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Now the next morning Peter took my brothers and me with him, and we went down to the harbour to bathe in the sea, and thereafter we retired to a certain secret place for prayer. But a certain poor old man, a workman, as he appeared by his dress, began to observe us eagerly, without our seeing him, that he might see what we were doing in secret. And when he saw us praying, he waited till we came out, and then saluted us, and said:
If you do not take it amiss, and regard me as an inquisitive and importunate person, I should wish to converse with you; for I take pity on you, and would not have you err under the appearance of truth, and be afraid of things that have no existence; or if you think that there is any truth in them, then declare it to me. If, therefore, you take it patiently, I can in a few words instruct you in what is right; but if it be unpleasant to you, I shall go on, and do my business. To him Peter answered:
Speak what you think good, and we will gladly hear, whether it be true or false; for you are to be welcomed, because, like a father anxious on behalf of his children, you wish to put us in possession of what you regard as good.
Then the old man proceeded to say:
I saw you bathe in the sea, and afterwards retire into a secret place; wherefore observing, without your noticing me, what you were doing, I saw you praying. Therefore, pitying your error, I waited till you came out, that I might speak to you, and instruct you not to err in an observance of this sort; because there is neither any God, nor any worship, neither is there any providence in the world, but all things are done by fortuitous chance and genesis, as I have discovered most clearly for myself, being accomplished beyond others in the discipline of learning. Do not err, therefore: for whether you pray, or whether you do not pray, whatever your genesis contains, that shall befall you. Then I Clement was affected, I know not how, in my heart, recollecting many things in him that seemed familiar to me; for some one says well, that that which is sprung from any one, although it may be long absent, yet a spark of relationship is never extinguished. Therefore I began to ask of him who and whence he was, and how descended. But he, not wishing to answer these questions, said:
What has that to do with what I have told you? But first, if you please, let us converse of those matters which we have propounded; and afterwards, if circumstances require, we can disclose to one another, as friends to friends, our names, and families, and country, and other things connected with these. Yet we all admired the eloquence of the man, and the gravity of his manners, and the calmness of his speech.
But Peter, walking along leisurely while conversing, was looking out for a suitable place for a conference. And when he saw a quiet recess near the harbour, he made us sit down; and so he himself first began. Nor did he hold the old man in any contempt, nor did he look down upon him because his dress was poor and mean. He said, therefore:
Since you seem to me to be a learned man, and a compassionate, inasmuch as you have come to us, and wish that to be known to us which you consider to be good, we also wish to expound to you what things we believe to be good and right; and if you do not think them true, you will take in good part our good intentions towards you, as we do yours towards us. While Peter was thus speaking, a great multitude assembled. Then said the old man:
Perhaps the presence of a multitude disconcerts you. Peter replied: To this the old man answered:
I am not such a fool in my old age, that, understanding what is true, I should deny it for the favour of the rabble.
Then Peter began to say:
Those who speak the word of truth, and who enlighten the souls of men, seem to me to be like the rays of the sun, which, when once they have come forth and appeared to the world, can no longer be concealed or hidden, while they are not so much seen by men, as they afford sight to all. Therefore it was well said by One to the heralds of the truth, 'You are the light of the world, and a city set upon a hill cannot be hid; neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may enlighten all who are in the house.' Matthew 5:14-15 Then said the old man:
He said well, whoever he is. But let one of you state what, according to his opinion, ought to be followed, that we may direct our speech to a definite aim. For, in order to find the truth, it is not sufficient to overthrow the things that are spoken on the other side, but also that one should himself bring forward what he who is on the other side may oppose. Therefore, in order that both parties may be on an equal footing, it seems to me to be right that each of us should first enunciate what opinion he holds. And, if you please, I shall begin first. I say, then, that the world is not governed according to the providence of God, because we see that many things in it are done unjustly and disorderly; but I say that it is genesis that does and regulates all things.
When Peter was about to reply to this, Niceta, anticipating him, said:
Would my lord Peter allow me to answer to this; and let it not be thought forward that I, a young man, should have an encounter with an old man, but rather let me converse as a son with a father. Then said the old man:
Not only do I wish, my son, that you should set forth your opinions; but also if any one of your associates, if any one even of the bystanders, thinks that he knows anything, let him unhesitatingly state it: we shall gladly hear it; for it is by the contribution of many that the things that are unknown are more easily found out. Then Niceta therefore answered:
Do not deem me to have done rashly, my father, because I have interrupted the speech of my lord Peter; but rather I meant to honour him by doing this. For he is a man of God, full of all knowledge, who is not ignorant even of Greek learning, because he is filled with the Spirit of God, to whom nothing is unknown. But because it is suitable to him to speak of heavenly things, I shall answer concerning those things which pertain to the babbling of the Greeks. But after we have disputed in the Grecian manner, and we have come to that point where no issue appears, then he himself, as filled with the knowledge of God, shall openly and clearly disclose to us the truth on all matters, so that not we only, but also all who are around us as hearers, shall learn the way of truth. And therefore now let him sit as umpire; and when either of us shall yield, then let him, taking up the matter, give an unquestionable judgment.
When Niceta had thus spoken, those who had assembled conversed among themselves: And they stood gazing upon him with great fear and veneration, as conferring upon the Lord the honour of His good servant. Which when Peter observed, he said to them:
Let us hear with all attention, holding an impartial judgment of what shall be said by each; and after their encounter we also shall add what may seem necessary. And when Peter had said this, the crowds rejoiced. Then Niceta began to speak as follows:
You have laid down, my father, that the world is not governed by the providence of God, but that all things are subject to genesis, whether the things which relate to the dispositions, or those which relate to the doings of every one. This I could answer immediately; but because it is right to observe order, we also lay down what we hold, as you yourself requested should be done. I say that the world is governed by the providence of God, at least in those things which need His government. For He it is alone who holds all things in His hand, who also made the world; the just God, who shall at some time render to every one according to his deeds. Now, then, you have our position; go on as you please, either overthrowing mine or establishing your own, that I may meet your statements. Or if you wish me to speak first, I shall not hesitate.
Then the old man answered:
Whether it pleases you, my son, to speak first, or whether you prefer that I should speak, makes no difference, especially with those who discuss in a friendly spirit. However, speak you first, and I will gladly hear; and I wish you may be able even to follow out those things that are to be spoken by me, and to put in opposition to them those things that are contrary to them, and from the comparison of both to show the truth. Niceta answered:
If you wish it, I can even state your side of the argument, and then answer it. Then the old man: Then Niceta:
Your sect is manifest, even by the proposition which you have laid down, to those who are skilled in doctrines of this sort; and its consequence is certain. And because I am not ignorant what are the propositions of the philosophers, I know what follows from those things which you have propounded; especially because I have frequented the schools of Epicurus in preference to the other philosophers. But my brother Aquila has attended more to the Pyrrhonists, and our other brother to the Platonists and Aristotelians; therefore you have to do with learned hearers. Then said the old man:
When the old man had said this, I Clement said to him:
Hear, my father: if my brother Niceta bring you to acknowledge that the world is not governed without the providence of God, I shall be able to answer you in that part which remains concerning the genesis; for I am well acquainted with this doctrine. And when I had thus spoken, my brother Aquila said:
What is the use of our calling him father, when we are commanded to call no man father upon earth? Matthew 23:9 Then, looking to the old man, he said,
Do not take it amiss, my father, that I have found fault with my brother for calling you father, for we have a precept not to call any one by that name. When Aquila said that, all the assembly of the bystanders, as well as the old man and Peter, laughed. And when Aquila asked the reason of their all laughing, I said to him:
Because you yourself do the very thing which you find fault with in another; for you called the old man father. But he denied it, saying:
I am not aware that I called him father. Meantime Peter was moved with certain suspicions, as he told us afterwards; and looking to Niceta, he said,
Go on with what you have proposed.
