>   books  >   en  >   ecf  >   201  >   books  >   en  >   ecf  >   201

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:
The Life of Constantine with Orations of Constantine and Eusebius.: Chapter VI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VI.—The Falsity of the General Opinion respecting Fate 3389 is proved by the Consideration of Human Laws, and by the Works of Creation, the Course of which is not Fortuitous, but according to an Orderly Arrangement which evinces the Design of the Creator.

The great majority, however, in their folly, ascribe the regulation of the universe to nature, while some imagine fate, or accident, 3390 to be the cause. With regard to those who attribute the control of all things to fate, they know not that in using this term they utter a mere word, but designate no active power, nor anything which has real and substantial existence. For what can this fate be, considered in itself, if nature be the first cause of all things? Or what shall we suppose nature itself to be, if the law of fate be inviolable? Indeed, the very assertion that there is a law of fate implies that such law is the work of a legislator: if, therefore, fate itself be a law, it must be a law devised by God. All things, therefore, are subject to God, and nothing is beyond the sphere of his power. If it be said that fate is the will 3391 of God, and is so considered, we admit the fact. But in what respect do justice, 3392 or self-control, 3393 or the other virtues, depend on fate? From whence, if so, do their contraries, as injustice and intemperance, proceed? For vice has its origin from nature, not from fate; and virtue is the due regulation of natural character and disposition. But, granting that the varied results of actions, whether right or erroneous in themselves, depend on fortune or fate: in what sense can the general principle of justice, 3394 the principle of rendering to every one his due, be ascribed to fate? 3395 Or how can it be said that laws, encouragements to virtue and dissuasives from what is evil, praise, blame, punishment, in short whatever operates as a motive to virtue, and deters from the practice of vice, derive their origin from fortune or accident, and not rather from that of justice, 3396 which is a characteristic attribute of the God of providence? For the events which befall men are consequent upon the tenor of their lives. Hence pestilence or sedition, famine and plenty, succeed in turn, declaring plainly and emphatically that all these things are regulated with reference to our course of life. For the Divine Being delights in goodness, but turns with aversion from all impiety; looks with acceptance on the humble spirit, but abhors presumption, and that pride which exalts itself above what becomes a creature. And though the proofs of these truths are clear and manifest to our sight, they appear in a still stronger light, when we collect, and as it were concentrate our thoughts within ourselves, and ponder their causes with deep attention. I say, then, that it becomes us to lead a life of modesty and gentleness, not suffering our thoughts to rise proudly above our natural condition, and ever mindful that God is near us, p. 565 and is the observer of all our actions. But let us still farther test the truth of the proposition, that the order of the universe depends on chance 3397 or accident. 3398 Are we then to suppose that the stars and other heavenly bodies, the earth and sea, fire and wind, water and air, the succession of the seasons, the recurrence of summer and winter, that all these have an undesigned and fortuitous existence, and not rather that they proceed from the creative hand of God? Some, indeed, are so senseless as to say that most of these things have been devised by mankind because of their need of them. Let it be admitted that this opinion has a semblance of reason in regard to earthly and corruptible things (though Nature herself supplies every good with a lavish hand); yet can we believe that things which are immortal and unchangeable are the inventions of men? These, indeed, and all things else which are beyond the reach of our senses, and comprehended by the intellect 3399 alone, receive their being, not from the material life of man, but from the intellectual and eternal essence of God. Again, the orderly arrangement of these things is the work of his providence: for instance, that the day, deriving radiance from the sun, is bright; that night succeeds his setting, and the starry host 3400 by which night itself is redeemed from total darkness. And what shall we say of the moon, which when most distant from, and opposite to the sun, is filled with light, but wanes in proportion to the nearness of her approach to him? Do not these things manifestly evince the intelligence 3401 and sagacious wisdom of God? Add to this that needful warmth of the solar rays which ripens the fruits of the earth; the currents of wind, so conducive to the fertility of the seasons; the cool and refreshing showers; and the harmony of all these things in accordance with which all are reasonably and systematically conducted: lastly, the everlasting order of the planets, which return to the self-same place at their appointed times: are not all these, as well as the perfect ministry of the stars, obedient to a divine law, evident proofs of the ordinance 3402 of God? Again, do the mountain heights, the deep and hollow valleys, the level and extensive plains, useful as they are, as well as pleasing to the eye, appear to exist independently of the will of God? Or do not the proportion and alternate succession of land and water, serviceable, the one for husbandry, the other for the transport of such foreign products as we need, afford a clear demonstration of his exact and proportionate providential care? For instance, the mountains contain a store of water, which the level ground receives, and after imbibing sufficient for the renovation of the soil, sends forth the residue into the sea, and the sea in turn passes it onward to the ocean. And still we dare to say that all these things happen by chance 3403 and accident; unable though we be to show by what shape or form this chance is characterized; a thing which has no foundation either in intellect or sense existence; which rings in our ears as the mere sound of an unsubstantial name!



