justice, which he does not hold, but with reference to a sketch and outline of justice. Therefore we must pardon this teacher who uses sketches and outlines, nor must we require the truth from him who admits that he is ignorant of it.

The ransoming of captives is a great and noble exercise of justice, of which the same Tullius also approved. And this liberality, he says, is serviceable even to the state, that captives should be ransomed from slavery, and that those of slender resources should be provided for. And I greatly prefer this practice of liberality to lavish expenditure on shows. This is the part of great and eminent men. Therefore it is the appropriate work of the just to support the poor and to ransom captives, since among the unjust if any do these things they are called great and eminent. For it is deserving of the greatest praise for those to confer benefit from whom no one expected such conduct. For he who does good to a relative, or neighbour, or friend, either deserves no praise, or certainly no great praise, because he is bound to do it, and he would be impious and detestable if he did not do that which both nature itself and relationship require; and if he does it, he does it not so much for the sake of obtaining glory as of avoiding censure. But he who does it to a stranger and an unknown person, he truly is worthy of praise, because he was led to do it by kindness only. Justice therefore exists there, where there is no obligation of necessity for conferring a benefit. He ought not therefore to have preferred this duty of generosity to expenditure on shows; for this is the part of one making a comparison, and of two goods choosing that which is the better. For that profusion of men throwing away their property into the sea is vain and trifling, and very far removed from all justice. Therefore they are not even to be called gifts, in which no one receives but he who does not deserve to receive.

Nor is it less a great work of justice to protect and defend orphans and widows who are destitute and stand in need of assistance; and therefore that divine law prescribes this to all, since all good judges deem that it belongs to their office to favour them with natural kindness, and to strive to benefit them. But these works are especially ours, since we have received the law, and the words of God Himself giving us instructions. For they perceive that it is naturally just to protect those who need protection, but they do not perceive why it is so. For God, to whom everlasting mercy belongs, on this account commands that widows and orphans should be defended and cherished, that no one through regard and pity for his pledges should be prevented from undergoing death in behalf of justice and faith, but should encounter it with promptitude and boldness, since he knows that he leaves his beloved ones to the care of God, and that they will never want protection. Also to undertake the care and support of the sick, who need some one to assist them, is the part of the greatest kindness, and of great beneficence; and he who shall do this will both gain a living sacrifice to God, and that which he has given to another for a time he will himself receive from God for eternity. The last and greatest office of piety is the burying of strangers and the poor; which subject those teachers of virtue and justice have not touched upon at all. For they were unable to see this, who measured all their duties by utility. For in the other things which have been mentioned above, although they did not keep the true path, yet, since they discovered some advantage in these things, retained as it were by a kind of inkling of the truth, they wandered to a less distance; but they abandoned this because they were unable to see any advantage in it.

Moreover, there have not been wanting those who esteemed burial as superfluous, and said that it was no evil to lie unburied and neglected; but their impious wisdom is rejected alike by the whole human race, and by the divine expressions which command the performance of the rite. But they do not venture to say that it ought not to be done, but that, if it happens to be omitted, no inconvenience is the result. Therefore in that matter they discharge the office, not so much of those who give precepts, as of those who suggest consolation, that if this shall by chance have occurred to a wise man, he should not deem himself wretched on this account. But we do not speak of that which ought to be endured by a wise man, but of that which he himself ought to do. Therefore we do not now inquire whether the whole system of burial is serviceable or not; but this, even though it be useless, as they imagine, must nevertheless be practised, even on this account only, that it appears among men to be done rightly and kindly. For it is the feeling which is inquired into, and it is the purpose which is weighed. Therefore we will not suffer the image and workmanship of God to lie exposed as a prey to beasts and birds, but we will restore it to the earth, from which it had its origin; and although it be in the case of an unknown man, we will fulfil the office of relatives, into whose place, since they are wanting, let kindness succeed; and wherever there shall be need of man, there we will think that our duty is required. But in what does the nature of justice more consist than in our affording to strangers through kindness, that which we render to our own relatives through affection? And this kindness is much more sure and just when it is now afforded, not to the man who is insensible, but to God alone, to whom a just work is a most acceptable sacrifice. Some one will perhaps say: If I shall do all these things, I shall have no possessions. For what if a great number of men shall be in want, shall suffer cold, shall be taken captive, shall die, since one who acts thus must deprive himself of his property even in a single day, shall I throw away the estate acquired by my own labour or by that of my ancestors, so that after this I myself must live by the pity of others?

Why do you so pusillanimously fear poverty, which even your philosophers praise, and bear witness that nothing is safer and nothing more calm than this? That which you fear is a haven against anxieties. Do you not know to how many dangers, to how many accidents, you are exposed with these evil resources? These will treat you well if they shall pass without your bloodshed. But you walk about laden with booty, and you bear spoils which may excite the minds even of your own relatives. Why, then, do you hesitate to lay that out well which perhaps a single robbery will snatch away from you, or a proscription suddenly arising, or the plundering of an enemy? Why do you fear to make a frail and perishable good everlasting, or to entrust your treasures to God as their preserver, in which case you need not fear thief and robber, nor rust, nor tyrant? He who is rich towards God can never be poor. If you esteem justice so highly, lay aside the burthens which press you, and follow it; free yourself from fetters and chains, that you may run to God without any impediment. It is the part of a great and lofty mind to despise and trample upon mortal affairs. But if you do not comprehend this virtue, that you may bestow your riches upon the altar of God, in order that you may provide for yourself firmer possessions than these frail ones, I will free you from fear. All these precepts are not given to you alone, but to all the people who are united in mind, and hold together as one man. If you are not adequate to the performance of great works alone, cultivate justice with all your power, in such a manner, however, that you may excel others in work as much as you excel them in riches. And do not think that you are advised to lessen or exhaust your property; but that which you would have expended on superfluities, turn to better uses. Devote to the ransoming of captives that from which you purchase beasts; maintain the poor with that from which you feed wild beasts; bury the innocent dead with that from which you provide men for the sword. What does it profit to enrich men of abandoned wickedness, who fight with beasts, and to equip them for crimes? Transfer things about to be miserably thrown away to the great sacrifice, that in return for these true gifts you may have an everlasting gift from God. Mercy has a great reward; for God promises it, that He will remit all sins. If you shall hear, He says, the prayers of your suppliant, I also will hear yours; if you shall pity those in distress, I also will pity you in your distress. But if you shall not regard nor assist them, I also will bear a mind like your own against you, and I will judge you by your own laws.

Chapter 13. Of Repentance, of Mercy, and the Forgiveness of Sins.

As often, therefore, as you are asked for aid, believe that you are tried by God, that it may be seen whether you are worthy of being heard. Examine your own conscience, and, as far as you are able, heal your wounds. Nor, however, because offenses are removed by bounty, think that a licence is given you for sinning. For they are done away with, if you are bountiful to God because you have sinned; for if you sin through reliance on your bounty, they are not done away with. For God especially desires that men shall be cleansed from their sins, and therefore He commands them to repent. But to repent is nothing else than to profess and to affirm that one will sin no more. Therefore they are pardoned who unawares and incautiously glide into sin; he who sins wilfully has no pardon. Nor, however, if any one shall have been purified from all stain of sin, let him think that he may abstain from the work of bounty because he has no faults to blot out. Nay, in truth, he is then more bound to exercise justice when he has become just, so that that which he had before done for the healing of his wounds he may afterwards do for the praise and glory of virtue. To this is added, that no one can be without fault as long as he is burthened with a covering of flesh, the infirmity of which is subject to the dominion of sin in a threefold manner— in deeds, in words, and thoughts.

By these steps justice advances to the greatest height. The first step of virtue is to abstain from evil works; the second, to abstain also from evil words; the third, to abstain even from the thoughts of evil things. He who ascends the first step is sufficiently just; he who ascends the second is now of perfect virtue, since he offends neither in deeds nor in conversation; he who ascends the third appears truly to have attained the likeness of God. For it is almost beyond the measure of man not even to admit to the thought that which is either bad in action or improper in speech. Therefore even just men, who can refrain from every unjust work, are sometimes, however, overcome by frailty itself, so that they either speak evil in anger, or, at the sight of delightful things, they desire them with silent thought. But if the condition of mortality does not suffer a man to be pure from every stain, the faults of the flesh ought therefore to be done away with by continual bounty. For it is the single work of a man who is wise, and just, and worthy of life, to lay out his riches on justice alone; for assuredly he who is without this, although he should surpass Crœsus or Crassus in riches, is to be esteemed as poor, as naked, as a beggar. Therefore we must use our efforts that we may be clothed with the garment of justice and piety, of which no one may deprive us, which may furnish us with an everlasting ornament. For if the worshippers of gods adore senseless images, and bestow upon them whatever they have which is precious, though they can neither make use of them nor give thanks because they have received them, how much more just and true is it to reverence the living images of God, that you may gain the favour of the living God! For as these make use of what they have received, and give thanks, so God, in whose sight you shall have done that which is good, will both approve of it and reward your piety.

