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27. Such are the doctrines which are to be found in these works of yours which you single out from all that you have written, and which you desire men to read over again to the prejudice of all the rest. It is in these very Commentaries that these doctrines are written. There was, you say, an invisible world before this visible one came into being. You say that in this world, along with the other inhabitants, that is the angels, there were also souls. You say that these souls, for reasons known to God alone, enter into bodies at the time of birth in this visible world: those souls, you say, who in a former age had been inhabitants of heaven, now dwell here, on this earth, and that not without reference to certain acts which they had committed while they lived there. You say further that all the saints, such as Paul and others like him in each generation were predestinated by God for the purpose of recalling them by their preaching to that habitation from which they had fallen: and all this you support by very copious warranties of Scripture. But are not these statements precisely those for which you now arraign Origen, and for which alone you demand that he should be condemned? What ‘other’ than him who says such things as these do you condemn in your writings? And yet if these statements are to be condemned, as you now urge, you will first pronounce judgment on these statements, and then find that you have condemned yourself by anticipation. No other refuge remains for you. There is no room for any of these twists and turns for which you blame others: for it is just when you are doing penance and have been converted, when you have been corrected and put in the way of amendment, that you have stamped these books with fresh authority, to prove to us by their means what your opinion was as to the doctrines which ought to be condemned: and therefore what you have there written must be taken as if we heard you now distinctly making the statements contained in them. Yet in these very books you yourself make the statements which you say are to be condemned. But no! you will say: it is not I that make them. It is the ‘other’ who thus speaks, that is, of course, the man who I now declare ought to be condemned. Well, let us recall, if you please, that particular line in which you change the person of the speaker, that we may see who it is whom you represent as building up this strange theory. You say, then, that it is ‘another,’ who is endeavouring to show that God is just, who says these p. 450 things which we have set down just above. If you say that this ‘other’ who by this assertion of his proves God to be just is separate and divers from yourself, what then, I ask, is your own opinion? Must we say that you deny that God is just? Oh, great Master, you who see so sharply, and are so hard upon the moles that have no eyes: 2872 you seem to have got yourself into a most impossible position, where you are shut in on every side. Either you must deny that God is just by declaring yourself other than, and contrary to, him who says these things, or if you confess God to be just, as all the Church does, then it is you yourself who make the assertions in question; in which case the sentence which you pass upon another falls upon you, you are thrust through with your own spear. I think that this is enough for your conviction before the most righteous judges whose judgment anticipates that of God: not that they would condemn the man who sees the mote in his brother’s eye but does not see the beam in his own; but they would try to bring him to a better mind and to true repentance.



Talpas oculis captos. Virg, Georg. i, 183.

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