12. But, if thou art desirous to learn in a different way what wisdom God hath shewn respecting the body, I will mention that by which Paul seems most especially to be constantly struck. But what is this? That He hath made the members to excel one another, though not in the same things? Some He hath appointed to surpass the rest in beauty, and some in strength. Thus, the eye is beautiful, but the feet are stronger. The head is honourable, but it cannot say to the feet, “I have no need of you.” And this may be seen too with regard to irrational animals; and the same in all the relations of life. The king, for instance, has need of his subjects, and the subjects of the king; just as the head has need of the feet. And again, as to brutes; some are more powerful than the rest; and some more beautiful. Some there are that delight us; some that nourish; and some that clothe us. Thus the peacock delights; and fowls and swine nourish; sheep and goats provide us clothing; and the ox and ass share our labours. There are also others which provide us with none of these, but which call our powers into active exercise. Thus the wild animals increase the strength of the hunters; and instruct our race by the fear which they inspire, and render us more cautious; and for medical purposes, they supply no small contributions from their bodies. So that if any one say to thee, “How art thou a lord of the brutes, whilst afraid of the lion?” Answer him, “Things were not ordered in this manner at the beginning, when I was in favour with God, when I dwelt in Paradise. But when I had offended my Master, I fell under the power of those who were my servants! Yet not even now entirely; since I possess an art by which I overcome the wild animals.” So also it happens in great houses; the sons, while they are yet under age, are afraid of many of the servants; but when they have done amiss, their dread is greatly heightened. And this we may say also of serpents, and scorpions, and vipers; that they are formidable to us by reason of sin.
13. And not only as it regards our body, and the various states of life, is this diversity observable; nor is it confined to brutes; but it may be seen also in trees; and the meanest of them may be observed to have an excellence above those which are greater; so that all things are not alike in all, that all may be necessary to us; and that we may perceive the manifold wisdom of the Lord. Do not then lay blame on God on account of the body’s corruptibleness, but for this the rather do Him homage, and admire Him for His wisdom and His tender care; His wisdom, that in so corruptible a body He hath been able to display such harmony; His tender care that for the benefit of the soul He hath made it corruptible, that He might repress her vanity, and subdue her pride! Why then did He not make it thus from the beginning, asks some one? It was, I reply, to justify Himself before thee by these very works; and as much as to say by the result itself, “I called thee to greater honour, but thou didst constitute thyself unworthy of the gift, banishing thyself from Paradise! Nevertheless, I will not even now despise thee, but I will correct thy sin, and bring thee back to heaven. Therefore for thine own sake, I have permitted thee so long to decay and suffer corruption, that in the fulness of time the discipline of thy humility might be established; and that thou mightest never more resume thy former conceit.
14. For all these things then let us give thanks to God who loveth man; and for His tender care over us, render Him a recompense, that will also be profitable to ourselves; and as regards the commandment which I so frequently discourse of to you, let us use our utmost diligence! For I will not desist from the exhortation until ye are amended: seeing that what we aim at is not that we may address you seldom or frequently, but that we may continue speaking till we have persuaded you. To the Jews when God said by the prophet, “If ye fast for strife and debate, to what purpose do ye fast for me?” And by us He saith to you, “If ye fast unto oaths and perjuries, to what purpose do ye fast? For how shall we behold the sacred Passover? How shall we receive the holy Sacrifice? How shall we be partakers of those wonderful mysteries by means of the same tongue with which we have trampled upon God’s law, the same tongue with which we have contaminated the soul? For if no one would dare to receive the royal purple with filthy hands, how shall we receive the Lord’s Body with a tongue that has become polluted! For the oath is of the wicked one, but the Sacrifice is of the Lord. “What communion then hath light with darkness, and what concord hath Christ with Belial?”
