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The Confessions Of Saint Augustine

    

 

 

 

   O Thou, my hope from my youth, where wert Thou to me, and whither wert

   Thou gone? Hadst not Thou created me, and separated me from the beasts

   of the field, and fowls of the air? Thou hadst made me wiser, yet did I

   walk in darkness, and in slippery places, and sought Thee abroad out of

   myself, and found not the God of my heart; and had come into the depths

   of the sea, and distrusted and despaired of ever finding truth. My

   mother had now come to me, resolute through piety, following me over

   sea and land, in all perils confiding in Thee. For in perils of the

   sea, she comforted the very mariners (by whom passengers unacquainted

   with the deep, use rather to be comforted when troubled), assuring them

   of a safe arrival, because Thou hadst by a vision assured her thereof.

   She found me in grievous peril, through despair of ever finding truth.

   But when I had discovered to her that I was now no longer a Manichee,

   though not yet a Catholic Christian, she was not overjoyed, as at

   something unexpected; although she was now assured concerning that part

   of my misery, for which she bewailed me as one dead, though to be

   reawakened by Thee, carrying me forth upon the bier of her thoughts,

   that Thou mightest say to the son of the widow, Young man, I say unto

   thee, Arise; and he should revive, and begin to speak, and Thou

   shouldest deliver him to his mother. Her heart then was shaken with no

   tumultuous exultation, when she heard that what she daily with tears

   desired of Thee was already in so great part realised; in that, though

   I had not yet attained the truth, I was rescued from falsehood; but, as

   being assured, that Thou, Who hadst promised the whole, wouldest one

   day give the rest, most calmly, and with a heart full of confidence,

   she replied to me, "She believed in Christ, that before she departed

   this life, she should see me a Catholic believer." Thus much to me. But

   to Thee, Fountain of mercies, poured she forth more copious prayers and

   tears, that Thou wouldest hasten Thy help, and enlighten my darkness;

   and she hastened the more eagerly to the Church, and hung upon the lips

   of Ambrose, praying for the fountain of that water, which springeth up

   unto life everlasting. But that man she loved as an angel of God,

   because she knew that by him I had been brought for the present to that

   doubtful state of faith I now was in, through which she anticipated

   most confidently that I should pass from sickness unto health, after

   the access, as it were, of a sharper fit, which physicians call "the

   crisis."

    

 

 

   When then my mother had once, as she was wont in Afric, brought to the

   Churches built in memory of the Saints, certain cakes, and bread and

   wine, and was forbidden by the door-keeper; so soon as she knew that

   the Bishop had forbidden this, she so piously and obediently embraced

   his wishes, that I myself wondered how readily she censured her own

   practice, rather than discuss his prohibition. For wine-bibbing did not

   lay siege to her spirit, nor did love of wine provoke her to hatred of

   the truth, as it doth too many (both men and women), who revolt at a

   lesson of sobriety, as men well-drunk at a draught mingled with water.

   But she, when she had brought her basket with the accustomed

   festival-food, to be but tasted by herself, and then given away, never

   joined therewith more than one small cup of wine, diluted according to

   her own abstemious habits, which for courtesy she would taste. And if

   there were many churches of the departed saints that were to be

   honoured in that manner, she still carried round that same one cup, to

   be used every where; and this, though not only made very watery, but

   unpleasantly heated with carrying about, she would distribute to those

   about her by small sips; for she sought there devotion, not pleasure.

   So soon, then, as she found this custom to be forbidden by that famous

   preacher and most pious prelate, even to those that would use it

   soberly, lest so an occasion of excess might be given to the drunken;

   and for these, as it were, anniversary funeral solemnities did much

   resemble the superstition of the Gentiles, she most willingly forbare

   it: and for a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned

   to bring to the Churches of the martyrs a breast filled with more

   purified petitions, and to give what she could to the poor; that so the

   communication of the Lord's Body might be there rightly celebrated,

   where, after the example of His Passion, the martyrs had been

   sacrificed and crowned. But yet it seems to me, O Lord my God, and thus

   thinks my heart of it in Thy sight, that perhaps she would not so

   readily have yielded to the cutting off of this custom, had it been

   forbidden by another, whom she loved not as Ambrose, whom, for my

   salvation, she loved most entirely; and he her again, for her most

   religious conversation, whereby in good works, so fervent in spirit,

   she was constant at church; so that, when he saw me, he often burst

   forth into her praises; congratulating me that I had such a mother; not

   knowing what a son she had in me, who doubted of all these things, and

   imagined the way to life could not be found out.

