Catholic Encyclopedia
Church Fathers
Classics Library
Church Documents
Prayer Requests
Ray of Hope
Social Doctrine

The Confessions Of Saint Augustine




   Accept the sacrifice of my confessions from the ministry of my tongue,

   which Thou hast formed and stirred up to confess unto Thy name. Heal

   Thou all my bones, and let them say, O Lord, who is like unto Thee? For

   he who confesses to Thee doth not teach Thee what takes place within

   him; seeing a closed heart closes not out Thy eye, nor can man's

   hard-heartedness thrust back Thy hand: for Thou dissolvest it at Thy

   will in pity or in vengeance, and nothing can hide itself from Thy

   heat. But let my soul praise Thee, that it may love Thee; and let it

   confess Thy own mercies to Thee, that it may praise Thee. Thy whole

   creation ceaseth not, nor is silent in Thy praises; neither the spirit

   of man with voice directed unto Thee, nor creation animate or

   inanimate, by the voice of those who meditate thereon: that so our

   souls may from their weariness arise towards Thee, leaning on those

   things which Thou hast created, and passing on to Thyself, who madest

   them wonderfully; and there is refreshment and true strength.




   Let the restless, the godless, depart and flee from Thee; yet Thou

   seest them, and dividest the darkness. And behold, the universe with

   them is fair, though they are foul. And how have they injured Thee? or

   how have they disgraced Thy government, which, from the heaven to this

   lowest earth, is just and perfect? For whither fled they, when they

   fled from Thy presence? or where dost not Thou find them? But they

   fled, that they might not see Thee seeing them, and, blinded, might

   stumble against Thee (because Thou forsakest nothing Thou hast made);

   that the unjust, I say, might stumble upon Thee, and justly be hurt;

   withdrawing themselves from thy gentleness, and stumbling at Thy

   uprightness, and falling upon their own ruggedness. Ignorant, in truth,

   that Thou art every where, Whom no place encompasseth! and Thou alone

   art near, even to those that remove far from Thee. Let them then be

   turned, and seek Thee; because not as they have forsaken their Creator,

   hast Thou forsaken Thy creation. Let them be turned and seek Thee; and

   behold, Thou art there in their heart, in the heart of those that

   confess to Thee, and cast themselves upon Thee, and weep in Thy bosom,

   after all their rugged ways. Then dost Thou gently wipe away their

   tears, and they weep the more, and joy in weeping; even for that Thou,

   Lord,--not man of flesh and blood, but--Thou, Lord, who madest them,

   re-makest and comfortest them. But where was I, when I was seeking

   Thee? And Thou wert before me, but I had gone away from Thee; nor did I

   find myself, how much less Thee!




   I would lay open before my God that nine-and-twentieth year of mine

   age. There had then come to Carthage a certain Bishop of the Manichees,

   Faustus by name, a great snare of the Devil, and many were entangled by

   him through that lure of his smooth language: which though I did

   commend, yet could I separate from the truth of the things which I was

   earnest to learn: nor did I so much regard the service of oratory as

   the science which this Faustus, so praised among them, set before me to

   feed upon. Fame had before bespoken him most knowing in all valuable

   learning, and exquisitely skilled in the liberal sciences. And since I

   had read and well remembered much of the philosophers, I compared some

   things of theirs with those long fables of the Manichees, and found the

   former the more probable; even although they could only prevail so far

   as to make judgment of this lower world, the Lord of it they could by

   no means find out. For Thou art great, O Lord, and hast respect unto

   the humble, but the proud Thou beholdest afar off. Nor dost Thou draw

   near, but to the contrite in heart, nor art found by the proud, no, not

   though by curious skill they could number the stars and the sand, and

   measure the starry heavens, and track the courses of the planets.


