|16. Origen, On First Principles, 1.5.3, 1.8.1, 2.3.4, 2.4.3, 2.9.5-2.9.7, 3.1.8-3.1.9, 3.1.16, 3.1.18, 3.4.5, 4.2.1, 4.3.2 (3rd cent. CE - 3rd cent. CE)
| 1.5.3. After the enumeration, then, of so many and so important names of orders and offices, underlying which it is certain that there are personal existences, let us inquire whether God, the creator and founder of all things, created certain of them holy and happy, so that they could admit no element at all of an opposite kind, and certain others so that they were made capable both of virtue and vice; or whether we are to suppose that He created some so as to be altogether incapable of virtue, and others again altogether incapable of wickedness, but with the power of abiding only in a state of happiness, and others again such as to be capable of either condition. In order, now, that our first inquiry may begin with the names themselves, let us consider whether the holy angels, from the period of their first existence, have always been holy, and are holy still, and will be holy, and have never either admitted or had the power to admit any occasion of sin. Then in the next place, let us consider whether those who are called holy principalities began from the moment of their creation by God to exercise power over some who were made subject to them, and whether these latter were created of such a nature, and formed for the very purpose of being subject and subordinate. In like manner, also, whether those which are called powers were created of such a nature and for the express purpose of exercising power, or whether their arriving at that power and dignity is a reward and desert of their virtue. Moreover, also, whether those which are called thrones or seats gained that stability of happiness at the same time with their coming forth into being, so as to have that possession from the will of the Creator alone; or whether those which are called dominions had their dominion conferred on them, not as a reward for their proficiency, but as the peculiar privilege of their creation, so that it is something which is in a certain degree inseparable from them, and natural. Now, if we adopt the view that the holy angels, and the holy powers, and the blessed seats, and the glorious virtues, and the magnificent dominions, are to be regarded as possessing those powers and dignities and glories in virtue of their nature, it will doubtless appear to follow that those beings which have been mentioned as holding offices of an opposite kind must be regarded in the same manner; so that those principalities with whom we have to struggle are to be viewed, not as having received that spirit of opposition and resistance to all good at a later period, or as falling away from good through the freedom of the will, but as having had it in themselves as the essence of their being from the beginning of their existence. In like manner also will it be the case with the powers and virtues, in none of which was wickedness subsequent or posterior to their first existence. Those also whom the apostle termed rulers and princes of the darkness of this world, are said, with respect to their rule and occupation of darkness, to fall not from perversity of intention, but from the necessity of their creation. Logical reasoning will compel us to take the same view with regard to wicked and maligt spirits and unclean demons. But if to entertain this view regarding maligt and opposing powers seem to be absurd, as it is certainly absurd that the cause of their wickedness should be removed from the purpose of their own will, and ascribed of necessity to their Creator, why should we not also be obliged to make a similar confession regarding the good and holy powers, that, viz., the good which is in them is not theirs by essential being, which we have manifestly shown to be the case with Christ and the Holy Spirit alone, as undoubtedly with the Father also? For it was proved that there was nothing compound in the nature of the Trinity, so that these qualities might seem to belong to it as accidental consequences. From which it follows, that in the case of every creature it is a result of his own works and movements, that those powers which appear either to hold sway over others or to exercise power or dominion, have been preferred to and placed over those whom they are said to govern or exercise power over, and not in consequence of a peculiar privilege inherent in their constitutions, but on account of merit. 1.8.1. A similar method must be followed in treating of the angels; nor are we to suppose that it is the result of accident that a particular office is assigned to a particular angel: as to Raphael, e.g., the work of curing and healing; to Gabriel, the conduct of wars; to Michael, the duty of attending to the prayers and supplications of mortals. For we are not to imagine that they obtained these offices otherwise than by their own merits, and by the zeal and excellent qualities which they severally displayed before this world was formed; so that afterwards in the order of archangels, this or that office was assigned to each one, while others deserved to be enrolled in the order of angels, and to act under this or that archangel, or that leader or head of an order. All of which things were disposed, as I have said, not indiscriminately and fortuitously, but by a most appropriate and just decision of God, who arranged them according to deserts, in accordance with His own approval and judgment: so that to one angel the Church of the Ephesians was to be entrusted; to another, that of the Smyrnæans; one angel was to be Peter's, another Paul's; and so on through every one of the little ones that are in the Church, for such and such angels as even daily behold the face of God must be assigned to each one of them; and there must also be some angel that encamps round about them that fear God. All of which things, assuredly, it is to be believed, are not performed by accident or chance, or because they (the angels) were so created, lest on that view the Creator should be accused of partiality; but it is to be believed that they were conferred by God, the just and impartial Ruler of all things, agreeably to the merits and good qualities and mental vigour of each individual spirit. 