Gregory Thaumaturgus (Cont.)Part I. – Acknowledged Writings. (Cont.)

The Oration and Panegyric Addressed to Origen. (Cont.)

Argument IX. – But He Imbues Their Minds, Above All, with Ethical Science; and He Does Not Confine Himself to Discoursing on the Virtues in Word, but He Rather Confirms His Teaching by His Acts.

Moreover, as to those things which excel all in importance, and those for the sake of which, above all else, the whole62 family of the philosophical labours, gathering them like good fruits produced by the varied growths of all the other studies, and of long practised philosophizing, – I mean the divine virtues that concern the moral nature, by which the impulses of the mind have their equable and stable subsistence, – through these, too. he aimed at making us truly proof against grief and disquietude under the pressure of all ills, and at imparting to us a well-disciplined and stedfast and religious spirit, so that we might be in all things veritably blessed. And this he toiled at effecting by pertinent discourses, of a wise and soothing tendency, and very often also by the most cogent addresses touching our moral dispositions, and our modes of life. Nor was it only by words, but also by deeds, that he regulated in some measure our inclinations, – to wit, by that very contemplation and observation of the impulses and affections of the mind, by the issue of which most especially the mind is wont to be reduced to a right estate from one of discord, and to be restored to a condition of judgment and order out of one of confusion. So that, beholding itself as in a mirror (and I may say specifically, viewing, on the one hand, the very beginnings and roots of evil in it, and all that is reasonless within it, from which spring up all absurd affections and passions; and, on the other hand, all that is truly excellent and reasonable within it, trader the sway of which it remains proof against injury and perturbation in itself63, and then scrutinizing carefully the things thus discovered to be in it), it might cast out all those which are the growth of the inferior part, and which waste our powers64 through intemperance, or hinder and choke them through depression, – such things as pleasures and lusts, or pains and fears, and the whole array of ills that accompany these different species of evil. I say that thus it might cast them out and make away with them, by coping with them while yet in their beginnings and only just commencing their growth, and not leaving them to wax in strength even by a short delay, but destroying and rooting them out at once; while, at the same time, it might foster all those things which are really good, and which spring from the nobler part, and might preserve them by nursing them in their beginnings, and watching carefully over them until they should reach their maturity. For it is thus (he used to say) that the heavenly virtues will ripen in the soul: to wit, prudence, which first of all is able to judge of those very motions in the mind at once from the things themselves, and by the knowledge which accrues to it of things outside of us, whatever such there may be, both good and evil; and temperance, the power that makes the right selection among these things in their beginnings; and righteousness, which assigns what is just to each; and that virtue which is the conserver of them all – fortitude. And therefore he did not accustom us to a mere profession in words, as that prudence, for instance, is the knowledge65 of good and evil, or of what ought to be done, and what ought not: for that would be indeed a vain and profitless study, if there was simply the doctrine without the deed; and worthless would that prudence be, which, without doing the things that ought to be done, and without turning men away from those that ought not to be done, should be able merely to furnish the knowledge of these things to those who possessed her, – though many such persons come under our observation. Nor, again, did he content himself with the mere assertion that temperance is simply the knowledge of what ought to be chosen and what ought not; though the other schools of philosophers do not teach even so much as that, and especially the more recent, who are so forcible and vigorous in words (so that I have often been astonished at them, when they sought to demonstrate that there is the same virtue in God and in men, and that upon earth, in particular, the wise man is equal66 to God), and yet are incapable of delivering the truth as to prudence, so that one shall do the things which are dictated by prudence, or the truth as to temperance, so that one shall choose the things he has learned by it; and the same holds good also of their treatment of righteousness and fortitude. Not thus, however, in mere words only did this teacher go over the truths concerning the virtues with us; but he incited us much more to the practice of virtue, and stimulated us by the deeds he did more than by the doctrines he taught.


Argument X. – Hence the Mere Word-Sages Are Confuted, Who Say and yet Act Not.

Now I beg of the philosophers of this present time, both those whom I have known personally myself, and those of whom I have heard by report from others, and I beg also of all other men, that they take in good part the statements I have just made. And let no one suppose that I have expressed myself thus, either through simple friendship toward that man, or through hatred toward the rest of the philosophers; for if there is any one inclined to be an admirer of them for their discourses, and wishful to speak well of them, and pleased at hearing the most honourable mention made of them by others, I myself am the man. Nevertheless, those facts (to which I have referred) are of such a nature as to bring upon the very name of philosophy the last degree of ridicule almost from the great mass of men; and I might almost say that I would choose to be altogether unversed in it, rather than learn any of the things which these men profess, with whom I thought it good no longer to associate myself in this life, – though in that, it may be, I formed an incorrect judgment. But I say that no one should suppose that I make these statements at the mere prompting of a zealous regard for the praise of this man, or under the stimulus of any existing animosity67 towards other philosophers. But let all be assured that I say even less than his deeds merit, lest I should seem to be indulging in adulation; and that I do not seek out studied words and phrases, and cunning means of laudation – I who could never of my own will, even when I was a youth, and learning the popular style of address trader a professor of the art of public speaking, bear to utter a word of praise, or pass any encomium on any one which was not genuine. Wherefore on the present occasion, too, I do not think it right, in proposing to myself the task simply of commending him, to magnify him at the cost of the reprobation of others. And, in good sooth,68 I should speak only to the man’s injury, if, with the view of having something grander to say of him, I should compare his blessed life with the failings of others. We are not, however, so senseless.69 But I shall testify simply to what has come within my own experience, apart from all ill-judged comparisons and trickeries in words.


