Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 7: 7.01.30 Lactantius - Workmanship of God - Ch 11-End

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Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 7: 7.01.30 Lactantius - Workmanship of God - Ch 11-End

TOPIC: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 7 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 7.01.30 Lactantius - Workmanship of God - Ch 11-End

Other Subjects in this Topic:

Lactantius (Cont.)

On the Workmanship of God, or the Formation of Man. (Cont.)

A Treatise Addressed to His Pupil Demetrianus. (Cont.)

Chap. XI. - Of The Intestines in Man, and Their Use.

It necessarily follows that I should begin to speak of the inward parts also, to which has been assigned not beauty, because they are concealed from view, but incredible utility, since it was necessary that this earthly body should be nourished with some moisture from food and drink, as the earth itself is by showers and frosts. The most provident Artificer placed in the middle of it a receptacle for articles of food, by means of which, when digested and liquefied, it might distribute the vital juices to all the members. But since man is composed of body and soul, that receptacle of which I have spoken above affords nourishment only to the body; to the soul, in truth, He has given another abode. For He has made a kind of intestines soft and thin,83 which we call the lungs, into which the breath might pass by an alternate interchange;84 and He did not form this after the fashion of the uterus, lest the breath should all at once be poured forth, or at once inflate it. And on this account He did not make it a full intestine,85 but capable of being inflated, and admitting the air, so that it might gradually receive the breath; while the vital air is spread through that thinness, and might again gradually give it back, while it spreads itself forth from it: for the very alternation of blowing and breathing,86 and the process of respiration, support life in the body.

Since, therefore, there are in man two receptacles, - one of the air which nourishes the soul,87 the other of the food which nourishes the body, - there must be two tubes88 through the neck for food, and for breath, the upper of which leads from the mouth to the belly, the lower from the nostrils to the lungs. And the plan and nature of these are different: for the passage which is from the mouth has been made soft, and which when closed always adheres89 to itself, as the mouth itself; since drink and food, being corporeal, make for themselves a space for passage, by moving aside and opening the gullet. The breath, on the other hand, which is incorporeal and thin, because it was unable to make for itself a space, has received an open way, which is called the windpipe. This is composed of flexible and soft bones, as though of rings fitted together after the manner of a hemlock stalk,90 and adhering together; and this passage is always open. For the breath can have no cessation in passing; because it, which is always passing to and fro, is checked as by a kind of obstacle through means of a portion of a member usefully sent down from the brain, and which is called the uvula, lest, drawn by pestilential air, 293 it should come with impetuosity and spoil the slightness91 of its abode, or bring the whole violence of the injury upon the inner receptacles. And on this account also the nostrils are slightly open, which are therefore so named, because either smell or breath does not cease to flow92 through these, which are, as it were, the doors of this tube. Yet this breathing-tube lies open93 not only to the nostrils, but also to the mouth in the extreme regions of the palate, where the risings of94 the jaws, looking towards the uvula, begin to raise themselves into a swelling. And the reason of this arrangement is not obscure: for we should not have the power of speaking if the windpipe were open to the nostrils only, as the path of the gullet is to the mouth only; nor could the breath proceeding from it cause the voice, without the service of the tongue.

Therefore the divine skill opened a way for the voice from that breathing-tube, so that the tongue might be able to discharge its office, and by its strokes divide into words the even95 course of the voice itself. And this passage, if by any means it is intercepted, must necessarily cause dumbness. For he is assuredly mistaken, whoever thinks that there is any other cause why men are dumb. For they are not tongue-tied, as is commonly believed; but they pour forth that vocal breath through the nostrils, as though bellowing,96 because there is either no passage at all for the voice to the mouth, or it is not so open as to be able to send forth the full voice. And this generally comes to pass by nature; sometimes also it happens by accident that this entrance is blocked up and does not transmit the voice to the tongue, and thus makes those who can speak dumb. And when this happens, the hearing also must necessarily be blocked up; so that because it cannot emit the voice, it is also incapable of admitting it. Therefore this passage has been opened for the purpose of speaking. It also affords this advantage, that in frequenting the bath,97 because the nostrils are not able to endure the heat, the hot air is taken in by the mouth; also, if phlegm contracted by cold shall have happened to stop up the breathing pores of the nostrils, we may be able to draw the air through the mouth, lest, if the passage98 should be obstructed, the breath should be stifled. But the food being received into the stomach, and mixed with the moisture of the drink, when it has now been digested by the heat, its juice, being in an indescribable manner diffused through the limbs, bedews and invigorates the whole body.

