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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 25

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 25.—That God Alone is the Creator of Every Kind of Creature, Whatever Its Nature or Form.

For whereas there is one form which is given from without to every bodily substance,—such as the form which is constructed by potters and smiths, and that class of artists who paint and fashion forms like the body of animals,—but another and internal form which is not itself constructed, but, as the efficient cause, produces not only the natural bodily forms, but even the life itself of the living creatures, and which proceeds from the secret and hidden choice of an intelligent and living nature,—let that first-mentioned form be attributed to every artificer, but this latter to one only, God, the Creator and Originator who made the world itself and the angels, without the help of world or angels.  For the same divine and, so to speak, creative energy, which cannot be made, but makes, and which gave to the earth and sky their roundness,—this same divine, effective, and creative energy gave their roundness to the eye and to the apple; and the other natural objects which we anywhere see, received also their form, not from without, but from the secret and profound might of the Creator, who said, “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” 568 and whose wisdom it is that “reacheth from one end to another mightily; and sweetly doth she order all things.” 569  Wherefore I know not what kind of aid the angels, themselves created first, afforded to the Creator in making other things.  I cannot ascribe to them what perhaps they cannot do, neither ought I to deny them such faculty as they have.  But, by their leave, I attribute the creating and originating work which gave being to all natures to God, to whom they themselves thankfully ascribe their existence.  We do not call gardeners the creators of their fruits, for we read, “Neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.” 570   Nay, not even the earth itself do we call a creator, though she seems to be the prolific mother of all things which she aids in germinating and bursting forth from the seed, and which she keeps rooted in her own breast; for we likewise read, “God giveth it a body, as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body.” 571   We ought not even to call a woman the creatress of her own offspring; for He rather is its creator who said to His servant, “Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee.” 572   And although the various mental emotions of a pregnant woman do produce in p. 243 the fruit of her womb similar qualities,—as Jacob with his peeled wands caused piebald sheep to be produced,—yet the mother as little creates her offspring as she created herself.  Whatever bodily or seminal causes, then, may be used for the production of things, either by the cooperation of angels, men, or the lower animals, or by sexual generation; and whatever power the desires and mental emotions of the mother have to produce in the tender and plastic fœtus corresponding lineaments and colors; yet the natures themselves, which are thus variously affected, are the production of none but the most high God.  It is His occult power which pervades all things, and is present in all without being contaminated, which gives being to all that is, and modifies and limits its existence; so that without Him it would not be thus, or thus, nor would have any being at all. 573   If, then, in regard to that outward form which the workman’s hand imposes on his work, we do not say that Rome and Alexandria were built by masons and architects, but by the kings by whose will, plan, and resources they were built, so that the one has Romulus, the other Alexander, for its founder; with how much greater reason ought we to say that God alone is the Author of all natures, since He neither uses for His work any material which was not made by Him, nor any workmen who were not also made by Him, and since, if He were, so to speak, to withdraw from created things His creative power, they would straightway relapse into the nothingness in which they were before they were created?  “Before,” I mean, in respect of eternity, not of time.  For what other creator could there be of time, than He who created those things whose movements make time? 574


Footnotes

242:568

Jer. 23.24.

242:569

Wisd. 8.1.

242:570

1 Cor. 3.7.

242:571

1 cor. 15.38.

242:572

Jer. 1.5.

243:573

Compare de Trin. iii. 13–16.

243:574

See Book xi. 5.


Next: Chapter 26

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