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The Theological Tractates And The Consolation of Philosophy

HAVING said thus, she began to turn her speech to treat and explicate certain other questions, when I interrupted her, saying: “Thy exhortation is very good, and well-seeming thy authority. But I find it true by experience, as thou affirmedst, that the question of Providence is entangled with many other. For I desire to know whether thou thinkest chance to be anything at all, and what it is.” “I make haste,” quoth she, “to perform my promise, and to show thee the way by which thou mayest return to thy country. But these other questions, though they be very profitable, yet they are somewhat from our purpose, and it is to be feared lest being wearied with digressions thou beest not able to finish thy direct journey.” “There is no fear of that,” quoth I, “for it will be a great ease to me to understand those things in which I take great delight, and withal, when thy disputation is fenced in on every side with sure conviction, there can be no doubt made of anything thou shalt infer.” “I will,” quoth she, “do as thou wouldst me have,” and withal began in this manner. “If any shall define chance to be an event produced by a confused motion, and without connexion of causes, I affirm that there is no such thing, and that chance is only an empty voice that hath beneath it no real signification. For what place can confusion have, since God disposeth all things in due order? For it is a true sentence that of nothing cometh nothing, which none of the ancients denied, though they held not that principle of the efficient cause, but of the material subject, laying it down as in a manner the ground of all their reasonings concerning nature. But if anything proceedeth from no causes, that will seem to have come from nothing, which if it cannot be, neither is it possible there should be any such chance as is defined a little before.” “What then,” quoth I, “is there nothing that can rightly be called chance or fortune? Or is there something, though unknown to the common sort, to which these names agree?” “My Aristotle,” quoth she, “in his Books of Nature declared this point briefly and very near the truth.” “How?” quoth I. “When,” quoth she, “anything is done for some certain cause, and some other thing happeneth for other reasons than that which was intended, this is called chance; as if one digging his ground with intention to till it, findeth an hidden treasure. This is thought to have fallen thus out by fortune, but it is not of nothing, for it hath peculiar causes whose unexpected and not foreseen concourse seemeth to have brought forth a chance. For unless the husbandman had digged up his ground, and unless the other had hidden his money in that place, the treasure had not been found. These are therefore the causes of this fortunate accident, which proceedeth from the meeting and concourse of causes, and not from the intention of the doer. For neither he that hid the gold nor he that tilled his ground had any intention that the money should be found, but, as I said, it followed and concurred that this man should dig up in the place where the other hid. Wherefore, we may define chance thus: That it is an unexpected event of concurring causes in those things which are done to some end and purpose. Now the cause why causes so concur and meet so together, is that order proceeding with inevitable connexion, which, descending from the fountain of Providence, disposeth all things in their places and times.

In the Achaemenian rocks, where Parthians with their darts

In their dissembled flight do wound their enemies,

Tigris from the same head doth with Euphrates rise,

And forthwith they themselves divide in several parts;

But if they join again, and them one channel bound,

Bringing together all that both their waves do bear;

The ships and trees, whose roots they from the bank do tear,

Will meet, and they their floods will mingle and confound,

Yet run this wandering course in places which are low,

And in these sliding streams a settled law remains.

So fortune, though it seems to run with careless reins,

Yet hath it certain rule, and doth in order flow.”

“I observe it,” quoth I, “and I acknowledge it to be as thou sayest. But in this rank of coherent causes, have we any free-will, or doth the fatal chain fasten also the motions of men’s minds?” “We have,” quoth she, “for there can be no reasonable nature, unless it be endued with free-will. For that which naturally hath the use of reason hath also judgment by which it can discern of everything by itself, wherefore of itself it distinguished betwixt those things which are to be avoided, and those which are to be desired. Now every one seeketh for that which he thinketh is to be desired, and escheweth that which in his judgment is to be avoided. Wherefore, they which have reason in themselves have freedom to will and nill. But yet I consider not this equal in all. For the supreme and divine substances have both a perspicuous judgment and an uncorrupted will, and an effectual power to obtain their desires. But the minds of men must needs be more free when they conserve themselves in the contemplation of God, and less when they come to their bodies, and yet less when they are bound with earthly fetters. But their greatest bondage is when, giving themselves to vices, they lose possession of their own reason. For, having cast their eyes from the light of the sovereign truth to inferior obscurities, forthwith they are blinded with the cloud of ignorance, molested with hurtful affections, by yielding and consenting to which they increase the bondage which they laid upon themselves, and are, after a certain manner, captives by their own freedom. Which notwithstanding that foresight of Providence which beholdeth all things from eternity, foreseeth, and by predestination disposeth of everything by their merits.

