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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 14

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 14.—Concerning the Eradication of the Love of Human Praise, Because All the Glory of the Righteous is in God.

It is, therefore, doubtless far better to resist this desire than to yield to it, for the purer one is from this defilement, the liker is he to God; and, though this vice be not thoroughly eradicated from his heart,—for it does not cease to tempt even the minds of those who are making good progress in virtue,—at any rate, let the desire of glory be surpassed by the love of righteousness, so that, if there be seen anywhere “lying neglected things which are generally discredited,” p. 97 if they are good, if they are right, even the love of human praise may blush and yield to the love of truth.  For so hostile is this vice to pious faith, if the love of glory be greater in the heart than the fear or love of God, that the Lord said, “How can ye believe, who look for glory from one another, and do not seek the glory which is from God alone?” 211   Also, concerning some who had believed on Him, but were afraid to confess Him openly, the evangelist says, “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God;” 212 which did not the holy apostles, who, when they proclaimed the name of Christ in those places where it was not only discredited, and therefore neglected,—according as Cicero says, “Those things are always neglected which are generally discredited,”—but was even held in the utmost detestation, holding to what they had heard from the Good Master, who was also the physician of minds, “If any one shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven, and before the angels of God,” 213 amidst maledictions and reproaches, and most grievous persecutions and cruel punishments, were not deterred from the preaching of human salvation by the noise of human indignation.  And when, as they did and spake divine things, and lived divine lives, conquering, as it were, hard hearts, and introducing into them the peace of righteousness, great glory followed them in the church of Christ, they did not rest in that as in the end of their virtue, but, referring that glory itself to the glory of God, by whose grace they were what they were, they sought to kindle, also by that same flame, the minds of those for whose good they consulted, to the love of Him, by whom they could be made to be what they themselves were.  For their Master had taught them not to seek to be good for the sake of human glory, saying, “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men to be seen of them, or otherwise ye shall not have a reward from your Father who is in heaven.” 214   But again, lest, understanding this wrongly, they should, through fear of pleasing men, be less useful through concealing their goodness, showing for what end they ought to make it known, He says, “Let your works shine before men, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” 215   Not, observe, “that ye may be seen by them, that is, in order that their eyes may be directed upon you,”—for of yourselves ye are, nothing,—but “that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven,” by fixing their regards on whom they may become such as ye are.  These the martyrs followed, who surpassed the Scævolas, and the Curtiuses, and the Deciuses, both in true virtue, because in true piety, and also in the greatness of their number.  But since those Romans were in an earthly city, and had before them, as the end of all the offices undertaken in its behalf, its safety, and a kingdom, not in heaven, but in earth,—not in the sphere of eternal life, but in the sphere of demise and succession, where the dead are succeeded by the dying,—what else but glory should they love, by which they wished even after death to live in the mouths of their admirers?


Footnotes

97:211

John 5.44.

97:212

John 12.43.

97:213

Matt. 10.33.

97:214

Matt. 6.1.

97:215

Matt. 5.16.


Next: Chapter 15

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