Then Niceta began as follows:
Everything that is, is either simple or compound. That which is simple is without number, division, color, difference, roughness, smoothness, weight, lightness, quality, quantity, and therefore without end. But that which is compound is either compounded of two, or of three, or even of four elements, or at all events of several; and things which are compounded can also of necessity be divided. The old man, hearing this, said:
You speak most excellently and learnedly, my son. Then Niceta went on:
Therefore that which is simple, and which is without any of those things by which that which subsists can be dissolved, is without doubt incomprehensible and infinite, knowing neither beginning nor end, and therefore is one and alone, and subsisting without an author. But that which is compound is subject to number, and diversity, and division — is necessarily compounded by some author, and is a diversity collected into one species. That which is infinite is therefore, in respect of goodness, a Father; in respect of power, a Creator. Nor can the power of creating cease in the Infinite, nor the goodness be quiescent; but He is impelled by goodness to change existing things, and by power to arrange and strengthen them. Therefore some things, as we have said, are changed, and composed of two or three, some of four, others of more elements. But since our inquiry at present is concerning the method of the world and its substance, which, it is agreed, is compounded of four elements, to which all those ten differences belong which we have mentioned above, let us begin at these lower steps, and come to the higher. For a way is afforded us to intellectual and invisible things from those which we see and handle; as is contained in arithmetical instructions, where, when inquiry is made concerning divine things, we rise from the lower to the higher numbers; but when the method respecting present and visible things is expounded, the order is directed from the higher to the lower numbers. Is it not so?
Then the old man said:
You are following it out exceedingly well. Then Niceta: Now, then, we must inquire concerning the method of the world; of which the first inquiry is divided into two parts. For it is asked whether it has been made or not? And if it has not been made, itself must be that Unbegotten from which all things are. But if it has been made, concerning this again the question is divided into two parts, whether it was made by itself, or by another. And if indeed it was made by itself, then without doubt providence is excluded. If providence is not admitted, in vain is the mind incited to virtue, in vain justice is maintained, if there be no one to render to the just man according to his merits. But even the soul itself will not appear to be immortal, if there be no dispensation of providence to receive it after its escape from the body.
Now, if it be taught that there is a providence, and that the world was made by it, other questions meet us which must be discussed. For it will be asked, In what way providence acts, whether generally towards the whole, or specially towards the parts, or generally also towards the parts, or both generally towards the whole, and specially towards the parts? But by general providence we mean this: as if God, at first making the world, has given an order and appointed a course to things, and has ceased to take any further care of what is done. But special providence towards the parts is of this sort, that He exercises providence over some men or places, but not over others. But general over all, and at the same time special over the parts, is in this wise: if God made all things at first, and exercises providence over each individual even to the end, and renders to every one according to his deeds.
Therefore that first proposition, which declares that God made all things in the beginning, and having imposed a course and order upon things, takes no further account of them, affirms that all things are done according to genesis. To this, therefore, we shall first reply; and especially to those who worship the gods and defend genesis. Assuredly, these men, when they sacrifice to the gods and pray to them, hope that they shall obtain something in opposition to genesis, and so they annul genesis. But when they laugh at those who incite to virtue and exhort to continence, and say that nobody can do or suffer anything unless what is decreed to him by fate, they assuredly cut up by the roots all worship of the Divinity. For why should you worship those from whom you can obtain nothing which the method of what is decreed does not allow? Let this suffice in the meantime, in opposition to these men. But I say that the world is made by God, and that it is at some time to be destroyed by Him, that that world may appear which is eternal, and which is made for this end, that it may be always, and that it may receive those who, in the judgment of God, are worthy of it. But that there is another and invisible world, which contains this visible world within itself — after we have finished our discussion concerning the visible world, we shall come to it also.
Now, in the meantime, that this visible world has been made, very many wise men among the philosophers do testify. But that we may not seem to make use of assertions as witnesses, as though we needed them, let us inquire, if you please, concerning its principles. That this visible world is material, is sufficiently evident from the fact that it is visible. But every body receives one of two Differentiæ; for it is either compact and solid, or divided and separate. And if the body of which the world was made was compact and solid, and that body was parted and divided through diverse species and parts according to its differences, there must necessarily be understood to have been some one to separate the body which was compact and solid, and to draw it into many parts and diverse forms; or if all this mass of the world was compounded and compacted from diverse and dispersed parts of bodies, still there must be understood to have been some one to collect into one the dispersed parts, and to invest these things with their different species.
And, indeed, I know that several of the philosophers were rather of this opinion, that God the Creator made divisions and distinctions from one body, which they call Matter, which yet consisted of four elements, mingled into one by a certain tempering of divine providence. For I think that what some have said is vain, that the body of the world is simple, that is, without any conjunction; since it is evident that what is simple can neither be a body, nor can be mixed, or propagated, or dissolved; all which, we see, happen to the bodies of the world. For how could it be dissolved if it were simple, and had not within it that from which it might be resolved and divided? But if bodies seem to be composed of two, or three, or even of four elements — who that has even a small portion of sense does not perceive that there must have been some one who collected several into one, and preserving the measure of tempering, made a solid body out of diverse parts? This some one, therefore, we call God, the Creator of the world, and acknowledge Him as the author of the universe.
For the Greek philosophers, inquiring into the beginnings of the world, have gone, some in one way and some in another. In short, Pythagoras says that numbers are the elements of its beginnings; Callistratus, that qualities; Alcmæon, that contrarieties; Anaximander, that immensity; Anaxagoras, that equalities of parts; Epicurus, that atoms; Diodorus, that ἀμερῆ, that is, things in which there are no parts; Asclepius, that ὄγκοι, which we may call tumours or swellings; the geometricians, that ends; Democritus, that ideas; Thales, that water; Heraclitus, that fire; Diogenes, that air; Parmenides, that earth; Zeno, Empedocles, Plato, that fire, water, air, and earth. Aristotle also introduces a fifth element, which he called ἀκατονόμαστον; that is, that which cannot be named; without doubt indicating Him who made the world, by joining the four elements into one. Whether, therefore, there be two, or three, or four, or more, or innumerable elements, of which the world consists, in every supposition there is shown to be a God, who collected many into one, and again drew them, when collected, into diverse species; and by this it is proved that the machine of the world could not have subsisted without a maker and a disposer.
But from this fact also, that in the conjunction of the elements, if one be deficient or in excess, the others are loosened and fall, is shown that they took their beginning from nothing. For if for example, moisture be wanting in any body, neither will the dry stand; for dry is fed by moisture, as also cold by heat; in which, as we have said, if one be defective, the whole are dissolved. And in this they give indications of their origin, that they were made out of nothing. Now if matter itself is proved to have been made, how shall its parts and its species, of which the world consists, be thought to be unmade? But about matter and its qualities this is not the time to speak: only let it suffice to have taught this, that God is the Creator of all things, because neither, if the body of which the world consists was solid and united, could it be separated and distinguished without a Creator; nor, if it was collected into one from diverse and separate parts, could it be collected and mixed without a Maker. Therefore, if God is so clearly shown to be the Creator of the world, what room is there for Epicurus to introduce atoms, and to assert that not only sensible bodies, but even intellectual and rational minds, are made of insensible corpuscles?
