Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. VII.—Of the Way of Error and of Truth: that It is Single, Narrow, and Steep, and Has God for Its Guide
Chap. VII.—Of the Way of Error and of Truth: that It is Single, Narrow, and Steep, and Has God for Its Guide.
For all those who, by the confessed folly of others, are thought wise, being clothed with the p. 170 appearance of virtue, grasp at shadows and outlines, but at nothing true. Which happens on this account, because that deceitful road which inclines to the west has many paths, on account of the variety of pursuits and systems which are dissimilar and varied in the life of men. For as that way of wisdom contains something which resembles folly, as we showed in the preceding book, so this way, which belongs altogether to folly, contains something which resembles wisdom, and they who perceive the folly of men in general seize upon this; and as it has its vices manifest, so it has something which appears to resemble virtue: as it has its wickedness open, so it has a likeness and appearance of justice. For how could the forerunner 1130 of that way, whose strength and power are altogether in deceit, lead men altogether into fraud, unless he showed them some things which resembled the truth? 1131 For, that His immortal secret might be hidden, God placed in his way things which men might despise as evil and disgraceful, that, turning away from wisdom and truth, which they were searching for without any guide, they might fall upon that very thing which they desired to avoid and flee from. Therefore he points out that way of destruction and death which has many windings, either because there are many kinds of life, or because there are many gods who are worshipped.
The deceitful 1132 and treacherous guide of this way, that there may appear to be some distinction between truth and falsehood, good and evil, leads the luxurious in one direction, and those who are called temperate 1133 in another; the ignorant in one direction, the learned in another; the sluggish in one direction, the active in another; the foolish in one direction, the philosophers in another, and even these not in one path. For those who do not shun pleasures or riches, he withdraws a little from this public and frequented road; but those who either wish to follow virtue, or profess a contempt for things, he drags over certain rugged precipices. But nevertheless all those paths which display an appearance of honours are not different roads, but turnings off 1134 and bypaths, which appear indeed to be separated from that common one, and to branch off to the right, but yet return to the same, and all lead at the very end to one issue. For that guide unites them all, where it was necessary that the good should be separated from the bad, the strong from the inactive, the wise from the foolish; namely, in the worship of the gods, in which he slays them all with one sword, because they were all foolish without any distinction, and plunges them into death. But this way—which is that of truth, and wisdom, and virtue, and justice, of all which there is but one fountain, one source of strength, one abode—is both simple, 1135 because with like minds, and with the utmost agreement, we follow and worship one God; and it is narrow, because virtue is given to the smaller number; and steep, because goodness, which is very high and lofty, cannot be attained to without the greatest difficulty and labour.
Præcursor: the exact meaning of the word is a “scout.”170:1131
Verisimilia: the word generally means “probabilities.”170:1132
Prævaricator; properly an advocate who, by collusion, favours the cause of his opponent.170:1133
Simplex, as opposed to the various paths of the other.
Next: Chap. VIII.—Of the errors of philosophers, and the variableness of law
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