Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. LIX.—Of the ways of life, and the first times of the world
Chap. LIX.—Of the Ways of Life, and the First Times of the World.
That there are two ways 1577 of human life was unknown neither to philosophers nor to poets, but both introduced them in a different manner. The philosophers wished the one to be the way of industry, the other of idleness; but in this respect they were less correct in their statements, that they referred them to the advantages of this life only. The poets spoke better who said that one of them was the way of the just, the other p. 247 of the unjust; but they err in this, that they say that they are not in this life, but in the shades below. We manifestly speak more correctly, who say that the one is the way of life, the other that of death. And here, however, we say that there are two ways; but the one on the right hand, in which the just walk, does not lead to Elysium, but to heaven, for they become immortal; the other on the left leads to Tartarus, 1578 for the unjust are sentenced to eternal tortures. Therefore the way of justice, which leads to life, is to be held by us. Now the first duty of justice is to acknowledge God as a parent, and to fear Him as a master, to love Him as a father. For the same Being who begat us, who animated us with vital breath, who nourishes and preserves us, has over us, not only as a father but also as a master, authority to correct us, and the power of life and death; wherefore twofold honour is due to Him from man, that is, love combined with fear. The second duty of justice is to acknowledge man as a brother. For if the same God made us, and produced all men on equal terms to justice and eternal life, it is manifest that we are united by the relationship of brotherhood; and he who does not acknowledge this is unjust. But the origin of this evil, by which the mutual society of men, by which the bond of relationship has been torn asunder, arises from ignorance of the true God. For he who is ignorant of that fountain of bounty can by no means be good. Hence it is that, from the time when a multitude of gods began to be consecrated and worshipped by men, justice, as the poets relate, being put to flight, every compact was destroyed, the fellowship of human justice was destroyed. Then every one, consulting his own interest, reckoned might to be right, injured another, attacked by frauds, deceived 1579 by treachery, increased his own advantages by the inconvenience of others, did not spare relatives, or children, or parents, prepared poisoned cups for the destruction of men, beset the ways with the sword, infested the seas, gave the rein to his lust, wherever passion led him,—in short, esteemed nothing sacred which his dreadful desire did not violate. When these things were done, then men instituted laws for themselves to promote the public advantage, that they might meanwhile protect themselves from injuries. But the fear of laws did not suppress crimes, but it checked licentiousness. For laws were able to punish offences, they were unable to punish the conscience. Therefore the things which before were done openly began to be done secretly. Justice also was evaded by stealth, since they who themselves presided over the administration of the laws, corrupted by, gifts and rewards, made a traffic of their sentences, either to the escape 1580 of the evil or to the destruction of the good. To these things were added dissensions, and wars, and mutual depredations; and the laws being crushed, the power of acting with violence was assumed without restraint.
[The Duæ Viæ A feature in the primitive catechizing. See Epistle of Barnabas, vol. i. p. 148; also this volume, infra.]247:1578
[See vol. v. p. 153, note 1, and pp. 161, 174, this series.]247:1579
Next: Chap. LX.—Of the duties of justice
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