Sweet Homera sings the praise

Of Phoebus clear and bright,

And yet his strongest rays

Cannot with feeble light

Cast through the secret ways

Of earth and seas his sight,

Though ‘all lies open to his eyes.’

But He who did this world devise-

The earth’s vast depths unseen

From his sight are not free,

No clouds can stand between,

He at one time doth see

What are, and what have been,

And what shall after be.

Whom, since he only vieweth all,

You rightly the true Sun may call.”

Then I complained that I was now in a greater confusion and more doubtful difficulty than before. “What is that?” quoth she, “for I already conjecture what it is that troubleth thee.” “It seemeth,” quoth I, “to be altogether impossible and repugnant that. God foreseeth all things, and that there should be any free-will. For if God beholdeth all things and cannot be deceived, that must of necessity follow which His providence foreseeth to be to come. Wherefore, if from eternity he doth not only foreknow the deeds of men, but also their counsels and wills, there can be no free-will; for there is not any other deed or will, but those which the divine providence, that cannot be deceived, hath foreseen. For if things can be drawn aside to any other end than was foreknown, there will not be any firm knowledge of that which is to come, but rather an uncertain opinion, which in my opinion were impious to believe of God. Neither do I allow of that reason with which some suppose that they can dissolve the difficulty of this question. For they say that nothing is therefore to come to pass because Providence did foresee it, but rather contrariwise, because it shall be, it could not be unknown to Providence, and in this manner the necessity passes over to the other side. For it is not necessary, they argue, that those things should happen which are foreseen, but it is necessary that those things should be foreseen that are to come—as though our problem were this, which of them is the cause of a thing, the foreknowledge of the necessity of things to come, or the necessity of the foreknowledge of things to come, and we were not trying to prove that, howsoever these causes be ordered, the event of the things which are foreknown is necessary, even though the foreknowledge seemeth not to confer necessity of being upon the things themselves. For if any man sitteth the opinion which thinketh so must needs be true, and again on the other side, if the opinion that one sitteth be true, he must needs sit. Wherefore, there is necessity in both, in the one of sitting and in the other of truth. But one sitteth not because the opinion is true, but rather this is true because one hath taken his seat. So that though the cause of truth proceedeth from one part, yet there is a common necessity in both.