Argument XI. – Origen Is the First and the Only One That Exhorts Gregory to Add to His Acquirements the Study of Philosophy, and Offers Him in a Certain Manner an Example in Himself. Of Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude. The Maxim, Know Thyself.

He was also the first and only man that urged me to study the philosophy of the Greeks, and persuaded me by his own moral example both to hear and to hold by the doctrine of morals, while as yet I had by no means been won over to that, so far as other philosophers were concerned (I again acknowledge it), – not rightly so, indeed, but unhappily, as I may say without exaggeration, for me. I did not, however, associate with many at first, but only with some few who professed to be teachers, though, in good sooth, they all established their philosophy only so far as words went.70 This man, however, was the first that induced me to philosophize by his words, as he pointed the exhortation by deeds before he gave it in words, and did not merely recite well-studied sentences; nay, he did not deem it right to speak on the subject at all, but with a sincere mind, and one bent on striving ardently after the practical accomplishment of the things expressed, and he endeavoured all the while to show himself in character like the man whom he describes in his discourses as the person who shall lead a noble life, and he ever exhibited (in himself), I would say, the pattern of the wise man. But as our discourse at the outset proposed to deal with the truth, and not with vain-glorious language,71 I shall not speak of him now as the exemplar of the wise man. And yet, if I chose to speak thus of him, I should not be far astray from the truth.72 Nevertheless, I pass that by at present. I shall not speak of him as a perfect pattern, but as one who vehemently desires to imitate the perfect pattern, and strives after it with zeal and earnestness, even beyond the capacity of men, if I may so express myself; and who labours, moreover, also to make us, who are so different,73 of like character with himself, not mere masters and apprehenders of the bald doctrines concerning the impulses of the soul, but masters and apprehenders of these impulses themselves. For he pressed74 us on both to deed and to doctrine, and carried us along by that same view and method,75 not merely into a small section of each virtue, but rather into the whole, if mayhap we were able to take it in. And he constrained us also, if I may so speak, to practise righteousness on the ground of the personal action of the soul itself,76 which be persuaded us to study, drawing us off from the officious anxieties of life, and from the turbulence of the forum, and raising us to the nobler vocation of looking into ourselves, and dealing with the things that concern ourselves in truth. Now, that this is to practise righteousness, and that this is the true righteousness, some also of our ancient philosophers have asserted (expressing it as the personal action, I think), and have affirmed that this is more profitable for blessedness, both to the men themselves and to those who are with them,77 if indeed it belongs to this virtue to recompense according to desert, and to assign to each his own. For what else could be supposed to be so proper to the soul? Or what could be so worthy of it, as to exercise a care over itself, not gazing outwards, or busying itself with alien matters, or, to peak shortly, doing the worst injustice to itself, but turning its attention inwardly upon itself, rendering its own due to itself, and acting thereby righteously?78 To practise righteousness after this fashion, therefore, he impressed upon us, if I may so speak, by a sort of force. And he educated us to prudence none the less, – teaching to be at home with ourselves, and to desire and endeavour to know ourselves, which indeed is the most excellent achievement of philosophy, the thing that is ascribed also to the most prophetic of spirits79 as the highest argument of wisdom – the precept, Know thyself. And that this is the genuine function of prudence, and that such is the heavenly prudence, is affirmed well by the ancients; for in this there is one virtue common to God and to man; while the soul is exercised in beholding itself as in a mirror, and reflects the divine mind in itself, if it is worthy of such a relation, and traces out a certain inexpressible method for the attaining of a kind of apotheosis. And in correspondence with this come also the virtues of temperance. and fortitude: temperance, indeed, in conserving this very prudence which must be in the soul that knows itself, if that is ever its lot (for this temperance, again, surely means just a sound prudence):80 and fortitude, in keeping stedfastly by all the duties81 which have been spoken of, without falling away from them, either voluntarily or under any force, and in keeping and holding by all that has been laid down. For he teaches that this virtue acts also as a kind of preserver, maintainer, and guardian.


Argument XII. – Gregory Disallows Any Attainment of the Virtues on His Part. Piety Is Both the Beginning and the End, and Thus It Is the Parent of All the Virtues.

It is true, indeed that in consequence of our dull and sluggish nature, he has not yet succeeded in making us righteous, and prudent, and temperate, or manly, although he has laboured zealously on us. For we are neither in real possession of any virtue whatsoever, either human or divine, nor have we ever made any near approach to it, but we are still far from it. And these are very great and lofty virtues, and none of them may be assumed by any common person,82 but only by one whom God inspires with the power. We are also by no means so favourably constituted for them by nature, neither do we yet profess ourselves to be worthy of reaching them; for through our listlessness and feebleness we have not done all these things which ought to be done by those who aspire after what is noblest, and aim at what is perfect. We are not yet therefore either righteous or temperate, or endowed with any of the other virtues. But this admirable man. this friend and advocate of the virtues, has long ago done for us perhaps all that it lay in his power to do for us, in making us lovers of virtue, who should love it with the most ardent affection. And by his own virtue he created in us a love at once for the beauty of righteousness the golden face of which in truth was shown to us by him; and for prudence, which is worthy of being sought by all; and for the true wisdom, which is most delectable; and for temperance, the heavenly virtue which forms the sound constitution of the soul, and brings peace to all who possess it; and for manliness, that most admirable grace; and for patience, that virtue peculiarly ours;83 and, above all, for piety, which men rightly designate when they call it the mother of the virtues. For this is the beginning and the end of all the virtues. And beginning with this one, we shall find all the other virtues grow upon us most readily: if, white for ourselves we earnestly aspire after this grace, which every man, be he only not absolutely impious, or a mere pleasure-seeker, ought to acquire for himself, in order to his being a friend of God and a maintainer84 of His truth, and while we diligently pursue this virtue, we also give heed to the other virtues, in order that we may not approach our God in unworthiness and impurity, but with all virtue and wisdom as our best conductors and most sagacious priests. And the end of all I consider to be nothing but this: By the pure mind make thyself like85 to God, that thou mayest draw near to Him, and abide in Him.