2.3.4. And now I do not understand by what proofs they can maintain their position, who assert that worlds sometimes come into existence which are not dissimilar to each other, but in all respects equal. For if there is said to be a world similar in all respects (to the present), then it will come to pass that Adam and Eve will do the same things which they did before: there will be a second time the same deluge, and the same Moses will again lead a nation numbering nearly six hundred thousand out of Egypt; Judas will also a second time betray the Lord; Paul will a second time keep the garments of those who stoned Stephen; and everything which has been done in this life will be said to be repeated — a state of things which I think cannot be established by any reasoning, if souls are actuated by freedom of will, and maintain either their advance or retrogression according to the power of their will. For souls are not driven on in a cycle which returns after many ages to the same round, so as either to do or desire this or that; but at whatever point the freedom of their own will aims, there do they direct the course of their actions. For what these persons say is much the same as if one were to assert that if a medimnus of grain were to be poured out on the ground, the fall of the grain would be on the second occasion identically the same as on the first, so that every individual grain would lie for the second time close beside that grain where it had been thrown before, and so the medimnus would be scattered in the same order, and with the same marks as formerly; which certainly is an impossible result with the countless grains of a medimnus, even if they were to be poured out without ceasing for many ages. So therefore it seems to me impossible for a world to be restored for the second time, with the same order and with the same amount of births, and deaths, and actions; but that a diversity of worlds may exist with changes of no unimportant kind, so that the state of another world may be for some unmistakeable reasons better (than this), and for others worse, and for others again intermediate. But what may be the number or measure of this I confess myself ignorant, although, if any one can tell it, I would gladly learn. 2.4.3. But as those who uphold this heresy are sometimes accustomed to mislead the hearts of the simple by certain deceptive sophisms, I do not consider it improper to bring forward the assertions which they are in the habit of making, and to refute their deceit and falsehood. The following, then, are their declarations. It is written, that no man has seen God at any time. But that God whom Moses preaches was both seen by Moses himself, and by his fathers before him; whereas He who is announced by the Saviour has never been seen at all by any one. Let us therefore ask them and ourselves whether they maintain that He whom they acknowledge to be God, and allege to be a different God from the Creator, is visible or invisible. And if they shall say that He is visible, besides being proved to go against the declaration of Scripture, which says of the Saviour, He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature, they will fall also into the absurdity of asserting that God is corporeal. For nothing can be seen except by help of form, and size, and color, which are special properties of bodies. And if God is declared to be a body, then He will also be found to be material, since every body is composed of matter. But if He be composed of matter, and matter is undoubtedly corruptible, then, according to them, God is liable to corruption! We shall put to them a second question. Is matter made, or is it uncreated, i.e., not made? And if they shall answer that it is not made, i.e., uncreated, we shall ask them if one portion of matter is God, and the other part the world? But if they shall say of matter that it is made, it will undoubtedly follow that they confess Him whom they declare to be God to have been made!— a result which certainly neither their reason nor ours can admit. But they will say, God is invisible. And what will you do? If you say that He is invisible by nature, then neither ought He to be visible to the Saviour. Whereas, on the contrary, God, the Father of Christ, is said to be seen, because he who sees the Son, he says, sees also the Father. This certainly would press us very hard, were the expression not understood by us more correctly of understanding, and not of seeing. For he who has understood the Son will understand the Father also. In this way, then, Moses too must be supposed to have seen God, not beholding Him with the bodily eye, but understanding Him with the vision of the heart and the perception of the mind, and that only in some degree. For it is manifest that He, viz., who gave answers to Moses, said, You shall not see My face, but