    

 

 

   Nor did I yet groan in my prayers, that Thou wouldest help me; but my

   spirit was wholly intent on learning, and restless to dispute. And

   Ambrose himself, as the world counts happy, I esteemed a happy man,

   whom personages so great held in such honour; only his celibacy seemed

   to me a painful course. But what hope he bore within him, what

   struggles he had against the temptations which beset his very

   excellencies, or what comfort in adversities, and what sweet joys Thy

   Bread had for the hidden mouth of his spirit, when chewing the cud

   thereof, I neither could conjecture, nor had experienced. Nor did he

   know the tides of my feelings, or the abyss of my danger. For I could

   not ask of him, what I would as I would, being shut out both from his

   ear and speech by multitudes of busy people, whose weaknesses he

   served. With whom when he was not taken up (which was but a little

   time), he was either refreshing his body with the sustenance absolutely

   necessary, or his mind with reading. But when he was reading, his eye

   glided over the pages, and his heart searched out the sense, but his

   voice and tongue were at rest. Ofttimes when we had come (for no man

   was forbidden to enter, nor was it his wont that any who came should be

   announced to him), we saw him thus reading to himself, and never

   otherwise; and having long sat silent (for who durst intrude on one so

   intent?) we were fain to depart, conjecturing that in the small

   interval which he obtained, free from the din of others' business, for

   the recruiting of his mind, he was loth to be taken off; and perchance

   he dreaded lest if the author he read should deliver any thing

   obscurely, some attentive or perplexed hearer should desire him to

   expound it, or to discuss some of the harder questions; so that his

   time being thus spent, he could not turn over so many volumes as he

   desired; although the preserving of his voice (which a very little

   speaking would weaken) might be the truer reason for his reading to

   himself. But with what intent soever he did it, certainly in such a man

   it was good.

 

   I however certainly had no opportunity of enquiring what I wished of

   that so holy oracle of Thine, his breast, unless the thing might be

   answered briefly. But those tides in me, to be poured out to him,

   required his full leisure, and never found it. I heard him indeed every

   Lord's day, rightly expounding the Word of truth among the people; and

   I was more and more convinced that all the knots of those crafty

   calumnies, which those our deceivers had knit against the Divine Books,

   could be unravelled. But when I understood withal, that "man created by

   Thee, after Thine own image," was not so understood by Thy spiritual

   sons, whom of the Catholic Mother Thou hast born again through grace,

   as though they believed and conceived of Thee as bounded by human shape

   (although what a spiritual substance should be I had not even a faint

   or shadowy notion); yet, with joy I blushed at having so many years

   barked not against the Catholic faith, but against the fictions of

   carnal imaginations. For so rash and impious had I been, that what I

   ought by enquiring to have learned, I had pronounced on, condemning.

   For Thou, Most High, and most near; most secret, and most present; Who

   hast not limbs some larger, some smaller, but art wholly every where,

   and no where in space, art not of such corporeal shape, yet hast Thou

   made man after Thine own image; and behold, from head to foot is he

   contained in space.

    

 

 

   Ignorant then how this Thy image should subsist, I should have knocked

   and proposed the doubt, how it was to be believed, not insultingly

   opposed it, as if believed. Doubt, then, what to hold for certain, the

   more sharply gnawed my heart, the more ashamed I was, that so long

   deluded and deceived by the promise of certainties, I had with childish

   error and vehemence, prated of so many uncertainties. For that they

   were falsehoods became clear to me later. However I was certain that

   they were uncertain, and that I had formerly accounted them certain,

   when with a blind contentiousness, I accused Thy Catholic Church, whom

   I now discovered, not indeed as yet to teach truly, but at least not to

   teach that for which I had grievously censured her. So I was

   confounded, and converted: and I joyed, O my God, that the One Only

   Church, the body of Thine Only Son (wherein the name of Christ had been

   put upon me as an infant), had no taste for infantine conceits; nor in

   her sound doctrine maintained any tenet which should confine Thee, the

   Creator of all, in space, however great and large, yet bounded every

   where by the limits of a human form.

 

   I joyed also that the old Scriptures of the law and the Prophets were

   laid before me, not now to be perused with that eye to which before

   they seemed absurd, when I reviled Thy holy ones for so thinking,

   whereas indeed they thought not so: and with joy I heard Ambrose in his

   sermons to the people, oftentimes most diligently recommend this text

   for a rule, The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life; whilst he

   drew aside the mystic veil, laying open spiritually what, according to

   the letter, seemed to teach something unsound; teaching herein nothing

   that offended me, though he taught what I knew not as yet, whether it

   were true. For I kept my heart from assenting to any thing, fearing to

   fall headlong; but by hanging in suspense I was the worse killed. For I

   wished to be as assured of the things I saw not, as I was that seven

   and three are ten. For I was not so mad as to think that even this

   could not be comprehended; but I desired to have other things as clear

   as this, whether things corporeal, which were not present to my senses,

   or spiritual, whereof I knew not how to conceive, except corporeally.

