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CHAPTER 44 HOW THE THREAT OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE NINEVITES IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD WHICH IN THE HEBREW EXTENDS TO FORTY DAYS, WHILE IN THE SEPTUAGINT IT IS CONTRACTED TO THREE
But some one may say, "How shall I know whether the prophet Jonah
said to the Ninevite
s, 'Yet three days and Nineveh shall be overthrown, ' or forty days?" For who does not see that the prophet could not say both, when he was sent to terrify the city by the threat of imminent ruin? For if its destruction was to take place on the third day, it certainly could not be on the fortieth; but if on the fortieth, then certainly not on the third. If, then, I am asked which of these Jonah may have said, I rather think what is read in the Hebrew
, "Yet forty days and Nineveh
shall be overthrown." Yet the Seventy, interpreting long afterward, could say what was different and yet pertinent to the matter, and agree in the self-same meaning, although under a different signification. And this may admonish the reader not to despise the authority of either, but to raise himself above the history, and search for those things which the history itself was written to set forth. These things, indeed, took place in the city of Nineveh, but they also signified something else too great to apply to that city; just as, when it happened that the prophet himself was three days in the whale's belly, it signified besides, that He who is Lord of all the prophets should be three days in the depths of hell. Wherefore, if that city is rightly held as prophetically representing the Church of the Gentiles, to wit, as brought down by penitence, so as no longer to be what it had been, since this was done by Christ in the Church of the Gentile
s, which Nineveh represented, Christ Himself was signified both by the forty and by the three days: by the forty, because He spent that number of days with His disciples after the resurrection, and then ascended into heaven, but by the three days, because He rose on the third day. So that, if the reader desires nothing else than to adhere to the history of events, he may be aroused from his sleep by the Septuagint interpreters, as well as the prophets, to search into the depth of the prophecy, as if they had said, In the forty days seek Him in whom thou mayest also find the three days, — the one thou wilt find in His ascension, the other in His resurrection. Because that which could be most suitably signified by both numbers, of which one is used by Jonah the prophet, the other by the prophecy of the Septuagint version, the one and self-same Spirit hath spoken. I dread prolixity, so that I must not demonstrate this by many instances in which the seventy interpreters may be thought to differ from the Hebrew, and yet, when well understood, are found to agree. For which reason I also, according to my capacity, following the footsteps of the apostles, who themselves have quoted prophetic testimonies from both, that is, from the Hebrew and the Septuagint, have thought that both should be used as authoritative, since both are one, and divine. But let us now follow out as we can what remains.
CHAPTER 45 THAT THE JEWS CEASED TO HAVE PROPHETS AFTER THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE, AND FROM THAT TIME UNTIL THE BIRTH OF CHRIST WERE AFFLICTED WITH CONTINUAL ADVERSITY, TO PROVE THAT THE BUILDING OF ANOTHER TEMPLE HAD BEEN PROMISED BY PROPHETIC VOICES
The Jewish nation no doubt became worse after it ceased to have prophets, just at the very time when, on the rebuilding of the temple after the captivity in Babylon
, it hoped to become better. For so, indeed, did that carnal people understand what was foretold by Haggai
the prophet, saying, "The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former." Now, that this is said of the new testament, he showed a little above, where he says, evidently promising Christ, "And I will move all nations, and the desired One shall come to all nations." In this passage the Septuagint translators giving another sense more suitable to the body than the Head, that is, to the Church than to Christ, have said by prophetic authority, "The things shall come that are chosen of the Lord from all nations," that is, men, of whom Jesus saith in the Gospel, "Many are called, but few are chosen." For by such chosen ones of the nations there is built, through the new testament, with living stones, a house of God far more glorious than that temple was which was constructed by king Solomon, and rebuilt after the captivity. For this reason, then, that nation had no prophets from that time, but was afflicted with many plagues by kings of alien race, and by the Romans themselves, lest they should fancy that this prophecy of Haggai was fulfilled by that rebuilding of the temple.