For a full discussion of various definitions and usage of the word Fate ( εἰριαρμένη) in Greek philosophy, compare Zeller, Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics (Lond. 1880), p. 170–171, notes.


αὐτόματον. The usual word for chance or accident is τύχη. These may be here, as is often the case, simple synonyms, but both words are used in the same phrase later in such way as to suggest that τύχη is parallel with “fate” rather than “chance” in the author’s mind. αὐτόματον seems to be used of “self-originating,” τύχη of originating from some unknown cause or without any cause. The former is the modern, self-energized, “lift-yourselves-by-your-own-boot-straps” evolution. The latter is a form of agnosticism. Aristotle (Metaph. 10. 8) defines chance (τύχη) as a “cause by accident” (συμβέβηκος), or more literally “coincidence,” which is substantially what Janet (Final Causes, 1878, p. 19) means by defining chance as the coincidence of causes. At the end of the same chapter Aristotle uses αὐτόματον in contrast with τύχη—“τύχη or even αὐτόματον,” which has been rendered (M’Mahon) “chance or even spontaneity.” In modern phrase those who hold these three various views of the universe might be characterized as “material evolutionists,” “transcendental idealists,” and “philosophical (or perhaps ‘agnostic’) evolutionists.”


i.e. “plan.”


δικαιοσύνη, better “righteousness,” “correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting” (Thayer, Lex. p. 149). So its opposite mentioned below (δικία) is better “unrighteousness,” as generally in the revised English version of the N.T., “mammon of unrighteousness” (Luke xvi. 9, e.g.). The word means more than our “just,” “more,” as Socrates said (Plat. Rep. 1. 331), “than to speak the truth and pay your debts.” Righteousness is the better translation, but we are met with the difficulty that it has generally been rendered justice in translations of the philosophers.


σωφροσύνη, temperance, vs. κολασία, intemperance, below; soundness of mind vs. insanity (cf. use in Acts 26:25, Mark 5:15, Luke 8:35Acts xxvi. 25, and of verb in Mark v. 15; Luke viii. 35; also use in Plato, Rep. 332, &c.); self-control vs. unbridled desire. This same contrast of σωφροσύνη and κολασία is found in Aristotle, Eth. 2, vii. 3; 7, vii. I; and especially 7, ix. 5.


τὶ δίκαιον, not δικαιοσύνη


This is very free, and follows translation of Valesius and 1709 text. 1709 marg. translates more literally, “But either crimes, or, on the other hand, brave performances, which are [the property] of a good and right purpose of mind, if they happen sometimes one way, at others another,” and Molz. somewhat similarly. It is possible that it should read: “Granted that either evil actions proceeding from a good and upright will, or contrariwise, good actions [from an evil will] which issue directly contrary [to their own nature or to just expectation] may be ascribed to chance or fate, how can the right,” &c.








νόος was not narrowed to the mere intellectual functions. “Intellectual” is not to be taken of brain function only, but of brain and heart,—real knowing, as against the “intellectuation” which men nowadays try to force the word “know” to mean.


“Quire of the stars,” 1709.


The “λόγος ἐνδι€θετος” of Philo, frequent in Alexandrian theologians. It is the unuttered thought vs. the expressed word.


Fore-ordination, or plan.



Next: Chapter VII