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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 2

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 2.—Of Those Things Which are Contained in Books Second and Third.

We had promised, then, that we would say p. 65 something against those who attribute the calamities of the Roman republic to our religion, and that we would recount the evils, as many and great as we could remember or might deem sufficient, which that city, or the provinces belonging to its empire, had suffered before their sacrifices were prohibited, all of which would beyond doubt have been attributed to us, if our religion had either already shone on them, or had thus prohibited their sacrilegious rites.  These things we have, as we think, fully disposed of in the second and third books, treating in the second of evils in morals, which alone or chiefly are to be accounted evils; and in the third, of those which only fools dread to undergo—namely, those of the body or of outward things—which for the most part the good also suffer.  But those evils by which they themselves become evil, they take, I do not say patiently, but with pleasure.  And how few evils have I related concerning that one city and its empire!  Not even all down to the time of Cæsar Augustus.  What if I had chosen to recount and enlarge on those evils, not which men have inflicted on each other; such as the devastations and destructions of war, but which happen in earthly things, from the elements of the world itself.  Of such evils Apuleius speaks briefly in one passage of that book which he wrote, De Mundo, saying that all earthly things are subject to change, overthrow, and destruction. 161   For, to use his own words, by excessive earthquakes the ground has burst asunder, and cities with their inhabitants have been clean destroyed:  by sudden rains whole regions have been washed away; those also which formerly had been continents, have been insulated by strange and new-come waves, and others, by the subsiding of the sea, have been made passable by the foot of man:  by winds and storms cities have been overthrown; fires have flashed forth from the clouds, by which regions in the East being burnt up have perished; and on the western coasts the like destructions have been caused by the bursting forth of waters and floods.  So, formerly, from the lofty craters of Etna, rivers of fire kindled by God have flowed like a torrent down the steeps.  If I had wished to collect from history wherever I could, these and similar instances, where should I have finished what happened even in those times before the name of Christ had put down those of their idols, so vain and hurtful to true salvation?  I promised that I should also point out which of their customs, and for what cause, the true God, in whose power all kingdoms are, had deigned to favor to the enlargement of their empire; and how those whom they think gods can have profited them nothing, but much rather hurt them by deceiving and beguiling them; so that it seems to me I must now speak of these things, and chiefly of the increase of the Roman empire.  For I have already said not a little, especially in the second book, about the many evils introduced into their manners by the hurtful deceits of the demons whom they worshipped as gods.  But throughout all the three books already completed, where it appeared suitable, we have set forth how much succor God, through the name of Christ, to whom the barbarians beyond the custom of war paid so much honor, has bestowed on the good and bad, according as it is written, “Who maketh His sun to rise on the good and the evil, and giveth rain to the just and the unjust.” 162



Comp. Bacon’s Essay on the Vicissitudes of Things.


Matt. 5.45.

Next: Chapter 3

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