For not long after, on the arrival of Alexander, it was subdued, when, although there was no pillaging, because they dared not resist him, and thus, being very easily subdued, received him peaceably, yet the glory of that house was not so great as it was when under the free power of their own kings. Alexander, indeed, offered up sacrifices in the temple of God, not as a convert to His worship in true piety, but thinking, with impious folly, that He was to be worshipped along with false gods. Then Ptolemy son of Lagus, whom I have already mentioned, after Alexander's death carried them captive into Egypt. His successor, Ptolemy Philadelphus, most benevolently dismissed them; and by him it was brought about, as I have narrated a little before, that we should have the Septuagint version of the Scriptures. Then they were crushed by the wars which are explained in the books of the Maccabees. Afterward they were taken captive by Ptolemy king of Alexandria, who was called Epiphanes. Then Antiochus king of Syria compelled them by many and most grievous evils to worship idols, and filled the temple itself with the sacrilegious superstitions of the Gentiles. Yet their most vigorous leader Judas, who is also called Maccabaeus, after beating the generals of Antiochus, cleansed it from all that defilement of idolatry. But not long after, one Alcimus, although an alien from the sacerdotal tribe, was, through ambition, made pontiff, which was an impious thing. After almost fifty years, during which they never had peace, although they prospered in some affairs, Aristobulus first assumed the diadem among them, and was made both king and pontiff. Before that, indeed, from the time of their return from the Babylonish captivity and the rebuilding of the temple, they had not kings, but generals or principes. Although a king himself may be called a prince, from his principality in governing, and a leader, because he leads the army, but it does not follow that all who are princes and leaders may also be called kings, as that Aristobulus was. He was succeeded by Alexander, also both king and pontiff, who is reported to have reigned over them cruelly. After him his wife Alexandra was queen of the Jews, and from her time downwards more grievous evils pursued them; for this Alexandra's sons, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, when contending with each other for the kingdom, called in the Roman forces against the nation of Israel. For Hyrcanus asked assistance from them against his brother. At that time Rome had already subdued Africa and Greece, and ruled extensively in other parts of the world also, and yet, as if unable to bear her own weight, had, in a manner, broken herself by her own size. For indeed she had come to grave domestic seditions, and from that to social wars, and by and by to civil wars, and had enfeebled and worn herself out so much, that the changed state of the republic, in which she should be governed by kings, was now imminent. Pompey then, a most illustrious prince of the Roman people, having entered Judea with an army, took the city, threw open the temple, not with the devotion of a suppliant, but with the authority of a conqueror, and went, not reverently, but profanely, into the holy of holies, where it was lawful for none but the pontiff to enter. Having established Hyrcanus in the pontificate, and set Antipater over the subjugated nation as guardian or procurator, as they were then called, he led Aristobulus with him bound. From that time the Jews also began to be Roman tributaries. Afterward Cassius plundered the very temple. Then after a few years it was their desert to have Herod, a king of foreign birth, in whose reign Christ was born. For the time had now come signified by the prophetic Spirit through the mouth of the patriarch Jacob, when he says, "There shall not be lacking a prince out of Judah, nor a teacher from his loins, until He shall come for whom it is reserved; and He is the expectation of the nations." There lacked not therefore a Jewish prince of the Jews until that Herod, who was the first king of a foreign race received by them. Therefore it was now the time when He should come for whom that was reserved which is promised in the New Testament, that He should be the expectation of the nations. But it was not possible that the nations should expect He would come, as we see they did, to do judgment in the splendor of power, unless they should first believe in Him when He came to suffer judgment in the humility of patience.
