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Chapter X.—Concerning earth and its products.
The earth is one of the four elements, dry, cold, heavy, motionless, brought into being by God, out of nothing on the first day. For in the beginning, he said, God created the heaven and the earth17571757 Gen. i. 1.: but the seat and foundation of the earth no man has been able to declare. Some, indeed, hold that its seat is the waters: thus the divine David says, To Him Who established the earth on the waters17581758 Ps. cxxxvi. 6.. Others place it in the air. Again some other says, He Who hangeth the earth on nothing17591759 Job xxvi. 7.. And, again, David, the singer of God, says, as though the representative of God, I bear up the pillars of it17601760 Ps. lxxv. 3., meaning by “pillars” the force that sustains it. Further, the expression, He hath founded it upon the seas17611761 Ibid. xxiv. 2., shews clearly that the earth is on all hands surrounded with water. But whether we grant that it is established on itself, or on air or on water, or on nothing, we must not turn aside from reverent thought, but must admit that all things are sustained and preserved by the power of the Creator.
In the beginning, then, as the Holy Scripture says17621762 Gen. i. 2., it was hidden beneath the waters, and was unwrought, that is to say, not beautified. But at God’s bidding, places to hold the waters appeared, and then the mountains came into existence, and at the divine command the earth received its own proper adornment, and was dressed in all manner of herbs and plants, and on these, by the divine decree, was bestowed the power of growth and nourishment, and of producing seed to generate their like. Moreover, at the bidding of the Creator it produced also all manner of kinds of living creatures, creeping things, and wild beasts, and cattle. All, indeed, are for the seasonable use of man: but of them some are for food, such as stags, sheep, deer, and such like: others for service such as camels, oxen, horses, asses, and such like: and others for enjoyment, such as apes, and among birds, jays and parrots, and such like. Again, amongst plants and herbs some are fruit bearing, others edible, others fragrant and flowery, given to us for our enjoyment, for example, the rose and such like, and others for the healing of disease. For there is not a single animal or plant in which the Creator has not implanted some form of energy capable of being used to satisfy man’s needs. For He Who knew all things before they were, saw that in the future man would go forward in the strength of his own will, and would be subject to corruption, and, therefore, He created all things for his seasonable use, alike those in the firmament, and those on the earth, and those in the waters.
Indeed, before the transgression all things were under his power. For God set him as ruler over all things on the earth and in the waters. Even the serpent17631763 In this John does not follow Basil in his De Paradiso. was accustomed to man, and approached him more readily than it did other living creatures, and held intercourse with him with delightful motions17641764 Basil, Hom. de Parad.. And hence it was through it that the devil, the prince of evil, made his most wicked suggestion to our first parents17651765 Gen. iii. 1.. Moreover, the earth of its own accord used to yield fruits, for the benefit of the animals that were obedient to man, and there was neither rain nor tempest on the earth. But after the transgression, when he was compared with the unintelligent cattle and became like to them17661766 Ps. xlix. 12., after he had contrived that in him irrational desire should have rule over reasoning mind and had become disobedient to the Master’s command, the subject creation rose up against him whom the Creator had appointed to be ruler: and it was appointed for him that he should till with sweat the earth from which he had been taken.
But even now wild beasts are not without their uses, for, by the terror they cause, they bring man to the knowledge of his Creator and lead him to call upon His name. And, further, at the transgression the thorn sprung out of the earth in accordance with the Lord’s express declaration and was conjoined with the pleasures of the rose, that it might lead us to remember the transgression on account of which the earth was condemned to bring forth for us thorns and prickles17671767 Basil, Hom. de Parad..
Further, some hold that the earth is in the form of a sphere, others that it is in that of a cone. At all events it is much smaller than the heaven, and suspended almost like a point in its midst. And it will pass away and be changed. But blessed is the man who inherits the earth promised to the meek17691769 St. Matt. v. 5..
For the earth that is to be the possession of the holy is immortal. Who, then, can fitly marvel at the boundless and incomprehensible wisdom of the Creator? Or who can render sufficient thanks to the Giver of so many blessings17701770 Method, Cont. Orig. apud Epiph. Hæres. 64.?
[There are also provinces, or prefectures, of the earth which we recognise: Europe embraces thirty four, and the huge continent of Asia has forty-eight of these provinces, and twelve canons as they are called17711771 Only Cod. Reg. 3451 has this paragraph..]
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