Chapter VI

◄Chapter V - Chapter VII►

Of Providence

1From everything that happens in the universe it is easy for a man to find occasion to praise providence, if he has within himself these two qualities: 2the faculty of taking a comprehensive view of what has happened in each individual instance, and the sense of gratitude. 3Otherwise, one man will not see the usefulness of what has happened, and another, even if he does see it, will not be grateful therefor. If God had made colours, but had not made the faculty of seeing them, of what good had it been?—None at all.—4But, conversely, if He had made the faculty, but in making objects, had made them incapable of falling under the faculty of vision, in that case also of what good had it been?—None at all.—5What then, if He had even made both of these, but had not made light?—Even thus it would have been of no use.—6Who is it, then, that has fitted this to that and that to this? And who is it that has fitted the sword to the scabbard, and the scabbard to the sword? No one? 7Assuredly from the very structure of all made objects we are accustomed to prove that the work is certainly the product of some artificer, and has not been constructed at random.

8Does, then, every such work reveal its artificer, but do visible objects and vision and light not reveal him? 9And the male and the female, and the passion of each for intercourse with the other, and the faculty which makes use of the organs which have been constructed for this purpose, do these things not reveal their artificer either? 10Well, admit it for these things; but the marvellous constitution of the intellect whereby, when we meet with sensible objects, we do not merely have their forms impressed upon us, but also make a selection from among them, and subtract and add, and make these various combinations by using them, yes, and, by Zeus, pass from some things to certain others which are in a manner related to them—is not even all this sufficient to stir our friends and induce them not to leave the artificer out of account? 11Else let them explain to us what it is that produces each of these results, or how it is possible that objects so wonderful and so workmanlike should come into being at random and spontaneously.

12What then? Is it in the case of man alone that these things occur? You will, indeed, find many things in man only, things of which the rational animal had a peculiar need, but you will also find many possessed by us in common with the irrational animals. 13Do they also,then, understand what happens? No! for use is one thing, and understanding another. God had need of the animals in that they make use of external impressions, and of us in that we understand the use of external impressions. 14And so for them it is sufficient to eat and drink and rest and procreate, and whatever else of the things within their own province the animals severally do; 15while for us, to whom He has made the additional gift of the faculty of understanding, these things are no longer sufficient, but unless we act appropriately, and methodically, and in conformity each with his own nature and constitution, we shall no longer achieve our own ends. 16For of beings whose constitutions are different, the works and the ends are likewise different. 17So for the being whose constitution is adapted to use only, mere use is sufficient, but where a being has also the faculty of understanding the use, unless the principle of propriety be added, he will never attain his end. What then? 18Each of the animals God constitutes, one to be eaten, another to serve in farming, another to produce cheese, and yet another for some other similar use; to perform these functions what need have they to understand external impressions and to be able to differentiate between them? 19But God has brought man into the world to be a spectator of Himself and of His works, and not merely a spectator, but also an interpreter. 20Wherefore, it is shameful for man to begin and end just where the irrational animals do; he should rather begin where they do, but end where nature has ended in dealing with us. 21Now she did not end until she reached contemplation and understanding and a manner of life harmonious with nature. 22Take heed, therefore, lest you die without ever having been spectators of these things.

23But you travel to Olympia to behold the work[1] of Pheidias, and each of you regards it as a misfortune to die without seeing such sights; 24yet when there is no need to travel at all, but where Zeus is already, and is present in his works, will you not yearn to behold these works and know them? 25Will you decline, therefore, to perceive either who you are, or for what you have been born, or what that purpose is for which you have received sight?—26But some unpleasant and hard things happen in life.—And do they not happen at Olympia? Do you not swelter? Are you not cramped and crowded? Do you not bathe with discomfort ? Are you not drenched whenever it rains? 27Do you not have your fill of tumult and shouting and other annoyances? 28But I fancy that you hear and endure all this by balancing it off against the memorable character of the spectacle. Come, have you not received faculties that enable you to bear whatever happens? Have you not received magnanimity? Have you not received courage? Have you not received endurance? 29And what care I longer for anything that may happen, if I be magnanimous? What shall perturb me, or trouble me, or seem grievous to me? Shall I fail to use my faculty to that end for which I have received it, but grieve and lament over events that occur?

30"Yes, but my nose is running." What have you hands for, then, slave? Is it not that you may wipe your nose? 31"Is it reasonable, then, that there should be running noses in the world?"—And how much better it would be for you to wipe your nose than to find fault! 32Or what do you think Heracles would have amounted to, if there had not been a lion like the one which he encountered, and a hydra, and a stag, and a boar, and wicked and brutal men, whom he made it his business to drive out and clear away ? And what would he have been doing had nothing of the sort existed? 33Is it not clear that he would have rolled himself up in a blanket and slept? In the first place, then, he would never have become Heracles by slumbering away his whole life in such luxury and ease; but even if he had, of what good would he have been? 34What would have been the use of those arms of his and of his prowess in general, and his steadfastness and nobility, had not such circumstances and occasions roused and exercised him? 35What then? Ought he to have prepared these for himself, and sought to bring a lion into his own country from somewhere or other, and a boar, and a hydra? 36This would have been folly and madness. But since they did exist and were found in the world, they were serviceable as a means of revealing and exercising our Heracles.

37Come then, do you also, now that you are aware of these things, contemplate the faculties which you have, and, after contemplating, say: "Bring now, O Zeus, what difficulty Thou wilt; for I have an equipment given to me by Thee, and resources wherewith to distinguish myself by making use of the things that come to pass." 38But no, you sit trembling for fear something will happen, and lamenting, and grieving, and groaning about other things that are happening. And then you blame the gods! 39For what else can be the consequence of so ignoble a spirit but sheer impiety? 40And yet God has not merely given us these faculties, to enable us to bear all that happens without being degraded or crushed thereby, but—as became a good king and in very truth a father—41He has given them to us free from all restraint, compulsion, hindrance; He has put the whole matter under our control without reserving even for Himself any power to prevent or hinder. 42Although you have these faculties free and entirely your own, you do not use them, nor do you realize what gifts you have received, and from whom, but you sit sorrowing and groaning, some of you blinded toward the giver himself and not even acknowledging your benefactor, and others, —such is their ignoble spirit—turning aside to fault-finding and complaints against God. 43And yet, though I can show you that you have resources and endowment for magnanimity and courage, do you, pray, show me what resources you have to iustify faultfinding and complaining!

◄Chapter V - Chapter VII►

1 The famous gold and ivory statue of Zeus.