The manifold coils also of the intestines, and their length rolled together on themselves, and yet fastened with one band, are a wonderful work of God. For when the stomach has sent forth from itself the food softened, it is gradually thrust forth through those windings of the intestines, so that whatever of the moisture by which the body is nourished is in them, is divided to all the members. And yet, lest in any place it should happen to adhere and remain fixed, which might have taken place on account of the turnings of the coils,99 which often turn back to themselves, and which could not have happened without injury, He has spread over100 these from within a thicker juice, that the secretions of the belly might more easily work their way through the slippery substance to their outlets. It is also a most skilful arrangement, that the bladder, which birds do not use, though it is separated from the intestines, and has no tube by which it may draw the urine from them, is nevertheless filled and distended with moisture. And it is not difficult to see how this comes to pass. For the parts of the intestines which receive the food and drink from the belly are more open than the other coils, and much more delicate. These entwine themselves around and encompass the bladder; and when the meat and the drink have arrived at these parts in a mixed state, the excrement becomes more solid, and passes through, but all the moisture is strained through those tender parts,101 and the bladder, the membrane of which is equally fine and delicate, absorbs and collects it, so as to send it forth where nature has opened an outlet.

Chap. XII. - De Utero, et Conceptione Atque Sexibus.102

De utero quoque et conceptione, quoniam de internis loquimur, dici necesse est, ne quid præterisse videamur; quæ quamquam in operto latent, sensum tamen atque intelligentiam latere non possunt. Vena in maribus, quæ seminium continet, duplex est, paulo interior, quam illud humoris obscœni receptaculum. Sicut enim renes duo sunt, itemque testes, ita et venæ seminales duæ, in una tamen compage cohærentes; quod videmus in corporibus animalium, cum interfecta103 patefiunt. Sed illa dexterior masculinum continet semen, sinisterior fœmininum; et omnino in toto corpore pars dextra masculina est, sinistra veto fœminina. Ipsum semen quidam putant ex medullis tantum, quidam 294 ex omni corpore ad venam genitalem confluere, ibique concrescere. Sed hoc, humana mens, quomodo fiat, non potest comprehendere. Item in fœminis uterus in duas se dividit partes, quæ in diversum diffussae ac reflexæ, circumplicantur, sicut arietis cornua. Quæ pars in dextram retorquetur, masculina est; quæ in sinistram, fœminina.

Conceptum igitur Varro et Aristoteles sic fieri arbitrantur. Aiunt non tantum maribus inesse semen, verum etiam fœminis, et inde plerumque matribus similes procreari; sed earum semen sanguinem esse purgatum, quod si recte cum virili mixtum sit, utraque concreta et simul coagulata informari: et primum quidem cor hominis effingi, quod in eo sit et vita omnis et sapientia; denique totum opus quadragesimo die consummari. Ex abortionibus hæc fortasse collecta sunt. In avium tamen fœtibus primum oculos fingi dubium non est, quod in ovis sæpe deprehendimus. Unde fieri non posse arbitror, quin fictio a capite sumat exordium.

Similitudines autem in corporibus filiorum sic fieri putant. Cum semina inter se permixta coalescunt, si virile superaverit, patri similem provenire, seu marem, seu fœminam; si muliebre prævaluerit, progeniem cujusque sexus ad imaginem respondere maternam. Id autem prævalet e duobus, quod fuerit uberius; alterum enim quodammodo amplectitur et includit: hinc plerumque fieri, ut unius tantum lineamenta prætendat. Si vero æqua fuerit ex pari semente permixtio, figuras quoque misceri, ut soboles illa communis aut neutrum referre videatur, quia totum ex altero non habet; aut utrumque, quia partem de singulis mutuata est. Nam in corporibus animalium videmus aut confundi parentum colores, ac fieri tertium neutri generantium simile; aut utriusque sic exprimi, ut discoloribus membris per omne corpus concors mixtura varietur. Dispares quoque naturæ hoc modo fieri putantur. Cum forte in lævam uteri partem masculinæ stirpis semen inciderit, marem quidem gigni opinatio est; sed quia sit in fœminina parte conceptus, aliquid in se habere fœmineum, supra quam decus virile patiatur; vel formam insignem, vel nimium candorem, vel corporis levitatem, vel artus delicatos, vel staturam brevem, vel vocem gracilem, vel animum imbecillum, vel ex his plura. Item, si partem in dextram semen fœminini sexus influxerit, fœminam quidem procreari; sed quoniam in masculina parte concepta sit, habere in se aliquid virilitatis, ultra quam sexus ratio permittat; aut valida membra, aut immoderatam longitudinem, aut fuscum colorem, aut hispidam faciem, aut vultum indecorum, aut vocem robustam, aut animum audacem, aut ex his plura.