15. That ye are desirous, indeed, to be rid of this impiety, I know well; but since each man may not be able easily to accomplish this by himself, let us enter into fraternities and partnerships in this matter; and as the poor do in their feasts, when each one alone would not be able to furnish a complete banquet; when they all meet together, they each bring their contribution to the feast; so also let us act. Inasmuch as we are of ourselves too listless, let us make partnerships with each other, and pledge ourselves to contribute counsel, and admonition, and exhortation, and rebuke and reminiscence, and threatening; in order that from the diligence of each we may all be amended. For seeing that we observe the affairs of our neighbour more sharply than we do our own, let us be watchful of the safety of others, and commit the guardianship of ourselves to them; and let us engage in this pious rivalry, to the end that thus becoming superior to such an evil habit, we may come with boldness to this holy feast; and be partakers of the holy Sacrifice, with a favourable hope and a good conscience; through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, be glory to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
Thanksgiving to God for the pardon granted to the offenders against the Emperor. Physical discourse on the Creation. Proof that God, in creating man, implanted in him a natural law. Duty of avoiding oaths with the utmost diligence.
1. Yesterday I said “Blessed be God!” and to-day again I say the very same thing. For although the evils we dreaded have passed away, we should not suffer the memory of them to disappear; not indeed that we may grieve, but that we may give thanks. For if the memory of these terrors abide with us, we shall never be overtaken by the actual experience of such terrors. For what need have we of the experience, whilst our memory acts the part of a monitor? Seeing then that God hath not permitted us to be overwhelmed in the flood of those troubles when upon us, let us not permit ourselves to become careless when these are passed away. Then, when we were sad, He consoled us, let us give thanks to Him now that we are joyful. In our agony He comforted us, and did not forsake us; therefore let us not betray ourselves in prosperity by declining into sloth. “Forget not,” saith one, “the time of famine in the day of plenty.” Therefore let us be mindful of the time of temptation in the day of relief; and with respect to our sins let us also act in the same manner. If thou hast sinned, and God hath pardoned thy sin, receive thy pardon, and give thanks; but be not forgetful of the sin; not that thou shouldest fret thyself with the thought of it, but that thou mayest school thy soul, not to grow wanton, and relapse again into the same snares.
2. Thus also Paul did; for having said, “He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,” he goes on to add, “who was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious.” “Let the life of the servant,” saith he, “be openly exposed, so that the lovingkindness of the Master be apparent. For although I have received the remission of sins, I do not reject the memory of those sins.” And this not only manifested the lovingkindness of the Lord, but made the man himself the more illustrious. For when thou hast learnt who he was before, then thou wilt be the more astonished at him; and when thou seest out of what he came to be what he was, then thou wilt commend him the more; and if thou hast greatly sinned, yet upon being changed thou wilt conceive favourable hopes from this instance. For in addition to what has been said, such an example comforts those who are in despair, and causes them again to stand erect. The same thing also will be the case with regard to our city; for all the events that have happened serve to shew your virtue, who by means of repentance have prevailed to ward off such wrath, whilst at the same time they proclaim the lovingkindness of God, who has removed the cloud that was so threatening, in consequence of a small change of conduct, and so raises up again all those who are sunk in despair, when they learn, from our case, that he who looks upward for the Divine help, is not to be overwhelmed, though innumerable waves should encompass him on all sides.