   And by believing might I have been cured, that so the eyesight of my

   soul being cleared, might in some way be directed to Thy truth, which

   abideth always, and in no part faileth. But as it happens that one who

   has tried a bad physician, fears to trust himself with a good one, so

   was it with the health of my soul, which could not be healed but by

   believing, and lest it should believe falsehoods, refused to be cured;

   resisting Thy hands, Who hast prepared the medicines of faith, and hast

   applied them to the diseases of the whole world, and given unto them so

   great authority.

    

 

 

   Being led, however, from this to prefer the Catholic doctrine, I felt

   that her proceeding was more unassuming and honest, in that she

   required to be believed things not demonstrated (whether it was that

   they could in themselves be demonstrated but not to certain persons, or

   could not at all be), whereas among the Manichees our credulity was

   mocked by a promise of certain knowledge, and then so many most

   fabulous and absurd things were imposed to be believed, because they

   could not be demonstrated. Then Thou, O Lord, little by little with

   most tender and most merciful hand, touching and composing my heart,

   didst persuade me--considering what innumerable things I believed,

   which I saw not, nor was present while they were done, as so many

   things in secular history, so many reports of places and of cities,

   which I had not seen; so many of friends, so many of physicians, so

   many continually of other men, which unless we should believe, we

   should do nothing at all in this life; lastly, with how unshaken an

   assurance I believed of what parents I was born, which I could not

   know, had I not believed upon hearsay--considering all this, Thou didst

   persuade me, that not they who believed Thy Books (which Thou hast

   established in so great authority among almost all nations), but they

   who believed them not, were to be blamed; and that they were not to be

   heard, who should say to me, "How knowest thou those Scriptures to have

   been imparted unto mankind by the Spirit of the one true and most true

   God?" For this very thing was of all most to be believed, since no

   contentiousness of blasphemous questionings, of all that multitude

   which I had read in the self-contradicting philosophers, could wring

   this belief from me, "That Thou art" whatsoever Thou wert (what I knew

   not), and "That the government of human things belongs to Thee."

 

   This I believed, sometimes more strongly, more weakly otherwhiles; yet

   I ever believed both that Thou wert, and hadst a care of us; though I

   was ignorant, both what was to be thought of Thy substance, and what

   way led or led back to Thee. Since then we were too weak by abstract

   reasonings to find out truth: and for this very cause needed the

   authority of Holy Writ; I had now begun to believe that Thou wouldest

   never have given such excellency of authority to that Writ in all

   lands, hadst Thou not willed thereby to be believed in, thereby sought.

   For now what things, sounding strangely in the Scripture, were wont to

   offend me, having heard divers of them expounded satisfactorily, I

   referred to the depth of the mysteries, and its authority appeared to

   me the more venerable, and more worthy of religious credence, in that,

   while it lay open to all to read, it reserved the majesty of its

   mysteries within its profounder meaning, stooping to all in the great

   plainness of its words and lowliness of its style, yet calling forth

   the intensest application of such as are not light of heart; that so it

   might receive all in its open bosom, and through narrow passages waft

   over towards Thee some few, yet many more than if it stood not aloft on

   such a height of authority, nor drew multitudes within its bosom by its

   holy lowliness. These things I thought on, and Thou wert with me; I

   sighed, and Thou heardest me; I wavered, and Thou didst guide me; I

   wandered through the broad way of the world, and Thou didst not forsake

   me.

    

 

 

   I panted after honours, gains, marriage; and Thou deridedst me. In

   these desires I underwent most bitter crosses, Thou being the more

   gracious, the less Thou sufferedst aught to grow sweet to me, which was

   not Thou. Behold my heart, O Lord, who wouldest I should remember all

   this, and confess to Thee. Let my soul cleave unto Thee, now that Thou

   hast freed it from that fast-holding birdlime of death. How wretched

   was it! and Thou didst irritate the feeling of its wound, that

   forsaking all else, it might be converted unto Thee, who art above all,

   and without whom all things would be nothing; be converted, and be

   healed. How miserable was I then, and how didst Thou deal with me, to

   make me feel my misery on that day, when I was preparing to recite a

   panegyric of the Emperor, wherein I was to utter many a lie, and lying,

   was to be applauded by those who knew I lied, and my heart was panting

   with these anxieties, and boiling with the feverishness of consuming

   thoughts. For, passing through one of the streets of Milan, I observed

   a poor beggar, then, I suppose, with a full belly, joking and joyous:

