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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 22

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 22.—Concerning the Knowledge of the Worship Due to the Gods, Which Varro Glories in Having Himself Conferred on the Romans.

What is it, then, that Varro boasts he has bestowed as a very great benefit on his fellow-citizens, because he not only recounts the gods who ought to be worshipped by the Romans, but also tells what pertains to each of them?  “Just as it is of no advantage,” he says, “to know the name and appearance of any man who is a physician, and not know that he is a physician, so,” he says, “it is of no advantage to know well that Æsculapius is a god, if you are not aware that he can bestow the gift of health, and consequently do not know why you ought to supplicate him.”  He also affirms this by another comparison, saying, “No one is able, not only to live well, but even to live at all, if he does not know who is a smith, who a baker, who a weaver, from whom he can seek any utensil, whom he may take for a helper, whom for a leader, whom for a teacher;” asserting, “that in this way it can be doubtful to no one, that thus the knowledge of the gods is useful, if one can know what force, and faculty, or power any god may have in any thing.  For from this we may be able,” he says, “to know what god we ought to call to, and invoke for any cause; lest we should do as too many are wont to do, and desire water from Liber, and wine from Lymphs.”  Very useful, forsooth!  Who would not give this man thanks if he could show true things, and if he could teach that the one true God, from whom all good things are, is to be worshipped by men?

Next: Chapter 23

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