Chapter 14. Of the Affections, and the Opinion of the Stoics Respecting Them; And of Virtue, the Vices, and Mercy.

If, therefore, mercy is a distinguished and excellent gift in man, and that is judged to be very good by the consent both of the good and the evil, it appears that philosophers were far distant from the good of man, who neither enjoined nor practised anything of this kind, but always esteemed as a vice that virtue which almost holds the first place in man. It pleases me here to bring forward one subject of philosophy, that we may more fully refute the errors of those who call mercy, desire, and fear, diseases of the soul. They indeed attempt to distinguish virtues from vices, which is truly a very easy matter. For who cannot distinguish a liberal man from one who is prodigal (as they do), or a frugal man from one who is mean, or a calm man from one who is slothful, or a cautious man from one who is timid? Because these things which are good have their limits, and if they shall exceed these limits, fall into vices; so that constancy, unless it is undertaken for the truth, becomes shamelessness. In like manner, bravery, if it shall undergo certain danger, without the compulsion of any necessity, or not for an honourable cause, is changed into rashness. Freedom of speech also, if it attack others rather than oppose those who attack it, is obstinacy. Severity also, unless it restrain itself within the befitting punishments of the guilty, becomes savage cruelty.

Therefore they say, that those who appear evil do not sin of their own accord, or choose evils by preference, but that, erring through the appearance of good, they fall into evils, while they are ignorant of the distinction between good things and evil. These things are not indeed false, but they are all referred to the body. For to be frugal, or constant, or cautious, or calm, or grave, or severe, are virtues indeed, but virtues which relate to this short life. But we who despise this life have other virtues set before us, respecting which philosophers could not by any means even conjecture. Therefore they regarded certain virtues as vices, and certain vices as virtues. For the Stoics take away from man all the affections, by the impulse of which the soul is moved— desire, joy, fear, sorrow: the two former of which arise from good things, either future or present; the latter from evil things. In the same manner, they call these four (as I said) diseases, not so much inserted in us by nature as undertaken through a perverted opinion; and therefore they think that these can be eradicated, if the false notion of good and evil things is taken away. For if the wise man thinks nothing good or evil, he will neither be inflamed with desire, nor be transported with joy, nor be alarmed with fear, nor suffer his spirits to droop through sadness. We shall presently see whether they effect that which they wish, or what it is which they do effect: in the meantime their purpose is arrogant and almost mad, who think that they apply a remedy, and that they are able to strive in opposition to the force and system of nature.

Chapter 15. Of the Affections, and the Opinion of the Peripatetics Respecting Them.

For, that these things are natural and not voluntary, the nature of all living beings shows, which is moved by all these affections. Therefore the Peripatetics act better, who say that all these cannot be taken from us, because they were born with us; and they endeavour to show how providently and how necessarily God, or nature (for so they term it), armed us with these affections; which, however, because they generally become vicious if they are in excess, can be advantageously regulated by man—a limit being applied, so that there may be left to man as much as is sufficient for nature. Not an unwise disputation, if, as I said, all things were not referred to this life. The Stoics therefore are mad who do not regulate but cut them out, and wish by some means or other to deprive man of powers implanted in him by nature. And this is equivalent to a desire of taking away timidity from stags, or poison from serpents, or rage from wild beasts, or gentleness from cattle. For those qualities which have been given separately to dumb animals, are altogether given to man at the same time. But if, as physicians affirm, the affection of joy has its seat in the spleen, that of anger in the gall, of desire in the liver, of fear in the heart, it is easier to kill the animal itself than to tear anything from the body; for this is to wish to change the nature of the living creature. But the skilful men do not understand that when they take away vices from man, they also take away virtue, for which alone they are making a place. For if it is virtue in the midst of the impetuosity of anger to restrain and check oneself, which they cannot deny, then he who is without anger is also without virtue. If it is virtue to control the lust of the body, he must be free from virtue who has no lust which he may regulate. If it is virtue to curb the desire from coveting that which belongs to another, he certainly can have no virtue who is without that, to the restraining of which the exercise of virtue is applied. Where, therefore, there are no vices, there is no place even for virtue, as there is no place for victory where there is no adversary. And so it comes to pass that there can be no good in this life without evil. An affection therefore is a kind of natural fruitfulness of the powers of the mind. For as a field which is naturally fruitful produces an abundant crop of briars, so the mind which is uncultivated is overgrown with vices flourishing of their own accord, as with thorns. But when the true cultivator has applied himself, immediately vices give way, and the fruits of virtues spring up.

Therefore God, when He first made man, with wonderful foresight first implanted in him these emotions of the mind, that he might be capable of receiving virtue, as the earth is of cultivation; and He placed the subject-matter of vices in the affections, and that of virtue in vices. For assuredly virtue will have no existence, or not be in exercise, if those things are wanting by which its power is either shown or exists. Now let us see what they have effected who altogether removes vices. With regard to those four affections which they imagine to arise from the opinion of things good and evil, by the eradication of which they think that the mind of the wise man is to be healed, since they understand that they are implanted by nature, and that without these nothing can be put in motion, nothing be done, they put certain other things into their place and room: for desire they substitute inclination, as though it were not much better to desire a good than to feel inclination for it; they in like manner substitute for joy gladness, and for fear caution. But in the case of the fourth they are at a loss for a method of exchanging the name. Therefore they have altogether taken away grief, that is, sadness and pain of mind, which cannot possibly be done. For who can fail to be grieved if pestilence has desolated his country, or an enemy overthrown it, or a tyrant crushed its liberty? Can any one fail to be grieved if he has beheld the overthrow of liberty, and the banishment or most cruel slaughter of neighbours, friends, or good men?— unless the mind of any one should be so struck with astonishment that all sensibility should be taken from him. Wherefore they ought either to have taken away the whole, or this defective and weak discussion ought to have been completed; that is, something ought to have been substituted in the place of grief, since, the former ones having been so arranged, this naturally followed.

For as we rejoice in good things that are present, so we are vexed and grieved with evil things. If, therefore, they gave another name to joy because they thought it vicious, so it was befitting that another name should be given to grief because they thought it also vicious. From which it appears that it was not the object itself which was wanting to them, but a word, through want of which they wished, contrary to what nature allowed, to take away that affection which is the greatest. For I could have refuted those changes of names at greater length, and have shown that many names are attached to the same objects, for the sake of embellishing the style and increasing its copiousness, or at any rate that they do not greatly differ from one another. For both desire takes its beginning from the inclination, and caution arises from fear, and joy is nothing else than the expression of gladness. But let us suppose that they are different, as they themselves will have it. Accordingly they will say that desire is continued and perpetual inclination, but that joy is gladness bearing itself immoderately; and that fear is caution in excess, and passing the limits of moderation. Thus it comes to pass, that they do not take away those things which they think ought to be taken away, but regulate them, since the names only are changed, the things themselves remain. They therefore return unawares to that point at which the Peripatetics arrive by argument, that vices, since they cannot be taken away, are to be regulated with moderation. Therefore they err, because they do not succeed in effecting that which they aim at, and by a circuitous route, which is long and rough, they return to the same path.

Chapter 16. Of the Affections, and the Refutation of the Opinion of the Peripatetics Concerning Them; What is the Proper Use of the Affections, and What is a Bad Use of Them.

But I think that the Peripatetics did not even approach the truth, who allow that they are vices, but regulate them with moderation. For we must be free even from moderate vices; yea, rather, it ought to have been at first effected that there should be no vices. For nothing can be born vicious; but if we make a bad use of the affections they become vices, if we use them well they become virtues. Then it must be shown that the causes of the affections, and not the affections themselves, must be moderated. We must not, they say, rejoice with excessive joy, but moderately and temperately. This is as though they should say that we must not run swiftly, but walk quietly. But it is possible that he who walks may err, and that he who runs may keep the right path. What if I show that there is a case in which it is vicious not only to rejoice moderately, but even in the smallest degree; and that there is another case, on the contrary, in which even to exult with transports of joy is by no means faulty? What then, I pray, will this mediocrity profit us? I ask whether they think that a wise man ought to rejoice if he sees any evil happening to his enemy; or whether he ought to curb his joy, if by the conquest of enemies, or the overthrow of a tyrant, liberty and safety have been acquired by his countrymen.

