If God rejects the morality of Rome, then why would He give her success as an empire? (Given that, going back to yesterday’s reading, God would have to will Rome’s success in order for her to be a great empire.) The empires of the world are evil, and Augustine has spent the first 4 books showing that Rome is also evil, even by their own standards, which are not stringent. So, then, why Rome? Augustine suggests that God gives Rome success because her leaders seek the glory of men, which is evil but also restrains some of the worse evils and calls men to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the nation. He calls Rome “less vile” than other empires because they seek glory first (instead of riches or blood or lusts).
Next, Augustine goes on to compare the values of Rome with the values of those who lead in the City of God. Those in God’s Eternal City receive glory but pass it along to God who deserves all praise and glory. The Romans received their reward: “So, also, the Romans held their own private interests in low esteem for the sake of the common good, that is, for the commonwealth. For the sake of its treasury they resisted avarice, and they took counsel for the good of their fatherland with unfettered minds, nor were they guilty of any offense against its laws, or of any unwholesome desires. By all these arts did they seek honor and power and glory, as by a true way. They were honored among almost all the nations; they imposed the laws of their empire upon many races; and they are glorious among almost all peoples to this day, in literature and history. They have no reason to complain of the justice of the highest and true God: ‘they have received their reward’.”
But the citizens of the City of God seek something greater than glory, and will receive it: “Different indeed is the reward of the saints, who in this life suffer reproaches for the sake of the city of God, which is odious to those who love this world. That city is eternal. There, no one is born, because no one dies; there, true felicity is found in full measure: not a goddess, but a gift of God. From that city we receive the pledge of our faith while we sigh for its beauty during our earthly pilgrimage. There, the sun does not rise upon the good and the evil; rather the Sun of righteousness protects only the good.”
Seek the greater glory of the city of God and receive His grace and blessing as a gift!