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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 12

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 12.—That When Once the Vanity of the Gods of the Nations Has Been Exposed, It Cannot Be Doubted that They are Unable to Bestow Eternal Life on Any One, When They Cannot Afford Help Even with Respect to the Things Of this Temporal Life.

Now, since there are three theologies, which the Greeks call respectively mythical, physical, and political, and which may be called in Latin fabulous, natural, and civil; and since neither from the fabulous, which even the worshippers of many and false gods have themselves most freely censured, nor from the civil, of which that is convicted of being a part, or even worse than it, can eternal life be hoped for from any of these theologies,—if any one thinks that what has been said in this book is not enough for him, let him also add to it the many and various dissertations concerning God as the giver of felicity, contained in the former books, especially the fourth one.

For to what but to felicity should men consecrate themselves, were felicity a goddess?  However, as it is not a goddess, but a gift of God, to what God but the giver of happiness ought we to consecrate ourselves, who piously love eternal life, in which there is true and full felicity?  But I think, from what has been said, no one ought to doubt that none of those gods is the giver of happiness, who are worshipped with such shame, and who, if they are not so worshipped, are more shamefully enraged, and thus confess that they are most foul spirits.  Moreover, how can he give eternal life who cannot give happiness?  For we mean by eternal life that life where there is endless happiness.  For if the soul live in eternal punishments, by which also those unclean spirits shall be tormented, that is rather eternal death than eternal life.  For there is no greater or worse death than when death never dies.  But because the soul from its very nature, being created immortal, cannot be without some kind of life, its utmost death is alienation from the life of God in an eternity of punishment.  So, then, He only who gives true happiness gives eternal life, that is, an endlessly happy life.  And since those gods whom this civil theology worships have been proved to be unable to give this happiness, they ought not to be worshipped on account of those temporal and terrestrial things, as we showed in the five former books, much less on account of eternal life, which is to be after death, as we have sought to show in this one book especially, whilst the other books also lend it their co-operation.  But since the strength of inveterate habit has its roots very deep, if any one thinks that I have not disputed sufficiently to show that this civil theology ought to be rejected and shunned, let him attend to another book which, with God’s help, is to be joined to this one.


Next: Book VII

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