Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

superstition as being placed on the right hand, and flee from impiety as a thing to be avoided on the left.

XXXV. But that we may not, through deviating from the right road, be compelled to yield to one of two rival faults, let us desire and pray to be able to proceed straight along the middle of the road. Now, the middle between temerity and cowardice, is courage; the mean between profuse extravagance and illiberal stinginess, is temperance; that between crafty unscrupulousness and folly, is prudence; and the proper path between superstition and impiety, is piety. These lie in the middle between the deviations on either side, and are all roads easily travelled, and level, and plain, which we must walk upon not with our bodily organs, but with the motions of a soul continually desiring what is best.

At this, the earthly Edom, being excessively indignant (for he is afraid of the overthrow and confusion of his own doctrines), will threaten us with irreconcilable wars, if we attempt to force our way along it, cutting down and clearing away continually as we advance the fruitful trees of his soul, which he planted for the destruction of wisdom, but has not gathered the fruit thereof; for he says, “ Thou shalt not pass by me; and if thou dost, I will come forth in battle against thee to meet thee." But let us regard none of his threats, but make answer that we will pass by his mountain; that is to say, we being accustomed to associate with high and sublime powers and to investigate everything according to its true definition, and being used to inquire into the reason of everything whatever, of every kind, by means of which the knowledge is attained of what anything is, hold in utter contempt everything which is external and which affects the body alone; for such things are lowly and grovelling in the ground, dear indeed to you, but hated by us, for which reason we will not have anything to do with any one of them. For if, as the proverb says, we only touch this with the tip of our finger, we shall be giving honour and dignity to you; for then you will give yourself airs and will boast, as if we who are lovers of virtue had been brought over to you by the allurements of pleasure.

XXXVI. “ For if,” says Israel, “ I and my cattle drink of thy water, I will pay you a price for it." Not meaning by that such price as is spoken of by the poets, money of silver or gold, or anything else ; such among dealers is accustomed to be given

to those who sell wares in exchange for their wares, but the price will be the honour which he now claims; for, in reality, every intemperate, or unjust, or cowardly man, when he sees any one who is more austere either avoiding labour, or subdued by gain, or yielding to any one of the allurements of pleasure, rejoices and exults, and thinks that he himself has received honour. And, moreover, going on in his rejoicing and display. ing his exultation to the multitude, he begins to philosophise about his own errors as very unavoidable and not useless, saying that if they were not of such a character, that respectable man, 80 and so, would never have indulged in them.

Let us, then, say to every wicked man, if we drink of thy water, if we touch anything, whatever that is yours, owing to an indiscreet impetuosity, we shall be giving you honour, and acceptance, instead of dishonour and rejection (for these are what yoa deserve to receive); aud, iv truth, the matters about which you are anxious are absolutely nothing. Do you think that anything mortal has any real being and existence, and that it is not rather something borne up and suspended by the rope of some false and untrustworthy opinion, resting on empty air, and in po respect differing from deceitful dreams? And if you are unwilling to contemplate the fortunes of particular men, think upon the changes, whether for the better pr for the worse, of whole countries and pations,

At one time Greece was fourishing, but the Macedonians took away the

power of that land ; thon, in turn, Macedonia became mighty, but that, being divided into small portions be. came weak, until at last it was entirely extinguished. Before the time of the Macedonians the Persians prospered, but one day overthrew their exceeding and extensive prosperity. And now the Parthians are more powerful than the Persians, who a little while ago were their masters, ever were ; and those who were their subjects are now masters. Once, and for a very long time, Egypt was a mighty empire, but its great dominion and glory have passed away like a cloud. What has become of the Ethiopians, and of Carthage, and of the kingdoms of Libya ? Where now are the kings of Pontus ? What has bocome of Europe and Asia, and, in short, of the whole of the inbabited world ? Is it pot tossed up and down and agitated like a ship that is tossed by the sea, at one time enjoying a fair wind and at another time being forced to battle against

contrary gales ? For the divine Word brings round its operations in a circle, which the common multitude of men call fortune. And then, as it continually flows on among cities, and nations, and countries, it overturns existing arrangements and gives to one person what has previously belonged to another, changing the affairs of individuals only in point of time, in order that the whole world may become, as it were, one city, and enjoy the most excellent of constitutions, a democracy.

