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CHAP. II. ON THE OPPOSING POWERS

There are struggles that all humans encounter, however it is not due to the devil inciting us to sin, it is the due to the constitution of our bodies that we are inclined to sexual intercourse, gluttony, anger and the sort. Even if the devil did not exist today these would be our current struggle, that we would be susceptible to. When we indulge in them that is when a demon enters in to take those struggles even further. We have a free will to either resist them, by which they will flee, or indulge in them. There are other sins in which opposing powers incite, however we have the choice to resist. God always gives us a means to escape the temptation, it is our choice who we obey.

2. We, however, who see the reason (of the thing) more clearly, do not hold this opinion, taking into account those (sins) which manifestly originate as a necessary consequence of our bodily constitution. Must we indeed suppose that the devil is the cause of our feeling hunger or thirst? Nobody, I think, will venture to maintain that. If, then, he is not the cause of our feeling hunger and thirst, wherein lies the difference when each individual has attained the age of puberty, and that period has called forth the incentives of the natural heat? It will undoubtedly follow, that as the devil is not the cause of our feeling hunger and thirst, so neither is he the cause of that appetency which naturally arises at the time of maturity, viz., the desire of sexual intercourse. Now it is certain that this cause is not always so set in motion by the devil that we should be obliged to suppose that bodies would nor possess a desire for intercourse of that kind if the devil did not exist. Let us consider, in the next place, if, as we have already shown, food is desired by human beings, not from a suggestion of the devil, but by a kind of natural instinct, whether, if there were no devil, it were possible for human experience to exhibit such restraint in partaking of food as never to exceed the proper limits; i.e., that no one would either take otherwise than the case required, or more than reason would allow; and so it would result that men, observing due measure and moderation in the matter of eating, would never go wrong. I do not think, indeed, that so great moderation could be observed by men (even if there were no instigation by the devil inciting thereto), as that no individual, in partaking of food, would go beyond due limits and restraint, until he had learned to do so from long usage and experience. What, then, is the state of the case? In the matter of eating and drinking it was possible for us to go wrong, even without any incitement from the devil, if we should happen to be either less temperate or less careful (than we ought); and are we to suppose, then, in our appetite for sexual intercourse, or in the restraint of our natural desires, our condition is not something similar?I am of opinion, indeed, that the same course of reasoning must be understood to apply to other natural movements as those of covetousness, or of anger, or of sorrow, or of all those generally which through the vice of intemperance exceed the natural bounds of moderation. There are therefore manifest reasons for holding the opinion, that as in good things the human will is of itself weak to accomplish any good (for it is by divine help that it is brought to perfection in everything); so also, in things of an opposite nature we receive certain initial elements, and, as it were, seeds of sins, from those things which we use agreeably to nature; but when we have indulged them beyond what is proper, and have not resisted the first movements to intemperance, then the hostile power, seizing the occasion of this first transgression, incites and presses us hard in every way, seeking to extend our sins over a wider field, and furnishing us human beings with occasions and beginnings of sins, which these hostile powers spread far and wide, and, if possible, beyond all limits. Thus, when men at first for a little desire money, covetousness begins to grow as the passion increases, and finally the fall into avarice takes place. And after this, when blindness of mind has succeeded passion, and the hostile powers, by their suggestions, hurry on the mind, money is now no longer desired, but stolen, and acquired by force, or even by shedding human blood. Finally, a confirmatory evidence Of the fact that vices of such enormity proceed from demons, may be easily seen in this, that those individuals who are oppressed either by immoderate love, or incontrollable anger, or excessive sorrow, do not suffer less than those who are bodily vexed by devils. For it is recorded in certain histories, that some have fallen into madness from a state of love, others from a state of anger, not a few from a state of sorrow, and even from one of excessive joy; which results, I think, from this, that those opposing powers, i.e., those demons, having gained a lodgment in their minds which has been already laid open to them by intemperance, have taken complete possession of their sensitive nature, especially when no feeling of the glory of virtue has aroused them to resistance.

3. That there are certain sins, however, which do not proceed from the opposing powers, but take their beginnings from the natural movements of the body, is manifestly declared by the Apostle Paul in the passage: “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal_5:17) If, then, the flesh lust against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, we have occasionally to wrestle against flesh and blood, i.e., as being men, and walking according to the flesh, and not capable of being tempted by greater than human temptations; since it is said of us, “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” (1Co_10:13) For as the presidents of the public games do not allow the competitors to enter the lists indiscriminately or fortuitously, but after a careful examination, pairing in a most impartial consideration either of size or age, this individual with that – boys, e.g., with boys, men with men, who are nearly related to each other either in age or strength; so also must we understand the procedure of divine providence, which arranges on most impartial principles all who descend into the struggles of this human life, according to the nature of each individual’s power, which is known only to Him who alone beholds the hearts of men: so that one individual fights against one temptation of the flesh, another against a second; one is exposed to its influence for so long a period of time, another only for so long; one is tempted by the flesh to this or that indulgence, another to one of a different kind; one has to resist this or that hostile power, another has to combat two or three at the same time; or at one time this hostile influence, at another that; at some particular date having to resist one enemy, and at another a different one; being, after the performance of certain acts, exposed to one set of enemies, after others to a second. And observe whether some such state of things be not indicated by the language of the apostle: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able,” (1Co_10:13) i.e., each one is tempted in proportion to the amount of his strength or power of resistance. Now, although we have said that it is by the just judgment of God that every one is tempted according to the amount of his strength, we are not therefore to suppose that he who is tempted ought by all means to prove victorious in the struggle; in like manner as he who contends in the lists, although paired with his adversary on a just principle of arrangement, will nevertheless not necessarily prove conqueror. But unless the powers of the combatants are equal, the prize of the victor will not be justly won; nor will blame justly attach to the vanquished, because He allows us indeed to be tempted, but not “beyond what we are able:” for it is in proportion to our strength that we are tempted; and it is not written that, in temptation, He will make also a way to escape so as that we should bear it, but a way to escape so as that we should be able to bear it. But it depends upon ourselves to use either with energy or feebleness this power which He has given us. For there is no doubt that under every temptation we have a power of endurance, if we employ properly the strength that is granted us. But it is not the same thing to possess the power of conquering and to be victorious, as the apostle himself has shown in very cautious language, saying, “God will make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it,” (1Co_10:13) not that you will bear it. For many do not sustain temptation, but are overcome by it. Now God enables us not to sustain (temptation), (otherwise there would appear to be no struggle), but to have the power of sustaining it. But this power which is given us to enable us to conquer may be used, according to our faculty of free-will, either in a diligent manner, and then we prove victorious, or in a slothful manner, and then we are defeated. For if such a power were wholly given us as that we must by all means prove victorious, and never be defeated, what further reason for a struggle could remain to him who cannot be overcome? Or what merit is there in a victory, where the power of successful resistance is taken away? But if the possibility of conquering be equally conferred on us all, and if it be in our own power how to use this possibility, i.e., either diligently or slothfully, then will the vanquished be justly censured, and the victor be deservedly lauded. Now from these points which we have discussed to the best of our power, it is, I think, clearly evident that there are certain transgressions which we by no means commit under the pressure of malignant powers; while there are others, again, to which we are incited by instigation on their part to excessive and immoderate indulgence. Whence it follows that we have to inquire how those opposing powers produce these incitements within us.

~Origen- De Principiis Book 3 Ch. II, Vol. 4


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