Writings of Augustine. The Confessions of St. Augustin

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The Confessions of St. Augustin

St. Aurelius Augustin, Bishop of Hippo

In Thirteen Books

Translated and Annotated by J.G. Pilkington, M.A., Vicar of St. Mark's, West Hackney; And Sometime Clerical Secretary of the Bishop of London's Fund.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

"Thou has formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee."--Confessions, i. 1.

"The joy of the solemn service of Thy house constraineth to tears, when it is read of Thy younger son [Luke xv. 24] `that he was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.'"--Ibid. viii. 6.

Translator's Preface

"If St. Augustin," says Nourrisson [74] , "had left nothing but his Confessions and the City of God, one could readily understand the respectful sympathy that surrounds his memory. How, indeed, could one fail to admire in the City of God the flight of genius, and in the Confessions, what is better still, the effusions of a great soul?" It may be safely predicted, that while the mind of man yearns for knowledge, and his heart seeks rest, the Confessions will retain that foremost place in the world's literature which it has secured by its sublime outpourings of devotion and profound philosophical spirit. There is in the book a wonderful combination of childlike piety and intellectual power. Desjardins' idea, [75] that, while in Augustin's other works we see the philosopher or the controversialist, here we see the man, is only to be accepted as a comparative statement of Augustin's attitude in the Confessions; for philosophy and piety are in many of his reflections as it were molten into one homogeneous whole. In his highest intellectual flights we find the breathings of faith and love, and, amid the profoundest expressions of penitential sorrow, gleams of his metaphysical genius appear.

It may, indeed, be from the man's showing himself so little, as distinguished from the philosopher, that some readers are a little disappointed in the book. They have expected to meet with a copiousness of biographic details, and have found, commingled with such as are given, long disquisitions on Manichæanism, Time, Creation, and Memory. To avoid such disappointment we must ascertain the author's design. The book is emphatically not an autobiography. There is in it an outline of the author's life up to his mother's death; but only so much of detail is given as may subserve his main purpose. That purpose is clearly explained in the fourth section of his Tenth Book. It was that the impenitent on reading it might not say, "I cannot," and "sleep in despair," but rather that, looking to that God who had raised the writer from his low estate of pride and sin to be a pillar of the Church, he might take courage, and "awake in the sweetness of His grace, by which he that is weak is made strong;" and that those no longer in sin might rejoice and praise God as they heard of the past lusts of him who was now freed from them. [76] This, his design of encouraging penitence and stimulating praise, is referred to in his Retractations, [77] and in his Letter to Darius. [78]

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These two main ideas are embodied in the very meaning of the title of the book, the word confession having, as Augustin constantly urges, two meanings. In his exposition of the Psalms we read: "Confession is understood in two senses, of our sins, and of God's praise. Confession of our sins is well known, so well known to all the people, that whenever they hear the name of confession in the lessons, whether it is said in praise or of sin, they beat their breasts." [79] Again: "Confession of sin all know, but confession of praise few attend to." [80] "The former but showeth the wound to the physician, the latter giveth thanks for health." [81] He would therefore have his hearers make the sacrifice of praise their ideal, since, in the City of God, even in the New Jerusalem, there will be no longer confession of sin, but there will be confession of praise. [82] It is not surprising, that with this view of confession he should hinge on the incidents of his life such considerations as tend to elevate the mind and heart of the reader. When, for example, he speaks of his youthful sins, [83] he diverges into a disquisition on the motives to sin; when his friend dies, [84] he moralizes on death; and--to give one example of a reverse process--his profound psychological review of memory [85] recalls his former sin (which at times haunts him in his dreams), and leads up to devout reflections on God's power to cleanse from sin. This undertone of penitence and praise which pervades the Confessions in all its episodes, like the golden threads which run through the texture of an Eastern garment, presents one of its peculiar charms.

It would not be right to overlook a charge that has been brought against the book by Lord Byron. He says, "Augustin in his fine Confessions makes the reader envy his transgressions." Nothing could be more reckless or further from the truth than this charge. There is here no dwelling on his sin, or painting it so as to satisfy a prurient imagination. As we have already remarked, Augustin's manner is not to go into detail further than to find a position from which to "edify" the reader, and he treats this episode in his life with his characteristic delicacy and reticence. His sin was dead; and he had carried it to its burial with tears of repentance. And when, ten years after his baptism, he sets himself, at the request of some, to a consideration of what he then was at the moment of making his confessions, [86] he refers hardly at all to this sin of his youth; and such allusions as he does make are of the most casual kind. Instead of enlarging upon it, he treats it as past, and only speaks of temptation and sin as they are common to all men. Many of the French writers on the Confessions [87] institute a comparison in this matter between the confessions of Augustin and those of Rousseau. Pressensť [88] draws attention to the delicacy and reserve which characterise the one, and the arrogant defiance of God and man manifested in the other. The confessions of the one he speaks of as "un grand acte de repentir et d'amour;" and eloquently says, "In it he seems, like the Magdalen, to have spread his box of perfumes at the foot of the Saviour; from his stricken heart there exhales the incense most agreeable to God--the homage of true penitence." The other he truly describes as uttering "a cry of triumph in the very midst of his sin, and robing his shame in a royal purple." Well may Desjardins [89] express surprise at a book of such foulness coming from a genius so great; and perhaps his solution of the enigma is not far from the truth, when he attributes it to an overweening vanity and egotism. [90]

It is right to point out, in connection with this part of our subject, that in regard to some at least of Augustin's self-accusations, [91] there may be a little of that pious exaggeration of his sinfulness which, as Lord Macaulay points out in his essays on Bunyan, [92] frequently characterises deep penitence. But however this may be, justice requires us to remember, in considering his transgression, that from his very childhood he had been surrounded by a condition of civilisation presenting manifold temptations. Carthage, where he spent a large part of his life, had become, since its restoration and colonization under Augustus Cæsar, an "exceeding great city," in wealth and importance next to Rome. [93] "African Paganism," says Pressensť, [94] "was half Asiatic; the ancient worship of nature, the adoration of Astarte, had full licence in the city of Carthage; Dido had become a mythological being, whom this dissolute city had made its protecting divinity, and it is easy to recognise in her the great goddess of Phoenicia under a new name." The luxury of the period is described by Jerome and Tertullian, when they denounce the custom of painting the face and tiring the head, and the prodigality that would give 25,000 golden crowns for a veil, immense revenues for a pair of ear-rings, and the value of a forest or an island for a head-dress. [95] And Jerome, in one of his epistles, gives an illustration of the Church's relation to the Pagan world at that time, when he represents an old priest of Jupiter with his grand-daughter, a catechumen, on his knee, who responds to his caresses by singing canticles. [96] It was a time when we can imagine one of Augustin's parents going to the Colosseum, and enjoying the lasciviousness of its displays, and its gladiatorial shows, with their contempt of human life; while the other carefully shunned such scenes, as being under the ban of the teachers of the Church. [97] It was an age in which there was action and reaction between religion and philosophy; but in which the power of Christianity was so great in its influences on Paganism, that some received the Christian Scriptures only to embody in their phraseology the ideas of heathenism. Of this last point Manichæanism presents an illustration. Now all these influences left their mark on Augustin. In his youth he plunged deep into the pleasures of his day; and we know how he endeavoured to find in Manichæanism a solution of those speculations which haunted his subtle and inquiring mind. Augustin at this time, then, is not to be taken as a type of what Christianity produced. He is to a great extent the outgrowth of the Pagan influences of the time. Considerations such as these may enable us to judge of his early sin more justly than if we measured it by our own privileges and opportunities.

The style of Augustin is sometimes criticised as not having the refinement of Virgil, Horace, or Cicero. But it should be remembered that he wrote in a time of national decay; and further, as Desjardins has remarked in the introduction to his essay, he had no time "to cut his phrases." From the period of his conversion to that of his death, he was constantly engaged in controversy with this or that heresy; and if he did not write with classical accuracy, he so inspired the language with his genius, and moulded it by his fire, [98] that it appears almost to pulsate with the throbbings of his brain. He seems likewise to have despised mere elegance, for in his Confessions, [99] when speaking of the style of Faustus, he says, "What profit to me was the elegance of my cup-bearer, since he offered me not the more precious draught for which I thirsted?" In this connection the remarks of Collenges [100] are worthy of note. He says, when anticipating objections that might be made to his own style: "It was the last of my study; my opinion always was what Augustin calls diligens negligentia was the best diligence as to that; while I was yet a very young man I had learned out of him that it was no solecism in a preacher to use ossum for os, for (saith he) an iron key is better than one made of gold if it will better open the door, for that is all the use of the key. I had learned out of Hierom that a gaudry of phrases and words in a pulpit is but signum insipientiæ. The words of a preacher, saith he, ought pungere, non palpare, to prick the heart, not to smooth and coax. The work of an orator is too precarious for a minister of the gospel. Gregory observed that our Saviour had not styled us the sugar but the salt of the earth, and Augustin observeth, that though Cyprian in one epistle showed much of a florid orator, to show he could do it, yet he never would do so any more, to show he would not."

There are several features in the Confessions deserving of remark, as being of special interest to the philosopher, the historian or the divine.

1. Chiefest amongst these is the intense desire for knowledge and the love of truth which characterised Augustin. This was noticeable before his conversion in his hungering after such knowledge as Manichæanism and the philosophy of the time could afford. [101] It is none the less observable in that better time, when, in his quiet retreat at Cassiciacum, he sought to strengthen the foundations of his faith, and resolved to give himself up to the acquisition of divine knowledge. [102] It was seen, too, in the many conflicts in which he was engaged with Donatists, Manichæans, Arians, and Pelagians, and in his earnest study of the deep things of God. This love of knowledge is perhaps conveyed in the beautiful legend quoted by Nourisson, [103] of the monk wrapped in spirit, who expressed astonishment at not seeing Augustin among the elect in heaven. "He is higher up," he was answered, "he is standing before the Holy Trinity disputing thereon for all eternity."