   and I sighed, and spoke to the friends around me, of the many sorrows

   of our frenzies; for that by all such efforts of ours, as those wherein

   I then toiled dragging along, under the goading of desire, the burthen

   of my own wretchedness, and, by dragging, augmenting it, we yet looked

   to arrive only at that very joyousness whither that beggar-man had

   arrived before us, who should never perchance attain it. For what he

   had obtained by means of a few begged pence, the same was I plotting

   for by many a toilsome turning and winding; the joy of a temporary

   felicity. For he verily had not the true joy; but yet I with those my

   ambitious designs was seeking one much less true. And certainly he was

   joyous, I anxious; he void of care, I full of fears. But should any ask

   me, had I rather be merry or fearful? I would answer merry. Again, if

   he asked had I rather be such as he was, or what I then was? I should

   choose to be myself, though worn with cares and fears; but out of wrong

   judgment; for, was it the truth? For I ought not to prefer myself to

   him, because more learned than he, seeing I had no joy therein, but

   sought to please men by it; and that not to instruct, but simply to

   please. Wherefore also Thou didst break my bones with the staff of Thy

   correction.

 

   Away with those then from my soul who say to her, "It makes a

   difference whence a man's joy is. That beggar-man joyed in drunkenness;

   Thou desiredst to joy in glory." What glory, Lord? That which is not in

   Thee. For even as his was no true joy, so was that no true glory: and

   it overthrew my soul more. He that very night should digest his

   drunkenness; but I had slept and risen again with mine, and was to

   sleep again, and again to rise with it, how many days, Thou, God,

   knowest. But "it doth make a difference whence a man's joy is." I know

   it, and the joy of a faithful hope lieth incomparably beyond such

   vanity. Yea, and so was he then beyond me: for he verily was the

   happier; not only for that he was thoroughly drenched in mirth, I

   disembowelled with cares: but he, by fair wishes, had gotten wine; I,

   by lying, was seeking for empty, swelling praise. Much to this purpose

   said I then to my friends: and I often marked in them how it fared with

   me; and I found it went ill with me, and grieved, and doubled that very

   ill; and if any prosperity smiled on me, I was loth to catch at it, for

   almost before I could grasp it, it flew away.

    

 

 

   These things we, who were living as friends together, bemoaned

   together, but chiefly and most familiarly did I speak thereof with

   Alypius and Nebridius, of whom Alypius was born in the same town with

   me, of persons of chief rank there, but younger than I. For he had

   studied under me, both when I first lectured in our town, and

   afterwards at Carthage, and he loved me much, because I seemed to him

   kind, and learned; and I him, for his great towardliness to virtue,

   which was eminent enough in one of no greater years. Yet the whirlpool

   of Carthaginian habits (amongst whom those idle spectacles are hotly

   followed) had drawn him into the madness of the Circus. But while he

   was miserably tossed therein, and I, professing rhetoric there, had a

   public school, as yet he used not my teaching, by reason of some

   unkindness risen betwixt his father and me. I had found then how deadly

   he doted upon the Circus, and was deeply grieved that he seemed likely,

   nay, or had thrown away so great promise: yet had I no means of

   advising or with a sort of constraint reclaiming him, either by the

   kindness of a friend, or the authority of a master. For I supposed that

   he thought of me as did his father; but he was not such; laying aside

   then his father's mind in that matter, he began to greet me, come

   sometimes into my lecture room, hear a little, and be gone.

 

