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The Confessions Of Saint Augustine

    

 

 

   For this space of nine years (from my nineteenth year to my

   eight-and-twentieth) we lived seduced and seducing, deceived and

   deceiving, in divers lusts; openly, by sciences which they call

   liberal; secretly, with a false-named religion; here proud, there

   superstitious, every where vain. Here, hunting after the emptiness of

   popular praise, down even to theatrical applauses, and poetic prizes,

   and strifes for grassy garlands, and the follies of shows, and the

   intemperance of desires. There, desiring to be cleansed from these

   defilements, by carrying food to those who were called "elect" and

   "holy," out of which, in the workhouse of their stomachs, they should

   forge for us Angels and Gods, by whom we might be cleansed. These

   things did I follow, and practise with my friends, deceived by me, and

   with me. Let the arrogant mock me, and such as have not been, to their

   soul's health, stricken and cast down by Thee, O my God; but I would

   still confess to Thee mine own shame in Thy praise. Suffer me, I

   beseech Thee, and give me grace to go over in my present remembrance

   the wanderings of my forepassed time, and to offer unto Thee the

   sacrifice of thanksgiving. For what am I to myself without Thee, but a

   guide to mine own downfall? or what am I even at the best, but an

   infant sucking the milk Thou givest, and feeding upon Thee, the food

   that perisheth not? But what sort of man is any man, seeing he is but a

   man? Let now the strong and the mighty laugh at us, but let us poor and

   needy confess unto Thee.

    

 

 

   In those years I taught rhetoric, and, overcome by cupidity, made sale

   of a loquacity to overcome by. Yet I preferred (Lord, Thou knowest)

   honest scholars (as they are accounted), and these I, without artifice,

   taught artifices, not to be practised against the life of the

   guiltless, though sometimes for the life of the guilty. And Thou, O

   God, from afar perceivedst me stumbling in that slippery course, and

   amid much smoke sending out some sparks of faithfulness, which I showed

   in that my guidance of such as loved vanity, and sought after leasing,

   myself their companion. In those years I had one,--not in that which is

   called lawful marriage, but whom I had found out in a wayward passion,

   void of understanding; yet but one, remaining faithful even to her; in

   whom I in my own case experienced what difference there is betwixt the

   self-restraint of the marriage-covenant, for the sake of issue, and the

   bargain of a lustful love, where children are born against their

   parents' will, although, once born, they constrain love.

 

   I remember also, that when I had settled to enter the lists for a

   theatrical prize, some wizard asked me what I would give him to win;

   but I, detesting and abhorring such foul mysteries, answered, "Though

   the garland were of imperishable gold, I would not suffer a fly to be

   killed to gain me it." For he was to kill some living creatures in his

   sacrifices, and by those honours to invite the devils to favour me. But

   this ill also I rejected, not out of a pure love for Thee, O God of my

   heart; for I knew not how to love Thee, who knew not how to conceive

   aught beyond a material brightness. And doth not a soul, sighing after

   such fictions, commit fornication against Thee, trust in things unreal,

   and feed the wind? Still I would not forsooth have sacrifices offered

   to devils for me, to whom I was sacrificing myself by that

   superstition. For what else is it to feed the wind, but to feed them,

   that is by going astray to become their pleasure and derision?

    

 

 

   Those impostors then, whom they style Mathematicians, I consulted

   without scruple; because they seemed to use no sacrifice, nor to pray

   to any spirit for their divinations: which art, however, Christian and

   true piety consistently rejects and condemns. For, it is a good thing

   to confess unto Thee, and to say, Have mercy upon me, heal my soul, for

   I have sinned against Thee; and not to abuse Thy mercy for a licence to

   sin, but to remember the Lord's words, Behold, thou art made whole, sin

   no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. All which wholesome advice

   they labour to destroy, saying, "The cause of thy sin is inevitably

   determined in heaven"; and "This did Venus, or Saturn, or Mars": that

   man, forsooth, flesh and blood, and proud corruption, might be

   blameless; while the Creator and Ordainer of heaven and the stars is to

   bear the blame. And who is He but our God? the very sweetness and

   well-spring of righteousness, who renderest to every man according to

   his works: and a broken and contrite heart wilt Thou not despise.