While from the time of his conversion we find him holding on to the fundamental doctrines of the faith with the tenacity of one who had experienced the hollowness of the teachings of philosophy, [104] this passion for truth led him to handle most freely subjects of speculation in things non-essential. [105] But whether viewed as a controversialist, a student of Scripture, or a bishop of the Church of God, he ever manifests those qualities of mind and heart that gained for him not only the affection of the Church, but the esteem of his unorthodox opponents. To quote Guizot's discriminating words, there was in him "ce mťlange de passion et de douccur, d'autorite et de sympathie, d'ctendue d'esprit et de rigueur logique, qui lui donnait un si rare pouvoir." [106]

2. It is to this eager desire for truth in his many-sided mind that we owe those trains of thought that read like forecasts of modern opinion. We have called attention to some such anticipations of modern thought as they recur in the notes throughout the book; but the speculations on Memory, Time, and Creation, which occupy so large a space in Books Ten and Eleven, deserve more particular notice. The French essayists have entered very fully into these questions. M. Saisset, in his admirable introduction to the De Civitate Dei, [107] reviews Augustin's theories as to the mysterious problems connected with the idea of Creation. He says, that in his subtle analysis of Time, and in his attempt at reconciling "the eternity of creative action with the dependence of things created,...he has touched with a bold and delicate hand one of the deepest mysteries of the human mind, and that to all his glorious titles he has added another, that of an ingenious psychologist and an eminent metaphysician." Desjardins likewise commends the depth of Augustin's speculations as to Time, [108] and maintains that no one's teaching as to Creation has shown more clearness, boldness, and vigor--avoiding the perils of dualism on the one hand, and atheism on the other. [109] In his remarks on Augustin's disquisitions on the phenomena of Memory, his praise is of a more qualified character. He compares his theories with those of Malebranche, and, while recognising the practical and animated character of his descriptions, thinks him obscure in his delineation of the manner in which absent realities reproduce themselves on the memory. [110]

We have had occasion in the notes to refer to the Unseen Universe. The authors of this powerful "Apologia" for Christianity propose it chiefly as an antidote to the materialistic disbelief in the immortality of the soul amongst scientific men, which has resulted in this age from the recent advance in physical science; just as in the last century English deism had its rise in a similar influence. It is curious, in connection with this part of our subject, to note that in leading up to the conclusion at which he arrives, M. Saisset quotes a passage from the City of God, [111] which contains an adumbration of the theory of the above work in regard to the eternity of the invisible universe. [112] Verily, the saying of the wise man is true: "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." [113]

3. We have already, in a previous paragraph, briefly adverted to the influence Christianity and Paganism had one on the other. The history of Christianity has been a steady advance on Paganism and Pagan philosophy; but it can hardly be denied that in this advance there has been an absorption--and in some periods in no small degree--of some of their elements. As these matters have been examined in the notes, we need not do more than refer the reader to the Index of Subjects for the evidence to be obtained in this respect from the Confessions on such matters as Baptism, False Miracles, and Prayers for the Dead.

4. There is one feature in the Confessions which we should not like to pass unnoticed. A reference to the Retractations [114] will show that Augustin highly appreciated the spiritual use to which the book might be put in the edification of the brethren. We believe that it will prove most useful in this way; and spiritual benefit will accrue in proportion to the steadiness of its use. We would venture to suggest that Book X., from section 37 to the end, may be profitably used as a manual of self-examination. We have pointed out in a note, that in his comment on Ps. 8 he makes our Lord's three temptations to be types of all the temptations to which man can be subjected; and makes them correspond in their order, as given by St. Matthew, to "the Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life," mentioned by St. John. [115] Under each of these heads we have, in this part of the Confessions, a most severe examination of conscience; and the impression is deepened by his allegorically likening the three divisions of temptation to the beasts of the field, the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air. [116] We have already remarked, in adverting to allegorical interpretation, [117] that where "the strict use of the history is not disregarded," to use Augustin's expression, allegorizing, by way of spiritual meditation, may be profitable. Those who employ it with this idea will find their interpretations greatly aided, and made more systematic, by realizing Augustin's methods here and in the last two books of the Confessions,--as when he makes the sea to represent the wicked world, and the fruitful earth the Church. [118]

It only remains to call attention to the principles on which this translation and its annotations have been made. The text of the Benedictine edition has been followed; but the head-lines of the chapters are taken from the edition of Bruder, as being the more definite and full. After carefully translating the whole of the book, it has been compared, line by line, with the translation of Watts [119] (one of the most nervous translations of the seventeenth century), and that of Dr. Pusey, which is confessedly founded upon that of Watts. Reference has also been made, in the case of obscure passages, to the French translation of Du Bois, and the English translation of the first Ten Books alluded to in the note on Bk. ix. ch. 12. The references to Scripture are in the words of the Authorized Version wherever the sense will bear it; and whenever noteworthy variations from our version occur, they are indicated by references to the old Italic version, or to the Vulgate. In some cases, where Augustin has clearly referred to the LXX. in order to amend his version thereby, such variations are indicated. [120] The annotations are, for the most part, such as have been derived from the translator's own reading. Two exceptions, however, must be made. Out of upwards of four hundred notes, some forty are taken from the annotations in Pusey and Watts, but in every case these have been indicated by the initials E. B. P. or W. W. Dr. Pusey's annotations (which will be found chiefly in the earlier part of this work) consist almost entirely of quotations from other works of Augustin. These annotations are very copious, and Dr. Pusey explains that he resorted to this method "partly because this plan of illustrating St. Augustin out of himself had been already adopted by M. Du Bois in his Latin edition...and it seemed a pity not to use valuable materials ready collected to one's hand. The far greater part of these illustrations are taken from that edition." It seemed the most proper course, in using such notes of Du Bois as appeared suitable for this edition, to take them from Dr. Pusey's edition, and, as above stated, to indicate their source by his initials. A Textual Index has been added, for the first time, to this edition, and both it and the Index of Subjects have been prepared with the greatest possible care.

J. G. P.

St. Mark's Vicarage, West Hackney, 1876.

Footnotes

[74] Philosophie de St. Augustin, Preface. [75] Essai sur les Conf. de St. Aug. p. 5. [76] Confessions, x. sec. 4. [77] See the passage quoted immediately after this Preface. [78] Ep. ccxxxi. sec. 6. [79] Enarr. in Ps. cxli. sec. 19: see also in Ps. cxvii. sec. 1, xxix. sec. 19, xciv. sec. 4, and xxix. sec. 19. [80] Enarr. in Ps. cxxxvii. sec. 2. [81] Enarr. in Ps. cx. sec. 2. [82] In Ps. xliv. sec. 33, xcix, sec. 16. [83] Book ii. secs. 6-18. [84] Book iv. secs. 11-15 [85] Book x. secs. 41, 42. [86] Book x. sec. 4. [87] In addition to those referred to, there is one at the beginning of vol. ii. of Saint-Marc Girardin's Essais de Litťrature et de Morale, devoted to this subject. It has some good points in it, but has much of that sentimentality so often found in French criticisms. [88] Le Christianisme au QuatriŤme SiŤcle, p. 269. [89] Essai sur les Conf., etc. p. 12. [90] He concludes: "La folie de son orgueil, voila le mot de l'enigme, ou l'enigme n'en a pas."--Ibid. p. 13. [91] Compare Confessions, ii. sec. 2, and iii. sec. 1, with iv. sec. 2. [92] In vol. i. of his Crit. and Hist. Essays, and also in his Miscellaneous Writings. [93] Herodian Hist. vii. 6. [94] Le Christianisme, etc. as above, p. 274. [95] Quoted by Nourrisson, Philosophie, etc. ii. 436. [96] Ibid. ii. 434, 435. [97] See Confessions, iii. sec. 2, note, and vi. sec. 13, note. [98] See Poujoulat, Lettres de St. Augustin, Introd. p. 12, who compares the language of the time to Ezekiel's Valley of Dry Bones, and say Augustin inspired it with life. [99] Confessions, v. sec. 10. [100] The Intercourses of Divine Love betwixt Christ and His Church, Preface (1683). [101] See Confessions, iv. sec. 1, note. [102] Ibid. ix. sec. 7, note, and compare x. sec. 55, note. [103] Philosophie, etc. as above, i. 320. [104] See Confessions, xiii. sec. 33, note. [105] Ibid. xi. sec. 3, note 4. [106] Histoire de la Civilisation en France, I. 203 (1829). Guizot is speaking of Augustin's attitude in the Pelagian controversy. [107] A portion of this introduction will be found translated in Appendix ii. of M. Saisset's Essay on Religious Philosophy (Clark). [108] Essai, etc. as before, p. 129. [109] Essai, etc. p. 130. [110] Ibid. pp. 120-123. Nourrisson's criticism of Augustin's views on Memory may well be compared with that of Desjardins. He speaks of the powerful originality of Augustin--who is ingenious as well as new--and says some of his disquisitions are "the most admirable which have inspired psychological observation." And further, one does not meet in all the books of St. Augustin any philosophical theories which have greater depth than that on Memory."--Philosophie, etc. as above, I. 133. [111] Book xii. chap. 15. [112] This position is accepted by Leibnitz in his Essais de Thťodicťe. See also M. Saisset, as above, ii. 196-8 (Essay by the translator). [113] Eccles. i. 9. [114] Quoted immediately after this preface. [115] 1 John ii. 16. [116] See Confessions, v. sec. 4, note, and x. sec. 41, note. [117] See ibid. vi. sec. 5, note. [118] See Confessions, xiii. sec. 20, note 3, and sec. 21, note 1. [119] "St. Augustin's Confessions translated, and with some marginal notes illustrated by William Watts, Rector of St. Alban's, Wood St. (1631)." [120] For whatever our idea may be as to the extent of his knowledge of Greek, it is beyond dispute that he frequently had recourse to the Greek of the Old and New Testament with this view. See Nourrisson, Philosophie, etc. ii. p. 96.

The Opinion of St. Augustin

Concerning His Confessions, as Embodied in His Retractations, II. 6

1. "The Thirteen Books of my Confessions whether they refer to my evil or good, praise the just and good God, and stimulate the heart and mind of man to approach unto Him. And, as far as pertaineth unto me, they wrought this in me when they were written, and this they work when they are read. What some think of them they may have seen, but that they have given much pleasure, and do give pleasure, to many brethren I know. From the First to the Tenth they have been written of myself; in the remaining three, of the Sacred Scriptures, from the text, `In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,' even to the rest of the Sabbath (Gen. i. 1, ii. 2)."

2. "In the Fourth Book, when I acknowledged the distress of my mind at the death of a friend, saying, that our soul, though one, had been in some manner made out of two; and therefore, I say, perchance was I afraid to die lest he should die wholly whom I had so much loved (chap. vi.);--this seems to me as if it were a light declamation rather than a grave confession, although this folly may in some sort be tempered by that `perchance' which follows. And in the Thirteenth Book (chap. xxxii.) what I said, viz.: that the `firmament was made between the spiritual upper waters, and the corporeal lower waters,' was said without due consideration; but the thing is very obscure."

[In Ep. ad Darium, Ep. ccxxxi. c. 6, written a.d. 429, Augustin says: "Accept, my son, the books containing my Confessions which you desired to have. In these behold me that you may not praise me more than I deserve; there believe what is said of me, not by others, but by myself; there mark me, and see what I have been in myself, by myself; and if anything in me please you, join me in praising Him to whom, and not to myself, I desired praise to be given. For `He hath made us, and not we ourselves' (Ps. l. 3). Indeed, we had destroyed ourselves, but He who made us has made us anew (qui fecit, refecit). When, however, you find me in these books, pray for me that I may not fail, but be perfected (ne deficiam, sed perficiar). Pray, my son, pray. I feel what I say; I know what I ask."--P. S.]