No one doubts but that in the former case to rejoice a little, and in the latter to rejoice too little, is a very great crime. We may say the same respecting the other affections. But, as I have said, the object of wisdom does not consist in the regulation of these, but of their causes, since they are acted upon from without; nor was it befitting that these themselves should be restrained; since they may exist in a small degree with the greatest criminality, and in the greatest degree without any criminality. But they ought to have been assigned to fixed times, and circumstances, and places, that they may not be vices, when it is permitted us to make a right use of them. For as to walk in the right course is good, but to wander from it is evil, so to be moved by the affections to that which is right is good, but to that which is corrupt is evil. For sensual desire, if it does not wander from its lawful object, although it be ardent, yet is without fault. But if it desires an unlawful object, although it be moderate, yet it is a great vice. Therefore it is not a disease to be angry, nor to desire, nor to be excited by lust; but to be passionate, to be covetous or licentious, is a disease. For he who is passionate is angry even with him with whom he ought not to be angry or at times when he ought not. He who is covetous desires even that which is unnecessary. He who is licentious pursues even that which is forbidden by the laws. The whole matter ought to have turned on this, that since the impetuosity of these things cannot be restrained, nor is it right that it should be, because it is necessarily implanted for maintaining the duties of life, it might rather be directed into the right way, where it may be possible even to run without stumbling and danger.

Chapter 17. Of the Affections and Their Use; Of Patience, and the Chief Good of Christians.

But I have been carried too far in my desire of refuting them; since it is my purpose to show that those things which the philosophers thought to be vices, are so far from being vices, that they are even great virtues. Of others, I will take, for the sake of instruction, those which I think to be most closely related to the subject. They regard dread or fear as a very great vice, and think that it is a very great weakness of mind; the opposite to which is bravery: and if this exists in a man, they say that there is no place for fear. Does any one then believe that it can possibly happen that this same fear is the highest fortitude? By no means. For nature does not appear to admit that anything should fall back to its contrary. But yet I, not by any skilful conclusion, as Socrates does in the writings of Plato, who compels those against whom he disputes to admit those things which they had denied, but in a simple manner, will show that the greatest fear is the greatest virtue. No one doubts but that it is the part of a timid and feeble mind either to fear pain, or want, or exile, or imprisonment, or death; and if any one does not dread all these, he is judged a man of the greatest fortitude. But he who fears God is free from the fear of all these things. In proof of which, there is no need of arguments: for the punishments inflicted on the worshippers of God have been witnessed at all times, and are still witnessed through the world, in the tormenting of whom new and unusual tortures have been devised. For the mind shrinks from the recollection of various kinds of death, when the butchery of savage monsters has raged even beyond death itself. But a happy and unconquered patience endured these execrable lacerations of their bodies without a groan. This virtue afforded the greatest astonishment to all people and provinces, and to the torturers themselves, when cruelty was overcome by patience. But this virtue was caused by nothing else than the fear of God. Therefore (as I said) fear is not to be uprooted, as the Stoics maintain, nor to be restrained, as the Peripatetics wish, but to be directed into the right way; and apprehensions are to be taken away, but so that this one only may be left: for since this is the only lawful and true one, it alone effects that all other things may not be feared. Desire also is reckoned among vices; but if it desires those things which are of the earth, it is a vice; on the other hand, if it desires heavenly things, it is a virtue. For he who desires to obtain justice, God, perpetual life, everlasting light, and all those things which God promises to man, will despise these riches, and honours, and commands, and kingdoms themselves.

The Stoic will perhaps say that inclination is necessary for the attainment of these things, and not desire; but, in truth, the inclination is not sufficient. For many have the inclination; but when pain has approached the vitals, inclination gives way, but desire perseveres: and if it effects that all things which are sought by others are objects of contempt to him, it is the greatest virtue, since it is the mother of self-restraint. And therefore we ought rather to effect this, that we may rightly direct the affections, a corrupt use of which is vice. For these excitements of the mind resemble a harnessed chariot, in the right management of which the chief duty of the driver is to know the way; and if he shall keep to this, with whatever swiftness he may go, he will not strike against an obstacle. But if he shall wander from the course, although he may go calmly and gently, he will either be shaken over rough places, or will glide over precipices, or at any rate will be carried where he does not need to go. So that chariot of life which is led by the affections as though by swift horses, if it keeps the right way, will discharge its duty. Dread, therefore, and desire, if they are cast down to the earth, will become vices, but they will be virtues if they are referred to divine things. On the other hand, they esteem parsimony as a virtue; which, if it is eagerness for possessing, cannot be a virtue, because it is altogether employed in the increase or preservation of earthly goods. But we do not refer the chief good to the body, but we measure every duty by the preservation of the soul only. But if, as I have before taught, we must by no means spare our property that we may preserve kindness and justice, it is not a virtue to be frugal; which name beguiles and deceives under the appearance of virtue. For frugality is, it is true, the abstaining from pleasures; but in this respect it is a vice, because it arises from the love of possessing, whereas we ought both to abstain from pleasures, and by no means to withhold money. For to use money sparingly, that is, moderately, is a kind of weakness of mind, either of one fearing lest he should be in want, or of one despairing of being able to recover it, or of one incapable of the contempt of earthly things. But, on the other hand, they call him who is not sparing of his property prodigal. For thus they distinguish between the liberal man and the prodigal: that he is liberal who bestows on deserving objects, and on proper occasions, and in sufficient quantities; but that he is prodigal who lavishes on undeserving objects, and when there is no need, and without any regard to his property.

What then? Shall we call him prodigal who through pity gives food to the needy? But it makes a great difference, whether on account of lust you bestow your money on harlots, or on account of benevolence on the wretched; whether profligates, gamesters, and pimps squander your money, or you bestow it on piety and God; whether you expend it upon your own appetite, or lay it up in the treasury of justice. As, therefore, it is a vice to lay it out badly, so it is a virtue to lay it out well. If it is a virtue not to be sparing of riches, which can be replaced, that you may support the life of man, which cannot be replaced; then parsimony is a vice. Therefore I can call them by no other name than mad, who deprive man, a mild and sociable animal, of his name; who, having uprooted the affections, in which humanity altogether consists, wish to bring him to an immoveable insensibility of mind, while they desire to free the soul from perturbations, and, as they themselves say, to render it calm and tranquil; which is not only impossible, because its force and nature consist in motion, but it ought not even to be so. For as water which is always still and motionless is unwholesome and more muddy, so the soul which is unmoved and torpid is useless even to itself: nor will it be able to maintain life itself; for it will neither do nor think anything, since thought itself is nothing less than agitation of the mind. In fine, they who assert this immoveableness of the soul wish to deprive the soul of life; for life is full of activity, but death is quiet. They also rightly esteem some things as virtues, but they do not maintain their due proportion.

Constancy is a virtue; not that we resist those who injure us, for we must yield to these; and why this ought to be done I will show presently: but that when men command us to act in opposition to the law of God, and in opposition to justice, we should be deterred by no threats or punishments from preferring the command of God to the command of man. Likewise it is a virtue to despise death; not that we seek it, and of our own accord inflict it upon ourselves, as many and distinguished philosophers have often done, which is a wicked and impious thing; but that when compelled to desert God, and to betray our faith, we should prefer to undergo death, and should defend our liberty against the foolish and senseless violence of those who cannot govern themselves, and with fortitude of spirit we should challenge all the threats and terrors of the world. Thus with lofty and invincible mind we trample upon those things which others fear— pain and death. This is virtue; this is true constancy— to be maintained and preserved in this one thing alone, that no terror and no violence may be able to turn us away from God. Therefore that is a true sentiment of Cicero: No one, he says, can be just who fears death, or pain, or exile, or want. Also of Seneca, who says, in his books of moral philosophy: This is that virtuous man, not distinguished by a diadem or purple, or the attendance of lictors, but in no respect inferior, who, when he sees death at hand, is not so disturbed as though he saw a fresh object; who, whether torments are to be suffered by his whole body, or a flame is to be seized by his mouth, or his hands are to be stretched out on the cross, does not inquire what he suffers, but how well. But he who worships God suffers these things without fear. Therefore he is just. By these things it is effected, that he cannot know or maintain at all either the virtues or the exact limits of the virtues, whoever is estranged from the religion of the one God.

