Quantcast
St. Augustine of Hippo- Confessions BOOK V
AUTHOR: Augustine
PUBLISHED ON: March 27, 2003
DOC SOURCE: CCN

St. Augustine of Hippo: CONFESSIONS
“New Advent Catholic Supersite”

St. Augustine of Hippo
Confessions

BOOK V.

HE DESCRIBES THE TWENTY-NINTH YEAR OF HIS AGE, IN WHICH, HAVING
DISCOVERED THE FALLACIES OF THE MANICHAEANS, HE PROFESSED RHETORIC
AT ROME AND MILAN. HAVING HEARD AMBROSIA, HE BEGINS TO COME TO
HIMSELF.

CHAP. I.–THAT IT BECOMES THE SOUL TO PRAISE GOD, AND TO CONFESS
UNTO HIM.

1. ACCEPT the sacrifice of my confessions by the agency of my
tongue, which Thou hast formed and quickened, that it may confess to
Thy name; and heal Thou all my bones, and let them say, “Lord, who
is like unto Thee?” For neither does he who confesses to Thee teach
Thee what may be passing within him, because: a dosed heart doth not
exclude Thine eye, nor does man’s hardness of heart repulse Thine
hand, but Thou dissolvest it when Thou wiliest, either in pity or in
vengeance, “and there is no One who can hide himself from Thy
heat.” But let my soul praise Thee, that it may love Thee; and let
it confess Thine own mercies to Thee, at it may praise Thee. Thy
whole creation ceaseth not, nor is it silent in Thy praises –
neither the spirit of man, by the voice directed unto Thee, nor
animal nor corporeal things, by the voice of those meditating
thereon; so that our souls may from their weariness arise towards
Thee, leaning on those things which Thou hast made, and passing on
to Thee, who hast made them Wonderfully and there is there
refreshment and true strength.

CHAP. II.– ON THE VANITY OF THOSE WHO WISHED TO ESCAPE THE
OMNIPOTENT GOD.

2. Let the restless and the unjust depart and flee from Thee.
Thou both seest them and distinguishest the shadows. And lo! all
things with them are far, yet are they themselves foul. And how
have they injured Thee? Or in what have they disgraced Thy
government, which is just and perfect from heaven even to the lowest
parts of the earth. For whither fled they when they fled from Thy
presence? Or where dost Thou not find them? But they fled that they
might not see Thee seeing them, and blinded might stumble against
Thee; since Thou forsakest nothing that Thou hast made — that the
unjust might stumble. against Thee, and justly be hurt, withdrawing
themselves from Thy gentleness, and stumbling against Thine
uprightness, and falling upon their own roughness. Forsooth, they
know not that Thou art everywhere whom no place encompasseth, and
that Thou alone art near even to those that re. move far from
Thee? Let them, then, be con
verted and seek Thee; because not as they have forsaken their
Creator hast Thou forsaken Thy creature. Let them be converted and
seek Thee; and behold, Thou art there in their hearts, in the hearts
of those who confess to Thee, and east themselves upon Thee, and
weep on Thy bosom after their obdurate ways, even Thou gently wiping
away their tears. And they weep the more, and rejoice in weeping,
since Thou, O Lord, not man, flesh and blood, but Thou, Lord, who
didst make, remakest and comfortest them. And where was I when I was
seeking Thee? And Thou weft before me, but I had gone away even from
myself; nor did I find myself, much less Thee!

CHAP. III. — HAVING HEARD FAUSTUS, THE MOST LEARNED BISHOP OF
THE MANICHAEANS, HE DISCERNS THAT GOD, THE AUTHOR BOTH OF THINGS
ANIMATE AND INANIMATE, CHIEFLY HAS CARE FOR THE HUMBLE.

3. Let me lay bare before my God that twenty-ninth year of my
age. There had at this time come to Carthage a certain bishop of the
Manichaeans, by name Faustus, a great snare Of the devil, and in any
were entangled by him through the allurement of his smooth speech
the which, although I did commend, yet could I separate from the
truth of those things which I was eager to learn. Nor did I esteem
the small dish of oratory so much as the science, which this their
so praised Faustus placed before me to feed upon. Fame, indeed, had
before Sen of him to me, as most skilled in all being learning, and
pre-eminently skilled in the liberal sciences. And as I had read and
retained in memory many injunctions of the philosophers, I used to
compare some teachings of theirs with those long fables of the
Manichaeans and the former things which they declared, who could
only prevail so far as to estimate this lower world, while its lord
they could by no means find out, seemed to me the more probable.
For Thou art great, O Lord, and hast respect unto the lowly, but the
proud Thou knowest afar off.” Nor dost Thou draw near but to the
COntrite heart, nor art Thou found the proud, — not even could
they number by cunning skill the stars and the sand, and measure the
starry regions, and trace the courses of the planets.

4. For with their understanding and the capacity which Thou hast
bestowed upon them they search out these things; and much have they
found out, and foretold many years before, — the eclipses of those
luminaries, the sun and moon, on what day, at what hour, and from
how many particular points they were likely to come. Nor did their
calculation fail them; and it came to pass even as they foretold.
And they wrote down the rules found out, which are read at this day;
and from these others foretell in what year and in what month of the
year, and on what day of the month, and at what hour of the day, and
at what quarter of its light, either moon or sun is to be eclipsed,
and thus it shall be even as it is foretold. And men who are
ignorant of these things marvel and are amazed, and they that know
them exult and are exalted; and by an impious pride, departing from
Thee, and forsaking Thy light, they foretell a failure of the sun’s
light which is likely to occur so long before, but see not their
own, which is now present. For they seek not religiously whence they
have the ability where-with they seek out these things. And finding
that Thou hast made them, they give not themselves up to Thee, that
Thou mayest preserve what Thou hast made, nor sacrifice themselves
to Thee, even such as they have made themselves to be; nor do they
slay their own pride, as fowls of the air, nor their own
curiosities, by which (like the fishes of the sea). they wander over
the unknown paths of the abyss, nor their own extravagance, as the
“beasts of the field,” that Thou, Lord, “a consuming fire,”
mayest burn up their lifeless cares and renew them immortally.

5. But the way — Thy Word, by whom Thou didst make these things
which they number, and themselves who number, and the sense by which
they perceive what they number, and the judgment out of which they
number — they knew not, and that of Thy wisdom there is no number)
But the Only-begotten has been “made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness, and sanctification,” and has been numbered amongst
us, and paid tribute to Caesar. This way, by which they might
descend to Him from themselves, they knew not; nor that through Him
they might ascend unto Him. This way they knew not, and they think
themselves exalted with the stars and shining, and lo! they fell
upon the earth, and “their foolish heart
was darkened.” They say many true things concerning the creature;
but Truth, the Artificer of the creature, they seek not with
devotion, and hence they find Him not. Or if they find Him, knowing
that He is God, they glorify Him not as God, neither are they
thankful, but become vain in their imaginations, and say that they
themselves are wise? attributing to themselves what is Thine; and by
this, with most perverse blindness, they desire to impute to Thee
what is their own, forging lies against Thee who art the Truth, and
changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like
corruptible man, and to birds, and four-fooled beasts, and creeping
things, — changing Thy truth into a lie, and worshipping and
serving the creature more than the Creator.

6. Many truths, however, concerning the creature did I retain
from these men, and the cause appeared to me from calculations, the
succession of seasons, and the visible manifestations of the stars;
and I compared them with the sayings of Manichaeus, who in his
frenzy has written most extensively on these subjects, but
discovered not any account either of the solstices, or the
equinoxes, the eclipses of the luminaries, or anything of the kind I
had learned in the books of secular philosophy. But therein I was
ordered to believe, and yet it corresponded not with those rules
acknowledged by calculation and my own sight, but was far different.