   I however had forgotten to deal with him, that he should not, through a

   blind and headlong desire of vain pastimes, undo so good a wit. But

   Thou, O Lord, who guidest the course of all Thou hast created, hadst

   not forgotten him, who was one day to be among Thy children, Priest and

   Dispenser of Thy Sacrament; and that his amendment might plainly be

   attributed to Thyself, Thou effectedst it through me, unknowingly. For

   as one day I sat in my accustomed place, with my scholars before me, he

   entered, greeted me, sat down, and applied his mind to what I then

   handled. I had by chance a passage in hand, which while I was

   explaining, a likeness from the Circensian races occurred to me, as

   likely to make what I would convey pleasanter and plainer, seasoned

   with biting mockery of those whom that madness had enthralled; God,

   Thou knowest that I then thought not of curing Alypius of that

   infection. But he took it wholly to himself, and thought that I said it

   simply for his sake. And whence another would have taken occasion of

   offence with me, that right-minded youth took as a ground of being

   offended at himself, and loving me more fervently. For Thou hadst said

   it long ago, and put it into Thy book, Rebuke a wise man and he will

   love Thee. But I had not rebuked him, but Thou, who employest all,

   knowing or not knowing, in that order which Thyself knowest (and that

   order is just), didst of my heart and tongue make burning coals, by

   which to set on fire the hopeful mind, thus languishing, and so cure

   it. Let him be silent in Thy praises, who considers not Thy mercies,

   which confess unto Thee out of my inmost soul. For he upon that speech

   burst out of that pit so deep, wherein he was wilfully plunged, and was

   blinded with its wretched pastimes; and he shook his mind with a strong

   self-command; whereupon all the filths of the Circensian pastimes flew

   off from him, nor came he again thither. Upon this, he prevailed with

   his unwilling father that he might be my scholar. He gave way, and gave

   in. And Alypius beginning to be my hearer again, was involved in the

   same superstition with me, loving in the Manichees that show of

   continency which he supposed true and unfeigned. Whereas it was a

   senseless and seducing continency, ensnaring precious souls, unable as

   yet to reach the depth of virtue, yet readily beguiled with the surface

   of what was but a shadowy and counterfeit virtue.

    

 

 

   He, not forsaking that secular course which his parents had charmed him

   to pursue, had gone before me to Rome, to study law, and there he was

   carried away incredibly with an incredible eagerness after the shows of

   gladiators. For being utterly averse to and detesting spectacles, he

   was one day by chance met by divers of his acquaintance and

   fellow-students coming from dinner, and they with a familiar violence

   haled him, vehemently refusing and resisting, into the Amphitheatre,

   during these cruel and deadly shows, he thus protesting: "Though you

   hale my body to that place, and there set me, can you force me also to

   turn my mind or my eyes to those shows? I shall then be absent while

   present, and so shall overcome both you and them." They, hearing this,

   led him on nevertheless, desirous perchance to try that very thing,

   whether he could do as he said. When they were come thither, and had

   taken their places as they could, the whole place kindled with that

   savage pastime. But he, closing the passage of his eyes, forbade his

   mind to range abroad after such evil; and would he had stopped his ears

   also! For in the fight, when one fell, a mighty cry of the whole people

   striking him strongly, overcome by curiosity, and as if prepared to

   despise and be superior to it whatsoever it were, even when seen, he

   opened his eyes, and was stricken with a deeper wound in his soul than

   the other, whom he desired to behold, was in his body; and he fell more

   miserably than he upon whose fall that mighty noise was raised, which

   entered through his ears, and unlocked his eyes, to make way for the

   striking and beating down of a soul, bold rather than resolute, and the

   weaker, in that it had presumed on itself, which ought to have relied

   on Thee. For so soon as he saw that blood, he therewith drunk down

   savageness; nor turned away, but fixed his eye, drinking in frenzy,

   unawares, and was delighted with that guilty fight, and intoxicated

   with the bloody pastime. Nor was he now the man he came, but one of the

   throng he came unto, yea, a true associate of theirs that brought him

   thither. Why say more? He beheld, shouted, kindled, carried thence with

   him the madness which should goad him to return not only with them who

   first drew him thither, but also before them, yea and to draw in

   others. Yet thence didst Thou with a most strong and most merciful hand

   pluck him, and taughtest him to have confidence not in himself, but in

   Thee. But this was after.

    

 

 

   But this was already being laid up in his memory to be a medicine

   hereafter. So was that also, that when he was yet studying under me at

   Carthage, and was thinking over at mid-day in the market-place what he

   was to say by heart (as scholars use to practise), Thou sufferedst him

   to be apprehended by the officers of the market-place for a thief. For

   no other cause, I deem, didst Thou, our God, suffer it, but that he who

   was hereafter to prove so great a man, should already begin to learn

   that in judging of causes, man was not readily to be condemned by man

   out of a rash credulity. For as he was walking up and down by himself

   before the judgment-seat, with his note-book and pen, lo, a young man,

   a lawyer, the real thief, privily bringing a hatchet, got in,

   unperceived by Alypius, as far as the leaden gratings which fence in

   the silversmiths' shops, and began to cut away the lead. But the noise

   of the hatchet being heard, the silversmiths beneath began to make a

   stir, and sent to apprehend whomever they should find. But he, hearing

   their voices, ran away, leaving his hatchet, fearing to be taken with

   it. Alypius now, who had not seen him enter, was aware of his going,

   and saw with what speed he made away. And being desirous to know the

   matter, entered the place; where finding the hatchet, he was standing,

   wondering and considering it, when behold, those that had been sent,

   find him alone with the hatchet in his hand, the noise whereof had

   startled and brought them thither. They seize him, hale him away, and

   gathering the dwellers in the market-place together, boast of having

   taken a notorious thief, and so he was being led away to be taken

   before the judge.

