There were many different manuscripts, letters, poems and songs written to and for the early Christians. What effect did this early literature and philosophy have on the medieval Christians? Did it encourage them to exercise political leadership, or instead persuade them stay away from that kind of role?
In Augustine’s book, City of God he told his readers that as Christians, their role in the government was obedience. They were supposed to be meek and compliant; it was not their job to protest the unfair laws of their rulers, but instead quietly submit to their authority in all things as long as it did not contradict the word of God.
In many of Augustine’s sermons as well, he addresses the issue of worldly pleasures. Here is what he says on the topic:
“Thou dost love the world, it will swallow them up. It skilleth only how to devour its lovers, not to carry them…………….lest this very happiness allure, corrupt, and overthrow thee…………Learn then to tread upon the world; remember to trust in Christ.”
So, Augustine is exhorting his fellow Christians to divert their attentions from the things of this world, and instead place their goals and focuses on Christ. He knows that placing all of your hopes and dreams into this world can become disastrous. In fact, he knows only to well the effects that it can have on a person.
After Augustine’s conversion to Christianity he wrote a book titled Confessions. Here he accounts the events of his life that led up to his conversion. As a young man, Augustine rose quickly in the public eye as an orator and teacher. His quick rise to fame corrupted him, and he accepted bribes and flaunted his power. He also was involved in many secret liaisons with women. Augustine knew that power and the search for meaning in worldly things can easily lead to corruption and the ruin of character.
“And yet I was wandering about in a dark and slippery way, seeking thee outside myself and thus not finding the God of my heart. I had gone down into the depths of the sea and had lost faith, and had despaired of every finding the truth.”
Augustine believed that instead of focusing on the search for power and things of this world, Christians should focus on things that are eternal. Things like our salvation which lasts forever, and our eternity in heaven. These things last forever and will have a much greater impact on our lives than anything that this world has to offer.
In conclusion, the medieval literature written for the Christians didn’t really encourage political leadership. It was more important to focus on the salvation of souls, than the pursuit of worldly advancement and goods. The most important advancement that they can make is in the Kingdom of God. The rewards in the heavenly kingdom are ever so much more valuable than the rewards of this world.