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The Life Of The Blessed Emperor Constantine -Eusebius Pamphilus

THE great majority, however, in their folly, ascribe the regulation of the universe to nature, while some imagine fate, or accident, to be the cause. With regard to those who attribute the control of all things to fate, they know not that in using this term they utter a mere word, but designate no active power, nor anything which has real and substantial existence. For what can this fate be, considered in itself, if nature be the first cause of all things? Or what shall we suppose nature itself to be, if the law of fate be inviolable? Indeed, the very assertion that there is a law of fate implies that such law is the work of a legislator: if therefore fate itself be a law, it must be a law devised by God. All things, therefore, are subject to God, and nothing is beyond the sphere of His power. If it be said that fate is the will of God, and is so considered, we admit the fact. But in what respect do justice, or self-control, or the other virtues, depend on fate? From whence, if so, do their contraries, as injustice and intemperance, proceed? For vice has its origin from nature, not from fate; and virtue is the due regulation of natural character and disposition. But, granting that the varied results of actions (whether right or erroneous in themselves) depend on fortune or fate: in what sense can the general principle of justice, the principle of rendering to every one his due, be ascribed to fate? Or how can it be said that laws, encouragements to virtue and dissuasives from what is evil, praise, blame, punishment, in short whatever operates as a motive to virtue, and deters from the practice of vice, derive their origin from fortune or accident, and not rather from that justice which is a characteristic attribute of the God of providence? For the events which befall men are consequent upon the tenour of their lives. Hence pestilence or sedition, famine and plenty, succeed in turn, declaring plainly and emphatically that all these things are regulated with reference to our course of life. For the Divine Being delights in goodness, but turns with aversion from all impiety; looks with acceptance on the humble spirit, but abhors presumption, and that pride which exalts itself above what becomes a creature. And though the proofs of these truths are clear and manifest to our sight, they appear in a still stronger light, when we collect, and as it were concentrate our thoughts within ourselves, and ponder their causes with deep attention. I say, then, that it becomes us to lead a life of sobriety and gentleness, not suffering our thoughts to rise proudly above our natural condition, and ever mindful that God is near us, and is the observer of all our actions. But let us still further examine the statement, that the order of the universe depends on chance or accident. Are we then to suppose that the stars and other heavenly bodies, the earth and sea, fire and wind, water and air, the succession of the seasons, the recurrence of summer and winter, that all these have an undesigned and fortuitous existence, and not rather that they proceed from the creative hand of God? Some, indeed, are so senseless as to say that most of these things have been devised by mankind for their own benefit. Let it be admitted that this opinion has a semblance of reason in regard to earthly and corruptible things (though nature herself supplies every good with a lavish hand); can we believe that things which are immortal and unchangeable are the inventions of men? These, indeed, and all things else which are beyond the reach of our senses, and comprehended by the intellect alone, receive their being, not from the material life of man, but from the spiritual and eternal essence of God. Again, the orderly arrangement of these things is the work of His providence: for instance, the brightness which the day derives from the radiance of the sun; the succession of night at his setting, and the starry host by which night itself is redeemed from total darkness. And what shall we say of the moon, which when most distant from, and opposite to the sun, is filled with light, but wanes in proportion to the nearness of her approach to him? Do not these things manifestly evince the intelligence and sagacious wisdom of God? Add to this that needful warmth of the solar rays which ripens the fruits of the earth; the currents of wind, so conducive to the fertility of the seasons; the cool and refreshing showers; and the universal harmony and wise uniformity of arrangement which governs all these things: lastly, the everlasting order of the planets, which return to the self-same place at their appointed times: are not all these (as well as the perfect ministry of the stars, obedient to a divine law) evident proofs of the ordinance of God? Again, do the mountain heights, the deep and hollow vallies, the level and extensive plains (useful as they are, as well as pleasing to the eye), appear to exist independently of the will of God? Or do not the proportion and alternate succession of land and water (serviceable, the one for husbandry, the other for the transport of foreign produce) afford a clear demonstration of His exact and perfect providential care? For instance, the mountains contain a store of water, which the level ground receives, and after imbibing sufficient for the renovation of the soil, passes the residue onward to the ocean. And still we dare to say that all these things happen by chance, and evince no design; unable though we be to shew by what shape or form this chance is represented; a thing which has neither intellectual nor sensible existence; which rings in our ears as the mere sound of an unsubstantial name!



Image or Constantine is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. Attribution: I, Jean-Christophe Benoist





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