 

   There was in those days a wise man, very skilful in physic, and

   renowned therein, who had with his own proconsular hand put the

   Agonistic garland upon my distempered head, but not as a physician: for

   this disease Thou only curest, who resistest the proud, and givest

   grace to the humble. But didst Thou fail me even by that old man, or

   forbear to heal my soul? For having become more acquainted with him,

   and hanging assiduously and fixedly on his speech (for though in simple

   terms, it was vivid, lively, and earnest), when he had gathered by my

   discourse that I was given to the books of nativity-casters, he kindly

   and fatherly advised me to cast them away, and not fruitlessly bestow a

   care and diligence, necessary for useful things, upon these vanities;

   saying, that he had in his earliest years studied that art, so as to

   make it the profession whereby he should live, and that, understanding

   Hippocrates, he could soon have understood such a study as this; and

   yet he had given it over, and taken to physic, for no other reason but

   that he found it utterly false; and he, a grave man, would not get his

   living by deluding people. "But thou," saith he, "hast rhetoric to

   maintain thyself by, so that thou followest this of free choice, not of

   necessity: the more then oughtest thou to give me credit herein, who

   laboured to acquire it so perfectly as to get my living by it alone."

   Of whom when I had demanded, how then could many true things be

   foretold by it, he answered me (as he could) "that the force of chance,

   diffused throughout the whole order of things, brought this about. For

   if when a man by haphazard opens the pages of some poet, who sang and

   thought of something wholly different, a verse oftentimes fell out,

   wondrously agreeable to the present business: it were not to be

   wondered at, if out of the soul of man, unconscious what takes place in

   it, by some higher instinct an answer should be given, by hap, not by

   art, corresponding to the business and actions of the demander."

 

   And thus much, either from or through him, Thou conveyedst to me, and

   tracedst in my memory, what I might hereafter examine for myself. But

   at that time neither he, nor my dearest Nebridius, a youth singularly

   good and of a holy fear, who derided the whole body of divination,

   could persuade me to cast it aside, the authority of the authors

   swaying me yet more, and as yet I had found no certain proof (such as I

   sought) whereby it might without all doubt appear, that what had been

   truly foretold by those consulted was the result of haphazard, not of

   the art of the star-gazers.

    

 

 

   In those years when I first began to teach rhetoric in my native town,

   I had made one my friend, but too dear to me, from a community of

   pursuits, of mine own age, and, as myself, in the first opening flower

   of youth. He had grown up of a child with me, and we had been both

   school-fellows and play-fellows. But he was not yet my friend as

   afterwards, nor even then, as true friendship is; for true it cannot

   be, unless in such as Thou cementest together, cleaving unto Thee, by

   that love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which

   is given unto us. Yet was it but too sweet, ripened by the warmth of

   kindred studies: for, from the true faith (which he as a youth had not

   soundly and thoroughly imbibed), I had warped him also to those

   superstitious and pernicious fables, for which my mother bewailed me.

   With me he now erred in mind, nor could my soul be without him. But

   behold Thou wert close on the steps of Thy fugitives, at once God of

   vengeance, and Fountain of mercies, turning us to Thyself by wonderful

   means; Thou tookest that man out of this life, when he had scarce

   filled up one whole year of my friendship, sweet to me above all

   sweetness of that my life.

 

   Who can recount all Thy praises, which he hath felt in his one self?

   What diddest Thou then, my God, and how unsearchable is the abyss of

   Thy judgments? For long, sore sick of a fever, he lay senseless in a

   death-sweat; and his recovery being despaired of, he was baptised,

   unknowing; myself meanwhile little regarding, and presuming that his

   soul would retain rather what it had received of me, not what was

   wrought on his unconscious body. But it proved far otherwise: for he

   was refreshed, and restored. Forthwith, as soon as I could speak with

   him (and I could, so soon as he was able, for I never left him, and we

   hung but too much upon each other), I essayed to jest with him, as

   though he would jest with me at that baptism which he had received,

   when utterly absent in mind and feeling, but had now understood that he

   had received. But he so shrunk from me, as from an enemy; and with a

   wonderful and sudden freedom bade me, as I would continue his friend,

   forbear such language to him. I, all astonished and amazed, suppressed

   all my emotions till he should grow well, and his health were strong

   enough for me to deal with him as I would. But he was taken away from

   my frenzy, that with Thee he might be preserved for my comfort; a few

   days after in my absence, he was attacked again by the fever, and so

   departed.