But you will say, according to the opinion of Epicurus, that successions of atoms coming in a ceaseless course, and mixing with one another, and conglomerating through unlimited and endless periods of time, are made solid bodies. I do not treat this opinion as a pure fiction, and that, too, a badly contrived one; but let us examine it, whatever be its character, and see if what is said can stand. For they say that those corpuscles, which they call atoms, are of different qualities: that some are moist, and therefore heavy, and tending downwards; others dry and earthy, and therefore still heavy; but others fiery, and therefore always pushing upwards; others cold and inert, and always remaining in the middle. Since then some, as being fiery, always tend upward, and others, as being moist and dry, always downwards, and others keep a middle and unequal course, how could they meet together and form one body? For if any one throw down from a height small pieces of straw, for example, and pieces of lead of the same size, will the light straws be able to keep up with the pieces of lead, though they be equal in size? Nay; the heavier reach the bottom far more quickly. So also atoms, though they be equal in size, yet, being unequal in weight, the lighter will never be able to keep pace with the heavier; but if they cannot keep pace, certainly neither can they be mixed or form one body.
Then, in the next place, if they are ceaselessly borne about, and always coming, and being added to things whose measure is already complete, how can the universe stand, when new weights are always being heaped upon so vast weights? And this also I ask: If this expanse of heaven which we see was constructed by the gradual concurrence of atoms, how did it not collapse while it was in construction, if indeed the yawning top of the structure was not propped and bound by any stays? For as those who build circular domes, unless they bind the fastening of the central top, the whole falls at once; so also the circle of the world, which we see to be brought together in so graceful a form, if it was not made at once, and under the influence of a single forth-putting of divine energy by the power of a Creator, but by atoms gradually concurring and constructing it, not as reason demanded, but as a fortuitous issue befell, how did it not fall down and crumble to pieces before it could be brought together and fastened? And further, I ask this: What is the pavement on which the foundations of such an immense mass are laid? And again, what you call the pavement, on what does it rest? And again that other, what supports it? And so I go on asking, until the answer comes to nothing and vacuity!
But if any one say that atoms of a fiery quality, being joined together, formed a body, and because the quality of fire does not tend downwards, but upwards, that the nature of fire, always pushing upwards, supports the mass of the world placed upon it; to this we answer: How could atoms of a fiery quality, which always make for the highest place, descend to the lower, and be found in the lowest place of all, so as to form a foundation for all; whereas rather the heavier qualities, that is, the earthy or watery, always come before the lighter, as we have said; hence, also, they assert that the heaven, as the higher structure, is composed of fiery atoms, which are lighter, and always fly upwards? Therefore the world cannot have foundations of fire, or any other: nor can there be any association or compacting of the heavier atoms with the lighter, that is, of those which are always borne downwards, with those that always fly upwards. Thus it is sufficiently shown that the bodies of the world are consolidated by the union of atoms; and that insensible bodies, even if they could by any means concur and be united, could not give forms and measures to bodies, form limbs, or effect qualities, or express quantities; all which, therefore, by their exactness, attest the hand of a Maker, and show the operation of reason, which reason I call the Word, and God.
But some one will say that these things are done by nature. Now, in this, the controversy is about a name. For while it is evident that it is a work of mind and reason, what you call nature, I call God the Creator. It is evident that neither the species of bodies, arranged with so necessary distinctions, nor the faculties of minds, could or can be made by irrational and senseless work. But if you regard the philosophers as fit witnesses, Plato testifies concerning these things in the Timæus, where, in a discussion on the making of the world, he asks, whether it has existed always, or had a beginning, and decides that it was made. 'For,' says he, 'it is visible and palpable, and corporeal; but it is evident that all things which are of this sort have been made; but what has been made has doubtless an author, by whom it was made. This Maker and Father of all, however, it is difficult to discover; and when discovered, it is impossible to declare Him to the vulgar.' Such is the declaration of Plato; but though he and the other Greek philosophers had chosen to be silent about the making of the world, would it not be manifest to all who have any understanding? For what man is there, having even a particle of sense, who, when he sees a house having all things necessary for useful purposes, its roof fashioned into the form of a globe, painted with various splendour and diverse figures, adorned with large and splendid lights; who is there, I say, that, seeing such a structure, would not immediately pronounce that it was constructed by a most wise and powerful artificer? And so, who can be found so foolish, as, when he gazes upon the fabric of the heaven, perceives the splendour of the sun and moon, sees the courses and beauty of the stars, and their paths assigned to them by fixed laws and periods, will not cry out that these things are made, not so much by a wise and rational artificer, as by wisdom and reason itself?
But if you would rather have the opinions of others of the Greek philosophers — and you are acquainted with mechanical science, — you are of course familiar with what is their deliverance concerning the heavens. For they suppose a sphere, equally rounded in every direction, and looking indifferently to all points, and at equal distances in all directions from the centre of the earth, and so stable by its own symmetry, that its perfect equality does not permit it to fall off to any side; and so the sphere is sustained, although supported by no prop. Now if the fabric of the world really has this form, the divine work is evident in it. But if, as others think, the sphere is placed upon the waters, and is supported by them, or floating in them, even so the work of a great contriver is shown in it.
But lest the assertion may seem doubtful respecting things which are not manifest to all, let us come to those things of which nobody is ignorant. Who disposed the courses of the stars with so great reason, ordained their risings and settings, and appointed to each one to accomplish the circuit of the heavens in certain and regular times? Who assigned to some to be always approaching to the setting, and others to be returning to the rising? Who put a measure upon the courses of the sun, that he might mark out, by his diverse motions, hours, and days, and months, and changes of seasons?— that he might distinguish, by the sure measurement of his course, now winter, then spring, summer, and afterwards autumn, and always, by the same changes of the year, complete the circle with variety, without confusion? Who, I say, will not pronounce that the director of such order is the very wisdom of God? And these things we have spoken according to the relations given us by the Greeks respecting the science of the heavenly bodies.
But what of those things also which we see on the earth, or in the sea? Are we not plainly taught, that not only the work, but also the providence, of God is in them? For whereas there are on the earth lofty mountains in certain places, the object of this is, that the air, being compressed and confined by them through the appointment of God, may be forced and pressed out into winds, by which fruits may germinate, and the summer heat may be moderated when the Pleiades glow, fired with the blaze of the sun. But you still say, Why that blaze of the sun, that moderating should be required? How, then, should fruits be ripened which are necessary for the uses of men? But observe this also, that at the meridian axis, where the heat is greatest, there is no great collection of clouds, nor an abundant fall of rain, lest disease should be produced among the inhabitants; for watery clouds, if they are acted on by rapid heat, render the air impure and pestilential. And the earth also, receiving the warm rain, does not afford nourishment to the crops, but destruction. In this who can doubt that there is the working of divine providence? In short, Egypt, which is scorched with the heat of Æthiopia, in its neighbourhood, lest its air should be incurably vitiated by the effects of showers, its plains do not receive rain furnished to them from the clouds, but, as it were, an earthly shower from the overflow of the Nile.
What shall we say of fountains and rivers, which flow with perpetual motion into the sea? And, by the divine providence, neither does their abundant supply fail, nor does the sea, though it receives so great quantities of water, experience any increase, but both those elements which contribute to it and those which are thus contributed remain in the same proportion. But you will say to me: The salt water naturally consumes the fresh water which is poured into it. Well, in this is manifest the work of providence, that it made that element salt into which it turned the courses of all the waters which it had provided for the use of men. So that through so great spaces of time the channel of the sea has not been filled, and produced a deluge destructive to the earth and to men. Nor will any one be so foolish as to think that this so great reason and so great providence has been arranged by irrational nature.