 

   But thus far was Alypius to be instructed. For forthwith, O Lord, Thou

   succouredst his innocency, whereof Thou alone wert witness. For as he

   was being led either to prison or to punishment, a certain architect

   met them, who had the chief charge of the public buildings. Glad they

   were to meet him especially, by whom they were wont to be suspected of

   stealing the goods lost out of the marketplace, as though to show him

   at last by whom these thefts were committed. He, however, had divers

   times seen Alypius at a certain senator's house, to whom he often went

   to pay his respects; and recognising him immediately, took him aside by

   the hand, and enquiring the occasion of so great a calamity, heard the

   whole matter, and bade all present, amid much uproar and threats, to go

   with him. So they came to the house of the young man who had done the

   deed. There, before the door, was a boy so young as to be likely, not

   apprehending any harm to his master, to disclose the whole. For he had

   attended his master to the market-place. Whom so soon as Alypius

   remembered, he told the architect: and he showing the hatchet to the

   boy, asked him "Whose that was?" "Ours," quoth he presently: and being

   further questioned, he discovered every thing. Thus the crime being

   transferred to that house, and the multitude ashamed, which had begun

   to insult over Alypius, he who was to be a dispenser of Thy Word, and

   an examiner of many causes in Thy Church, went away better experienced

   and instructed.

    

 

 

 

   Him then I had found at Rome, and he clave to me by a most strong tie,

   and went with me to Milan, both that he might not leave me, and might

   practise something of the law he had studied, more to please his

   parents than himself. There he had thrice sat as Assessor, with an

   uncorruptness much wondered at by others, he wondering at others rather

   who could prefer gold to honesty. His character was tried besides, not

   only with the bait of covetousness, but with the goad of fear. At Rome

   he was Assessor to the count of the Italian Treasury. There was at that

   time a very powerful senator, to whose favours many stood indebted,

   many much feared. He would needs, by his usual power, have a thing

   allowed him which by the laws was unallowed. Alypius resisted it: a

   bribe was promised; with all his heart he scorned it: threats were held

   out; he trampled upon them: all wondering at so unwonted a spirit,

   which neither desired the friendship, nor feared the enmity of one so

   great and so mightily renowned for innumerable means of doing good or

   evil. And the very judge, whose councillor Alypius was, although also

   unwilling it should be, yet did not openly refuse, but put the matter

   off upon Alypius, alleging that he would not allow him to do it: for in

   truth had the judge done it, Alypius would have decided otherwise. With

   this one thing in the way of learning was he well-nigh seduced, that he

   might have books copied for him at Praetorian prices, but consulting

   justice, he altered his deliberation for the better; esteeming equity

   whereby he was hindered more gainful than the power whereby he were

   allowed. These are slight things, but he that is faithful in little, is

   faithful also in much. Nor can that any how be void, which proceeded

   out of the mouth of Thy Truth: If ye have not been faithful in the

   unrighteous Mammon, who will commit to your trust true riches? And if

   ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall

   give you that which is your own? He being such, did at that time cleave

   to me, and with me wavered in purpose, what course of life was to be

   taken.

 

   Nebridius also, who having left his native country near Carthage, yea

   and Carthage itself, where he had much lived, leaving his excellent

   family-estate and house, and a mother behind, who was not to follow

   him, had come to Milan, for no other reason but that with me he might

   live in a most ardent search after truth and wisdom. Like me he sighed,

   like me he wavered, an ardent searcher after true life, and a most

   acute examiner of the most difficult questions. Thus were there the

   mouths of three indigent persons, sighing out their wants one to

   another, and waiting upon Thee that Thou mightest give them their meat

   in due season. And in all the bitterness which by Thy mercy followed

   our worldly affairs, as we looked towards the end, why we should suffer

   all this, darkness met us; and we turned away groaning, and saying, How

   long shall these things be? This too we often said; and so saying

   forsook them not, for as yet there dawned nothing certain, which these

   forsaken, we might embrace.

    

 

 

   And I, viewing and reviewing things, most wondered at the length of

   time from that my nineteenth year, wherein I had begun to kindle with

   the desire of wisdom, settling when I had found her, to abandon all the

   empty hopes and lying frenzies of vain desires. And lo, I was now in my

   thirtieth year, sticking in the same mire, greedy of enjoying things

   present, which passed away and wasted my soul; while I said to myself,

   "Tomorrow I shall find it; it will appear manifestly and I shall grasp

   it; lo, Faustus the Manichee will come, and clear every thing! O you

   great men, ye Academicians, it is true then, that no certainty can be

   attained for the ordering of life! Nay, let us search the more

   diligently, and despair not. Lo, things in the ecclesiastical books are

   not absurd to us now, which sometimes seemed absurd, and may be

   otherwise taken, and in a good sense. I will take my stand, where, as a

   child, my parents placed me, until the clear truth be found out. But

   where shall it be sought or when? Ambrose has no leisure; we have no

   leisure to read; where shall we find even the books? Whence, or when

   procure them? from whom borrow them? Let set times be appointed, and

   certain hours be ordered for the health of our soul. Great hope has

   dawned; the Catholic Faith teaches not what we thought, and vainly

   accused it of; her instructed members hold it profane to believe God to

   be bounded by the figure of a human body: and do we doubt to knock,'

   that the rest may be opened'? The forenoons our scholars take up; what

   do we during the rest? Why not this? But when then pay we court to our

   great friends, whose favour we need? When compose what we may sell to

   scholars? When refresh ourselves, unbending our minds from this

   intenseness of care?