My hinder parts. These words are, of course, to be understood in that mystical sense which is befitting divine words, those old wives' fables being rejected and despised which are invented by ignorant persons respecting the anterior and posterior parts of God. Let no one indeed suppose that we have indulged any feeling of impiety in saying that even to the Saviour the Father is not visible. Let him consider the distinction which we employ in dealing with heretics. For we have explained that it is one thing to see and to be seen, and another to know and to be known, or to understand and to be understood. To see, then, and to be seen, is a property of bodies, which certainly will not be appropriately applied either to the Father, or to the Son, or to the Holy Spirit, in their mutual relations with one another. For the nature of the Trinity surpasses the measure of vision, granting to those who are in the body, i.e., to all other creatures, the property of vision in reference to one another. But to a nature that is incorporeal and for the most part intellectual, no other attribute is appropriate save that of knowing or being known, as the Saviour Himself declares when He says, No man knows the Son, save the Father; nor does any one know the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him. It is clear, then, that He has not said, No one has seen the Father, save the Son; but, No one knows the Father, save the Son. 2.9.5. Now, when we say that this world was established in the variety in which we have above explained that it was created by God, and when we say that this God is good, and righteous, and most just, there are numerous individuals, especially those who, coming from the school of Marcion, and Valentinus, and Basilides, have heard that there are souls of different natures, who object to us, that it cannot consist with the justice of God in creating the world to assign to some of His creatures an abode in the heavens, and not only to give such a better habitation, but also to grant them a higher and more honourable position; to favour others with the grant of principalities; to bestow powers upon some, dominions on others; to confer upon some the most honourable seats in the celestial tribunals; to enable some to shine with more resplendent glory, and to glitter with a starry splendour; to give to some the glory of the sun, to others the glory of the moon, to others the glory of the stars; to cause one star to differ from another star in glory. And, to speak once for all, and briefly, if the Creator God wants neither the will to undertake nor the power to complete a good and perfect work, what reason can there be that, in the creation of rational natures, i.e., of beings of whose existence He Himself is the cause, He should make some of higher rank, and others of second, or third, or of many lower and inferior degrees? In the next place, they object to us, with regard to terrestrial beings, that a happier lot by birth is the case with some rather than with others; as one man, e.g., is begotten of Abraham, and born of the promise; another, too, of Isaac and Rebekah, and who, while still in the womb, supplants his brother, and is said to be loved by God before he is born. Nay, this very circumstance — especially that one man is born among the Hebrews, with whom he finds instruction in the divine law; another among the Greeks, themselves also wise, and men of no small learning; and then another among the Ethiopians, who are accustomed to feed on human flesh; or among the Scythians, with whom parricide is an act sanctioned by law; or among the people of Taurus, where strangers are offered in sacrifice — is a ground of strong objection. Their argument accordingly is this: If there be this great diversity of circumstances, and this diverse and varying condition by birth, in which the faculty of free-will has no scope (for no one chooses for himself either where, or with whom, or in what condition he is born); if, then, this is not caused by the difference in the nature of souls, i.e., that a soul of an evil nature is destined for a wicked nation, and a good soul for a righteous nation, what other conclusion remains than that these things must be supposed to be regulated by accident and chance? And if that be admitted, then it will be no longer believed that the world was made by God, or administered by His providence; and as a consequence, a judgment of God upon the deeds of each individual will appear a thing not to be looked for. In which matter, indeed, what is clearly the truth of things is the privilege of Him alone to know who searches all things, even the deep things of God. 2.9.6. We, however, although but men, not to nourish the insolence of the heretics by our silence, will return to their objections such answers as occur to us, so far as our abilities enable us. We have frequently shown, by those declarations which we were able to produce from the holy Scriptures, that God, the Creator of all things, is good, and just, and all-powerful. When He in the beginning created those beings which He desired to create, i.e., rational natures, He had no other reason for creating them than on account of Himself, i.e., His own goodness. As He Himself, then, was the cause of the existence of those things which were to be created, in whom there was neither any variation nor change, nor want of power, He created all whom He made equal and alike, because there was in Himself no reason for producing variety and diversity. But since those rational creatures themselves, as we