But what shall I say of plants, and what of animals? Is it not providence that has ordained that plants, when they decay by old age, should be reproduced by the suckers or the seeds which they have themselves produced, and animals by propagation? And by a certain wonderful dispensation of providence, milk is prepared in the udders of the dams for the animals before they are born; and as soon as they are born, with no one to guide them, they seek out the store of nourishment provided for them. And not only males are produced, but females also, that by means of both the race may be perpetuated. But lest this should seem, as some think, to be done by a certain order of nature, and not by the appointment of the Creator, He has, as a proof and indication of His providence, ordained a few animals to preserve their stock on the earth in an exceptional way: for example, the crow conceives through the mouth, and the weasel brings forth through the ear; and some birds, such as hens, sometimes produce eggs conceived of wind or dust; other animals convert the male into the female, and change their sex every year, as hares and hyænas, which they call monsters; others spring from the earth, and get their bodies from it, as moles; others from ashes, as vipers; others from putrifying flesh, as wasps from horseflesh, bees from ox-flesh; others from cow-dung, as beetles; others from herbs, as the scorpion from the basil; and again, herbs from animals, as parsley and asparagus from the horn of the stag or the she goat.
And what occasion is there to mention more instances in which divine providence has ordained the production of animals to be effected in various ways, that order being superseded which is thought to be assigned by nature, from which not an irrational course of things, but one arranged by his own reason, might be evinced? And in this also is there not a full work of providence shown, when seeds sown are prepared by means of earth and water for the sustenance of men? For when these seeds are committed to the earth, the soil milks upon the seeds, as from its teats, the moisture which it has received into itself by the will of God. For there is in water a certain power of the spirit given by God from the beginning, by whose operation the structure of the body that is to be begins to be formed in the seed itself, and to be developed by means of the blade and the ear; for the grain of seed being swelled by the moisture, that power of the spirit which has been made to reside in water, running as an incorporeal substance through certain strait passages of veins, excites the seeds to growth, and forms the species of the growing plants. By means, therefore, of the moist element in which that vital spirit is contained and inborn, it is caused that not only is it revived, but also that an appearance and form in all respects like to the seeds that had been sown is reproduced. Now, who that has even a particle of sense will think that this method depends upon irrational nature, and not upon divine wisdom? Lastly, also these things are done in a resemblance of the birth of men; for the earth seems to take the place of the womb, into which the seed being cast, is both formed and nourished by the power of water and spirit, as we have said above.
But in this also the divine providence is to be admired, that it permits us to see and know the things that are made, but has placed in secrecy and concealment the way and manner in which they are done, that they may not be competent to the knowledge of the unworthy, but may be laid open to the worthy and faithful, when they shall have deserved it. But to prove by facts and examples that nothing is imparted to seeds of the substance of the earth, but that all depends upon the element of water, and the power of the spirit which is in it — suppose, for example, that a hundred talents' weight of earth are placed in a very large trough, and that there are sown in it several kinds of seeds, either of herbs or of shrubs, and that water enough is supplied for watering them, and that that care is taken for several years, and that the seeds which are gathered are stored up, for example of grain or barley and other sorts separately from year to year, until the seeds of each sort amount to a hundred talents' weight, then also let the stalks be pulled up by the roots and weighed; and after all these have been taken from the trough, let the earth be weighed, it will still give back its hundred talents' weight undiminished. Whence, then, shall we say that all that weight, and all the quantity of different seeds and stalks, has come? Does it not appear manifestly that it has come from the water? For the earth retains entire what is its own, but the water which has been poured in all through is nowhere, on account of the powerful virtue of the divine condition, which by the one species of water both prepares the substances of so many seeds and shrubs, and forms their species, and preserves the kind while multiplying the increase.
From all these things I think it is sufficiently and abundantly evident that all things are produced; and the universe consists by a designing sense, and not by the irrational operation of nature. But let us come now, if you please, to our own substance, that is, the substance of man, who is a small world, a microcosm, in the great world; and let us consider with what reason it is compounded: and from this especially you will understand the wisdom of the Creator. For although man consists of different substances, one mortal and the other immortal, yet, by the skilful contrivance of the Creator, their diversity does not prevent their union, and that although the substances be diverse and alien the one from the other. For the one is taken from the earth and formed by the Creator, but the other is given from immortal substances; and yet the honour of its immortality is not violated by this union. Nor does it, as some think, consist of reason, and concupiscence, and passion, but rather such affections seem to be in it, by which it may be moved in each of these directions. For the body, which consists of bones and flesh, takes its beginning from the seed of a man, which is extracted from the marrow by warmth, and conveyed into the womb as into a soil, to which it adheres, and is gradually moistened from the fountain of the blood, and so is changed into flesh and bones, and is formed into the likeness of him who injected the seed.
And mark in this the work of the Designer, how He has inserted the bones like pillars, on which the flesh might be sustained and carried. Then, again, how an equal measure is preserved on either side, that is, the right and the left, so that foot answers to foot, hand to hand, and even finger to finger, so that each agrees in perfect equality with each; and also eye to eye, and ear to ear, which not only are suitable to and matched with each other, but also are formed fit for necessary uses. The hands, for instance, are so made as to be fit for work; the feet for walking; the eyes, protected with sentinel eyebrows, to serve the purpose of sight; the ears so formed for hearing, that, like a cymbal, they vibrate the sound of the word that falls upon them, and send it inward, and transmit it even in the understanding of the heart; whereas the tongue, striking against the teeth in speaking, performs the part of a fiddle-bow. The teeth also are formed, some for cutting and dividing the food, and handing it over to the inner ones; and these, in their turn, bruise and grind it like a mill, that it may be more conveniently digested when it is conveyed into the stomach; whence also they are called grinders.
The nostrils also are made for the purpose of collecting, inspiring, and expiring air, that by the renewal of the breath, the natural heat which is in the heart may, by means of the lungs, be either warmed or cooled, as the occasion may require; while the lungs are made to abide in the breast, that by their softness they may soothe and cherish the vigour of the heart, in which the life seems to abide;— the life, I say, not the soul. And what shall I say of the substance of the blood, which, proceeding as a river from a fountain, and first borne along in one channel, and then spreading through innumerable veins, as through canals, irrigates the whole territory of the human body with vital streams, being supplied by the agency of the liver, which is placed in the right side, for effecting the digestion of food and turning it into blood? But in the left side is placed the spleen, which draws to itself, and in some way cleanses, the impurities of the blood.
What reason also is employed in the intestines, which are arranged in long circular windings, that they may gradually carry off the refuse of the food, so as neither to render places suddenly empty, and so as not to be hindered by the food that is taken afterwards! But they are made like a membrane, that the parts that are outside of them may gradually receive moisture, which if it were poured out suddenly would empty the internal parts; and not hindered by a thick skin, which would render the outside dry, and disturb the whole fabric of man with distressing thirst.
Moreover, the female form, and the cavity of the womb, most suitable for receiving, and cherishing, and vivifying the germ, who does not believe that it has been made as it is by reason and foresight?— because in that part alone of her body the female differs from the male, in which the fœtus being placed, is kept and cherished. And again the male differs from the female only in that part of his body in which is the power of injecting seed and propagating mankind. And in this there is a great proof of providence, from the necessary difference of members; but more in this, where, under a likeness of form there is found to be diversity of use and variety of office. For males and females equally have teats, but only those of the female are filled with milk; that, as soon as they have brought forth, the infant may find nourishment suited to him. But if we see the members in man arranged with such method, that in all the rest there is seen to be similarity of form, and a difference only in those in which their use requires a difference, and we neither see anything superfluous nor anything wanting in man, nor in woman anything deficient or in excess, who will not, from all these things, acknowledge the operation of reason, and the wisdom of the Creator?
