city of god book 1 summary

The story of Regulus shows the nobility of a pagan who preferred captivity to suicide. To their very threshold the bloodthirsty enemy raged; there his murderous fury owned a limit. He belabors these points, but then goes on to a treatise on Christian theology which sets a decided uncompromising tone. But if you cannot, because there does not appear any one whom you can punish, why do you extol with such unmeasured laudation her who slew an innocent and chaste woman? 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 the dead who had lived well? Those who were taken into captivity are still with God, and stand in the tradition of Daniel and others. For the blessedness of a community and of an individual flow from the same source; for a community is nothing else than a harmonious collection of individuals. So, too, the apostle, when speaking of the seeds of such things as these, says, That which you sow is not quickened except it die; and in the Psalm it is said, He killed their vines with hail. He went and persuaded the senate to the opposite course, because he believed it was not for the advantage of the Roman republic to make an exchange of prisoners. Chapters 22-26: [Editor’s summary] “Neither in the Bible nor in the pagan moral works is suicide approved. But if purity be nothing better than these, why should the body be perilled that it may be preserved? Neither should they forget that they are bound by no laws of war, nor military orders, to put even a conquered enemy to the sword; and if a man may not put to death the enemy who has sinned, or may yet sin against him, who is so infatuated as to maintain that he may kill himself because an enemy has sinned, or is going to sin, against him? Augustine’s answer is that God’s followers are but swords in the hand of God. For when Carthage was destroyed, and the Roman republic delivered from its great cause of anxiety, a crowd of disastrous evils immediately resulted from the prosperous condition of things. If they have no such dread, then let them avow that the very evil which befell Regulus might befall the city also, though it honor the gods no less conscientiously than he did.”. She herself alone knows her reason; but what if she was betrayed by the pleasure of the act, and gave some consent to Sextus, though so violently abusing her, and then was so affected with remorse, that she thought death alone could expiate her sin? Do we justly execrate the deed of Judas, and does truth itself pronounce that by hanging himself he rather aggravated than expiated the guilt of that most iniquitous betrayal, since, by despairing of God's mercy in his sorrow that wrought death, he left to himself no place for a healing penitence? The gods of her domestic shrines God in his grace preserved many pagan lives in Rome by allowing them to shelter with his servants; this kindness should lead to repentance. But when I look upon it as a book written by a man whose mind would've been blown by the mere revelation that the Earth is indeed spherical rather than a dinner plate shaped planet in the apple of God's eye, well, then I can appreciate it a little more on other levels that don't so dramatically offend my need for more plausible understandings of reality.

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