[De Dono Perseverantiæ, c. 20 (53): "Which of my smaller works could be more widely known or give greater pleasure than my Confessions? And although I published them before the Pelagian heresy had come into existence, certainly in them I said to my God, and said it frequently, `Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou willest' (Conf. x. 19, 31, 37). Which words of mine, Pelagius at Rome, when they were mentioned in his presence by a certain brother and fellow-bishop of mine, could not bear....Moreover in those same books...I showed that I was granted to the faithful and daily tears of my mother, that I should not perish. There certainly I declared that God by His grace converted the will of men to the true faith, not only when they had been turned away from it, but even when they were opposed to it."--P. S.]


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Book I.

Commencing with the invocation of God, Augustin relates in detail the beginning of his life, his infancy and boyhood, up to his fifteenth year; at which age he acknowledges that he was more inclined to all youthful pleasures and vices than to the study of letters.


Chapter I.--He Proclaims the Greatness of God, Whom He Desires to Seek and Invoke, Being Awakened by Him.

1. Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is no end. [121] And man, being a part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou "resistest the proud," [122] --yet man, this part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee. [123] Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee. [124] Lord, teach me to know and understand which of these should be first, to call on Thee, or to praise Thee; and likewise to know Thee, or to call upon Thee. But who is there that calls upon Thee without knowing Thee? For he that knows Thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art. Or perhaps we call on Thee that we may know Thee. "But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher?" [125] And those who seek the Lord shall praise Him. [126] For those who seek shall find Him, [127] and those who find Him shall praise Him. Let me seek Thee, Lord, in calling on Thee, and call on Thee in believing in Thee; for Thou hast been preached unto us. O Lord, my faith calls on Thee,--that faith which Thou hast imparted to me, which Thou hast breathed into me through the incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of Thy preacher. [128]

Footnotes

[121] Ps. cxlv. 3, and cxlvii. 5. [122] Jas. iv. 6, and 1 Pet. v. 5. [123] Augustin begins with praise, and the whole book vibrates with praise. He says elsewhere (in Ps. cxlix.), that "as a new song fits not well an old man's lips, he should sing a new song who is a new creature and is living a new life;" and so from the time of his new birth, the "new song" of praise went up from him, and that "not of the lip only," but (ibid. cxlviii.) conscientia lingua vita. [124] And the rest which the Christian has here is but an earnest of the more perfect rest hereafter, when, as Augustin says (De Gen. ad. Lit.. xii. 26), "all virtue will be to love what one sees, and the highest felicity to have what one loves." [Watts, followed by Pusey, and Shedd, missed the paronomasia of the Latin: "cor nostrum inquietum est donec requiescat in Te," by translating: "our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee." It is the finest sentence in the whole book, and furnishes one of the best arguments for Christianity as the only religion which leads to that rest in God.--P. S.] [125] Rom. x. 14. [126] Ps. xxii. 26. [127] Matt. vii. 7. [128] That is, Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, who was instrumental in his conversion (vi. sec. 1; viii. sec. 28, etc.). "Before conversion," as Leighton observes on I Pet. ii. 1, 2, "wit or eloquence may draw a man to the word, and possibly prove a happy bait to catch him (as St. Augustin reports of his hearing St. Ambrose), but, once born again, then it is the milk itself that he desires for itself."


Chapter II.--That the God Whom We Invoke is in Us, and We in Him.

2. And how shall I call upon my God--my God and my Lord? For when I call on Him I ask Him to come into me. And what place is there in me into which my God can come--into which God can come, even He who made heaven and earth? Is there anything in me, O Lord my God, that can contain Thee? Do indeed the very heaven and the earth, which Thou hast made, and in which Thou hast made me, contain Thee? Or, as nothing could exist without Thee, doth whatever exists contain Thee? Why, then, do I ask Thee to come into me, since I indeed exist, and could not exist if Thou wert not in me? Because I am not yet in hell, though Thou art even there; for "if I go down into hell Thou art there." [129] I could not therefore exist, could not exist at all, O my God, unless Thou wert in me. Or should I not rather say, that I could not exist unless I were in Thee from whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things? [130] Even so, Lord; even so. Where do I call Thee to, since Thou art in me, or whence canst Thou come into me? For where outside heaven and earth can I go that from thence my God may come into me who has said, I fill heaven and earth"? [131]

Footnotes

[129] Ps. cxxxix. 8. [130] Rom. xi. 36. [131] Jer. xxiii. 24.


Chapter III.--Everywhere God Wholly Filleth All Things, But Neither Heaven Nor Earth Containeth Him.

3. Since, then, Thou fillest heaven and earth, do they contain Thee? Or, as they contain Thee not, dost Thou fill them, and yet there remains something over? And where dost Thou pour forth that which remaineth of Thee when the heaven and earth are filled? Or, indeed, is there no need that Thou who containest all things shouldest be contained of any, since those things which Thou fillest Thou fillest by containing them? For the vessels which Thou fillest do not sustain Thee, since should they even be broken Thou wilt not be poured forth. And when Thou art poured forth on us, [132] Thou art not cast down, but we are uplifted; nor art Thou dissipated, but we are drawn together. But, as Thou fillest all things, dost Thou fill them with Thy whole self, or, as even all things cannot altogether contain Thee, do they contain a part, and do all at once contain the same part? Or has each its own proper part--the greater more, the smaller less? Is, then, one part of Thee greater, another less? Or is it that Thou art wholly everywhere whilst nothing altogether contains Thee? [133]

Footnotes

[132] Acts ii. 18. [133] In this section, and constantly throughout the Confessions, he adverts to the materialistic views concerning God held by the Manichæans. See also sec. 10; iii. sec. 12; iv. sec. 31, etc. etc.


Chapter IV.--The Majesty of God is Supreme, and His Virtues Inexplicable.

4. What, then, art Thou, O my God--what, I ask, but the Lord God? For who is Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? [134] Most high, most excellent, most potent, most omnipotent; most piteous and most just; most hidden and most near; most beauteous and most strong, stable, yet contained of none; unchangeable, yet changing all things; never new, never old; making all things new, yet bringing old age upon the proud and they know it not; always working, yet ever at rest; gathering, yet needing nothing; sustaining, pervading, and protecting; creating, nourishing, and developing; seeking, and yet possessing all things. Thou lovest, and burnest not; art jealous, yet free from care; repentest, and hast no sorrow; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy ways, leaving unchanged Thy plans; recoverest what Thou findest, having yet never lost; art never in want, whilst Thou rejoicest in gain; never covetous, though requiring usury. [135] That Thou mayest owe, more than enough is given to Thee; [136] yet who hath anything that is not Thine? Thou payest debts while owing nothing; and when Thou forgivest debts, losest nothing. Yet, O my God, my life, my holy joy, what is this that I have said? And what saith any man when He speaks of Thee? Yet woe to them that keep silence, seeing that even they who say most are as the dumb. [137]

Footnotes

[134] Ps. xviii. 31. [135] Matt. xxv. 27. [136] Supererogatur tibi, ut debeas. [137] "As it is impossible for mortal, imperfect, and perishable man to comprehend the immortal, perfect and eternal, we cannot expect that he should be able to express in praise the fulness of God's attributes. The Talmud relates of a rabbi, who did not consider the terms, `the great, mighty, and fearful God,' which occur in the daily prayer, as being sufficient, but added some more attributes--`What!' exclaimed another rabbi who was present, `imaginest thou to be able to exhaust the praise of God? Thy praise is blasphemy. Thou hadst better be quiet.' Hence the Psalmist's exclamation, after finding that the praises of God were inexhaustible: H+L+H+T+ H+uJ+M+W+D+ K%L+, `Silence is praise to Thee.'"--Breslau.


Chapter V.--He Seeks Rest in God, and Pardon of His Sins.

5. Oh! how shall I find rest in Thee? Who will send Thee into my heart to inebriate it, so that I may forget my woes, and embrace Thee my only good? What art Thou to me? Have compassion on me, that I may speak. What am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and unless I give it Thee art angry, and threatenest me with great sorrows? Is it, then, a light sorrow not to love Thee? Alas! alas! tell me of Thy compassion, O Lord my God, what Thou art to me. "Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation." [138] So speak that I may hear. Behold, Lord, the ears of my heart are before Thee; open Thou them, and "say unto my soul, I am thy salvation." When I hear, may I run and lay hold on Thee. Hide not Thy face from me. Let me die, lest I die, if only I may see Thy face. [139]

6. Cramped is the dwelling of my soul; do Thou expand it, that Thou mayest enter in. It is in ruins, restore Thou it. There is that about it which must offend Thine eyes; I confess and know it, but who will cleanse it? or to whom shall I cry but to Thee? Cleanse me from my secret sins, [140] O Lord, and keep Thy servant from those of other men. I believe, and therefore do I speak; [141] Lord, Thou knowest. Have I not confessed my transgressions unto Thee, O my God; and Thou hast put away the iniquity of my heart? [142] I do not contend in judgment with Thee, [143] who art the Truth; and I would not deceive myself, lest my iniquity lie against itself. [144] I do not, therefore, contend in judgment with Thee, for "if Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" [145]

Footnotes

[138] Ps. xxxv. 3. [139] Moriar ne moriar, ut eam videam. See Ex. xxxiii. 20. [140] Ps. xix. 12, 13. "Be it that sin may never see the light, that it may be like a child born and buried in the womb; yet as that child is a man, a true man, there closeted in that hidden frame of nature, so sin is truly sin, though it never gets out beyond the womb which did conceive and enliven it."--Sedgwick [141] Ps. cxvi. 10. [142] Ps. xxxii. 5. [143] Job ix. 3. [144] Ps xxvi. 12, Vulg. "The danger of ignorance is not less than its guilt. For of all evils a secret evil is most to be deprecated, of all enemies a concealed enemy is the worst. Better the precipice than the pitfall; better the tortures of curable disease than the painlessness of mortification; and so, whatever your soul's guilt and danger, better to be aware of it. However alarming, however distressing self-knowledge may be, better that than the tremendous evils of self-ignorance."--Caird. [145] Ps. cxxx. 3.


Chapter VI.--He Describes His Infancy, and Lauds the Protection and Eternal Providence of God.

7. Still suffer me to speak before Thy mercy--me, "dust and ashes." [146] Suffer me to speak, for, behold, it is Thy mercy I address, and not derisive man. Yet perhaps even Thou deridest me; but when Thou art turned to me Thou wilt have compassion on me. [147] For what do I wish to say, O Lord my God, but that I know not whence I came hither into this--shall I call it dying life or living death? Yet, as I have heard from my parents, from whose substance Thou didst form me,--for I myself cannot remember it,--Thy merciful comforts sustained me. Thus it was that the comforts of a woman's milk entertained me; for neither my mother nor my nurses filled their own breasts, but Thou by them didst give me the nourishment of infancy according to Thy ordinance and that bounty of Thine which underlieth all things. For Thou didst cause me not to want more than Thou gavest, and those who nourished me willingly to give me what Thou gavest them. For they, by an instinctive affection, were anxious to give me what Thou hadst abundantly supplied. It was, in truth, good for them that my good should come from them, though, indeed, it was not from them, but by them; for from Thee, O God, are all good things, and from my God is all my safety. [148] This is what I have since discovered, as Thou hast declared Thyself to me by the blessings both within me and without me which Thou hast bestowed upon me. For at that time I knew how to suck, to be satisfied when comfortable, and to cry when in pain--nothing beyond.

