Translated by Marcus DODS, D.D.
(Book IV translated by the Rev. George WILSON,
Books V & VIII by the Rev. J.J. SMITH)
The Modem Library
New York 1950
American University of Beirut
The City of God
(sack of Rome not to be blamed on Christian prohibition of worshipof pagan gods)
Preface: explaining his design in undertaking this work
THE glorious city of God is my theme in this work, which you, my dearest son Marcellinus, suggested, and which is due to you by my promise. I have undertaken its defence against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city - ( ... ) as the plan of this work we have undertaken requires, and as occasionoffers, we must speak also of the earthly city, which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule.
I.1. Of the adversaries of the name of Christ, whom the barbarians for
Christ's sake spared when they stormed the city
For to this earthly city belong the enemies against whom I have to defend the city of God. Many of them, indeed, being reclaimed from their ungodlyerror, have become sufficiently creditable citizens of this city; but many are so inflamed with hatred against it, and are so ungrateful to its Redeemer for His signal benefits, as to forget that they would now be unable to utter a single word to its prejudice, had they not found in its sacred places, as they fled from the enemy's steel, that life in which they now boast themselves. Are not thosevery Romans, who were spared by the barbarians through their respect for Christ, become enemies to the name of Christ?
( ... ) For of those whom you see insolently and shamelessly insulting the servants of Christ, there are numbers who would not have escaped that destruction and slaughter had they not pretended that they themselves were Christ's servants. Yet now, in ungrateful pride andmost impious madness, and at the risk of being punished in everlasting darkness, they perversely oppose that name under which they fraudulently protected themselves for the sake of enjoying the light of this brief life.
I.11. Of the end of this life, whether it is material that it be long delayed
But, it is added, many Christians were slaughtered, and were put to death in a hideous varietyof cruel ways. Well, if this be hard to bear, it is assuredly that common lot of all who are born into this life. Of this at least I am certain, that no one has ever died who was not destined to die some time. Now the end of life puts the longest life on a par with the shortest. For of two things which have alike ceased to be, the one is not better, the other worse - the one greater, the otherless. And of what consequence is it what kind of death puts an end to life, since he who has died once is not forced to go through the same ordeal a second time? And as in the daily casualties of life every man is, as it were, threatened with numberless deaths, so long as it remains uncertain which of them is his fate, I would ask whether it is not better to suffer one and die, than to live in fear ofall? I am not unaware of the poor-spirited fear which prompts us to choose rather to live long in fear of so many deaths, than to die once and so escape them all, but the weak and cowardly shrinking of the flesh is one thing, and the wellconsidered and reasonable persuasion of the soul quite another. That death is not to be judged an evil which is the end of a good life, for death becomes evilonly by the retribution which follows it. They then who are destined to die, need not be careful to inquire what death they are to die, but into what place death will usher them. And since Christians are well aware that the death of the godly pauper whose sores the dogs licked was far better than of the wicked rich man who lay in purple and fine linen, what harm could these terrific deaths do to...