   For with their understanding and wit, which Thou bestowedst on them,

   they search out these things; and much have they found out; and

   foretold, many years before, eclipses of those luminaries, the sun and

   moon,--what day and hour, and how many digits,--nor did their

   calculation fail; and it came to pass as they foretold; and they wrote

   down the rules they had found out, and these are read at this day, and

   out of them do others foretell in what year and month of the year, and

   what day of the month, and what hour of the day, and what part of its

   light, moon or sun is to be eclipsed, and so it shall be, as it is

   foreshowed. At these things men, that know not this art, marvel and are

   astonished, and they that know it, exult, and are puffed up; and by an

   ungodly pride departing from Thee, and failing of Thy light, they

   foresee a failure of the sun's light, which shall be, so long before,

   but see not their own, which is. For they search not religiously whence

   they have the wit, wherewith they search out this. And finding that

   Thou madest them, they give not themselves up to Thee, to preserve what

   Thou madest, nor sacrifice to Thee what they have made themselves; nor

   slay their own soaring imaginations, as fowls of the air, nor their own

   diving curiosities (wherewith, like the fishes of the seal they wander

   over the unknown paths of the abyss), nor their own luxuriousness, as

   beasts of the field, that Thou, Lord, a consuming fire, mayest burn up

   those dead cares of theirs, and re-create themselves immortally.


   But they knew not the way, Thy Word, by Whom Thou madest these things

   which they number, and themselves who number, and the sense whereby

   they perceive what they number, and the understanding, out of which

   they number; or that of Thy wisdom there is no number. But the Only

   Begotten is Himself made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and

   sanctification, and was numbered among us, and paid tribute unto

   Caesar. They knew not this way whereby to descend to Him from

   themselves, and by Him ascend unto Him. They knew not this way, and

   deemed themselves exalted amongst the stars and shining; and behold,

   they fell upon the earth, and their foolish heart was darkened. They

   discourse many things truly concerning the creature; but Truth,

   Artificer of the creature, they seek not piously, and therefore find

   Him not; or if they find Him, knowing Him to be God, they glorify Him

   not as God, neither are thankful, but become vain in their

   imaginations, and profess themselves to be wise, attributing to

   themselves what is Thine; and thereby with most perverse blindness,

   study to impute to Thee what is their own, forging lies of Thee who art

   the Truth, and changing the glory of uncorruptible God into an image

   made like corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and

   creeping things, changing Thy truth into a lie, and worshipping and

   serving the creature more than the Creator.


   Yet many truths concerning the creature retained I from these men, and

   saw the reason thereof from calculations, the succession of times, and

   the visible testimonies of the stars; and compared them with the saying

   of Manichaeus, which in his frenzy he had written most largely on these

   subjects; but discovered not any account of the solstices, or

   equinoxes, or the eclipses of the greater lights, nor whatever of this

   sort I had learned in the books of secular philosophy. But I was

   commanded to believe; and yet it corresponded not with what had been

   established by calculations and my own sight, but was quite contrary.




   Doth then, O Lord God of truth, whoso knoweth these things, therefore

   please Thee? Surely unhappy is he who knoweth all these, and knoweth

   not Thee: but happy whoso knoweth Thee, though he know not these. And

   whoso knoweth both Thee and them is not the happier for them, but for

   Thee only, if, knowing Thee, he glorifies Thee as God, and is thankful,

   and becomes not vain in his imaginations. For as he is better off who

   knows how to possess a tree, and return thanks to Thee for the use

   thereof, although he know not how many cubits high it is, or how wide

   it spreads, than he that can measure it, and count all its boughs, and

   neither owns it, nor knows or loves its Creator: so a believer, whose

   all this world of wealth is, and who having nothing, yet possesseth all

   things, by cleaving unto Thee, whom all things serve, though he know

   not even the circles of the Great Bear, yet is it folly to doubt but he

   is in a better state than one who can measure the heavens, and number

   the stars, and poise the elements, yet neglecteth Thee who hast made

   all things in number, weight, and measure.