 

   At this grief my heart was utterly darkened; and whatever I beheld was

   death. My native country was a torment to me, and my father's house a

   strange unhappiness; and whatever I had shared with him, wanting him,

   became a distracting torture. Mine eyes sought him every where, but he

   was not granted them; and I hated all places, for that they had not

   him; nor could they now tell me, "he is coming," as when he was alive

   and absent. I became a great riddle to myself, and I asked my soul, why

   she was so sad, and why she disquieted me sorely: but she knew not what

   to answer me. And if I said, Trust in God, she very rightly obeyed me

   not; because that most dear friend, whom she had lost, was, being man,

   both truer and better than that phantasm she was bid to trust in. Only

   tears were sweet to me, for they succeeded my friend, in the dearest of

   my affections.

    

 

 

   And now, Lord, these things are passed by, and time hath assuaged my

   wound. May I learn from Thee, who art Truth, and approach the ear of my

   heart unto Thy mouth, that Thou mayest tell me why weeping is sweet to

   the miserable? Hast Thou, although present every where, cast away our

   misery far from Thee? And Thou abidest in Thyself, but we are tossed

   about in divers trials. And yet unless we mourned in Thine ears, we

   should have no hope left. Whence then is sweet fruit gathered from the

   bitterness of life, from groaning, tears, sighs, and complaints? Doth

   this sweeten it, that we hope Thou hearest? This is true of prayer, for

   therein is a longing to approach unto Thee. But is it also in grief for

   a thing lost, and the sorrow wherewith I was then overwhelmed? For I

   neither hoped he should return to life nor did I desire this with my

   tears; but I wept only and grieved. For I was miserable, and had lost

   my joy. Or is weeping indeed a bitter thing, and for very loathing of

   the things which we before enjoyed, does it then, when we shrink from

   them, please us?

    

 

 

   But what speak I of these things? for now is no time to question, but

   to confess unto Thee. Wretched I was; and wretched is every soul bound

   by the friendship of perishable things; he is torn asunder when he

   loses them, and then he feels the wretchedness which he had ere yet he

   lost them. So was it then with me; I wept most bitterly, and found my

   repose in bitterness. Thus was I wretched, and that wretched life I

   held dearer than my friend. For though I would willingly have changed

   it, yet was I more unwilling to part with it than with him; yea, I know

   not whether I would have parted with it even for him, as is related (if

   not feigned) of Pylades and Orestes, that they would gladly have died

   for each other or together, not to live together being to them worse

   than death. But in me there had arisen some unexplained feeling, too

   contrary to this, for at once I loathed exceedingly to live and feared

   to die. I suppose, the more I loved him, the more did I hate, and fear

   (as a most cruel enemy) death, which had bereaved me of him: and I

   imagined it would speedily make an end of all men, since it had power

   over him. Thus was it with me, I remember. Behold my heart, O my God,

   behold and see into me; for well I remember it, O my Hope, who

   cleansest me from the impurity of such affections, directing mine eyes

   towards Thee, and plucking my feet out of the snare. For I wondered

   that others, subject to death, did live, since he whom I loved, as if

   he should never die, was dead; and I wondered yet more that myself, who

   was to him a second self, could live, he being dead. Well said one of

   his friend, "Thou half of my soul"; for I felt that my soul and his

   soul were "one soul in two bodies": and therefore was my life a horror

   to me, because I would not live halved. And therefore perchance I

   feared to die, lest he whom I had much loved should die wholly.

    

 

 

   O madness, which knowest not how to love men, like men! O foolish man

   that I then was, enduring impatiently the lot of man! I fretted then,

   sighed, wept, was distracted; had neither rest nor counsel. For I bore

   about a shattered and bleeding soul, impatient of being borne by me,

   yet where to repose it, I found not. Not in calm groves, not in games

   and music, nor in fragrant spots, nor in curious banquetings, nor in

   the pleasures of the bed and the couch; nor (finally) in books or

   poesy, found it repose. All things looked ghastly, yea, the very light;

   whatsoever was not what he was, was revolting and hateful, except

   groaning and tears. For in those alone found I a little refreshment.

