Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume II/City of God/Book XV/Chapter 21
Chapter 21.—Why It is That, as Soon as Cain’s Son Enoch Has Been Named, the Genealogy is Forthwith Continued as Far as the Deluge, While After the Mention of Enos, Seth’s Son, the Narrative Returns Again to the Creation of Man.
We must first see why, in the enumeration of Cain’s posterity, after Enoch, in whose name the city was built, has been first of all mentioned, the rest are at once enumerated down to that terminus of which I have spoken, and at which that race and the whole line was destroyed in the deluge; while, after Enos the son of Seth, has been mentioned, the rest are not at once named down to the deluge, but a clause is inserted to the following effect: “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him; male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” This seems to me to be inserted for this purpose, that here again the reckoning of the times may start from Adam himself—a purpose which the writer had not in view in speaking of the earthly city, as if God mentioned it, but did not take account of its duration. But why does he return to this recapitulation after mentioning the son of Seth, the man who hoped to call on the name of the Lord God, unless because it was fit thus to present these two cities, the one beginning with a murderer and ending in a murderer (for Lamech, too, acknowledges to his two wives that he had committed murder), the other built up by him who hoped to call upon the name of the Lord God? For the highest and complete terrestrial duty of the city of God, which is a stranger in this world, is that which was exemplified in the individual who was begotten by him who typified the resurrection of the murdered Abel. That one man is the unity of the whole heavenly city, not yet indeed complete, but to be completed, as this prophetic figure foreshows. The son of Cain, therefore, that is, the son of possession (and of what but an earthly possession?), may have a name in the earthly city which was built in his name. It is of such the Psalmist says, “They call their lands after their own names.” Wherefore they incur what is written in another psalm: “Thou, O Lord, in Thy city wilt despise their image.” But as for the son of Seth, the son of the resurrection, let him hope to call on the name of the Lord God. For he prefigures that society of men which says, “But I am like a green olive-tree in the house of God: I have trusted in the mercy of God.” But let him not seek the empty honors of a famous name upon earth, for “Blessed is the man that maketh the name of the Lord his trust, and respecteth not vanities nor lying follies.” After having presented the two cities, the one founded in the material good of this world, the other in hope in God, but both starting from a common gate opened in Adam into this mortal state, and both running on and running out to their proper and merited ends, Scripture begins to reckon the times, and in this reckoning includes other generations, making a recapitulation from Adam, out of whose condemned seed, as out of one mass handed over to merited damnation, God made some vessels of wrath to dishonor and others vessels of mercy to honor; in punishment rendering to the former what is due, in grace giving to the latter what is not due: in order that by the very comparison of itself with the vessels of wrath, the heavenly city, which sojourns on earth, may learn not to put confidence in the liberty of its own will, but may hope to call on the name of the Lord God. For will, being a nature which was made good by the good God, but mutable by the immutable, because it was made out of nothing, can both decline from good to do evil, which takes place when it freely chooses, and can also escape the evil and do good, which takes place only by divine assistance.
- Gen. v. 1.
- Ps. xlix. 11.
- Ps. lxxiii. 20.
- Ps. lii. 8.
- Ps. xl. 4.