XX. (69) And God said, “What has thou done? The voice of the blood of thy brother cries out to me from out of the Ground.”{27}{#nu 23:8.} The expression, “What hast thou done,” shows indignation at an unhallowed action, and also ridicules the man who thought he had committed the murder secretly. The indignation now arises at the intention of the man who has done the deed, because he designed to destroy what was good; but the ridicule is excited by his thinking that he has plotted against one who is better than himself, and at his having plotted not so much against him as against himself. (70) For, as I have said before, he who appears to be dead is alive, inasmuch as he is found to be a suppliant of God and to utter a voice; and he who believes that he is still alive is dead, as to the death of the soul, inasmuch as he is excluded from virtue, according to which alone he is worthy to live. So that the expression, “What hast thou done?” is equivalent to, “Thou hast done nothing; thou hast done no good for thyself.” (71) For neither was the sophist, Balaam, who was an empty multitude of contrary and contending doctrines, when he was desirous to imprecate curses upon and to injure the good man, able to do so; since God turned his curses into a blessing, in order to correct the unjust man of wickedness and to display his own love of virtue.

XXI. (72) But it is the nature of sophists to have for enemies the faculties which are in them, while their language is at variance with their thoughts and their thoughts with their language, and while neither is in the least degree consistent with the other. At all events, they wear out our ears, arguing that justice is a great bond of society, that temperance is a profitable thing, that continence is a virtuous thing, that piety is a most useful thing, and, of each other virtue, that it is a most wholesome and saving quality. And, on the other hand, that injustice is a quality with which we ought to have no truce, that intemperance is a diseased habit, that impiety is scandalous, and so going through every kind of wickedness, that each sort is most pernicious. (73) And, nevertheless, they never cease showing by their conduct that their real opinion is the reverse of their language. But, when they extol prudence and temperance and justice and piety, they then show that they are, above all measure, foolish, and intemperate, and unjust, and impious; in short, that they are throwing into confusion and overturning all divine and human regulations and principles. (74) And to them, therefore, one may very properly say what the divine oracle said to Cain, “What is this that thou hast done?” What good have ye done yourselves? What have all these discourses about virtue profited your souls? In what particular of life, whether small or great, have ye done well? What? Have you not, on the contrary, contributed to advancing true charges against yourselves? because, by expressing your approval of what is good, and philosophising as far as words go, you have been excellent interpreters, but are nevertheless discovered to be men who both think and practise shameful things. In fact, all good things are dead in your souls, these evils having been there kindled; and, on this account there is no one of you who is really alive. (75) For as, when some musician or grammarian is dead, the music and grammar which existed in them dies with them, but their ideas survive, and in a manner live as long as the world itself endures; according to which the existing race of men, and those who are to exist hereafter in continual succession, will, to the end of time, become skilful in music and grammar. Thus, also, if the prudence, or the temperance, or the courage, or the justice, or, in short, if the wisdom of any kind existing in any individual be destroyed, nevertheless the prudence existing in the nature of the immortal universe will still be immortal; and every virtue is erected like a pillar in imperishable solidity, in accordance with which there are some good people now, and there will be some hereafter. (76) Unless, indeed, we should say that the death of any individual man is the destruction of humanity and of the human race, which, whether we ought to call it a genus, or a species, or a conception, or whatever else you please, those who are anxious about the investigation of proper names may determine. One seal has often stamped thousands upon thousands of impressions in infinite number, and though at times all those impressions have been effaced with the substances on which they were stamped, still the seal itself has remained in its pristine condition without being at all injured in its nature. (77) Again, do we not think that the virtues, even if all the characters which they have impressed upon the souls of those who have sought them should become effaced by wicked living, or by any other cause, would nevertheless preserve their own unadulterated and imperishable nature? Therefore, they who have not been duly initiated in instruction, not knowing anything about the differences between wholes and parts, or between genera and species, or about the homonymies which are incidental to these things, mix up all things together in a confused mass. (78) On which account every one who is a lover of self, by surname Cain, should learn that he has destroyed the namesake of Abel, that is to say species, individuality, the image made according to the model; not the archetypal pattern, nor the genus, nor the idea, which he thinks are destroyed together with animals, though, in fact, they are indestructible. Let any one then say to him, reproving and ridiculing him, What is this that thou hast done, O wretched man? Does not the God-loving opinion which you flatter yourself that you have destroyed, live in the presence of God? But it is of yourself that you have become the murderer, by destroying from out of its seat the only quality by which you could live in a blameless manner.