8. Afterwards I began to laugh,--at first in sleep, then when waking. For this I have heard mentioned of myself, and I believe it (though I cannot remember it), for we see the same in other infants. And now little by little I realized where I was, and wished to tell my wishes to those who might satisfy them, but I could not; for my wants were within me, while they were without, and could not by any faculty of theirs enter into my soul. So I cast about limbs and voice, making the few and feeble signs I could, like, though indeed not much like, unto what I wished; and when I was not satisfied--either not being understood, or because it would have been injurious to me--I grew indignant that my elders were not subject unto me, and that those on whom I had no claim did not wait on me, and avenged myself on them by tears. That infants are such I have been able to learn by watching them; and they, though unknowing, have better shown me that I was such an one than my nurses who knew it.

9. And, behold, my infancy died long ago, and I live. But Thou, O Lord, who ever livest, and in whom nothing dies (since before the world was, and indeed before all that can be called "before," Thou existest, and art the God and Lord of all Thy creatures; and with Thee fixedly abide the causes of all unstable things, the unchanging sources of all things changeable, and the eternal reasons of all things unreasoning and temporal), tell me, Thy suppliant, O God; tell, O merciful One, Thy miserable servant [149] --tell me whether my infancy succeeded another age of mine which had at that time perished. Was it that which I passed in my mother's womb? For of that something has been made known to me, and I have myself seen women with child. And what, O God, my joy, preceded that life? Was I, indeed, anywhere, or anybody? For no one can tell me these things, neither father nor mother, nor the experience of others, nor my own memory. Dost Thou laugh at me for asking such things, and command me to praise and confess Thee for what I know?

10. I give thanks to Thee, Lord of heaven and earth, giving praise to Thee for that my first being and infancy, of which I have no memory; for Thou hast granted to man that from others he should come to conclusions as to himself, and that he should believe many things concerning himself on the authority of feeble women. Even then I had life and being; and as my infancy closed I was already seeking for signs by which my feelings might be made known to others. Whence could such a creature come but from Thee, O Lord? Or shall any man be skilful enough to fashion himself? Or is there any other vein by which being and life runs into us save this, that "Thou, O Lord, hast made us," [150] with whom being and life are one, because Thou Thyself art being and life in the highest? Thou art the highest, "Thou changest not," [151] neither in Thee doth this present day come to an end, though it doth end in Thee, since in Thee all such things are; for they would have no way of passing away unless Thou sustainedst them. And since "Thy years shall have no end," [152] Thy years are an ever present day. And how many of ours and our fathers' days have passed through this Thy day, and received from it their measure and fashion of being, and others yet to come shall so receive and pass away! "But Thou art the same;" [153] and all the things of to-morrow and the days yet to come, and all of yesterday and the days that are past, Thou wilt do to-day, Thou hast done to-day. What is it to me if any understand not? Let him still rejoice and say, "What is this?" [154] Let him rejoice even so, and rather love to discover in failing to discover, than in discovering not to discover Thee.

Footnotes

[146] Gen. xviii. 27. [147] Jer. xii. 15. [148] Prov. xxi. 31. [149] "Mercy," says Binning, "hath but its name from misery, and is no other thing than to lay another's misery to heart." [150] Ps. c. 3. [151] Mal. iii. 6. [152] Ps. cii. 27. [153] Ibid. [154] Ex. xvi. 15. This is one of the alternative translations put against "it is manna" in the margin of the authorized version. It is the literal significance of the Hebrew, and is so translated in most of the old English versions. Augustin indicates thereby the attitude of faith. Many things we are called on to believe (to use the illustration of Locke) which are above reason, but none that are contrary to reason. We are but as children in relation to God, and may therefore only expect to know "parts of His ways." Even in the difficulties of Scripture he sees the goodness of God. "God," he says, "has in Scripture clothed His mysteries with clouds, that man's love of truth might be inflamed by the difficulty of finding them out. For if they were only such as were readily understood, truth would not be eagerly sought, nor would it give pleasure when found."--De Ver. Relig. c. 17.


Chapter VII.--He Shows by Example that Even Infancy is Prone to Sin.

11. Hearken, O God! Alas for the sins of men! Man saith this, and Thou dost compassionate him; for Thou didst create him, but didst not create the sin that is in him. Who bringeth to my remembrance the sin of my infancy? For before Thee none is free from sin, not even the infant which has lived but a day upon the earth. Who bringeth this to my remembrance? Doth not each little one, in whom I behold that which I do not remember of myself? In what, then, did I sin? Is it that I cried for the breast? If I should now so cry,--not indeed for the breast, but for the food suitable to my years,--I should be most justly laughed at and rebuked. What I then did deserved rebuke; but as I could not understand those who rebuked me, neither custom nor reason suffered me to be rebuked. For as we grow we root out and cast from us such habits. I have not seen any one who is wise, when "purging" [155] anything cast away the good. Or was it good, even for a time, to strive to get by crying that which, if given, would be hurtful--to be bitterly indignant that those who were free and its elders, and those to whom it owed its being, besides many others wiser than it, who would not give way to the nod of its good pleasure, were not subject unto it--to endeavour to harm, by struggling as much as it could, because those commands were not obeyed which only could have been obeyed to its hurt? Then, in the weakness of the infant's limbs, and not in its will, lies its innocency. I myself have seen and known an infant to be jealous though it could not speak. It became pale, and cast bitter looks on its foster-brother. Who is ignorant of this? Mothers and nurses tell us that they appease these things by I know not what remedies; and may this be taken for innocence, that when the fountain of milk is flowing fresh and abundant, one who has need should not be allowed to share it, though needing that nourishment to sustain life? Yet we look leniently on these things, not because they are not faults, nor because the faults are small, but because they will vanish as age increases. For although you may allow these things now, you could not bear them with equanimity if found in an older person.

12. Thou, therefore, O Lord my God, who gavest life to the infant, and a frame which, as we see, Thou hast endowed with senses, compacted with limbs, beautified with form, and, for its general good and safety, hast introduced all vital energies--Thou commandest me to praise Thee for these things, "to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praise unto Thy name, O Most High;" [156] for Thou art a God omnipotent and good, though Thou hadst done nought but these things, which none other can do but Thou, who alone madest all things, O Thou most fair, who madest all things fair, and orderest all according to Thy law. This period, then, of my life, O Lord, of which I have no remembrance, which I believe on the word of others, and which I guess from other infants, it chagrins me--true though the guess be--to reckon in this life of mine which I lead in this world; inasmuch as, in the darkness of my forgetfulness, it is like to that which I passed in my mother's womb. But if "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," [157] where, I pray thee, O my God, where, Lord, or when was I, Thy servant, innocent? But behold, I pass by that time, for what have I to do with that, the memories of which I cannot recall?

Footnotes

[155] John xv. 2. [156] Ps. xcii. 1. [157] Ps. li. 5.


Chapter VIII.--That When a Boy He Learned to Speak, Not by Any Set Method, But from the Acts and Words of His Parents.

13. Did I not, then, growing out of the state of infancy, come to boyhood, or rather did it not come to me, and succeed to infancy? Nor did my infancy depart (for whither went it?); and yet it did no longer abide, for I was no longer an infant that could not speak, but a chattering boy. I remember this, and I afterwards observed how I first learned to speak, for my elders did not teach me words in any set method, as they did letters afterwards; but myself, when I was unable to say all I wished and to whomsoever I desired, by means of the whimperings and broken utterances and various motions of my limbs, which I used to enforce my wishes, repeated the sounds in my memory by the mind, O my God, which Thou gavest me. When they called anything by name, and moved the body towards it while they spoke, I saw and gathered that the thing they wished to point out was called by the name they then uttered; and that they did mean this was made plain by the motion of the body, even by the natural language of all nations expressed by the countenance, glance of the eye, movement of other members, and by the sound of the voice indicating the affections of the mind, as it seeks, possesses, rejects, or avoids. So it was that by frequently hearing words, in duly placed sentences, I gradually gathered what things they were the signs of; and having formed my mouth to the utterance of these signs, I thereby expressed my will. [158] Thus I exchanged with those about me the signs by which we express our wishes, and advanced deeper into the stormy fellowship of human life, depending the while on the authority of parents, and the beck of elders.

Footnotes

[158] See some interesting remarks on this subject in Whately's Logic, Int. sec. 5.


Chapter IX.--Concerning the Hatred of Learning, the Love of Play, and the Fear of Being Whipped Noticeable in Boys: and of the Folly of Our Elders and Masters.

14. O my God! what miseries and mockeries did I then experience, when obedience to my teachers was set before me as proper to my boyhood, that I might flourish in this world, and distinguish myself in the science of speech, which should get me honour amongst men, and deceitful riches! After that I was put to school to get learning, of which I (worthless as I was) knew not what use there was; and yet, if slow to learn, I was flogged! For this was deemed praiseworthy by our forefathers; and many before us, passing the same course, had appointed beforehand for us these troublesome ways by which we were compelled to pass, multiplying labour and sorrow upon the sons of Adam. But we found, O Lord, men praying to Thee, and we learned from them to conceive of Thee, according to our ability, to be some Great One, who was able (though not visible to our senses) to hear and help us. For as a boy I began to pray to Thee, my "help" and my "refuge," [159] and in invoking Thee broke the bands of my tongue, and entreated Thee though little, with no little earnestness, that I might not be beaten at school. And when Thou heardedst me not, giving me not over to folly thereby, [160] my elders, yea, and my own parents too, who wished me no ill, laughed at my stripes, my then great and grievous ill.

15. Is there any one, Lord, with so high a spirit, cleaving to Thee with so strong an affection--for even a kind of obtuseness may do that much--but is there, I say, any one who, by cleaving devoutly to Thee, is endowed with so great a courage that he can esteem lightly those racks and hooks, and varied tortures of the same sort, against which, throughout the whole world, men supplicate Thee with great fear, deriding those who most bitterly fear them, just as our parents derided the torments with which our masters punished us when we were boys? For we were no less afraid of our pains, nor did we pray less to Thee to avoid them; and yet we sinned, in writing, or reading, or reflecting upon our lessons less than was required of us. For we wanted not, O Lord, memory or capacity, of which, by Thy will, we possessed enough for our age,--but we delighted only in play; and we were punished for this by those who were doing the same things themselves. But the idleness of our elders they call business, whilst boys who do the like are punished by those same elders, and yet neither boys nor men find any pity. For will any one of good sense approve of my being whipped because, as a boy, I played ball, and so was hindered from learning quickly those lessons by means of which, as a man, I should play more unbecomingly? And did he by whom I was beaten do other than this, who, when he was overcome in any little controversy with a co-tutor, was more tormented by anger and envy than I when beaten by a playfellow in a match at ball?

