Suffering: The Wicked and the Righteous (Augustine)

City of God (Modern Library, paperback) I’ve read parts of Augustine’s City of God before, but I’ve recently resolved to finally finish it.  As I sit here in the library of my alma mater – Westminster Seminary in California – I want to share a helpful section of City of God.  It has to do with suffering:

…The patience of God still invites the wicked to penitence, just as God’s chastisement trains the good in patient endurance….

That being so, when the good and the wicked suffer alike, the identity of their sufferings does not mean that there is no difference between them. Though the sufferings are the same, the sufferers remain different. Virtue and vice are not the same, even if they undergo the same torment. The fire which makes gold shine makes chaff smoke; the same flail breaks up the straw, and clears the grain; and oil is not mistaken for lees because both are forced out by the same press.

In the same way, the violence which assails good men to test them, to cleanse and purify them, effects in the wicked their condemnation, ruin and annihilation. Thus the wicked, under pressure of affliction, execrate God and blaspheme; the good, in the same affliction,offer up prayers and praises. This shows that what matters is the nature of the sufferer, not the nature of the sufferings. Stir a cesspit, and a foul stench arises; stir a perfume, and a delightful fragrance ascends. Both the movements are identical.

This quote is found in book 1, chapter 8 of City of God.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI