The City of God: Book 1: Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter 29

Hence, every servant of the most high and true God has a comfort all his own, which is not an illusory assurance resting on the hope of mutable and fleeting things. He has also earthly life itself, which he may live without regret, for it is a school training him for life eternal, a school in which he learns to use temporal goods in the spirit of a pilgrim refusing to be enslaved by them, and in which his strength is put to the proof or his character purified by the crosses he has to bear. There are some who deride the probity of Christ’s followers and, when some temporal calamity happens to befall them, ask mockingly, ‘Where is their God’? Let them, when they are in similar distress, tell us where their own gods are. For, it is in order to escape that very distress that they worship the gods and insist that they should be worshiped.

Every member of the Christian family can answer: ‘My God is everywhere present; He is all everywhere, and nowhere confined by space; He can be present without being visible, and absent without moving. Whenever He visits me with misfortune, it is either to prove my merit or to punish my sins, and for the temporal evils I have borne with holy resignation He lays up for me an eternal reward. But, pray, who are you that I should parley with you, especially about your gods, and much less about my God, who is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the Gentiles are devils: but the Lord made the heavens.’

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Books I–VII

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