Footnotes

[159] Ps. ix. 9, and xlvi. 1, and xlviii. 3. [160] Ps. xxii. 2, Vulg.


Chapter X.--Through a Love of Ball-Playing and Shows, He Neglects His Studies and the Injunctions of His Parents.

16. And yet I erred, O Lord God, the Creator and Disposer of all things in Nature,--but of sin the Disposer only,--I erred, O Lord my God, in doing contrary to the wishes of my parents and of those masters; for this learning which they (no matter for what motive) wished me to acquire, I might have put to good account afterwards. For I disobeyed them not because I had chosen a better way, but from a fondness for play, loving the honour of victory in the matches, and to have my ears tickled with lying fables, in order that they might itch the more furiously--the same curiosity beaming more and more in my eyes for the shows and sports of my elders. Yet those who give these entertainments are held in such high repute, that almost all desire the same for their children, whom they are still willing should be beaten, if so be these same games keep them from the studies by which they desire them to arrive at being the givers of them. Look down upon these things, O Lord, with compassion, and deliver us who now call upon Thee; deliver those also who do not call upon Thee, that they may call upon Thee, and that Thou mayest deliver them.


Chapter XI.--Seized by Disease, His Mother Being Troubled, He Earnestly Demands Baptism, Which on Recovery is Postponed--His Father Not as Yet Believing in Christ.

17. Even as a boy I had heard of eternal life promised to us through the humility of the Lord our God condescending to our pride, and I was signed with the sign of the cross, and was seasoned with His salt [161] even from the womb of my mother, who greatly trusted in Thee. Thou sawest, O Lord, how at one time, while yet a boy, being suddenly seized with pains in the stomach, and being at the point of death--Thou sawest, O my God, for even then Thou wast my keeper, with what emotion of mind and with what faith I solicited from the piety of my mother, and of Thy Church, the mother of us all, the baptism of Thy Christ, my Lord and my God. On which, the mother of my flesh being much troubled,--since she, with a heart pure in Thy faith, travailed in birth [162] more lovingly for my eternal salvation,--would, had I not quickly recovered, have without delay provided for my initiation and washing by Thy life-giving sacraments, confessing Thee, O Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins. So my cleansing was deferred, as if I must needs, should I live, be further polluted; because, indeed, the guilt contracted by sin would, after baptism, be greater and more perilous. [163] Thus I at that time believed with my mother and the whole house, except my father; yet he did not overcome the influence of my mother's piety in me so as to prevent my believing in Christ, as he had not yet believed in Him. For she was desirous that Thou, O my God, shouldst be my Father rather than he; and in this Thou didst aid her to overcome her husband, to whom, though the better of the two, she yielded obedience, because in this she yielded obedience to Thee, who dost so command.

18. I beseech Thee, my God, I would gladly know, if it be Thy will, to what end my baptism was then deferred? Was it for my good that the reins were slackened, as it were, upon me for me to sin? Or were they not slackened? If not, whence comes it that it is still dinned into our ears on all sides, "Let him alone, let him act as he likes, for he is not yet baptized"? But as regards bodily health, no one exclaims, "Let him be more seriously wounded, for he is not yet cured!" How much better, then, had it been for me to have been cured at once; and then, by my own and my friends' diligence, my soul's restored health had been kept safe in Thy keeping, who gavest it! Better, in truth. But how numerous and great waves of temptation appeared to hang over me after my childhood! These were foreseen by my mother; and she preferred that the unformed clay should be exposed to them rather than the image itself.

Footnotes

[161] "A rite in the Western churches, on admission as a catechumen, previous to baptism, denoting the purity and uncorruptedness and discretion required of Christians. See S. Aug. De Catechiz. rudib. c. 26; Concil. Carth. 3, can. 5; and Liturgies in Assem. Cod. Liturg. t. i."--E. B. P. See also vi. 1, note, below. [162] Gal. iv. 19. [163] Baptism was in those days frequently (and for similar reasons to the above) postponed till the hour of death approached. The doctors of the Church endeavoured to discourage this, and persons baptized on a sick-bed ("clinically") were, if they recovered, looked on with suspicion. The Emperor Constantine was not baptized till the close of his life, and he is censured by Dr. Newman (Arians iii. sec. 1) for presuming to speak of questions which divided the Arians and the Orthodox as "unimportant," while he himself was both unbaptized and uninstructed. On the postponing of baptism with a view to unrestrained enjoyment of the world, and on the severity of the early Church towards sins committed after baptism, see Kaye's Tertullian, pp. 234-241.


Chapter XII.--Being Compelled, He Gave His Attention to Learning; But Fully Acknowledges that This Was the Work of God.

19. But in this my childhood (which was far less dreaded for me than youth) I had no love of learning, and hated to be forced to it, yet was I forced to it notwithstanding; and this was well done towards me, but I did not well, for I would not have learned had I not been compelled. For no man doth well against his will, even if that which he doth be well. Neither did they who forced me do well, but the good that was done to me came from Thee, my God. For they considered not in what way I should employ what they forced me to learn, unless to satisfy the inordinate desires of a rich beggary and a shameful glory. But Thou, by whom the very hairs of our heads are numbered, [164] didst use for my good the error of all who pressed me to learn; and my own error in willing not to learn, didst Thou make use of for my punishment--of which I, being so small a boy and so great a sinner, was not unworthy. Thus by the instrumentality of those who did not well didst Thou well for me; and by my own sin didst Thou justly punish me. For it is even as Thou hast appointed, that every inordinate affection should bring its own punishment. [165]

Footnotes

[164] Matt. x. 30. [165] See note, v. sec. 2, below.


Chapter XIII.--He Delighted in Latin Studies and the Empty Fables of the Poets, But Hated the Elements of Literature and the Greek Language.

20. But what was the cause of my dislike of Greek literature, which I studied from my boyhood, I cannot even now understand. For the Latin I loved exceedingly--not what our first masters, but what the grammarians teach; for those primary lessons of reading, writing, and ciphering, I considered no less of a burden and a punishment than Greek. Yet whence was this unless from the sin and vanity of this life? for I was "but flesh, a wind that passeth away and cometh not again." [166] For those primary lessons were better, assuredly, because more certain; seeing that by their agency I acquired, and still retain, the power of reading what I find written, and writing myself what I will; whilst in the others I was compelled to learn about the wanderings of a certain ∆neas, oblivious of my own, and to weep for Biab dead, because she slew herself for love; while at the same time I brooked with dry eyes my wretched self dying far from Thee, in the midst of those things, O God, my life.

21. For what can be more wretched than the wretch who pities not himself shedding tears over the death of Dido for love of ∆neas, but shedding no tears over his own death in not loving Thee, O God, light of my heart, and bread of the inner mouth of my soul, and the power that weddest my mind with my innermost thoughts? I did not love Thee, and committed fornication against Thee; and those around me thus sinning cried, "Well done! Well done!" For the friendship of this world is fornication against Thee; [167] and "Well done! Well done!" is cried until one feels ashamed not to be such a man. And for this I shed no tears, though I wept for Dido, who sought death at the sword's point, [168] myself the while seeking the lowest of Thy creatures--having forsaken Thee--earth tending to the earth; and if forbidden to read these things, how grieved would I feel that I was not permitted to read what grieved me. This sort of madness is considered a more honourable and more fruitful learning than that by which I learned to read and write.

22. But now, O my God, cry unto my soul; and let Thy Truth say unto me, "It is not so; it is not so; better much was that first teaching." For behold, I would rather forget the wanderings of ∆neas, and all such things, than how to write and read. But it is true that over the entrance of the grammar school there hangs a vail; [169] but this is not so much a sign of the majesty of the mystery, as of a covering for error. Let not them exclaim against me of whom I am no longer in fear, whilst I confess to Thee, my God, that which my soul desires, and acquiesce in reprehending my evil ways, that I may love Thy good ways. Neither let those cry out against me who buy or sell grammar-learning. For if I ask them whether it be true, as the poet says, that ∆neas once came to Carthage, the unlearned will reply that they do not know, the learned will deny it to be true. But if I ask with what letters the name ∆neas is written, all who have learnt this will answer truly, in accordance with the conventional understanding men have arrived at as to these signs. Again, if I should ask which, if forgotten, would cause the greatest inconvenience in our life, reading and writing, or these poetical fictions, who does not see what every one would answer who had not entirely forgotten himself? I erred, then, when as a boy I preferred those vain studies to those more profitable ones, or rather loved the one and hated the other. "One and one are two, two and two are four," this was then in truth a hateful song to me; while the wooden horse full of armed men, and the burning of Troy, and the "spectral image" of Creusa [170] were a most pleasant spectacle of vanity.

Footnotes

[166] Ps. lxxviii. 39, and Jas. iv. 14. [167] Jas. iv. 4. [168] ∆nežd, vi. 457. [169] "The `vail' was an emblem of honour, used in places of worship, and subsequently in courts of law, emperors' palaces, and even private house. See Du Fresne and Hoffman sub v. That between the vestibule, or proscholium, and the school itself, besides being a mark of dignity, may, as St. Augustin perhaps implies, have been intended to denote the hidden mysteries taught therein, and that the mass of mankind were not fit hearers of truth."--E. B. P. [170] ∆nežd, ii. 772.


Chapter XIV.--Why He Despised Greek Literature, and Easily Learned Latin.

23. But why, then, did I dislike Greek learning which was full of like tales? [171] For Homer also was skilled in inventing similar stories, and is most sweetly vain, yet was he disagreeable to me as a boy. I believe Virgil, indeed, would be the same to Grecian children, if compelled to learn him, as I was Homer. The difficulty, in truth, the difficulty of learning a foreign language mingled as it were with gall all the sweetness of those fabulous Grecian stories. For not a single word of it did I understand, and to make me do so, they vehemently urged me with cruel threatenings and punishments. There was a time also when (as an infant) I knew no Latin; but this I acquired without any fear or tormenting, by merely taking notice, amid the blandishments of my nurses, the jests of those who smiled on me, and the sportiveness of those who toyed with me. I learnt all this, indeed, without being urged by any pressure of punishment, for my own heart urged me to bring forth its own conceptions, which I could not do unless by learning words, not of those who taught me, but of those who talked to me; into whose ears, also, I brought forth whatever I discerned. From this it is sufficiently clear that a free curiosity hath more influence in our learning these things than a necessity full of fear. But this last restrains the overflowings of that freedom, through Thy laws, O God,--Thy laws, from the ferule of the schoolmaster to the trials of the martyr, being effective to mingle for us a salutary bitter, calling us back to Thyself from the pernicious delights which allure us from Thee.