Argument XIII. – The Method Which Origen Used in His Theological and Metaphysical Instructions. He Commends the Study of All Writers, the Atheistic Alone Excepted. The Marvellous Power of Persuasion in Speech. The Facility of the Mind in Giving Its Assent.

And besides all his other patient and laborious efforts, how shall I in words give any account of what he did for us, in instructing us in theology and the devout character? and how shall I enter into the real disposition of the man, and show with what judiciousness and careful preparation he would have us familiarized with all discourse about the Divinity, guarding sedulously against our being in any peril with respect to what is the most needful thing of all, namely, the knowledge of the Cause of all things? For he deemed it right for us to study philosophy in such wise. that we should read with utmost diligence all that has been written, both by the philosophers and by the poets of old, rejecting nothing,86 and repudiating nothing (for, indeed, we did not yet possess the power of critical discernment), except only the productions of the atheists, who, in their conceits, lapse from the general intelligence of man, and deny that there is either a God or a providence. From these he would have us abstain, because they are not worthy of being read, and because it might chance that the soul within us that is meant for piety might be defiled by listening to words that are contrary to the worship of God. For even those who frequent the temples of piety, as they think them to be, are careful not to touch anything that is profane.87 He held, therefore, that the books of such men did not merit to be taken at all into the consideration of men who have assumed the practice of piety. He thought, however, that we should obtain and make ourselves familiar with all other writings, neither preferring nor repudiating any one kind, whether it be philosophical discourse or not, whether Greek or foreign, but hearing what all of them have to convey. And it was with great wisdom and sagacity that he acted on this principle, test any single saying given by the one class or the other should be heard and valued above others as alone true, even though it might not be true, and test it might thus enter our mind and deceive us, and, in being lodged there by itself alone, might make us its own, so that we should no more have the power to withdraw from it, or wash ourselves clear of it, as one washes out a little wool that has got some colour ingrained in it. For a mighty thing and an energetic is the discourse of man, and subtle with its sophisms, and quick to find its way into the cars, and mould the mind, and impress us with what it conveys; and when once it has taken possession of us, it can win us over to love it as truth; and it holds its place within us even though it be false and deceitful, overmastering us like some enchanter, and retaining as its champion the very man it has deluded. And, on the other hand, the mind of man is withal a thing easily deceived by speech, and very facile in yielding its assent; and, indeed, before it discriminates and inquires into matters in any proper way, it is easily won over, either through its own obtuseness and imbecility, or through the subtlety of the discourse, to give itself up, at random often, all weary of accurate examination, to crafty reasonings and judgments, which are erroneous themselves, and which lead into error those who receive them. And not only so; but if another mode of discourse aims at correcting it, it will neither give it admittance, nor stiffer itself to be altered in opinion, because it is held fast by any notion which has previously got possession of it, as though some inexorable tyrant were lording over it.


Argument XIV. – Whence the Contentions of Philosophers Have Sprung. Against Those Who Catch at Everything That Meets Them, and Give It Credence, and Cling to It. Origen Was in the Habit of Carefully Reading and Explaining the Books of the Heathen to His Disciples.

