Thursday, November 6, 2014

"City of God" XXI.15-17

Chapter 15:
Our hope, however, is not just in an end of suffering--it is in the heaven that Christ has bought for us. And Augustine is worth quoting here:
For there is but one Son of God by nature, who in His compassion became Son of man for our sakes, that we, by nature sons of men, might by grace become through Him sons of God.  For He, abiding unchangeable, took upon Him our nature, that thereby He might take us to Himself; and, holding fast His own divinity, He became partaker of our infirmity, that we, being changed into some better thing, might, by participating in His righteousness and immortality, lose our own properties of sin and mortality, and preserve whatever good quality He had implanted in our nature perfected now by sharing in the goodness of His nature.  For as by the sin of one man we have fallen into a misery so deplorable, so by the righteousness of one Man, who also is God, shall we come to a blessedness inconceivably exalted.  Nor ought any one to trust that he has passed from the one man to the other until he shall have reached that place where there is no temptation, and have entered into the peace which he seeks in the many and various conflicts of this war, in which “the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.”
This is not a life or a war we would have chosen by ourselves, nor is it one we pursue for worldly benefit:
Now, such a war as this would have had no existence if human nature had, in the exercise of free will, continued steadfast in the uprightness in which it was created.  But now in its misery it makes war upon itself, because in its blessedness it would not continue at peace with God; and this, though it be a miserable calamity, is better than the earlier stages of this life, which do not recognize that a war is to be maintained.  For better is it to contend with vices than without conflict to be subdued by them.  Better, I say, is war with the hope of peace everlasting than captivity without any thought of deliverance.  We long, indeed, for the cessation of this war, and, kindled by the flame of divine love, we burn for entrance on that well-ordered peace in which whatever is inferior is for ever subordinated to what is above it.  But if (which God forbid) there had been no hope of so blessed a consummation, we should still have preferred to endure the hardness of this conflict, rather than, by our non-resistance, to yield ourselves to the dominion of vice. 
Instead, by God's grace and mercy we are promised a future home in the City of God where we will have to the fullest the peace that we merely taste here and now. There, the satisfaction of our hearts desires will be met and we will have the fullness of that for which we burn now.

Chapter 16:
God, however, does not leave us alone in this conflict. For children, there is grace and protection that comes directly from God. And I think we've all seen this, how many new believers are there who wander near to heresy, wander near to sin, wander near to all manner of dangerous things in life, only to be snatched away by what appears to us to be dumb blind luck, but what is really surely the direct hand of Providence?
As we mature, we see our danger and our inherent sin (both illuminated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) and strive according to God's command and by His Spirit to subdue our sins and live according to His Holy Word:
Accordingly vices are then only to be considered overcome when they are conquered by the love of God, which God Himself alone gives, and which He gives only through the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who became a partaker of our mortality that He might make us partakers of His divinity. 
We as believers then know that the only suffering we will endure is prior to the final judgment, while unbelievers will be judged afterward forever (though to varying degrees according to their own sins).

Chapter 17:
Some Christians are so tenderhearted as to deny the eternity of hell (Origen was one such believer). We must not support this heresy, though we should of course deal gently with our delicate and erring brothers and sisters. Fortunately, they are quite often inconsistent with themselves, and where they come to believe that someday all people will be in heaven, they deny this to Satan and the demons. But what kind of division is that? Certainly not one supported in Scripture...

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