Footnotes

[171] Exaggerated statements have been made as to Augustin's deficiency in the knowledge of Greek. In this place it is clear that he simply alludes to a repugnance to learn a foreign language that has often been seen in boys since his day. It would seem equally clear from Bk. vii. sec. 13 (see also De Trin. iii. sec. 1), that when he could get a translation of a Greek book, he preferred it to one in the original language. Perhaps in this, again, he is not altogether singular. It is difficult to decide the exact extent of his knowledge, but those familiar with his writings can scarcely fail to be satisfied that he had a sufficient acquaintance with the language to correct his Italic version by the Greek Testament and the LXX., and that he was quite alive to the importance of such knowledge in an interpreter of Scripture. See also Con. Faust, xi. 2-4; and De Doctr. Christ. ii. 11-15.


Chapter XV.--He Entreats God, that Whatever Useful Things He Learned as a Boy May Be Dedicated to Him.

24. Hear my prayer, O Lord; let not my soul faint under Thy discipline, nor let me faint in confessing unto Thee Thy mercies, whereby Thou hast saved me from all my most mischievous ways, that Thou mightest become sweet to me beyond all the seductions which I used to follow; and that I may love Thee entirely, and grasp Thy hand with my whole heart, and that Thou mayest deliver me from every temptation, even unto the end. For lo, O Lord, my King and my God, for Thy service be whatever useful thing I learnt as a boy--for Thy service what I speak, and write, and count. For when I learned vain things, Thou didst grant me Thy discipline; and my sin in taking delight in those vanities, Thou hast forgiven me. I learned, indeed, in them many useful words; but these may be learned in things not vain, and that is the safe way for youths to walk in.


Chapter XVI.--He Disapproves of the Mode of Educating Youth, and He Points Out Why Wickedness is Attributed to the Gods by the Poets.

25. But woe unto thee, thou stream of human custom! Who shall stay thy course? How long shall it be before thou art dried up? How long wilt thou carry down the sons of Eve into that huge and formidable ocean, which even they who are embarked on the cross (lignum) can scarce pass over? [172] Do I not read in thee of Jove the thunderer and adulterer? And the two verily he could not be; but it was that, while the fictitious thunder served as a cloak, he might have warrant to imitate real adultery. Yet which of our gowned masters can lend a temperate ear to a man of his school who cries out and says: "These were Homer's fictions; he transfers things human to the gods. I could have wished him to transfer divine things to us." [173] But it would have been more true had he said: "These are, indeed, his fictions, but he attributed divine attributes to sinful men, that crimes might not be accounted crimes, and that whosoever committed any might appear to imitate the celestial gods and not abandoned men."

26. And yet, thou stream of hell, into thee are cast the sons of men, with rewards for learning these things; and much is made of it when this is going on in the forum in the sight of laws which grant a salary over and above the rewards. And thou beatest against thy rocks and roarest, saying, "Hence words are learnt; hence eloquence is to be attained, most necessary to persuade people to your way of thinking, and to unfold your opinions." So, in truth, we should never have understood these words, "golden shower," "bosom," "intrigue," "highest heavens," and other words written in the same place, unless Terence had introduced a good-for-nothing youth upon the stage, setting up Jove as his example of lewdness:--

"Viewing a picture, where the tale was drawn,

Of Jove's descending in a golden shower

To DanaŽ's bosom . . . with a woman to intrigue."

And see how he excites himself to lust, as if by celestial authority, when he says:--

"Great Jove,

Who shakes the highest heavens with his thunder,

And I, poor mortal man, not do the same!

I did it, and with all my heart I did it." [174]

Not one whit more easily are the words learnt for this vileness, but by their means is the vileness perpetrated with more confidence. I do not blame the words, they being, as it were, choice and precious vessels, but the wine of error which was drunk in them to us by inebriated teachers; and unless we drank, we were beaten, without liberty of appeal to any sober judge. And yet, O my God,--in whose presence I can now with security recall this,--did I, unhappy one, learn these things willingly, and with delight, and for this was I called a boy of good promise. [175]

Footnotes

[172] So in Tract. II. on John, he has: "The sea has to be crossed, and dost thou despise the wood?" explaining it to mean the cross of Christ. And again: "Thou art not at all able to walk in the sea, be carried by a ship--be carried by the wood--believe on the Crucified," etc. [173] Cic. Tusc. i. 26. [174] Terence, Eunuch. Act 3, scene 6 (Colman). [175] Until very recently, the Eunuchus was recited at "the play" of at least one of our public schools. See De Civ. Dei, ii. secs. 7, 8, where Augustin again alludes to this matter.


Chapter XVII.--He Continues on the Unhappy Method of Training Youth in Literary Subjects.

27. Bear with me, my God, while I speak a little of those talents Thou hast bestowed upon me, and on what follies I wasted them. For a lesson sufficiently disquieting to my soul was given me, in hope of praise, and fear of shame or stripes, to speak the words of Juno, as she raged and sorrowed that she could not

"Latium bar

From all approaches of the Dardan king," [176]

which I had heard Juno never uttered. Yet were we compelled to stray in the footsteps of these poetic fictions, and to turn that into prose which the poet had said in verse. And his speaking was most applauded in whom, according to the reputation of the persons delineated, the passions of anger and sorrow were most strikingly reproduced, and clothed in the most suitable language. But what is it to me, O my true Life, my God, that my declaiming was applauded above that of many who were my contemporaries and fellow-students? Behold, is not all this smoke and wind? Was there nothing else, too, on which I could exercise my wit and tongue? Thy praise, Lord, Thy praises might have supported the tendrils of my heart by Thy Scriptures; so had it not been dragged away by these empty trifles, a shameful prey of [177] the fowls of the air. For there is more than one way in which men sacrifice to the fallen angels.

Footnotes

[176] ∆nežd, i. 36-75 (Kennedy). [177] See note on v. 4, below.


Chapter XVIII.--Men Desire to Observe the Rules of Learning, But Neglect the Eternal Rules of Everlasting Safety.

28. But what matter of surprise is it that I was thus carried towards vanity, and went forth from Thee, O my God, when men were proposed to me to imitate, who, should they in relating any acts of theirs--not in themselves evil--be guilty of a barbarism or solecism, when censured for it became confounded; but when they made a full and ornate oration, in well-chosen words, concerning their own licentiousness, and were applauded for it, they boasted? Thou seest this, O Lord, and keepest silence, "long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth," [178] as Thou art. Wilt Thou keep silence for ever? And even now Thou drawest out of this vast deep the soul that seeketh Thee and thirsteth after Thy delights, whose "heart said unto Thee," I have sought Thy face, "Thy face, Lord, will I seek." [179] For I was far from Thy face, through my darkened [180] affections. For it is not by our feet, nor by change of place, that we either turn from Thee or return to Thee. Or, indeed, did that younger son look out for horses, or chariots, or ships, or fly away with visible wings, or journey by the motion of his limbs, that he might, in a far country, prodigally waste all that Thou gavest him when he set out? A kind Father when Thou gavest, and kinder still when he returned destitute! [181] So, then, in wanton, that is to say, in darkened affections, lies distance from Thy face.

29. Behold, O Lord God, and behold patiently, as Thou art wont to do, how diligently the sons of men observe the conventional rules of letters and syllables, received from those who spoke prior to them, and yet neglect the eternal rules of everlasting salvation received from Thee, insomuch that he who practises or teaches the hereditary rules of pronunciation, if, contrary to grammatical usage, he should say, without aspirating the first letter, a uman being, will offend men more than if, in opposition to Thy commandments, he, a human being, were to hate a human being. As if, indeed, any man should feel that an enemy could be more destructive to him than that hatred with which he is excited against him, or that he could destroy more utterly him whom he persecutes than he destroys his own soul by his enmity. And of a truth, there is no science of letters more innate than the writing of conscience--that he is doing unto another what he himself would not suffer. How mysterious art Thou, who in silence "dwellest on high," [182] Thou God, the only great, who by an unwearied law dealest out the punishment of blindness to illicit desires! When a man seeking for the reputation of eloquence stands before a human judge while a thronging multitude surrounds him, inveighs against his enemy with the most fierce hatred, he takes most vigilant heed that his tongue slips not into grammatical error, but takes no heed lest through the fury of his spirit he cut off a man from his fellow-men. [183]

30. These were the customs in the midst of which I, unhappy boy, was cast, and on that arena it was that I was more fearful of perpetrating a barbarism than, having done so, of envying those who had not. These things I declare and confess unto Thee, my God, for which I was applauded by them whom I then thought it my whole duty to please, for I did not perceive the gulf of infamy wherein I was cast away from Thine eyes. [184] For in Thine eyes what was more infamous than I was already, displeasing even those like myself, deceiving with innumerable lies both tutor, and masters, and parents, from love of play, a desire to see frivolous spectacles, and a stage-stuck restlessness, to imitate them? Pilferings I committed from my parents' cellar and table, either enslaved by gluttony, or that I might have something to give to boys who sold me their play, who, though they sold it, liked it as well as I In this play, likewise, I often sought dishonest victories, I myself being conquered by the vain desire of pre-eminence. And what could I so little endure, or, if I detected it, censured I so violently, as the very things I did to others, and, when myself detected I was censured, preferred rather to quarrel than to yield? Is this the innocence of childhood? Nay, Lord, nay, Lord; I entreat Thy mercy, O my God. For these same sins, as we grow older, are transferred from governors and masters, from nuts, and balls, and sparrows, to magistrates and kings, to gold, and lands, and slaves, just as the rod is succeeded by more severe chastisements. It was, then, the stature of childhood that Thou, O our King, didst approve of as an emblem of humility when Thou saidst: "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." [185]

31. But yet, O Lord, to Thee, most excellent and most good, Thou Architect and Governor of the universe, thanks had been due unto Thee, our God, even hadst Thou willed that I should not survive my boyhood. For I existed even then; I lived, and felt, and was solicitous about my own well-being,--a trace of that most mysterious unity [186] from whence I had my being; I kept watch by my inner sense over the wholeness of my senses, and in these insignificant pursuits, and also in my thoughts on things insignificant, I learnt to take pleasure in truth. I was averse to being deceived, I had a vigorous memory, was provided with the power of speech, was softened by friendship, shunned sorrow, meanness, ignorance. In such a being what was not wonderful and praiseworthy? But all these are gifts of my God; I did not give them to myself; and they are good, and all these constitute myself. Good, then, is He that made me, and He is my God; and before Him will I rejoice exceedingly for every good gift which, as a boy, I had. For in this lay my sin, that not in Him, but in His creatures--myself and the rest--I sought for pleasures, honours, and truths, falling thereby into sorrows, troubles, and errors. Thanks be to Thee, my joy, my pride, my confidence, my God--thanks be to Thee for Thy gifts; but preserve Thou them to me. For thus wilt Thou preserve me; and those things which Thou hast given me shall be developed and perfected, and I myself shall be with Thee, for from Thee is my being.