   But when my soul was withdrawn from them a huge load of misery weighed

   me down. To Thee, O Lord, it ought to have been raised, for Thee to

   lighten; I knew it; but neither could nor would; the more, since, when

   I thought of Thee, Thou wert not to me any solid or substantial thing.

   For Thou wert not Thyself, but a mere phantom, and my error was my God.

   If I offered to discharge my load thereon, that it might rest, it

   glided through the void, and came rushing down again on me; and I had

   remained to myself a hapless spot, where I could neither be, nor be

   from thence. For whither should my heart flee from my heart? Whither

   should I flee from myself? Whither not follow myself? And yet I fled

   out of my country; for so should mine eyes less look for him, where

   they were not wont to see him. And thus from Thagaste, I came to

   Carthage.

    

 

 

   Times lose no time; nor do they roll idly by; through our senses they

   work strange operations on the mind. Behold, they went and came day by

   day, and by coming and going, introduced into my mind other

   imaginations and other remembrances; and little by little patched me up

   again with my old kind of delights, unto which that my sorrow gave way.

   And yet there succeeded, not indeed other griefs, yet the causes of

   other griefs. For whence had that former grief so easily reached my

   very inmost soul, but that I had poured out my soul upon the dust, in

   loving one that must die, as if he would never die? For what restored

   and refreshed me chiefly was the solaces of other friends, with whom I

   did love, what instead of Thee I loved; and this was a great fable, and

   protracted lie, by whose adulterous stimulus, our soul, which lay

   itching in our ears, was being defiled. But that fable would not die to

   me, so oft as any of my friends died. There were other things which in

   them did more take my mind; to talk and jest together, to do kind

   offices by turns; to read together honied books; to play the fool or be

   earnest together; to dissent at times without discontent, as a man

   might with his own self; and even with the seldomness of these

   dissentings, to season our more frequent consentings; sometimes to

   teach, and sometimes learn; long for the absent with impatience; and

   welcome the coming with joy. These and the like expressions, proceeding

   out of the hearts of those that loved and were loved again, by the

   countenance, the tongue, the eyes, and a thousand pleasing gestures,

   were so much fuel to melt our souls together, and out of many make but

   one.

    

 

 

 

   This is it that is loved in friends; and so loved, that a man's

   conscience condemns itself, if he love not him that loves him again, or

   love not again him that loves him, looking for nothing from his person

   but indications of his love. Hence that mourning, if one die, and

   darkenings of sorrows, that steeping of the heart in tears, all

   sweetness turned to bitterness; and upon the loss of life of the dying,

   the death of the living. Blessed whoso loveth Thee, and his friend in

   Thee, and his enemy for Thee. For he alone loses none dear to him, to

   whom all are dear in Him who cannot be lost. And who is this but our

   God, the God that made heaven and earth, and filleth them, because by

   filling them He created them? Thee none loseth, but who leaveth. And

   who leaveth Thee, whither goeth or whither teeth he, but from Thee

   well-pleased, to Thee displeased? For where doth he not find Thy law in

   his own punishment? And Thy law is truth, and truth Thou.

    

 

 

 