And the like is to be inferred of Providence and future things. For even though they be foreseen because they shall be, yet they do not come to pass because they are foreseen, notwithstanding it is necessary that either things to come be foreseen by God, or that things foreseen do fall out, which alone is sufficient to overthrow free-will. But see how preposterous it is that the event of temporal things should be said to be the cause of the everlasting foreknowledge! And what else is it to think that God doth therefore foresee future things, because they are to happen, than to affirm that those things which happened long since, are the cause of that sovereign providence? Furthermore, as when I know anything to be, it must needs be; so when I know that anything shall be, it must needs be to come. And so it followeth that the event of a thing foreknown cannot be avoided. Finally, if any man thinketh otherwise than the thing is, that is not only no knowledge, but it is a deceitful opinion far from the truth of knowledge; wherefore, if anything is to be in such sort that the event of it is not certain or necessary, how can that be foreknown that it shall happen? For as knowledge is without mixture of falsity, so that which is conceived by it cannot be otherwise than it is conceived. For this is the cause why knowledge is without deceit, because everything must needs be so as the knowledge apprehendeth it to be. What then? How doth God foreknow that these uncertain things shall be? For if He judgeth that those things shall happen inevitably, which it is possible shall not happen, He is deceived, which is not only impious to think, but also to speak. But if He supposeth that they shall happen in such sort as they are, so that He knoweth that they may equally be done and not be done, what foreknowledge is this which comprehendeth no certain or stable thing? Or in what is this better than that ridiculous prophecy of Tiresias “Whatsoever I say shall either be or not be”? or in what shall the divine providence exceed human opinion, if, as men, God judgeth those things to be uncertain the event of which is doubtful? But if nothing can be uncertain to that most certain fountain of all things, the occurrence of those things is certain, which He doth certainly know shall be. Wherefore there is no freedom in human counsels and actions, which the divine mind, foreseeing all things without error or falsehood, tieth and bindeth to one event. Which once admitted, it is evident what ruin of human affairs will ensue. For in vain are rewards and punishments proposed to good and evil, which no free and voluntary motion of their minds hath deserved. And that will seem most unjust which is now judged most just, that either the wicked should be punished or the good rewarded, since their own will leadeth them to neither, but they are compelled by the certain necessity of that which is to come. By which means virtues and vices shall be nothing, but rather there will follow a mixed confusion of all deserts. And—than which there can be nothing invented more impious—since that all order of things proceedeth from Providence, and human counsels can do nothing, it followeth that our vices also shall be referred to the author of goodness. Wherefore there is no means left to hope or pray for anything, since an unflexible course connecteth all things that can be desired! Wherefore that only traffic betwixt God and men of hope and prayer shall be taken away: if indeed by the price of just humility we deserve the unestimable benefit of God’s grace; for this is the only manner by which it seemeth that men may talk with God, and by the very manner of supplication be joined to that inaccessible light before they obtain anything; which if by the admitting the necessity of future things, they be thought to have no force, by what shall we be united and cleave to that Sovereign Prince of all things? Wherefore mankind must needs (as thou saidest in thy verse a little before), being separated and severed from its source, fail and fall away.

What cause of discord breaks the bands of love?

What God between two truths such wars doth move?

That things which severally well settled be

Yet joined in one will never friendly prove?

Or in true things can we no discord see,

Because all certainties do still agree?

But our dull soul, covered with members blind,

Knows not the secret laws which things do bind,

By the drowned light of her oppressed fire.

Why then, the hidden notes of things to find,

Doth she with such a love of truth desire?

If she knows that which she doth so require,

Why wisheth she known things to know again?

If she knows not, why strives she with blind pain?

Who after things unknown will strive to go?

Or will such ignorant pursuit maintain?

How shall she find them out? Or having so,

How shall she then their forms and natures know?

Because this soul the highest mind did view,

Must we needs say that it all nature knew?

Now she, though clouds of flesh do her debar,

Forgets not all that was her ancient due,

But in her mind some general motions are,

Though not the skill of things particular.

He that seeks truth in neither course doth fall;

Not knowing all, nor ignorant of all,

He marketh general things which he retains,

And matters seen on high doth back recall,

And things forgotten to his mind regains,

And joins them to that part which there remains.”

“This,” quoth she, “is an ancient complaint of providence, vehemently pursued by Marcus Tullius in his Distribution of Divination, and a thing which thou thyself hast made great and long search after. But hitherto none of you have used sufficient diligence and vigour in the explication thereof. The cause of which obscurity is for that the motion of human discourse cannot attain to the simplicity of the divine knowledge, which if by any means we could conceive, there would not remain any doubt at all; which I will endeavour to make manifest and plain when I have first explicated that which moveth thee. For I demand why thou thinkest their solution unsufficient, who think that free-will is not hindered by foreknowledge, because they suppose that foreknowledge is not the cause of any necessity in things to come. For fetchest thou any proof for the necessity of future things from any other principle, but only from this, that those things which are foreknown cannot choose but happen? Wherefore if foreknowledge imposeth no necessity upon future events, which thou didst grant not long before, why should voluntary actions be tied to any certain success? For example’s sake, that thou mayest see what will follow, let us suppose that there were no providence or foresight at all. Would those things which proceed from free-will be compelled to any necessity by this means?” “No.” “Again, let us grant it to be, but that it imposeth no necessity upon anything; no doubt the same freedom of will will remain whole and absolute.