Si verò masculinum in dexteram, fœmininum in sinistram pervenerit, utrosque fœtus recte provenire; ut et fœminis per omnia naturæ suæ decus constet, et maribus tam mente, quam corpore robur virile servetur. Istud vero ipsum quam mirabile institutum Dei, quod ad conservationem generum singulorum, duos sexus maris ac fœminæ machinatus est; quibus inter se per voluptatis illecebras copulatis, successiva soboles pareretur, ne omne genus viventium conditio mortalitatis extingueret. Sed plus roboris maribus attributum est, quo facilius ad patientiam jugi maritalis fœminæ cogerentur. Vir itaque nominatus est, quod major in eo vis est, quàm in fœmina; et hinc virtus nomen accepit. Item mulier (ut Varro interpretatur) a mollitie, immutata et detracta littera, velut mollier; cui suscepto fœtu, cum partus appropinquare jam cœpit, turgescentes mammæ dulcibus succis distenduntur, et ad nutrimenta nascentis fontibus lacteis fœcundum pectus exuberat. Nec enim decebat aliud quàm ut sapiens animal a corde alimoniam duceret. Idque ipsum solertissimè comparatum est, ut candens ac pinguis humor teneritudinem novi corporis irrigaret, donec ad capiendos fortiores cibos, et dentibus instruatur, et viribus roboretur. Sed redeamus ad propositum, ut cætera, quæ supersunt, breviter explicemus.

Chap. XIII. - Of the Lower Members.

Poteram nunc ego ipsorum quoque genitalium membrorum mirificam rationem tibi exponere, nisi me pudor ab hujusmodi sermone revocaret: itaque a nobis indumento verecundiæ, quæ sunt pudenda velentur. Quod ad hanc rem attinet, queri satis est, homines impios ac profanos summum nefas admittere, qui divinum et admirabile Dei opus, ad propagandam successionem inexcogitabili ratione provisum et effectum, vel ad turpissimos quæstus, vel ad obscœnæ libidinis pudenda opera convertunt, ut jam nihil aliud ex re sanctissima petant, quam inanem et sterilem voluptatem.

How is it with respect to the other parts of the body? Are they without order and beauty? The flesh rounded off into the nates, how adapted to the office of sitting! and this also more firm than in the other limbs, lest by the pressure of the bulk of the body it should give way to the bones. Also the length of the thighs drawn out, and strengthened by broader muscles, in order that it might more easily sustain the weight of the body; and as this is gradually contracted, it is bounded104 by the knees, the comely joints105 of which supply a bend which is most adapted for walking and sitting. Also the legs not drawn out in an equal manner, lest an unbecoming figure should deform the feet; but they are at once strengthened and adorned by 295 well-turned106 calves gently standing out and gradually diminishing.

But in the soles of the feet there is the same plan as in the hands, but yet very different: for since these are, as it were, the foundations of the whole body,107 the admirable Artificer has not made them of a round appearance, lest man should be unable to stand, or should need other feet for standing, as is the case with quadrupeds; but He has formed them of a longer and more extended shape, that they might make the body firm by their flatness,108 from which circumstance their name was given to them. The toes are of the same number with the fingers, for the sake of appearance rather than utility; and on this account they are both joined together, and short, and put together by gradations; and that which is the greatest of these, since it was not befitting that it should be separated from the others, as in the hand, has been so arranged in order, that it appears to differ from the others in magnitude and the small space which intervenes. This beautiful union109 of them strengthens the pressure of the feet with no slight aid; for we cannot be excited to running, unless, our toes being pressed against the ground, and resting upon the soil, we take an impetus and a spring. I appear to have explained all things of which the plan is capable of being understood. I now come to those things which are either doubtful or obscure.

Chap. XIV. - Of the Unknown Purpose of Some of the Intestines.

It is evident that there are many things in the body, the force and purpose of which no one can perceive but He who made them. Can any one suppose that he is able to relate what is the advantage, and what the effect, of that slight transparent membrane by which the stomach is netted over and covered? What the twofold resemblance of the kidneys? which Varro says are so named because streams of foul moisture arise from these; which is far from being the case, because, rising on either side of the spine, they are united, and are separated from the intestines. What is the use of the spleen? What of the liver? Organs which appear as it were to be made up110 of disordered blood. What of the very bitter moisture of the gall? What of the heart? unless we shall happen to think that they ought to be believed, who think that the affection of anger is placed in the gall, that of fear in the heart, of joy in the spleen. But they will have it that the office of the liver is, by its embrace and heat, to digest the food in the stomach; some think that the desires of the amorous passions are contained in the liver.

