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You have asked me, Lucilius, why, if a Providence rules the world, it still happens that many evils befall good men.
This would be more fittingly answered in a coherent work designed to prove that a Providence does preside over the universe, and that God concerns himself with us.
But since it is your wish that a part be severed from the whole, and that I refute a single objection while the main question is left untouched, I shall do so; the task is not difficult, - I shall be pleading the cause of the gods.
Even the phenomena which seem irregular and undetermined - I mean showers and clouds, the stroke of crashing thunderbolts and the fires that belch from the riven peaks of mountains, tremors of the quaking ground, and the other disturbances which the turbulent element in nature sets in motion about the earth, these, no matter how suddenly they occur, do not happen without a reason; nay, they also are the result of special eauses, and so, in like manner, are those things which seem miraculous by reason of the incongruous situations in which they are beheld, such as warm waters in the midst of the sea- waves,and the expanses of new islands that spring up in the wide ocean.
But let such matters be kept for their fitting time, - all the more so, indeed, because you do not lack faith in Providence, but complain of it. I shall reconcile you with the gods, who are ever best to those who are best.
For Nature never permits good to be injured by good; between good men and the gods there exists a friendship brought about by virtue.
Friendship, do I say?
Nay, rather there is a tie of relationship and a likeness, since, in truth, a good man differs from God in the element of time only; he is God's pupil, his imitator, and true offspring, whom his all-glorious parent, being no mild taskmaster of virtues, rears, as strict fathers do, with much severity.
And so, when you see that men who are good and acceptable to the gods labour and sweat and have a difficult road to climb, that the wicked, on the other hand, make merry and abound in pleasures, reflect that our children please us by their modesty, but slave-boys by their forwardness; that we hold in check the former by sterner discipline, while we encourage the latter to be bold.
Be assured that the same is true of God. He does not make a spoiled pet of a good man; he tests him, hardens him, and fits him for his own service. You ask, "Why do many adversities come to good men?
Just as the countless rivers, the vast fall of rain from the sky, and the huge volume of mineral springs do not change the taste of the sea, do not even modify it, so the assaults of adversity do not weaken the spirit of a brave man. And yet I do not mean to say that the brave man is insensible to these, but that he overcomes them, and being in all else unmoved and calm rises to meet whatever assails him.
All his adversities he counts mere training. Who, moreover, if he is a man and intent upon the right, is not eager for reasonable toil and ready for duties accompanied by danger? To what energetic man is not idleness a punishment?
Wrestlers, who make strength of body their chief concern, we see pitting themselves against none but the strongest, and they require of those who are preparing them for the arena that they use against them all their strength; they submit to blows and hurts, and if they do not find their match in single opponents, they engage with several at a time.
Without an adversary, prowess shrivels. We see how great and how efficient it really is, only when it shows by endurance what it is capable of.
Be assured that good men ought to act likewise; they should not shrink from hardships and difficulties, nor complain against fate; they should take in good part whatever happens, and should turn it to good.
Not what you endure, but how you endure, is important. Do you not see how fathers show their love in one way, and mothers in another?
The father orders his children to be aroused from sleep in order that they may start early upon their pursuits, - even on holidays he does not permit them to be idle, and he draws from them sweat and sometimes tears.
But the mother fondles them in her lap, wishes to keep them out of the sun, wishes them never to be unhappy, never to cry, never to toil. Unimpaired prosperity cannot withstand a single blow; but he who has struggled constantly with his ills becomes hardened through suffering; and yields to no misfortune; nay, even if he falls, he still fights upon his knees.
Do you wonder if that God, who most dearly loves the good, who wishes them to become supremely good and virtuous, allots to them a fortune that will make them struggle?Event.
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