Is it not thus that contradictory and opposing tenets have been introduced, and all the contentions of philosophers, while one party withstands the opinions of another, and some hold by certain positions, and others by others, and one school attaches itself to one set of dogmas, and another to another? And all, indeed, aim at philosophizing, and profess to have been doing so ever since they were first roused to it, and declare that they desire it not less now when they are well versed in the discussions than when they began them: yea, rather they allege that they have even more love for philosophy now, after they have had, so to speak, a little taste of it, and have had the liberty of dwelling on its discussions, than when at first, and without any previous experience of it, they were urged by a sort of impulse to philosophize. That is what they say; and henceforth they give no heed to any words of those who hold opposite opinions. And accordingly, no one of the ancients has ever induced any one of the moderns, or those of the Peripatetic school, to turn to his way of thinking, and adopt his method of philosophizing; and, on the other hand, none of the moderns has imposed his notions upon those of the ancient school. Nor, in short, has any one done so with any other.88 For it is not an easy thing to induce one to give up his own opinions, and accept those of others; although these might, perhaps, even be sentiments which, if he had been led to credit them before he began to philosophize, the man might at first have admired and accepted with all readiness: as, while the mind was not yet preoccupied, he might have directed his attention to that set of opinions, and given them his approval, and on their behalf opposed himself to those which he holds at present. Such, at least, has been the kind of philosophizing exhibited by our noble and most eloquent and critical Greeks: for whatever any one of these has lighted on at the outset, moved by some impulse or other, that alone he declares to be truth, and holds that all else which is maintained by other philosophers is simply delusion and folly, though he himself does not more satisfactorily establish his own positions by argument, than do all the others severally defend their peculiar tenets; the man’s object being simply to be under no obligation to give up and alter his opinions, whether by constraint or by persuasion, while he has (if one may speak truth) nothing else but a kind of unreasoning impulse towards these dogmas on the side of philosophy, and possesses no other criterion of what he imagines to be true, than (let it not seem an incredible assertion) undistinguishing chance.89 And as each one thus becomes attached to those positions with which he has first fallen in, and is, as it were, held in chains by them, he is no longer capable of giving attention to others, if he happens to have anything of his own to offer on every subject with the demonstration of truth, and if he has the aid of argument to show how false the tenets of his adversaries are; for, helplessly and thoughtlessly and as if he looked for some happy contingency, he yields himself to the reasonings that first take possession of him.90 And such reasonings mislead those who accept them, not only in other matters, but above all, in what is of greatest and most essential consequence – in the knowledge of God and in piety. And yet men become bound by them in such a manner that no one can very easily release them. For they are like men caught in a swamp stretching over some wide impassable plain, which, when they have once fallen into it, allows them neither to retrace their steps nor to cross it and effect their safety, but keeps them down in its soil until they meet their end; or they may be compared to men in a deep, dense, and majestic forest, into which the wayfarer enters, with the idea, perchance, of finding his road out of it again forthwith, and of taking his course once more on the open plain,91 but is baffled in his purpose by the extent and thickness of the wood. And turning in a variety of directions, and lighting on various continuous paths within it, he pursues many a course, thinking that by some of them he will surely find his way out: but they only lead him farther in, and in no way open up an exit for him, inasmuch as they are all only paths within the forest itself; until at last the traveller, utterly worn out and exhausted, seeing that all the ways he had tried had proved only forest still, and despairing of finding any more his dwelling-place on earth, makes up his mind to abide there, and establish his hearth, and lay out for his use such free space as he can prepare in the wood itself. Or again, we might take the similitude of a labyrinth, which has but one apparent entrance, so that one suspects nothing artful from the outside, and goes within by the single door that shows itself; and then, after advancing to the farthest interior, and viewing the cunning spectacle, and examining the construction so skillfully contrived, and full of passages, and laid out with unending paths leading inwards or outwards, he decides to go out again, but finds himself unable, and sees his exit completely intercepted by that inner construction which appeared such a triumph of cleverness. But, after all, there is neither any labyrinth so inextricable and intricate, nor any forest so dense and devious, nor any plain or swamp so difficult for those to get out of, who have once got within it, as is discussion,92 at least as one may meet with it in the case of certain of these philosophers.93 Wherefore, to secure us against falling into the unhappy experience of most, he did not introduce us to any one exclusive school of philosophy; nor did he judge it proper for us to go away with any single class of philosophical opinions, but he introduced us to all, and determined that we should be ignorant of no kind of Grecian doctrine.94 And he himself went on with us, preparing the way before us, and leading us by the hand, as on a journey, whenever anything tortuous and unsound and delusive came in our way. And be helped us like a skilled expert who has had long familiarity with such subjects, and is not strange or inexperienced in anything of the kind, and who therefore may remain safe in his own altitude, while he stretches forth his hand to others, and effects their security too, as one drawing up the submerged. Thus did he deal with us, selecting and setting before us all that was useful and true in all the various philosophers, and putting aside all that was false. And this he did for us, both in other branches of man’s knowledge, and most especially in all that concerns piety.


Argument XV. – The Case of Divine Matters. Only God and His Prophets Are to Be Heard in These. The Prophets and Their Auditors Are Acted on by the Same Afflatus. Origen’s Excellence in the Interpretation of Scripture.

With respect to these human teachers, indeed, he counselled us to attach ourselves to none of them, not even though they were attested as most wise by all men, but to devote ourselves to God alone, and to the prophets. And he himself became the interpreter of the prophets95 to us, and explained whatsoever was dark or enigmatical in them. For there are many things of that kind in the sacred words; and whether it be that God is pleased to hold communication with men in such a way as that the divine word may not enter all naked and uncovered into an unworthy soul, such as many are, or whether it be, that while every divine oracle is in its own nature most clear and perspicuous, it seems obscure and dark to us, who have apostatized from God, and have lost the faculty of hearing through time and age, I cannot tell. But however the case may stand, if it he that there are some words really enigmatical, he explained all such, and set them in the light, as being himself a skilled and most discerning hearer of God; or if it be that none of them are really obscure in their own nature, they were also not unintelligible to him, who alone of all men of the present time with whom I have myself been acquainted, or of whom I have heard by the report of others, has so deeply studied the clear and luminous oracles of God, as to be able at once to receive their meaning into his own mind, and to convey it to others. For that Leader of all men, who inspires96 God’s dear prophets, and suggests all their prophecies and their mystic and heavenly words, has honoured this man as He would a friend, and has constituted him an expositor of these same oracles; and things of which He only gave a hint by others, He made matters of full instruction by this man’s instrumentality; and in things which He, who is worthy of all trust, either enjoined in regal fashion, or simply enunciated, He imparted to this man the gift of investigating and unfolding and explaining them: so that, if there chanced to be any one of obtuse and incredulous mind, or one again thirsting for instruction, he might learn from this man, and in some manner be constrained to understand and to decide for belief, and to follow God. These things, moreover, as I judge, he gives forth only and truly by participation in the Divine Spirit: for there is need of the same power for or those who prophesy and for those who hear the prophets; and no one can rightly hear a prophet, unless the same Spirit who prophesies bestows on him the capacity of apprehending His words. And this principle is expressed indeed in the Holy Scriptures themselves, when it is said that only He who shutteth openeth, and no other one whatever;97 and what is shut is opened when the word of inspiration explains mysteries. Now that greatest gift this man has received from God, and that noblest of all endowments he has had bestowed upon him from heaven, that he should be an interpreter of the oracles of God to men,98 and that he might understand the words of God, even as if God spake them to him, and that he might recount them to men in such wise as that they may hear them with intelligence.99 Therefore to us there was no forbidden subject of speech;100 for there was no matter of knowledge hidden or inaccessible to us, but we had it in our power to learn every kind of discourse, both foreign101 and Greek, both spiritual and political, both divine and human; and we were permitted with all freedom to go round the whole circle of knowledge, and investigate it, and satisfy ourselves with all kinds of doctrines, and enjoy the sweets of intellect. And whether it was some ancient system of truth, or whether it was something one might otherwise name that was before us, we had in him an apparatus and a power at once admirable and full of the most beautiful views. And to speak in brief, he was truly a paradise to us after the similitude of the paradise of God, wherein we were not set indeed to till the soil beneath us, or to make ourselves gross with bodily nurture,102 but only to increase the acquisitions of mind with all gladness and enjoyment, – planting, so to speak, some fair growths ourselves, or having them planted in us by the Author of all things. 