Chapter 18. Of Some Commands of God, and of Patience.

But let us leave the philosophers, who either know nothing at all, and hold forth this very ignorance as the greatest knowledge; or who, inasmuch as they think they know that of which they are ignorant, are absurdly and arrogantly foolish. Let us therefore (that we may return to our purpose), to whom alone the truth has been revealed by God, and wisdom has been sent from heaven, practice those things which God who enlightens us commands: let us sustain and endure the labours of life, by mutual assistance towards each other; nor, however, if we shall have done any good work, let us aim at glory from it. For God admonishes us that the doer of justice ought not to be boastful, lest he should appear to have discharged the duties of benevolence, not so much from a desire of obeying the divine commands, as of pleasing men, and should already have the reward of glory which he has aimed at, and should not receive the recompense of that heavenly and divine reward. The other things which the worshipper of God ought to observe are easy, when these virtues are comprehended, that no one should ever speak falsely for the sake of deceiving or injuring. For it is unlawful for him who cultivates truth to be deceitful in anything, and to depart from the truth itself which he follows. In this path of justice and all the virtues there is no place for falsehood. Therefore the true and just traveller will not use the saying of Lucilius:

It is not for me to speak falsely to a man who is a friend and acquaintance;

but he will think that it is not his part to speak falsely even to an enemy and a stranger; nor will he at any time so act, that his tongue, which is the interpreter of his mind, should be at variance with his feeling and thought. If he shall have lent any money, he will not receive interest, that the benefit may be unimpaired which succours necessity, and that he may entirely abstain from the property of another. For in this kind of duty he ought to be content with that which is his own; since it is his duty in other respects not to be sparing of his property, in order that he may do good; but to receive more than he has given is unjust. And he who does this lies in wait in some manner, that he may gain booty from the necessity of another.

But the just man will omit no opportunity of doing anything mercifully: nor will he pollute himself with gain of this kind; but he will so act that without any loss to himself, that which he lends may be reckoned among his good works. He must not receive a gift from a poor man; so that if he himself has afforded anything, it may be good, inasmuch as it is gratuitous. If any one reviles, he must answer him with a blessing; he himself must never revile, that no evil word may proceed out of the mouth of a man who reverences the good Word. Moreover, he must also diligently take care, lest by any fault of his he should at any time make an enemy; and if any one should be so shameless as to inflict injury on a good and just man, he must bear it with calmness and moderation, and not take upon himself his revenge, but reserve it for the judgment of God. Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30 He must at all times and in all places guard innocence. And this precept is not limited to this, that he should not himself inflict injury, but that he should not avenge it when inflicted on himself. For there sits on the judgment-seat a very great and impartial Judge, the observer and witness of all. Let him prefer Him to man; let him rather choose that He should pronounce judgment respecting his cause, whose sentence no one can escape, either by the advocacy of any one or by favour. Thus it comes to pass, that a just man is an object of contempt to all; and because it will be thought that he is unable to defend himself, he will be regarded as slothful and inactive; but if any one shall have avenged himself upon his enemy, he is judged a man of spirit and activity— all honour and reverence him. And although the good man has it in his power to profit many, yet they look up to him who is able to injure, rather than to him who is able to profit. But the depravity of men will not be able to corrupt the just man, so that he will not endeavour to obey God; and he would prefer to be despised, provided that he may always discharge the duty of a good man, and never of a bad man. Cicero says in those same books respecting Offices: But if any one should wish to unravel this indistinct conception of his soul, let him at once teach himself that he is a good man who profits those whom he can, and injures no one unless provoked by injury.

Oh how he marred a simple and true sentiment by the addition of two words! For what need was there of adding these words, unless provoked by injury? that he might append vice as a most disgraceful tail to a good man and might represent him as without patience, which is the greatest of all the virtues. He said that a good man would inflict injuries if he were provoked: now he must necessarily lose the name of a good man from this very circumstance, if he shall inflict injury. For it is not less the part of a bad man to return an injury than to inflict it. For from what source do contests, from what source do fightings and contentions, arise among men, except that impatience opposed to injustice often excites great tempests? But if you meet injustice with patience, than which virtue nothing can be found more true, nothing more worthy of a man, it will immediately be extinguished, as though you should pour water upon a fire. But if that injustice which provokes opposition has met with impatience equal to itself, as though overspread with oil, it will excite so great a conflagration, that no stream can extinguish it, but only the shedding of blood. Great, therefore, is the advantage of patience, of which the wise man has deprived the good man. For this alone causes that no evil happens; and if it should be given to all, there will be no wickedness and no fraud in the affairs of men. What, therefore, can be so calamitous to a good man, so opposed to his character, as to let loose the reins to anger, which deprives him not only of the title of a good man, but even of a man; since to injure another, as he himself most truly says, is not in accordance with the nature of man? For if you provoke cattle or horses, they turn against you either with their hoof or their horn; and serpents and wild beasts, unless you pursue them that you may kill them, give no trouble. And to return to examples of men, even the inexperienced and the foolish, if at any time they receive an injury, are led by a blind and irrational fury, and endeavour to retaliate upon those who injure them. In what respect, then, does the wise and good man differ from the evil and foolish, except that he has invincible patience, of which the foolish are destitute; except that he knows how to govern himself, and to mitigate his anger, which those, because they are without virtue, are unable to curb? But this circumstance manifestly deceived him, because, when inquiry is made respecting virtue, he thought that it is the part of virtue to conquer in every kind of contention. Nor was he able in any way to see, that a man who gives way to grief and anger, and who indulges these affections, against which he ought rather to struggle, and who rushes wherever injustice shall have called him, does not fulfil the duty of virtue. For he who endeavours to return an injury, desires to imitate that very person by whom he has been injured. Thus he who imitates a bad man can by no means be good.

Therefore by two words he has taken away from the good and wise man two of the greatest virtues, innocence and patience. But, as Sallustius relates was said by Appius, because he himself practised that canine eloquence, be wished man also to live after the manner of a dog, so as, when attacked, to bite in return. And to show how pernicious this repayment of insult is, and what carnage it is accustomed to produce, from what can a more befitting example be sought, than from the most melancholy disaster of the teacher himself, who, while he desired to obey these precepts of the philosophers, destroyed himself? For if, when attacked with injury, he had preserved patience— if he had learned that it is the part of a good man to dissemble and to endure insult, and his impatience, vanity, and madness had not poured forth those noble orations, inscribed with a name derived from another source, he would never, by his head affixed to them, have polluted the rostra on which he had formerly distinguished himself, nor would that proscription have utterly destroyed the state. Therefore it is not the part of a wise and good man to wish to contend, and to commit himself to danger, since to conquer is not in our power, and every contest is doubtful; but it is the part of a wise and excellent man not to wish to remove his adversary, which cannot be done without guilt and danger, but to put an end to the contest itself, which may be done with advantage and with justice. Therefore patience is to be regarded as a very great virtue; and that the just man might obtain this, God willed, as has been before said, that he should be despised as sluggish. For unless he shall have been insulted, it will not be known what fortitude he has in restraining himself. Now if, when provoked by injury, he has begun to follow up his assailant with violence, he is overcome. But if he shall have repressed that emotion by reasoning, he altogether has command over himself: he is able to rule himself. And this restraining of oneself is rightly named patience, which single virtue is opposed to all vices and affections. This recalls the disturbed and wavering mind to its tranquillity; this mitigates, this restores a man to himself. Therefore, since it is impossible and useless to resist nature, so that we are not excited at all; before, however, the emotion bursts forth to the infliction of injury, as far as is possible let it be calmed in time. God has enjoined us not to let the sun go down upon our wrath, Ephesians 4:26 lest he should depart as a witness of our madness. Finally, Marcus Tullius, in opposition to his own precept, concerning which I have lately spoken, gave the greatest praises to the forgetting of injuries. I entertain hopes, he says, O Cæsar, who art accustomed to forget nothing except injuries. But if he thus acted— a man most widely removed not only from heavenly, but also from public and civil justice— how much more ought we to do this, who are, as it were, candidates for immortality?

Chapter 19. Of the Affections and Their Use; And of the Three Furies.

