Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
City of God: Chapter 8
Chapter 8.—Concerning Those Who Call by the Name of Fate, Not the Position of the Stars, But the Connection of Causes Which Depends on the Will of God.
But, as to those who call by the name of fate, not the disposition of the stars as it may exist when any creature is conceived, or born, or commences its existence, but the whole connection and train of causes which makes everything become what it does become, there is no need that I should labor and strive with them in a merely verbal controversy, since they attribute the so-called order and connection of causes to the will and power of God most high, who is most rightly and most truly believed to know all things before they come to pass, and to leave nothing unordained; from whom are all powers, although the wills of all are not from Him. Now, that it is chiefly the will of God most high, whose power extends itself irresistibly through all things which they call fate, is proved by the following verses, of which, if I mistake not, Annæus Seneca is the author:—
“Father supreme, Thou ruler of the lofty heavens,
Lead me whereer it is Thy pleasure; I will give
A prompt obedience, making no delay,
Lo! here I am. Promptly I come to do Thy sovereign will;
If thy command shall thwart my inclination, I will still
Follow Thee groaning, and the work assigned,
With all the suffering of a mind repugnant,
Will perform, being evil; which, had I been good,
I should have undertaken and performed, though hard,
With virtuous cheerfulness.
The Fates do lead the man that follows willing;
But the man that is unwilling, him they drag.” 192
Most evidently, in this last verse, he calls that “fate” which he had before called “the will of the Father supreme,” whom, he says, he is ready to obey that he may be led, being willing, not dragged, being unwilling, since “the Fates do lead the man that follows willing, but the man that is unwilling, him they drag.”p. 90
The following Homeric lines, which Cicero translates into Latin, also favor this opinion :—
“Such are the minds of men, as is the light
Which Father Jove himself doth pour
Illustrious oer the fruitful earth.” 193
Not that Cicero wishes that a poetical sentiment should have any weight in a question like this; for when he says that the Stoics, when asserting the power of fate, were in the habit of using these verses from Homer, he is not treating concerning the opinion of that poet, but concerning that of those philosophers, since by these verses, which they quote in connection with the controversy which they hold about fate, is most distinctly manifested what it is which they reckon fate, since they call by the name of Jupiter him whom they reckon the supreme god, from whom, they say, hangs the whole chain of fates.
Odyssey,xviii. 136, 137.
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