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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 6

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 6.—Of the Jewish Priesthood and Kingdom, Which, Although Promised to Be Established for Ever, Did Not Continue; So that Other Things are to Be Understood to Which Eternity is Assured.

While, therefore, these things now shine forth as clearly as they were loftily foretold, still some one may not vainly be moved to ask, How can we be confident that all things are to come to pass which are predicted in these books as about to come, if this very thing which is there divinely spoken, “Thine house and thy father’s house shall walk before me for ever,” could not have effect?  For we see that priesthood has been changed; and there can be no hope that what was promised to that house may some time be fulfilled, because that which succeeds on its being rejected and changed is rather predicted as eternal.  He who says this does not yet understand, or does not recollect, that this very priesthood after the order of Aaron was appointed as the shadow of a future eternal priesthood; and therefore, when eternity is promised to it, it is not promised to the mere shadow and figure, but to what is shadowed forth and prefigured by it.  But lest it should be thought the shadow itself was to remain, therefore its mutation also behoved to be foretold.

p. 346

In this way, too, the kingdom of Saul himself, who certainly was reprobated and rejected, was the shadow of a kingdom yet to come which should remain to eternity.  For, indeed, the oil with which he was anointed, and from that chrism he is called Christ, is to be taken in a mystical sense, and is to be understood as a great mystery; which David himself venerated so much in him, that he trembled with smitten heart when, being hid in a dark cave, which Saul also entered when pressed by the necessity of nature, he had come secretly behind him and cut off a small piece of his robe, that he might be able to prove how he had spared him when he could have killed him, and might thus remove from his mind the suspicion through which he had vehemently persecuted the holy David, thinking him his enemy.  Therefore he was much afraid lest he should be accused of violating so great a mystery in Saul, because he had thus meddled even his clothes.  For thus it is written:  “And David’s heart smote him because he had taken away the skirt of his cloak.” 1028   But to the men with him, who advised him to destroy Saul thus delivered up into his hands, he saith, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s christ, to lay my hand upon him, because he is the Lord’s christ.”  Therefore he showed so great reverence to this shadow of what was to come, not for its own sake, but for the sake of what it prefigured.  Whence also that which Samuel says to Saul, “Since thou hast not kept my commandment which the Lord commanded thee, whereas now the Lord would have prepared thy kingdom over Israel for ever, yet now thy kingdom shall not continue for thee; and the Lord will seek Him a man after His own heart, and the Lord will command him to be prince over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee,” 1029 is not to be taken as if God had settled that Saul himself should reign for ever, and afterwards, on his sinning, would not keep this promise; nor was He ignorant that he would sin, but He had established his kingdom that it might be a figure of the eternal kingdom.  Therefore he added, “Yet now thy kingdom shall not continue for thee.”  Therefore what it signified has stood and shall stand; but it shall not stand for this man, because he himself was not to reign for ever, nor his offspring; so that at least that word “for ever” might seem to be fulfilled through his posterity one to another.  “And the Lord,” he saith, “will seek Him a man,” meaning either David or the Mediator of the New Testament, 1030 who was figured in the chrism with which David also and his offspring was anointed.  But it is not as if He knew not where he was that God thus seeks Him a man, but, speaking through a man, He speaks as a man, and in this sense seeks us.  For not only to God the Father, but also to His Only-begotten, who came to seek what was lost, 1031 we had been known already even so far as to be chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. 1032   “He will seek Him” therefore means, He will have His own (just as if He had said, Whom He already has known to be His own He will show to others to be His friend).  Whence in Latin this word (quærit) receives a preposition and becomes acquirit (acquires), the meaning of which is plain enough; although even without the addition of the preposition quærere is understood as acquirere, whence gains are called quæstus.



1 Sam. 24:5, 6.


1 Sam. 13:13, 14.


Heb. 9.15.


Luke 19.10.


Eph. 1.4.

Next: Chapter 7

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