First of all, the acuteness of the human sense is unable to perceive these things, because their offices lie concealed; nor, when laid open, do they show their uses. For, if it were so, perhaps the more gentle animals would either have no gall at all, or less than the wild beasts; the more timid ones would have more heart, the more lustful would have more liver, the more playful more spleen. As, therefore, we perceive that we hear with our ears, that we see with our eyes, that we smell with our nostrils; so assuredly we should perceive that we are angry with the gall, that we desire with the liver, that we rejoice with the spleen. Since, therefore, we do not at all perceive from what part those affections come, it is possible that they may come from another source, and that those organs may have a different effect to that which we suppose. We cannot prove, however, that they who discuss these things speak falsely. But I think that all things which relate to the motions of the mind and soul, are of so obscure and profound a nature, that it is beyond the power of man to see through them clearly. This, however, ought to be sure and undoubted, that so many objects and so many organs have one and the same office - to retain the soul in the body. But what office is particularly assigned to each, who can know, except the Designer, to whom alone His own work is known?

Chap. XV. - Of the Voice.

But what account can we give of the voice? Grammarians, indeed, and philosophers, define the voice to be air struck by the breath; from which words111 derive their name: which is plainly false. For the voice is not produced outside of the mouth, but within, and therefore that opinion is more probable, that the breath, being compressed, when it has struck against the obstacle presented by the throat, forces out the sound of the voice: as when we send down the breath into an open hemlock stalk, having applied it to the lips, and the breath, reverberating from the hollow of the stalk, and rolled back from the bottom, while it returns112 to that descending through meeting with itself, striving for an outlet, produces a sound; and the wind, rebounding by itself, is animated into vocal breath. Now, whether this is true, God, who is the designer, may see. For the voice appears to arise not from the mouth, but from the innermost breast. In fine, even when the mouth is closed, a sound such as is possible is emitted from the nostrils. 296 Moreover, also, the voice is not affected by that greatest breath with which we gasp, but with a light and not compressed breath, as often as we wish. It has not therefore been comprehended in what manner it takes place, or what it is altogether. And do not imagine that I am now falling into the opinion of the Academy, for all things are not incomprehensible. For as it must be confessed that many things are unknown, since God has willed that they should exceed the understanding of man; so, however, it must be acknowledged that there are many which may both be perceived by the senses and comprehended by the reason. But we shall devote an entire treatise to the refutation of the philosophers. Let us therefore finish the course over which we are now running.

Chap. XVI. - Of the Mind and Its Seat.

That the nature of the mind is also incomprehensible, who can be ignorant, but he who is altogether destitute of mind, since it is not known in what place the mind is situated, or of what nature it is? Therefore various things have been discussed by philosophers concerning its nature and place. But I will not conceal what my own sentiments are: not that I should affirm that it is so - for in a doubtful matter it is the part of a foolish person to do this; but that when I have set forth the difficulty of the matter, you may understand how great is the magnitude off the divine works. Some would have it, that the seat of the mind is in the breast. But if this is so, how wonderful is it, that a faculty which is situated in an obscure and dark habitation should be employed in so great a light of reason and intelligence; then that the senses from every part of the body come together to it, so that it appears to be present in any quarter of the limbs! Others have said that its seat is in the brain: and, indeed, they have used probable arguments, saying that it was doubtless befitting that that which had the government of the whole body should especially have its abode in the highest place, as though in the citadel of the body; and that nothing should be in a more elevated position than that which governs the whole by reason, just as the Lord Himself, and Ruler of the universe, is in the highest place. Then they say, that the organs which are the ministers of each sense, that is, of hearing, and seeing, and smelling, are situated in the head, and that the channels of all these lead not to the breast, but to the brain: otherwise we must be more slow in the exercise of our senses, until the power of sensation by a long course should descend through the neck even to the breast. These, in truth, do not greatly err, or perchance not at all. For the mind, which exercises control over the body, appears to be placed in the highest part, the head, as God is in heaven; but when it is engaged in any reflection, it appears to pass to the breast, and, as it were, to withdraw to some secret recess, that it may elicit and draw forth counsel, as it were, from a hidden treasury. And therefore, when we are intent upon reflection, and when the mind, being occupied, has withdrawn itself to the inner depth,113 we are accustomed neither to hear the things which sound about us, nor to see the things which stand in our way. But whether this is the case, it is assuredly a matter of admiration how this takes place, since there is no passage from the brain to the breast. But if it is not so, nevertheless it is no less a matter of admiration that, by some divine plan or other, it is caused that it appears to be so. Can any fail to admire that that living and heavenly faculty which is called the mind or the soul, is of such volubility114 that it does not rest even then when it is asleep; of such rapidity, that it surveys the whole heaven at one moment of time; and, if it wills, flies over seas, traverses lands and cities, - in short, places in its own sight all things which it pleases, however far and widely they are removed?

