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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 8

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 8.—God to Be Esteemed Above All Else, Because He is Unchangeable Wisdom.

8.  And since all who think about God think of Him as living, they only can form any conception of Him that is not absurd and unworthy who think of Him as life itself; and, whatever may be the bodily form that has suggested itself to them, recognize that it is by life it lives or does not live, and prefer what is living to what is dead; who understand that the living bodily form itself, however it may outshine all others in splendor, overtop them p. 525 in size, and excel them in beauty, is quite a distinct thing from the life by which it is quickened; and who look upon the life as incomparably superior in dignity and worth to the mass which is quickened and animated by it.  Then, when they go on to look into the nature of the life itself, if they find it mere nutritive life, without sensibility, such as that of plants, they consider it inferior to sentient life, such as that of cattle; and above this, again, they place intelligent life, such as that of men.  And, perceiving that even this is subject to change, they are compelled to place above it, again, that unchangeable life which is not at one time foolish, at another time wise, but on the contrary is wisdom itself.  For a wise intelligence, that is, one that has attained to wisdom, was, previous to its attaining wisdom, unwise.  But wisdom itself never was unwise, and never can become so.  And if men never caught sight of this wisdom, they could never with entire confidence prefer a life which is unchangeably wise to one that is subject to change.  This will be evident, if we consider that the very rule of truth by which they affirm the unchangeable life to be the more excellent, is itself unchangeable:  and they cannot find such a rule, except by going beyond their own nature; for they find nothing in themselves that is not subject to change.

Next: Chapter 9

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