have frequently shown, and will yet show in the proper place, were endowed with the power of free-will, this freedom of will incited each one either to progress by imitation of God, or reduced him to failure through negligence. And this, as we have already stated, is the cause of the diversity among rational creatures, deriving its origin not from the will or judgment of the Creator, but from the freedom of the individual will. Now God, who deemed it just to arrange His creatures according to their merit, brought down these different understandings into the harmony of one world, that He might adorn, as it were, one dwelling, in which there ought to be not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay (and some indeed to honour, and others to dishonour), with those different vessels, or souls, or understandings. And these are the causes, in my opinion, why that world presents the aspect of diversity, while Divine Providence continues to regulate each individual according to the variety of his movements, or of his feelings and purpose. On which account the Creator will neither appear to be unjust in distributing (for the causes already mentioned) to every one according to his merits; nor will the happiness or unhappiness of each one's birth, or whatever be the condition that falls to his lot, be deemed accidental; nor will different creators, or souls of different natures, be believed to exist. 2.9.7. But even holy Scripture does not appear to me to be altogether silent on the nature of this secret, as when the Apostle Paul, in discussing the case of Jacob and Esau, says: For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him who calls, it was said, The elder shall serve the younger, as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. And after that, he answers himself, and says, What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? And that he might furnish us with an opportunity of inquiring into these matters, and of ascertaining how these things do not happen without a reason, he answers himself, and says, God forbid. For the same question, as it seems to me, which is raised concerning Jacob and Esau, may be raised regarding all celestial and terrestrial creatures, and even those of the lower world as well. And in like manner it seems to me, that as he there says, The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, so it might also be said of all other things, When they were not yet created, neither had yet done any good or evil, that the decree of God according to election may stand, that (as certain think) some things on the one hand were created heavenly, some on the other earthly, and others, again, beneath the earth, not of works (as they think), but of Him who calls, what shall we say then, if these things are so? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. As, therefore, when the Scriptures are carefully examined regarding Jacob and Esau, it is not found to be unrighteousness with God that it should be said, before they were born, or had done anything in this life, the elder shall serve the younger; and as it is found not to be unrighteousness that even in the womb Jacob supplanted his brother, if we feel that he was worthily beloved by God, according to the deserts of his previous life, so as to deserve to be preferred before his brother; so also is it with regard to heavenly creatures, if we notice that diversity was not the original condition of the creature, but that, owing to causes that have previously existed, a different office is prepared by the Creator for each one in proportion to the degree of his merit, on this ground, indeed, that each one, in respect of having been created by God an understanding, or a rational spirit, has, according to the movements of his mind and the feelings of his soul, gained for himself a greater or less amount of merit, and has become either an object of love to God, or else one of dislike to Him; while, nevertheless, some of those who are possessed of greater merit are ordained to suffer with others for the adorning of the state of the world, and for the discharge of duty to creatures of a lower grade, in order that by this means they themselves may be participators in the endurance of the Creator, according to the words of the apostle: For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope. Keeping in view, then, the sentiment expressed by the apostle, when, speaking of the birth of Esau and Jacob, he says, Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid, I think it right that this same sentiment should be carefully applied to the case of all other creatures, because, as we formerly remarked, the righteousness of the Creator ought to appear in everything. And this, it appears to me, will be seen more clearly at last, if each one, whether of celestial or terrestrial or infernal beings, be said to have the causes of his diversity in himself, and antecedent to his bodily birth. For all things were created by the Word of God, and by His Wisdom, and were set in order by His Justice. And by the grace of His compassion He provides for all men, and encourages all to the use of whatever remedies may lead to their cure, and incites them to salvation. 