XXXVII. No one, therefore, of all the objects of human anxiety or of human labour, is of any importance or value ; but every such thing is a mere shadow or breath, disappearing before it can get any firm footing ; for it comes and then again it departs, like the ebbing tide. For the sea, in its ebb and flow; is at one time borne forwards with great violence, and roaring, and noise, and overflowing its bounds makes a lake of what has previously been dry land ; and, at another time, it recedes and makes a large portion of what has been sea, dry land. In the same manner, at times, prosperity overflows a mighty and populous nation, but afterwards turns the impetuosity of its stream in the opposite direction, and does not leave even the slightest drop, so as to suffer no trace whatever to remain of its former richness. But it is not everybody who receives the complete and full meaning of these events, but only those receive it who are accustomed always to proceed in accordance with true and solid reason and limitation ; for we find the same men saying both these things, All the affairs of the created world are absolutely nothing;" and, “We will go by thy mountain." For it is impossible for one who is not in the habit of using high and mountainous roads to repudiate all mortal affairs, and to turn aside and change his paths for what is immortal.

Therefore the earthly Edom thinks it right to blockade the heavenly and royal road of virtue, and the divine reason blockades his road, and that of all who follow his opinions ; among whom we must enroll Balaam; for he also is a child of tho carth, and not a shoot of heaven, and a proof of this is, that he, being influenced by omens and false prophecies, not even when the eye of his soul, which had been closed, recovered its sight, and • saw the angel of God standing against him in the way; not even then did he turn back and desist from doing

* Numbers xxii. 31.

wrong, but giving way to a mighty torrent of folly, he was ivashed away and swallowed up by it.

For then the diseases of the soul are truly not only difficult of cure, but even utterly incurable, when, though conviction is present to us (and this is the word of God, coming as his angel and as our guide, and removing the obstacles before our feet, so that we may travel without stumbling along the level road), we nevertheless prefer our own indiscreet opinions, to the explanations and injunctions which he is accustomed to address to us for our admonition, and for the chastening and regulating of our whole life. On this account he who is not persuaded by, and who shows no respect to, conviction, when it thus opposes him, will, in his turn, incur destruction with the wounded, * whom the passions have wounded and overthrown ; and his calamity will be a most sufficient lesson for all those who are not utterly impure, to endeavour to keep the judge, that is within them, favourable to them, and he will be so if they do not reverse what has been rightly decided by him.

A TREATISE

ON THE

TILLING OF THE EARTH BY NOAH.

I. " AND Noah began to be a husbandman; and he planted a vineyard, and he drank of the wine, and he was drunk in his house."+ The generality of men not understanding the nature of things, do also of necessity err with respect to the composition of names; for those who consider affairs anatomically, as it were, are easily able to affix appropriate names to things, but those who look at them in a confused and irregular way are incapable of such accuracy. But Moses, through the exceeding ab ndance of his knowledge of all things, was accustomed to affix the most felicitous and expressive appellations to them. Accordingly, in many passages of the law, we shall find this opinion, which we have expressed, confirmed by the fact, and not least in the passage which we have cited at the beginning of this treatise, in which the just Noah is represented as a hus. * Numbers xxxi. 8.

+ Genesis ix. 20.

båndman. For what man is there who is at all hasty in form ing an opinion, who would not think that the being a husband man (ytwgyia), and the occupying one's self in cultivating the ground (ros igyasía), were the same thing? And yet in real truth, not only are these things not the same, but they are even very much separated from one another, so as to be opposed to, and at variance with one another.

For a man without any skill may labour at taking care of the land; but if a man is called a husbandman, he, from his mere name, is believed to be no unskilful man, but a farmer of experience, inasmuch as his name (yewyds) has been derived from agricultural skill (ytwgyixs réxin), of which he is the namesake. And besides all this, we must likewise consider this other point, that the tiller of the ground (o yñs ipyárns) looks only to one end, namely, to his wages ; for he is altogether a hireling, and has no care whatever to till the land well. But the husband. man (o yewgyds) would be glad also to contribute something of his own, and to spend in addition some of his private resources for the sake of improving the soil, and of avoiding blame from those who understand the business ; for his desire is to derive his revenues every year not from any other source, but from his agricultural labours, when they have been brought into a productive state. He therefore occupies himself with improving the character of wild trees, and making them fruitful, and with further improving the character of fruitful trees by his care, and with reducing by pruning those branches which through super. fuity of nourishment are too luxuriant, and with inducing those which are contracted and crowded to grow by the extension of their young shoots. Moreover, those trees which are of good sorts, and which make many shoots, he propagates by extending them under the earth in ditches of no very great depth, and those which do not produce good fruit he endeavours to improve by the insertion of other kinds into their roots, connecting them by the most natural union.

For the same thing happens likewise in the case of men, that they firmly unite into their own family adopted sons, who are unconnected with them in blood, but whom they make their own on account of their virtues. The husbandman, therefore, takes up innumerable shoots, with their roots entire, which have by natural process become barren, as far as bearing fruit is concerned, and which even do great injury to those plants which

« VorigeDoorgaan »