CHAPTER 46 OF THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR, WHEREBY THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH; AND OF THE DISPERSION OF THE JEWS AMONG ALL NATIONS, AS HAD BEEN PROPHESIED
, therefore, reigned in Judea
, and Caesar Augustus
was emperor at Rome, the state of the republic being already changed, and the world being set at peace by him, Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judah
, man manifest out of a human virgin
, God hidden out of God the Father. For so had the prophet foretold: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us." He did many miracles that He might commend God in Himself, some of which, even as many as seemed sufficient to proclaim Him, are contained in the evangelic Scripture. The first of these is, that He was so wonderfully born, and the last, that with His body raised up again from the dead He ascended into heaven. But the Jews who slew Him, and would not believe in Him, because it behooved Him to die and rise again, were yet more miserably wasted by the Romans, and utterly rooted out from their kingdom, where aliens had already ruled over them, and were dispersed through the lands (so that indeed there is no place where they are not), and are thus by their own Scriptures a testimony to us that we have not forged the prophecies about Christ. And very many of them, considering this, even before His passion, but chiefly after His resurrection, believed on Him, of whom it was predicted, "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant shall be saved." But the rest are blinded, of whom it was predicted, "Let their table be made before them a trap, and a retribution, and a stumbling-block. Let their eyes be darkened lest they see, and bow down their back alway." Therefore, when they do not believe our Scriptures, their own, which they blindly read, are fulfilled in them, lest perchance any one should say that the Christians have forged these prophecies about Christ which are quoted under the name of the sibyl, or of others, if such there be, who do not belong to the Jewish people. For us, indeed, those suffice which are quoted from the books of our enemies, to whom we make our acknowledgment, on account of this testimony which, in spite of themselves, they contribute by their possession of these books, while they themselves are dispersed among all nations, wherever the Church of Christ is spread abroad. For a prophecy about this thing was sent before in the Psalms, which they also read, where it is written, "My God, His mercy shall prevent me. My God hath shown me concerning mine enemies, that Thou shalt not slay them, lest they should at last forget Thy law: disperse them in Thy might." Therefore God has shown the Church in her enemies the Jews the grace of His compassion, since, as saith the apostle, "their offense is the salvation of the Gentile
s." And therefore He has not slain them, that is, He has not let the knowledge that they are Jews be lost in them, although they have been conquered by the Romans, lest they should forget the law of God, and their testimony should be of no avail in this matter of which we treat. But it was not enough that he should say, "Slay them not, lest they should at last forget Thy law," unless he had also added, "Disperse them;" because if they had only been in their own land with that testimony of the Scriptures, and not every where, certainly the Church which is everywhere could not have had them as witnesses among all nations to the prophecies which were sent before concerning Christ.
CHAPTER 47 WHETHER BEFORE CHRISTIAN TIMES THERE WERE ANY OUTSIDE OF THE ISRAELITE RACE WHO BELONGED TO THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HEAVENLY CITY
Wherefore if we read of any foreigner — that is, one neither born of Israel nor received by that people into the canon of the sacred books — having prophesied something about Christ, if it has come or shall come to our knowledge, we can refer to it over and above; not that this is necessary, even if wanting, but because it is not incongruous to believe that even in other nations there may have been men to whom this mystery was revealed, and who were also impelled to proclaim it, whether they were partakers of the same grace or had no experience of it, but were taught by bad angels, who, as we know, even confessed the present Christ, whom the Jews did not acknowledge. Nor do I think the Jews themselves dare contend that no one has belonged to God except the Israelite
s, since the increase of Israel began on the rejection of his elder brother. For in very deed there was no other people who were specially called the people of God; but they cannot deny that there have been certain men even of other nations who belonged, not by earthly but heavenly fellowship, to the true Israelites, the citizens of the country that is above. Because, if they deny this, they can be most easily confuted by the case of the holy and wonderful man Job, who was neither a native nor a proselyte, that is, a stranger joining the people of Israel, but, being bred of the Idumean race, arose there and died there too, and who is so praised by the divine oracle, that no man of his times is put on a level with him as regards justice and piety. And although we do not find his date in the chronicles, yet from his book, which for its merit the Israelites have received as of canonical authority, we gather that he was in the third generation after Israel
. And I doubt not it was divinely provided, that from this one case we might know that among other nations also there might be men pertaining to the spiritual Jerusalem who have lived according to God and have pleased Him. And it is not to be supposed that this was granted to any one, unless the one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, was divinely revealed to him; who was pre-announced to the saints of old as yet to come in the flesh, even as He is announced to us as having come, that the self-same faith through Him may lead all to God who are predestinated to be the city of God, the house of God, and the temple of God. But whatever prophecies concerning the grace of God through Christ Jesus are quoted, they may be thought to have been forged by the Christians. So that there is nothing of more weight for confuting all sorts of aliens, if they contend about this matter, and for supporting our friends, if they are truly wise, than to quote those divine predictions about Christ which are written in the books of the Jews, who have been torn from their native abode and dispersed over the whole world in order to bear this testimony, so that the Church of Christ has everywhere increased.
