The harmony of the whole

Daily Reading for June 28 • Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, c. 202

Many and various are the things that are made. When you take them in detail they are mutually antagonistic and discordant. But, taken in connection with the whole creation, they are agreeable and harmonious. Just as the sound of the harp, composed of many different notes, makes one symphony. The love of truth must not be misled by the difference of each sound, nor suspect that there was one author for this and another for that, or that one composed the bass, another the treble, and a third the middle notes; but considering the wisdom, justice, goodness and service of the whole work he should regard it as one thing. For they who hear a melody ought to praise the musician, and admire the raising of some notes, attend to the lowering of others and listen attentively to the careful modulation of chords. . . .

Suppose we agree and confess that not one of the things that have been made or are being made escapes the knowledge of God, but through His providence each individual thing received and receives its condition, order, number and quantity, and that not one of these has been made or is being made casually or without significance, but with great skill and sublime understanding, and that the reason is wonderful and truly divine which can analyze and announce the particular causes of this kind. . . .A sound and safe and reverent mind that loves the truth will study with eagerness the things that God has left within the reach of man. . . . Having, then, the very rule of truth, and the testimony openly given about God, we ought not reject the sound and sure knowledge of God; but rather directing our solutions of our problems to this end, we should be disciplined by the investigation of the mystery and dispensation of the God who is, and grow more and more in our love of Him, who has done and does so much for us. But if we cannot find the solution of every scriptural difficulty we should not be driven to seek another God, for that were gross impiety. All such matters we should leave in the hands of God, who has made us, being duly aware that the Scriptures are perfect, having been uttered by the Word of God and His Spirit. It is no wonder if in spiritual and celestial matters we have this experience, seeing that many things which are practically before our eyes are beyond our ken. These very things we commit to God.

From “The Treatise of Irenaeus of Lugdunum Against the Heresies,” quoted in Readings in Christian Thought, edited by Hugh T. Kerr (Abingdon, 1983).

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