And does any one wonder if the divine mind of God, being extended115 through all parts of the universe, runs to and fro, and rules all things, governs all things, being everywhere present, everywhere diffused; when the strength and power of the human mind, though enclosed within a mortal body, is so great, that it can in no way be restrained even by the barriers of this heavy and slothful body, to which it is bound, from bestowing upon itself, in its impatience of rest, the power of wandering without restraint? Whether, therefore, the mind has its dwelling in the head or in the breast, can any one comprehend what power of reason effects, that that incomprehensible faculty either remains fixed in the marrow of the brain, or in that blood divided into two parts116 which is enclosed in the heart; and not infer from this very circumstance how great is the power of God, because the soul does not see itself, or of what nature or where it is; and if it did see, yet it would not be able to perceive in what manner an incorporeal substance is united with one which is corporeal? Or if the mind has no fixed locality, but runs here and there scattered through the whole body, - which is possible, and was asserted by Xenocrates, the disciple of Plato, - then, inasmuch as intelligence is present in every part of 297 the body, it cannot be understood what that mind is, or what its qualities are, since its nature is so subtle and refined, that, though infused into solid organs by a living and, as it were, ardent perception, it is mingled with all the members.

But take care that you never think it probable, as Aristoxenus said, that the mind has no existence, but that the power of perception exists from the constitution of the body and the construction of the organs, as harmony does in the case of the lyre. For musicians call the stretching and sounding of the strings to entire strains, without any striking of notes in agreement with them, harmony. They will have it, therefore, that the soul in man exists in a manner like that by which harmonious modulation exists on the lyre; namely, that the firm uniting of the separate parts of the body and the vigour of all the limbs agreeing together, makes that perceptible motion, and adjusts117 the mind, as well-stretched things produce harmonious sound. And as, in the lyre, when anything has been interrupted or relaxed, the whole method of the strain is disturbed and destroyed; so in the body, when any part of the limbs receives an injury, the whole are weakened, and all being corrupted and thrown into confusion, the power of perception is destroyed: and this is called death. But he, if he had possessed any mind, would never have transferred harmony from the lyre to man. For the lyre cannot of its own accord send forth a sound, so that there can be in this any comparison and resemblance to a living person; but the soul both reflects and is moved of its own accord. But if there were in us anything resembling harmony, it would be moved by a blow from without, as the strings of the lyre are by the hands; whereas without the handling of the artificer, and the stroke of the fingers, they lie mute and motionless. But doubtless he118 ought to have beaten by the hand, that he might at length observe; for his mind, badly compacted From his members, was in a state of torpor.

Chap. XVII. - Of the Soul, and the Opinion of Philosophers Concerning It.

It remains to speak of the soul, although its system and nature cannot be perceived. Nor, therefore, do we fail to understand that the soul is immortal, since whatever is vigorous and is in motion by itself at all times, and cannot be seen or touched, must be eternal. But what the soul is, is not yet agreed upon by philosophers, and perhaps will never be agreed upon. For some have said that it is blood, others that it is fire, others wind, from which it has received its name of anima, or animus, because in Greek the wind is called anemos,119 and yet none of these appears to have spoken anything. For if the soul appears to be extinguished when the blood is poured forth through a wound, or is exhausted by the heat of fevers, it does not therefore follow that the system of the soul is to be placed in the material of the blood; as though a question should arise as to the nature of the light which we make use of, and the answer should be given that it is oil, for when that is consumed the light is extinguished: since they are plainly different, but the one is the nourishment of the other. Therefore the soul appears to be like light, since it is not itself blood, but is nourished by the moisture of the blood, as light is by oil.

But they who have supposed it to be fire made use of this argument, that when the soul is present the body is warm, but on its departure the body grows cold. But fire is both without perception and is seen, and burns when touched. But the soul is both endowed with perception and cannot be seen, and does not burn. From which it is evident that the soul is something like God. But they who suppose that it is wind are deceived by this, because we appear to live by drawing breath from the air. Varro gives this definition: “The soul is air conceived in the mouth, warmed in the lungs, heated in the heart, diffused into the body.” These things are most plainly false. For I say that the nature of things of this kind is not so obscure, that we do not even understand what cannot be true. If any one should say to me that the heaven is of brass, or crystal, or, as Empedocles says, that it is frozen air, must I at once assent because I do not know of what material the heaven is? For as I know not this, I know that. Therefore the soul is not air conceived in the mouth, because the soul is produced much before air can be conceived in the mouth. For it is not introduced into the body after birth, as it appears to some philosophers, but immediately after conception, when the divine necessity has formed the offspring in the womb; for it so lives within the bowels of its mother, that it is increased in growth, and delights to bound with repeated beatings. In short, there must be a miscarriage if the living young within shall die. The other parts of the definition have reference to this, that during those nine months in which we were in the womb we appear to have been dead. None, therefore. of these three opinions is true. We cannot, however, say that they who held these sentiments were false to such an extent that they said nothing at all; for we live at once by the blood, and heat, and breath. But since the soul 298 exists in the body by the union of all these, they did not express what it was in its own proper sense;120 for as it cannot be seen, so it cannot be expressed.