   But yet who bade that Manichaeus write on these things also, skill in

   which was no element of piety? For Thou hast said to man, Behold piety

   and wisdom; of which he might be ignorant, though he had perfect

   knowledge of these things; but these things, since, knowing not, he

   most impudently dared to teach, he plainly could have no knowledge of

   piety. For it is vanity to make profession of these worldly things even

   when known; but confession to Thee is piety. Wherefore this wanderer to

   this end spake much of these things, that convicted by those who had

   truly learned them, it might be manifest what understanding he had in

   the other abstruser things. For he would not have himself meanly

   thought of, but went about to persuade men, "That the Holy Ghost, the

   Comforter and Enricher of Thy faithful ones, was with plenary authority

   personally within him." When then he was found out to have taught

   falsely of the heaven and stars, and of the motions of the sun and moon

   (although these things pertain not to the doctrine of religion), yet

   his sacrilegious presumption would become evident enough, seeing he

   delivered things which not only he knew not, but which were falsified,

   with so mad a vanity of pride, that he sought to ascribe them to

   himself, as to a divine person.


   For when I hear any Christian brother ignorant of these things, and

   mistaken on them, I can patiently behold such a man holding his

   opinion; nor do I see that any ignorance as to the position or

   character of the corporeal creation can injure him, so long as he doth

   not believe any thing unworthy of Thee, O Lord, the Creator of all. But

   it doth injure him, if he imagine it to pertain to the form of the

   doctrine of piety, and will yet affirm that too stiffly whereof he is

   ignorant. And yet is even such an infirmity, in the infancy of faith,

   borne by our mother Charity, till the new-born may grow up unto a

   perfect man, so as not to be carried about with every wind of doctrine.

   But in him who in such wise presumed to be the teacher, source, guide,

   chief of all whom he could so persuade, that whoso followed him thought

   that he followed, not a mere man, but Thy Holy Spirit; who would not

   judge that so great madness, when once convicted of having taught any

   thing false, were to be detested and utterly rejected? But I had not as

   yet clearly ascertained whether the vicissitudes of longer and shorter

   days and nights, and of day and night itself, with the eclipses of the

   greater lights, and whatever else of the kind I had read of in other

   books, might be explained consistently with his sayings; so that, if

   they by any means might, it should still remain a question to me

   whether it were so or no; but I might, on account of his reputed

   sanctity, rest my credence upon his authority.




   And for almost all those nine years, wherein with unsettled mind I had

   been their disciple, I had longed but too intensely for the coming of

   this Faustus. For the rest of the sect, whom by chance I had lighted

   upon, when unable to solve my objections about these things, still held

   out to me the coming of this Faustus, by conference with whom these and

   greater difficulties, if I had them, were to be most readily and

   abundantly cleared. When then he came, I found him a man of pleasing

   discourse, and who could speak fluently and in better terms, yet still

   but the self-same things which they were wont to say. But what availed

   the utmost neatness of the cup-bearer to my thirst for a more precious

   draught? Mine ears were already cloyed with the like, nor did they seem

   to me therefore better, because better said; nor therefore true,

   because eloquent; nor the soul therefore wise, because the face was

   comely, and the language graceful. But they who held him out to me were

   no good judges of things; and therefore to them he appeared

   understanding and wise, because in words pleasing. I felt however that

   another sort of people were suspicious even of truth, and refused to

   assent to it, if delivered in a smooth and copious discourse. But Thou,

   O my God, hadst already taught me by wonderful and secret ways, and

   therefore I believe that Thou taughtest me, because it is truth, nor is

   there besides Thee any teacher of truth, where or whencesoever it may

   shine upon us. Of Thyself therefore had I now learned, that neither

   ought any thing to seem to be spoken truly, because eloquently; nor

   therefore falsely, because the utterance of the lips is inharmonious;

   nor, again, therefore true, because rudely delivered; nor therefore

   false, because the language is rich; but that wisdom and folly are as

   wholesome and unwholesome food; and adorned or unadorned phrases as

   courtly or country vessels; either kind of meats may be served up in

   either kind of dishes.


   That greediness then, wherewith I had of so long time expected that

   man, was delighted verily with his action and feeling when disputing,

   and his choice and readiness of words to clothe his ideas. I was then

   delighted, and, with many others and more than they, did I praise and

   extol him. It troubled me, however, that in the assembly of his

   auditors, I was not allowed to put in and communicate those questions

   that troubled me, in familiar converse with him. Which when I might,

   and with my friends began to engage his ears at such times as it was

   not unbecoming for him to discuss with me, and had brought forward such

   things as moved me; I found him first utterly ignorant of liberal

   sciences, save grammar, and that but in an ordinary way. But because he

   had read some of Tully's Orations, a very few books of Seneca, some

   things of the poets, and such few volumes of his own sect as were

   written in Latin and neatly, and was daily practised in speaking, he

   acquired a certain eloquence, which proved the more pleasing and

   seductive because under the guidance of a good wit, and with a kind of

   natural gracefulness. Is it not thus, as I recall it, O Lord my God,

   Thou judge of my conscience? before Thee is my heart, and my

   remembrance, Who didst at that time direct me by the hidden mystery of

   Thy providence, and didst set those shameful errors of mine before my

   face, that I might see and hate them.




   For after it was clear that he was ignorant of those arts in which I

   thought he excelled, I began to despair of his opening and solving the

   difficulties which perplexed me (of which indeed however ignorant, he

   might have held the truths of piety, had he not been a Manichee). For

   their books are fraught with prolix fables, of the heaven, and stars,

   sun, and moon, and I now no longer thought him able satisfactorily to

   decide what I much desired, whether, on comparison of these things with

   the calculations I had elsewhere read, the account given in the books

   of Manichaeus were preferable, or at least as good. Which when I

   proposed to he considered and discussed, he, so far modestly, shrunk

   from the burthen. For he knew that he knew not these things, and was

   not ashamed to confess it. For he was not one of those talking persons,

   many of whom I had endured, who undertook to teach me these things, and

   said nothing. But this man had a heart, though not right towards Thee,

   yet neither altogether treacherous to himself. For he was not

   altogether ignorant of his own ignorance, nor would he rashly be

   entangled in a dispute, whence he could neither retreat nor extricate

   himself fairly. Even for this I liked him the better. For fairer is the

   modesty of a candid mind, than the knowledge of those things which I

   desired; and such I found him, in all the more difficult and subtile



   My zeal for the writings of Manichaeus being thus blunted, and

   despairing yet more of their other teachers, seeing that in divers

   things which perplexed me, he, so renowned among them, had so turned

   out; I began to engage with him in the study of that literature, on

   which he also was much set (and which as rhetoric-reader I was at that

   time teaching young students at Carthage), and to read with him, either

   what himself desired to hear, or such as I judged fit for his genius.

   But all my efforts whereby I had purposed to advance in that sect, upon

   knowledge of that man, came utterly to an end; not that I detached

   myself from them altogether, but as one finding nothing better, I had

   settled to be content meanwhile with what I had in whatever way fallen

   upon, unless by chance something more eligible should dawn upon me.

   Thus, that Faustus, to so many a snare of death, had now neither

   willing nor witting it, begun to loosen that wherein I was taken. For

   Thy hands, O my God, in the secret purpose of Thy providence, did not

   forsake my soul; and out of my mother's heart's blood, through her

   tears night and day poured out, was a sacrifice offered for me unto

   Thee; and Thou didst deal with me by wondrous ways. Thou didst it, O my

   God: for the steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, and He shall

   dispose his way. Or how shall we obtain salvation, but from Thy hand,

   re-making what it made?




   Thou didst deal with me, that I should be persuaded to go to Rome, and

   to teach there rather, what I was teaching at Carthage. And how I was

   persuaded to this, I will not neglect to confess to Thee; because

   herein also the deepest recesses of Thy wisdom, and Thy most present

   mercy to us, must be considered and confessed. I did not wish therefore

   to go to Rome, because higher gains and higher dignities were warranted

   me by my friends who persuaded me to this (though even these things had

   at that time an influence over my mind), but my chief and almost only

   reason was, that I heard that young men studied there more peacefully,

   and were kept quiet under a restraint of more regular discipline; so

   that they did not, at their pleasures, petulantly rush into the school

   of one whose pupils they were not, nor were even admitted without his

   permission. Whereas at Carthage there reigns among the scholars a most

   disgraceful and unruly licence. They burst in audaciously, and with

   gestures almost frantic, disturb all order which any one hath

   established for the good of his scholars. Divers outrages they commit,

   with a wonderful stolidity, punishable by law, did not custom uphold

   them; that custom evincing them to be the more miserable, in that they

   now do as lawful what by Thy eternal law shall never be lawful; and

   they think they do it unpunished, whereas they are punished with the

   very blindness whereby they do it, and suffer incomparably worse than

   what they do. The manners then which, when a student, I would not make

   my own, I was fain as a teacher to endure in others: and so I was well

   pleased to go where, all that knew it, assured me that the like was not

   done. But Thou, my refuge and my portion in the land of the living;

   that I might change my earthly dwelling for the salvation of my soul,

   at Carthage didst goad me, that I might thereby be torn from it; and at

   Rome didst proffer me allurements, whereby I might be drawn thither, by

   men in love with a dying life, the one doing frantic, the other

   promising vain, things; and, to correct my steps, didst secretly use

   their and my own perverseness. For both they who disturbed my quiet

   were blinded with a disgraceful frenzy, and they who invited me

   elsewhere savoured of earth. And I, who here detested real misery, was

   there seeking unreal happiness.


   But why I went hence, and went thither, Thou knewest, O God, yet

   showedst it neither to me, nor to my mother, who grievously bewailed my

   journey, and followed me as far as the sea. But I deceived her, holding

   me by force, that either she might keep me back or go with me, and I

   feigned that I had a friend whom I could not leave, till he had a fair

   wind to sail. And I lied to my mother, and such a mother, and escaped:

   for this also hast Thou mercifully forgiven me, preserving me, thus

   full of execrable defilements, from the waters of the sea, for the

   water of Thy Grace; whereby when I was cleansed, the streams of my

   mother's eyes should be dried, with which for me she daily watered the

   ground under her face. And yet refusing to return without me, I

   scarcely persuaded her to stay that night in a place hard by our ship,

   where was an Oratory in memory of the blessed Cyprian. That night I

   privily departed, but she was not behind in weeping and prayer. And

   what, O Lord, was she with so many tears asking of Thee, but that Thou

   wouldest not suffer me to sail? But Thou, in the depth of Thy counsels

   and hearing the main point of her desire, regardest not what she then

   asked, that Thou mightest make me what she ever asked. The wind blew

   and swelled our sails, and withdrew the shore from our sight; and she

   on the morrow was there, frantic with sorrow, and with complaints and

   groans filled Thine ears, Who didst then disregard them; whilst through

   my desires, Thou wert hurrying me to end all desire, and the earthly

   part of her affection to me was chastened by the allotted scourge of

   sorrows. For she loved my being with her, as mothers do, but much more

   than many; and she knew not how great joy Thou wert about to work for

   her out of my absence. She knew not; therefore did she weep and wail,

   and by this agony there appeared in her the inheritance of Eve, with

   sorrow seeking what in sorrow she had brought forth. And yet, after

   accusing my treachery and hardheartedness, she betook herself again to

   intercede to Thee for me, went to her wonted place, and I to Rome.




   And lo, there was I received by the scourge of bodily sickness, and I

   was going down to hell, carrying all the sins which I had committed,

   both against Thee, and myself, and others, many and grievous, over and

   above that bond of original sin, whereby we all die in Adam. For Thou

   hadst not forgiven me any of these things in Christ, nor had He

   abolished by His Cross the enmity which by my sins I had incurred with

   Thee. For how should He, by the crucifixion of a phantasm, which I

   believed Him to be? So true, then, was the death of my soul, as that of

   His flesh seemed to me false; and how true the death of His body, so

   false was the life of my soul, which did not believe it. And now the

   fever heightening, I was parting and departing for ever. For had I then

   parted hence, whither had I departed, but into fire and torments, such

   as my misdeeds deserved in the truth of Thy appointment? And this she

   knew not, yet in absence prayed for me. But Thou, everywhere present,

   heardest her where she was, and, where I was, hadst compassion upon me;

   that I should recover the health of my body, though frenzied as yet in

   my sacrilegious heart. For I did not in all that danger desire Thy

   baptism; and I was better as a boy, when I begged it of my mother's

   piety, as I have before recited and confessed. But I had grown up to my

   own shame, and I madly scoffed at the prescripts of Thy medicine, who

   wouldest not suffer me, being such, to die a double death. With which

   wound had my mother's heart been pierced, it could never be healed. For

   I cannot express the affection she bore to me, and with how much more

   vehement anguish she was now in labour of me in the spirit, than at her

   childbearing in the flesh.