Footnotes

[178] Ps. lxxxvi. 15. [179] Ps. xxvii. 8. [180] Rom. i. 21. [181] Luke xv. 11-32. [182] Isa. xxxiii. 5. [183] Literally, "takes care not by a slip of the tongue to say inter hominibus, but takes no care lest hominem auferat ex hominibus." [184] Ps. xxxi. 22. [185] Matt. xix. 14. See i. sec. 11, note 3, above. [186] "To be is no other than to be one. In as far, therefore, as anything attains unity, in so far it `is.' For unity worketh congruity and harmony, whereby things composite are in so far as they are; for things uncompounded are in themselves, because they are one; but things compounded imitate unity by the harmony of their parts, and, so far as they attain to unity, they are. Wherefore order and rule secure being, disorder tends to not being."--Aug. De Morib. Manich. c. 6.


.

Book II.

He advances to puberty, and indeed to the early part of the sixteenth year of his age, in which, having abandoned his studies, he indulged in lustful pleasures, and, with his companions, committed theft.


Chapter I.--He Deplores the Wickedness of His Youth.

1. I Will now call to mind my past foulness, and the carnal corruptions of my soul, not because I love them, but that I may love Thee, O my God. For love of Thy love do I it, recalling, in the very bitterness of my remembrance, my most vicious ways, that Thou mayest grow sweet to me,--Thou sweetness without deception! Thou sweetness happy and assured!--and re-collecting myself out of that my dissipation, in which I was torn to pieces, while, turned away from Thee the One, I lost myself among many vanities. For I even longed in my youth formerly to be satisfied with worldly things, and I dared to grow wild again with various and shadowy loves; my form consumed away, [187] and I became corrupt in Thine eyes, pleasing myself, and eager to please in the eyes of men.

Footnotes

[187] Ps. xxxix. 11.

Chapter II.--Stricken with Exceeding Grief, He Remembers the Dissolute Passions in Which, in His Sixteenth Year, He Used to Indulge.

2. But what was it that I delighted in save to love and to be beloved? But I held it not in moderation, mind to mind, the bright path of friendship, but out of the dark concupiscence of the flesh and the effervescence of youth exhalations came forth which obscured and overcast my heart, so that I was unable to discern pure affection from unholy desire. Both boiled confusedly within me, and dragged away my unstable youth into the rough places of unchaste desires, and plunged me into a gulf of infamy. Thy anger had overshadowed me, and I knew it not. I was become deaf by the rattling of the chains of my mortality, the punishment for my soul's pride; and I wandered farther from Thee, and Thou didst "suffer" [188] me; and I was tossed to and fro, and wasted, and poured out, and boiled over in my fornications, and Thou didst hold Thy peace, O Thou my tardy joy! Thou then didst hold Thy peace, and I wandered still farther from Thee, into more and more barren seed-plots of sorrows, with proud dejection and restless lassitude.

3. Oh for one to have regulated my disorder, and turned to my profit the fleeting beauties of the things around me, and fixed a bound to their sweetness, so that the tides of my youth might have spent themselves upon the conjugal shore, if so be they could not be tranquillized and satisfied within the object of a family, as Thy law appoints, O Lord,--who thus formest the offspring of our death, being able also with a tender hand to blunt the thorns which were excluded from Thy paradise! For Thy omnipotency is not far from us even when we are far from Thee, else in truth ought I more vigilantly to have given heed to the voice from the clouds: "Nevertheless, such shall have trouble in the flesh, but I spare you;" [189] and, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman;" [190] and, "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife." [191] I should, therefore, have listened more attentively to these words, and, being severed "for the kingdom of heaven's sake," [192] I would with greater happiness have expected Thy embraces.

4. But I, poor fool, seethed as does the sea, and, forsaking Thee, followed the violent course of my own stream, and exceeded all Thy limitations; nor did I escape Thy scourges. [193] For what mortal can do so? But Thou wert always by me, mercifully angry, and dashing with the bitterest vexations all my illicit pleasures, in order that I might seek pleasures free from vexation. But where I could meet with such except in Thee, O Lord, I could not find,--except in Thee, who teachest by sorrow, [194] and woundest us to heal us, and killest us that we may not die from Thee. [195] Where was I, and how far was I exiled from the delights of Thy house, in that sixteenth year of the age of my flesh, when the madness of lust--to the which human shamelessness granteth full freedom, although forbidden by Thy laws--held complete sway over me, and I resigned myself entirely to it? Those about me meanwhile took no care to save me from ruin by marriage, their sole care being that I should learn to make a powerful speech, and become a persuasive orator.

Footnotes

[188] Matt. xvii. 17. [189] 1 Cor. vii. 28. [190] 1 Cor. vii. 1. [191] 1 Cor. vii. 32, 33. [192] Matt. xix. 12. [193] Isa. x. 26. [194] Deut. xxxii. 39. [195] Ps. xciii. 20, Vulg. "Lit. `Formest trouble in or as a precept.' Thou makest to us a precept out of trouble, so that trouble itself shall be a precept to us, i.e. hast willed so to discipline and instruct those Thy sons, that they should not be without fear, lest they should love something else, and forget Thee, their true good."--S. Aug. ad loc.--E. B. P.


Chapter III.--Concerning His Father, a Freeman of Thagaste, the Assister of His Son's Studies, and on the Admonitions of His Mother on the Preservation of Chastity.

5. And for that year my studies were intermitted, while after my return from Madaura [196] (a neighbouring city, whither I had begun to go in order to learn grammar and rhetoric), the expenses for a further residence at Carthage were provided for me; and that was rather by the determination than the means of my father, who was but a poor freeman of Thagaste. To whom do I narrate this? Not unto Thee, my God; but before Thee unto my own kind, even to that small part of the human race who may chance to light upon these my writings. And to what end? That I and all who read the same may reflect out of what depths we are to cry unto Thee. [197] For what cometh nearer to Thine ears than a confessing heart and a life of faith? For who did not extol and praise my father, in that he went even beyond his means to supply his son with all the necessaries for a far journey for the sake of his studies? For many far richer citizens did not the like for their children. But yet this same father did not trouble himself how I grew towards Thee, nor how chaste I was, so long as I was skilful in speaking--however barren I was to Thy tilling, O God, who art the sole true and good Lord of my heart, which is Thy field.

6. But while, in that sixteenth year of my age, I resided with my parents, having holiday from school for a time (this idleness being imposed upon me by my parents' necessitous circumstances), the thorns of lust grew rank over my head, and there was no hand to pluck them out. Moreover when my father, seeing me at the baths, perceived that I was becoming a man, and was stirred with a restless youthfulness, he, as if from this anticipating future descendants, joyfully told it to my mother; rejoicing in that intoxication wherein the world so often forgets Thee, its Creator, and falls in love with Thy creature instead of Thee, from the invisible wine of its own perversity turning and bowing down to the most infamous things. But in my mother's breast Thou hadst even now begun Thy temple, and the commencement of Thy holy habitation, whereas my father was only a catechumen as yet, and that but recently. She then started up with a pious fear and trembling; and, although I had not yet been baptized, [198] she feared those crooked ways in which they walk who turn their back to Thee, and not their face. [199]

7. Woe is me! and dare I affirm that Thou heldest Thy peace, O my God, while I strayed farther from Thee? Didst Thou then hold Thy peace to me? And whose words were they but Thine which by my mother, Thy faithful handmaid, Thou pouredst into my ears, none of which sank into my heart to make me do it? For she desired, and I remember privately warned me, with great solicitude, "not to commit fornication; but above all things never to defile another man's wife." These appeared to me but womanish counsels, which I should blush to obey. But they were Thine, and I knew it not, and I thought that Thou heldest Thy peace, and that it was she who spoke, through whom Thou heldest not Thy peace to me, and in her person wast despised by me, her son, "the son of Thy handmaid, Thy servant." [200] But this I knew not; and rushed on headlong with such blindness, that amongst my equals I was ashamed to be less shameless, when I heard them pluming themselves upon their disgraceful acts, yea, and glorying all the more in proportion to the greatness of their baseness; and I took pleasure in doing it, not for the pleasure's sake only, but for the praise. What is worthy of dispraise but vice? But I made myself out worse than I was, in order that I might not be dispraised; and when in anything I had not sinned as the abandoned ones, I would affirm that I had done what I had not, that I might not appear abject for being more innocent, or of less esteem for being more chaste.

8. Behold with what companions I walked the streets of Babylon, in whose filth I was rolled, as if in cinnamon and precious ointments. And that I might cleave the more tenaciously to its very centre, my invisible enemy trod me down, and seduced me, I being easily seduced. Nor did the mother of my flesh, although she herself had ere this fled "out of the midst of Babylon," [201] --progressing, however, but slowly in the skirts of it,--in counselling me to chastity, so bear in mind what she had been told about me by her husband as to restrain in the limits of conjugal affection (if it could not be cut away to the quick) what she knew to be destructive in the present and dangerous in the future. But she took no heed of this, for she was afraid lest a wife should prove a hindrance and a clog to my hopes. Not those hopes of the future world, which my mother had in Thee; but the hope of learning, which both my parents were too anxious that I should acquire,--he, because he had little or no thought of Thee, and but vain thoughts for me--she, because she calculated that those usual courses of learning would not only be no drawback, but rather a furtherance towards my attaining Thee. For thus I conjecture, recalling as well as I can the dispositions of my parents. The reins, meantime, were slackened towards me beyond the restraint of due severity, that I might play, yea, even to dissoluteness, in whatsoever I fancied. And in all there was a mist, shutting out from my sight the brightness of Thy truth, O my God; and my iniquity displayed itself as from very "fatness." [202]

Footnotes

[196] "Formerly an episcopal city: now a small village. At this time the inhabitants were heathen. St. Augustin calls them `his fathers,' in a letter persuading them to embrace the gospel.--Ep. 232."--E. B. P. [197] Ps. cxxx. 1. [198] Nondum fideli, not having rehearsed the articles of the Christian faith at baptism. See i. sec. 17, note, above; and below, sec. 1, note. [199] Jer. ii. 27. [200] Ps. cxvi. 16. [201] Jer. li. 6. [202] Ps. lxxiii. 7.


Chapter IV.--He Commits Theft with His Companions, Not Urged on by Poverty, But from a Certain Distaste of Well-Doing.

9. Theft is punished by Thy law, O Lord, and by the law written in men's hearts, which iniquity itself cannot blot out. For what thief will suffer a thief? Even a rich thief will not suffer him who is driven to it by want. Yet had I a desire to commit robbery, and did so, compelled neither by hunger, nor poverty through a distaste for well-doing, and a lustiness of iniquity. For I pilfered that of which I had already sufficient, and much better. Nor did I desire to enjoy what I pilfered, but the theft and sin itself. There was a pear-tree close to our vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which was tempting neither for its colour nor its flavour. To shake and rob this some of us wanton young fellows went, late one night (having, according to our disgraceful habit, prolonged our games in the streets until then), and carried away great loads, not to eat ourselves, but to fling to the very swine, having only eaten some of them; and to do this pleased us all the more because it was not permitted. Behold my heart, O my God; behold my heart, which Thou hadst pity upon when in the bottomless pit. Behold, now, let my heart tell Thee what it was seeking there, that I should be gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved to perish. I loved my own error--not that for which I erred, but the error itself. Base soul, falling from Thy firmament to utter destruction--not seeking aught through the shame but the shame itself!


Chapter V.--Concerning the Motives to Sin, Which are Not in the Love of Evil, But in the Desire of Obtaining the Property of Others.

10. There is a desirableness in all beautiful bodies, and in gold, and silver, and all things; and in bodily contact sympathy is powerful, and each other sense hath his proper adaptation of body. Worldly honour hath also its glory, and the power of command, and of overcoming; whence proceeds also the desire for revenge. And yet to acquire all these, we must not depart from Thee, O Lord, nor deviate from Thy law. The life which we live here hath also its peculiar attractiveness, through a certain measure of comeliness of its own, and harmony with all things here below. The friendships of men also are endeared by a sweet bond, in the oneness of many souls. On account of all these, and such as these, is sin committed; while through an inordinate preference for these goods of a lower kind, the better and higher are neglected,--even Thou, our Lord God, Thy truth, and Thy law. For these meaner things have their delights, but not like unto my God, who hath created all things; for in Him doth the righteous delight, and He is the sweetness of the upright in heart. [203]

11. When, therefore, we inquire why a crime was committed, we do not believe it, unless it appear that there might have been the wish to obtain some of those which we designated meaner things, or else a fear of losing them. For truly they are beautiful and comely, although in comparison with those higher and celestial goods they be abject and contemptible. A man hath murdered another; what was his motive? He desired his wife or his estate; or would steal to support himself; or he was afraid of losing something of the kind by him; or, being injured, he was burning to be revenged. Would he commit murder without a motive, taking delight simply in the act of murder? Who would credit it? For as for that savage and brutal man, of whom it is declared that he was gratuitously wicked and cruel, there is yet a motive assigned. "Lest through idleness," he says, "hand or heart should grow inactive." [204] And to what purpose? Why, even that, having once got possession of the city through that practice of wickedness, he might attain unto honours, empire, and wealth, and be exempt from the fear of the laws, and his difficult circumstances from the needs of his family, and the consciousness of his own wickedness. So it seems that even Catiline himself loved not his own villanies, but something else, which gave him the motive for committing them.

Footnotes

[203] Ps. lxiv. 10. [204] Sallust, De Bello Catil. c. 9.


Chapter VI.--Why He Delighted in that Theft, When All Things Which Under the Appearance of Good Invite to Vice are True and Perfect in God Alone.

12. What was it, then, that I, miserable one, so doted on in thee, thou theft of mine, thou deed of darkness, in that sixteenth year of my age? Beautiful thou wert not, since thou wert theft. But art thou anything, that so I may argue the case with thee? Those pears that we stole were fair to the sight, because they were Thy creation, Thou fairest [205] of all, Creator of all, Thou good God--God, the highest good, and my true good. Those pears truly were pleasant to the sight; but it was not for them that my miserable soul lusted, for I had abundance of better, but those I plucked simply that I might steal. For, having plucked them, I threw them away, my sole gratification in them being my own sin, which I was pleased to enjoy. For if any of these pears entered my mouth, the sweetener of it was my sin in eating it. And now, O Lord my God, I ask what it was in that theft of mine that caused me such delight; and behold it hath no beauty in it--not such, I mean, as exists in justice and wisdom; nor such as is in the mind, memory, senses, and animal life of man; nor yet such as is the glory and beauty of the stars in their courses; or the earth, or the sea, teeming with incipient life, to replace, as it is born, that which decayeth; nor, indeed, that false and shadowy beauty which pertaineth to deceptive vices.

13. For thus doth pride imitate high estate, whereas Thou alone art God, high above all. And what does ambition seek but honours and renown, whereas Thou alone art to be honoured above all, and renowned for evermore? The cruelty of the powerful wishes to be feared; but who is to be feared but God only, [206] out of whose power what can be forced away or withdrawn--when, or where, or whither, or by whom? The enticements of the wanton would fain be deemed love; and yet is naught more enticing than Thy charity, nor is aught loved more healthfully than that, Thy truth, bright and beautiful above all. Curiosity affects a desire for knowledge, whereas it is Thou who supremely knowest all things. Yea, ignorance and foolishness themselves are concealed under the names of ingenuousness and harmlessness, because nothing can be found more ingenuous than Thou; and what is more harmless, since it is a sinner's own works by which he is harmed? [207] And sloth seems to long for rest; but what sure rest is there besides the Lord? Luxury would fain be called plenty and abundance; but Thou art the fulness and unfailing plenteousness of unfading joys. Prodigality presents a shadow of liberality; but Thou art the most lavish giver of all good. Covetousness desires to possess much; and Thou art the Possessor of all things. Envy contends for excellence; but what so excellent as Thou? Anger seeks revenge; who avenges more justly than Thou? Fear starts at unwonted and sudden chances which threaten things beloved, and is wary for their security; but what can happen that is unwonted or sudden to Thee? or who can deprive Thee of what Thou lovest? or where is there unshaken security save with Thee? Grief languishes for things lost in which desire had delighted itself, even because it would have nothing taken from it, as nothing can be from Thee.

14. Thus doth the soul commit fornication when she turns away from Thee, and seeks without Thee what she cannot find pure and untainted until she returns to Thee. Thus all pervertedly imitate Thee who separate themselves far from Thee [208] and raise themselves up against Thee. But even by thus imitating Thee they acknowledge Thee to be the Creator of all nature, and so that there is no place whither they can altogether retire from Thee. [209] What, then, was it that I loved in that theft? And wherein did I, even corruptedly and pervertedly, imitate my Lord? Did I wish, if only by artifice, to act contrary to Thy law, because by power I could not, so that, being a captive, I might imitate an imperfect liberty by doing with impunity things which I was not allowed to do, in obscured likeness of Thy omnipotency? [210] Behold this servant of Thine, fleeing from his Lord, and following a shadow! [211] O rottenness! O monstrosity of life and profundity of death! Could I like that which was unlawful only because it was unlawful?

Footnotes

[205] Ps. xlv. 2. [206] Ps. lxxvi. 7. [207] Ps. vii. 15. [208] Ps. vii. 15. [209] Ps. cxxxix. 7, 8. [210] "For even souls, in their very sins, strive after nothing else but some kind of likeness of God, in a proud and preposterous, and, so to say, slavish liberty. So neither could our first parents have been persuaded to sin unless it had been said, `Ye shall be as gods.'"--Aug. De Trin. xi. 5. [211] Jonah i. and iv.


Chapter VII.--He Gives Thanks to God for the Remission of His Sins, and Reminds Every One that the Supreme God May Have Preserved Us from Greater Sins.

15. "What shall I render unto the Lord," [212] that whilst my memory recalls these things my soul is not appalled at them? I will love Thee, O Lord, and thank Thee, and confess unto Thy name, [213] because Thou hast put away from me these so wicked and nefarious acts of mine. To Thy grace I attribute it, and to Thy mercy, that Thou hast melted away my sin as it were ice. To Thy grace also I attribute whatsoever of evil I have not committed; for what might I not have committed, loving as I did the sin for the sin's sake? Yea, all I confess to have been pardoned me, both those which I committed by my own perverseness, and those which, by Thy guidance, I committed not. Where is he who, reflecting upon his own infirmity, dares to ascribe his chastity and innocency to his own strength, so that he should love Thee the less, as if he had been in less need of Thy mercy, whereby Thou dost forgive the transgressions of those that turn to Thee? For whosoever, called by Thee, obeyed Thy voice, and shunned those things which he reads me recalling and confessing of myself, let him not despise me, who, being sick, was healed by that same Physician [214] by whose aid it was that he was not sick, or rather was less sick. And for this let him love Thee as much, yea, all the more, since by whom he sees me to have been restored from so great a feebleness of sin, by Him he sees himself from a like feebleness to have been preserved.

Footnotes

[212] Ps. cxvi. 12. [213] Rev. iii. 5. [214] Luke iv. 23.


Chapter VIII.--In His Theft He Loved the Company of His Fellow-Sinners.

16. "What fruit had I then," [215] wretched one, in those things which, when I remember them, cause me shame--above all in that theft, which I loved only for the theft's sake? And as the theft itself was nothing, all the more wretched was I who loved it. Yet by myself alone I would not have done it--I recall what my heart was--alone I could not have done it. I loved, then, in it the companionship of my accomplices with whom I did it. I did not, therefore, love the theft alone--yea, rather, it was that alone that I loved, for the companionship was nothing. What is the fact? Who is it that can teach me, but He who illuminateth mine heart and searcheth out the dark corners thereof? What is it that hath come into my mind to inquire about, to discuss, and to reflect upon? For had I at that time loved the pears I stole, and wished to enjoy them, I might have done so alone, if I could have been satisfied with the mere commission of the theft by which my pleasure was secured; nor needed I have provoked that itching of my own passions, by the encouragement of accomplices. But as my enjoyment was not in those pears, it was in the crime itself, which the company of my fellow-sinners produced.

Footnotes

[215] Rom. vi. 21.


Chapter IX.--It Was a Pleasure to Him Also to Laugh When Seriously Deceiving Others.

17. By what feelings, then, was I animated? For it was in truth too shameful; and woe was me who had it. But still what was it? "Who can understand his errors?" [216] We laughed, because our hearts were tickled at the thought of deceiving those who little imagined what we were doing, and would have vehemently disapproved of it. Yet, again, why did I so rejoice in this, that I did it not alone? Is it that no one readily laughs alone? No one does so readily; but yet sometimes, when men are alone by themselves, nobody being by, a fit of laughter overcomes them when anything very droll presents itself to their senses or mind. Yet alone I would not have done it--alone I could not at all have done it. Behold, my God, the lively recollection of my soul is laid bare before Thee--alone I had not committed that theft, wherein what I stole pleased me not, but rather the act of stealing; nor to have done it alone would I have liked so well, neither would I have done it. O Friendship too unfriendly! thou mysterious seducer of the soul, thou greediness to do mischief out of mirth and wantonness, thou craving for others' loss, without desire for my own profit or revenge; but when they say, "Let us go, let us do it," we are ashamed not to be shameless.

Footnotes

[216] Ps. xix. 12.


Chapter X.--With God There is True Rest and Life Unchanging.

18. Who can unravel that twisted and tangled knottiness? It is foul. I hate to reflect on it. I hate to look on it. But thee do I long for, O righteousness and innocency, fair and comely to all virtuous eyes, and of a satisfaction that never palls! With thee is perfect rest, and life unchanging. He who enters into thee enters into the joy of his Lord, [217] and shall have no fear, and shall do excellently in the most Excellent. I sank away from Thee, O my God, and I wandered too far from Thee, my stay, in my youth, and became to myself an unfruitful land.

Footnotes

[217] Matt. xxv. 21.


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