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Chapter III.—The True Excellence of Man.
The most of men have a disposition unstable and heedless, like the nature of storms. “Want of faith has done many good things, and faith evil things.” And Epicharmus says, “Don’t forget to exercise incredulity; for it is the sinews of the soul.” Now, to disbelieve truth brings death, as to believe, life; and again, to believe the lie and to disbelieve the truth hurries to destruction. The same is the case with self-restraint and licentiousness. To restrain one’s self from doing good is the work of vice; but to keep from wrong is the beginning of salvation. So the Sabbath, by abstinence from evils, seems to indicate self-restraint. And what, I ask, is it in which man differs from beasts, and the angels of God, on the other hand, are wiser than he? “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels.”26822682 Ps. viii. 5. For some do not interpret this Scripture of the Lord, although He also bore flesh, but of the perfect man and the gnostic, inferior in comparison with the angels in time, and by reason of the vesture [of the body]. I call then wisdom nothing but science, since life differs not from life. For to live is common to the mortal nature, that is to man, with that to which has been vouchsafed immortality; as also the faculty of contemplation and of self-restraint, one of the two being more excellent. On this ground Pythagoras seems to me to have said that God alone is wise, since also the apostle writes in the Epistle to the Romans, “For the obedience of the faith among all nations, being made known to the only wise God through Jesus Christ;”26832683 Rom. xvi. 26, 27. and that he himself was a philosopher, on account of his friendship with God. Accordingly it is said, “God talked with Moses as a friend with a friend.”26842684 Ex. xxxiii. 11. That, then, which is true being clear to God, forthwith generates truth. And the gnostic loves the truth. “Go,” it is said, “to the ant, thou sluggard, and be the disciple of the bee;” thus speaks Solomon.26852685 Prov. vi. 6, 8. For if there is one function belonging to the peculiar nature of each creature, alike of the ox, and horse, and dog, what shall we say is the peculiar function of man? He is like, it appears to me, the Centaur, a Thessalian figment, compounded of a rational and irrational part, of soul and body. Well, the body tills the ground, and hastes to it; but the soul is raised to God: trained in the true philosophy, it speeds to its kindred above, turning away from the lusts of the body, and besides these, from toil and fear, although we have shown that patience and fear belong to the good man. For if “by the law is the knowledge of sin,”26862686 Rom. iii. 20. as those allege who disparage the law, and “till the law sin was in the world;”26872687 Rom. v. 13. yet “without the law sin was dead,”26882688 Rom. vii. 6. we oppose them. For when you take away the cause of fear, sin, you have taken away fear; and much more, punishment, when you have taken away that which gives rise to lust. “For the law is not made for the just man,”26892689 1 Tim. i. 9. says the Scripture. Well, then, says Heraclitus, “They would not have known the name of Justice if these things had not been.” And Socrates says, “that the law was not made for the sake of the good.” But the cavillers did not know even this, as the apostle says, “that he who loveth his brother worketh not evil;” for this, “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal; and if there be any other commandment, it is comprehended in the word, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself.”26902690 Rom. xiii. 8–10. So also is it said, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”26912691 Luke x. 27. And “if he that loveth his neighbour worketh no evil,” and if “every commandment is comprehended in this, the loving our neighbour,” the commandments, by menacing with fear, work love, not hatred. Wherefore the law is productive of the emotion of fear. “So that the law is holy,” and in truth “spiritual,”26922692 Rom. vii. 12, 14. according to the apostle. We must, then, as is fit, in investigating the nature of the body and the essence of the soul, apprehend the end of each, and not regard death as an evil. “For when ye were the servants of sin,” says the apostle, “ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things in which ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”26932693 Rom. vi. 20–23. The assertion, then, may be hazarded, that it has been shown that death is the fellowship of the soul in a state of sin with the body; and life the separation from sin. And many are the stakes and ditches of lust which impede us, and the pits of wrath and anger which must be overleaped, and all the machinations we must avoid of those who plot against us,—who would no longer see the knowledge of God “through a glass.”
“The half of virtue the far-seeing Zeus takes
From man, when he reduces him to a state of slavery.”
As slaves the Scripture views those “under sin” and “sold to sin,” the lovers of pleasure and of the body; and beasts rather than men, “those who have become like to cattle, horses, neighing after their neighbours’ wives.”26942694 Jer. v. 8, etc. The licentious is “the lustful ass,” the covetous is the “savage wolf,” and the deceiver is “a serpent.” The severance, therefore, of the soul from the body, made a life-long study, produces in the philosopher gnostic alacrity, so that he is easily able to bear natural death, which is the dissolution of the chains which bind the soul to the body. “For the world is crucified to me, and I to the world,” the [apostle] says; “and now I live, though in the flesh, as having my conversation in heaven.”26952695 Gal. vi. 14; Phil. iii. 20.
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