   I see not then how she should have been healed, had such a death of

   mine stricken through the bowels of her love. And where would have been

   those her so strong and unceasing prayers, unintermitting to Thee

   alone? But wouldest Thou, God of mercies, despise the contrite and

   humbled heart of that chaste and sober widow, so frequent in almsdeeds,

   so full of duty and service to Thy saints, no day intermitting the

   oblation at Thine altar, twice a day, morning and evening, without any

   intermission, coming to Thy church, not for idle tattlings and old

   wives' fables; but that she might hear Thee in Thy discourses, and Thou

   her in her prayers. Couldest Thou despise and reject from Thy aid the

   tears of such an one, wherewith she begged of Thee not gold or silver,

   nor any mutable or passing good, but the salvation of her son's soul?

   Thou, by whose gift she was such? Never, Lord. Yea, Thou wert at hand,

   and wert hearing and doing, in that order wherein Thou hadst determined

   before that it should be done. Far be it that Thou shouldest deceive

   her in Thy visions and answers, some whereof I have, some I have not

   mentioned, which she laid up in her faithful heart, and ever praying,

   urged upon Thee, as Thine own handwriting. For Thou, because Thy mercy

   endureth for ever, vouchsafest to those to whom Thou forgivest all of

   their debts, to become also a debtor by Thy promises.




   Thou recoveredst me then of that sickness, and healedst the son of Thy

   handmaid, for the time in body, that he might live, for Thee to bestow

   upon him a better and more abiding health. And even then, at Rome, I

   joined myself to those deceiving and deceived "holy ones"; not with

   their disciples only (of which number was he, in whose house I had

   fallen sick and recovered); but also with those whom they call "The

   Elect." For I still thought "that it was not we that sin, but that I

   know not what other nature sinned in us"; and it delighted my pride, to

   be free from blame; and when I had done any evil, not to confess I had

   done any, that Thou mightest heal my soul because it had sinned against

   Thee: but I loved to excuse it, and to accuse I know not what other

   thing, which was with me, but which I was not. But in truth it was

   wholly I, and mine impiety had divided me against myself: and that sin

   was the more incurable, whereby I did not judge myself a sinner; and

   execrable iniquity it was, that I had rather have Thee, Thee, O God

   Almighty, to be overcome in me to my destruction, than myself of Thee

   to salvation. Not as yet then hadst Thou set a watch before my mouth,

   and a door of safe keeping around my lips, that my heart might not turn

   aside to wicked speeches, to make excuses of sins, with men that work

   iniquity; and, therefore, was I still united with their Elect.


   But now despairing to make proficiency in that false doctrine, even

   those things (with which if I should find no better, I had resolved to

   rest contented) I now held more laxly and carelessly. For there half

   arose a thought in me that those philosophers, whom they call

   Academics, were wiser than the rest, for that they held men ought to

   doubt everything, and laid down that no truth can be comprehended by

   man: for so, not then understanding even their meaning, I also was

   clearly convinced that they thought, as they are commonly reported. Yet

   did I freely and openly discourage that host of mine from that

   over-confidence which I perceived him to have in those fables, which

   the books of Manichaeus are full of. Yet I lived in more familiar

   friendship with them, than with others who were not of this heresy. Nor

   did I maintain it with my ancient eagerness; still my intimacy with

   that sect (Rome secretly harbouring many of them) made me slower to

   seek any other way: especially since I despaired of finding the truth,

   from which they had turned me aside, in Thy Church, O Lord of heaven

   and earth, Creator of all things visible and invisible: and it seemed

   to me very unseemly to believe Thee to have the shape of human flesh,

   and to be bounded by the bodily lineaments of our members. And because,

   when I wished to think on my God, I knew not what to think of, but a

   mass of bodies (for what was not such did not seem to me to be

   anything), this was the greatest, and almost only cause of my

   inevitable error.


