XX. (104) However, besides what has been here said, any one may use this argument also in corroboration of his opinion, which will certainly convince all those who are not determined to be obstinate beyond all bounds; of those things which in pairs are exactly contrary to one another it is impossible that one thing should be, and that the other should not be; for since there is white it follows as a matter of absolute necessity that there must also be black, and since there is a great there must likewise be a little; since there is an odd there must inevitably be an even; since there is a sweet there must be a bitter; since there is day there must be night; and so on in an infinite number of similar cases; but if a conflagration should take place, then something would ensue which is impossible; for then, of things in a pair, the one will happen and the other will not. (105) Come, now, let us consider the matter thus: if everything is resolved into fire, there is then something light, and rare, and warm; for all these are the especial properties of fire; but there can be nothing heavy, or cold, or thick, which are the opposites of the qualities which I have just enumerated. How then can any one more completely overturn the idea of the universal disorder which would be involved in such a conflagration than by showing that those things which by a law of nature must exist together, are by this process separated from their natural conjunction? And the separation has extended to such a degree, that those who maintain this doctrine attribute eternal durability to the one and deny any existence at all to the other. (106) Again, there is this assertion made by some of those who diligently employ themselves in investigating truth which appears to me to be a sufficiently felicitous one; if the world is destroyed it will either be destroyed by some other efficient cause, or by God; now there is certainly nothing else whatever from which it can receive its destruction, for there is nothing whatever which it does not surround and contain; but that which is surrounded and confined within something else is manifestly inferior in power to that which surrounds and confines it, by which it is therefore mastered; on the other hand, to say that it is destroyed by God is the most impious of all possible assertions; for God is the cause not of disorder, and irregularity, and destruction, but of order, and beautiful regularity, and life, and of every good thing, as is confessed by all those whose opinions are based on truth.
XXI. (107) But a person may very likely wonder at those who talk about conflagrations and regenerations, not only on account of the arguments which I have just been adducing, by which they are convicted of maintaining erroneous opinions, but also above all other reasons for this one; for since there are four elements of which the world consists, namely, earth, water, air, and fire, why is it that they are to separate fire from all the others, and to affirm that all the others are dissolved into that one? For some one may say, if it is necessary that they should all be resolved into one, why should they not be resolved into air, or water, or earth? For these elements also contain powers of great magnitude; but yet no one has ever said that the world was to pass away into air, or into water, or into earth; so that it would be equally natural to deny that it is resolved into fire. (108) Moreover, it would have become them, perceiving the beautiful equality which exists in the world, to fear and to feel too great awe to venture to condemn so divine a thing to death; for there is a most admirable system of compensation existing in the four elements which arrange and dispense their vicissitudes by the rulers of equality, and the definitions of justice; (109) for as the seasons of the year, in their proper alternations of revolutions, go through their regular cycle, completing their periodical changes without any cessation; in the same manner suppose that the elements of the world in the course of their continual interchanges with one another (though it is a most paradoxical assertion), when they appear to be perishing are in reality being made immortal, passing over the same course again and again, so as to have their existence infinitely protracted. (110) Therefore the steep road begins with the earth; for when it is wasted away it endures a change to water, and the water when it has evaporated is changed into air, and the air when rarefied is changed into fire; but the downward road descends from the head, when the fire in consequence of the conflagration which ensues settles down into air, and again when the air being closely pressed settles down into water, and when the water by its copious effusion is condensed so as to be changed into earth. (111) Heraclitus therefore spoke very correctly when he said that, “Water was the death of the soul, and earth the death of water.” For thinking that the breath was the soul, he indicates, by this figurative and enigmatical expression, that the end of air is the production of water, and again that the end of water is the production of earth; and when he speaks of death he does not mean utter destruction, but a change into some other element; (112) that equalised proportion of the elements which is attempered by itself being thus preserved eternal and uninjured, as is not only probable but absolutely inevitable; since what is unequal is essentially unjust, and injustice is the offspring of wickedness, and wickedness is banished from the abode of immortality. But the world is of a divine magnitude, and has been shown to be the abode of those gods which are visible to the outward senses; and to affirm that this world is destroyed is the part of those who do not see the connection of nature and the united consequence and coherence of things.