CHAPTER 48 THAT HAGGAI'S PROPHECY, IN WHICH HE SAID THAT THE GLORY OF THE HOUSE OF GOD WOULD BE GREATER THAN THAT OF THE FIRST HAD BEEN, WAS REALLY FULFILLED, NOT IN THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE, BUT IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
This house of God is more glorious than that first one which was constructed of wood and stone, metals and other precious things. Therefore the prophecy of Haggai was not fulfilled in the rebuilding of that temple. For it can never be shown to have had so much glory after it was rebuilt as it had in the time of Solomon
; yea, rather, the glory of that house is shown to have been diminished, first by the ceasing of prophecy, and then by the nation itself suffering so great calamities, even to the final destruction made by the Romans, as the things above-mentioned prove. But this house which pertains to the new testament is just as much more glorious as the living stones, even believing, renewed men, of which it is constructed are better. But it was typified by the rebuilding of that temple for this reason, because the very renovation of that edifice typifies in the prophetic oracle another testament which is called the new. When, therefore, God said by the prophet just named, "And I will give peace in this place," He is to be understood who is typified by that typical place; for since by that rebuilt place is typified the Church which was to be built by Christ, nothing else can be accepted as the meaning of the saying, "I will give peace in this place," except I will give peace in the place which that place signifies. For all typical things seem in some way to personate
those whom they typify, as it is said by the apostle
, "That Rock was Christ." Therefore the glory of this new testament house is greater than the glory of the old testament house; and it will show itself as greater when it shall be dedicated. For then "shall come the desired of all nations," as we read in the Hebrew. For before His advent He had not yet been desired by all nations. For they knew not Him whom they ought to desire, in whom they had not believed. Then, also, according to the Septuagint interpretation (for it also is a prophetic meaning), "shall come those who are elected of the Lord out of all nations." For then indeed there shall come only those who are elected, whereof the apostle saith, "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world." For the Master Builder who said, "Many are called, but few are chosen," did not say this of those who, on being called, came in such a way as to be cast out from the feast, but would point out the house built up of the elect, which henceforth shall dread no ruin. Yet because the churches are also full of those who shall be separated by the winnowing as in the threshing-floor, the glory of this house is not so apparent now as it shall be when every one who is there shall be there always.
CHAPTER 49 OF THE INDISCRIMINATE INCREASE OF THE CHURCH, WHEREIN MANY REPROBATE ARE IN THIS WORLD MIXED WITH THE ELECT
In this wicked world, in these evil days, when the Church measures her future loftiness by her present humility, and is exercised by goading fears, tormenting sorrows, disquiet
ing labors, and dangerous temptations, when she soberly rejoices, rejoicing only in hope, there are many reprobate mingled with the good, and both are gathered together by the gospel as in a drag net; and in this world, as in a sea, both swim enclosed without distinction in the net, until it is brought ashore, when the wicked must be separated from the good, that in the good, as in His temple, God may be all in all. We acknowledge, indeed, that His word is now fulfilled who spake in the psalm, and said, "I have announced and spoken; they are multiplied above number." This takes place now, since He has spoken, first by the mouth of his forerunner John, and afterward by His own mouth, saying, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He chose disciples, whom He also called apostles, of lowly birth, unhonored, and illiterate, so that whatever great thing they might be or do, He might be and do it in them. He had one among them whose wickedness He could use well in order to accomplish His appointed passion, and furnish His Church an example of bearing with the wicked. Having sown the holy gospel as much as that behooved to be done by His bodily presence, He suffered, died, and rose again, showing by His passion what we ought to suffer for the truth, and by His resurrection what we ought to hope for in adversity; saving-always the mystery of the sacrament, by which His blood was shed for the remission of sins. He held converse on the earth forty days with His disciples, and in their sight ascended into heaven, and after ten days sent the promised Holy Spirit. It was given as the chief and most necessary sign of His coming on those who had believed, that every one of them spoke in the tongues of all nations; thus signifying that the unity of the catholic Church would embrace all nations, and would in like manner speak in all tongues.
