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Chapter XIII.—The Knowledge of God a Divine Gift, According to the Philosophers.
Everything, then, which falls under a name, is originated, whether they will or not. Whether, then, the Father Himself draws to Himself everyone who has led a pure life, and has reached the conception of the blessed and incorruptible nature; or whether the free-will which is in us, by reaching the knowledge of the good, leaps and bounds over the barriers, as the gymnasts say; yet it is not without eminent grace that the soul is winged, and soars, and is raised above the higher spheres, laying aside all that is heavy, and surrendering itself to its kindred element.
Plato, too, in Meno, says that virtue is God-given, as the following expressions show: “From this argument then, O Meno, virtue is shown to come to those, in whom it is found, by divine providence.” Does it not then appear that “the gnostic disposition” which has come to all is enigmatically called “divine providence?” And he adds more explicitly: “If, then, in this whole treatise we have investigated well, it results that virtue is neither by nature, nor is it taught, but is produced by divine providence, not without intelligence, in those in whom it is found.” Wisdom which is God-given, as being the power of the Father, rouses indeed our free-will, and admits faith, and repays the application of the elect with its crowning fellowship.
And now I will adduce Plato himself, who clearly deems it fit to believe the children of God. For, discoursing on gods that are visible and born, in Timæus, he says: “But to speak of the other demons, and to know their birth, is too much for us. But we must credit those who have formerly spoken, they being the offspring of the gods, as they said, and knowing well their progenitors, although they speak without probable and necessary proofs.” I do not think it possible that clearer testimony could be borne by the Greeks, that our Saviour, and those anointed to prophesy (the latter being called the sons of God, and the Lord being His own Son), are the true witnesses respecting divine things. Wherefore also they ought to be believed, being inspired, he added. And were one to say in a more tragic vein, that we ought not to believe,
yet let him know that it was God Himself that promulgated the Scriptures by His Son. And he, who announces what is his own, is to be believed. “No one,” says the Lord, “hath known the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him.”3098
We say, then, that it is characteristic of the same persons to vilify philosophy, and run down faith, and to praise iniquity and felicitate a libidinous life. But now faith, if it is the voluntary assent of the soul, is still the doer of good things, the foundation of right conduct; and if Aristotle defines strictly when he teaches that ποιεῖν is applied to the irrational creatures and to inanimate things, while πράττειν is applicable to men only, let him correct those who say that God is the maker (ποιητής) of the universe. And what is done (πρακτόν), he says, is as good or as necessary. To do wrong, then, is not good, for no one does wrong except for some other thing; and nothing that is necessary is voluntary. To do wrong, then, is voluntary, so that it is not necessary. But the good differ especially from the bad in inclinations and good desires. For all depravity of soul is accompanied with want of restraint; and he who acts from passion, acts from want of restraint and from depravity.
I cannot help admiring in every particular that divine utterance: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not in by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth.” Then the Lord says in explanation, “I am the door of the sheep.”3104