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The City of God by Augustine of Hippo - Part 11



The City of God by Augustine of Hippo

"Augustine of Hippo - The City of God (Part 11 of 69) "Rome having been stormed and sacked by the Goths under Alaric their king,44 A.D. 410. the worshippers of false gods, or pagans, as we commonly call them, made an attempt to attribute this calamity to the Christian religion, and began to blaspheme the true God with even more than their wonted bitterness and acerbity. It was this which kindled my zeal for the house of God, and prompted me to undertake the defence of the city of God against the charges and misrepresentations of its assailants. This work was in my hands for several years, owing to the interruptions occasioned by many other affairs which had a prior claim on my attention, and which I could not defer. However, this great undertaking was at last completed in twenty-two books. Of these, the first five refute those who fancy that the polytheistic worship is necessary in order to secure worldly prosperity, and that all these overwhelming calamities have befallen us in consequence of its prohibition. In the following five books I address myself to those who admit that such calamities have at all times attended, and will at all times attend, the human race, and that they constantly recur in forms more or less disastrous, varying only in the scenes, occasions, and persons on whom they light, but, while admitting this, maintain that the worship of the gods is advantageous for the life to come. In these ten books, then, I refute these two opinions, which are as groundless as they are antagonistic to the Christian religion. "But that no one might have occasion to say, that though I had refuted the tenets of other men, I had omitted to establish my own, I devote to this object the second part of this work, which comprises twelve books, although I have not scrupled, as occasion offered, either to advance my own opinions in the first ten books, or to demolish the arguments of my opponents in the last twelve. Of these twelve books, the first four contain an account of the origin of these two cities—the city of God, and the city of the world. The second four treat of their history or progress; the third and last four, of their deserved destinies. And so, though all these twenty-two books refer to both cities, yet I have named them after the better city, and called them The City of God." Such is the account given by Augustin himself of the occasion and plan of this his greatest work. It was begun the very year of Marcellinus' death, a.d. 413, and was issued in detached portions from time to time, until its completion in the year 426. It thus occupied the maturest years of Augustin's life—from his fifty-ninth to his seventy-second year. But in addition to this explicit information, we learn from the correspondence of Augustin, that it was due to the importunity of his friend Marcellinus that this defence of Christianity extended beyond the limits of a few letters. Shortly before the fall of Rome, Marcellinus had been sent to Africa by the Emperor Honorius to arrange a settlement of the differences between the Donatists and the Catholics. This brought him into contact not only with Augustin, but with Volusian, the proconsul of Africa, and a man of rare intelligence and candor. Finding that Volusian, though as yet a pagan, took an interest in the Christian religion, Marcellinus set his heart on converting him to the true faith. The details of the subsequent significant intercourse between the learned and courtly bishop and the two imperial statesmen, are unfortunately almost entirely lost to us; but the impression conveyed by the extant correspondence is, that Marcellinus was the means of bringing his two friends into communication with one another. The first overture was on Augustin's part, in the shape of a simple and manly request that Volusian would carefully peruse the Scriptures, accompanied by a frank offer to do his best to solve any difficulties that might arise from such a course of inquiry. Volusian accordingly enters into correspondence with Augustin; and in order to illustrate the kind of difficulties experienced by men in his position, he gives some graphic notes of a conversation in which he had recently taken part at a gathering of some of his friends. The difficulty to which most weight is attached in this letter, is the apparent impossibility of believing in the Incarnation. But a letter which Marcellinus immediately despatched to Augustin, urging him to reply to Volusian at large, brought the intelligence that the difficulties and objections to Christianity were thus limited merely out of a courteous regard to the preciousness of the bishop's time, and the vast number of his engagements." from video introduction



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