When the Stoics attempt to uproot the affections from man as diseases, they are opposed by the Peripatetics, who not only retain, but also defend them, and say that there is nothing in man which is not produced in him with great reason and foresight. They say this indeed rightly, if they know the true limits of each subject. Accordingly they say that this very affection of anger is the whetstone of virtue, as though no one could fight bravely against enemies unless he were excited by anger; by which they plainly show that they neither know what virtue is, nor why God gave anger to man. And if this was given to us for this purpose, that we may employ it for the slaying of men, what is to be thought more savage than man, what more resembling the wild beasts, than that animal which God formed for communion and innocence? There are, then, three affections which drive men headlong to all crimes: (1) anger, (2) desire, and (3) lust. On which account the poets have said that there are three furies which harass the minds of men: anger longs for revenge, desire for riches, lust for pleasures. But God has appointed fixed limits to all of these; and if they pass these limits and begin to be too great, they must necessarily pervert their nature, and be changed into diseases and vices. And it is a matter of no great labour to show what these limits are. Cupidity is given us for providing those things which are necessary for life; concupiscence, for the procreation of offspring; the affection of indignation, for restraining the faults of those who are in our power, that is, in order that tender age may be formed by a severer discipline to integrity and justice: for if this time of life is not restrained by fear, licence will produce boldness, and this will break out into every disgraceful and daring action. Therefore, as it is both just and necessary to employ anger towards the young, so it is both pernicious and impious to use it towards those of our own age. It is impious, because humanity is injured; pernicious, because if they oppose, it is necessary either to destroy them or to perish. But that this which I have spoken of is the reason why the affection of anger has been given to man, may be understood from the precepts of God Himself, who commands that we should not be angry with those who revile and injure us, but that we should always have our hands over the young; that is, that when they err, we should correct them with continual stripes, lest by useless love and excessive indulgence they should be trained to evil and nourished to vices. But those who are inexperienced in affairs and ignorant of reason, have expelled those affections which have been given to man for good uses, and they wander more widely than reason demands. From this cause they live unjustly and impiously. They employ anger against their equals in age: hence disagreements, hence banishments, hence wars have arisen contrary to justice. They use desire for the amassing of riches: hence frauds, hence robberies, hence all kinds of crimes have originated. They use lust only for the enjoyment of pleasures: hence debaucheries, hence adulteries, hence all corruptions have proceeded. Whoever, therefore, has reduced those affections within their proper limits, which they who are ignorant of God cannot do, he is patient, he is brave, he is just.

Chapter 20. Of the Senses, and Their Pleasures in the Brutes and in Man; And of Pleasures of the Eyes, and Spectacles.

It remains that I should speak against the pleasures of the five senses, and this briefly, for the measure of the book itself now demands moderation; all of which, since they are vicious and deadly, ought to be overcome and subdued by virtue, or, as I said a little before respecting the affections, be recalled to their proper office. The other animals have no pleasure, except the one only which relates to generation. Therefore they use their senses for the necessity of their nature: they see, in order that they may seek those things which are necessary for the preservation of life; they hear one another, and distinguish one another, that they may be able to assemble together; they either discover from the smell, or perceive from the taste, the things which are useful for food; they refuse and reject the things which are useless, they measure the business of eating and drinking by the fullness of their stomach. But the foresight of the most skilful Creator gave to man pleasure without limit, and liable to fall into vice, because He set before him virtue, which might always be at variance with pleasure, as with a domestic enemy. Cicero says, in the Cato Major: In truth, debaucheries, and adulteries, and disgraceful actions are excited by no other enticements than those of pleasure. And since nature or some God has given to man nothing more excellent than the mind, nothing is so hostile to this divine benefit and gift as pleasure. For when lust bears sway there is no place for temperance, nor can virtue have any existence when pleasure reigns supreme. But, on the other hand, God gave virtue on this account, that it might subdue and conquer pleasure, and that, when it passed the boundaries assigned to it, it might restrain it within the prescribed limits, lest it should soothe and captivate man with enjoyments, render him subject to its control, and punish him with everlasting death.

The pleasure arising from the eyes is various and manifold, which is derived from the sight of objects which are pleasant in intercourse with men, or in nature or workmanship. The philosophers rightly took this away. For they say that it is much more excellent and worthy of man to look upon the heaven rather than carved works, and to admire this most beautiful work adorned with the lights of the stars shining through, as with flowers, than to admire things painted and moulded, and varied with jewels. But when they have eloquently exhorted us to despise earthly things, and have urged us to look up to the heaven, nevertheless they do not despise these public spectacles. Therefore they are both delighted with these, and are gladly present at them; though, since they are the greatest incitement to vices, and have a most powerful tendency to corrupt our minds, they ought to be taken away from us; for they not only contribute in no respect to a happy life, but even inflict the greatest injury. For he who reckons it a pleasure, that a man, though justly condemned, should be slain in his sight, pollutes his conscience as much as if he should become a spectator and a sharer of a homicide which is secretly committed. And yet they call these sports in which human blood is shed. So far has the feeling of humanity departed from the men, that when they destroy the lives of men, they think that they are amusing themselves with sport, being more guilty than all those whose blood-shedding they esteem a pleasure. I ask now whether they can be just and pious men, who, when they see men placed under the stroke of death, and entreating mercy, not only suffer them to be put to death, but also demand it, and give cruel and inhuman votes for their death, not being satiated with wounds nor contented with bloodshed. Moreover, they order them, even though wounded and prostrate, to be attacked again, and their caresses to he wasted with blows, that no one may delude them by a pretended death. They are even angry with the combatants, unless one of the two is quickly slain; and as though they thirsted for human blood, they hate delays. They demand that other and fresh combatants should be given to them, that they may satisfy their eyes as soon as possible. Being imbued with this practice, they have lost their humanity. Therefore they do not spare even the innocent, but practice upon all that which they have learned in the slaughter of the wicked. It is not therefore befitting that those who strive to keep to the path of justice should be companions and sharers in this public homicide. For when God forbids us to kill, He not only prohibits us from open violence, which is not even allowed by the public laws, but He warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men. Thus it will be neither lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself, nor to accuse any one of a capital charge, because it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or rather by the sword, since it is the act of putting to death itself which is prohibited. Therefore, with regard to this precept of God, there ought to be no exception at all; but that it is always unlawful to put to death a man, whom God willed to be a sacred animal.

Therefore let no one imagine that even this is allowed, to strangle newly-born children, which is the greatest impiety; for God breathes into their souls for life, and not for death. But men, that there may be no crime with which they may not pollute their hands, deprive souls as yet innocent and simple of the light which they themselves have not given. Can any one, indeed, expect that they would abstain from the blood of others who do not abstain even from their own? But these are without any controversy wicked and unjust. What are they whom a false piety compels to expose their children? Can they be considered innocent who expose their own offspring as a prey to dogs, and as far as it depends upon themselves, kill them in a more cruel manner than if they had strangled them? Who can doubt that he is impious who gives occasion for the pity of others? For, although that which he has wished should befall the child— namely, that it should be brought up— he has certainly consigned his own offspring either to servitude or to the brothel? But who does not understand, who is ignorant what things may happen, or are accustomed to happen, in the case of each sex, even through error? For this is shown by the example of Œdipus alone, confused with twofold guilt. It is therefore as wicked to expose as it is to kill. But truly parricides complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children; as though, in truth, their means were in the power of those who possess them, or God did not daily make the rich poor, and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from marriage than with wicked hands to mar the work of God.

If, then, it is in no way permitted to commit homicide, it is not allowed us to be present at all, lest any bloodshed should overspread the conscience, since that blood is offered for the gratification of the people. And I am inclined to think that the corrupting influence of the stage is still more contaminating. For the subject of comedies are the dishonouring of virgins, or the loves of harlots; and the more eloquent they are who have composed the accounts of these disgraceful actions, the more do they persuade by the elegance of their sentiments; and harmonious and polished verses more readily remain fixed in the memory of the hearers. In like manner, the stories of the tragedians place before the eyes the parricides and incests of wicked kings, and represent tragic crimes. And what other effect do the immodest gestures of the players produce, but both teach and excite lusts? Whose enervated bodies, rendered effeminate after the gait and dress of women, imitate unchaste women by their disgraceful gestures. Why should I speak of the actors of mimes, who hold forth instruction in corrupting influences, who teach adulteries while they feign them, and by pretended actions train to those which are true? What can young men or virgins do, when they see that these things are practised without shame, and willingly beheld by all? They are plainly admonished of what they can do, and are inflamed with lust, which is especially excited by seeing; and every one according to his sex forms himself in these representations. And they approve of these things, while they laugh at them, and with vices clinging to them, they return more corrupted to their apartments; and not boys only, who ought not to be inured to vices prematurely, but also old men, whom it does not become at their age to sin.

