Of it, Francis Bacon said, "If but one book might be had for the edification of the mind, the encouragement of the heart, and the satisfaction of the soul, the City of God would of necessity be it." Historical figures from the Protestant Reformation and later ones who would not agree amongst themselves on many issues in theology all accord the City of God high acclaim.
The City of God was the first Western attempt to understand the meaning of history. It also detailed the theological world view of Augustine as being very much centred on Christ. It was the foundation of all the later Christian speculation about what we now call social philosophy. It indicates both the broader world view of Augustine and his instructions for everyday living by Christians.
It does not surprise, therefore, that the City of God was the favourite reading matter of Charlemagne, who was the first Holy Roman Emperor. The attempt by Charlemagne at establishing a Holy Roman Empire may be considered as the attempt of a far less than perfect Christian ruler to imitate on earth the City of heaven as an actual political institution - in spite of the fact that Augustine had stated that such a goal was impossible.
According to Martin Luther, this one book "set the very course of Western civilisation." According to John Knox, it is the very essence of "incisive Christian thought applied to the circumstances of this poor fallen world." When Peter Lombard (c. 1100 - 1160 AD) compiled his Sentences, thereby providing the medieval world with its basic handbook of theology, he acknowledged his "supreme debt" to the "work of genius" of Augustine in the City of God.
And it was with a series of public lectures on the City of God that Saint Thomas More, the author of Utopia, introduced himself to London, and to Europe, as a political author and reformer. When Gratian compiled the principle handbook of canon law, he too recognized the "vital import" of the "seminal foundations" laid by the City of God.
Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Petrarch, Pascal, Bellarmine, and Kierkegaard all counted the City of God as their first and primary intellectual influence. In the shaping of Western civilisation, the City of God was the most popular, and to this extent, the most influential, book that Augustine ever wrote. And its influence has not ended yet. (Continued on the next page.)AN2126