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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:
Lactantius: Chap. II.—Of the production of the beasts and of man

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chap. II.—Of the Production of the Beasts and of Man.

For our Creator and Parent, God, has given to man perception and reason, that it might be evident from this that we are descended from Him, because He Himself is intelligence, He Himself is perception and reason. Since He did not give that power of reason to the other animals, He provided beforehand in what manner their life might be more safe. For He clothed them all with their own natural hair, 1810 in order that they might more easily be able to endure the severity of frosts and colds. Moreover, He has appointed to every kind its own peculiar defence for the repelling of attacks from without; so that they may either oppose the stronger animals with natural weapons, or the feebler ones may withdraw themselves from danger by the swiftness of their flight, or those which require at once both strength and swiftness may protect themselves by craft, or guard themselves in hiding-places. 1811 And so others of them either poise themselves aloft with light plumage, or are supported by hoofs, 1812 or are furnished with horns; some have arms in their mouth—namely, their teeth 1813 —or hooked talons on their feet; and none of them is destitute of a defence for its own protection.  

But if any fall as a prey to the greater animals, that their race might not utterly perish, they have either been banished to that region where the greater ones cannot exist, or they have received a more abundant fruitfulness in production, that food might be supplied from them to the beasts which are nourished by blood, and yet their very multitude might survive the slaughter inflicted upon them, so as to preserve the race. 1814 But He made man—reason being granted to him, and the power of perceiving and speaking being given to him—destitute of those things which are given to the other animals, because wisdom was able to supply those things which the condition of nature had denied to him. He made him naked and defenceless, because he could be armed by his talent, and clothed by his reason. 1815 But it cannot be expressed how wonderfully the absence of those things which are given to the brutes contributes to the beauty of man. For if He had given to man the teeth of wild beasts, or horns, or claws, or hoofs, or a tail, or hairs of various colour, who cannot perceive how misshapen an animal he would be, as the dumb animals, if they were made naked and defenceless? For if you take from these the natural clothing of their body, or those things by which they are armed of themselves, they can be neither beautiful nor safe, so that they appear wonderfully furnished if you think of utility, and wonderfully adorned if you think of appearance: in such a wonderful manner is utility combined with beauty.  

But with reference to man, whom He formedp. 283 an eternal and immortal being, He did not arm him, as the others, without, but within; nor did He place his protection in the body, but in the soul: since it would have been superfluous, when He had given him that which was of the greatest value, to cover him with bodily defences, especially when they hindered the beauty of the human body. On which account I am accustomed to wonder at the senselessness of the philosophers who follow Epicurus, who blame the works of nature, that they may show that the world is prepared and governed by no providence; 1816 but they ascribe the origin of all things to indivisible and solid bodies, from the fortuitous meetings of which they say that all things are and were produced. I pass by the things relating to the work itself with which they find fault, in which matter they are ridiculously mad; I assume that which belongs to the subject of which we are now treating.  



Omnes enim suis ex se pilis. Others read, “pellibus texit.”  


[ποδωκίην λὰγωο̑ιςAnac., Ode i. 3.]  


[Φύσις κέρατα ταύροις ὁπλὰς δ' έδωκεν ίπποις.—Anac., Ode i. 1, 2.]  


[λέουσι χάσμ' οἠδόντωνIb., 4.]  


[“The survival of the fittest.” The cant of our day anticipated.]  


[τοι̑ς ἀνδράσιν φρόνημαIb., 5. See p. 172, note 5, supra.]  


[The admirable investigations of the modern atheists are so many testimonies against their own theories when they come to talk of force, etc., instead of God. P. 97, note 4, supra.]  

Next: Chap. III.—Of the condition of the beasts and man

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