What else does the practice of the Circensian games contain but levity, vanity, and madness? For their souls are hurried away to mad excitement with as great impetuosity as that with which the chariot races are there carried on; so that they who come for the sake of beholding the spectacle now themselves exhibit more of a spectacle, when they begin to utter exclamations, to be thrown into transports, and to leap from their seats. Therefore all spectacles ought to be avoided, not only that no vice may settle in our breasts, which ought to be tranquil and peaceful; but that the habitual indulgence of any pleasure may not soothe and captivate us, and turn us aside from God and from good works. For the celebrations of the games are festivals in honour of the gods, inasmuch as they were instituted on account of their birthdays, or the dedication of new temples. And at first the huntings, which are called shows, were in honour of Saturnus, and the scenic games in honour of Liber, but the Circensian in honour of Neptune. By degrees, however, the same honour began to be paid also to the other gods, and separate games were dedicated to their names, as Sisinnius Capito teaches in his book on the games. Therefore, if any one is present at the spectacles to which men assemble for the sake of religion, he has departed from the worship of God, and has betaken himself to those deities whose birthdays and festivals he has celebrated.

Chapter 21. Of the Pleasures of the Ears, and of Sacred Literature.

Pleasure of the ears is received from the sweetness of voices and strains, which indeed is as productive of vice as that delight of the eyes of which we have spoken. For who would not deem him luxurious and worthless who should have scenic arts at his house? But it makes no difference whether you practice luxury alone at home, or with the people in the theatre. But we have already spoken of spectacles: there remains one thing which is to be overcome by us, that we be not captivated by those things which penetrate to the innermost perception. For all those things which are unconnected with words, that is, pleasant sounds of the air and of strings, may be easily disregarded, because they do not adhere to us, and cannot be written. But a well-composed poem, and a speech beguiling with its sweetness, captivate the minds of men, and impel them in what direction they please. Hence, when learned men have applied themselves to the religion of God, unless they have been instructed by some skilful teacher, they do not believe. For, being accustomed to sweet and polished speeches or poems, they despise the simple and common language of the sacred writings as mean. For they seek that which may soothe the senses. But whatever is pleasant to the ear effects persuasion, and while it delights fixes itself deeply within the breast. Is God, therefore, the contriver both of the mind, and of the voice, and of the tongue, unable to speak eloquently? Yea, rather, with the greatest foresight, He wished those things which are divine to be without adornment, that all might understand the things which He Himself spoke to all.

Therefore he who is anxious for the truth, who does not wish to deceive himself, must lay aside hurtful and injurious pleasures, which would bind the mind to themselves, as pleasant food does the body: true things must be preferred to false, eternal things to those which are of short duration, useful things to those which are pleasant. Let nothing be pleasing to the sight but that which you see to be done with piety and justice; let nothing be agreeable to the hearing but that which nourishes the soul and makes you a better man. And especially this sense ought not to be distorted to vice, since it is given to us for this purpose, that we might gain the knowledge of God. Therefore, if it be a pleasure to hear melodies and songs, let it be pleasant to sing and hear the praises of God. This is true pleasure, which is the attendant and companion of virtue. This is not frail and brief, as those which they desire, who, like cattle, are slaves to the body; but lasting, and affording delight without any intermission. And if any one shall pass its limits, and shall seek nothing else from pleasure but pleasure itself, he designs for himself death; for as there is perpetual life in virtue, so there is death in pleasure. For he who shall choose temporal things will be without things eternal; he who shall prefer earthly things will not have heavenly things.

Chapter 22. Of the Pleasures of Taste and Smell.

But with regard to the pleasures of taste and smell, which two senses relate only to the body, there is nothing to be discussed by us; unless by chance any one requires us to say that it is disgraceful to a wise and good man if he is the slave of his appetite, if he walks along besmeared with ointments and crowned with flowers: and he who does these things is plainly foolish and senseless, and is worthless, and one whom not even a notion of virtue has reached. Perhaps some one will say, Why, then, have these things been made, except that we may enjoy them? However, it has often been said that there would have been no virtue unless it had things which it might overpower. Therefore God made all things to supply a contest between two things. Those enticements of pleasures, then, are the instruments of that whose only business it is to subdue virtue, and to shut out justice from men. With these soothing influences and enjoyments it captivates their souls; for it knows that pleasure is the contriver of death. For as God calls man to life only through virtue and labour, so the other calls us to death by delights and pleasures; and as men arrive at real good through deceitful evils, so they arrive at real evil through deceitful goods. Therefore those enjoyments are to be guarded against, as snares or nets, lest, captivated by the softness of enjoyments, we should be brought under the dominion of death with the body itself, to which we have enslaved ourselves.

Chapter 23. De Tactus Voluptate Et Libidine, Atque de Matrimonio Et Continentiâ.

Venio nunc ad eam, quæ; percipitur ex tactu, voluptatem: qui sensus est quidem totius corporis. Sed ego non de ornamentis, aut vestibus, sed de solâ libidine dicendum mihi puto; quæ; maxime coercenda est, quia maxime nocet. Cure excogitasset Deus duorum sexuum rationero, attribuit iis, ut se invicem appeterent, et conjunctione gauderent. Itaque ardentissimam cupiditatem cunctorum animantium corporibus admiscuit, ut in hos affectus avidissime ruerent, eaque ratione propagari et multiplicari genera possent. Quæ; cupiditas et appetentia in homine vehementior et acrior invenitur; vel quia hominum multitudinem voluit esse majorem, vel quoniam virtutem soli homini dedit, ut esset laus et gloria in coercendis voluptatibus, et abstinentia sui. Seit ergo adversarius ille noster, quanta sit vis hujus cupiditatis, quam quidam necessitatem dicere maluerunt; eamque a recto et bono, ad malum et pravum transfert. Illicita enim desideria immittit, ut aliena contaminent, quibus habere propria sine delicto licet. Objicit quippe oculis irritabiles formas, suggeritque fomenta, et vitiis pabulum subministrat: tum intimis visceribus stimulos omnes conturbat et commovet, et naturalem illum incitat atque inflammat ardorem, donee irretitum hominem implicatumque decipiat. Ac ne quis esset, qui pœnarum metu abstineret alieno, lupanaria quoque constituit; et pudorem infelicium mulierum publicavit, ut ludibrio haberet tam eos qui faciunt, quam quas pati necesse est.

His obscœnitatibus animas, ad sanctitatem genitas, velut in cœni gurgite demersit, pudorem extinxit, pudicitiam profligavit. Idem etiam mares maribus admiscuit; et nefandos coitus contra naturam contraque institutum Dei machinatus est: sic imbuit homines, et armavit ad nefas omne. Quid enim potest esse sanctum iis, qui ætatem imbecillam et præsidio indigentem, libidini suæ; depopulandam fœdandamque substraverint? Non potest hæc res pro magnitudine sceleris enarrari. Nihil amplius istos appellare possum, quam implos et parricidas, quibus non sufficit sexus a Deo datus, nisi eliare suum profane ac petulanter illudant. Hæc tamen apud illos levia, et quasi honesta sunt. Quid dicam de iis, qui abominandam non libidinem, sod insaniam potius exercent! Piget dicere: sed quid his fore credamus, quos non piget facere? Et tamen dicendum est, quia fit. De istis loquor, quorum teterrima libido et execrabilis furor ne capiti quidem parcit. Quibus hoc verbis, aut qua indignatione tantum nefas prosequar? Vincit officium linguæ; sceleris magnitudo. Cum igitur libido hæc edat opera, et hæc facinora designer, armandi adversus earn virtute maxima sumus. Quisquis affectus illos frænare non potest, cohibeat eos intra præ; scriptum legitimi tori, ut et illud, quod avide expetat, consequatur, et tamen in peccatum non incidat. Nam quid sibi homines perditi volunt? Nempe honesta opera voluptas sequitur: si ipsam per se appetunt, justa et legitima frui licet.