Chap. XVIII. - Of the Soul and the Mind, and Their Affections.

There follows another, and in itself an inexplicable inquiry: Whether the soul and the mind are the same, or there be one faculty by which we live, and another by which we perceive and have discernment.121 There are not wanting arguments on either side. For they who say that they are one faculty make use of this argument, that we cannot live without perception, nor perceive without life, and therefore that that which is incapable of separation cannot be different; but that whatever it is, it has the office of living and the method of perception. On which account two122 Epicurean poets speak of the mind and the soul indifferently. But they who say that they are different argue in this way: That the mind is one thing, and the soul another, may be understood from this, that the mind may be extinguished while the soul is uninjured, which is accustomed to happen in the case of the insane; also, that the soul is put to rest123 by death, the mind by sleep, and indeed in such a manner that it is not only ignorant of what is taking place,124 or where it is, but it is even deceived by the contemplation of false objects. And how this takes place cannot accurately be perceived; why it takes place can be perceived. For we can by no means rest unless the mind is kept occupied by the similitudes125 of visions. But the mind lies hid, oppressed with sleep, as fire buried126 by ashes drawn over it; but if you stir it a little it again blazes, and, as it were, wakes up.127 Therefore it is called away by images,128 until the limbs, bedewed with sleep, are invigorated; for the body while the perception is awake, although it lies motionless, yet is not at rest, because the perception burns in it, and vibrates as a flame, and keeps all the limbs bound to itself.

But when the mind is transferred from its application to the contemplation of images, then at length the whole body is resolved into rest. But the mind is transferred from dark thought, when, under the influence of darkness, it has begun to be alone with itself. While it is intent upon those things concerning which it is reflecting, sleep suddenly creeps on, and the thought itself imperceptibly turns aside to the nearest appearances:129 thus it begins also to see those things which it had placed before its eyes. Then it proceeds further, and finds diversions130 for itself, that it may not interrupt the most healthy repose of the body. For as the mind is diverted in the day by true sights, so that it does not sleep; so is it diverted in the night by false sights, so that it is not aroused. For if it perceives no images, it will follow of necessity either that it is awake, or that it is asleep in perpetual death. Therefore the system of dreaming has been given by God for the sake of sleeping; and, indeed, it has been given to all animals in common; but this especially to man, that when God gave this system on account of rest, He left to Himself the power of teaching man future events by means of the dream.131 For narratives often testify that there have been dreams which have had an immediate and a remarkable accomplishment,132 and the answers of our prophets have been after the character of a dream.133 On which account they are not always true, nor always false, as Virgil testified,134 who supposed that there were two gates for the passage of dreams. But those which are false are seen for the sake of sleeping; those which are true are sent by God, that by this revelation we may learn impending goods or evils.

Chap. XIX. - Of the Soul, and It Given by God.

A question also may arise respecting this, whether the soul is produced from the father, or rather from the mother, or indeed from both. But I think that this judgment is to be formed as though in a doubtful matter.135 For nothing is true of these three opinions, because souls are produced neither from both nor from either. For a body may be produced from a body, since something is contributed from both; but a soul cannot be produced from souls, because nothing can depart from a slight and incomprehensible subject. Therefore the manner of the production of souls belongs entirely to God alone.

“In fine, we are all sprung from a heavenly seed, all all have that same Father.”

as Lucretius136 says. For nothing but what is mortal can be generated from mortals. Nor ought he to be deemed a father who in no way 299 perceives that he has transmitted or breathed a soul from his own; nor, if he perceives it, comprehends in his mind when or in what manner that effect is produced.

From this it is evident that souls are not given by parents, but by one and the same God and Father of all, who alone has the law and method of their birth, since He alone produces them. For the part of the earthly parent is nothing more than with a sense of pleasure to emit the moisture of the body, in which is the material of birth, or to receive it; and to this work man’s power is limited,137 nor has he any further power. Therefore men wish for the birth of sons, because they do not themselves bring it about. Everything beyond this is the work of God, - namely, the conception itself, and the moulding of the body, and the breathing in of life, and the bringing forth in safety, and whatever afterwards contributes to the preservation of man: it is His gift that we breathe, that we live, and are vigorous. For, besides that we owe it to His bounty that we are safe in body, and that He supplies us with nourishment from various sources, He also gives to man wisdom, which no earthly father can by any means give; and therefore it often happens that foolish sons are born from wise parents, and wise sons from foolish parents, which some persons attribute to fate and the stars. But this is not now the time to discuss the subject of fate. It is sufficient to say this, that even if the stars hold together the efficacy of all things, it is nevertheless certain that all things are done by God, who both made and set in order the stars themselves. They are therefore senseless who detract this power from God, and assign it to His work.

