The City of God: Book 1: Chapters Thirty-Three and Thirty-Four

Chapter 33

Are your minds bereft of reason? You are not merely mistaken; this is madness. Here are people in the East bewailing Rome’s humiliation, and great states in remote regions of the earth holding public mourning and lamentation—and you Romans are searching for theaters, pouring into them, filling them, behaving more irresponsibly than ever before. It is this spiritual disease, degeneration, decline into immorality and indecency that Scipio feared when he opposed the erection of theaters. He saw how easily ease and plenty would soften and ruin you. He did not wish you to be free from fear.

He did not think that the republic could be happy while walls were standing, yet morals were collapsing. But, you were more attached to the seductions of foul spirits than to the wisdom of men with foresight. That is why you take no blame for the evil you do, but blame Christianity for the evil you suffer. Depraved by prosperity and unchastened by adversity, you desire, in your security, not the peace of the State but liberty for license. Scipio wanted you to have a salutary fear of the enemy, lest you should rot in debauchery. Though crushed by the enemy, you put no check on immorality, you learned no lessons from calamity; in the depths of sorrows you still wallow in sin.

Chapter 34

Yet, you owe your survival to that God who, in sparing you, warned you to amend your lives by penance. Despite your ingratitude, He made it possible for you to escape from the hands of the enemy—either by professing to be His followers or by taking refuge in the churches of the martyrs.

Romulus and Remus, we are told, with a view to increasing the population of their city, opened an asylum where refugees were to be immune from every molestation. That admirable example redounded to the honor of Christ. The destroyers of the city re-established the institution of its founders. But, what is remarkable is that what the founders did to increase the number of their citizens the destroyers did to save a number of their enemies.

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

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