Quod si aliqua necessitas prohibebit tum vero maxima adhibenda virtus erit, ut cupiditati continentia reluctetur. Nec tanturn alienis, quæ; attingere non licet, veriun etiam publicis vulgatisque corporibus abstinendum, Deus præcepit; docetque nos, cum duo inter se corpora fuerint copulata, unum corpus efficere. Ita qui se cœno immerserit, cœno sit oblitus necesse est; et corpus quidem cito ablui potest: mens autem contagione impudici corporis inquinata non potest, nisi et longo tempore, et multis bonis operibus, ab ea quæ; inhæ serit colluvione purgari. Oportet ergo sibi quemque proponere, duorum sexuum conjunctionem generandi causa datam esse viventibus, eamque legera his affectibus positam, ut successionera parent. Sicut autem dedit nobis oculos Deus, non ut spectemus, voluptatemque capiamus, sed ut videamus propter eos actus, qui pertinent ad vitæ necessitatem, ita genitalem corporis partem, quod nomen ipsum docet, nulla alia causa nisi efficiendæ sobolis accepimus. Huic divinæ; legi summa devotione parendum est. Sint omnes, qui se discipulos Dei profitebuntur, ita morati et instituti, ut imperare sibi possint. Nam qui voluptatibus indulgent, qui libidini obsequuntur, ii animam suam corpori mancipant, ad mortemque condemnant: quia se corpori addixerunt, in quod habet mors potestatem. Unusquisque igitur, quantum potest, formet se ad verecundiam, pudorem colat, castitatem conscientia et mente tueatur; nec tantum legibus publicis pareat: sed sit supra omnes leges, qui legem Dei sequitur. Quibus bonis si assueverit, jam pudebit eum ad deteriora desciscere: modo placeant recta et honesta, quæ; melioribus jucundiora sunt quam prava et inhonesta pejoribus.

Nondum omnia castitatis officio exsecutus sum: quam Deus fion modo intra privatos parietes, sed etiam præ; scripto lectuli terminat; ut cum quis hobeat uxorem, neque servam, neque liberam habere insuper velit, sed matrimonio fidem server. Non enim, sicut juris publici ratio est, solo mulier adultera est, quæ; habet allure, maritus outem, etiam si plures habeat, a crimine adulterii solutus est. Sed divina lex ira duos in matrimonium, quod est in corpus unum, pari jure conjungit, ut adulter habeatur, quisquis compagem corporis in diversa distraxerit. Nec ob aliam cansam Deus, cam cæteras animantes suscepto fœtu maribus repugnare voluisset, solam omnium mulierem patientem viri fecit; scilicet ne fœminis repugnantibus, libido cogeret viros aliud appetere, eoque facto, castitatis gloriam non tenerent. Sed neque mulier virtutem pudicitiæ caperet, si peccare non posset. Nam quis mutum animal pudicum esse dixerit, quod suscepto foe tu mari repugnat? Quod ideo facit, quia necesse est in dolorem atque in periculum veniat, si admiserit. Nulla igitur laus est, non facere quod facere non possis. Ideo autem pudicitia in homine laudatur, quia non naturalis est, sed voluntaria. Servanda igitur fides ab utroque alteri est: immo exemplo continentia: docenda uxor, ut se caste gerat. Iniquum est enim, ut id exigas, quod præ; stare ipse non possis. Quæ; iniquitas effecit profecto, ut essent adulteria, foe minis ægre ferentibus præ; stare se fidem non exhibentibus mutuam charitatem. Denique nulla est tam perditi pudoris adultera, quæ; non hanc causam vitiis suis præ; tendat; injuriam se peccando non facere, sed referre. Quod optime Quintilianus expressit: Homo, inquit, neque alieni matrimonii abstinens, neque sui custos, quæ; inter se natura. connexa sunt. Nam neque maritus circa corrumpendas aliorum conjuges occupatus potest vacare domesticæ sanctitati; et uxor, cum in tale incidit matrimonium, exemplo ipso concitara, out imitari se putat, out vindicari.

Cavendum igitur, ne occasionem vitiis nostra intemperantia demus: sed assuescant invicem mores duorum, et jugum paribus animis ferant. Nos ipsos in altero cogitemus. Nam fere in hoc justitiæ summa consistit, ut non facias alteri, quidquid ipse ab altero pati nolis. Hæc sunt quæ ad continentiam præ cipiuntur a Deo. Sed tamen ne quis divina præ cepta circumscribere se putet posse, adduntur ilia, ut omnis calumnia, et occasio fraudis removeatur, adulterum esse, qui a marito dimissam duxerit, et eum qui præ tercrimen adulterii uxorem dimiserit, ut alteram ducat; dissociari enim corpus et distrahi Deus noluit. Præ terea non tanturn adulterium esse vitandum, sed etiam cogitationem; ne quis aspiciat alienam, et animo concupiscat: adulteram enim fieri mentem, si vel imaginem voluptatis sibi ipsa depinxerit. Mens est enim profecto quæ peccat; quæ immoderata: libidinis fructum cogitatione complectitur; in hac crimen est, in hac omne delictum. Nam etsi corpus nulla sit lobe maculatum, non constat tamen pudicitiæ ratio, si animus incestus est; nec illibata castitas videri potest, ubi conscientiam cupiditas inquinavit. Nec verb aliquis existimet, difficile esse fræ nos imponere voluptati, eamque vagam et errantem castitatis pudicitiæ que limitibus includere, cum propositum sit hominibus etiam vincere, ac plurimi beatam atque incorruptam corporis integritatem retinuerint, multique sint, qui hoc coe lesti genere vitæ felicissime perfruantur. Quod quidem Deus non ira fieri præ cepit, tanquam astringat, quia generari homines oportet; sed tanquam sinat. Scit enim, quantam his affectibus imposuerit necessitatem. Si quis hoc, inquit, facere potuerit, habebit eximiam incomparabilemque mercedem. Quod continentiæ genus quasi fastigium est, omniumque consummatio virtutum. Ad quam si quis eniti atque eluctari potuerit, hunc servum dominus, hunc discipulum magister agnoscet; hic terrain triumphabit, hic erit consimilis Deo, qui virtutem Dei cepit. Hæc quidem difficilia videntur; sed de eo loquimur, cui calcatis omnibus terrenis, iter in cœlum paratur. Nam quia virtus in Dei agnitione consistit, omnia gravia sunt, dum ignores; ubi cognoveris, facilia: per ipsas difficultates nobis exeundum est, qui ad summum bonum tendimus.

Chapter 24. Of Repentance, of Pardon, and the Commands of God.

Nor, however, let any one be disheartened, or despair concerning himself, if, overcome by passion, or impelled by desire, or deceived by error, or compelled by force, he has turned aside to the way of unrighteousness. For it is possible for him to be brought back, and to be set free, if he repents of his actions, and, turning to better things, makes satisfaction to God. Cicero, indeed, thought that this was impossible, whose words in the third book of the Academics are: But if, as in the case of those who have gone astray on a journey, it were permitted those who have followed a devious course to correct their error by repentance, it would be more easy to amend rashness. It is altogether permitted them. For if we think that our children are corrected when we perceive that they repent of their faults, and though we have disinherited and cast them off, we again receive, cherish, and embrace them, why should we despair that the mercy of God our Father may again be appeased by repentance? Therefore He who is at once the Lord and most indulgent Parent promises that He will remit the sins of the penitent, and that He will blot out all the iniquities of him who shall begin afresh to practice righteousness. For as the uprightness of his past life is of no avail to him who lives badly, because the subsequent wickedness has destroyed his works of righteousness, so former sins do not stand in the way of him who has amended his life, because the subsequent righteousness has effaced the stain of his former life. For he who repents of that which he has done, understands his former error; and on this account the Greeks better and more significantly speak of metanoia, which we may speak of in Latin as a return to a right understanding. For he returns to a right understanding, and recovers his mind as it were from madness, who is grieved for his error; and he reproves himself of madness, and confirms his mind to a better course of life: then he especially guards against this very thing, that he may not again be led into the same snares. In short, even the dumb animals, when they are ensnared by fraud, if by any means they have extricated themselves so as to escape, become more cautious for the future, and always avoid all those things in which they have perceived wiles and snares. Thus repentance makes a man cautious and diligent to avoid the faults into which he has once fallen through deceit.

For no one can be so prudent and so circumspect as not at some time to slip; and therefore God, knowing our weakness, of His compassion has opened a harbour of refuge for man, that the medicine of repentance might aid this necessity to which our frailty is liable. Therefore, if any one has erred, let him retrace his step, and as soon as possible recover and reform himself.

But upward to retrace the way,
And pass into the light of day,
Then comes the stress of labour.