But thou wilt say, even though foreknowledge be not a necessity for things to happen, yet it is a sign that they shall necessarily come to pass. Wherefore now, even if there had been no foreknowledge, the events of future things would have been necessary. For all signs only show what is, but cause not that which they design. And consequently it must first be proved that all things fall out by necessity, that it may appear that foreknowledge is a sign of this necessity. For otherwise, if there be no necessity, neither can foreknowledge be the sign of that which is not. Besides it is manifest that every firm proof must be drawn from intrinsical and necessary causes and not from signs and other farfetched arguments. But how is it possible those things should not happen which are foreseen to be to come? As though we did believe that those things will not be which providence hath foreknown and do not rather judge that although they happen, yet by their own nature they had no necessity of being, which thou mayest easily gather hence. For we see many things with our eyes while they are in doing, as those things which the coachmen do while they drive and turn their coaches and in like manner other things. Now doth necessity compel any of these things to be done in this sort?” “No. For in vain should art labour if all things were moved by compulsion.” “Wherefore, as these things are without necessity when they are in doing, so likewise they are to come without necessity before they be done. And consequently there are some things to come whose event is free from all necessity. For I suppose no man will say that those things which are done now were not to come before they were done. Wherefore these things even being foreseen come freely to effect. For as the knowledge of things present causeth no necessity in things which are in doing, so neither the foreknowledge in things to come. But thou wilt say: This is the question, whether there can be any foreknowledge of those things whose events are not necessary. For these things seem opposite, and thou thinkest that, if future things be foreseen, there followeth necessity, if there be no necessity, that they that are not foreknown, and that nothing can be perfectly known unless it be certain. But if uncertain events be foreseen as certain, it is manifest that this is the obscurity of opinion and not the truth of knowledge. For thou thinkest it to be far from the integrity of knowledge to judge otherwise than the thing is. The cause of which error is because thou thinkest that all that is known is known only by the force and nature of the things themselves, which is altogether otherwise. For all that is known is not comprehended according to the force which it hath in itself, but rather according to the faculty of them which know it. For to explicate it with a brief example: the sight and the feeling do diversely discern the same roundness of a die. The sight standing aloof beholdeth it altogether by his beams; but the feeling united and joined to the orb, being moved about the compass of it, comprehendeth the roundness by parts. Likewise sense, imagination, reason and understanding do diversely behold a man. For sense looketh upon his form as it is placed in matter or subject, the imagination discerneth it alone without matter, reason passeth beyond this also and considereth universally the species or kind which is in particulars. The eye of the understanding is higher yet. For surpassing the compass of the whole world it beholdeth with the clear eye of the mind that simple form in itself.

In which that is chiefly to be considered, that the superior force of comprehending embraceth the inferior; but the inferior can by no means attain to the superior; for the sense hath no force out of matter, neither doth the imagination conceive universal species, nor is reason capable of the simple form, but the understanding, as it were looking downward, having conceived that form, discerneth of all things which are under it, but in that sort in which it apprehendeth that form which can be known by none of the other. For it knoweth the universality of reason, and the figure of imagination, and the materiality of sense, neither using reason, nor imagination, nor senses, but as it were formally beholding all things with that one twinkling of the mind. Likewise reason, when it considereth any universality, comprehendeth both imagination and sensible things without the use of either imagination or senses. For she defineth the universality of her conceit thus: Man is a reasonable, two-footed, living creature, which being an universal knowledge, no man is ignorant that it is an imaginable and sensible thing, which she considereth by a reasonable conceiving and not by imagination or sense. Imagination also, although it began by the senses of seeing and forming figures, yet when sense is absent it beholdeth sensible things, not after a sensible, but after an imaginary manner of knowledge. Seest thou now how all these in knowing do rather use their own force and faculty than the force of those things which are known? Nor undeservedly; for since all judgment is the act of him who judgeth, it is necessary that every one should perfect his operation by his own power and not by the force of any other.

Cloudy old prophets of the Porch once taught

That sense and shape presented to the thought

From outward objects their impression take,

As when upon a paper smooth and plain

On which as yet no marks of ink have lain

We with a nimble pen do letters make.