3. For who hath seen, who hath ever heard of sufferings such as were ours? We were every day in expectation that our city would be overturned from its foundations together with its inhabitants. But when the Devil was hoping to sink the vessel, then God produced a perfect calm. Let us not then be unmindful of the greatness of these terrors, in order that we may remember the magnitude of the benefits received from God. He who knows not the nature of the disease will not understand the physician’s art. Let us tell these things also to our children; and transmit them to the remotest generations, that all may learn how the Devil had endeavoured to destroy the very foundation of the city; and how God was able visibly to raise it up again, when it was fallen and prostrate; and did not permit even the least injury to befall it, but took away the fear; and dispelled with much speed the peril it had been placed in. For even through the past week we were all expecting that our substance would be confiscated; and that soldiers would have been let loose upon us; and we were dreaming of a thousand other horrors. But lo! all these things have passed away, even like a cloud or a flitting shadow; and we have been punished only in the expectation of what is dreadful; or rather we have not been punished, but we have been disciplined, and have become better; God having softened the heart of the Emperor. Let us then always and every day say, “Blessed be God!” and with greater zeal let us give heed to our assembling, and let us hasten to the church, from whence we have reaped this benefit. For ye know whither ye fled at the first; whither ye flocked together; and from what quarter our safety came. Let us then hold fast by this sacred anchor; and as in the season of danger it did not betray us, so now let us not leave it in the season of relief; but let us await with exact attention the stated assemblies and prayers; and let us every day give a hearing to the divine oracles. And the leisure which we spent in busily running about after those who came from the court, whilst we were labouring under anxiety in respect to the evils that threatened us; this let us consume wholly in hearing the divine laws, instead of unseasonable and senseless pastimes; lest we should again reduce ourselves to the necessity of that sort of occupation.
4. On the three foregoing days, then, we have investigated one method of acquiring the knowledge of God, and have brought it to a conclusion; explaining how “the heavens declare the glory of God;” and what the meaning of that is, which is said by Paul; viz. “That the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” And we shewed how from the creation of the world, and how by heaven, and earth, the sea, the Creator is glorified. But to-day, after briefly philosophising on that same subject, we will proceed to another topic. For He not only made it, but provided also that when it was made, it should carry on its operations; not permitting it to be all immoveable, nor commanding it to be all in a state of motion. The heaven, for instance, hath remained immoveable, according as the prophet says, “He placed the heaven as a vault, and stretched it out as a tent over the earth.” But, on the other hand, the sun with the rest of the stars, runs on his course through every day. And again, the earth is fixed, but the waters are continually in motion; and not the waters only, but the clouds, and the frequent and successive showers, which return at their proper season. The nature of the clouds is one, but the things which are produced out of them are different. For the rain, indeed, becomes wine in the grape, but oil in the olive. And in other plants is changed into their juices; and the womb of the earth is one, and yet bears different fruits. The heat, too, of the sun-beams is one, but it ripens all things differently; bringing some to maturity more slowly, and others more quickly. Who then but must feel astonishment and admiration at these things?
5. Nay, this is not the only wonder, that He hath formed it with this great variety and diversity; but farther, that He hath spread it before all in common; the rich and the poor, sinners as well as the righteous. Even as Christ also declared: “He maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth His rain upon the just and unjust.” Moreover, when He stocked the world with various animals, and implanted divers dispositions in the creatures, He commanded us to imitate some of these, and to avoid others. For example; the ant is industrious, and performs a laborious task. By giving heed then, thou wilt receive the strongest admonition from this animal not to indulge in sloth, nor to shun labour and toil. Therefore also the Scripture has sent the sluggard to the ant, saying, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, emulate his ways, and be wiser than he.” Art thou unwilling, he means, to learn from the Scriptures, that it is good to labour, and that he who will not work, neither ought he to eat? learn it from the irrationals! This also we do in our families, when those who are older, and who are considered superior, have done amiss, we bid them to attend to thoughtful children. We say, “Mark such an one, who is less than you, how earnest and watchful he is.” Do thou then likewise receive from this animal the best exhortation to industry; and marvel at thy Lord, not only because He hath made heaven and the sun, but because He hath also made the ant. For although the animal be small, it affords much proof of the greatness of God’s wisdom. Consider then how prudent the ant is, and consider how God hath implanted in so small a body, such an unceasing desire of working! But whilst from this animal thou learnest industry; take from the bee at once a lesson of neatness, industry, and social concord! For it is not more for herself than for us, that the bee labours, and toils every day; which is indeed a thing especially proper for a Christian; not to seek his own things, but the things of others. As then she traverses all the meadows that she may prepare a banquet for another, so also, O man, do thou likewise; and if thou hast accumulated wealth, expend it upon others; if thou hast the faculty of teaching, do not bury the talent, but bring it out publicly for the sake of those who need it! Or if thou hast any other advantage, become useful to those who require the benefit of thy labours! Seest thou not that for this reason, especially, the bee is more honoured than the other animals; not because she labours, but because she labours for others? For the spider also labours, and toils, and spreads out his fine textures over the walls, surpassing the utmost skill of woman; but the creature is without estimation, since his work is in no way profitable to us; such are they that labour and toil, but for themselves! Imitate too the simplicity of the dove! Imitate the ass in his love to his master, and the ox also! Imitate the birds in their freedom from anxiety! For great, great indeed is the advantage that may be gained from irrational creatures for the correction of manners.