3.1.8. Let us begin, then, with those words which were spoken to Pharaoh, who is said to have been hardened by God, in order that he might not let the people go; and, along with his case, the language of the apostle also will be considered, where he says, Therefore He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. For it is on these passages chiefly that the heretics rely, asserting that salvation is not in our own power, but that souls are of such a nature as must by all means be either lost or saved; and that in no way can a soul which is of an evil nature become good, or one which is of a virtuous nature be made bad. And hence they maintain that Pharaoh, too, being of a ruined nature, was on that account hardened by God, who hardens those that are of an earthly nature, but has compassion on those who are of a spiritual nature. Let us see, then, what is the meaning of their assertion; and let us, in the first place, request them to tell us whether they maintain that the soul of Pharaoh was of an earthly nature, such as they term lost. They will undoubtedly answer that it was of an earthly nature. If so, then to believe God, or to obey Him, when his nature opposed his so doing, was an impossibility. And if this were his condition by nature, what further need was there for his heart to be hardened, and this not once, but several times, unless indeed because it was possible for him to yield to persuasion? Nor could any one be said to be hardened by another, save him who of himself was not obdurate. And if he were not obdurate of himself, it follows that neither was he of an earthly nature, but such an one as might give way when overpowered by signs and wonders. But he was necessary for God's purpose, in order that, for the saving of the multitude, He might manifest in him His power by his offering resistance to numerous miracles, and struggling against the will of God, and his heart being by this means said to be hardened. Such are our answers, in the first place, to these persons; and by these their assertion may be overturned, according to which they think that Pharaoh was destroyed in consequence of his evil nature. And with regard to the language of the Apostle Paul, we must answer them in a similar way. For who are they whom God hardens, according to your view? Those, namely, whom you term of a ruined nature, and who, I am to suppose, would have done something else had they not been hardened. If, indeed, they come to destruction in consequence of being hardened, they no longer perish naturally, but in virtue of what befalls them. Then, in the next place, upon whom does God show mercy? On those, namely, who are to be saved. And in what respect do those persons stand in need of a second compassion, who are to be saved once by their nature, and so come naturally to blessedness, except that it is shown even from their case, that, because it was possible for them to perish, they therefore obtain mercy, that so they may not perish, but come to salvation, and possess the kingdom of the good. And let this be our answer to those who devise and invent the fable of good or bad natures, i.e., of earthly or spiritual souls, in consequence of which, as they say, each one is either saved or lost. 3.1.8. Let us begin, then, with what is said about Pharaoh— that he was hardened by God, that he might not send away the people; along with which will be examined also the statement of the apostle, Therefore has He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens. And certain of those who hold different opinions misuse these passages, themselves also almost destroying free-will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation, and others saved which it is impossible can be lost; and Pharaoh, they say, as being of a ruined nature, is therefore hardened by God, who has mercy upon the spiritual, but hardens the earthly. Let us see now what they mean. For we shall ask them if Pharaoh was of an earthy nature; and when they answer, we shall say that he who is of an earthy nature is altogether disobedient to God: but if disobedient, what need is there of his heart being hardened, and that not once, but frequently? Unless perhaps, since it was possible for him to obey (in which case he would certainly have obeyed, as not being earthy, when hard pressed by the signs and wonders), God needs him to be disobedient to a greater degree, in order that He may manifest His mighty deeds for the salvation of the multitude, and therefore hardens his heart. This will be our answer to them in the first place, in order to overturn their supposition that Pharaoh was of a ruined nature. And the same reply must be given to them with respect to the statement of the apostle. For whom does God harden? Those who perish, as if they would obey unless they were hardened, or manifestly those who would be saved because they are not of a ruined nature. And on whom has He mercy? Is it on those who are to be saved? And how is there need of a second mercy for those who have been prepared once for salvation, and who will by all means become blessed on account of their nature? Unless perhaps, since they are capable of incurring destruction, if they did not receive mercy, they will obtain mercy, in order that they may not incur that destruction of which they are capable, but may be in the condition of those who are saved. And this is our answer to such persons. 