But if our minds to nothing can apply

Their proper motions, but do patient lie

Subject to forms which do from bodies flow,

As a glass renders empty shapes of things,

Who then can show from whence that motion springs

By force of which the mind all things doth know?

Or by what skill are several things espied?

And being known what power doth them divide,

And thus divided doth again unite,

And with a various journey oft aspires

To highest things, and oft again retires

To basest, nothing being out of sight,

And when she back unto herself doth move,

Doth all the falsehoods by the truth reprove?

This vigour needs must be an active cause,

And with more powerful forces must be deckt,

Than that which from those forms, that do reflect

From outward matter, all her virtue draws.

And yet in living bodies passion’s might

Doth go before, whose office is to incite,

And the first motions in the mind to make.

As when the light unto our eyes appears,

Or some loud voice is sounded in our ears,

Then doth the strength of the dull mind awake

Those phantasies which she retains within;

She stirreth up such notions to begin,

Whose objects with their natures best agree,

And thus applying them to outward things,

She joins the external shapes which thence she brings

With forms which in herself included be.

And if in sentient bodies, although the qualities of outward objects do move the organs of sense, and the passion of the body goeth before the vigour of the active mind, provoking her action to itself and exciting the inward forms which before lay quiet; if, I say, in perceiving these corporal objects the mind taketh not her impression from passion, but by her own force judgeth of the passion itself, which is objected to the body; how much more do those powers exercise the action of their mind and not only follow the outward objects in their judgment, which are free from all affections of the body? Wherefore in this sort have diverse and different substances knowledges of many kinds. For only sense destitute of all other means of knowledge is in those living creatures which are unmovable, as some shell-fish and other which stick to stones and so are nourished; and imagination in movable beasts who seem to have some power to covet and fly. But reason belongeth only to mankind, as understanding to things divine. So that that knowledge is most excellent which of itself doth not only know her own object, but also those which belong to others. What then, if sense and imagination repugn to discourse and reason, affirming that universality to be nothing which reason thinketh herself to see? For that cannot be universal, they argue, which is either sensible or imaginable; wherefore either the judgment of reason must be true and nothing at all sensible, or because they know that many things are subject to the senses and imagination, the conceit of reason is vain, which considereth that which is sensible and singular as if it were universal. Moreover if reason should answer that she beholdeth in her universality all that which is sensible or imaginable, but they cannot aspire to the knowledge of universality, because their knowledge cannot surpass corporal figures and shapes, and that we must give more credit to the firmer and more perfect judgment about the knowledge of things, in this contention should not we, who have the power of discoursing as well as of imagination and sense, rather take reason’s part? The very like happeneth when human reason doth not think that the divine understanding doth behold future things otherwise than she herself doth. For thus thou arguest: If any things seem not to have certain and necessary events, they cannot be certainly foreknown to be to come. Wherefore there is no foreknowledge of these things, and if we think that there is any, there shall be nothing which happeneth not of necessity. If, therefore, as we are endued with reason, we could likewise have the judgment proper to the divine mind, as we have judged that imagination and sense must yield to reason, so likewise we would think it most reasonable and just that human reason should submit herself to the divine mind. Wherefore let us be lifted up as much as we can to that height of the highest mind; for there reason shall see that which she cannot behold in herself. And that is, how a certain and definite foreknowledge seeth even those things which have no certain issue, and that this is no opinion, but rather the simplicity of the highest knowledge enclosed within no bounds.

What several figures things that live upon the earth do keep!

Some have their bodies stretched in length by which the dust they sweep

And do continual furrows make while on their breasts they creep.

Some lightly soaring up on high with wings the wind do smite

And through the longest airy space pass with an easy flight.

Some by their paces to imprint the ground with steps delight,

Which through the pleasant fields do pass or to the woods do go,

Whose several forms though to our eyes they do a difference show,

Yet by their looks cast down on earth their senses heavy grow.

Men only with more stately shape to higher objects rise,

Who with erected bodies stand and do the earth despise.

