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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 5

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 5 [IV.]—God Alone Can Teach Whence Souls Come.

Now with respect to the question between us, I confess to your loving self 2458 I greatly desire to know one of two things if I can,—either concerning the origin of souls, of which I am ignorant, or whether this knowledge is within our reach so long as we are in the present life. For what if our controversy touches the very points of which it is enjoined to us, “Seek not out the things that are too high for thee, neither search the things that are above thy strength; but whatever things the Lord hath commanded and taught thee, think thereupon for evermore.” 2459 This, then, is what I desire to know, either from p. 356 God Himself, who knows what He creates, or even from some competently learned man who knows what he is saying, not from a person who is ignorant of the breath he heaves. It is not everybody who recollects his own infancy; and do you suppose that a man is able, without divine instruction, to know whence he began to exist in his mother’s womb,—especially if the knowledge of human nature has so completely eluded him as to leave him ignorant, not only of what is within him, but of that also which is added to his nature from without? Will you, my dearest brother, be able to teach me, or any one else, whence human beings at their birth are ensouled, 2460 when you still know not how it is that their life is so sustained by food, that they are certain to die if the aliment is withdrawn for a while? Or will you be able to teach me, or any one else, whence men obtain their souls, when you are still actually ignorant whence bags, when inflated, get the filling? My only wish, as you are ignorant whence souls have their origin, is, that I may on my side know whether such knowledge is attainable by me in this present life. If this be one of the things which are too high for us, and which we are forbidden to seek out or search into, then we have good grounds for fearing lest we should sin, not by our ignorance of it, but our quest after it. For we ought not to suppose that a subject, to fall under the category of the things which are too high for us, must appertain to the nature of God, and not to our own.



Dilectioni tuæ.


Sir. 3:21, 22.


Animentur = “are furnished with their animæ.”

Next: Chapter 6

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