Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
City of God: Chapter 12
Chapter 12.—Of the Three Opposite Qualities by Which the Platonists Distinguish Between the Nature of Men and that of Demons.
But at present we are speaking of those beings whom he described as being properly intermediate between gods and men, in nature animals, in mind rational, in soul subject to passion, in body aerial, in duration eternal. When he had distinguished the gods, whom he placed in the highest heaven, from men, whom he placed on earth, not only by position but also by the unequal dignity of their natures, he concluded in these words: “You have here two kinds of animals: the gods, widely distinguished from men by sublimity of abode, perpetuity of life, perfection of nature; for their habitations are separated by so wide an interval that there can be no intimate communication between them, and while the vitality of the one is eternal and indefeasible, that of the others is fading and precarious, and while the spirits of the gods are exalted in bliss, those of men are sunk in miseries.” 351 Here I find three opposite qualities ascribed to the extremes of being, the highest and lowest. For, after mentioning the three qualities for which we are to admire the gods, he repeated, though in other words, the same three as a foil to the defects of man. The three qualities are, “sublimity of abode, perpetuity of life, perfection of nature.” These he again mentioned so as to bring out their contrasts in mans condition. As he had mentioned “sublimity of abode,” he says, “Their habitations are separated by so wide an interval;” as he had mentioned “perpetuity of life,” he says, that “while divine life is eternal and indefeasible, human life is fading and precarious;” and as he had mentioned “perfection of nature,” he says, that “while the spirits of the gods are exalted in bliss, those of men are sunk in miseries.” These three things, then, he predicates of the gods, exaltation, eternity, blessedness; and of man he predicates the opposite, lowliness of habitation, mortality, misery.
De Deo Socratis.
Next: Chapter 13
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