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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 3

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 3.—That the Platonists, Though Knowing Something of the Creator of the Universe, Have Misunderstood the True Worship of God, by Giving Divine Honor to Angels, Good or Bad.

This being so, if the Platonists, or those who think with them, knowing God, glorified Him as God and gave thanks, if they did not become vain in their own thoughts, if they did not originate or yield to the popular errors, they would certainly acknowledge that neither could the blessed immortals retain, nor we miserable mortals reach, a happy condition without worshipping the one God of gods, who is both theirs and ours.  To Him we owe the service which is called in Greek λατρεία, whether we render it outwardly or inwardly; for we are all His temple, each of us severally and all of us together, because He condescends to inhabit each individually and the whole harmonious body, being no greater in all than in each, since He is neither expanded nor divided.  Our heart when it rises to Him is His altar; the priest who intercedes for us is His Only-begotten; we sacrifice to Him bleeding victims when we contend for His truth even unto blood; to Him we offer the sweetest incense when we come before Him burning with holy and pious love; to Him we devote and surrender ourselves and His gifts in us; to Him, by solemn feasts and on appointed days, we consecrate the memory of His benefits, lest through the lapse of time ungrateful oblivion should steal upon us; to Him we offer on the altar of our heart the sacrifice of humility and praise, kindled by the fire of burning love.  It is that we may see Him, so far as He can be seen; it is that we may cleave to Him, that we are cleansed from all stain of sins and evil passions, and are consecrated in His name.  For He is the fountain of our happiness, He the end of all our desires.  Being attached to Him, or rather let me say, re-attached,—for we had detached ourselves and lost hold of Him,—being, I say, re-attached to Him, 378 we tend towards Him by love, that we may rest in Him, and find our blessedness by attaining that end.  For our good, about which philosophers have so keenly contended, is nothing else than to be united to God.  It is, if I may say so, by spiritually embracing Him that the intellectual soul is filled and impregnated with true virtues.  We are enjoined to love this good with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength.  To this good we ought to be led by those who love us, and to lead those we love.  Thus are fulfilled those two commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets:  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul;” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” 379   For, that man might be intelligent in his self-love, there was appointed for him an end to which he might refer all his actions, that he might be blessed.  For he who loves himself wishes nothing else than this.  And the end set before him is “to draw near to God.” 380   And so, when one who has this intelligent self-love is commanded to love his neighbor as himself, what else is enjoined than that he shall do all in his power to commend to him the love of God?  This is the worship of God, this is true religion, this right piety, this the service due to God only.  If any immortal power, then, no matter with what virtue endowed, loves us as himself, he must desire that we find our happiness by submitting ourselves to Him, in submission to whom he himself finds happiness.  If he does not worship God, he is wretched, because deprived of God; if he worships God, he cannot wish to be worshipped in God’s stead.  On the contrary, these higher powers acquiesce heartily in the divine sentence in which it is written, “He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.” 381



Augustin here remarks, in a clause that cannot be given in English, that the word religio is derived from religere.—So Cicero, De Nat. Deor. ii. 28.


Matt. 22.37-40.


Ps. 73.28.


Ex. 22.20.

Next: Chapter 4

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