The Goal of Politics: “Earthly Peace for the Sake of Enjoying Earthly Goods”

In a time when politics seems to be the only subject people talk about, I thought we might benefit from considering a quote from Augustine’s City of God. In reading another work, I ran across a quote from City of God, which I placed in Italics in the quotes below. I was so taken by it that I looked up the context.

“Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God…In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” And therefore the wise men of the one city, living according to man, have sought for profit to their own bodies or souls … But in the other city there is no human wisdom, but only godliness, which offers due worship to the true God, and looks for its reward in the society of the saints, of holy angels as well as holy men, “that God may be all in all.” (Book XIV, Chap. 28)

“But the earthly city … has its good in this world, and rejoices in it with such joy as such things can afford … desires earthly peace for the sake of enjoying earthly goods, and it makes war in order to attain to this peace … But if they neglect the better things of the heavenly city, which are secured by eternal victory and peace never-ending, and so inordinately covet these present good things that they believe them to be the only desirable things, or love them better than those things which are believed to be better,–if this be so, then it is necessary that misery follow and ever increase.” (Book XV. CHAP. 4)

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