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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 28.—That the Law of Moses Must Be Spiritually Understood to Preclude the Damnable Murmurs of a Carnal Interpretation.

In the succeeding words, “Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel,” 1468 the prophet opportunely mentions precepts and statutes, after declaring the important distinction hereafter to be made between those who observe and those who despise the law.  He intends also that they learn to interpret the law spiritually, and find Christ in it, by whose judgment that separation between the good and the bad is to be made.  For it is not without reason that the Lord Himself says to the Jews, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.” 1469   For by receiving the law carnally without perceiving that its earthly promises were figures of things spiritual, they fell into such murmur p. 448 ings as audaciously to say, “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked suppliantly before the face of the Lord Almighty?  And now we call aliens happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up.” 1470   It was these words of theirs which in a manner compelled the prophet to announce the last judgment, in which the wicked shall not even in appearance be happy, but shall manifestly be most miserable; and in which the good shall be oppressed with not even a transitory wretchedness, but shall enjoy unsullied and eternal felicity.  For he had previously cited some similar expressions of those who said, “Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and such are pleasing to Him.” 1471   It was, I say, by understanding the law of Moses carnally that they had come to murmur thus against God.  And hence, too, the writer of the 73d Psalm says that his feet were almost gone, his steps had well-nigh slipped, because he was envious of sinners while he considered their prosperity, so that he said among other things, How doth God know, and is there knowledge in the Most High? and again, Have I sanctified my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency? 1472   He goes on to say that his efforts to solve this most difficult problem, which arises when the good seem to be wretched and the wicked happy, were in vain until he went into the sanctuary of God, and understood the last things. 1473   For in the last judgment things shall not be so; but in the manifest felicity of the righteous and manifest misery of the wicked quite another state of things shall appear.


Footnotes

447:1468

Mal. 4.4.

447:1469

John 5.46.

448:1470

Mal. 3:14, 15.

448:1471

Mal. 2.17.

448:1472

In innocentibus.

448:1473

Ps. 73.


Next: Chapter 29

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