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181Chapter XVI.—Argument:  Octavius Arranges His Reply, and Trusts that He Shall Be Able to Dilute the Bitterness of Reproach with the River of Truthful Words.  He Proceeds to Weaken the Individual Arguments of Cæcilius.  Nobody Need Complain that the Christians, Unlearned Though They May Be, Dispute About Heavenly Things Because It is Not the Authority of Him Who Argues, But the Truth of the Argument Itself, that Should Be Considered.

And thus Octavius began:  “I will indeed speak as I shall be able to the best of my powers, and you must endeavour with me to dilute the very offensive strain of recriminations in the river17561756    Some read, “in the light.” of veracious words.  Nor will I disguise in the outset, that the opinion of my friend Natalis17571757    Cæcilius. has swayed to and fro in such an erratic, vague, and slippery manner, that we are compelled to doubt whether your17581758    Otherwise “his.” information was confused, or whether it wavered backwards and forwards17591759    Some read “cavillaverit” instead of “vacillaverit,” which would give the sense, “make captious objections.” by mere mistake.  For he varied at one time from believing the gods, at another time to being in a state of hesitation on the subject; so that the direct purpose of my reply was established with the greater uncertainty,17601760    This is otherwise given “certainty,” which helps the meaning of the passage. by reason of the uncertainty of his proposition.  But in my friend Natalis—I will not allow, I do not believe in, any chicanery—far from his simplicity is crafty trickery.17611761    Otherwise, “Far from his guileless subtlety is so crafty a trickery.”  But the readings are very unsettled.  What then?  As he who knows not the right way, when as it happens one road is separated into many, because he knows not the way, remains in anxiety, and dares neither make choice of particular roads, nor try them all; so, if a man has no stedfast judgment of truth, even as his unbelieving suspicion is scattered, so his doubting opinion is unsettled.  It is therefore no wonder if Cæcilius in the same way is cast about by the tide, and tossed hither and thither among things contrary and repugnant to one another; but that this may no longer be the case, I will convict and refute all that has been said, however diverse, confirming and approving the truth alone; and for the future he must neither doubt nor waver.  And since my brother broke out in such expressions as these, that he was grieved, that he was vexed, that he was indignant, that he regretted that illiterate, poor, unskilled people should dispute about heavenly things; let him know that all men are begotten alike, with a capacity and ability of reasoning and feeling, without preference of age, sex, or dignity.  Nor do they obtain wisdom by fortune, but have it implanted by nature; moreover, the very philosophers themselves, or any others who have gone forth unto celebrity as discoverers of arts, before they attained an illustrious name by their mental skill, were esteemed plebeian, untaught, half-naked.  Thus it is, that rich men, attached to their means, have been accustomed to gaze more upon their gold than upon heaven, while our sort of people, though poor, have both discovered wisdom, and have delivered their teaching to others; whence it appears that intelligence is not given to wealth, nor is gotten by study, but is begotten with the very formation of the mind.  Therefore it is nothing to be angry or to be grieved about, though any one should inquire, should think, should utter his thoughts about divine things; since what is wanted is not the authority of the arguer, but the truth of the argument itself:  and even the more unskilled the discourse, the more evident the reasoning, since it is not coloured by the pomp of eloquence and grace; but as it is, it is sustained by the rule of right.


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