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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 5

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 5.—Of the Fratricidal Act of the Founder of the Earthly City, and the Corresponding Crime of the Founder of Rome.

Thus the founder of the earthly city was a fratricide.  Overcome with envy, he slew his own brother, a citizen of the eternal city, and a sojourner on earth.  So that we cannot be surprised that this first specimen, or, as the Greeks say, archetype of crime, should, long afterwards, find a corresponding crime at the foundation of that city which was destined to reign over so many nations, and be the head of this earthly city of which we speak.  For of that city also, as one of their poets has mentioned, “the first walls were stained with a brother’s blood,” 774 or, as Roman history records, Remus was slain by his brother Romulus.  And thus there is no difference between the foundation of this city and of the earthly city, unless it be that Romulus and Remus were both citizens of the earthly city.  Both desired to have the glory of founding the Roman republic, but both could not have as much glory as if one only claimed it; for he who wished to have the glory of ruling would certainly rule less if his power were shared by a living consort.  In order, therefore, that the whole glory might be enjoyed by one, his consort was removed; and by this crime the empire was made larger indeed, p. 287 but inferior, while otherwise it would have been less, but better.  Now these brothers, Cain and Abel, were not both animated by the same earthly desires, nor did the murderer envy the other because he feared that, by both ruling, his own dominion would be curtailed,—for Abel was not solicitous to rule in that city which his brother built,—he was moved by that diabolical, envious hatred with which the evil regard the good, for no other reason than because they are good while themselves are evil.  For the possession of goodness is by no means diminished by being shared with a partner either permanent or temporarily assumed; on the contrary, the possession of goodness is increased in proportion to the concord and charity of each of those who share it.  In short, he who is unwilling to share this possession cannot have it; and he who is most willing to admit others to a share of it will have the greatest abundance to himself.  The quarrel, then, between Romulus and Remus shows how the earthly city is divided against itself; that which fell out between Cain and Abel illustrated the hatred that subsists between the two cities, that of God and that of men.  The wicked war with the wicked; the good also war with the wicked.  But with the good, good men, or at least perfectly good men, cannot war; though, while only going on towards perfection, they war to this extent, that every good man resists others in those points in which he resists himself.  And in each individual “the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.” 775   This spiritual lusting, therefore, can be at war with the carnal lust of another man; or carnal lust may be at war with the spiritual desires of another, in some such way as good and wicked men are at war; or, still more certainly, the carnal lusts of two men, good but not yet perfect, contend together, just as the wicked contend with the wicked, until the health of those who are under the treatment of grace attains final victory.



Lucan, Phar. i. 95.


Gal. 5.17.

Next: Chapter 6

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