6. From these animals Christ also instructs us, when He says, “Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” And again; “Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.” The prophet also, to shame the ungrateful Jews, thus speaks; “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know me.” And again; “The turtle and the swallow and the crane observe the time of their coming, but my people knoweth not the judgment of the Lord his God.” From these animals, and such as these, learn to achieve virtue, and be instructed to avoid wickedness by the contrary ones. For as the bee followeth good, so the asp is destructive. Therefore shun wickedness, lest thou hear it said, “The poison of asps is under their lips.” Again, the dog is devoid of shame. Hate, therefore, this kind of wickedness. The fox also is crafty, and fraudulent. Emulate not this vice; but as the bee, in flying over the meadows, does not choose every sort of flower; but selecting that which is useful, leaves the rest; so also do thou; and whilst surveying the whole race of irrational animals, if any thing profitable may be drawn from these, accept it; the advantages which they have naturally, make it thy business to practise of thine own free choice. For in this respect also thou hast been honoured of God; that what they have as natural advantages He hath permitted thee to achieve of thy own free choice, in order that thou mayest also receive a reward. For good works with them spring not from free will, and reason, but from nature only. In other words, the bee makes honey, not because it has learnt this by reason and reflection, but because it is instructed by nature. Because if the work had not been natural, and allotted to the race, some of them assuredly would have been unskilled in their art; whereas from the time that the world was first made, even to the present day, no one hath observed bees resting from labour, andnot making honey. For such natural characteristics are common to the whole race. But those things which depend on our free choice are not common; for labour is necessary that they may be accomplished.
7. Take then all the best things, and clothe thyself with them; for thou art indeed king of the irrationals; but kings, if there be any thing excellent possessed by their subjects, be it gold or silver, or precious stones, or sumptuous vestments, usually possess the same in greater abundance. From the creation also, learn to admire thy Lord! And if any of the things thou seest exceed thy comprehension, and thou art not able to find the reason thereof, yet for this glorify the Creator, that the wisdom of these works surpasses thine understanding. Say not, wherefore is this? or, to what end? for everything is useful, even if we know not the reason of it. As therefore, if thou goest into a surgery, and seest many instruments lying before thee, thou wonderest at the variety of the implements though ignorant of their use; so also act with respect to the creation. Although thou seest many of the animals, and of the herbs, and plants, and other things, of which thou knowest not the use, admire the variety of these; and feel astonishment for this reason at the perfect workmanship of God; that He hath neither made all things manifest to thee, nor permitted all things to be unknown. For He hath not permitted all things to be unknown, lest thou shouldest say, that the things that exist are not of providence. He hath not permitted all things to be known to thee, lest the greatness of thy knowledge should excite thee to pride. Thus at least it was that the evil demon precipitated the first man headlong and by means of the hope of greater knowledge, deprived him of that he already possessed. Therefore also, a certain wise man exhorts, saying, “Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee; neither search the things that are too deep for thee. But what is commanded thee, think thereupon with reverence; for the greater part of His works are done in secret.” And again; “More things are shewed unto thee than men understand.” But this he speaks for the purpose of consoling the man who is sad and vexed, because he does not know all things; for even those things he observes, which thou art permitted to know, greatly surpass thine understanding; for thou couldest not have found them by thyself, but thou hast been taught them of God. Wherefore be content with the wealth given thee, and do not seek more; but for what thou hast received give thanks; and do not be angry on account of those things which thou hast not received. And, for what thou knowest, give glory, and do not stumble at those things of which thou art ignorant. For God hath made both alike profitably; and hath revealed some things, but hidden others, providing for thy safety.