These figures warn (if baser thoughts blind not thine earthly eyes)

That thou who with an upright face dost look upon the sky,

Shouldst also raise thy mind aloft, lest while thou bearest high

Thine earthly head, thy soul opprest beneath thy body lie.

Seeing, therefore, as hath been showed, all that is known is not comprehended by its own nature but by the power of him which comprehendeth it, let us see now, as much as we may, what is the state of the divine substance that we may also know what His knowledge is. Wherefore it is the common judgment of all that live by reason that God is everlasting, and therefore let us consider what eternity is. For this declareth unto us both the divine nature and knowledge. Eternity therefore is a perfect possession altogether of an endless life, which is more manifest by the comparison of temporal things, for whatsoever liveth in time, that being present proceedeth from times past to times to come, and there is nothing placed in time which can embrace all the space of its life at once. But it hath not yet attained to-morrow and hath lost yesterday. And you live no more in this day’s life than in that movable and transitory moment. Wherefore, whatsoever suifereth the condition of time, although, as Aristotle thought of the world, it never began nor were ever to end, and its life did endure with infinite time, yet it is not such that it ought to be called everlasting. For it doth not comprehend and embrace all the space of its life together, though that life be infinite, but it hath not the future time which is yet to come. That then which comprehendeth and possesseth the whole fulness of an endless life together, to which neither any part to come is absent, nor of that which is past hath escaped, is worthy to be accounted everlasting, and this is necessary, that being no possession in itself, it may always be present to itself, and have an infinity of movable time present to it. Wherefore they are deceived who, hearing that Plato thought that this world had neither beginning of time nor should ever have any end, think that by this means the created world should be coeternal with the Creator. For it is one thing to be carried through an endless life, which Plato attributed to the world, another thing to embrace the whole presence of an endless life together, which is manifestly proper to the divine mind. Neither ought God to seem more ancient than the things created, by the quantity of time, but rather by the simplicity of His divine nature. For that infinite motion of temporal things imitateth the present state of the unmovable life, and since it cannot express nor equal it, it falleth from immobility to motion, and from the simplicity of presence, it decreaseth to an infinite quantity of future and past, and since it cannot possess together all the fulness of its life, by never leaving to be in some sort, it seemeth to emulate in part that which it cannot fully obtain and express, tying itself to this small presence of this short and swift moment, which because it carrieth a certain image of that abiding presence, whosoever hath it, seemeth to be. But because it could not stay it undertook an infinite journey of time, and so it came to pass that it continued that life by going whose plenitude it could not comprehend by staying. Wherefore, if we will give things their right names, following Plato, let us say that God is everlasting and the world perpetual. Wherefore, since every judgment comprehendeth those things which are subject unto it, according to its own nature, and God hath always an everlasting and present state, His knowledge also surpassing all motions of time, remaineth in the simplicity of His presence, and comprehending the infinite spaces of that which is past and to come, considereth all things in His simple knowledge as though they were now in doing. So that, if thou wilt weigh His foreknowledge with which He discerneth all things, thou wilt more rightly esteem it to be the knowledge of a never fading instant than a foreknowledge as of a thing to come. For which cause it is not called praevidence or foresight, but rather providence, because, placed far from inferior things, it overlooketh all things, as it were, from the highest top of things. Why, therefore, wilt thou have those things necessary which are illustrated by the divine light, since that not even men make not those things necessary which they see? For doth thy sight impose any necessity upon those things which thou seest present?” “No.” “But the present instant of men may well be compared to that of God in this: that as you see some things in your temporal instant, so He beholdeth all things in His eternal present. Wherefore this divine foreknowledge doth not change the nature and propriety of things, and it beholdeth them such in His presence as they will after come to be, neither doth He confound the judgment of things, and with one sight of His mind He discerneth as well those things which shall happen necessarily as otherwise. As you, when at one time you see a man walking upon the earth and the sun rising in heaven, although they be both seen at once, yet you discern and judge that the one is voluntary, and the other necessary, so likewise the divine sight beholding all things disturbeth not the quality of things which to Him are present, but in respect of time are yet to come. And so this is not an opinion but rather a knowledge grounded upon truth, when He knoweth that such a thing shall be, which likewise He is not ignorant that it hath no necessity of being. Here if thou sayest that cannot choose but happen which God seeth shall happen, and that which cannot choose but happen, must be of necessity, and so tiest me to this name of necessity, I will grant that it is a most solid truth, but whereof scarce any but a contemplator of divinity is capable. For I will answer that the same thing is necessary when it is referred to the Divine knowledge; but when it is weighed in its own nature that it seemeth altogether free and absolute. For there be two necessities: the one simple, as that it is necessary for all men to be mortal; the other conditional, as if thou knowest that any man walketh, he must needs walk. For what a man knoweth cannot be otherwise than it is known. But this conditional draweth not with it that simple or absolute necessity. For this is not caused by the nature of the thing, but by the adding a condition. For no necessity maketh him to go that goeth of his own accord, although it be necessary that he goeth while he goeth. In like manner, if providence seeth anything present, that must needs be, although it hath no necessity of nature. But God beholdeth those future things, which proceed from free-will, present. These things, therefore, being referred to the divine sight are necessary by the condition of the divine knowledge, and, considered by themselves, they lose not absolute freedom of their own nature. Wherefore doubtless all those things come to pass which God foreknoweth shall come, but some of them proceed from free-will, which though they come to pass, yet do not, by coming into being, lose, since before they came to pass, they might also not have happened. But what importeth it that they are not necessary, since that by reason of the condition of the divine knowledge they come to pass in all respects as if they were necessary? It hath the same import as those things which I proposed a little before—the sun rising and the man going. While they are in doing, they cannot choose but be in doing; yet one of them was necessarily to be before it was, and the other not Likewise those things which God hath present, will have doubtless a being, but some of them proceed from the necessity of things, other from the power of the doers. And therefore we said not without cause that these, if they be referred to God’s knowledge, are necessary; and if they be considered by themselves, they are free from the bonds of necessity. As whatsoever is manifest to senses, if thou referrest it to reason, is universal; if thou considerest the things themselves, it is singular or particular. But thou wilt say, ‘If it is in my power to change my purpose, shall I frustrate providence if I chance to alter those things which she foreknoweth?’ I answer that thou mayest indeed change thy purpose, but because the truth of providence, being present, seeth that thou canst do so, and whether thou wilt do so or no, and what thou purposest anew, thou canst not avoid the divine foreknowledge, even as thou canst not avoid the sight of an eye which is present, although thou turnest thyself to divers actions by thy free-will.

