“Nought that e’er has been

Completely dies, but things combined

Before another union find;

Quitting their former company,

And so again in other forms are Seen.”{2}{from the Chrysippus of Euripides.}

(6) Nor is it so very silly a thing to doubt whether the world is destroyed so as to pass into a state of non-existence, but rather whether it is subjected to a change from a new arrangement, being dissolved as to all the manifold forms of its elements and combinations so as to assume one and the same appearance, or whether, like a thing broken and dashed to pieces, it is subjected to a complete confusion of its different fragments.

III. (7) And there are three different opinions on the subject which we are at present discussing. Since some persons affirm that the world is eternal, and uncreated, and not liable to any destruction; while others, on the contrary, say that it has been created and is destructible. There are also others who take a portion of each of these two opinions, agreeing with the last-mentioned sect that it has been created, but with the former class that it is indestructible; and thus they have left behind them a mixed opinion, thinking that it is at the same time created and imperishable. (8) However, Democritus and Epicurus, and the principal number of the Stoic philosophers, affirm both the creation and the destructibility of the world, though they do not all speak in similar senses; for some give a sketch of many worlds, the generation of which they attribute to the concourse and combination of atoms, and their destruction they impute to the dissolution and breaking up of the combined particles. But the Stoics speak of one world only, and affirm that God is the cause of its creation, but that the cause of its corruption is no longer God, but the power of invincible, unwearied fire, which pervades all existing things, in the long periods of time dissolving everything into itself, while from it again a regeneration of the world takes place through the providence of the Creator. (9) And according to these men there may be one world spoken of as eternal and another as destructible, destructible in reference to its present arrangement, and eternal as to the conflagration which takes place, since it is rendered immortal by regenerations and periodical revolutions which never cease. (10) But Aristotle, with a knowledge as to which I know not to what degree I may call it holy and pious, affirmed that the world was uncreated and indestructible, and he accused those who maintained a contrary opinion of terrible impiety, for thinking that so great a visible God was in no respect different from things made with hands, though the contains within himself the sun, and the moon, and all the rest of the planets and fixed stars, and, in fact, the whole of the divine nature; (11) and he said in a cavilling and reproachful tone, that formerly he had feared for his house lest it should be overthrown by violent gales, or extraordinary storms, or by lapse of time, or through the want of the proper care requisite to preserve it, but that now he had a much greater fear hanging over him in consequence of those men who by their reasonings went to destroy the whole world. (12) But some say that it was not Aristotle who invented this doctrine, but some of the Pythagoreans; but I have met with a work of Ocellus, a Lucanian by birth, entitled, “A Treatise on the Nature of the Universe,” in which he has not only asserted that the world is indestructible, but he has even endeavoured to prove it so by demonstrative proofs.