   For hence I believed Evil also to be some such kind of substance, and

   to have its own foul and hideous bulk; whether gross, which they called

   earth, or thin and subtile (like the body of the air), which they

   imagine to be some malignant mind, creeping through that earth. And

   because a piety, such as it was, constrained me to believe that the

   good God never created any evil nature, I conceived two masses,

   contrary to one another, both unbounded, but the evil narrower, the

   good more expansive. And from this pestilent beginning, the other

   sacrilegious conceits followed on me. For when my mind endeavoured to

   recur to the Catholic faith, I was driven back, since that was not the

   Catholic faith which I thought to be so. And I seemed to myself more

   reverential, if I believed of Thee, my God (to whom Thy mercies confess

   out of my mouth), as unbounded, at least on other sides, although on

   that one where the mass of evil was opposed to Thee, I was constrained

   to confess Thee bounded; than if on all sides I should imagine Thee to

   be bounded by the form of a human body. And it seemed to me better to

   believe Thee to have created no evil (which to me ignorant seemed not

   some only, but a bodily substance, because I could not conceive of mind

   unless as a subtile body, and that diffused in definite spaces), than

   to believe the nature of evil, such as I conceived it, could come from

   Thee. Yea, and our Saviour Himself, Thy Only Begotten, I believed to

   have been reached forth (as it were) for our salvation, out of the mass

   of Thy most lucid substance, so as to believe nothing of Him, but what

   I could imagine in my vanity. His Nature then, being such, I thought

   could not be born of the Virgin Mary, without being mingled with the

   flesh: and how that which I had so figured to myself could be mingled,

   and not defiled, I saw not. I feared therefore to believe Him born in

   the flesh, lest I should be forced to believe Him defiled by the flesh.

   Now will Thy spiritual ones mildly and lovingly smile upon me, if they

   shall read these my confessions. Yet such was I.




   Furthermore, what the Manichees had criticised in Thy Scriptures, I

   thought could not be defended; yet at times verily I had a wish to

   confer upon these several points with some one very well skilled in

   those books, and to make trial what he thought thereon; for the words

   of one Helpidius, as he spoke and disputed face to face against the

   said Manichees, had begun to stir me even at Carthage: in that he had

   produced things out of the Scriptures, not easily withstood, the

   Manichees' answer whereto seemed to me weak. And this answer they liked

   not to give publicly, but only to us in private. It was, that the

   Scriptures of the New Testament had been corrupted by I know not whom,

   who wished to engraff the law of the Jews upon the Christian faith: yet

   themselves produced not any uncorrupted copies. But I, conceiving of

   things corporeal only, was mainly held down, vehemently oppressed and

   in a manner suffocated by those "masses"; panting under which after the

   breath of Thy truth, I could not breathe it pure and untainted.




   I began then diligently to practise that for which I came to Rome, to

   teach rhetoric; and first, to gather some to my house, to whom, and

   through whom, I had begun to be known; when to, I found other offences

   committed in Rome, to which I was not exposed in Africa. True, those

   "subvertings" by profligate young men were not here practised, as was

   told me: but on a sudden, said they, to avoid paying their master's

   stipend, a number of youths plot together, and remove to

   another;--breakers of faith, who for love of money hold justice cheap.

   These also my heart hated, though not with a perfect hatred: for

   perchance I hated them more because I was to suffer by them, than

   because they did things utterly unlawful. Of a truth such are base

   persons, and they go a whoring from Thee, loving these fleeting

   mockeries of things temporal, and filthy lucre, which fouls the hand

   that grasps it; hugging the fleeting world, and despising Thee, Who

   abidest, and recallest, and forgivest the adulteress soul of man, when

   she returns to Thee. And now I hate such depraved and crooked persons,

   though I love them if corrigible, so as to prefer to money the learning

   which they acquire, and to learning, Thee, O God, the truth and fulness

   of assured good, and most pure peace. But then I rather for my own sake

   misliked them evil, than liked and wished them good for Thine.