He would have it, therefore, to be in our own power, whether we use or do not use this divine and excellent gift of God. For, having granted this, He bound man himself by the mystery138 of virtue, by which he might be able to gain life. For great is the power, great the reason, great the mysterious purpose of man; and if any one shall not abandon this, nor betray his fidelity and devotedness, he must be happy: he, in short, to sum up the matter in few words, must of necessity resemble God. For he is in error whosoever judges of139 man by his flesh. For this worthless body140 with which we are clothed is the receptacle of man.141 For man himself can neither be touched, nor looked upon, nor grasped, because he lies hidden within this body, which is seen. And if he shall be more luxurious and delicate in this life than its nature demands, if he shall despise virtue, and give himself to the pursuit of fleshly lusts, he will fall and be pressed down to the earth; but if (as his duty is) he shall readily and constantly maintain his position, which is right for him, and he has rightly obtained,142 - if he shall not be enslaved to the earth, which he ought to trample upon and overcome, he will gain eternal life.

Chap. XX. - Of Himself and the Truth.

These things I have written to you, Demetrianus, for the present in few words, and perhaps with more obscurity than was befitting, in accordance with the necessity of circumstances and the time, with which you ought to be content, since you are about to receive more and better things if God shall favour us. Then, accordingly, I will exhort you with greater clearness and truth to the learning of true philosophy. For I have determined to commit to writing as many things as I shall be able, which have reference to the condition of a happy life; and that indeed against the philosophers, since they are pernicious and weighty for the disturbing of the truth. For the force of their eloquence is incredible, and their subtlety in argument and disputation may easily deceive any one; and these we will refute partly by our own weapons, but partly by weapons borrowed from their mutual wrangling, so that it may be evident that they rather introduced error than removed it.

Perhaps you may wonder that I venture to undertake so great a deed. Shall we then suffer the truth to be extinguished or crushed? I, in truth, would more willingly fail even under this burthen. For if Marcus Tullius, the unparalleled example of eloquence itself, was often vanquished by men void of learning and eloquence, - who, however, were striving for that which was true, - why should we despair that the truth itself will by its own peculiar force and clearness avail against deceitful and captious eloquence? They indeed are wont to profess themselves advocates of the truth; but who can defend that which he has not learned, or make clear to others that which he himself does not know? I seem to promise a great thing; but there is need of the favour of Heaven, that ability and time may be given us for following our purpose. But if life is to be wished for by a wise man, assuredly I should wish to live for no other reason than that I may effect something which may be worthy of life, and which may be useful to my readers, if 300 not for eloquence, because there is in me but a slight stream of eloquence, at any rate for living, which is especially needful. And when I have accomplished this, I shall think that I have lived enough, and that I have discharged the duty of a man, if my labour shall have freed some men from errors, and have directed them to the path which leads to heaven.

General Note By The American Editor.

Just here I economize a little spare room to note the cynical Gibbon’s ideas about Lactantius and his works. He quotes him freely, and recognises his Ciceronian Latinity, and even the elegance of his rhetoric, and the spirit and eloquence with which he can garnish the “dismal tale” of coming judgments, based on the Apocalypse. But then, again143 he speaks of him as an “obscure rhetorician,” and affects a doubt as to his sources of information, notably in doubting the conversation between Galerius and Diocletian which forced the latter to abdicate. This is before he decides to attribute the work on the Deaths of Persecutors to somebody else, or, rather, to quote its author ambiguously as Cæcilius. And here we may insert what he says on this subject, as follows: -

“It is certain that this . . . was composed and published while Licinius, sovereign of the East, still preserved the friendship of Constantine and of the Christians. Every reader of taste must perceive that the style is of a very different and inferior character to that of Lactantius; and such, indeed, is the judgment of Le Clerc144 and Lardner.145 Three arguments (from the title of the book and from the names of Donatus and Cæcilius) are produced by the advocates of Lactantius.146 Each of these proofs is, singly, weak and defective; but their concurrence has great weight. I have often fluctuated, and shall tamely147 follow the Colbert ms. in calling the author, whoever he was, Cæcilius.”

After this the critic adheres to this ambiguity. I have no wish to argue otherwise. Quite as important are his notes on the Institutes. He states the probable conjecture of two original editions, - the one under Diocletian, and the other under Licinius. Then he says:148 -

“I am almost convinced that Lactantius dedicated his Institutions to the sovereign of Gaul at a time when Galerius, Maximin, and even Licinius, persecuted the Christians; that is, between the years a.d. 306 and a.d. 311.”

