Chapter 11.–Whether It is Just that the Punishments of Sins Last Longer Than the Sins Themselves Lasted.
Some, however, of those against whom we are defending the city of God,
think it unjust that any man be doomed to an eternal punishment for
sins which, no matter how great they were, were perpetrated in a brief
space of time; as if any law ever regulated the duration of the
punishment by the duration of the offence punished! Cicero tells us
that the laws recognize eight kinds of penalty,–damages, imprisonment,
scourging, reparation,  disgrace, exile, death, slavery. Is
there any one of these which may be compressed into a brevity
proportioned to the rapid commission of the offence, so that no longer
time may be spent in its punishment than in its perpetration, unless,
perhaps, reparation? For this requires that the offender suffer what
he did, as that clause of the law says, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”
 For certainly it is possible for an offender to lose his eye
by the severity of legal retaliation in as brief a time as he deprived
another of his eye by the cruelty of his own lawlessness. But if
scourging be a reasonable penalty for kissing another man’s wife, is
not the fault of an instant visited with long hours of atonement, and
the momentary delight punished with lasting pain? What shall we say of
imprisonment? Must the criminal be confined only for so long a time as
he spent on the offence for which he is committed? or is not a penalty
of many years’ confinement imposed on the slave who has provoked his
master with a word, or has struck him a blow that is quickly over? And
as to damages, disgrace, exile, slavery, which are commonly inflicted
so as to admit of no relaxation or pardon, do not these resemble
eternal punishments in so far as this short life allows a resemblance?
For they are not eternal only because the life in which they are
endured is not eternal; and yet the crimes which are punished with
these most protracted sufferings are perpetrated in a very brief space
of time. Nor is there any one who would suppose that the pains of
punishment should occupy as short a time as the offense; or that
murder, adultery, sacrilege, or any other crime, should be measured,
not by the enor mity of the injury or wickedness, but by the length of
time spent in its perpetration. Then as to the award of death for any
great crime, do the laws reckon the punishment to consist in the brief
moment in which death is inflicted, or in this, that the offender is
eternally banished from the society of the living? And just as the
punishment of the first death cuts men off from this present mortal
city, so does the punishment of the second death cut men off from that
future immortal city. For as the laws of this present city do not
provide for the executed criminal’s return to it, so neither is he who
is condemned to the second death recalled again to life everlasting.
But if temporal sin is visited with eternal punishment, how, then, they
say, is that true which your Christ says, “With the same measure that
ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again?”  and they do
not observe that “the same measure” refers, not to an equal space of
time, but to the retribution of evil or, in other words, to the law by
which he who has done evil suffers evil. Besides, these words could be
appropriately understood as referring to the matter of which our Lord
was speaking when He used them, viz., judgments and condemnation.
Thus, if he who unjustly judges and condemns is himself justly judged
and condemned, he receives “with the same measure” though not the same
thing as he gave. For judgment he gave, and judgment he receives,
though the judgment he gave was unjust, the judgment he receives just.
 “Talio,” i.e. the rendering of like for like, the punishment
being exactly similar to the injury sustained.
 Ex. xxi. 24.
 Luke vi. 38.