XXIII. (112) I think then that this is what was intimated in the words, “Take for me;” God, intending to send down the perfection of his divine virtue from heaven to earth, out of pity for our race, in order that it might not be left destitute of a better portion, prepared in a symbolical manner the sacred tabernacle and the things in it, a thing made after the model and in imitation of wisdom. (113) For he says that he has erected his oracle as a tabernacle in the midst of our impurity, in order that we may have something whereby we may be purified, washing off and cleansing all those things which dirt and defile our miserable life, full of all evil reputation as it is. Let us now then see in what manner he has commanded us to bring in the different things which are to contribute to the furnishing of the tabernacle. “The Lord,” says the scripture, “spake unto Moses saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take ye first-fruits for me of whatever it shall seem good to your heart to take my Firstfruits.”{39}{#ex 25:1.} (114) Therefore here also there is an injunction to take not for themselves but for God, examining who it is who gives these things, and doing no injury to what is given, but preserving it free from danger, and free from spot, perfect and entire. And the injunction, by which he orders the first fruits to be offered to himself, is full of doctrine; for in real truth the beginnings both of bodies and of things are investigated with reference to God alone; (115) and search if you wish to understand everything, plants and animals, and arts and sciences. Are then the first castings of the seed of plants, the actions of husbandry or the invisible works of invisible nature? What more need I ask? What are the works of men and other animals? Have not they parents as co-operating causes, as it were, and also nature as the primary and more important and real cause? (116) And is not nature the fountain, and root, and foundation of all arts and sciences, or any other name you please to give the oldest of principles, nature, upon which all speculations are built up? And if nature be not first laid as the foundation, everything is imperfect, and on this account some one seems to me to have said with great felicity:–

The first beginning is quite half the whole.

XXIV. (117) Very appropriately therefore does the sacred scripture command the first-fruits to be offered up to the all-ruling God. And in another passage we read “The Lord spake unto Moses saying, Sanctify to me all the first-born: all that is first brought forth, all that openeth the womb among the children of Israel, whether of man or beast is Mine,”{40}{#ex 13:2.} (118) so that it is openly asserted in these words, that all the first things, whether in point of time or of power, are the property of God, and most especially all the first-born; since the whole of that race which is imperishable shall justly be apportioned to the immortal God; and if there is anything, in short, which openeth the womb, whether of man which here means speech and reason, or of beast which signfies the outward sense and the body; (119) for that which openeth the womb of all these things, whether of the mind, so as to enable it to comprehend the things appreciable only by the intellect, or of the speech so as to enable it to exercise the energies of voice, or of the external senses, so as to qualify them to receive the impressions which are made upon them by their appropriate subjects, or of the body to fit it for its appropriate stationary conditions or motions, is the invisible, spermatic, technical, and divine Word, which shall most properly be dedicated to the Father. (120) And, indeed, as are the beginnings of God so likewise are the ends of God; and Moses is a witness to this, where he commands to “separate off the end, and to confess that it is due to God.”{41}{there is probably some corruption here. The marginal reference is to Number 21:41 and there are only thirty-five verses in the chapter. The same thing has occurred in one or two previous instances.} The things in the world do also bear witness. How so? (121) The beginning of a plant is the seed, and the end is the fruit, each of them being the work, not of husbandry, but of nature. Again, of knowledge the beginning is nature, as has been shown, but the end can never reach mankind, for no man is perfect in any branch of study whatever; but it is a plain truth, that all excellence and perfection belong to one Being alone; we therefore are borne on, for the future, on the confines of beginning and end, learning, teaching, tilling the ground, working up everything else, as if we were really effecting something, that the creature also may seem to be doing something; (122) therefore, with a more perfect knowledge, Moses has confessed that the first-fruits and the end belong to God, speaking of the creation of the world, where he says, “In the beginning God created …”{42}{genesis 1:1.} And again he says, “God finished the heaven and the earth.” (123) Now therefore he says, “Take for me,” assigning to himself what becomes him, and admonishing his hearer not to adulterate what is given to him, but to take care of it in a manner worthy of its importance. And again, in another passage, he who has need of nothing, and who on this account takes nothing, will confess that he does take something, for the sake of giving to his worshippers the feeling of piety, and of implanting in them an eagerness after holiness, and moreover sharpening their zeal in his service, as one who favourably receives the genuine worship and service of a willing soul, (124) “For behold,” says he, “I have taken the Levites instead of all the first-born that openeth the womb among the children of Israel; they shall be their Ransom;”{43}{#nu 3:12.} therefore we take and give, but we are said to take with strict accuracy, but it is only by a metaphorical abuse of the term that we are said to give, for the reasons which I have already mentioned. And it is very felicitously that he has called the Levites a ransom, for nothing so completely conducts the mind to freedom as its fleeing for refuge to and becoming a suppliant of God; and this is what the consecrated tribe of the Levites particularly professes to be.