 

   "Perish every thing, dismiss we these empty vanities, and betake

   ourselves to the one search for truth! Life is vain, death uncertain;

   if it steals upon us on a sudden, in what state shall we depart hence?

   and where shall we learn what here we have neglected? and shall we not

   rather suffer the punishment of this negligence? What, if death itself

   cut off and end all care and feeling? Then must this be ascertained.

   But God forbid this! It is no vain and empty thing, that the excellent

   dignity of the authority of the Christian Faith hath overspread the

   whole world. Never would such and so great things be by God wrought for

   us, if with the death of the body the life of the soul came to an end.

   Wherefore delay then to abandon worldly hopes, and give ourselves

   wholly to seek after God and the blessed life? But wait! Even those

   things are pleasant; they have some, and no small sweetness. We must

   not lightly abandon them, for it were a shame to return again to them.

   See, it is no great matter now to obtain some station, and then what

   should we more wish for? We have store of powerful friends; if nothing

   else offer, and we be in much haste, at least a presidentship may be

   given us: and a wife with some money, that she increase not our

   charges: and this shall be the bound of desire. Many great men, and

   most worthy of imitation, have given themselves to the study of wisdom

   in the state of marriage.

 

   While I went over these things, and these winds shifted and drove my

   heart this way and that, time passed on, but I delayed to turn to the

   Lord; and from day to day deferred to live in Thee, and deferred not

   daily to die in myself. Loving a happy life, I feared it in its own

   abode, and sought it, by fleeing from it. I thought I should be too

   miserable, unless folded in female arms; and of the medicine of Thy

   mercy to cure that infirmity I thought not, not having tried it. As for

   continency, I supposed it to be in our own power (though in myself I

   did not find that power), being so foolish as not to know what is

   written, None can be continent unless Thou give it; and that Thou

   wouldest give it, if with inward groanings I did knock at Thine ears,

   and with a settled faith did cast my care on Thee.

    

 

 

   Alypius indeed kept me from marrying; alleging that so could we by no

   means with undistracted leisure live together in the love of wisdom, as

   we had long desired. For himself was even then most pure in this point,

   so that it was wonderful; and that the more, since in the outset of his

   youth he had entered into that course, but had not stuck fast therein;

   rather had he felt remorse and revolting at it, living thenceforth

   until now most continently. But I opposed him with the examples of

   those who as married men had cherished wisdom, and served God

   acceptably, and retained their friends, and loved them faithfully. Of

   whose greatness of spirit I was far short; and bound with the disease

   of the flesh, and its deadly sweetness, drew along my chain, dreading

   to be loosed, and as if my wound had been fretted, put back his good

   persuasions, as it were the hand of one that would unchain me.

   Moreover, by me did the serpent speak unto Alypius himself, by my

   tongue weaving and laying in his path pleasurable snares, wherein his

   virtuous and free feet might be entangled.

 

   For when he wondered that I, whom he esteemed not slightly, should

   stick so fast in the birdlime of that pleasure, as to protest (so oft

   as we discussed it) that I could never lead a single life; and urged in

   my defence when I saw him wonder, that there was great difference

   between his momentary and scarce-remembered knowledge of that life,

   which so he might easily despise, and my continued acquaintance whereto

   if the honourable name of marriage were added, he ought not to wonder

   why I could not contemn that course; he began also to desire to be

   married; not as overcome with desire of such pleasure, but out of

   curiosity. For he would fain know, he said, what that should be,

   without which my life, to him so pleasing, would to me seem not life

   but a punishment. For his mind, free from that chain, was amazed at my

   thraldom; and through that amazement was going on to a desire of trying

   it, thence to the trial itself, and thence perhaps to sink into that

   bondage whereat he wondered, seeing he was willing to make a covenant

   with death; and he that loves danger, shall fall into it. For whatever

   honour there be in the office of well-ordering a married life, and a

   family, moved us but slightly. But me for the most part the habit of

   satisfying an insatiable appetite tormented, while it held me captive;

   him, an admiring wonder was leading captive. So were we, until Thou, O

   Most High, not forsaking our dust, commiserating us miserable, didst

   come to our help, by wondrous and secret ways.

