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Chapter 1.—Of the Ills Which Alone the Wicked Fear, and Which the World Continually Suffered, Even When the Gods Were Worshipped.

Of moral and spiritual evils, which are above all others to be deprecated, I think enough has already been said to show that the false gods took no steps to prevent the people who worshipped them from being overwhelmed by such calamities, but rather aggravated the ruin.  I see I must now speak of those evils which alone are dreaded by the heathen—famine, pestilence, war, pillage, captivity, massacre, and the like calamities, already enumerated in the first book.  For evil men account those things alone evil which do not make men evil; neither do they blush to praise good things, and yet to remain evil among the good things they praise.  It grieves them more to own a bad house than a bad life, as if it were man’s greatest good to have everything good but himself.  But not even such evils as were alone dreaded by the heathen were warded off by their gods, even when they were most unrestrictedly worshipped.  For in various times and places before the advent of our Redeemer, the human race was crushed with numberless and sometimes incredible calamities; and at that time what gods but those did the world worship, if you except the one nation of the Hebrews, and, beyond them, such individuals as the most secret and most just judgment of God counted worthy of divine grace?120120    Compare Aug. Epist. ad Deogratias, 102, 13; and De Præd. Sanct., 19.  But that I may not be prolix, I will be silent regarding the heavy calamities that have been suffered by any other nations, and will speak only of what happened to Rome and the Roman empire, by which I mean Rome properly so called, and those lands which already, before the coming of Christ, had by alliance or conquest become, as it were, members of the body of the state.


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