CHAP. IV.–THAT THE KNOWLEDGE OF TERRESTRIAL AND CELESTIAL THINGS
DOES NOT GIVE HAPPINESS, BUT THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD ONLY.

7. Doth, then, O Lord God of truth, whosoever knoweth those
things therefore please Thee? For unhappy is the man who knoweth all
those things, but knoweth Thee not; but happy is he who knoweth
Thee, though these he may not know. But he who knoweth both Thee
and them is not the happier on account of them, but is happy on
account of Thee only, if knowing Thee he glorify Thee as God, and
gives thanks, and becomes not vain in his thoughts. But as he is
happier who knows how to possess a tree, and for the use thereof
renders thanks to Thee, although he may not know how many cubits
high it is, or how wide it spreads, than he that measures it and
counts all its branches, and neither owns it nor knows or loves its
Creator; so a just man, whose is the entire world of wealth, and
who, as having nothing, yet possesseth all things by cleaving unto
Thee, to whom all things are subservient, though he know not even
the circles of the Great Bear, yet it is foolish to doubt but that
he may verily be better than he who can measure the heavens, and
number the stars, and weigh the elements, but is forgetful of Thee,
“who hast set in order all things in number, weight, and measure.”

CHAP. V. –OF MANICHAEUS PERTINACIOUSLY TEACHING FALSE DOCTRINES,
AND PROUDLY ARROGATING TO HIMSELF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

8. But yet who was it that ordered Manichaeus to write on these
things likewise, skill in which was not necessary to piety? For Thou
hast told man to behold piety ind wisdom, of which he might be in
ignorance although having a complete knowledge of these other
things; but since, knowing not these things, he yet most impudently
dared to teach them, it is clear that he had no acquaintance with
piety. For even when we have a knowledge of these worldly matters,
it is folly to make a profession of them; but confession to Thee is
piety. It was therefore with this view that this straying one spake
much of these matters, that, standing convicted by those who had in
truth learned them, the understanding that he really had in those
more difficult things might be made plain. For he wished not to be
lightly esteemed, but went about trying to persuade men “that the
Holy Ghost, the Comforter and Enricher of Thy faithful ones, was
with full authority personally resident in him.” When, therefore,
it was dis
covered that his teaching concerning the heavens and stars, and the
motions of sun and moon, was false, though these things do not
relate to the doctrine of religion, yet his sacrilegious arrogance
would become sufficiently evident, seeing that not only did he
affirm things of which he knew nothing, but also perverted them, and
with such egregious vanity of pride as to seek to attribute them to
himself as to a divine being.

9. For when I hear a Christian brother ignorant of these things,
or in error concerning them, I can bear with patience to see that
man hold to his opinions; nor can I apprehend that any want of
knowledge as to the situation or nature of this material creation
can be injurious to him, so long as he does not entertain belief in
anything unworthy of Thee, O Lord, the Creator of all. But if he
conceives it to pertain to the form of the doctrine of piety, and
presumes to affirm with great obstinacy that whereof he is ignorant,
therein lies the injury. And yet even a weakness such as this in the
dawn of faith is borne by our Mother Charity, till the new man may
grow up “unto a perfect man,” and not be “carried about with every
wind of doctrine.” But in him who thus presumed to beat once the
teacher, author, head, and leader of all whom he could induce to
believe this, so that all who followed him believed that they were
following not a simple man only, but Thy Holy Spirit, who would not
judge that such great insanity, when once it stood convicted of
false teaching, should be abhorred and utterly cast off? But I had
not yet clearly ascertained whether the changes of longer and
shorter days,and nights, and day and night itself, with the eclipses
of the greater lights, and whatever of the like kind I had read in
other books, could be expounded consistently with his words. Should
I have found myself able to do so, there would still have remained a
doubt in my mind whether it were so or no, although I might, on the
strength of his reputed godliness, rest my faith on his authority.