With this agrees also the reasonable difference of other animals, and each one being suited to its own use and service. This also is testified by the variety of trees and the diversity of herbs, varying both in form and in juices. This also is asserted by the change of seasons, distinguished into four periods, and the circle closing the year with certain hours, days, months, and not deviating from the appointed reckoning by a single hour. Hence, in short, the age of the world itself is reckoned by a certain and fixed account, and a definite number of years.
But you will say, When was the world made? And why so late? This you might have objected, though it had been made sooner. For you might say, Why not also before this? And so, going back through unmeasured ages, you might still ask, And why not sooner? But we are not now discussing this, why it was not made sooner; but whether it was made at all. For if it is manifest that it was made, it is necessarily the work of a powerful and supreme Artificer; and if this is evident, it must be left to the choice and judgment of the wise Artificer when He should please to make it; unless indeed you think that all this wisdom, which has constructed the immense fabric of the world, and has given to the several objects their forms and kinds, assigning to them a habit not only in accordance with beauty, but also most convenient and necessary for their future uses — unless, I say, you think that this alone has escaped it, that it should choose a convenient season for so magnificent a work of creation. He has doubtless a certain reason and evident causes why, and when, and how He made the world; but it were not proper that these should be disclosed to those who are reluctant to inquire into and understand the things which are placed before their eyes, and which testify of His providence. For those things which are kept in secret, and are hidden within the senses of Wisdom, as in a royal treasury, are laid open to none but those who have learned of Him, with whom these things are sealed and laid up. It is God, therefore, who made all things, and Himself was made by none. But those who speak of nature instead of God, and declare that all things were made by nature, do not perceive the mistake of the name which they use. For if they think that nature is irrational, it is most foolish to suppose that a rational creature can proceed from an irrational creator. But if it is Reason — that is, Logos — by which it appears that all things were made, they change the name without purpose, when they make statements concerning the reason of the Creator. If you have anything to say to these things, my father, say on.
When Niceta had thus spoken, the old man answered:
You indeed, my son, have conducted your argument wisely and vigorously; so much so, that I do not think the subject of providence could be better treated. But as it is now late, I wish to say some things tomorrow in answer to what you have argued; and if on these you can satisfy me, I shall confess myself a debtor to your favour. And when the old man said this, Peter rose up. Then one of those present, a chief man of the Laodiceans, requested of Peter and us that he might give the old man other clothes instead of the mean and torn ones that he wore. This man Peter and we embraced; and praising him for his honourable and excellent intention, said:
We are not so foolish and impious as not to bestow the things which are necessary for bodily uses upon him to whom we have committed so precious words; and we hope that he will willingly receive them, as a father from his sons, and also we trust that he will share with us our house and our living. While we said this, and that chief man of the city strove to take the old man away from us with the greatest urgency and with many blandishments, while we the more eagerly strove to keep him with us, all the people cried out that it should rather be done as the old man himself pleased; and when silence was obtained, the old man, with an oath, said:
Today I shall stay with no one, nor take anything from any one, lest the choice of the one should prove the sorrow of the other; afterwards these things may be, if so it seem right.
And when the old man had said this, Peter said to the chief man of the city:
Since you have shown your good-will in our presence, it is not right that you should go away sorrowful; but we will accept from you favour for favour. Show us your house, and make it ready, so that the discussion which is to be tomorrow may be held there, and that any who wish to be present to hear it may be admitted. When the chief man of the city heard this, he rejoiced greatly; and all the people also heard it gladly. And when the crowds had dispersed, he pointed out his house; and the old man also was preparing to depart. But I commanded one of my attendants to follow the old man secretly, and find out where he stayed. And when we returned to our lodging, we told our brethren all our dealings with the old man; and so, as usual, we supped and went to sleep.
The Form of Sound Words, Which You Have Heard of Me.
But on the following day Peter arose early and called us, and we went together to the secret place in which we had been on the previous day, for the purpose of prayer. And when, after prayer, we were coming thence to the appointed place, he exhorted us by the way, saying:
Hear me, most beloved fellow-servants: It is good that every one of you, according to his ability, contribute to the advantage of those who are approaching to the faith of our religion; and therefore do not shrink from instructing the ignorant, and teaching according to the wisdom which has been bestowed upon you by the providence of God, yet so that you only join the eloquence of your discourse with those things which you have heard from me, and which have been committed to you. But do not speak anything which is your own, and which has not been committed to you, though it may seem to yourselves to be true; but hold forth those things, as I have said, which I myself have received from the true Prophet, and have delivered to you, although they may seem to be less full of authority. For thus it often happens that men turn away from the truth, while they believe that they have found out, by their own thoughts, a form of truth more true and powerful.
To these counsels of Peter we willingly assented, saying to him that we should do nothing but what was pleasing to him. Then said he:
That you may therefore be exercised without danger, each of you conduct the discussion in my presence, one succeeding another, and each one elucidating his own questions. Now, then, as Niceta discoursed sufficiently yesterday, let Aquila conduct the discussion today; and after Aquila, Clement; and then I, if the case shall require it, will add something. Meantime, while we were talking in this way, we came to the house; and the master of the house welcomed us, and led us to a certain apartment, arranged after the manner of a theatre, and beautifully built. There we found great crowds waiting for us, who had come during the night, and among them the old man who had argued with us yesterday. Therefore we entered, having Peter in the midst of us, looking about if we could see the old man anywhere; and when Peter saw him hiding in the midst of the crowd, he called him to him, saying:
Since you possess a soul more enlightened than most, why do you hide yourself, and conceal yourself in modesty? Rather come hither, and propound your sentiments.
When Peter had thus spoken, immediately the crowd began to make room for the old man. And when he had come forward, he thus began: Although I do not remember the words of the discourse which the young man delivered yesterday, yet I recollect the purport and the order of it; and therefore I think it necessary, for the sake of those who were not present yesterday, to call up what was said, and to repeat everything shortly, that, although something may have escaped me, I may be reminded of it by him who delivered the discourse, who is now present. This, then, was the purport of yesterday's discussion: that all things that we see, inasmuch as they consist in a certain proportion, and art, and form, and species, must be believed to have been made by intelligent power; but if it be mind and reason that has formed them, it follows that the world is governed by the providence of the same reason, although the things which are done in the world may seem to us to be not quite rightly done. But it follows, that if God and mind is the creator of all things, He must also be just; but if He is just, He necessarily judges. If He judges, it is of necessity that men be judged with respect to their doings; and if every one is judged in respect of his doings, there shall at some time be a righteous separation between righteous men and sinners. This, I think, was the substance of the whole discourse.
If, therefore, it can be shown that mind and reason created all things, it follows that those things which come after are also managed by reason and providence. But if unintelligent and blind nature produces all things, the reason of judgment is undoubtedly overthrown; and there is no ground to expect either punishment of sin or reward of well-doing where there is no judge. Since, then, the whole matter depends upon this, and hangs by this head, do not take it amiss, if I wish this to be discussed and handled somewhat more fully. For in this the first gate, as it were, is shut towards all things which are propounded, and therefore I wish first of all to have it opened to me. Now therefore hear what my doctrine is; and if any one of you pleases, let him reply to me: for I shall not be ashamed to learn, if I hear that which is true, and to assent to him who speaks rightly. The discourse, then, which you delivered yesterday, which asserted that all things consist by art, and measure, and reason, does not fully persuade me that it is mind and reason that has made the world; for I have many things which I can show to consist by competent measure, and form, and species, and which yet were not made by mind and reason. Then, besides, I see that many things are done in the world without arrangement, consequence, or justice, and that nothing can be done without the course of Genesis . This I shall in the sequel prove most clearly from my own case.