CHAPTER 50 OF THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL, WHICH IS MADE MORE FAMOUS AND POWERFUL BY THE SUFFERINGS OF ITS PREACHERS
Then was fulfilled that prophecy, "Out of Sion
shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem
;" and the prediction of the Lord Christ Himself, when, after the resurrection, "He opened the understanding" of His amazed disciples "that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, that thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." And again, when, in reply to their questioning about the day of His last coming, He said, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power; but ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even unto the ends of the earth." First of all, the Church spread herself abroad from Jerusalem; and when very many in Judea and Samaria had believed, she also went into other nations by those who announced the gospel, whom, as lights, He Himself had both prepared by His word and kindled by His Holy Spirit. For He had said to them, "Fear ye not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." And that they might not be frozen with fear, they burned with the fire of charity. Finally, the gospel of Christ was preached in the whole world, not only by those who had seen and heard Him both before His passion and after His resurrection, but also after their death by their successors, amid the horrible persecutions, diverse torments and deaths of the martyrs, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, that the people of the nations, believing in Him who was crucified for their redemption, might venerate with Christian love the blood of the martyrs which they had poured forth with devilish fury, and the very kings by whose laws the Church had been laid waste might become profitably subject to that name they had cruelly striven to take away from the earth, and might begin to persecute the false gods for whose sake the worshippers of the true God had formerly been persecuted.
CHAPTER 51 THAT THE CATHOLIC FAITH MAY BE CONFIRMED EVEN BY THE DISSENSIONS OF THE HERETICS
But the devil, seeing the temples of the demons deserted, and the human race running to the name of the liberating Mediator, has moved the heretics under the Christian name to resist the Christian doctrine, as if they could be kept in the city of God indifferently without any correction, just as the city of confusion indifferently held the philosophers who were of diverse and adverse opinions. Those, therefore, in the Church of Christ who savor anything morbid and depraved, and, on being corrected that they may savor what is wholesome and right, contumaciously resist, and will not amend their pestiferous and deadly dogmas, but persist in defending them, become heretics, and, going without, are to be reckoned as enemies who serve for her discipline. For even thus they profit by their wickedness those true catholic members of Christ, since God makes a good use even of the wicked, and all things work together for good to them that love Him. For all the enemies of the Church, whatever error blinds or malice deprave
s them, exercise her patience if they receive the power to afflict her corporally; and if they only oppose her by wicked thought, they exercise her wisdom: but at the same time, if these enemies are loved, they exercise her benevolence
, or even her beneficence, whether she deals with them by persuasive doctrine or by terrible discipline. And thus the devil, the prince of the impious city, when he stirs up his own vessels against the city of God that sojourns in this world, is permitted to do her no harm. For without doubt the divine providence procures for her both consolation through prosperity, that she may not be broken by adversity, and trial through adversity, that she may not be corrupted by prosperity; and thus each is tempered by the other, as we recognize in the Psalms that voice which arises from no other cause, "According to the multitude of my griefs in my heart, Thy consolations have delighted my soul." Hence also is that saying of the apostle, "Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation."
For it is not to be thought that what the same teacher says can at any time fail, "Whoever will live piously in Christ shall suffer persecution." Because even when those who are without do not rage, and thus there seems to be, and really is, tranquillity, which brings very much consolation, especially to the weak, yet there are not wanting, yea, there are many within who by their abandoned manners torment the hearts of those who live piously, since by them the Christian and catholic name is blasphemed; and the dearer that name is to those who will live piously in Christ, the more do they grieve that through the wicked, who have a place within, it comes to be less loved than pious minds desire. The heretics themselves also, since they are thought to have the Christian name and sacraments, Scriptures, and profession, cause great grief in the hearts of the pious, both because many who wish to be Christians are compelled by their dissensions to hesitate, and many evil-speakers also find in them matter for blaspheming the Christian name, because they too are at any rate called Christians. By these and similar depraved manners and errors of men, those who will live piously in Christ suffer persecution, even when no one molests or vexes their body; for they suffer this persecution, not in their bodies, but in their hearts. Whence is that word, "According to the multitude of my griefs in my heart;" for he does not say, in my body. Yet, on the other hand, none of them can perish, because the immutable divine promises are thought of. And because the apostle says, "The Lord knoweth them that are His; for whom He did foreknow, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son," none of them can perish; therefore it follows in that psalm, "Thy consolations have delighted my soul." But that grief which arises in the hearts of the pious, who are persecuted by the manners of bad or false Christians, is profitable to the sufferers, because it proceeds from the charity in which they do not wish them either to perish or to hinder the salvation of others. Finally, great consolations grow out of their chastisement, which imbue the souls of the pious with a fecundity as great as the pains with which they were troubled concerning their own perdition. Thus in this world, in these evil days, not only from the time of the bodily presence of Christ and His apostles, but even from that of Abel, whom first his wicked brother slew because he was righteous, and thenceforth even to the end of this world, the Church has gone forward on pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God.