Argument XVI. – Gregory Laments His Departure Under a Threefold Comparison; Likening It to Adam’s Departure out of Paradise. To the Prodigal Son’s Abandonment of His Father’s House, and to the Deportation of the Jews into Babylon.

Here, truly, is the paradise of comfort; here are true gladness and pleasure, as we have enjoyed them during this period which is now at its end – no short space indeed in itself, and yet all too short if this is really to be its conclusion, when we depart and leave this place behind us. For I know not what has possessed me, or what offence has been committed by me, that I should now be going away – that I should now be put away. I know not what I should say, unless it be that I am like a second Adam and have begun to talk, outside of paradise. How excellent might my life be, were I but a listener to the addresses of my teacher, and silent myself! Would that even now I could have learned to be mute and speechless, rather than to present this new spectacle of making the teacher the hearer! For what concern had I with such a harangue as this? and what obligation was there upon me to make such an address, when it became me not to depart, but to cleave fast to the place? But these things seem like the transgressions that sprung from the pristine deceit, and the penalties of these primeval offences still await me here. Do I not appear to myself to be disobedient103 in daring thus to overpass the words of God, when I ought to abide in them, and hold by them? And in that I withdraw, I flee from this blessed life, even as the primeval man fled from the face of God, and I return to the soil from which I was taken. Therefore shall I have to eat of the soil all the days of my life there, and I shall have to till the soil – the very soil which produces thorns and thistles for me, that is to say, pains and reproachful anxieties – set loose as I shall be from cares that are good and noble. And what I left behind me before, to that I now return – to the soil, as it were, from which I came, and to my common relationships here below, and to my father’s house – leaving the good soil, where of old I knew not that the good fatherland lay; leaving also the relations in whom at a later period I began to recognise the true kinsmen of my soul, and the house, too, of him who is in truth our father, in which the father abides, and is piously honoured and revered by the genuine sons, whose desire it also is to abide therein. But I, destitute alike of all piety and worthiness, am going forth from the number of these, and am turning back to what is behind, and am retracing my steps. It is recorded that a certain son, receiving from his father the portion of goods that fell to him proportionately with the other heir, his brother, departed, by his own determination, into a strange country far distant from his father; and, living there in riot, he scattered his ancestral substance, and utterly wasted it; and at last, under the pressure of want, he hired himself as a swine-herd; and being driven to extremity by hunger, he longed to share the food given to the swine, but could not touch it. Thus did he pay the penalty of his dissolute life, when he had to exchange his father’s table, which was a princely one, for something he had not looked forward to – the sustenance of swine and serfs. And we also seem to have some such fortune before us, now that we are departing, and that, too, without the full portion that falls to us. For though we have not received all that we ought, we are nevertheless going away, leaving behind us what is noble and dear with you and beside you, and taking in exchange only what is inferior. For all things melancholy will now meet us in succession, – tumult and confusion instead of peace, and an unregulated life instead of one of tranquillity and harmony, and a hard bondage, and the slavery of market-places, and lawsuits, and crowds, instead of this freedom; and neither pleasure nor any sort of leisure shall remain to us for the pursuit of nobler objects. Neither shall we have to speak of the words of inspiration, but we shall have to speak of the works of men, – a thing which has been deemed simply a bane by the prophet,104 – and in our case, indeed, those of wicked men And truly we shall have night in place of clay, and darkness in place of the clear light, and grief instead of the festive assembly; and in place of a fatherland, a hostile country will receive us, in which I shall have no liberty to sing my sacred song, (Psa_137:1-9) for how could I sing it in a land strange to my soul, in which the sojourners have no permission to approach God? but only to weep and mourn, as I call to mind the different state of things here, if indeed even that shall be in my power. We read (2Ki_24:1-20, 2Ki_25:1-30) that enemies once assailed a great and sacred city, in which the worship of God was observed, and dragged away its inhabitants, both singers and prophets,105 into their own country, which was Babylon. And it is narrated that these captives, when they were detained in the land, refused, even when asked by their conquerors, to sing the divine song, or to play in a profane country, and hung their harps on the willow-trees, and wept by the rivers of Babylon. Like one of these I verily seem to myself to be, as I am cast forth from this city, and from this sacred fatherland of mine, where both by day and by night the holy laws are declared, and hymns and songs and spiritual words are heard; where also there is perpetual sunlight; where by day in waking vision106 we have access to the mysteries of God, and by night in dreams107 we are still occupied with what the soul has seen and handled in the day; and where, in short, the inspiration of divine things prevails over all continually. From this city, I say, I am cast forth, and borne captive to a strange land, where I shall have no power to pipe:108 for, like these men of old, I shall have to hang my instrument on the willows, and the rivers shall be my place of sojourn, and I shall have to work in mud, and shall have no heart to sing hymns, even though I remember them; yea, it may be that, through constant occupation with other subjects, I shall forget even them, like one spoiled of memory itself. And would that, in going away, I only went away against my will, as a captive is wont to do; but I go away also of my own will, and not by constraint of another; and by my own act I am dispossessed of this city, when it is in my option to remain in it. Perchance, too, in leaving this place, I may be going to prosecute no safe journey, as it sometimes fares with one who quits some safe and peaceful city; and it is indeed but too likely that, in journeying, I may fall into the hands of robbers, and be taken prisoner, and be stripped and wounded with many strokes, and be cast forth to lie half-dead somewhere.


