A Refutation of this Dogma on the Ground of Familiar Human Analogies.
How, shall we bear with these men who assert that all those wise, and consequently also noble, constructions (in the universe) are only the works of common chance? those objects, I mean, of which each taken by itself as it is made, and the whole system collectively, were seen to be good by Him by whose command they came into existence. For, as it is said, "God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good." [647] But truly these men do not reflect on [648] the analogies even of small familiar things which might come under their observation at any time, and from which they might learn that no object of any utility, and fitted to be serviceable, is made without design or by mere chance, but is wrought by skill of hand, and is contrived so as to meet its proper use. And when the object falls out of service and becomes useless, then it also begins to break up indeterminately, and to decompose and dissipate its materials in every casual and unregulated way, just as the wisdom by which it was skilfully constructed at first no longer controls and maintains it. For a cloak, for example, cannot be made without the weaver, as if the warp could be set aright and the woof could be entwined with it by their own spontaneous action; while, on the other hand, if it is once worn out, its tattered rags are flung aside. Again, when a house or a city is built, it does not take on its stones, as if some of them placed themselves spontaneously upon the foundations, and others lifted themselves up on the several layers, but the builder carefully disposes the skilfully prepared stones in their proper positions; while if the structure happens once to give way, the stones are separated and cast down and scattered about. And so, too, when a ship is built, the keel does not lay itself, neither does the mast erect itself in the centre, nor do all the other timbers take up their positions casually and by their own motion. Nor, again, do the so-called hundred beams in the wain fit themselves spontaneously to the vacant spaces they severally light on. But the carpenter in both cases puts the materials together in the right way and at the right time. [649] And if the ship goes to sea and is wrecked, or if the wain drives along on land and is shattered, their timbers are broken up and cast abroad anywhere, -- those of the former by the waves, and those of the latter by the violence of the impetus. In like manner, then, we might with all propriety say also to these men, that those atoms of theirs, which remain idle and unmanipulated and useless, are introduced vainly. Let them, accordingly, seek for themselves to see into what is beyond the reach of sight, and conceive what is beyond the range of conception; [650] unlike him who in these terms confesses to God that things like these had been shown him only by God Himself: "Mine eyes did see Thy work, being till then imperfect." [651] But when they assert now that all those things of grace and beauty, which they declare to be textures finely wrought out of atoms, are fabricated spontaneously by these bodies without either wisdom or perception in them, who can endure to hear [652] them talk in such terms of those unregulated [653] atoms, than which even the spider, that plies its proper craft of itself, is gifted with more sagacity?


[647] Genesis 1:31.

[648] The text is, all' oude apo ton mikron ton sunethon kai para podas nouthetounton, etc. We adopt Viger's suggestions and read nouthetountai.

[649] The text is, hekateras sunekomise kairion, for which Viger proposes eis ton hekateras, etc.

[650] The text gives, horatosan gar tas atheatous ekeinoi, kai tas anoetous noeitosan, ouch homoios ekeino, etc. The passage seems corrupt. Some supply phuseis as the subject intended in the atheatous and anoetous; but that leaves the connection still obscure. Viger would read, with one ms., athetous instead of athaetous, and makes this then the sense: that those Epicureans are bidden study more closely these unregulated and stolid (anoetous) atoms, not looking at them with a merely cursory and careless glance, as David acknowledges was the case with him in the thoughts of his own imperfect nature, in order that they may the more readily understand how out of such confusion as that in which they are involved nothing orderly and finished could possibly have originated. [P. 86, note 2, infra.]

[651] Psalm 139:16. The text gives, to akatergaston sou idosan hoi ophthalmoi mou. This strange reading, instead of the usual to akatergaston mou eidon (or idon) hoi ophthalmoi sou, is found also in the Alexandrine exemplar of the Septuagint, which gives, to akatergaston sou eidosan hoi ophthalmoi mou, and in the Psalter of S. Germanus in Calmet, which has, imperfectum tuum viderunt oculi mei. Viger renders it thus: quod ex tuis operibus imperfectum adhuc et impolitum videbatur, oculi tandem mei perviderunt; i.e., Thy works, which till now seemed imperfect and unfinished, my eyes have at length discerned clearly; to wit, because being now penetrated by greater light from Thee, they have ceased to be dim-sighted. See Viger's note in Migne.

[652] [The reproduction of all this outworn nonsense in our age claims for itself the credit of progressive science. It has had its day, and its destiny is to be speedily wiped out by the next school of thinkers. Meanwhile let the believer's answer be found in Isaiah 37:22, 23.]

[653] arrhuthmous.

i in opposition to those
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