IV. (11) “And Abel became a shepherd of sheep; but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Why now has Moses, who represents Cain as older than Abel, now transposed them in the order in which he here mentions them, so as to name the younger first when relating their choice of a way of life? For it was natural that the elder should lead the way and adopt the cultivation of the land, and that the younger should subsequently come to the care of sheep. (12) But Moses is not influenced by what is likely and probable, but pursues the plain unadulterated truth. And when he alone comes to God by himself, he tells him with all freedom that “he is not eloquent,” which statement is equivalent to saying that he does not aim at specious and plausible reasonings, and that this has happened to him “now yesterday, or the day before yesterday, but ever since God began to converse with him as his Servant.”{10}{#ex 4:10.} (13) For they who have come into the billows and heavy waves of life must be borne on by swimming, not being able to take hold of any firm point of the matters which lie within the province of knowledge, but depending on what is only likely and probable. But it becomes a servant of God to lay hold of the truth, disregarding and rejecting all the uncertain and fabulous statements which rest on the conjectures of plausible men. (14) What, then, is the truth in these matters which we are considering? Why, that wickedness is older than virtue in point of time, but younger in power and rank. Therefore, when the birth of the two is narrated, let Cain have the precedence; but when a comparison of their pursuits is instituted, then let Abel be the first; (15) for it happens to the being that is born, from his very swaddling clothes till the time when the innovating vigour of his ripe age extinguishes the fiery heat of his passions, to have for his foster brethren, folly, intemperance, injustice, fear, cowardice, and the other evil things which are born with him, every one of which his nurses and tutors foster and cause to grow up within him; by their habits and practices banishing piety, and by their uniform instructions introducing superstition, which is a thing nearly akin to impiety. (16) But when the child has now passed the age of youth, and when the impetuous disease of the passions has become mollified, as if a calm had come over them, then the man begins to enjoy tranquillity, having been at length and not without difficulty strengthened in the foundation of virtue, which has allayed that continued and incessant agitation which is the greatest evil of the soul. Thus wickedness has the superiority in point of time; but virtue in point of rank, and honour and real glory. And this same law-giver is a trustworthy evidence of this fact; (17) for having introduced Esau, who bears the name of folly, as the elder in point of time, he gives the birthright and chief honour to the younger, who, from his practice of virtue, was called Jacob. And he is not seen to obtain this pre-eminence before (as is the case in athletic contests) his adversary renounces the combat, putting down his hands from weakness, and yielding up the decision and the crown to him who has carried on a truceless and irreconcilable war against the passions; for, says Moses, “He sold his birthright to Jacob,”{11}{#ge 25:33.} (18) avowing, in plain terms that the pre-eminence in power and the honours of virtue belong to no wicked man, but only to him who is a lover of wisdom, just as the flute and the lyre and the other instruments of music belong to the musician alone.