Argument XVII. – Gregory Consoles Himself.

But why should I utter such lamentations? There lives still the Saviour of all men, even of the half-dead and the despoiled, the Protector and Physician for all, the Word, that sleepless Keeper of all. We have also seeds of truth which thou hast made us know as oar possession, and all that we have received from thee, – those noble deposits of instruction, with which we take our coarse; and though we weep, indeed, as those who go forth from home, we yet carry those seeds with us. It may be, then, that the Keeper who presides over us will bear us in safety through all that shall befall as; and it may be that we shall come yet again to thee, bringing with us the fruits and handfuls yielded by these seeds, far from perfect truly, for how could they be so? but still such as a life spent in civil business109 makes it possible for us to rear, though marred indeed by a kind of faculty that is either unapt to bear fruit altogether, or prone to bear bad fruit, but which, I trust, is one not destined to be further misused by us, if God grants us grace.110


Argument XVIII. – Peroration, and Apology for the Oration.

Wherefore let me now have done with this address, which I have had the boldness to deliver in a presence wherein boldness least became me. Yet this address is one which, I think, has aimed heartily at signifying our thanks to the best of our ability, – for though we have had noticing to say worthy of the subject, we could not be altogether silent, – and one, too, which has given expression to our regrets, as those are wont to do who go abroad in separation from friends. And whether this speech of mine may not have contained things puerile or bordering on flattery, or things offending by excess of simplicity on the one hand, or of elaboration on the other, I know not. Of this, however, I am clearly conscious, that at least there is in it nothing unreal, but all that is true and genuine, in sincerity of opinion, and in purity and integrity of judgment.


Argument XIX. – Apostrophe to Origen, and Therewith the Leave-Taking, and the Urgent Utterance of Prayer.

But, O dear soul, arise thou and offer prayer, and now dismiss us; and as by thy holy instructions thou hast been our rescuer when we enjoyed thy fellowship, so save us still by thy prayers in our separation. Commend us and set us constantly111 before thee in prayer. Or rather commend us continually to that God who brought us to time, giving thanks for all that has been granted us in the past, and imploring Him still to lead us by the hand in the future, and to stand ever by us, filling oar mind with the understanding of His precepts, inspiring us with the godly fear of Himself, and vouchsafing us henceforward His choicest guidance.112 For when we are gone from thee, we shall not have the same liberty for obeying Him as was ours when we were with thee.113 Pray, therefore, that some encouragement may be conveyed to us from Him when we lose thy presence, and that He may send us a good conductor, some angel to be our comrade on the way, And entreat Him also to turn our course, for that is the one thing which above all else will effectually comfort us, and bring us back to thee again.



Neale, in his valuable work,114 does full justice to Dionysius, whose life is twinned with Gregory’s; but he seems to me most unaccountably to slight the truly great and commanding genius of Gregory. I take opportunity, then, to direct attention to Neale’s candid, and, on the whole, favourable view of Origen; but it grieves me whenever I see in critics a manifest inability to put themselves back into the times of which they write, as I think is the case, not infrequently, even with Dr. Neale. The figure of this grand ornament of the mighty patriarchate and school of Alexandria is colossal.115 His genius is Titanic, and has left all Christendom profoundly his debtor to this day, by the variety of his work and the versatility of his speech and pen. Doubtless the youthful Gregory’s panegyric does contain, as he himself suggests, much that is “puerile or bordering on flattery;” but, as he protests with transparent truthfulness, “there is nothing in it unreal.” It shines with “sincerity of thought and integrity of judgment.” And as such, what a portrait it presents us of the love and patient effort of this lifelong confessor! Let me commend this example to professors of theology generally. All can learn from it the power of sweetness and love, united with holiness of purpose, to stamp the minds and the characters of youth with the divine “image and superscription.”

But, as to the sharpness of modern censures upon Origen’s conspicuous faults, I must suggest three important considerations, which should be applied to all the Ante-Nicene doctors: (1) How could they who were working out the formulas of orthodoxy, be expected to use phrases with the skill and precision which became necessary only after the great Synodical period had embodied them in clear, dogmatic statements? (2) How could the active intellect of an Origen have failed to make great mistakes in such an immensity of labours and such a variety of works? (3) If, in our own day, we indulge speculative minds in large liberties so long as they never make shipwreck of the faith, how much more should we deem them excusable who were unable to consult libraries of well-digested thought, and to employ, as we do, the accumulated wealth of fifty generations of believers, whenever we are called to the solemn responsibility of impressing our convictions upon others? The conclusion of Dr. Neale’s review of Origen balances the praise and blame accorded to him by those nearest to his times;116 but let us reflect upon the painful conflicts of those times, and upon the pressure under which, to justify their own positions, they were often forced to object to any error glorified by even the apparent patronage of Origen. 





62 πᾶν τὸ φιλόσοφον. Hoeschelius and Bengel read πῶς, etc.

63 The text gives ὑφ ̓ ἑαυτῆς, for which Bengel reads ἐφ ̓ ἑαυτῆς.

64 ἐκχέοντα ἡμᾶς.

65 ἐπιστήμη, science.

