The City of God: Book 1: Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter 36

I still have something to say against those who hold our religion responsible for the disaster to the Roman state, because it has forbidden them to sacrifice to their gods. Here, I must remind you of all the grave calamities which have occurred (or of as many as will suffice for my purpose), and which the city itself, or the provinces subject to its rule, had to endure long before their sacrifices were banned. For, beyond all doubt, they would have laid at our door all of those miseries, if at that time our religion had enlightened their minds, and had forbidden their sacrilegious rites.

Then, I must show on account of what virtues and for what reason the true God, in whose power are all kingdoms, vouchsafed His help to spread the empire, while those fictions they call gods gave no help at all, but, on the contrary, worked untold harm by their deceptions and frauds. Lastly, I shall argue against those who, though the ground is taken from under their feet by the plainest possible proofs, attempt to maintain that the gods are to be worshiped, not for the benefit they could bestow in this life, but for the sake of the life beyond the grave.

The discussion of this question is, I believe, a much more difficult task, calling for more subtle reasoning. For, on this point, we are at issue, not with the common run of philosophers, but with those who stand very high in the esteem of our adversaries and who see eye to eye with us on many things, such as the immortality of the soul, the creation of the world by the true God, and His providence governing the world He created. Since these same philosophers must be set right on those points in which they differ with us, we cannot evade the duty of pointing out their errors, so that, after disposing of the objections of the impious, with the ability God will vouchsafe, we may vindicate the City of God, and the true piety toward and worship of that God who alone holds out the infallible promise of eternal happiness. Here, we may bring the present book to a close, and begin to take up the points next in order in a new book.

Tomorrow we will begin Book 2 of The City of God

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Books I–VII, ed. Hermigild Dressler, The Fathers of the Church, (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1950), 8:72–73.

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