The Character of the Two Cities

In the last chapter of Book XIV of his City of God Augustine describes the difference in character between the earthly city and the Heavenly City:

“We see then that the two cities were created by two kinds of love: the earthly city was created by self-love reaching the point of contempt for God, the Heavenly City by the love of God carried as far as contempt of self.”

These two kinds of love result in the difference between the two cities’ behavior:

“In fact, the earthly city glories in itself, the Heavenly City glories in the Lord. The former looks for glory from the men, the latter finds its highest glory in God, the witness of a good conscience. The earthly lifts up its head in its own glory, the Heavenly City says to its God: ‘My glory; you lift up my head.’ In the former, the lust for domination lords it over its princes as over the nations it subjugates; in the other both those put in authority and those subject to them serve one another in love, the rulers by their counsel, the subjects by obedience. The one city loves its own strength shown in its powerful leaders; the other says to its God, ‘I will love you, my Lord, my strength.'”

The key to the difference is love: on the one hand, love for self which leads to everlasting destruction; on the other hand, love for God, which leads to eternal glory, joy and bliss:

“In the Heavenly City, on the other hand, man’s only wisdom is the devotion which rightly worships the true God, and looks for its reward in the fellowship of the saints, not only holy men but also holy angels, ‘so that God may be all in all.'”

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