CHAPTER 52 WHETHER WE SHOULD BELIEVE WHAT SOME THINK, THAT, AS THE TEN PERSECUTIONS WHICH ARE PAST HAVE BEEN FULFILLED, THERE REMAINS NO OTHER BEYOND THE ELEVENTH, WHICH MUST HAPPEN IN THE VERY TIME OF ANTICHRIST
I do not think, indeed, that what some have thought or may think is rashly said or believed, that until the time of Antichrist the Church of Christ is not to suffer any persecutions besides those she has already suffered, — that is, ten, — and that the eleventh and last shall be inflicted by Antichrist. They reckon as the first that made by Nero, the second by Domitian
, the third by Trajan, the fourth by Antoninus
, the fifth by Severus, the sixth by Maximin
, the seventh by Decius, the eighth by Valerian, the ninth by Aurelian the tenth by Diocletian and Maximian. For as there were ten plagues
in Egypt before the people of God could begin to go out, they think this is to be referred to as showing that the last persecution by Antichrist must be like the eleventh plague, in which the Egyptians, while following the Hebrews with hostility, perished in the Red Sea when the people of God passed through on dry land. Yet I do not think persecutions were prophetically signified by what was done in Egypt, however nicely and ingeniously those who think so may seem to have compared the two in detail, not by the prophetic Spirit, but by the conjecture of the human mind, which sometimes hits the truth, and sometimes is deceived. But what can those who think this say of the persecution in which the Lord Himself was crucified? In which number will they put it? And if they think the reckoning is to be made exclusive of this one, as if those must be counted which pertain to the body, and not that in which the Head Himself was set upon and slain, what can they make of that one which, after Christ ascended into heaven, took place in Jerusalem, when the blessed Stephen was stoned; when James the brother of John
was slaughtered with the sword; when the Apostle Peter
was imprisoned to be killed, and was set free by the angel; when the brethren were driven away and scattered from Jerusalem; when Saul, who afterward became the Apostle Paul
, wasted the Church; and when he himself, publishing the glad tidings of the faith he had persecuted, suffered such things as he had inflicted, either from the Jews or from other nations, where he most fervently preached Christ everywhere? Why, then, do they think fit to start with Nero, when the Church in her growth had reached the times of Nero amid the most cruel persecutions; about which it would be too long to say anything? But if they think that only the persecutions made by kings ought to be reckoned, it was king Herod who also made a most grievous one after the ascension of the Lord. And what account do they give of Julian, whom they do not number in the ten? Did not he persecute the Church, who forbade the Christians to teach or learn liberal letters? Under him the elder Valentinian, who was the third emperor after him, stood forth as a confessor of the Christian faith, and was dismissed from his command in the army. I shall say nothing of what he did at Antioch, except to mention his being struck with wonder at the freedom and cheerfulness of one most faithful and steadfast young man, who, when many were seized to be tortured, was tortured during a whole day, and sang under the instrument of torture, until the emperor feared lest he should succumb under the continued cruelties and put him to shame at last, which made him dread and fear that he would be yet more dishonorably put to the blush by the rest. Lastly, within our own recollection, did not Valens the Arian, brother of the foresaid Valentinian, waste the catholic Church by great persecution throughout the East? But how unreasonable it is not to consider that the Church, which bears fruit and grows through the whole world, may suffer persecution from kings in some nations even when she does not suffer it in others! Perhaps, however, it was not to be reckoned a persecution when the king of the Goth
s, in Gothia itself, persecuted the Christians with wonderful cruelty, when there were none but Catholics there, of whom very many were crowned with martyrdom, as we have heard from certain brethren who had been there at that time as boys, and unhesitatingly called to mind that they had seen these things? And what took place in Persia of late? Was not persecution so hot against the Christians (if even yet it is allayed) that some of the fugitives from it came even to Roman towns? When I think of these and the like things, it does not seem to me that the number of persecutions with which the Church is to be tried can be definitely stated. But, on the other hand, it is no less rash to affirm that there will be some persecutions by kings besides that last one, about which no Christian is in doubt. Therefore we leave this undecided, supporting or refuting neither side of this question, but only restraining men from the audacious presumption of affirming either of them.
