The Harmony Of The Gospels by St. Augustine
Chapter XXXIII.--A Statement in Opposition to Those Who Make the Complaint that the Bliss of Human Life Has Been Impaired by the Entrance of Christian Times.
51. Finally, as to the complaint which they make with respect to the impairing of the bliss of human life by the entrance of Christian times, if they only peruse the books of their own philosophers, who reprehend those very things which are now being taken out of their way in spite of all their unwillingness and murmuring, they will indeed find that great praise is due to the times of Christ. For what diminution is made in their happiness, unless it be in what they most basely and luxuriously abused, to the great injury of their Creator? or unless, perchance, it be the case that evil times originate in such circumstances as these, in which throughout almost all states the theatres are failing, and with them, too, the dens of vice and the public profession of iniquity: yea, altogether the forums and cities in which the demons used to be worshipped are falling. How comes it, then, that they are falling, unless it be in consequence of the failure of those very things, in the lustful and sacrilegious use of which they were constructed? Did not their own Cicero, when commending a certain actor of the name of Roscius, call him a man so clever as to be the only one worthy enough to make it due for him to come upon the stage; and yet, again, so good a man as to be the only one so worthy as to make it due for him not to approach it? What else did he disclose with such remarkable clearness by this saying, but the fact that the stage was so base there, that a person was under the greater obligation not to connect himself with it, in proportion as he was a better man than most? And yet their gods were pleased with such things of shame as he deemed fit only to be removed to a distance from good men. But we have also an open confession of the same Cicero, where he says that he had to appease Flora, the mother of sports, by frequent celebration; in which sports such an excess of vice is wont to be exhibited, that, in comparison with them, others are respectable, from engaging in which, nevertheless, good men are prohibited. Who is this mother Flora, and what manner of goddess is she, who is thus conciliated and propitiated by a practice of vice indulged in with more than usual frequency and with looser reins? How much more honourable now was it for a Roscius to step upon the stage, than for a Cicero to worship a goddess of this kind! If the gods of the Gentile nations are offended because the supplies are lessened which are instituted for the purpose of such celebrations, it is apparent of what character those must be who are delighted with such things. But if, on the other hand, the gods themselves in their wrath diminish these supplies, their anger yields us better services than their placability. Wherefore let these men either confute their own philosophers, who have reprehended the same practices on the side of wanton men; or else let them break in pieces those gods of theirs who have made such demands upon their worshippers, if indeed they still find any such deities either to break in pieces or to conceal. But let them cease from their blasphemous habit of charging Christian times with the failure of their true prosperity, -- a prosperity, indeed, so used by them that they were sinking into all that is base and hurtful, -- lest thereby they be only putting us all the more emphatically in mind of reasons for the ampler praise of the power of Christ.