CHAP. VI.–FAUSTUS WAS INDEED AN ELEGANT SPEAKER, BUT KNEW
NOTHING OF THE LIBERAL SCIENCES.

10. And for nearly the whole of those nine years during which,
with unstable mind, I had been their follower, I had been looking
forward with but too great eagerness for the arrival of this same
Faustus. For the other members of the sect whom I had chanced to
light upon, when unable to answer the questions I raised, always
bade me look forward to his coming, when, by discoursing with him,
these, and greater difficulties if I had them, would be most easily
and amply cleared away. When at last he did come, I found him to be
a man of pleasant speech, who spoke of the very same things as they
themselves did, although more fluently, and in better language. But
of what profit to me was the elegance of my cup-bearer, since he
offered me not the more precious draught for which I thirsted? My
ears were already satiated with similar things; neither did they
appear to me more conclusive, because better expressed; nor true,
because oratorical; nor the spirit necessarily wise, because the
face was comely and the language eloquent. But they who extolled him
to me were not competent judges; and therefore, as he was possessed
of suavity of speech, he appeared to them to be prudent and wise.

Another sort of persons, however, was, I was aware, suspicious
even of truth itself, if enunciated in smooth and flowing language.
But me, O my God, Thou hadst already instructed by wonderful and
mysterious ways, and therefore I
believe that Thou instructedst me because it is truth; nor of truth
is there any other teacher — where or whencesoever it may shine
upon us — but Thee.

From Thee, therefore, I had now learned, that cause a thing is
eloquently expressed, it should not of necessity seem to be true;
nor, because uttered with stammering lips, should it be false nor,
again, perforce true, because unskilfully delivered; nor
consequently untrue, because the language is fine; but that wisdom
and folly are as food both wholesome and unwholesome, and courtly or
simple words as town-made or rustic vessels, — and both kinds of
food may be served in either kind of dish.

11. That eagerness, therefore, with which I had so long waited
for this man was in truth delighted with his action and feeling when
disputing, and the fluent and apt words with which he clothed his
ideas. I was therefore filled with joy, and joined with others (and
even exceeded them) in exalting and praising him. It was, however, a
source of annoyance to me that was not allowed at those meetings of
his auditors to introduce and impart any of those questions that
troubled me in familiar exchange of arguments with him. When I might
speak, and began, in conjunction with my friends, to engage his
attention at such times as it was not unseeming for him to enter
into a discussion with me,
and had mooted such questions as perplexed me, I discovered him
first to know nothing of the liberal sciences save grammar, and that
only in an ordinary way. Having, however, read some of Tully’s
Orations, a very few books of Seneca and some of the poets, and such
few volumes of his own sect as were written coherently in Latin, and
being day by day practised in speaking, he so acquired a sort of
eloquence, which proved the more delightful and enticing in that it
was under the control of ready tact, and a sort of native grace. Is
it not even as I recall, O Lord my God, Thou judge of my conscience?
My heart and my memory are laid before Thee, who didst at that time
direct me by the inscrutable mystery of Thy Providence, and didst
set before my face those vile errors of mine, in order that I might
see and loathe them.

CHAP. VII.—CLEARLY SEEING THE FALLACIES OF THE MANICHAEANS, HE
RETIRES FROM THEM, BEING REMARKABLY AIDED BY GOD.

