The city of God

The City of God: Book 4: Chapters Thirty-Three and Thirty-Four

Chapter 33

Thus, it is God, the Author and Bestower of happiness, and the sole true God who bestows kingdoms both on the good and the bad. Since He is God and not mere chance, He does not do this rashly, but by a divine disposition of events and dates which is unknown to us, but known to Him. He does this, not as one subject to the course of temporal things, but as Lord and Director. He bestows happiness only on the good. Kings or slaves may have it or lack it, but it is possessed completely only in the life in which no one is a slave. The reason why He gives earthly rule both to the good and to the evil is lest those who are but beginners in His service should mistake these gifts as important. This is the mystery of the Old Testament, in which the New was hidden, that all the gifts and the promises were of this world, yet, the spiritually minded understood even then, though they did not openly make it clear to others, that eternal life was symbolized by temporal gifts and that true beatitude consisted in quite different gifts of God.

Chapter 34

Thus, that men might know that those earthly goods, which alone men desire who can think of nothing else, are at the disposal of the one God and not of the multitude of false gods in whom the Romans believed, He multiplied His people in Egypt from a very few, and delivered them by wonderful miracles.

Their women did not have to invoke Lucina that their children might be multiplied, and the tribe increased beyond belief, since God Himself preserved them from the Egyptians who were persecuting them and who wished to destroy all their children.

Without the aid of the Goddess Rumina, the children were nursed; without the aid of Cunina, they lay in their cradles; without Educa and Potina, they ate and drank; without the aid of the multitude of childish gods, they were brought up; they were married without the nuptial gods and begot children without the aid of Priapus.

Without invoking Neptune, they crossed the sea that opened before them, and their pursuers were drowned in the returning flood. They dedicated nothing to any goddess Mannia when they received manna from heaven, nor did they worship the Nymphs and Lymphae when water flowed from the cleft rock to quench their thirst.

Without foolish rites to Mars and Bellona, they waged war and won victory, not as the gift of some goddess Victoria, but as the gift of God.

They had grain without Segetia, oxen without Bubona, honey without Mellona, apples without Pomona; in fact, all that Romans hoped for from their prayers to the false gods, the Jews received more abundantly from the one true God.

If they had not sinned against Him, misled by evil curiosity and by magic arts to worship alien gods and idols, and finally, to kill Christ, they might have lived happily in that same kingdom, however small it was. They are now scattered over the whole world, by the providence of the one true God, and all images, groves, shrines, and temples of the false gods are overthrown, and the sacrifices forbidden. Yet, this may be seen in their own books that all was foretold by the prophets, lest they might think, when they read the same things in ours, that we have made them up. But now, not to be too prolix in this book, let us turn to what is to follow in the next.

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

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