Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Minucius Felix/The Octavius of Minucius Felix/Chapter 18

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Minucius Felix, The Octavius of Minucius Felix
by Minucius Felix, translated by Robert Ernest Wallis
Chapter 18
155906Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Minucius Felix, The Octavius of Minucius Felix — Chapter 18Robert Ernest WallisMinucius Felix

Chapter XVIII.—Argument:  Moreover, God Not Only Takes Care of the Universal World, But of Its Individual Parts.  That by the Decree of the One God All Things are Governed, is Proved by the Illustration of Earthly Empires.  But Although He, Being Infinite and Immense—And How Great He Is, is Known to Himself Alone—Cannot Either Be Seen or Named by Us, Yet His Glory is Beheld Most Clearly When the Use of All Titles is Laid Aside.

“It would be a long matter to go through particular instances.  There is no member in man which is not calculated both for the sake of necessity and of ornament; and what is more wonderful still, all have the same form, but each has certain lineaments modified, and thus we are each found to be unlike to one another, while we all appear to be like in general.  What is the reason of our being born? what means the desire of begetting?  Is it not given by God, and that the breasts should become full of milk as the offspring grows to maturity, and that the tender progeny should grow up by the nourishment afforded by the abundance of the milky moisture?  Neither does God have care alone for the universe as a whole, but also for its parts.  Britain is deficient in sunshine, but it is refreshed by the warmth of the sea that flows around it.  The river Nile tempers the dryness of Egypt; the Euphrates cultivates Mesopotamia; the river Indus makes up for the want of rains, and is said both to sow and to water the East.  Now if, on entering any house, you should behold everything refined, well arranged, and adorned, assuredly you would believe that a master presided over it, and that he himself was much better than all those excellent things.  So in this house of the world, when you look upon the heaven and the earth, its providence, its ordering, its law, believe that there is a Lord and Parent of the universe far more glorious than the stars themselves, and the parts of the whole world.  Unless, perchance—since there is no doubt as to the existence of providence—you think that it is a subject of inquiry, whether the celestial kingdom is governed by the power of one or by the rule of many; and this matter itself does not involve much trouble in opening out, to one who considers earthly empires, for which the examples certainly are taken from heaven.  When at any time was there an alliance in royal authority which either began with good faith or ceased without bloodshed?  I pass over the Persians who gathered the augury for their chieftainship from the neighing of horses;[1] and I do not quote that absolutely dead fable of the Theban brothers.[2]  The story about the twins (Romulus and Remus), in respect of the dominion of shepherds, and of a cottage, is very well known.  The wars of the son-in-law and the father-in-law[3] were scattered over the whole world; and the fortune[4] of so great an empire could not receive two rulers.  Look at other matters.  The bees have one king; the flocks one leader; among the herds there is one ruler.  Canst thou believe that in heaven there is a division of the supreme power, and that the whole authority of that true and divine empire is sundered, when it is manifest that God, the Parent of all, has neither beginning nor end—that He who gives birth to all gives perpetuity to Himself—that He who was before the world, was Himself to Himself instead of the world?  He orders everything, whatever it is, by a word; arranges it by His wisdom; perfects it by His power.  He can neither be seen—He is brighter than light; nor can be grasped—He is purer than touch;[5] nor estimated; He is greater than all perceptions; infinite, immense, and how great is known to Himself alone.  But our heart is too limited to understand Him, and therefore we are then worthily estimating Him when we say that He is beyond estimation.  I will speak out in what manner I feel.  He who thinks that he knows the magnitude of God, is diminishing it; he who desires not to lessen it, knows it not.  Neither must you ask a name for God.  God is His name.  We have need of names when a multitude is to be separated into individuals by the special characteristics of names; to God, who is alone, the name God is the whole.  If I were to call Him Father, you would judge Him to be earthly; if a King, you would suspect Him to be carnal; if a Lord, you will certainly understand Him to be mortal.  Take away the additions of names, and you will behold His glory.  What! is it not true that I have in this matter the consent of all men?  I hear the common people, when they lift their hands to heaven, say nothing else but Oh God, and God is great, and God is true, and if God shall permit.  Is this the natural discourse of the common people, or is it the prayer of a confessing Christian?  And they who speak of Jupiter as the chief, are mistaken in the name indeed, but they are in agreement about the unity of the power.

Footnotes edit

  1. [In the case of Darius Hystaspes.]
  2. Eteocles and Polynices.
  3. Pompey and Cæsar.
  4. According to some, “one fate.”
  5. These words are omitted by some editors.