« PreviousContinue »
vation of the land, and that the younger should subsequent come to the care of sheep. But Moses is not influenced by what is likely and probable, but pursues the plain unadulterated truth. And when he alone comes to God by himself, he tells him with all freedom that “he is not eloquent,” which statement is equivalent to saying that he does not aim at specious and plausible reasonings, and that this has happened to him “not yesterday, or the day before yesterday, but ever since God began to converse with him as his servant."'*
For they who have come into the billows and heavy waves of life must be borne on by swimming, not being able to take hold of any firm point of the matters which lie within the province of knowledge, but depending on what is only likely and probable. But it becomes a servant of God to lay hold of the truth, dis. regarding and rejecting all the uncertain and fabulous statements which rest on the conjectures of plausible men.
What, then, is the truth in these matters which we are considering? Why, that wickedness is older than virtue in point of time, but younger in power and rank. Therefore, when the birth of the two is narrated, let Cain have the precedence ; but when a comparison of their pursuits is instituted, then let Abel be the first; for it happens to the being that is born, from his very swaddling clothes till the time when the innovating vigour of his ripe age extinguishes the fiery heat of his passions, to have for his foster brethren, folly, intemperance, injustice, fear, cowardice, and the other evil things which are born with him, every one of which his nurses and tutors foster and cause to grow up
within him ; by their habits and practices banishing piety, and by their uniform instructions introducing superstition, which is a thing nearly akin to impiety. But when the child has now passed the age of youth, and when the im. petuous disease of the passions has become mollified, as if a calm had come over them, then the man begins to enjoy tranquillity, having been at length and not without difficulty strengthened in the foundation of virtue, which has allayed that continued and incessant agitation which is the greatest evil of the soul.
Thus wickedness has the superiority in point of time ; but virtue in point of rank, and honour and real glory. And this same law-giver is a trustworthy evidence of this fact; for
• Exodus iv. 10.
having introduced Esau, who bears the name of folly, as the elder in point of time, he gives the birthright and chief honour to the younger, who, from his practice of virtue, was called Jacob. And he is not seen to obtain this pre-eminence before (as is the case in athletic contests) his adversary renounces the combat, putting down his hands from weakness, and yielding up the decision and the crown to him who has carried on a truceless and irreconcileable war against the passions; for, says Moses, "He sold his birthright to Jacob, "• avowing, in plain terms that the pre-eminence in power and the honours of virtue belong to no wicked man, but only to him who is a lover of wisdom, just as the flute and the lyre and the other instruments of music belong to the musician alone.
V. And concerning this doctrine Moses also records a law, which he makes with great beauty and suitableness. And it runs thus, “If a man have two wives, the one of them beloved and the other hated; and if both the one who is beloved and the one who is hated have borne him children, and if the child of her who is hated is the first-born, then it shall be in the day in which he divides the inheritance of his possessions among his sons that be shall not be able to give the inheritance of the first-born to the son of the wife that is beloved, overlooking his first-born son, the son of her who is hated; but he shall recognise the son of her who is hated as his first-born, to give him a double share of all the property that he has acquired; because he is the beginning of his children, and the right of the first-born is his.”+
Consider, O my soul, and know who it is who is hated, and who is the son of her who is hated, and immediately you shall perceive that the chief rights and chief honours belong to no one else but to him alone; for there are two wives cohabiting with each individual of us, hostile and inimical to one another, filling the abode of the soul with the contentions which arise from jealousy. Of these we love one, which is gentle and tractable, and which we think very affectionate and akin to ourselves, and its name is pleasure ; but tho other we hatf, looking upon it as untameable, ungentle, fierce, and very hostilo to us, and the name of this one is virtue. Now what mortal is ignorant of the great mysteries of that exceedingly beautiful and greatly contended for pleasure ? And who could worthily Genesis xxv. 33.
+ Deuteronomy xxi. 15.
describe the multitude or the greatness of the good things which are treasured up by virtue ? They who have partakeo of them already know it, and those whose nature is mild will hereafter know, when they have been invited to a participation in the banquet, not the banquet at which the pleasures of the satiated belly make the body fat, but that at which the mind is nourished and at which it revels among the virtues, and exults and revels in their company.
