Glorious things are said of you, O city of God: wherefore I have desired to behold your glory, meditating upon it through a glass in an obscure manner. But our first consideration is, why the happiness of the saints, which in the Holy Scripture is called the kingdom of heaven, is also called the City of God. This appears to me to be the reason; because as it is called a kingdom on account of its extent, so also it ought to be called a “City,” on account of its beauty.
One might suppose, when he heard of a vast and extensive kingdom, that there are in it many deserts, many wild uncultivated places, and mountains fit only for the habitation of beasts, besides inaccessible rocks, forests, and precipices. But since all these are far removed from the happiness of the saints, the Holy Spirit therefore teaches us, that the kingdom of heaven is like a most “beautiful city; and although it is of a boundless extent, yet the whole is so glorious as to appear a most populous and opulent city. In large cities especially are to be seen beautiful temples, splendid palaces, most delightful gardens, noble forums, fountains, columns, pyramids, obelisks, theatres, towers, and other buildings for the use of the public.
This kingdom so far excels all other kingdoms in glory, majesty, and extent, that the whole appears but one city, most beautiful, most noble. Truly, then, this heavenly city is such, that no one can seriously think of it without frequently aspiring after it; and no one can desire it without immediately leaving all things to possess it, and never rest till he find it.
Hear how Tobias, exulting in spirit, speaks of this city: “Thou shalt shine with a glorious light, and all the ends of the earth shall worship thee The gates of Jerusalem shall be built of sapphire and of emerald, and all the walls thereof round about of precious stones. And all its streets shall be paved with white and clean stones; and Alleluia shall be sung in its streets.” (23: 21, 22).
And St. John also, in his Apocalypse, agrees with Tobias: The building of the wall thereof was of jasper- stone; but the city itself pure gold, like to clear glass. And the foundations of the walls of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones and every several gate was of one several pearl; and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” (21)
But we must not suppose the heavenly Jerusalem to be in reality adorned with gold and precious stones, but by this mode of expression we are to understand, that the heavenly city is as much superior to earth as gold is to dirt, as pearls to common stone, the stars to candles, the sun to a torch, and mortal architects to God, the immortal Creator of all things. But as we intend to speak of the beauty of all the parts of the city of God, we shall dwell no longer on this point.