66 τὰ πρῶτα Θεῷ εἶναι τὸν ἄνθρωπον.

67 φιλοτιμίᾳ, for which φιλονεικίᾳ is read.

68 The text is, ἢ κακῶν ἂν ἔλεγον, etc. The Greek ἢ and the Latin aut are found sometimes thus with a force bordering on that of alioqui.

69 ἀφραίνομεν. The Paris editor would read ἀφραίνω μέν.

70 ἀλλὰ γὰρ μέχρι ῥημάτων τὸ φιλοσοφεῖν στήσασιν.

71 The text is ἀλλ ̓ ἐπεὶ ἀλήθειαν ἡμῖν, οὐ κομψείαν ἐπηγγείλατο ἁ λόγος ἄνωθεν. The Latin rendering is, sed quia veritatem nobis, non pompam et ornatum promisit oratio in exordio.

72 The text is, καιτοι γε εἰπεῖν εἶναι τε ἀληθές. Bengel takes the τε as pleonastic, or as an error for the article, τ ̓ ἀληθές. The εἶναι in ἐθέλων εἶναι he takes to be the use of the infinitive which occurs in such phrases as τὴν πρώτην εἶναι, initio, ἑκὼν εἶναι, libenter, τὸ δὲ νῦν εἶναι, nunc vero, etc.; and giving ἐθέλων the sense of μέλλων makes the whole = And yet I shall speak truth.

73 The text is, καὶ ἡμᾶς ἑτέρους. The phrase may be, as it is given above, a delicate expression of difference, or it may perhaps be an elegant redundancy, like the French à nous autres. Others read, καὶ ἡμᾶς καὶ ἑτέρους.

74 The reading in the text gives, οὐ λόγων ἐγκρατεῖς καὶ ἐπιστήμονας τῶν περὶ ὁρμῶν, τῶν δὲ ὁρμῶν αὐτὤν ἐπὶ τὰ ἔργα καὶ λόγους ἄγχων, etc. Others would arrange the whole passage differently, thus: περὶ ὁρμῶν, τῶν δὲ ὁρμῶν αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τὰ ἔργα καὶ τοὺς λόγους ἄγχων. Καὶ, etc. Hence Sirmondus renders it, a motibus ipsis ad opera etiam sermones, reading also ἄγων apparently. Rhodomanus gives, impulsionum opsarum ad opera et verba ignavi et negligentes, reading evidently ἀργῶν. Bengel solves the difficulty by taking the first clause as equivalent to οὐ λόγων ἐγκρατεῖς καὶ επιστήμονας … αὐτῶν τῶν ὁρμῶν ἐγκρατεῖς καὶ ἐπιστήμονας. We have adopted this as the most evident sense. Thus ἄγχων is retained unchanged, and it taken as a parallel to the following participle ἐπιφέρων, and as bearing, therefore, a meaning something like that of ἀναγκάζων. See Bengel’s note in Migne.

75 θεωρία.

76 διὰ τὴν ἰδιοπραγίαν τῆς ψυχῆς, perhaps just “the private life.”

77 ἑαυτοῖς τε καὶ τοῖς προσιοῦσιν.

78 The text is, τὸ πρὸς ἑαυτὴν εἶναι. Migne proposes either to read ἑαυτούς, or to supply τὴν ψυχήν.

79 ὃ δὴ καὶ δαιμόνων τῷ μαντικωτάτῳ ἀνατίθεται.

80 σωφροσύνην, σώαν τινὰ φρόνησιν, an etymological play.

81 ἐπιτηδεύσεσιν.

82 The text is, οὐδὲ τῷ τυχεῖν. Migne suggests οὐδέ τῷ θέμις τυχεῖν = nor is it legitimate for any one to attain them.

83 The text is, ὑπομονῆς ἡμῶν. Vossius and others omit the ἡμῶν. The Stuttgart editor gives this note: “It does not appear that this should be connected by apposition with ἀνδρείας (manliness). But Gregory, after the four virtues which philosophers define as cardinal, adds two which are properly Christian, viz., patience, and that which is the hinge of all – piety.”

84 The word is προήγορον. It may be, as the Latin version puts it, familiaris, one in fellowship with God.

85 ἐξομοιώθητι προσελθεῖν. Others read ἐξομοιωθέντα προσελθεῖν.

86 μηδἑν ἐκποιουμένους. Casaubon marks this as a phrase taken from law, and equivalent to, nihil alienum a nobis ducentes.

87 The text is, ἧς οἴονται. We render with Bengel. The Latin interpreter makes it = Even those who frequent the temples do not deem it consistent with religion to touch anything at all profane.

88 [The ultimate subjugation of Latin theology by Aristotelian philosophy, is a deplorable instance of what is here hinted at, and what Hippolytus has worked out. Compare Col_2:8.]

89 The text is, οὐκ ἄλλην τινὰ (ει δεῖ τ ̓ ἀληθὲς εἰτεῖν) ἔχων ἢ τὴν πρὸς τῆς φιλοσοφίας ἐπὶ τάδε τὰ δόγματα ἄλογον ὁρμήν καὶ κοίσιν ὧν οἴεται ἀληθῶν (μὴ παράδοξον εἰπεῖν ᾖ) οὐκ ἄλλην ἢ τὴν ἄκριτον τύχην. Vossius would read, πρὸς τὴν φιλοσοφίαν καὶ ἐπὶ τὰδε τὰ δόγματα. Migne makes it = nulla ei erat alia sententia (si verum est dicendum) nisi caecus ille stimulus quo ante philosophiae studium in ista actus erat placita: neque aliud judicium eorum quae vera putaret (ne mirum sit dictu) nisi fortunae temeritas. Bengel would read πρὸ τῆς φιλοσοφίας.

