Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Minucius Felix/The Octavius of Minucius Felix/Chapter 17

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Minucius Felix, The Octavius of Minucius Felix
by Minucius Felix, translated by Robert Ernest Wallis
Chapter 17
155905Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Minucius Felix, The Octavius of Minucius Felix — Chapter 17Robert Ernest WallisMinucius Felix

Chapter XVII.—Argument:  Man Ought Indeed to Know Himself, But This Knowledge Cannot Be Attained by Him Unless He First of All Acknowledges the Entire Scope of Things, and God Himself.  And from the Constitution and Furniture of the World Itself, Every One Endowed with Reason Holds that It Was Established by God, and is Governed and Administered by Him.

“Neither do I refuse to admit what Cæcilius earnestly endeavoured to maintain among the chief matters, that man ought to know himself, and to look around and see what he is, whence he is, why he is; whether collected together from the elements, or harmoniously formed of atoms, or rather made, formed, and animated by God.  And it is this very thing which we cannot seek out and investigate without inquiry into the universe; since things are so coherent, so linked and associated together, that unless you diligently examine into the nature of divinity, you must be ignorant of that of humanity.  Nor can you well perform your social duty unless you know that community of the world which is common to all, especially since in this respect we differ from the wild beasts, that while they are prone and tending to the earth, and are born to look upon nothing but their food, we, whose countenance is erect, whose look is turned towards heaven, as is our converse and reason, whereby we recognise, feel, and imitate God,[1] have neither right nor reason to be ignorant of the celestial glory which forms itself into our eyes and senses.  For it is as bad as the grossest sacrilege even, to seek on the ground for what you ought to find on high.  Wherefore the rather, they who deny that this furniture of the whole world was perfected by the divine reason, and assert that it was heaped together by certain fragments[2] casually adhering to each other, seem to me not to have either mind or sense, or, in fact, even sight itself.  For what can possibly be so manifest, so confessed, and so evident, when you lift your eyes up to heaven, and look into the things which are below and around, than that there is some Deity of most excellent intelligence, by whom all nature is inspired, is moved, is nourished, is governed?  Behold the heaven itself, how broadly it is expanded, how rapidly it is whirled around, either as it is distinguished in the night by its stars, or as it is lightened in the day by the sun, and you will know at once how the marvellous and divine balance of the Supreme Governor is engaged therein.  Look also on the year, how it is made by the circuit of the sun; and look on the month, how the moon drives it around in her increase, her decline, and decay.  What shall I say of the recurring changes of darkness and light; how there is thus provided for us an alternate restoration of labour and rest?  Truly a more prolix discourse concerning the stars must be left to astronomers, whether as to how they govern the course of navigation, or bring on[3] the season of ploughing or of reaping, each of which things not only needed a Supreme Artist and a perfect intelligence, nor only to create, to construct, and to arrange; but, moreover, they cannot be felt, perceived and understood without the highest intelligence and reason.  What! when the order of the seasons and of the harvests is distinguished by stedfast variety, does it not attest its Author and Parent?  As well the spring with its flowers, and the summer with its harvests, and the grateful maturity of autumn, and the wintry olive-gathering,[4] are needful; and this order would easily be disturbed unless it were established by the highest intelligence.  Now, how great is the providence needed, lest there should be nothing but winter to blast with its frost, or nothing but summer to scorch with its heat, to interpose the moderate temperature of autumn and spring, so that the unseen and harmless transitions of the year returning on its footsteps may glide by!  Look attentively at the sea; it is bound by the law of its shore.  Wherever there are trees, look how they are animated from the bowels of the earth!  Consider the ocean; it ebbs and flows with alternate tides.  Look at the fountains, how they gush in perpetual streams!  Gaze on the rivers; they always roll on in regular courses.  Why should I speak of the aptly ordered peaks of the mountains, the slopes of the hills, the expanses of the plains?  Wherefore should I speak of the multiform protection provided by animated creatures against one another?—some armed with horns, some hedged with teeth, and shod with claws, and barbed with stings, or with freedom obtained by swiftness of feet, or by the capacity of soaring furnished by wings?  The very beauty of our own figure especially confesses God to be its artificer:  our upright stature, our uplooking countenance, our eyes placed at the top, as it were, for outlook; and all the rest of our senses as if arranged in a citadel.

Footnotes edit

  1. Some read, “the Lord God.”
  2. Scil. “atoms.”
  3. According to some, “point out” or “indicate.”
  4. Olives ripen in the month of December.