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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 20

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 20.—Concerning Virtue and Faith, Which the Pagans Have Honored with Temples and Sacred Rites, Passing by Other Good Qualities, Which Ought Likewise to Have Been Worshipped, If Deity Was Rightly Attributed to These.

They have made Virtue also a goddess, which, indeed, if it could be a goddess, had been preferable to many.  And now, because it is not a goddess, but a gift of God, let it be obtained by prayer from Him, by whom alone it can be given, and the whole crowd of false gods vanishes.  But why is Faith believed to be a goddess, and why does she herself receive temple and altar?  For whoever prudently acknowledges her makes his own self an abode for her.  But how do they know what faith is, of which it is the prime and greatest function that the true God may be believed in?  But why had not virtue sufficed?  Does it not include faith also?  Forasmuch as they have thought proper to distribute virtue into four divisions—prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance—and as each of these divisions has its own virtues, faith is among the parts of justice, and has the chief place with as many of us as know what that saying means, “The just shall live by faith.” 175   But if Faith is a goddess, I wonder why these keen lovers of a multitude of gods have wronged so many other goddesses, by passing them by, when they could have dedicated temples and altars to them likewise.  Why has temperance not deserved to be a goddess, when some Roman princes have obtained no small glory on account of her?  Why, in fine, is fortitude not a goddess, who aided Mucius when he thrust his right hand into the flames; who aided Curtius, when for the sake of his country he threw himself headlong into the yawning earth; who aided Decius the sire, and Decius the son, when they devoted themselves for the army?—though we might question whether these men had true fortitude, if this concerned our present discussion.  Why have prudence and wisdom merited no place among the gods?  Is it because they are all worshipped under the general name of Virtue itself?  Then they could thus worship the true God also, of whom all the other gods are thought to be parts.  But in that one name of virtue is comprehended both faith and chastity, which yet have obtained separate altars in temples of their own.


Footnotes

74:175

Hab. 2.4.


Next: Chapter 21

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