The City of God

Excerpts from St. Augustine’s City of God Book II

From Chapter 21

But when the monarch is unjust, or, as the Greeks say, a tyrant; or the aristocrats are unjust, and form a faction; or the people themselves are unjust, and become, as Scipio for want of a better name calls them, themselves the tyrant, then the republic is not only blemished (as had been proved the day before), but by legitimate deduction from those definitions, it altogether ceases to be. For it could not be the people’s weal when a tyrant factiously lorded it over the state; neither would the people be any longer a people if it were unjust, since it would no longer answer the definition of a people—“an assemblage associated by a common acknowledgment of law, and by a community of interests.”

But our age, receiving the republic as a chef-d’œuvre of another age which has already begun to grow old, has not merely neglected to restore the colors of the original, but has not even been at the pains to preserve so much as the general outline and most outstanding features. For what survives of that primitive morality which the poet called Rome’s safeguard? It is so obsolete and forgotten, that, far from practising it, one does not even know it. And of the citizens what shall I say? Morality has perished through poverty of great men; a poverty for which we must not only assign a reason, but for the guilt of which we must answer as criminals charged with a capital crime. For it is through our vices, and not by any mishap, that we retain only the name of a republic, and have long since lost the reality.”

I grant there was a republic of a certain kind, and certainly much better administered by the more ancient Romans than by their modern representatives. But the fact is, true justice has no existence save in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ, if at least any choose to call this a republic; and indeed we cannot deny that it is the people’s weal. But if perchance this name, which has become familiar in other connections, be considered alien to our common parlance, we may at all events say that in this city is true justice; the city of which Holy Scripture says, “Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God.”

From Chapter 29

Well done, in that thou hast spontaneously banished from the number of your citizens all actors and players. Awake more fully: the majesty of God cannot be propitiated by that which defiles the dignity of man How, then, can you believe that gods who take pleasure in such lewd plays, belong to the number of the holy powers of heaven, when the men by whom these plays are acted are by yourselves refused admission into the number of Roman citizens even of the lowest grade? Incomparably more glorious than Rome, is that heavenly city in which for victory you have truth; for dignity, holiness; for peace, felicity; for life, eternity. Much less does it admit into its society such gods, if thou dost blush to admit into thine such men. Wherefore, if thou wouldst attain to the blessed city, shun the society of devils. They who are propitiated by deeds of shame, are unworthy of the worship of right-hearted men. Let these, then, be obliterated from your worship by the cleansing of the Christian religion, as those men were blotted from your citizenship by the censor’s mark.

 

A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume II: St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine. 1887 (P. Schaff, Ed.) (42). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

About the Author: CatholicHack

Joe McClane is the General Manger of KSHJ 1430 AM on the Guadalupe Radio Network, Catholic radio in Houston, TX. Joe spent the last five years serving as the Director and Events Coordinator for the Fullness Of Truth Catholic Evangelization Ministries based in North Houston. Joe has been married, going on thirteen years, to Michelle, and they homeschool their five children. Joe and his family are parishioners of Annunciation Catholic Church in downtown Houston.
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