When the old man had thus spoken, Aquila answered:
As you yourself proposed that any one who pleased should have an opportunity of answering to what you might say, my brother Niceta permits me to conduct the argument today. Then the old man:
Go on, my son, as you please. And Aquila answered:
You promised that you would show that there are many things in the world which have a form and species arranged by equal reason, which yet it is evident were not effected by God as their Creator. Now, then, as you have promised, point out these things. Then said the old man:
Behold, we see the bow in the heaven assume a circular shape, completed in all proportion, and have an appearance of reality, which perhaps neither mind could have constructed nor reason described; and yet it is not made by any mind. Behold, I have set forth the whole in a word: now answer me.
Then said Aquila: If anything is expressed from a type and form, it is at once understood that it is from reason, and that it could not be made without mind; since the type itself, which expresses figures and forms, was not made without mind. For example, if wax be applied to an engraved ring, it takes the stamp and figure from the ring, which undoubtedly is without sense; but then the ring, which expresses the figure, was engraven by the hand of a workman, and it was mind and reason that gave the type to the ring. So then the bow also is expressed in the air; for the sun, impressing its rays on the clouds in the process of rarefaction, and affixing the type of its circularity to the cloudy moisture, as it were to soft wax, produces the appearance of a bow; and this, as I have said, is effected by the reflection of the sun's brightness upon the clouds, and reproducing the brightness of its circle from them. Now this does not always take place, but only when the opportunity is presented by the rarefaction of moistened clouds. And consequently, when the clouds again are condensed and unite, the form of the bow is dissolved and vanishes. Finally, the bow never is seen without sun and clouds, just as the image is not produced, unless there be the type, and wax, or some other material. Nor is it wonderful if God the Creator in the beginning made types, from which forms and species may now be expressed. But this is similar to that, that in the beginning God created insensible elements, which He might use for forming and developing all other things. But even those who form statues, first make a mould of clay or wax, and from it the figure of the statue is produced. And then afterwards a shadow is also produced from the statue, which shadow always bears the form and likeness of the statue. What shall we say then? That the insensible statue forms a shadow finished with as diligent care as the statue itself? Or shall the finishing of the shadow be unhesitatingly ascribed to him who has also fashioned the statue?
If, then, it seems to you that this is so, and what has been said on this subject is enough, let us come to inquire into other matters; or if you think that something is still wanting, let us go over it again. And the old man said:
I wish you would go over this again, since there are many other things which I see to be made in like manner: for both the fruits of trees are produced in like manner, beautifully formed and wonderfully rounded; and the appearance of the leaves is formed with immense gracefulness, and the green membrane is woven with exquisite art: then, moreover, fleas, mice, lizards, and such like, shall we say that these are made by God? Hence, from these vile objects a conjecture is derived concerning the superior, that they are by no means formed by the art of mind.
You infer well, said Aquila,
concerning the texture of leaves, and concerning small animals, that from these belief is withdrawn from the superior creatures; but let not these things deceive you, that you should think that God, working as it were only with two hands, could not complete all things that are made; but remember how my brother Niceta answered you yesterday, and truly disclosed the mystery before the time, as a son speaking with his father, and explained why and how things are made which seem to be useless.
Then the old man:
I should like to hear from you why those useless things are made by the will of that supreme mind?
If, said he,
it is fully manifest to you that there is in them the work of mind and reason, then you will not hesitate to say also why they were made, and to declare that they have been rightly made. To this the old man answered:
If, says Aquila,
those things which are done disorderly do not allow you say that they are done by the providence of God, why do not those things which are done orderly compel you to say that they are done by God, and that irrational nature cannot produce a rational work? For it is certain, nor do we at all deny, that in this world some things are done orderly, and some disorderly. Those things, therefore, that are done rationally, believe that they are done by providence; but those that are done irrationally and inordinately, that they befall naturally, and happen accidentally. But I wonder that men do not perceive, that where there is sense things may be done ordinately and inordinately, but where there is no sense neither the one nor the other can be done; for reason makes order, and the course of order necessarily produces something inordinate, if anything contrary happen to disturb order. Then the old man:
This very thing I wish you to show me.
Says Aquila: I shall do so without delay. Two visible signs are shown in heaven — one of the sun, the other of the moon; and these are followed by five other stars, each describing its own separate orbit. These, therefore, God has placed in the heaven, by which the temperature of the air may be regulated according to the seasons, and the order of vicissitudes and alternations may be kept. But by means of the very same signs, if at any time plague and corruption is sent upon the earth for the sins of men, the air is disturbed, pestilence is brought upon animals, blight upon crops, and a destructive year in every way upon men; and thus it is that by one and the same means order is both kept and destroyed. For it is manifest even to the unbelieving and unskilful, that the course of the sun, which is useful and necessary to the world, and which is assigned by providence, is always kept orderly; but the courses of the moon, in comparison of the course of the sun, seem to the unskilful to be inordinate and unsettled in her waxings and wanings. For the sun moves in fixed and orderly periods: for from him are hours, from him the day when he rises, from him also the night when he sets; from him months and years are reckoned, from him the variations of seasons are produced; while, rising to the higher regions, he tempers the spring; but when he reaches the top of the heaven, he kindles the summer's heats: again, sinking, he produces the temper of autumn; and when he returns to his lowest circle, he bequeaths to us the rigour of winter's cold from the icy binding of heaven.
But we shall discourse at greater length on these subjects at another time. Now, meantime, we remark that though he is that good servant for regulating the changes of the seasons, yet, when chastisement is inflicted upon men according to the will of God, he glows more fiercely, and burns up the world with more vehement fires. In like manner also the course of the moon, and that changing which seems to the unskilful to be disorderly, is adapted to the growth of crops, and cattle, and all living creatures; for by her waxings and wanings, by a certain wonderful contrivance of providence, everything that is born is nourished and grows; concerning which we could speak more at length and unfold the matter in detail, but that the method of the question proposed recalls us. Yet, by the very same appliances by which they are produced, all things are nourished and increased; but when, from any just cause, the regulation of the appointed order is changed, corruption and distemper arise, so that chastisement may come upon men by the will of God, as we have said above.
But perhaps you will say, What of the fact that, in that common chastisement, like things befall the pious and the impious? It is true, and we confess it; but the chastisement turns to the advantage of the pious, that, being afflicted in the present life, they may come more purified to the future, in which perpetual rest is prepared for them, and that at the same time even the impious may somewhat profit from their chastisement, or else that the just sentence of the future judgment may be passed upon them; since in the same chastisements the righteous give thanks to God, while the unrighteous blaspheme. Therefore, since the opinion of things is divided into two parts, that some things are done by order and others against order, it ought, from those things which are done according to order, to be believed that there is a providence; but with respect to those things which are done against order, we should inquire their causes from those who have learned them by prophetic teaching: for those who have become acquainted with prophetic discourse know when, and for what reason, blight, hail, and pestilence, and such like, have occurred in every generation, and for what sins these have been sent as a punishment; whence causes of sadness, lamentations, and griefs have befallen the human race; whence also trembling sickness has ensued, and that this has been from the beginning the punishment of parricide.