But yet thou wilt inquire whether God’s knowledge shall be changed by thy disposition, so that when thou wilt now one thing, and now another, it should also seem to have divers knowledges. No. For God’s sight preventeth all that is to come and recalleth and draweth it to the presence of His own knowledge; neither doth He vary, as thou imaginest, now knowing one thing and now another, but in one instant without moving preventeth and comprehendeth thy mutations. Which presence of comprehending and seeing all things, God hath not by the event of future things but by His own simplicity. By which that doubt is also resolved which thou didst put a little before, that it is an unworthy thing that our future actions should be said to cause the knowledge of God. For this force of the divine knowledge comprehending all things with a present notion appointeth to everything its measure and receiveth nothing from ensuing accidents. All which being so, the free-will of mortal men remaineth unviolated, neither are the laws unjust which propose punishments and rewards to our wills, which are free from all necessity. There remaineth also a beholder of all things which is God, who fore seeth all things, and the eternity of His vision, which is always present, concurreth with the future quality of our actions, distributing rewards to the good and punishments to the evil. Neither do we in vain put our hope in God or pray to Him; for if we do this well and as we ought, we shall not lose our labour or be without effect. Wherefore fly vices, embrace virtues, possess your minds with worthy hopes, offer up humble prayers to your highest Prince. There is, if you will not dissemble, a great necessity of doing well imposed upon you, since you live in the sight of your Judge, who beholdeth all things.”

Boethius! model of all weal and worth,

Unjustly from thy country driven forth,

Thy fame, unfamed at last, yet one shall praise,

One voice the cry of approbation raise;

What life denied, through death kind heaven giveth;

Thine honour in thy wife’s for ever liveth.








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