CHAPTER 53 OF THE HIDDEN TIME OF THE FINAL PERSECUTION
Himself shall extinguish by His presence that last persecution which is to be made by Antichrist
. For so it is written, that "He shall slay him with the breath of His mouth, and empty him with the brightness of His presence." It is customary to ask, When shall that be? But this is quite unreasonable. For had it been profitable for us to know this, by whom could it better have been told than by God Himself, the Master, when the disciples questioned Him? For they were not silent when with Him, but inquired of Him, saying, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time present the kingdom to Israel, or when?" But He said, "It is not for you to know the times, which the Father hath put in His own power." When they got that answer, they had not at all questioned Him about the hour, or day, or year, but about the time. In vain, then, do we attempt to compute definitely the years that may remain to this world, when we may hear from the mouth of the Truth that it is not for us to know this. Yet some have said that four hundred, some five hundred, others a thousand years, may be completed from the ascension of the Lord up to His final coming. But to point out how each of them supports his own opinion would take too long, and is not necessary; for indeed they use human conjectures, and bring forward nothing certain from the authority of the canonical Scripture
s. But on this subject He puts aside the figures of the calculators, and orders silence, who says, "It is not for you to know the times, which the Father hath put in His own power."
But because this sentence is in the Gospel, it is no wonder that the worshippers of the many and false gods have been none the less restrained from feigning that by the responses of the demons, whom they worship as gods, it has been fixed how long the Christian religion is to last. For when they saw that it could not be consumed by so many and great persecutions, but rather drew from them wonderful enlargements, they invented I know not what Greek verses, as if poured forth by a divine oracle to some one consulting it, in which, indeed, they make Christ innocent of this, as it were, sacrilegious crime, but add that Peter by enchantments brought it about that the name of Christ should be worshipped for three hundred and sixty-five years, and, after the completion of that number of years, should at once take end. Oh the hearts of learned men! Oh, learned wits, meet to believe such things about Christ as you are not willing to believe in Christ, that His disciple Peter did not learn magic arts from Him, yet that, although He was innocent, His disciple was an enchanter, and chose that His name rather than his own should be worshipped through his magic arts, his great labors and perils, and at last even the shedding of his blood! If Peter the enchanter made the world so love Christ, what did Christ the innocent do to make Peter so love Him? Let them answer themselves then, and, if they can, let them understand that the world, for the sake of eternal life, was made to love Christ by that same supernal grace which made Peter
also love Christ for the sake of the eternal life to be received from Him, and that even to the extent of suffering temporal death for Him. And then, what kind of gods are these who are able to predict such things, yet are not able to avert them, succumbing in such a way to a single enchanter and wicked magician (who, as they say, having slain a yearling boy and torn him to pieces, buried him with nefarious rites), that they permitted the sect hostile to themselves to gain strength for so great a time, and to surmount the horrid cruelties of so many great persecutions, not by resisting but by suffering, and to procure the overthrow of their own images, temples, rituals, and oracles? Finally, what god was it — not ours, certainly, but one of their own — who was either enticed or compelled by so great wickedness to perform these things? For those verses say that Peter bound, not any demon, but a god to do these things. Such a god have they who have not Christ.