For in the beginning of the world there were none of these evils, but they took their rise from the impiety of men; and thence, with the constant increase of iniquities, the number of evils has also increased. But for this reason divine providence has decreed a judgment with respect to all men, because the present life was not such that every one could be dealt with according to his deservings. Those things, therefore, which were well and orderly appointed from the beginning, when no causes of evil existed, are not to be judged of from the evils which have befallen the world by reason of the sins of men. In short, as an indication of the things which were from the beginning, some nations are found which are strangers to these evils. For the Seres, because they live chastely, are kept free from them all; for with them it is unlawful to come at a woman after she has conceived, or while she is being purified. No one there eats unclean flesh, no one knows anything of sacrifices; all are judges to themselves according to justice. For this reason they are not chastened with those plagues which we have spoken of; they live to extreme old age, and die without sickness. But we, miserable as we are, dwelling as it were with deadly serpents Ezekiel 2:6 — I mean with wicked men — necessarily suffer with them the plagues of afflictions in this world, but we cherish hope from the comfort of good things to come.
If, said the old man,
even the righteous are tormented on account of the iniquities of others, God ought, as foreseeing this, to have commanded men not to do those things from which it should be necessary that the righteous be afflicted with the unrighteous; or if they did them, He ought to have applied some correction or purification to the world.
God, said Aquila, did so command, and gave precepts by the prophets how men ought to live; but even these precepts they despised: yea, if any desired to observe them, them they afflicted with various injuries, until they drove them from their purposed observance, and turned them to the rabble of infidelity, and made them like themselves.
Wherefore, in short, at the first, when all the earth had been stained with sins, God brought a flood upon the world, which you say happened under Deucalion; and at that time He saved a certain righteous man, with his sons, in an ark, and with him the race of all plants and animals. And yet even those who sprang from them, after a time, again did deeds like to those of their predecessors; for those things that had befallen them were forgotten, so that their descendants did not even believe that the flood had taken place. Wherefore God also decreed that there should not be another flood in the present world, else there should have been one in every generation, according to the account of their sins by reason of their unbelief; but He rather granted that certain angels who delight in evil should bear sway over the several nations — and to them was given power over individual men, yet only on this condition, if any one first had made himself subject to them by sinning — until He should come who delights in good, and by Him the number of the righteous should be completed, and by the increase of the number of pious men all over the world impiety should be in some measure repressed, and it should be known to all that all that is good is done by God.
But by the freedom of the will, every man, while he is unbelieving in regard to things to come, by evil deeds runs into evils. And these are the things in the world which seem to be done contrary to order, which owe their existence to unbelief. Therefore the dispensation of divine providence is withal to be admired, which granted to those men in the beginning, walking in the good way of life, to enjoy incorruptible good things; but when they sinned, they gave birth to evil by sin. And to every good thing evil is joined as by a certain covenant of alliance on the part of sin, since indeed the earth has been polluted with human blood, and altars have been lighted to demons, and they have polluted the very air by the filthy smoke of sacrifices; and so at length the elements, being first corrupted, have handed over to men the fault of their corruption, as roots communicate their qualities to the branches and the fruit.
No Rose Without Its Thorn.
Observe therefore in this, as I have said, how justly divine providence comes to the help of things vitiated; that, inasmuch as evils which had derived their origin from sin were associated with the good things of God, He should assign two chiefs to these two departments. And accordingly, to Him who rejoices in good He has appointed the ordering of good things, that He might bring those who believe in Him to the faith of His providence; but to him who rejoices in evil, He has given over those things which are done without order and uselessly, from which of course the faith of His providence comes into doubt; and thus a just division has been made by a just God. Hence therefore it is, that whereas the orderly course of the stars produces faith that the world was made by the hand of a designer, on the other hand, the disturbance of the air, the pestilent breeze, the uncontrolled fire of the lightning, cast doubt upon the work of providence. For, as we have said, every good thing has its corresponding contrary evil thing joined with it; as hail is opposite to the fertilizing showers, the corruption of mildew is associated with the gentle dew, the whirlwinds of storms are joined with the soft winds, unfruitful trees with fruitful, noxious herbs with useful, wild and destructive animals with gentle ones. But all these things are arranged by God, because that the choice of men's will has departed from the purpose of good, and fallen away to evil.
Therefore this division holds in all the things of the world; and as there are pious men, so there are also impious; as there are prophets, so also there are false prophets; and among the Gentiles there are philosophers and false philosophers. Also the Arabian nations, and many others, have imitated the circumcision of the Jews for the service of their impiety. So also the worship of demons is contrary to the divine worship, baptism to baptism, laws to the law, false apostles to apostles, and false teachers to teachers. And hence it is that among the philosophers some assert providence, others deny it; some maintain that there is one God, others that there are more than one: in short, the matter has come to this, that whereas demons are expelled by the word of God, by which it is declared that there is a providence, the magical art, for the confirmation of infidelity, has found out ways of imitating this by contraries. Thus has been discovered the method of counteracting the poison of serpents by incantations, and the effecting of cures contrary to the word and power of God. The magic art has also found out ministries contrary to the angels of God, placing the calling up of souls and the figments of demons in opposition to these. And, not to prolong the discourse by a further enumeration, there is nothing whatever that makes for the belief of providence, which has not something, on the other hand, prepared for unbelief; and therefore they who do not know that division of things, think that there is no providence, by reason of those things in the world which are discordant from themselves. But do you, my father, as a wise man, choose from that division the part which preserves order and makes for the belief of providence, and do not only follow that part which runs against order and neutralizes the belief of providence.
To this the old man answered:
Show me a way, my son, by which I may establish in my mind one or other of these two orders, the one of which asserts, and the other denies, providence.
To one having a right judgment, says Aquila,
the decision is easy. For this very thing that you say, order and disorder, may be produced by a contriver, but not by insensible nature. For let us suppose, by way of illustration, that a great mass were torn from a high rock, and cast down headlong, and when clashed upon the ground were broken into many pieces, could it in any way happen that, among that multitude of fragments, there should be found even one which should have any perfect figure and shape? The old man answered:
It is impossible.
But, said Aquila,
if there be present a statuary, he can by his skilful hand and reasonable mind form the stone cut from the mountain into whatever figure he pleases. The old man said:
That is true.
Therefore, says Aquila,
when there is not a rational mind, no figure can be formed out of the mass; but when there is a designing mind, there may be both form and deformity: for example, if a workman cuts from the mountain a block to which he wishes to give a form, he must first cut it out unformed and rough; then, by degrees hammering and hewing it by the rule of his art, he expresses the form which he has conceived in his mind. Thus, therefore, from informity or deformity, by the hand of the workman form is attained, and both proceed from the workman. In like manner, therefore, the things which are done in the world are accomplished by the providence of a contriver, although they may seem not quite orderly. And therefore, because these two ways have been made known to you, and you have heard the divisions of them, flee from the way of unbelief, lest haply it lead you to that prince who delights in evils; but follow the way of faith, that you may come to that King who delights in good men.
To this the old man answered:
But why was that prince made who delights in evil? And from what was he made? Or was he not made? Aquila said:
The treatment of that subject belongs to another time; but that you may not go away altogether without an answer to this, I shall give a few hints on this subject also. God, foreseeing all things before the creation of the world, knowing that the men who were to be would some of them indeed incline to good, but others to the opposite, assigned those who should choose the good to His own government and His own care, and called them His peculiar inheritance; but He gave over the government of those who should turn to evil to those angels who, not by their substance, but by opposition, were unwilling to remain with God, being corrupted by the vice of envy and pride. Those, therefore, he made worthy princes of worthy subjects; yet he so delivered them over to those angels, that they have not the power of doing what they will against them, unless they transgress the bounds assigned to them from the beginning. And this is the bound assigned, that unless one first do the will of the demons, the demons have no power over him.