8. One mode, then, of knowing God, is that by the creation, which I have spoken of, and which might occupy many days. For in order that we might go over the formation of man only with exactness, (and I speak of exactness such as is possible to us, not of real exactness; since many as are the reasons we have already given for the works of creation, many more of these there are, ineffable, which God who made them knoweth, for of course we do not know them all); in order then, I say, that we might take an exact survey of the whole modelling of man; and that we might discover the skill there is in every member; and examine the distribution and situation of the sinews, the veins, and the arteries, and the moulding of every other part; not even a whole year would suffice for such a disquisition.
9. For this reason, here dismissing this subject; and having given to the laborious and studious an opportunity, by what has been said, of going over likewise the other parts of Creation; we shall now direct our discourse to another point which is itself also demonstrative of God’s providence. What then is this second point? It is, that when God formed man, he implanted within him from the beginning a natural law. And what then was this natural law? He gave utterance to conscience within us; and made the knowledge of good things, and of those which are the contrary, to be self-taught. For we have no need to learn that fornication is an evil thing, and that chastity is a good thing, but we know this from the first. And that you may learn that we know this from the first, the Lawgiver, when He afterwards gave laws, and said, “Thou shalt not kill,” did not add, “since murder is an evil thing,” but simply said, “Thou shall not kill;” for He merely prohibited the sin, without teaching. How was it then when He said, “Thou shalt not kill,” that He did not add, “because murder is a wicked thing.” The reason was, that conscience had taught this beforehand; and He speaks thus, as to those who know and understand the point. Wherefore when He speaks to us of another commandment, not known to us by the dictate of consciences He not only prohibits, but adds the reason. When, for instance, He gave commandment respecting the Sabbath; “On the seventh day thou shalt do no work;” He subjoined also the reason for this cessation. What was this? “Because on the seventh day God rested from all His works which He had begun to make.” And again; “Because thou weft a servant in the land of Egypt.” For what purpose then I ask did He add a reason respecting the Sabbath, but did no such thing in regard to murder? Because this commandment was not one of the leading ones. It was not one of those which were accurately defined of our conscience, but a kind of partial and temporary one; and for this reason it was abolished afterwards. But those which are necessary and uphold our life, are the following; “Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not commit adultery; Thou shalt not steal.” On this account then He adds no reason in this case, nor enters into any instruction on the matter, but is content with the bare prohibition.
10. And not only from thence, but from another consideration also, I will endeavour to shew you how man was self-taught with respect to the knowledge of virtue. Adam sinned the first sin; and after the sin straightway hid himself; but if he had not known he had been doing something wrong, why did he hide himself? For then there were neither letters, nor law, nor Moses. Whence then doth he recognise the sin, and hide himself? Yet not only does he so hide himself, but when called to account, he endeavours to lay the blame on another, saying, “The woman, whom Thou gavest me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” And that woman again transfers the accusation to another, viz. the serpent. Observe also the wisdom of God; for when Adam said, “I heard Thy voice, and I was afraid, for I was naked, and I hid myself,” God does not at once convict him of what he had done, nor say, “Why hast thou eaten of the tree?” But how? “Who told thee,” He asks, “that thou wast naked, unless thou hast eaten of that Tree of which alone I commanded thee not to eat?” He did not keep silence, nor did He openly convict him. He did not keep silence, that He might call him forth to the confession of his crime. He did not convict him openly, lest the whole might come from Himself, and the man should so be deprived of that pardon which is granted us from confession. Therefore he did not declare openly the cause from whence this knowledge sprung, but he carried on the discourse in the form of interrogation, leaving the man himself to come to the confession.