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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Chapter 30

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 30.—The Number of Good Things in Those Natures Which Manichæus Places in the Region of Darkness.

33.  "But," is the reply, "the orders of beings inhabiting those five natures were fierce and destructive."  As if I were praising their fierceness and destructiveness.  I, you see, join with you in condemning the evils you attribute to them; join you with me in praising the good things which you ascribe to them:  so it will appear that there is a mixture of good and evil in what you call the last extremity of evil.  If I join you in condemning what is mischievous in this region, you must join with me in praising what is beneficial.  For these beings could not have been produced, or nourished, or have continued to inhabit that region, without some salutary influence.  I join with you in condemning the darkness; join with me in praising the productiveness.  For while you call the darkness immeasurable, you speak of "suitable productions."  Darkness, indeed, is not a real substance, and means no more than the absence of light, as nakedness means the want of clothing, and emptiness the want of material contents:  so that darkness could produce nothing, although a region in darkness—that is, in the absence of light—might produce something.  But passing over this for the present, it is certain that where productions arise there must be a beneficent adaptation of substances, as well as a symmetrical arrangement and construction in unity of the members of the beings produced,—a wise adjustment making them agree with one another.  And who will deny that all these things are more to be praised than darkness is to be condemned?  If I join with you in condemning the muddiness of the waters, you must join with me in praising the waters as far as they possessed the form and quality of water, and also the agreement of the members of the inhabitants swimming in the waters, their life sustaining and directing their body, and every particular adaptation of substances for the benefit of health.  For though you find fault with the waters as turbid and muddy, still, in allowing them the quality of producing and maintaining their living inhabitants, you imply that there was some kind of bodily form, and similarity of parts, giving unity and congruity of character; otherwise there could be no body at all:  and, p. 144 as a rational being, you must see that all these things are to be praised.  And however great you make the ferocity of these inhabitants, and their massacrings and devastations in their assaults, you still leave them the regular limits of form, by which the members of each body are made to agree together, and their beneficial adaptations, and the regulating power of the living principle binding together the parts of the body in a friendly and harmonious union.  And if all these are regarded with common sense it will be seen that they are more to be commended than the faults are to be condemned.  I join with you in condemning the frightfulness of the winds; join with me in praising their nature, as giving breath and nourishment, and their material form in its continuousness and diffusion by the connection of its parts:  for by these things these winds had the power of producing and nourishing, and sustaining in vigor these inhabitants you speak of; and also in these inhabitants—besides the other things which have already been commended in all animated creatures—this particular power of going quickly and easily whence and whither they please, and the harmonious stroke of their wings in flight, and their regular motion.  I join with you in condemning the destructiveness of fire; join with me in commending the productiveness of this fire, and the growth of these productions, and the adaptation of the fire to the beings produced, so that they had coherence, and came to perfection in measure and shape, and could live and have their abode there:  for you see that all these things deserve admiration and praise, not only in the fire which is thus habitable, but in the inhabitants too.  I join with you in condemning the denseness of smoke, and the savage character of the prince who, as you say, abode in it; join with me in praising the similarity of all the parts in this very smoke, by which it preserves the harmony and proportion of its parts among themselves, according to its own nature, and has an unity which makes it what it is:  for no one can calmly reflect on these things without wonder and praise.  Besides, even to the smoke you give the power and energy of production, for you say that princes inhabited it; so that in that region the smoke is productive, which never happens here, and, moreover, affords a wholesome dwelling place to its inhabitants.

Next: Chapter 31

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