3.1.9. And now we must return an answer also to those who would have the God of the law to be just only, and not also good; and let us ask such in what manner they consider the heart of Pharaoh to have been hardened by God— by what acts or by what prospective arrangements. For we must observe the conception of a God who in our opinion is both just and good, but according to them only just. And let them show us how a God whom they also acknowledge to be just, can with justice cause the heart of a man to be hardened, that, in consequence of that very hardening, he may sin and be ruined. And how shall the justice of God be defended, if He Himself is the cause of the destruction of those whom, owing to their unbelief (through their being hardened), He has afterwards condemned by the authority of a judge? For why does He blame him, saying, But since you will not let My people go, lo, I will smite all the first-born in Egypt, even your first-born, and whatever else was spoken through Moses by God to Pharaoh? For it behooves every one who maintains the truth of what is recorded in Scripture, and who desires to show that the God of the law and the prophets is just, to render a reason for all these things, and to show how there is in them nothing at all derogatory to the justice of God, since, although they deny His goodness, they admit that He is a just judge, and creator of the world. Different, however, is the method of our reply to those who assert that the creator of this world is a maligt being, i.e., a devil. 3.1.9. But to those who think they understand the term hardened, we must address the inquiry, What do they mean by saying that God, by His working, hardens the heart, and with what purpose does He do this? For let them observe the conception of a God who is in reality just and good; but if they will not allow this, let it be conceded to them for the present that He is just; and let them show how the good and just God, or the just God only, appears to be just, in hardening the heart of him who perishes because of his being hardened: and how the just God becomes the cause of destruction and disobedience, when men are chastened by Him on account of their hardness and disobedience. And why does He find fault with him, saying, You will not let My people go; Lo, I will smite all the first-born in Egypt, even your first-born; and whatever else is recorded as spoken from God to Pharaoh through the intervention of Moses? For he who believes that the Scriptures are true, and that God is just, must necessarily endeavour, if he be honest, to show how God, in using such expressions, may be distinctly understood to be just. But if any one should stand, declaring with uncovered head that the Creator of the world was inclined to wickedness, we should need other words to answer them. 3.1.16. There is next brought before us that declaration uttered by the Saviour in the Gospel: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest they should happen to be converted, and their sins be forgiven them. On which our opponent will remark: If those who shall hear more distinctly are by all means to be corrected and converted, and converted in such a manner as to be worthy of receiving the remission of sins, and if it be not in their own power to hear the word distinctly, but if it depend on the Instructor to teach more openly and distinctly, while he declares that he does not proclaim to them the word with clearness, lest they should perhaps hear and understand, and be converted, and be saved, it will follow, certainly, that their salvation is not dependent upon themselves. And if this be so, then we have no free-will either as regards salvation or destruction. Now were it not for the words that are added, Lest perhaps they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them, we might be more inclined to return the answer, that the Saviour was unwilling that those individuals whom He foresaw would not become good, should understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and that therefore He spoke to them in parables; but as that addition follows, Lest perhaps they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them, the explanation is rendered more difficult. And, in the first place, we have to notice what defense this passage furnishes against those heretics who are accustomed to hunt out of the Old Testament any expressions which seem, according to their view, to predicate severity and cruelty of God the Creator, as when He is described as being affected with the feeling of vengeance or punishment, or by any of those emotions, however named, from which they deny the existence of goodness in the Creator; for they do not judge of the Gospels with the same mind and feelings, and do not observe whether any such statements are found in them as they condemn and censure in the Old Testament. For manifestly, in the passage referred to, the Saviour is shown, as they themselves admit, not to speak distinctly, for this very reason, that men may not be converted, and when converted, receive the remission of sins. Now, if the words be understood according to the letter merely, nothing less, certainly, will be contained in them than in those passages which they find fault with in the Old Testament. And if they are of opinion that any expressions occurring in such a connection in the New Testament stand in need of explanation, it will necessarily follow that those also occurring in the Old Testament, which are the subject of censure, may be freed from aspersion by an explanation of a similar kind, so that by such means the passages found in both Testaments may be shown to proceed from one and the same God. But let us return, as we best may, to the question proposed. 