Seneca Essay On Providence

seneca: dialogues and essays (john davie) - on providence

"i shall restore you to good relations with the gods, who are best to the best men.  for it is not Nature's way to let good ever do harm to good; between good men and the gods exists a friendship sealed by virtue.  friendship, do i say?  no, rather it is a bond of relationship and similarity, since undoubtedly a good man differs from god only in the sphere of time; he is god's pupil and imitator, his true offspring whom that illustrious parent, no gentle trainer in virtue, rears with severity, as strict fathers do.  and so, when you see good men of whom the gods approve toiling and sweating, with a steep road to climb, and bad men, on the other hand, enjoying themselves, surrounded by pleasures, consider that our sons please us by their self-control, but our house-slaves by their free spirit, that we restrain the former by tighter discipline and nurture the latter's boldness of manner.  it is no different with god, let me assure you: he does not pamper a good man like a favorite slave; he puts him to the test, hardens him, and makes him ready for his service." (4)

"adversity's onslaughts are powerless to affect the spirit of a brave man." (4)

"[man] conquers [external forces], and as a man who in all else is calm and tranquil of mind he rises to face whatever attacks him.  all adversity he regards as a training exercise." (4)

"excellence withers without an adversary: the time for us to see how great it is, how much its force, is when it displays its power through endurance.  i assure you, good men should do the same: they should not be afraid to face hardships and difficulties, or complain of fate; whatever happens, good men should take it in good part, and turn it to a good end; it is not what you endure that matters, but how you endure it." (5)

"it is a father's heart that god shows to good men; he loves them in a manly way, and says, 'let them know the pain of toil, of suffering, of loss, so that they may acquire true strength,'" (5)

"you have passed through life with no antagonist to face you; no one will know what you were capable of, not even yourself.  for a man needs to be put to the test if he is to gain self-knowledge; only by trying does he learn what his capacities are." (10)

"true worth is eager for danger." (10)

"you would come to know a ship's pilot in a storm and a soldier in the line of battle.  how can i know with what strength of mind you would face poverty, if you abound in wealth? .., disaster is the opportunity for true worth." (11)

"and so it is that god hardens, reviews, and disciplines those who have won his approval and love; but those whom he seems to favor, whom he seems to spare, he is keeping soft against the misfortunes that are to come.  you are wrong if you think anyone has been exempted from ill; the man who has known happiness for many a year will receive his share some day; whoever seems to have been set free from this has only been granted a delay." (11)

"shun luxury, shun good fortune that makes men weak and causes their minds to grow sodden, and, unless something happens to remind them of their human lot, they waste away, lulled to sleep, as it were, in a drunkenness that has no end." (11)

"would it not be better to endure unending misfortune, having enlisted the help of virtue, than to burst with limitless and extravagant blessings?  men meet a gentler death through starvation, but explode from gorging themselves." (12)

"surely you don't suppose that spartans hate their children when they test their character by means of public floggings?  their own fathers encourage them to endure bravely the blows of the lash, and ask them, mangled and half-dead though they are, to continue offering their wounded backs to further woulds.  what, then, is remarkable in god testing noble spirits with severity?" (12)

"fortune lays into us with the whip and tears our flesh: let us endure it.  it is not cruelty but a contest, and the more often we engage in it, the stronger our hearts will be: the sturdiest part of the body is the one that is kept in constant use.  we must offer ourselves to Fortune, so that in struggling with he, we may be hardened by her: little by little she will make us a match for her, and constant exposure to risk will make us despise dangers.  so the bodies of mariners are tough from the buffeting of the sea, the hands of the farmers calloused, the muscles of soldiers strong to enable them to hurl the javelin, the legs of athletes agile: in each case the part of the body exercised is the strongest.  it is by enduring ills that the mind can acquire contempt for enduring them." (12)

"it is expedient even for good men, in order that they may be fearless, to spend much time in fearful pursuits, and to endure with a patient mind things that are bad only to the one who bears them badly." (13)

"toil summons the best men." (13)

"good men work, spend their energies and have them spent and all without complaint; they are not dragged along by Fortune but follow her and match her pace." (13-14)

"we should endure everything with courage, because it is not by accident, as we suppose, that everything happens, but by design ... what is the duty of a good man? to offer himself to fate." (14)

"as fire tests gold, so misfortunes tests brave men." (15)

"the soul that is earth-bound and sluggish will follow the safe course: virtue takes to heights." (15)

The American Journal of Theology

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Coverage: 1897-1920 (Vol. 1, No. 1 - Vol. 24, No. 4)

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