The City of God: Book 2: Chapters Twenty-Nine

Chapter 29

Why, then, do not you Romans with your noble character, you sons of the Reguli, Scaevolae, Scipii, and Fabricii, let your hearts go out to these better things. Look at the difference between these things and the base arrogance and deceiving wickedness of the demons. However great and good your natural gifts may be, it takes true piety to make them pure and perfect; with impiety, they merely end in loss and pain. Choose now your course, not to seek glory in yourself, but to find it infallibly in the true God. At one time, you could enjoy the applause of your people, but by God’s mysterious providence the true religion was not there for you to choose.

But, it is now day; awake as you awoke in the persons of those men in whose sterling virtue and sufferings for the faith we glory. They battled on all sides against hostile powers and, conquering by their fearless death, ‘have purchased this country for us with their blood.’ To this Country we pleadingly invite you. Join its citizens, for it offers more than mere sanctuary, it offers the true remission of your sins.

Give no heed to the degenerate progeny who blame Christ and Christians for what they call bad times, and long for times which assure them, not a peaceful life, but undisturbed wickedness. Such times were never to your liking, not even for an earthly fatherland. Reach out now for the heavenly country. You will have very little to suffer for it, and in it you will reign in very truth, and forever. In that land there is no Vestal altar, no statue of Jupiter on the Capitol, but the one true God, who ‘will not limit you in space or time, but will give an empire universal and eternal.’ Seek no false and lying gods; rather, cast them from you with scorn and shine forth in true freedom. They are not gods, but fiendish spirits, to whom your eternal happiness is a torment. Never did Juno so intensely begrudge the Trojans, your ancestors in the flesh, the battlements of Rome, as do those demons, whom you still fancy to be gods, begrudge an everlasting home to the whole human race.

You have already, in part, passed judgment on these spirits, for, while you placated them with stage plays, you branded with infamy the actors who performed them. Let your freedom assert its rights against the unclean spirits who have placed upon you the obligation of solemnly exhibiting their shame as though it were a holy thing.

You took civic rights away from performers of Olympian scandals. Now, beseech the true God to take away from you those gods who delight in immoralities—in lust, if the sins are facts; in lying, if they are feigned. You did well to ostracize the mimes and mummers from civil society. Keep a sharper watch now. Divine majesty is in no way appeased by arts which dishonor man’s dignity. How, then, can you place in the ranks of the holy powers of heaven gods who delight in homage so unclean, while you banned from the lowest ranks of Roman citizens the men who enacted such homage?

Glorious beyond compare is the heavenly city. There, victory is truth, dignity is holiness, peace is happiness, life is eternity. If you blushed to tolerate that sort of men among your citizens, how much less will the heavenly city tolerate that sort of gods? Wherefore, if you long to reach that blessed country, shun the company of demons. Gods who are propitiated by infamous rites are unworthy of the worship of decent men. Deny religious rites to the gods, by a Christian reform, just as you denied civil dignity to the actors, by the censor’s decree.

As regards earthly happiness and physical evils which alone the wicked wish to enjoy or refuse to endure, I shall show in the sequel that not even over these have those demons the control people imagine. Indeed, even if they did have, then we should scorn those things rather than, for their sake, worship those gods and so fail to attain the blessings they begrudge us. However, not even over those things have demons the power attributed to them by those who maintain that they must on that account be propitiated. But, as I said, more of this later. Here, I bring this book to a close.

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

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