For when men have tasted sweet pleasures to their destruction, they can scarcely be separated from them: they would more easily follow right things if they had not tasted their attractions. But if they tear themselves away from this pernicious slavery, all their error will be forgiven them, if they shall have corrected their error by a better life. And let not any one imagine that he is a gainer if he shall have no witness of his fault: for all things are known to Him in whose sight we live; and if we are able to conceal anything from all men, we cannot conceal it from God, to whom nothing can be hidden, nothing secret. Seneca closed his exhortations with an admirable sentiment: There is, he says, some great deity, and greater than can be imagined; and for him we endeavour to live. Let us approve ourselves to him. For it is of no avail that conscience is confirmed; we lie open to the sight of God. What can be spoken with greater truth by him who knew God, than has been said by a man who is ignorant of true religion? For he both expressed the majesty of God, by saying that it is too great for the reflecting powers of the human mind to receive; and he touched upon the very fountain of truth, by perceiving that the life of men is not superfluous, as the Epicureans will have it, but that they make it their endeavour to live to God, if indeed they live with justice and piety. He might have been a true worshipper of God, if any one had pointed out to him God; and he might assuredly have despised Zeno, and his teacher Sotion, if he had obtained a true guide of wisdom. Let us approve ourselves to him, he says. A speech truly heavenly, had it not been preceded by a confession of ignorance. It is of no avail that conscience is confined; we lie open to the sight of God. There is then no room for falsehood, none for dissimulation; for the eyes of men are removed by walls, but the divine power of God cannot be removed by the inward parts from looking through and knowing the entire man. The same writer says, in the first book of the same work: What are you doing? What are you contriving? What are you hiding? Your guardian follows you; one is withdrawn from you by foreign travel, another by death, another by infirm health; this one adheres to you, and you can never be without him. Why do you choose a secret place, and remove the witness? Suppose that you have succeeded in escaping the notice of all, foolish man! What does it profit you not to have a witness, if you have the witness of your own conscience?

And Tully speaks in a manner no less remarkable concerning conscience and God: Let him remember, he says, that he has God as a witness, that is, as I judge, his own mind, than which God has given nothing more divine to man. Likewise, in speaking of the just and good man, he says: Therefore such a man will not dare not merely to do, but even to think, anything which he would not dare to proclaim. Therefore let us cleanse our conscience, which is open to the eyes of God; and, as the same writer says, let us always so live as to remember that we shall have to give an account; and let us reckon that we are looked upon at every moment, not, as he said, in some theatre of the world by men, but from above by Him who is about to be both the judge and also the witness, to whom, when He demands an account of our life, it will not be permitted any one to deny his actions. Therefore it is better either to flee from conscience, or ourselves to open our mind of our own accord, and tearing open our wounds to pour forth destruction; which wounds no one else can heal but He alone who made the lame to walk, restored sight to the blind, cleansed the polluted limbs, and raised the dead. He will quench the ardour of desires, He will root out lusts, He will remove envy, He will mitigate anger. He will give true and lasting health. This remedy should be sought by all, inasmuch as the soul is harassed by greater danger than the body, and a cure should be applied as soon as possible to secret diseases. For if any one has his eyesight clear, all his limbs perfect, and his entire body in the most vigorous health, nevertheless I should not call him sound if he is carried away by anger, swollen and puffed up with pride, the slave of lust, and burning with desires; but I should rather call him sound who does not raise his eyes to the prosperity of another, who does not admire riches, who looks upon another's wife with chaste eye, who covets nothing at all, does not desire that which is another's, envies no one, disdains no one; who is lowly, merciful, bountiful, mild, courteous: peace perpetually dwells in his mind.

That man is sound, he is just, he is perfect. Whoever, therefore, has obeyed all these heavenly precepts, he is a worshipper of the true God, whose sacrifices are gentleness of spirit, and an innocent life, and good actions. And he who exhibits all these qualities offers a sacrifice as often as he performs any good and pious action. For God does not desire the sacrifice of a dumb animal, nor of death and blood, but of man and life. And to this sacrifice there is neither need of sacred boughs, nor of purifications, nor of sods of turf, which things are plainly most vain, but of those things which are put forth from the innermost breast. Therefore, upon the altar of God, which is truly very great, and which is placed in the heart of man, and cannot be defiled with blood, there is placed righteousness, patience, faith, innocence, chastity, and abstinence. This is the truest ceremony, this is that law of God, as it is called by Cicero, illustrious and divine, which always commands things which are right and honourable, and forbids things which are wrong and disgraceful; and he who obeys this most holy and certain law cannot fail to live justly and lawfully. And I have laid down a few chief points of this law, since I promised that I would speak only of those things which completed the character of virtue and righteousness. If any one shall wish to comprise all the other parts, let him seek them from the fountain itself, from which that stream flowed to us.

Chapter 25. Of Sacrifice, and of an Offering Worthy of God, and of the Form of Praising God.

Now let us speak briefly concerning sacrifice itself. Ivory, says Plato, is not a pure offering to God. What then? Are embroidered and costly textures? Nay, rather nothing is a pure offering to God which can be corrupted or taken away secretly. But as he saw this, that nothing which was taken from a dead body ought to be offered to a living being, why did he not see that a corporeal offering ought not to be presented to an incorporeal being? How much better and more truly does Seneca speak: Will you think of God as great and placid, and a friend to be reverenced with gentle majesty, and always at hand? Not to be worshipped with the immolation of victims and with much blood— for what pleasure arises from the slaughter of innocent animals?— but with a pure mind and with a good and honourable purpose. Temples are not to be built to Him with stones piled up on high; He is to be consecrated by each man in his own breast. Therefore, if any one thinks that garments, and jewels, and other things which are esteemed precious, are valued by God, he is altogether ignorant of what God is, since he thinks that those things are pleasing to Him which even a man would be justly praised for despising. What, then, is pure, what is worthy of God, but that which He Himself has demanded in that divine law of His?

There are two things which ought to be offered, the gift and the sacrifice; the gift as a perpetual offering, the sacrifice for a time. But with those who by no means understand the nature of the Divine Being, a gift is anything which is wrought of gold or silver; likewise anything which is woven of purple and silk: a sacrifice is a victim, and as many things as are burnt upon the altar. But God does not make use either of the one or the other, because He is free from corruption, and that is altogether corruptible. Therefore, in each case, that which is incorporeal must be offered to God, for He accepts this. His offering is innocency of soul; His sacrifice praise and a hymn. For if God is not seen, He ought therefore to be worshipped with things which are not seen. Therefore no other religion is true but that which consists of virtue and justice. But in what manner God deals with the justice of man is easily understood. For if man shall be just, having received immortality, he will serve God for ever. But that men are not born except for justice, both the ancient philosophers and even Cicero suspects. For, discussing the Laws, he says: But of all things which are discussed by learned men, nothing assuredly is of greater importance than that it should be entirely understood that we are born to justice. We ought therefore to hold forth and offer to God that alone for the receiving of which He Himself produced us. But how true this twofold kind of sacrifice is, Trismegistus Hermes is a befitting witness, who agrees with us, that is, with the prophets, whom we follow, as much in fact as in words. He thus spoke concerning justice: Adore and worship this word, O son. But the worship of God consists of one thing, not to be wicked. Also in that perfect discourse, when he heard Asclepius inquiring from his son whether it pleased him that incense and other odours for divine sacrifice were offered to his father, exclaimed: Speak words of good omen, O Asclepius. For it is the greatest impiety to entertain any such thought concerning that being of pre-eminent goodness. For these things, and things resembling these, are not adapted to Him. For He is full of all things, as many as exist, and He has need of nothing at all. But let us give Him thanks, and adore Him. For His sacrifice consists only of blessing. And he spoke rightly.

For we ought to sacrifice to God in word; inasmuch as God is the Word, as He Himself confessed. Therefore the chief ceremonial in the worship of God is praise from the mouth of a just man directed towards God. That this, however, may be accepted by God, there is need of humility, and fear, and devotion in the greatest degree, lest any one should chance to place confidence in his integrity and innocence, and thus incur the charge of pride and arrogance, and by this deed lose the recompense of his virtue. But that he may obtain the favour of God, and be free from every stain, let him always implore the mercy of God, and pray for nothing else but pardon for his sins, even though he has none. If he desires anything else, there is no need of expressing it in word to one who knows what we wish; if anything good shall happen to him, let him give thanks; if any evil, let him make amends, and let him confess that the evil has happened to him on account of his faults; and even in evils let him nothing less give thanks, and make amends in good things, that he may be the same at all times, and be firm, and unchangeable, and unshaken. And let him not suppose that this is to be done by him only in the temple, but at home, and even in his very bed. In short, let him always have God with himself, consecrated in his heart, inasmuch as he himself is a temple of God. But if he has served God, his Father and Lord, with this assiduity, obedience, and devotion, justice is complete and perfect; and he who shall keep this, as we before testified, has obeyed God, and has satisfied the obligations of religion and his own duty.

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Source. Translated by William Fletcher. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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