The City of God
St. Augustine contrasts the Roman and Christian worlds
St. Augustine (354-430), a leading Christian thinker and bishop of Hippo in Africa
wrote The City of God after Rome was sacked in 410. Opponents of the Church claimed that
the destruction of the city occurred because Christianity neglected the pagan gods who
traditionally protected Rome. In the following excerpt from Book 5, St. Augustine
describes a heavenly city that, unlike Rome, can never fall.
For those pagan heroes there was not to be the divine grace of everlasting life along with
His holy angels in His heavenly City, for the only road to this Society of the Blessed is
true piety, that religious service...which is offered to the One true God. On the other
hand, if God did not grant them at least the temporal [earthly] glory of
a splendid Empire, there would have been no reward for the praiseworthy efforts or virtues
by which they strove to attain that glory. When our Lord said: "Amen
I say to you they have received their reward," He had in mind those who do what seems
to be good in order to be glorified by men. After all, the pagans subordinated their
private property to the common welfare, that is, to the republic and the public
treasury.... They gave their counsel freely in the councils of the state. They
indulged in neither public crime nor private passion. They thought they were on
the right road when they strove, by all these means, for honors, rule, and glory. Honor
has come to them from almost all peoples. The rule of their laws has been imposed on many
peoples. And in our day in literature and in history, glory has been given them by almost
everyone. They have no right to complain of the justice of the true and supreme God.
"They have received their just reward."
The reward of the saints is altogether different. They were men who, while on earth,
suffered reproaches for the City of God which is so much hated by the lovers of this
world. That City is eternal. There, no one is born because no one dies.
There, there reigns that true and perfect happiness which is not a goddess, but a gift of
God -- toward whose beauty we can but sigh in our pilgrimage on earth, though we hold the
pledge of it by faith. In that City, the sun does not "rise upon the good and
bad" for the Sun of justice cherishes the good alone. There, where the Truth is a
treasure shared by all, there is no need to pinch the poor to fill the coffers of