   Turn us, O God of Hosts, show us Thy countenance, and we shall be

   whole. For whithersoever the soul of man turns itself, unless toward

   Thee, it is riveted upon sorrows, yea though it is riveted on things

   beautiful. And yet they, out of Thee, and out of the soul, were not,

   unless they were from Thee. They rise, and set; and by rising, they

   begin as it were to be; they grow, that they may be perfected; and

   perfected, they wax old and wither; and all grow not old, but all

   wither. So then when they rise and tend to be, the more quickly they

   grow that they may be, so much the more they haste not to be. This is

   the law of them. Thus much has Thou allotted them, because they are

   portions of things, which exist not all at once, but by passing away

   and succeeding, they together complete that universe, whereof they are

   portions. And even thus is our speech completed by signs giving forth a

   sound: but this again is not perfected unless one word pass away when

   it hath sounded its part, that another may succeed. Out of all these

   things let my soul praise Thee, O God, Creator of all; yet let not my

   soul be riveted unto these things with the glue of love, through the

   senses of the body. For they go whither they were to go, that they

   might not be; and they rend her with pestilent longings, because she

   longs to be, yet loves to repose in what she loves. But in these things

   is no place of repose; they abide not, they flee; and who can follow

   them with the senses of the flesh? yea, who can grasp them, when they

   are hard by? For the sense of the flesh is slow, because it is the

   sense of the flesh; and thereby is it bounded. It sufficeth for that it

   was made for; but it sufficeth not to stay things running their course

   from their appointed starting-place to the end appointed. For in Thy

   Word, by which they are created, they hear their decree, "hence and

   hitherto."

    

 

 

   Be not foolish, O my soul, nor become deaf in the ear of thine heart

   with the tumult of thy folly. Hearken thou too.

 

   The Word itself calleth thee to return: and there is the place of rest

   imperturbable, where love is not forsaken, if itself forsaketh not.

   Behold, these things pass away, that others may replace them, and so

   this lower universe be completed by all his parts. But do I depart any

   whither? saith the Word of God. There fix thy dwelling, trust there

   whatsoever thou hast thence, O my soul, at least now thou art tired out

   with vanities. Entrust Truth, whatsoever thou hast from the Truth, and

   thou shalt lose nothing; and thy decay shall bloom again, and all thy

   diseases be healed, and thy mortal parts be reformed and renewed, and

   bound around thee: nor shall they lay thee whither themselves descend;

   but they shall stand fast with thee, and abide for ever before God, Who

   abideth and standeth fast for ever.

 

   Why then be perverted and follow thy flesh? Be it converted and follow

   thee. Whatever by her thou hast sense of, is in part; and the whole,

   whereof these are parts, thou knowest not; and yet they delight thee.

   But had the sense of thy flesh a capacity for comprehending the whole,

   and not itself also, for thy punishment, been justly restricted to a

   part of the whole, thou wouldest, that whatsoever existeth at this

   present, should pass away, that so the whole might better please thee.

   For what we speak also, by the same sense of the flesh thou hearest;

   yet wouldest not thou have the syllables stay, but fly away, that

   others may come, and thou hear the whole. And so ever, when any one

   thing is made up of many, all of which do not exist together, all

   collectively would please more than they do severally, could all be

   perceived collectively. But far better than these is He who made all;

   and He is our God, nor doth He pass away, for neither doth aught

   succeed Him.

    

 

 

   If bodies please thee, praise God on occasion of them, and turn back

   thy love upon their Maker; lest in these things which please thee, thou

   displease. If souls please thee, be they loved in God: for they too are

   mutable, but in Him are they firmly stablished; else would they pass,

   and pass away. In Him then be they beloved; and carry unto Him along

   with thee what souls thou canst, and say to them, "Him let us love, Him

   let us love: He made these, nor is He far off. For He did not make

   them, and so depart, but they are of Him, and in Him. See there He is,

   where truth is loved. He is within the very heart, yet hath the heart

   strayed from Him. Go back into your heart, ye transgressors, and cleave

   fast to Him that made you. Stand with Him, and ye shall stand fast.

   Rest in Him, and ye shall be at rest. Whither go ye in rough ways?

   Whither go ye? The good that you love is from Him; but it is good and

   pleasant through reference to Him, and justly shall it be embittered,

   because unjustly is any thing loved which is from Him, if He be

   forsaken for it. To what end then would ye still and still walk these

   difficult and toilsome ways? There is no rest, where ye seek it. Seek

   what ye seek; but it is not there where ye seek. Ye seek a blessed life

   in the land of death; it is not there. For how should there be a

   blessed life where life itself is not?