   When therefore they of Milan had sent to Rome to the prefect of the

   city, to furnish them with a rhetoric reader for their city, and sent

   him at the public expense, I made application (through those very

   persons, intoxicated with Manichaean vanities, to be freed wherefrom I

   was to go, neither of us however knowing it) that Symmachus, then

   prefect of the city, would try me by setting me some subject, and so

   send me. To Milan I came, to Ambrose the Bishop, known to the whole

   world as among the best of men, Thy devout servant; whose eloquent

   discourse did then plentifully dispense unto Thy people the flour of

   Thy wheat, the gladness of Thy oil, and the sober inebriation of Thy

   wine. To him was I unknowing led by Thee, that by him I might knowingly

   be led to Thee. That man of God received me as a father, and showed me

   an Episcopal kindness on my coming. Thenceforth I began to love him, at

   first indeed not as a teacher of the truth (which I utterly despaired

   of in Thy Church), but as a person kind towards myself. And I listened

   diligently to him preaching to the people, not with that intent I

   ought, but, as it were, trying his eloquence, whether it answered the

   fame thereof, or flowed fuller or lower than was reported; and I hung

   on his words attentively; but of the matter I was as a careless and

   scornful looker-on; and I was delighted with the sweetness of his

   discourse, more recondite, yet in manner less winning and harmonious,

   than that of Faustus. Of the matter, however, there was no comparison;

   for the one was wandering amid Manichaean delusions, the other teaching

   salvation most soundly. But salvation is far from sinners, such as I

   then stood before him; and yet was I drawing nearer by little and

   little, and unconsciously.




   For though I took no pains to learn what he spake, but only to hear how

   he spake (for that empty care alone was left me, despairing of a way,

   open for man, to Thee), yet together with the words which I would

   choose, came also into my mind the things which I would refuse; for I

   could not separate them. And while I opened my heart to admit "how

   eloquently he spake," there also entered "how truly he spake"; but this

   by degrees. For first, these things also had now begun to appear to me

   capable of defence; and the Catholic faith, for which I had thought

   nothing could be said against the Manichees' objections, I now thought

   might be maintained without shamelessness; especially after I had heard

   one or two places of the Old Testament resolved, and ofttimes "in a

   figure," which when I understood literally, I was slain spiritually.

   Very many places then of those books having been explained, I now

   blamed my despair, in believing that no answer could be given to such

   as hated and scoffed at the Law and the Prophets. Yet did I not

   therefore then see that the Catholic way was to be held, because it

   also could find learned maintainers, who could at large and with some

   show of reason answer objections; nor that what I held was therefore to

   be condemned, because both sides could be maintained. For the Catholic

   cause seemed to me in such sort not vanquished, as still not as yet to

   be victorious.


   Hereupon I earnestly bent my mind, to see if in any way I could by any

   certain proof convict the Manichees of falsehood. Could I once have

   conceived a spiritual substance, all their strongholds had been beaten

   down, and cast utterly out of my mind; but I could not.

   Notwithstanding, concerning the frame of this world, and the whole of

   nature, which the senses of the flesh can reach to, as I more and more

   considered and compared things, I judged the tenets of most of the

   philosophers to have been much more probable. So then after the manner

   of the Academics (as they are supposed) doubting of every thing, and

   wavering between all, I settled so far, that the Manichees were to be

   abandoned; judging that, even while doubting, I might not continue in

   that sect, to which I already preferred some of the philosophers; to

   which philosophers notwithstanding, for that they were without the

   saving Name of Christ, I utterly refused to commit the cure of my sick

   soul. I determined therefore so long to be a Catechumen in the Catholic

   Church, to which I had been commended by my parents, till something

   certain should dawn upon me, whither I might steer my course.



<--Table Of Contents

Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com