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V. That to Work is Not a Matter of Pain and Weariness to God.

Now to work, and administer, and do good, and exercise care, and such like actions, may perhaps be hard tasks for the idle, and silly, and weak, and wicked; in whose number truly Epicurus reckons himself, when he propounds such notions about the gods. But to the earnest, and powerful, and intelligent, and prudent, such as philosophers ought to be—and how much more so, therefore, the gods!—these things are not only not disagreeable and irksome, but ever the most delightful, and by far the most welcome of all. To persons of this character, negligence and procrastination in the doing of what is good are a reproach, as the poet admonishes them in these words of counsel:—

“Delay not aught till the morrow.”685685    Hesiod’s Works and Days, v. 408.

And then he adds this further sentence of threatening:—

“The lazy procrastinator is ever wrestling with miseries.”686686    Ibid., v. 411.

90And the prophet teaches us the same lesson in a more solemn fashion, and declares that deeds done according to the standard of virtue are truly worthy of God,687687    θεοπρεπῆ. and that the man who gives no heed to these is accursed: “For cursed be he that doeth the works of the Lord carelessly.”688688    ἀμελῶς. Jer. xlviii. 10. Moreover, those who are unversed in any art, and unable to prosecute it perfectly, feel it to be wearisome when they make their first attempts in it, just by reason of the novelty689689    The text gives, διὰ τὸ τῆς πείρας ἀληθές. We adopt Viger’s emendation, ἄηθες. of their experience, and their want of practice in the works. But those, on the other hand, who have made some advance, and much more those who are perfectly trained in the art, accomplish easily and successfully the objects of their labours, and have great pleasure in the work, and would choose rather thus, in the discharge of the pursuits to which they are accustomed, to finish and carry perfectly out what their efforts aim at, than to be made masters of all those things which are reckoned advantageous among men. Yea, Democritus himself, as it is reported, averred that he would prefer the discovery of one true cause to being put in possession of the kingdom of Persia. And that was the declaration of a man who had only a vain and groundless conception of the causes of things,690690    [“Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas.” But see Hippolytus (vol. v.), and compare Clement, vol. ii. pp. 565–567, this series.] inasmuch as he started with an unfounded principle, and an erroneous hypothesis, and did not discern the real root and the common law of necessity in the constitution of natural things, and held as the greatest wisdom the apprehension of things that come about simply in an unintelligent and random way, and set up chance691691    τύχην. as the mistress and queen of things universal, and even things divine, and endeavoured to demonstrate that all things happen by the determination of the same, although at the same time he kept it outside the sphere of the life of men, and convicted those of senselessness who worshipped it. At any rate, at the very beginning of his Precepts692692    ὑποθηκῶν.he speaks thus: “Men have made an image693693    εἴδωλον. of chance, as a cover694694    πρόφασιν. for their own lack of knowledge. For intellect and chance are in their very nature antagonistic to each other.695695    φύσει γὰρ γνώμη τυχῇ μάχεται. Viger refers to the parallel in Tullius, pro Marcello, sec. 7: “Nunquam temeritas cum sapientia commiscetur, nec ad consilium casus admittitur.” And men have maintained that this greatest adversary to intelligence is its sovereign. Yea, rather, they completely subvert and do away with the one, while they establish the other in its place. For they do not celebrate intelligence as the fortunate,696696    εὐτυχῆ. but they laud chance697697    Fortune, τύχην. as the most intelligent.”698698    ἐμφρονεστάτην. Moreover, those who attend to things conducing to the good of life, take special pleasure in what serves the interests of those of the same race with themselves, and seek the recompense of praise and glory in return for labours undertaken in behalf of the general good; while some exert themselves as purveyors of ways and means,699699    τρέφοντες. others as magistrates, others as physicians, others as statesmen; and even philosophers pride themselves greatly in their efforts after the education of men. Will, then, Epicurus or Democritus be bold enough to assert that in the exertion of philosophizing they only cause distress to themselves? Nay, rather they will reckon this a pleasure of mind second to none. For even though they maintain the opinion that the good is pleasure, they will be ashamed to deny that philosophizing is the greater pleasure to them.700700    The text gives, ἡδυ ὄν αὐτοῖς εἶναι τὸ φιλοσοφεῖν. Viger suggests ἡδιον for ἡδυ ὄν. But as to the gods, of whom the poets among them sing that they are the “bestowers of good gifts,”701701    δωτῆρας ἐάων. See Homer, Odyssey, viii. 325 and 335. these philosophers scoffingly celebrate them in strains like these: “The gods are neither the bestowers nor the sharers in any good thing.” And in what manner, forsooth, can they demonstrate that there are gods at all, when they neither perceive their presence, nor discern them as the doers of aught, wherein, indeed, they resemble those who, in their admiration and wonder at the sun and the moon and the stars, have held these to have been named gods,702702    θέούς. from their running703703    διὰ τὸ θέειν. such courses: when, further, they do not attribute to them any function or power of operation,704704    δημιουργίαν αὐτοῖς ἢ κατασκευήν. so as to hold them gods705705    θεοποιησωσιν. from their constituting,706706    ἐκ τοῦ θεῖναι. that is, from their making objects,707707    ποιῆσαι. for thereby in all truth the one maker and operator of all things must be God: and when, in fine, they do not set forth any administration, or judgment, or beneficence of theirs in relation to men, so that we might be bound either by fear or by reverence to worship them? Has Epicurus then been able, forsooth, to see beyond this world, and to overpass the precincts of heaven? or has he gone forth by some secret gates known to himself alone, and thus obtained sight of the gods in the void?708708    The text gives, οὓς ἐν τῷ κενῷ κατεῖδε θεούς. Viger proposes τούς for οὕς. and, deeming them blessed in their full felicity, and then becoming himself a passionate aspirant after such pleasure, and an ardent scholar in that life which they pursue in the void, does he now 91call upon all to participate in this felicity, and urge them thus to make themselves like the gods, preparing709709    συγκροτῶν. as their true symposium of blessedness neither heaven nor Olympus, as the poets feign, but the sheer void, and setting before them the ambrosia of atoms,710710    For ἀτόμων Viger suggests ἀτμῶν, “of vapours.” and pledging them in711711    Or, giving them to drink. nectar made of the same? However, in matters which have no relation to us, he introduces into his books a myriad oaths and solemn asseverations, swearing constantly both negatively and affirmatively by Jove, and making those whom he meets, and with whom he discusses his doctrines, swear also by the gods, not certainly that he fears them himself, or has any dread of perjury, but that he pronounces all this to be vain, and false, and idle, and unintelligible, and uses it simply as a kind of accompaniment to his words, just as he might also clear his throat, or spit, or twist his face, or move his hand. So completely senseless and empty a pretence was this whole matter of the naming of the gods, in his estimation. But this is also a very patent fact, that, being in fear of the Athenians after (the warning of) the death of Socrates, and being desirous of preventing his being taken for what he really was—an atheist—the subtle charlatan invented for them certain empty shadows of unsubstantial gods. But never surely did he look up to heaven with eyes of true intelligence, so as to hear the clear voice from above, which another attentive spectator did hear, and of which he testified when he said, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.”712712    Ps. xix. 1. And never surely did he look down upon the world’s surface with due reflection; for then would he have learned that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord”713713    Ps. xxxiii. 5. and that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof;”714714    Ps. xxiv. 1. and that, as we also read, “After this the Lord looked upon the earth, and filled it with His blessings. With all manner of living things hath He covered the face thereof.”715715    Ecclus. xvi. 29, 30. And if these men are not hopelessly blinded, let them but survey the vast wealth and variety of living creatures, land animals, and winged creatures, and aquatic; and let them understand then that the declaration made by the Lord on the occasion of His judgment of all things716716    The text is, ἐπὶ τῇ πάντων κρίσει. Viger suggests κτίσει, “at the creation of all things.” is true: “And all things, in accordance with His command, appeared good.”717717    The quotation runs thus: καὶ πάντα κατὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ πρόσταξιν πέφηνε καλά. Eusebius adds the remark here: “These passages have been culled by me out of a very large number composed against Epicurus by Dionysius, a bishop of our own time.” [Among the many excellent works which have appeared against the “hopelessly blinded” Epicureans of this age, let me note Darwinism tested by Language, by E. Bateman, M.D. London, Rivingtons, 1877.]


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