3.1.16. There was after this the passage from the Gospel, where the Saviour said, that for this reason did He speak to those without in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand; lest they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them. Now, our opponent will say, If some persons are assuredly converted on hearing words of greater clearness, so that they become worthy of the remission of sins, and if it does not depend upon themselves to hear these words of greater clearness, but upon him who teaches, and he for this reason does not announce them to them more distinctly, lest they should see and understand, it is not within the power of such to be saved; and if so, we are not possessed of free-will as regards salvation and destruction. Effectual, indeed, would be the reply to such arguments, were it not for the addition, Lest they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them,— namely, that the Saviour did not wish those who were not to become good and virtuous to understand the more mystical (parts of His teaching), and for this reason spoke to them in parables; but now, on account of the words, Lest they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them, the defense is more difficult. In the first place, then, we must notice the passage in its bearing on the heretics, who hunt out those portions from the Old Testament where is exhibited, as they themselves daringly assert, the cruelty of the Creator of the world in His purpose of avenging and punishing the wicked, or by whatever other name they wish to designate such a quality, so speaking only that they may say that goodness does not exist in the Creator; and who do not deal with the New Testament in a similar manner, nor in a spirit of candour, but pass by places similar to those which they consider censurable in the Old Testament. For manifestly, and according to the Gospel, is the Saviour shown, as they assert, by His former words, not to speak distinctly for this reason, that men might not be converted, and, being converted, might become deserving of the remission of sins: which statement of itself is nothing inferior to those passages from the Old Testament which are objected to. And if they seek to defend the Gospel, we must ask them whether they are not acting in a blameworthy manner in dealing differently with the same questions; and, while not stumbling against the New Testament, but seeking to defend it, they nevertheless bring a charge against the Old regarding similar points, whereas they ought to offer a defense in the same way of the passages from the New. And therefore we shall force them, on account of the resemblances, to regard all as the writings of one God. Come, then, and let us, to the best of our ability, furnish an answer to the question submitted to us. 3.1.18. Let us now look to the expression, It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. For our opponents assert, that if it does not depend upon him that wills, nor on him that runs, but on God that shows mercy, that a man be saved, our salvation is not in our own power. For our nature is such as to admit of our either being saved or not, or else our salvation rests solely on the will of Him who, if He wills it, shows mercy, and confers salvation. Now let us inquire, in the first place, of such persons, whether to desire blessings be a good or evil act; and whether to hasten after good as a final aim be worthy of praise. If they were to answer that such a procedure was deserving of censure, they would evidently be mad; for all holy men both desire blessings and run after them, and certainly are not blameworthy. How, then, is it that he who is not saved, if he be of an evil nature, desires blessing, and runs after them, but does not find them? For they say that a bad tree does not bring forth good fruits, whereas it is a good fruit to desire blessings. And how is the fruit of a bad tree good? And if they assert that to desire blessings, and to run after them, is an act of indifference, i.e., neither good nor bad, we shall reply, that if it be an indifferent act to desire blessings, and to run after them, then the opposite of that will also be an indifferent act, viz., to desire evils, and to run after them; whereas it is certain that it is not an indifferent act to desire evils, and to run after them, but one that is manifestly wicked. It is established, then, that to desire and follow after blessings is not an indifferent, but a virtuous proceeding. 3.1.18. Let us look next at the passage: So, then, it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. For they who find fault say: If it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy, salvation does not depend upon ourselves, but upon the arrangement made by Him who has formed us such as we are, or on the purpose of Him who shows mercy when he pleases. Now we must ask these persons the following questions: Whether to desire what is good is virtuous or vicious; and whether the desire to run in order to reach the goal in the pursuit of what is good be worthy of praise or censure? And if they shall say that it is worthy of censure, they will return an absurd answer; since the saints desire and run, and manifestly in so acting do nothing that is blameworthy. But if they shall say that it is virtuous to desire what is good, and to run after what is good, we shall ask them how a perishing nature desires better things; for it is like an evil tree producing good fruit, since it is a virtuous act to desire better things. They will give (perhaps) a third answer, that to desire and run after what is good is one of those things that are indifferent, and neither beautiful nor wicked. Now to this we must say, that if to desire and to run after what is good be a thing of indifference, then the opposite also is a thing of indifference, viz., to desire what is evil, and