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Home > Fathers of the Church > The Harmony of the Gospels (Augustine) > Book I, Chapter 14

The Harmony of the Gospels, Book I

Chapter 14. Of the Fact that the God of the Hebrews, Although the People Were Conquered, Proved Himself to Be Unconquered, by Overthrowing the Idols, and by Turning All the Gentiles to His Own Service.

21. Here indeed we have a wonderful fact, which is not remarked by those few pagans who have remained such—namely, that this God of the Hebrews who was offended by the conquered, and who was also denied acceptance by the conquerors, is now preached and worshipped among all nations. This is that God of Israel of whom the prophet spoke so long time since, when he thus addressed the people of God: And He who brought you out, the God of Israel, shall be called (the God) of the whole earth. What was thus prophesied has been brought to pass through the name of the Christ, who comes to men in the form of a descendant of that very Israel who was the grandson of Abraham, with whom the race of the Hebrews began. For it was to this Israel also that it was said, In your seed shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed. Thus it is shown that the God of Israel, the true God who made heaven and earth, and who administers human affairs justly and mercifully in such wise that neither does justice exclude mercy with Him, nor does mercy hinder justice, was not overcome Himself when His Hebrew people suffered their overthrow, in virtue of His permitting the kingdom and priesthood of that nation to be seized and subverted by the Romans. For now, indeed, by the might of this gospel of Christ, the true King and Priest, the advent of which was prefigured by that kingdom and priesthood, the God of Israel Himself is everywhere destroying the idols of the nations. And, in truth, it was to prevent that destruction that the Romans refused to admit the sacred rites of this God in the way that they admitted those of the gods of the other nations whom they conquered. Thus did He remove both kingdom and priesthood from the prophetic nation, because He who was promised to men through the agency of that people had already come. And by Christ the King He has brought into subjection to His own name that Roman empire by which the said nation was overcome; and by the strength and devotion of Christian faith, He has converted it so as to effect a subversion of those idols, the honour ascribed to which precluded His worship from obtaining entrance.

22. I am of opinion that it was not by means of magical arts that Christ, previous to His birth among men, brought it about that those things which were destined to come to pass in the course of His history, were pre-announced by so many prophets, and prefigured also by the kingdom and priesthood established in a certain nation. For the people who are connected with that now abolished kingdom, and who in the wonderful providence of God are scattered throughout all lands, have indeed remained without any unction from the true King and Priest; in which anointing the import of the name of Christ is plainly discovered. But notwithstanding this, they still retain remnants of some of their observances; while, on the other hand, not even in their state of overthrow and subjugation have they accepted those Roman rites which are connected with the worship of idols. Thus they still keep the prophetic books as the witness of Christ; and in this way in the documents of His enemies we find proof presented of the truth of this Christ who is the subject of prophecy. What, then, do these unhappy men disclose themselves to be, by the unworthy method in which they laud the name of Christ? If anything relating to the practice of magic has been written under His name, while the doctrine of Christ is so vehemently antagonistic to such arts, these men ought rather in the light of this fact to gather some idea of the greatness of that name, by the addition of which even persons who live in opposition to His precepts endeavour to dignify their nefarious practices. For just as, in the course of the diverse errors of men, many persons have set up their varied heresies against the truth under the cover of His name, so the very enemies of Christ think that, for the purposes of gaining acceptance for opinions which they propound in opposition to the doctrine of Christ, they have no weight of authority at their service unless they have the name of Christ.

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Source. Translated by S.D.F. Salmond. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1602114.htm>.

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