 

   "But our true Life came down hither, and bore our death, and slew him,

   out of the abundance of His own life: and He thundered, calling aloud

   to us to return hence to Him into that secret place, whence He came

   forth to us, first into the Virgin's womb, wherein He espoused the

   human creation, our mortal flesh, that it might not be for ever mortal,

   and thence like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, rejoicing as a

   giant to run his course. For He lingered not, but ran, calling aloud by

   words, deeds, death, life, descent, ascension; crying aloud to us to

   return unto Him. And He departed from our eyes, that we might return

   into our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and to, He is

   here. He would not be long with us, yet left us not; for He departed

   thither, whence He never parted, because the world was made by Him. And

   in this world He was, and into this world He came to save sinners, unto

   whom my soul confesseth, and He healeth it, for it hath sinned against

   Him. O ye sons of men, how long so slow of heart? Even now, after the

   descent of Life to you, will ye not ascend and live? But whither ascend

   ye, when ye are on high, and set your mouth against the heavens?

   Descend, that ye may ascend, and ascend to God. For ye have fallen, by

   ascending against Him." Tell them this, that they may weep in the

   valley of tears, and so carry them up with thee unto God; because out

   of His spirit thou speakest thus unto them, if thou speakest, burning

   with the fire of charity.

    

 

 

   These things I then knew not, and I loved these lower beauties, and I

   was sinking to the very depths, and to my friends I said, "Do we love

   any thing but the beautiful? What then is the beautiful? and what is

   beauty? What is it that attracts and wins us to the things we love? for

   unless there were in them a grace and beauty, they could by no means

   draw us unto them." And I marked and perceived that in bodies

   themselves, there was a beauty, from their forming a sort of whole, and

   again, another from apt and mutual correspondence, as of a part of the

   body with its whole, or a shoe with a foot, and the like. And this

   consideration sprang up in my mind, out of my inmost heart, and I wrote

   "on the fair and fit," I think, two or three books. Thou knowest, O

   Lord, for it is gone from me; for I have them not, but they are strayed

   from me, I know not how.

    

 

 

   But what moved me, O Lord my God, to dedicate these books unto Hierius,

   an orator of Rome, whom I knew not by face, but loved for the fame of

   his learning which was eminent in him, and some words of his I had

   heard, which pleased me? But more did he please me, for that he pleased

   others, who highly extolled him, amazed that out of a Syrian, first

   instructed in Greek eloquence, should afterwards be formed a wonderful

   Latin orator, and one most learned in things pertaining unto

   philosophy. One is commended, and, unseen, he is loved: doth this love

   enter the heart of the hearer from the mouth of the commender? Not so.

   But by one who loveth is another kindled. For hence he is loved who is

   commended, when the commender is believed to extol him with an

   unfeigned heart; that is, when one that loves him, praises him.

 

   For so did I then love men, upon the judgment of men, not Thine, O my

   God, in Whom no man is deceived. But yet why not for qualities, like

   those of a famous charioteer, or fighter with beasts in the theatre,

   known far and wide by a vulgar popularity, but far otherwise, and

   earnestly, and so as I would be myself commended? For I would not be

   commended or loved, as actors are (though I myself did commend and love

   them), but had rather be unknown, than so known; and even hated, than

   so loved. Where now are the impulses to such various and divers kinds

   of loves laid up in one soul? Why, since we are equally men, do I love

   in another what, if I did not hate, I should not spurn and cast from

   myself? For it holds not, that as a good horse is loved by him, who

   would not, though he might, be that horse, therefore the same may be

   said of an actor, who shares our nature. Do I then love in a man, what

   I hate to be, who am a man? Man himself is a great deep, whose very

   hairs Thou numberest, O Lord, and they fall not to the ground without

   Thee. And yet are the hairs of his head easier to be numbered than his

   feelings, and the beatings of his heart.

 

   But that orator was of that sort whom I loved, as wishing to be myself

   such; and I erred through a swelling pride, and was tossed about with

   every wind, but yet was steered by Thee, though very secretly. And

   whence do I know, and whence do I confidently confess unto Thee, that I

   had loved him more for the love of his commenders, than for the very

   things for which he was commended? Because, had he been unpraised, and

   these self-same men had dispraised him, and with dispraise and contempt

   told the very same things of him, I had never been so kindled and

   excited to love him. And yet the things had not been other, nor he

   himself other; but only the feelings of the relators. See where the

   impotent soul lies along, that is not yet stayed up by the solidity of

   truth! Just as the gales of tongues blow from the breast of the

   opinionative, so is it carried this way and that, driven forward and

   backward, and the light is overclouded to it, and the truth unseen. And

   to, it is before us. And it was to me a great matter, that my discourse

   and labours should be known to that man: which should he approve, I

   were the more kindled; but if he disapproved, my empty heart, void of

   Thy solidity, had been wounded. And yet the "fair and fit," whereon I

   wrote to him, I dwelt on with pleasure, and surveyed it, and admired

   it, though none joined therein.