to run after it. But it is not a thing of indifference to desire what is evil, and to run after it. And therefore also, to desire what is good, and to run after it, is not a thing of indifference. Such, then, is the defense which I think we can offer to the statement, that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. Solomon says in the book of Psalms (for the Song of Degrees is his, from which we shall quote the words): Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes in vain: not dissuading us from building, nor teaching us not to keep watch in order to guard the city in our soul, but showing that what is built without God, and does not receive a guard from Him, is built in vain and watched to no purpose, because God might reasonably be entitled the Lord of the building; and the Governor of all things, the Ruler of the guard of the city. As, then, if we were to say that such a building is not the work of the builder, but of God, and that it was not owing to the successful effort of the watcher, but of the God who is over all, that such a city suffered no injury from its enemies, we should not be wrong, it being understood that something also had been done by human means, but the benefit being gratefully referred to God who brought it to pass; so, seeing that the (mere) human desire is not sufficient to attain the end, and that the running of those who are, as it were, athletes, does not enable them to gain the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus — for these things are accomplished with the assistance of God — it is well said that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. As if also it were said with regard to husbandry what also is actually recorded: I planted, Apollos watered; and God gave the increase. So then neither is he that plants anything, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase. Now we could not piously assert that the production of full crops was the work of the husbandman, or of him that watered, but the work of God. So also our own perfection is brought about, not as if we ourselves did nothing; for it is not completed by us, but God produces the greater part of it. And that this assertion may be more clearly believed, we shall take an illustration from the art of navigation. For in comparison with the effect of the winds, and the mildness of the air, and the light of the stars, all co-operating in the preservation of the crew, what proportion could the art of navigation be said to bear in the bringing of the ship into harbour? — since even the sailors themselves, from piety, do not venture to assert often that they had saved the ship, but refer all to God; not as if they had done nothing, but because what had been done by Providence was infinitely greater than what had been effected by their art. And in the matter of our salvation, what is done by God is infinitely greater than what is done by ourselves; and therefore, I think, is it said that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. For if in the manner which they imagine we must explain the statement, that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy, the commandments are superfluous; and it is in vain that Paul himself blames some for having fallen away, and approves of others as having remained upright, and enacts laws for the Churches: it is in vain also that we give ourselves up to desire better things, and in vain also (to attempt) to run. But it is not in vain that Paul gives such advice, censuring some and approving of others; nor in vain that we give ourselves up to the desire of better things, and to the chase after things that are pre-eminent. They have accordingly not well explained the meaning of the passage. 3.4.5. With respect, however, to the following being ranked among the works of the flesh, viz., heresies, and envyings, and contentions, or other (vices), they so understand the passage, that the mind, being rendered grosser in feeling, from its yielding itself to the passions of the body, and being oppressed by the mass of its vices, and having no refined or spiritual feelings, is said to be made flesh, and derives its name from that in which it exhibits more vigour and force of will. They also make this further inquiry, Who will be found, or who will be said to be, the creator of this evil sense, called the sense of the flesh? Because they defend the opinion that there is no other creator of soul and flesh than God. And if we were to assert that the good God created anything in His own creation that was hostile to Himself, it would appear to be a manifest absurdity. If, then, it is written, that carnal wisdom is enmity against God, and if this be declared to be a result of creation, God Himself will appear to have formed a nature hostile to Himself, which cannot be subject to Him nor to His law, as if it were (supposed to be) an animal of which such qualities are predicated. And if this view be admitted, in what respect will it appear to differ from that of those who maintain that souls of different natures are created, which, according to their natures, are destined either to be lost or saved? But this is an opinion of the heretics alone, who, not being able to maintain the justice of God on grounds of piety, compose impious inventions of this kind. And now we have brought forward to the best of our ability, in the person of each of the parties, what might be advanced by way of argument regarding the several views, and let the reader choose out of them for himself that which he thinks ought to be preferred.