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Chapter 18.—Of the Beauty of the Universe, Which Becomes, by God’s Ordinance, More Brilliant by the Opposition of Contraries.

For God would never have created any, I do not say angel, but even man, whose future wickedness He foreknew, unless He had equally known to what uses in behalf of the p. 215 good He could turn him, thus embellishing, the course of the ages, as it were an exquisite poem set off with antitheses.  For what are called antitheses are among the most elegant of the ornaments of speech.  They might be called in Latin “oppositions,” or, to speak more accurately, “contrapositions;” but this word is not in common use among us, 488 though the Latin, and indeed the languages of all nations, avail themselves of the same ornaments of style.  In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul also makes a graceful use of antithesis, in that place where he says, “By the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report:  as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” 489   As, then, these oppositions of contraries lend beauty to the language, so the beauty of the course of this world is achieved by the opposition of contraries, arranged, as it were, by an eloquence not of words, but of things.  This is quite plainly stated in the Book of Ecclesiasticus, in this way:  “Good is set against evil, and life against death:  so is the sinner against the godly.  So look upon all the works of the Most High, and these are two and two, one against another.” 490



Quintilian uses it commonly in the sense of antithesis.


2 Cor. 6.7-10.


Ecclus. 33.15.

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