    

 

 

   But I saw not yet, whereon this weighty matter turned in Thy wisdom, O

   Thou Omnipotent, who only doest wonders; and my mind ranged through

   corporeal forms; and "fair," I defined and distinguished what is so in

   itself, and "fit," whose beauty is in correspondence to some other

   thing: and this I supported by corporeal examples. And I turned to the

   nature of the mind, but the false notion which I had of spiritual

   things, let me not see the truth. Yet the force of truth did of itself

   flash into mine eyes, and I turned away my panting soul from

   incorporeal substance to lineaments, and colours, and bulky magnitudes.

   And not being able to see these in the mind, I thought I could not see

   my mind. And whereas in virtue I loved peace, and in viciousness I

   abhorred discord; in the first I observed a unity, but in the other, a

   sort of division. And in that unity I conceived the rational soul, and

   the nature of truth and of the chief good to consist; but in this

   division I miserably imagined there to be some unknown substance of

   irrational life, and the nature of the chief evil, which should not

   only be a substance, but real life also, and yet not derived from Thee,

   O my God, of whom are all things. And yet that first I called a Monad,

   as it had been a soul without sex; but the latter a Duad;--anger, in

   deeds of violence, and in flagitiousness, lust; not knowing whereof I

   spake. For I had not known or learned that neither was evil a

   substance, nor our soul that chief and unchangeable good.

 

   For as deeds of violence arise, if that emotion of the soul be

   corrupted, whence vehement action springs, stirring itself insolently

   and unrulily; and lusts, when that affection of the soul is ungoverned,

   whereby carnal pleasures are drunk in, so do errors and false opinions

   defile the conversation, if the reasonable soul itself be corrupted; as

   it was then in me, who knew not that it must be enlightened by another

   light, that it may be partaker of truth, seeing itself is not that

   nature of truth. For Thou shalt light my candle, O Lord my God, Thou

   shalt enlighten my darkness: and of Thy fulness have we all received,

   for Thou art the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into

   the world; for in Thee there is no variableness, neither shadow of

   change.

 

   But I pressed towards Thee, and was thrust from Thee, that I might

   taste of death: for thou resistest the proud. But what prouder, than

   for me with a strange madness to maintain myself to be that by nature

   which Thou art? For whereas I was subject to change (so much being

   manifest to me, my very desire to become wise, being the wish, of worse

   to become better), yet chose I rather to imagine Thee subject to

   change, and myself not to be that which Thou art. Therefore I was

   repelled by Thee, and Thou resistedst my vain stiffneckedness, and I

   imagined corporeal forms, and, myself flesh, I accused flesh; and, a

   wind that passeth away, I returned not to Thee, but I passed on and on

   to things which have no being, neither in Thee, nor in me, nor in the

   body. Neither were they created for me by Thy truth, but by my vanity

   devised out of things corporeal. And I was wont to ask Thy faithful

   little ones, my fellow-citizens (from whom, unknown to myself, I stood

   exiled), I was wont, prating and foolishly, to ask them, "Why then doth

   the soul err which God created?" But I would not be asked, "Why then

   doth God err?" And I maintained that Thy unchangeable substance did err

   upon constraint, rather than confess that my changeable substance had

   gone astray voluntarily, and now, in punishment, lay in error.

 

   I was then some six or seven and twenty years old when I wrote those

   volumes; revolving within me corporeal fictions, buzzing in the ears of

   my heart, which I turned, O sweet truth, to thy inward melody,

   meditating on the "fair and fit," and longing to stand and hearken to

   Thee, and to rejoice greatly at the Bridegroom's voice, but could not;

   for by the voices of mine own errors, I was hurried abroad, and through

   the weight of my own pride, I was sinking into the lowest pit. For Thou

   didst not make me to hear joy and gladness, nor did the bones exult

   which were not yet humbled.