On the dubious passages149 he remarks:150 -

“The first and most important of these is, indeed, wanting in twenty-eight mss., but is found in nineteen. If we weigh the comparative value of those mss., one, . . . in the King of France’s library,151 may be alleged in its favour. But the passage is omitted in the correct ms. of Bologna, which the Père de Montfaucon152 ascribes to the sixth or seventh century. The taste of most of the editors153 has felt the genuine style of Lactantius.”

Do not many indications point to the natural suggestion of a third original edition, issued after the conversion of Constantine? Or the questionable passages may be the interpolations of Lactantius himself.


83 Rarum, i.e., loose in texture.

84 Reciprocâ vicissitudine.

85 Ne plenum quidem. Some editions omit “ne,” but it seems to be required by the sense; the lungs not being compact and solid, as the liver, but of a slighter substance.

86 Flandi et spirandi. The former word denotes the process of sending forth, the latter of inhaling, the air.

87 Animam, the vital principle, as differing from the rational.

88 Fistulas.

89 Cohæreat sibi.

90 In cicutæ modum.

91 Teneritudinem domicilii.

92 Nare: hence “nares,” the nostrils.

93 Interpatet.

94 Colles faucium. Others read “toles,” i.e., the tonsils.

95 Inoffensum tenorem, i.e., without obstruction, not striking against any object - smooth.

96 Quasi mugiens.

97 In lavacris celebrandis.

98 Obstructâ meandi facultate.

99 Voluminum flexiones.

100 Oblevit ea intrinsecus crassiore succo.

101 Per illam teneritudinem.

102 It has been judged advisable not to translate this and the first part of the next chapter.

103 Alii legunt “intersecta.”

104 Genua determinant.

105 Nodi.

106 Teretes.

107 Corporis. Other editions have “operis,” i.e., of the whole work.

108 Planitie, hence “planta.”

109 Germanitas, “a brotherhood, or close connection.”

110 Concreta esse. [See p. 180, note 107, supra.]

111 Verba: as though derived from “verbero,” to strike.

112 Dum ad descendentem occursu suo redit. Others read, “Dum descendentem reddit.”

113 In altum se abdiderit. [An interesting “evolution from self-consciousness,” not altogether to be despised. In connection with the tripartite nature of man (of which see vol. 3. p. 474.), we may well inquire as to the seat of the ψυχὴ and and the πνεῦμα, severally, on this hint.]

114 Mobilitatis.

115 Intenta discurrit. [2Ch_16:9; Zec_4:10.]

116 Bipartio.

117 Concinnet.

118 Aristoxenus, whose opinion has been mentioned above.

119 ἄνεμος.

120 Proprie.

121 [See cap. 16, p. 296, note 113, supra; also vol. 2. p. 102, note 55, this series.]

122 Lucretius is undoubtedly one of the poets here referred to; some think that Virgil, others that Horace, is the second.

123 Sopiatur.

124 Quid fiat. Others read “quid faciat.”

125 Imaginibus.

126 Sopitus.

127 Evigilat.

128 Simulacris.

129 Species.

130 Avocamenta.

131 Thus Joseph and Daniel were interpreters of dreams; and the prophet Joel (Joe_2:28) foretells this as a mark of the last days, “Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.”

132 Quorum præsens et admirabilis fuerit eventus. [A sober view of the facts revealed in Scripture, and which, in the days of miracles, influenced so many of the noblest minds in the Church.]

133 Ex parte somnii constiterunt. Some editions read, “ex parte somniis constituerunt.”

134 Æneid. vi. 894.

135 Sed ego id in eo jure ab ancipiti vindico.

136 ii. 991.

137 Et citra hoc opus homo resistit. The compound word “resistit” is used for the simle sistit - “stands.”

138 Sacramento.

139 Metitur, “measures.”

140 Corpusculum. The diminutive appears to imply contempt.

141 The expression is too general, since the body as well as the soul is a true part of man’s nature. [Perhaps so; but Lactantius is thinking of St. Paul’s expression (Phi_3:21), “the body of our humiliation.”]

142 Quem rectum rectè sortitus est. In some editions the word “recte” is omitted.

143 Cap. xiv. 9vol. i.) p. 452.

144 Bibliothèque Ancienne et Mod., tom. iii. p. 438.

145 Credib., part ii. vol vii. p. 94.

146 The Père Lestocq, tom. ii. pp. 46-60.

147 This word is italicized by Gibbon.

148 Vol. ii, cap. 20.

149 Inst., i. 1 and vii. 27.

150 Vol. ii, cap. 20.

151 Now (1880) a thousand years old.

152 Diarium Italicum, p. 409.

153 “Except Isæus,” says Gibbon, who refers to the edition of our author by Dufresnoy, tom. i. p. 596.