VI. Now, on account of these things, and beosuse of what was said before, namely, that the things which are reall; pious, holy, and good do naturally utter a voice from themselves, even while they keep silence, I will desist from saying any more about them; for neither does the sun nor the moon require an interpreter, because they, being on high, fill the whole world with light, the one shining by day and the other by night. But their own brilliancy is an evidence in their case which stands in no need of witnesses, but which is confirmed by the eyes, which are more undeniable judges than the ears. But I will speak with all freedom of that point in virtue which appears to have the greatest amount of difficulty and perplexity, for this, too, does appear to the imagination, at their first meeting, to be troublesome; but, on consideration, it is found to be very pleasant and, as arising from reason, to be suitable. But labour is the enemy of laziness, as it is in reality the first and greatest of good things, and wages an irreconcileable war against pleasure; for, if we must declare the truth, God has made labour the foundation of all good and of all virtue to man, and without labour you will not find a single good thing in existence among the race of men. For, as it is impossible to Bee without light, since neither colours nor eyes are sufficient for the comprehension of things which we arrive at by means of sight (for nature has made light beforehand to serve as a link to connect the two, by which the eye is brought near and
adapted to colour, for the powers of both eye and of colour are | equally useless in darkness), so in the same manner is the eye i of the soul unable to comprehend anything whatever of the
actions in accordance with virtue, unless it takes to itself labour as a coadjutor, as the eye borrows the assistance of light; for this, being placed in the middle, between the intellect and the good object which the intellect desires, and understanding the whole nature of both the one and the other, does itself
bring about friendship and harmony, two perfect goods between the two things on either hand of it.
VII. For, choose whatever good thing you please, and you will find that it owes its existence and all its strength and solidity to labour. Now, piety and holiness are good things, but still we are not able to attain to them without the worship of the gods, and the worship of them is combined with persever ance in labourg. Again, prudence and courage and justice are all beautiful things and perfect goods, but still they are not to be acquired by laziness, and we must be content if they can be attained to by continued diligence.
Now, since the organs of every soul are not able to support a familiarity with God and with virtue, as being a very intense and mighty harmony, they very often get lax and become remiss so as to descend from the highest unto those of more moderate character ; but, nevertheless, even in these moderate ones there is great labour requisite. Look at all those who practise the encyclical branches of what is called elementary instruction ; look at those who cultivate the land, and at all who provide the means of subsistence by any regular business. These men are never free from care night or day, but always and continually, as it is said, they labour with hand and foot and with all their power, and never cease from suffering hardship, so as often to encounter oven death from it.
VIII. But as those who are thus anxious to render their souls opitious must of necessity cultivate the virtues of the soul, so also they who purpose to render their bodies favour. able to their objects, must cultivate health and those powers which are akin to health, and these too they cultivate with unremitting and ceaseless labours, being overwhelmed with care, arising from the faculties in them of which they are compounded.
You see, therefore, that all good things spring up and shoot out from labour as from one general root, and this you must never allow yourself to neglect; for if you do, you will without being aware of it, be also letting slip the collected heap of goods which it brings with it; for the Ruler of the universe, of heaven, and of the world, both himself possesses and bestows on whomsoever he pleases, his good things, with all ease and abundance. Since formerly he created this world, vast as you see it is, without any labour, and how too he never
ceases holding it together, so that it may last for ever. And absence from all labour and fatigue is the most appropriate attribute of God; but nature has not given the acquisition of good things to any mortal without labour,* in order that in consequence of this arrangement, God alone of existing beings may be called happy and enjoy felicity.
IX. For labour appears to me to bave nearly the same properties as food.
As therefore this latter makes life to depend upon itself, having combined all the actions and all the passions in living, so also has labour caused all good things to depend upon itself. For as those persons who are desirous to live must not neglect food, so too they who are anxious to attain to good things must pay due attention to labour, for what food is to life that labour is to virtue. Do not you then ever slight that, though it is but a single thing, that by its means you may enjoy the collective blessings of all good things. For thus, though you may be younger by birth you shall be called the elder, and you shall be thought worthy of the pre-eminence in honour. But if, having gone through a constant course of improvement you shall at last arrive at the end, then not only shall the Father give thee the pre-emi. nence, but he shall also bestow on thee all the inheritance of the Father, as he did to Jacob, who overthrew all the foundations and seats of passion, and who confessed what he suffered, saying that “God has pitied me, and all things belong to me,"t uttering a doctrine full of instruction, for he makes everything to anchor in the mercy of God.
X. And he learnt all these things from Abraham his grandfather, who was the author of his own education, who gave to the all-wise Isaac all that he had, I leaving none of his substance to bastards, or to the spurious reasonings of concubines, but he gives them small gifts, as being inconsiderable persons. For the possessions of which he is possessed, namely, the perfect virtues, belong only to the perfect and legitimate son; but those which are of an intermediate character, are suitable to and fall to the share of those who are not perfect, but who
• This is not only the same idea, but almost the very language of Borace:
Nil sine magno Vita labore dedit mortalibus.-Sat. I. ix. 60. + Genesis xi. 11.
# Genesis xxv. 5.