    

 

 

   And what did it profit me, that scarce twenty years old, a book of

   Aristotle, which they call the often Predicaments, falling into my

   hands (on whose very name I hung, as on something great and divine, so

   often as my rhetoric master of Carthage, and others, accounted learned,

   mouthed it with cheeks bursting with pride), I read and understood it

   unaided? And on my conferring with others, who said that they scarcely

   understood it with very able tutors, not only orally explaining it, but

   drawing many things in sand, they could tell me no more of it than I

   had learned, reading it by myself. And the book appeared to me to speak

   very clearly of substances, such as "man," and of their qualities, as

   the figure of a man, of what sort it is; and stature, how many feet

   high; and his relationship, whose brother he is; or where placed; or

   when born; or whether he stands or sits; or be shod or armed; or does,

   or suffers anything; and all the innumerable things which might be

   ranged under these nine Predicaments, of which I have given some

   specimens, or under that chief Predicament of Substance.

 

   What did all this further me, seeing it even hindered me? when,

   imagining whatever was, was comprehended under those often

   Predicaments, I essayed in such wise to understand, O my God, Thy

   wonderful and unchangeable Unity also, as if Thou also hadst been

   subjected to Thine own greatness or beauty; so that (as in bodies) they

   should exist in Thee, as their subject: whereas Thou Thyself art Thy

   greatness and beauty; but a body is not great or fair in that it is a

   body, seeing that, though it were less great or fair, it should

   notwithstanding be a body. But it was falsehood which of Thee I

   conceived, not truth, fictions of my misery, not the realities of Thy

   blessedness. For Thou hadst commanded, and it was done in me, that the

   earth should bring forth briars and thorns to me, and that in the sweat

   of my brows I should eat my bread.

 

   And what did it profit me, that all the books I could procure of the

   so-called liberal arts, I, the vile slave of vile affections, read by

   myself, and understood? And I delighted in them, but knew not whence

   came all, that therein was true or certain. For I had my back to the

   light, and my face to the things enlightened; whence my face, with

   which I discerned the things enlightened, itself was not enlightened.

   Whatever was written, either on rhetoric, or logic, geometry, music,

   and arithmetic, by myself without much difficulty or any instructor, I

   understood, Thou knowest, O Lord my God; because both quickness of

   understanding, and acuteness in discerning, is Thy gift: yet did I not

   thence sacrifice to Thee. So then it served not to my use, but rather

   to my perdition, since I went about to get so good a portion of my

   substance into my own keeping; and I kept not my strength for Thee, but

   wandered from Thee into a far country, to spend it upon harlotries. For

   what profited me good abilities, not employed to good uses? For I felt

   not that those arts were attained with great difficulty, even by the

   studious and talented, until I attempted to explain them to such; when

   he most excelled in them who followed me not altogether slowly.

 

   But what did this further me, imagining that Thou, O Lord God, the

   Truth, wert a vast and bright body, and I a fragment of that body?

   Perverseness too great! But such was I. Nor do I blush, O my God, to

   confess to Thee Thy mercies towards me, and to call upon Thee, who

   blushed not then to profess to men my blasphemies, and to bark against

   Thee. What profited me then my nimble wit in those sciences and all

   those most knotty volumes, unravelied by me, without aid from human

   instruction; seeing I erred so foully, and with such sacrilegious

   shamefulness, in the doctrine of piety? Or what hindrance was a far

   slower wit to Thy little ones, since they departed not far from Thee,

   that in the nest of Thy Church they might securely be fledged, and

   nourish the wings of charity, by the food of a sound faith. O Lord our

   God, under the shadow of Thy wings let us hope; protect us, and carry

   us. Thou wilt carry us both when little, and even to hoar hairs wilt

   Thou carry us; for our firmness, when it is Thou, then is it firmness;

   but when our own, it is infirmity. Our good ever lives with Thee; from

   which when we turn away, we are turned aside. Let us now, O Lord,

   return, that we may not be overturned, because with Thee our good lives

   without any decay, which good art Thou; nor need we fear, lest there be

   no place whither to return, because we fell from it: for through our

   absence, our mansion fell not--Thy eternity.

    

 

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