CHAPTER 54 OF THE VERY FOOLISH LIE OF THE PAGANS, IN FEIGNING THAT THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION WAS NOT TO LAST BEYOND THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-FIVE YEARS
I might collect these and many similar arguments, if that year had not already passed by which lying divination has promised, and deceived vanity has believed. But as a few years ago three hundred and sixty-five years were completed since the time when the worship of the name of Christ was established by His presence in the flesh, and by the apostles, what other proof need we seek to refute that falsehood? For, not to place the beginning of this period at the nativity of Christ, because as an infant and boy He had no disciples, yet, when He began to have them, beyond doubt the Christian doctrine
and religion then became known through His bodily presence, that is, after He was baptized in the river Jordan
by the ministry of John
. For on this account that prophecy went before concerning Him: "He shall reign from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth." But since, before He suffered and rose from the dead, the faith had not yet been defined to all, but was defined in the resurrection of Christ (for so the Apostle Paul speaks to the Athenians, saying, "But now He announces to men that all everywhere should repent, because He hath appointed a day in which to judge the world in equity, by the Man in whom He hath defined the faith to all men, raising Him from the dead"), it is better that, in settling this question, we should start from that point, especially because the Holy Spirit was then given, just as He behooved to be given after the resurrection of Christ in that city from which the second law, that is, the new testament, ought to begin. For the first, which is called the old testament was given from Mount Sinai through Moses. But concerning this which was to be given by Christ it was predicted, "Out of Sion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem;" whence He Himself said that repentance in His name behooved to be preached among all nations, but yet beginning at Jerusalem. There, therefore, the worship of this name took its rise, that Jesus should be believed in, who died and rose again. There this faith blazed up with such noble beginnings, that several thousand men, being converted to the name of Christ with wonderful alacrity, sold their goods for distribution among the needy, thus, by a holy resolution and most ardent charity, coming to voluntary poverty, and prepared themselves, amid the Jews who raged and thirsted for their blood, to contend for the truth even to death, not with armed power, but with more powerful patience. If this was accomplished by no magic arts, why do they hesitate to believe that the other could be done throughout the whole world by the same divine power by which this was done? But supposing Peter wrought that enchantment so that so great a multitude of men at Jerusalem was thus kindled to worship the name of Christ, who had either seized and fastened Him to the cross, or reviled Him when fastened there, we must still inquire when the three hundred and sixty-five years must be completed, counting from that year. Now Christ died when the Gemini were consuls, on the eighth day before the kalends of April. He rose the third day, as the apostles have proved by the evidence of their own senses. Then forty days after, He ascended into heaven. Ten days after, that is, on the fiftieth after his resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit; then three thousand men believed when the apostles preached Him. Then, therefore, arose the worship of that name, as we believe, and according to the real truth, by the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, but, as impious vanity has reigned or thought, by the magic arts of Peter. A little afterward, too, on a wonderful sign being wrought, when at Peter's own word a certain beggar, so lame from his mother's womb that he was carried by others and laid down at the gate of the temple, where he begged alms, was made whole in the name of Jesus Christ, and leaped up, five thousand men believed, and thenceforth the Church grew by sundry accessions of believers. Thus we gather the very day with which that year began, namely, that on which the Holy Spirit was sent, that is, during the ides of May. And, on counting the consuls, the three hundred and sixty-five years are found completed on the same ides in the consulate of Honorius and Eutychianus. Now, in the following year, in the consulate of Mallius Theodorus, when, according to that oracle of the demons or figment of men, there ought already to have been no Christian religion, it was not necessary to inquire, what perchance was done in other parts of the earth. But, as we know, in the most noted and eminent city, Carthage, in Africa, Gaudentius and Jovius, officers of the Emperor Honorius, on the fourteenth day before the kalends of April, overthrew the temples and broke the images of the false gods. And from that time to the present, during almost thirty years, who does not see how much the worship of the name of Christ has increased, especially after many of those became Christians who had been kept back from the faith by thinking that divination true, but saw when that same number of years was completed that it was empty and ridiculous? We, therefore, who are called and are Christians, do not believe in Peter, but in Him whom Peter believed, — being edified by Peter's sermons about Christ, not poisoned by his incantations; and not deceived by his enchantments, but aided by his good deeds. Christ Himself, who was Peter's Master in the doctrine which leads to eternal life, is our Master too.
But let us now at last finish this book, after thus far treating of, and showing as far as seemed sufficient, what is the mortal course of the two cities, the heavenly and the earthly, which are mingled together from the beginning down to the end. Of these, the earthly one has made to herself of whom she would, either from any other quarter, or even from among men, false gods whom she might serve by sacrifice; but she which is heavenly and is a pilgrim on the earth does not make false gods, but is herself made by the true God of, whom she herself must be the true sacrifice. Yet both alike either enjoy temporal good things, or are afflicted with temporal evils, but with diverse faith, diverse hope, and diverse love, until they must be separated by the last judgment, and each must receive her own end, of which there is no end. About these ends of both we must next treat.