Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Life and Works of Rufinus with Jerome's Apology Against Rufinus.: My ignorance of many natural phenomena is no excuse for your ignorance as to the origin of souls. You ought, according to your boasting dream to know everything. The thing of most importance was forgotten in your cargo of Eastern wares.
28. You pass on to the origin of souls, and at great length exclaim against the smoke which you say I raise. You want to be allowed to express ignorance on a point on which you advisedly dissemble your knowledge; and therefore begin questioning me about angels and archangels; as to the mode of their existence, the place and nature of their abodes, the differences, if there be any, existing between them; and then as to the course of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, the character and movements of the stars. I wonder that you did not set down the whole of the lines: 3186
Whence come the earthquakes, whence the high-swolln seas
Breaking their bounds, then sinking back to rest;
The Suns eclipse, the labours of the moon;
The race of men and beasts, the storm, the fire,
Arcturus rainy Hyads, and the Bears:
Why haste the winters suns to bathe themselves
Beneath the wave, what stays its lingering nights.
Then, leaving things in heaven, and condescending to those on earth, you philosophize on minor points. You say: “Tell us what are the causes of the fountains, and of the wind; what makes the hail and the showers; why the sea is salt, the rivers sweet; what account is to be given of clouds and storms, thunderbolts, and thunder and lightning.” You mean that if I do not know all this, you are entitled to say you know nothing about the origin of souls. You wish to balance your ignorance on a single point by mine on many. But do not you, who in page after page stir up what you call my smoke, understand that I can see your mists and whirlwinds? You wish to be thought a man of extensive knowledge, and among the disciples of Calpurnius 3187 to enjoy a great reputation for wisdom, and therefore you raise up the whole physical world in front of me, as if Socrates had said in vain when he passed over to the study of Ethics: “What is above us is nothing to us.” So then, if I cannot tell you why the ant, which is such a little creature, whose body is a mere point, has six feet, whereas an elephant with its vast bulk has only four to walk on; why serpents and snakes glide along on their chests and bellies; why the worm which is commonly called the millipede has such a swarming array of feet; I am prohibited from knowing anything about the origin of souls! You ask me what I know about souls, so that, when I make any statement about them, you may at once attack it. And if I say that the churchs doctrine is that God forms souls every day, and sends them into the bodies of those who are born, you will at once bring out the snares your master invented, and ask, Where is Gods justice if p. 534 he grants souls to those who are born of adultery or incest? Is he not an accessory to mens sins, if he creates souls for the adulterers who make the bodies? as if, when you hear that seed corn had been stolen, you are to suppose the fault to lie in the nature of the corn, and not in the man who stole the wheat; and that therefore the earth had no business to nourish the seed in its bosom, because the hands of the sower who cast them in were unclean. Hence comes also your mysterious question, Why do infants die? since it is because of their sins, as you hold, that they received bodies. There exists a treatise of Didymus addressed to you, in which he meets this inquiry of yours, with the answer, that they had not sinned much, and therefore it was enough punishment for them just to have touched their bodily prisons. He, who was your master and mine also, when you asked this question, wrote at my request three books of comments on the prophet Hosea, and dedicated them to me. This shows what parts of his teaching we respectively accepted.
Virgil Georg, ii, 473, Æn. i. 746.533:3187
A Latin rhetorician of the time of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. Some of his exercises are still extant.
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