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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 13

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 13.—Concerning the Love of Praise, Which, Though It is a Vice, is Reckoned a Virtue, Because by It Greater Vice is Restrained.

Wherefore, when the kingdoms of the East had been illustrious for a long time, it pleased God that there should also arise a Western empire, which, though later in time, should be more illustrious in extent and greatness.  And, in order that it might overcome the grievous evils which existed among other nations, He purposely granted it to such men as, for the sake of honor, and praise, and glory, consulted well for their country, in whose glory they sought their own, and whose safety they did not hesitate to prefer to their own, suppressing the desire of wealth and many other vices for this one vice, namely, the love of praise.  For he has the soundest perception who recognizes that even the love of praise is a vice; nor has this escaped the perception of the poet Horace, who says,

“You’re bloated by ambition? take advice:

Yon book will ease you if you read it thrice.” 208

 And the same poet, in a lyric song, hath thus spoken with the desire of repressing the passion for domination:

“Rule an ambitious spirit, and thou hast

A wider kingdom than if thou shouldst join

To distant Gades Lybia, and thus

Shouldst hold in service either Carthaginian.” 209

Nevertheless, they who restrain baser lusts, not by the power of the Holy Spirit obtained by the faith of piety, or by the love of intelligible beauty, but by desire of human praise, or, at all events, restrain them better by the love of such praise, are not indeed yet holy, but only less base.  Even Tully was not able to conceal this fact; for, in the same books which he wrote, De Republica, when speaking concerning the education of a chief of the state, who ought, he says, to be nourished on glory, goes on to say that their ancestors did many wonderful and illustrious things through desire of glory.  So far, therefore, from resisting this vice, they even thought that it ought to be excited and kindled up, supposing that that would be beneficial to the republic.  But not even in his books on philosophy does Tully dissimulate this poisonous opinion, for he there avows it more clearly than day.  For when he is speaking of those studies which are to be pursued with a view to the true good, and not with the vainglorious desire of human praise, he introduces the following universal and general statement:

“Honor nourishes the arts, and all are stimulated to the prosecution of studies by glory; and those pursuits are always neglected which are generally discredited.” 210



Horace, Epist. i. l. 36, 37.


Hor. Carm. ii. 2.


Tusc. Quæst.i. 2.

Next: Chapter 14

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