1You have asked me, Lucilius, why, if a Providence rules the world, it still happens that many evils befall good men. This would be more fittingly answered in a coherent work designed to prove a Providence does preside over the universe, and that God concerns himself with us. But since it is your wish that a part be severed from the whole, and that I refute a single objection while the main question is left untouched, I shall do so; the task is not difficult, — I shall be pleading the cause of the gods.
2For the present purpose it is unnecessary to show that this mighty structure of the world does not endure without some one to guard it, and that the assembling and the separate flight of the stars above are not due to the workings of chance; that while bodies which owe their motion to accident often fall into disorder and quickly collide, this swift revolution of the heavens, being ruled by eternal law, goes on unhindered, producing so many things on land and sea, so many brilliant lights in the sky all shining in fixed array; that this regularity does not belong to matter moving at random, and that whatever combinations result from chance do not adjust themselves with that artistry whereby the earth, the heaviest in weight, abides immovable and beholds the flight of the sky as it whirls around it, and the seas, flooding the valleys, soften the land, and feel no increase from the rivers, and whereby huge growths spring up from the tiniest seeds. 3Even those phenomena which seem irregular and undetermined — I mean showers and clouds, the stroke of crashing thunderbolts and the fires that belch from the riven peaks of mountains, tremors of the quaking ground, and the other disturbances which the turbulent element in nature sets in motion about the earth, these, no matter how suddenly they occur, do not happen without a reason; nay, they also are the result of special causes, and so, in like manner, are those things which seem miraculous by reason of the incongruous situations in which they are beheld, such as warm waters in the midst of the sea-waves, and the expanses of new islands that spring up in the wide ocean. 4Moreover, if any one observes how the shore is laid bare as the sea withdraws into itself, and how within a short time the same stretch is covered over again, he will suppose that it is some blind fluctuation which causes the waves now to shrink and flow inwards, now to burst forth and in mighty sweep seek their former resting-place, whereas in fact they increase by degrees, and true to the hour and the day they approach in proportionately larger or smaller volume according as they are attracted by the star we call the moon, at whose bidding the ocean surges. But let such matters be kept for their fitting time, — all the more so, indeed, because you do not lack faith in Providence, but complain of it. 5I shall reconcile you with the gods, who are ever best to those who are best. For Nature never permits good to be injured by good; between good men and the gods there exists a friendship brought about by virtue.
Friendship, do I say? Nay, rather there is a tie of relationship and a likeness, since, in truth, a good man differs from God in the element of time only; he is God's pupil, his imitator, and true offspring, whom his all-glorious parent, being no mild taskmaster of virtues, rears, as strict fathers do, with much severity. 6And so, when you see that men who are good and acceptable to the gods labour and sweat and have a difficult road to climb, that the wicked, on the other hand, make merry and abound in pleasures, reflect that our children please us by their modesty, but slave-boys by their forwardness; that we hold in check the former by sterner discipline, while we encourage the latter to be bold. Be assured that the same is true of God. He does not make a spoiled pet of a good man; he tests him, hardens him, and fits him for his own service.
1 Seneca's rhetoric omits the intermediate step of the transformation into rain.