    

 

 

   Continual effort was made to have me married. I wooed, I was promised,

   chiefly through my mother's pains, that so once married, the

   health-giving baptism might cleanse me, towards which she rejoiced that

   I was being daily fitted, and observed that her prayers, and Thy

   promises, were being fulfilled in my faith. At which time verily, both

   at my request and her own longing, with strong cries of heart she daily

   begged of Thee, that Thou wouldest by a vision discover unto her

   something concerning my future marriage; Thou never wouldest. She saw

   indeed certain vain and fantastic things, such as the energy of the

   human spirit, busied thereon, brought together; and these she told me

   of, not with that confidence she was wont, when Thou showedst her any

   thing, but slighting them. For she could, she said, through a certain

   feeling, which in words she could not express, discern betwixt Thy

   revelations, and the dreams of her own soul. Yet the matter was pressed

   on, and a maiden asked in marriage, two years under the fit age; and,

   as pleasing, was waited for.

    

 

 

   And many of us friends conferring about, and detesting the turbulent

   turmoils of human life, had debated and now almost resolved on living

   apart from business and the bustle of men; and this was to be thus

   obtained; we were to bring whatever we might severally procure, and

   make one household of all; so that through the truth of our friendship

   nothing should belong especially to any; but the whole thus derived

   from all, should as a whole belong to each, and all to all. We thought

   there might be some often persons in this society; some of whom were

   very rich, especially Romanianus our townsman, from childhood a very

   familiar friend of mine, whom the grievous perplexities of his affairs

   had brought up to court; who was the most earnest for this project; and

   therein was his voice of great weight, because his ample estate far

   exceeded any of the rest. We had settled also that two annual officers,

   as it were, should provide all things necessary, the rest being

   undisturbed. But when we began to consider whether the wives, which

   some of us already had, others hoped to have, would allow this, all

   that plan, which was being so well moulded, fell to pieces in our

   hands, was utterly dashed and cast aside. Thence we betook us to sighs,

   and groans, and our steps to follow the broad and beaten ways of the

   world; for many thoughts were in our heart, but Thy counsel standeth

   for ever. Out of which counsel Thou didst deride ours, and preparedst

   Thine own; purposing to give us meat in due season, and to fill our

   souls with blessing.

    

 

 

   Meanwhile my sins were being multiplied, and my concubine being torn

   from my side as a hindrance to my marriage, my heart which clave unto

   her was torn and wounded and bleeding. And she returned to Afric,

   vowing unto Thee never to know any other man, leaving with me my son by

   her. But unhappy I, who could not imitate a very woman, impatient of

   delay, inasmuch as not till after two years was I to obtain her I

   sought not being so much a lover of marriage as a slave to lust,

   procured another, though no wife, that so by the servitude of an

   enduring custom, the disease of my soul might be kept up and carried on

   in its vigour, or even augmented, into the dominion of marriage. Nor

   was that my wound cured, which had been made by the cutting away of the

   former, but after inflammation and most acute pain, it mortified, and

   my pains became less acute, but more desperate.

    

 

 

   To Thee be praise, glory to Thee, Fountain of mercies. I was becoming

   more miserable, and Thou nearer. Thy right hand was continually ready

   to pluck me out of the mire, and to wash me thoroughly, and I knew it

   not; nor did anything call me back from a yet deeper gulf of carnal

   pleasures, but the fear of death, and of Thy judgment to come; which

   amid all my changes, never departed from my breast. And in my disputes

   with my friends Alypius and Nebridius of the nature of good and evil, I

   held that Epicurus had in my mind won the palm, had I not believed that

   after death there remained a life for the soul, and places of requital

   according to men's deserts, which Epicurus would not believe. And I

   asked, "were we immortal, and to live in perpetual bodily pleasure,

   without fear of losing it, why should we not be happy, or what else

   should we seek?" not knowing that great misery was involved in this

   very thing, that, being thus sunk and blinded, I could not discern that

   light of excellence and beauty, to be embraced for its own sake, which

   the eye of flesh cannot see, and is seen by the inner man. Nor did I,

   unhappy, consider from what source it sprung, that even on these

   things, foul as they were, I with pleasure discoursed with my friends,

   nor could I, even according to the notions I then had of happiness, be

   happy without friends, amid what abundance soever of carnal pleasures.

   And yet these friends I loved for themselves only, and I felt that I

   was beloved of them again for myself only.

 

   O crooked paths! Woe to the audacious soul, which hoped, by forsaking

   Thee, to gain some better thing! Turned it hath, and turned again, upon

   back, sides, and belly, yet all was painful; and Thou alone rest. And

   behold, Thou art at hand, and deliverest us from our wretched

   wanderings, and placest us in Thy way, and dost comfort us, and say,

   "Run; I will carry you; yea I will bring you through; there also will I

   carry you."

    

 

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