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When the great Bishop of Hippo, in the fifth century,...
The Christian Science Monitor
When the great Bishop of Hippo, in the fifth century, was sending throughout an eager Christendom his work, "De Civitate Dei," concerning the City of God, he dimly apprehended a fundamental truth. Primarily, Augustine's aim was to offset the taunt of the pagan Alaric and those who had joined with him in the sack of Rome, that it was because of their apostasy to the ancient gods that all this great misfortune had come upon the Christians. In that wonderful style of his he drew a picture of the two cities, the City of God and the City of the World, and left his readers in no doubt as to which one would rather choose. "The City of the World," as one writer has said of him, "appeared to him under very dismal aspects, and it was towards the City of God ... that all his hopes were turned."
Now the question before the Bishop of Hippo was the same question which day and night lay before Moses, before the Preacher, before every prophet in Israel, and has lain before countless thousands of devoted and earnest men ever since. With blessing and cursing before them, why was it that men so often chose cursing? With the gates of the City of God open wide, why was it that they so often turned away from them and entered the gates of the City of the World? Christ Jesus knew why when he said, "For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it," and again, and this is the key to the problem, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." Few at that time, however, had ears to hear what Jesus meant, and it was not until after nearly two thousand years, during which the darkness had returned, that Mary Baker Eddy rediscovered the eternal Science underlying Jesus' statements, and in the process of time wrote these epoch making words in her book "Unity of Good" (p. 9): "What is the cardinal point of the difference in my metaphysical system? This: that by knowing the unreality of disease, sin, and death, you demonstrate the allness of God."
In a word Mrs. Eddy saw clearly what Augustine failed to see, that the City of the World has no real existence, and that the City of God is the only real city there is. Now Augustine, of course, in his "De Civitate Dei" was writing with all the symbolism of the East, and the Eastern student was never for a moment impeded by the material picture which his symbols raised up before the more concrete thought of the West. To the man of the East yearning for spiritual enlightenment, it never for a moment occurred to conjure up and dwell lovingly upon the picture of the merchantman selling all his pearls in order to buy the pearl of great price, or that of the woman seeking for two pieces of silver, or the shepherd finding the lost sheep, or of the prodigal son returning to his father's house. To them these were just ways of expressing spiritual facts.
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