90 The text is, ἐπεὶ καὶ ἀβοήθητος, ἑαυτὸν χαρισάμενος καὶ ἐκδεχόμενος εἰκῆ ωσπερ ερμαιον, τοῖς προκαταλαβοῦσιν αὐτὸν λόγοις. Bengel proposes ἐνδεχόμενον … ερμαιον, as = lucrum insperatum.

91 καθαρῷ – ερκει. Sirmondus gives puro campo. Rhodomanus, reading ἀέρι, gives puro aëre. Bengel takes εκρος, septum, as derivatively = domus, fundus, regio septis munita.

92 λόγος.

93 The text is, εἴ τις εἴη κατ ̓ αὐτῶν τῶνδέ τινων φιλοσόφων. Bengel suggests καταντῶν.

94 [Beautiful testimony to the worth and character of Origen! After St. Bernard, who thought he was scriptural, but was blinded by the Decretals (no fault in him), Scripture and testimony (as defined to be the rule of faith by Tertullian and Vincent) ceased to govern in the West; and by syllogisms (see vol. 5. p. 100) the Scholastic system was built up. This became the creed of a new church organization created at Trent, all the definitions of which are part of said creed. Thus the “Roman-Catholic Church” (so called when created) is a new creation (of A.D. 1564), in doctrine ever innovating, which has the least claim to antiquity of any Church pretending to Apostolic origin.]

95 ὑποφητεύων.

96 ὑπηχῶν.

97 Isa_22:22; Rev_3:7. [All these citations of the Scriptures should be noted, but specially those which prove the general reception of the Apocalypse in the East.]

98 [A noble sentence. Eph_3:8, Eph_3:9.]

99 The text gives ὡς ἀκούσωσιν, with Voss. and Bengel. The Paris editor gives ἀκούουσιν.

100 ἄῤῥητον.

101 Barbarian.

102 σωματοτροφεῖν παχυϚομένους.

103 ἀπειθεῖν. Bengel and Hoeschelius read ἀπελθεῖν, withdraw.

104 ἁπλοῦς ἀρά τις εἶναι νενόμισται ἀνδρὶ προφήτῃ. Migne refers us to Psa_17:1-15.

105 θεολόγους, used probably of the prophets here – namely of Ezekiel, Daniel, and others carried into exile with the people. On this usage, see Suicer’s Thesaurus, under the word θεολόγος, where from the pseudo-Areopagite Dionysius he cites the sentence, των θεολόγων εἷς, ὁ Ζαχαρίας, and again, ετέρος τῶν θεολόγων Ἰεζεκιήλ.

106 The text is, καὶ φῶς τὸ ἡλιακὸν καὶ τὸ διηνεκὲς, ἡμέρας υπερ ὴμῶν προσομιλούντων τοῖς θείος μυστηρίοις καὶ νυκτὸς ὧν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ εἶδέ τε καὶ ἔπραξεν ἡ ψυχὴ ταῖς φαντασίαις κατεχομένων. Bengel proposes υπαρ for υπερ, so as to keep the antithesis between ἡμέρας υπαρ and νυκτός φαντασίαις; and taking ἡμέρας and νυκτός as temporal genitives, he renders the whole thus: cum interdiu, per visa, divinis aderamus sacramentis: et noctu earum rerum, quas viderat de die atque egerat anima, imaginibus detinebamur.

107 [“In dreams I still renew the rites,” etc. – William Croswell.]

108 αὐλεῖν. The Jews had the harp, and so the word ψάλλειν is used of them in the preceding. But here, in speaking of himself, Gregory adopts the term οὔτε αὐλεῖν, ne tibia quidem canere. Bengal supposes that the verb is changed in order to convey the idea, that while the Jews only had to give up the use of instruments expressive of joyful feeling, Gregory feared he would himself be unable to play even on those of a mournful tone, – for in ancient times the pipe or flute was chiefly appropriated to strains of grief and sadness.

109 [He was still proposing for himself a life of worldly occupation. Here turn to Origen’s counsel, – a sort of reply to this Oration, – vol. 4. p. 393, and Caves Lives, etc., vol. i. p. 400.]

110 The text is, διεφθαρμένας μὲν τῇ δυνάμει, ἢ ἀκάρπῳ ἢ κακοκάρπῳ τινὶ, μὴ καὶ προσδιαφθαρησομένῃ δἐ παρ ̓ ἡμῶν, etc. Bengel reads μέν τοι for μὲν τῇ, and takes μὴ καί as = utinam ne.

111 παραδίδου καὶ παρατίθεσο.

112 ἐμβάλλοντα ἡμῖν τὸν θεῖον φόβον αὐτοῦ, παιδαγωγὸν ἄριστον ἐσόμενον. The Latin version makes the ἐσόμενον refer to the φόβον: divinumque nobis timorem suum, optimum paedagogum immittens, = and inspiring with the godly fear of Himself as our choicest guide.

113 οὐ γὰρ ἐν τῇ μετὰ σοῦ ἐλευθερίᾳ καὶ ἀπελθόντες ὑπακούσομεν αὐτῷ. Bengel paraphrases it thus: hac libertate quae tecum est carebo digressus; quare vereor ut Deo posthac paream, ni timore saltem munitus fuero. [He may probably have been only a catechumen at this period. This peroration favors the suspicion.]

114 The Patriarchs of Alexandria, London, 1847.

115 The ultimate influence of the school itself, Neale pronounces “an enigma” (vol. i. p. 38).

116 Vol. i. p. 33.