Apocalyptic Spirituality: Treatises and Letters of Lactantius, Adso of Montier-En-Der, Joachim of Fiore, the Franciscan Spirituals, Savonarola

By Bernard McGinn | Go to book overview

LACTANTIUS "The Blessed Life", Book VII of Divine Institutes

1. "Good; the foundations are laid," as the famous orator says. 1 We have not only laid foundations that are strong and fit to support the work, but we have also almost finished the whole building with large and solid construction. The much easier part is left, the roof or ornament without which the earlier work is useless and thankless. What use is it to be freed from false religions or to understand the true religion? What use is it to see the vanity of false wisdom or to recognize the truth? What use is it to defend heavenly justice or to hold fast to the worship of God in the midst of great difficulties (the height of virtue), unless you gain the divine prize of eternal happiness? 2 We must speak of that prize in this book so that all the former material is not vain and fruitless. If we were to leave hanging what we have done all the rest for, one might think that all these labors were undertaken in vain and despair of the heavenly reward that God established for the man who scorns the earth's sweet goods in comparison with virtue alone.

We will construct this part of our work with scriptural testimonies and proven arguments to show that things to come are to be preferred to present things, divine things are to be preferred to earthly ones, and eternal things to passing ones. The rewards of vice are temporary, those of virtue eternal.

I will explain the world's makeup so that you can easily grasp when and why God made it. Plato, who spoke about the structure of the world, could not understand or explain this. He was ignorant of the heavenly mystery learned only by the prophets under God's instruction. Therefore, he says that the world was made from eternity. 3 It is far different, for whatever exists in material form necessarily has both a beginning at a certain time and an end. Aristotle, because he did not see how such a great mass could perish, wished to avoid this by saying that the world always was and always will be. 4 He understood

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