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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 28

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 28.—Whether We Ought to Love the Love Itself with Which We Love Our Existence and Our Knowledge of It, that So We May More Nearly Resemble the Image of the Divine Trinity.

We have said as much as the scope of this work demands regarding these two things, to wit, our existence, and our knowledge of it, and how much they are loved by us, and how there is found even in the lower creatures a kind of likeness of these things, and yet with a difference.  We have yet to speak of the love wherewith they are loved, to determine whether this love itself is loved.  And doubtless it is; and this is the proof.  Because in men who are justly loved, it is rather love itself that is loved; for he is not justly called a good man who knows what is good, but who loves it.  Is it not then obvious that we love in ourselves the very love wherewith we love whatever good we love?  For there is also a love wherewith we love that which we ought not to love; and this love is hated by him who loves that wherewith he loves what ought to be loved.  For it is quite possible for both to exist in one man.  And this co-existence is good for a man, to the end that this love which conduces to our living well may grow, and the other, which leads us to evil may decrease, until our whole life be perfectly healed and transmuted into good.  For if we were beasts, we should love the fleshly and sensual life, and this would be our sufficient good; and when it was well with us in respect of it, we should seek nothing beyond.  In like manner, if we were trees, we could not, indeed, in the strict sense of the word, love anything; nevertheless we should seem, as it were, to long for that by which we might become more abundantly and luxuriantly fruitful.  If we were stones, or waves, or wind, or flame, or anything of that kind, we should want, indeed, both sensation and life, yet should possess a kind of attraction towards our own proper position and natural order.  For the specific gravity of bodies is, as it were, their love, whether they are carried downwards by their weight, or upwards by their levity.  For the body is borne by its gravity, as the spirit by love, whithersoever it is borne. 499   But we are men, created in the image of our Creator, whose eternity is true, and whose truth is eternal, whose love is eternal and true, and who Himself is the eternal, true, and adorable Trinity, without confusion, without separation; and, therefore, while, as we run over all the works which He has established, we may detect, as it were, His footprints, now more and now less distinct even in those things that are beneath us, since they could not so much as exist, or be bodied forth in any shape, or follow and observe any law, had they not been made by Him who supremely is, and is supremely good and supremely wise; yet in ourselves beholding His image, let us, like that younger son of the gospel, come to ourselves, and arise and return to Him from whom by our sin we had departed.  There our being will have no death, our knowledge no error, our love no mishap.  But now, though we are assured of our possession of these three things, not on the testimony of others, but by our own consciousness of their presence, and because we see them with our own most truthful interior vision, yet, as we cannot of our p. 222 selves know how long they are to continue, and whether they shall never cease to be, and what issue their good or bad use will lead to, we seek for others who can acquaint us of these things, if we have not already found them.  Of the trustworthiness of these witnesses, there will, not now, but subsequently, be an opportunity of speaking.  But in this book let us go on as we have begun, with God’s help, to speak of the city of God, not in its state of pilgrimage and mortality, but as it exists ever immortal in the heavens,—that is, let us speak of the holy angels who maintain their allegiance to God, who never were, nor ever shall be, apostate, between whom and those who forsook light eternal and became darkness, God, as we have already said, made at the first a separation.



Compare the Confessions, xiii. 9.

Next: Chapter 29

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