Then the old man said:
You have stated it excellently, my son. It now remains only that you tell me whence is the substance of evil: for if it was made by God, the evil fruit shows that the root is in fault; for it appears that it also is of an evil nature. But if this substance was co-eternal with God, how can that which was equally unproduced and co-eternal be subject to the other?
It was not always, said Aquila;
but neither does it necessarily follow, if it was made by God, that its Creator should be thought to be such as is that which has been made by Him. For indeed God made the substance of all things; but if a reasonable mind, which has been made by God, do not acquiesce in the laws of its Creator, and go beyond the bounds of the temperance prescribed to it, how does this reflect on the Creator? Or if there is any reason higher than this, we do not know it; for we cannot know anything perfectly, and especially concerning those things for our ignorance of which we are not to be judged. But those things for which we are to be judged are most easy to be understood, and are dispatched almost in a word. For almost the whole rule of our actions is summed up in this, that what we are unwilling to suffer we should not do to others. For as you would not be killed, you must beware of killing another; and as you would not have your own marriage violated, you must not defile another's bed; you would not be stolen from, neither must you steal; and every matter of men's actions is comprehended within this rule.
Then the old man:
Do not take amiss, my son, what I am going to say. Though your words are powerful, yet they cannot lead me to believe that anything can be done apart from Genesis . For I know that all things have happened to me by the necessity of Genesis, and therefore I cannot be persuaded that either to do well or to do ill is in our power; and if we have not our actions in our power, it cannot be believed that there is a judgment to come, by which either punishments may be inflicted on the evil, or rewards bestowed on the good. In short, since I see that you are initiated in this sort of learning, I shall lay before you a few things from the art itself.
If, says Aquila,
you wish to add anything from that science, my brother Clement will answer you with all care, since he has attended more fully to the science of mathematics. For I can maintain in other ways that our actions are in our own power; but I ought not to presume upon those things which I have not learned.
When Aquila had thus spoken, then I Clement said:
Tomorrow, my father, you shall speak as you please, and we will gladly hear you; for I suppose it will also be gratifying to you that you have to do with those who are not ignorant of the science which you profess. When, therefore, it had been settled between the old man and me, that on the following day we should hold a discussion on the subject of Genesis — whether all things are done under its influence, or there be anything in us which is not done by Genesis, but by the judgment of the mind — Peter rose up, and began to speak to the following effect: To me it is exceedingly wonderful, that things which can easily be found out men make difficult by recondite thoughts and words; and those especially who think themselves wise, and who, wishing to comprehend the will of God, treat God as if He were a man, yea, as if He were something less than a man: for no one can know the purpose or mind of a man unless he himself reveal his thoughts; and neither can any one learn a profession unless he be for a long time instructed by a master. How much more must it be, that no one can know the mind or the work of the invisible and incomprehensible God, unless He Himself send a prophet to declare His purpose, and expound the way of His creation, so far as it is lawful for men to learn it! Hence I think it ridiculous when men judge of the power of God in natural ways, and think that this is possible and that impossible to Him, or this greater and that less, while they are ignorant of everything; who, being unrighteous men, judge the righteous God; unskilled, judge the contriver; corrupt, judge the incorruptible; creatures, judge the Creator.
But I would not have you think, that in saying this I take away the power of judging concerning things; but I give counsel that no one walk through devious places, and rush into errors without end. And therefore I advise not only wise men, but indeed all men who have a desire of knowing what is advantageous to them, that they seek after the true Prophet; for it is He alone who knows all things, and who knows what and how every man is seeking. For He is within the mind of every one of us, but in those who have no desire of the knowledge of God and His righteousness, He is inoperative; but He works in those who seek after that which is profitable to their souls, and kindles in them the light of knowledge. Wherefore seek Him first of all; and if you do not find Him, expect not that you shall learn anything from any other. But He is soon found by those who diligently seek Him through love of the truth, and whose souls are not taken possession of by wickedness. For He is present with those who desire Him in the innocency of their spirits, who bear patiently, and draw sighs from the bottom of their hearts through love of the truth; but He deserts malevolent minds, Wisdom 1:4 because as a prophet He knows the thoughts of every one. And therefore let no one think that he can find Him by his own wisdom, unless, as we have said, he empty his mind of all wickedness, and conceive a pure and faithful desire to know Him. For when any one has so prepared himself, He Himself as a prophet, seeing a mind prepared for Him, of His own accord offers Himself to his knowledge.
Therefore, if any one wishes to learn all things, he cannot do it by discussing them one by one; for, being mortal, he shall not be able to trace the counsel of God, and to scan immensity itself. But if, as we have said, he desires to learn all things, let him seek after the true Prophet; and when he has found Him, let him not treat with Him by questions and disputations and arguments; but if He has given any response, or pronounced any judgment, it cannot be doubted that this is certain. And therefore, before all things, let the true Prophet be sought, and His words be laid hold of. In respect to these this only should be discussed by every one, that he may satisfy himself if they are truly His prophetic words; that is, if they contain undoubted faith of things to come, if they mark out definite times, if they preserve the order of things, if they do not relate as last those things which are first, nor as first those things which were done last, if they contain nothing subtle, nothing composed by magic art to deceive, or if they have not transferred to themselves things which were revealed to others, and have mixed them with falsehoods. And when, all these things having been discussed by right judgment, it is established that they are prophetic words, so they ought to be at once believed concerning all things on which they have spoken and answered.
For let us consider carefully the work of divine providence. For whereas the philosophers have introduced certain subtle and difficult words, so that not even the terms that they use in their discourses can be known and understood by all, God has shown that those who thought themselves word-framers are altogether unskilful as respects the knowledge of the truth. For the knowledge of things which is imparted by the true Prophet is simple, and plain, and brief; which those men walking through devious places, and through the stony difficulties of words, are wholly ignorant of. Therefore, to modest and simple minds, when they see things come to pass which have been foretold, it is enough, and more than enough, that they may receive most certain knowledge from most certain prescience; and for the rest may be at peace, having received evident knowledge of the truth. For all other things are treated by opinion, in which there can be nothing firm. For what speech is there which may not be contradicted? And what argument is there that may not be overthrown by another argument? And hence it is, that by disputation of this sort men can never come to any end of knowledge and learning, but find the end of their life sooner than the end of their questions.
And, therefore, since among these philosophers are things uncertain, we must come to the true Prophet. Him God the Father wished to be loved by all, and accordingly He has been pleased wholly to extinguish those opinions which have originated with men, and in regard to which there is nothing like certainty — that He the true Prophet might be the more sought after, and that He whom they had obscured should show to men the way of truth. For on this account also God made the world, and by Him the world is filled; whence also He is everywhere near to them who seek Him, though He be sought in the remotest ends of the earth. But if any one seek Him not purely, nor holily, nor faithfully, He is indeed within him, because He is everywhere, and is found within the minds of all men; but, as we have said before, He is dormant to the unbelieving, and is held to be absent from those by whom His existence is not believed. And when Peter had said this, and more to the same effect, concerning the true Prophet, he dismissed the crowds; and when he very earnestly entreated the old man to remain with us, he could prevail nothing; but he also departed, to return next day, as had been agreed upon. And after this, we also, with Peter, went to our lodging, and enjoyed our accustomed food and rest.
Source. Translated by Thomas Smith. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8. 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. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/080408.htm>.
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