12. For when it became plain to me that he was ignorant of those
arts in which I had believed him to excel, I began to despair of his
clearing up and explaining all the perplexities which harassed me:
though ignorant of these, however, he might still have held the
truth of piety, had he not been a Manichaean. For their books are
full of lengthy fables concerning the heaven and stars, the sun and
moon, and I had ceased to think him able to decide in a satisfactory
manner what I ardently desired, — whether, on comparing these
things with the calculations I had read elsewhere, the explanations
contained in the works of Manichaeus were preferable, or at any rate
equally sound? But when I proposed that these subjects should be
deliberated upon and reasoned out, he very modestly did not dare to
endure the burden. For he was aware that he had no knowledge of
these things, and was not ashamed to confess it. For he was not one
of those loquacious persons, many of whom I had been troubled with,
who covenanted to teach me these things, and said nothing; but this
man possessed a heart, which, though not right towards Thee, yet was
not altogether false towards himself. For he was not altogether
ignorant of his own ignorance, nor m would he without due
consideration be inveigled in a controversy, from which he could
neither draw back nor extricate himself fairly. And for that I was
even more pleased with him, for more beautiful is the modesty of an
ingenuous mind than the acquisition of the knowledge I desired, –
and such I found him to be in all the more abstruse and subtle
questions.

13. My eagerness after the writings of Manichaeus having thus
received a check, and despairing even more of their other
teachers,seeing that in sundry things which puzzled me, he, so
famous amongst them, had thus turned out, — I began to occupy
myself with him in the study of that literature which he also much
affected, and which I, as Professor of Rhetoric, was then engaged in
teaching the young Carthaginian students, and in reading with him
either what he expressed a wish to hear, or I deemed suited to his
bent of mind. But all my endeavours by which I had concluded to
improve in that sect, by acquaintance with that man, came completely
to an end: not that I separated myself altogether from them, but, as
one who could find nothing better, I determined in the meantime upon
contenting myself with what I had in any way lighted upon, unless,
by chance, something more desirable should present itself. Thus that
Faustus, who had entrapped so many to their death, — neither
willing nor wilting it, — now began to loosen the snare in which I
had been taken. For Thy hands, O my God, in the hidden design of Thy
Providence, did not desert my soul; and out of the blood of my
mother’s heart, through the tears that she poured out by day and by
night, was a sacrifice offered unto Thee for me; and by marvellous
ways didst Thou deal with me. It was Thou, O my God, who didst it,
for the steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, and He shall dispose
his way. Or how can we procure salvation but from Thy hand,
remaking what it hath made?

CHAP. VIII.–HE SETS OUT FOR ROME, HIS MOTHER

IN VAIN LAMENTING IT.

14. Thou dealedst with me, therefore, that I should be persuaded
to go to Rome, and teach there rather what I was then teaching at
Carthage. And how I was persuaded to do this, I will not fail to
confess unto Thee; for in this also the profoundest workings of Thy
wisdom, and Thy ever present mercy to usward, must be pondered and
avowed. It was not my desire to go to Rome because greater
advantages and dignities were guaranteed me by the friends who
persuaded me into this, — although even at this period I was
influenced by these considerations, — but my principal and almost
sole motive was, that I had been informed that the youths studied
more quietly there, and were kept under by the control of more rigid
discipline, so that they did not capriciously and impudently rash
into the school of a master not their own, into whose presence they
were forbidden to enter unless with his consent. At Carthage, on the
contrary, there was amongst the scholars a shameful and intemperate
license. They burst in rudely, and, with almost furious
gesticulations, interrupt the system which any one may have
instituted for the good of his pupils. Many outrages they perpetrate
with astounding phlegm, which would be punishable by law were they
not sustained by custom; that custom showing them to be the more
worthless, in that they now do, as according to law, what by Thy
unchangeable law will never be lawful. And they fancy they do it
with impunity, whereas the very blindness whereby they do it is
their punishment, and they suffer far greater things than they do.
The manners, then, which as a student I would not adopt, I was
compelled as a teacher to submit to from others; and so I was too
glad to go where all who knew anything about it assured me that
similar things were not done. But Thou, “my refuge and my portion in
the land of the living,” didst while at Carthage goad me, so that I
might thereby be withdrawn from it, and exchange my worldly
habitation for the preservation of my soul; whilst at Rome Thou,
didst offer me enticements by which to attract me there, by men
enchanted with this dying life, — the one doing insane actions, and
the, other making assurances of vain things; and, in order to
correct my footsteps, didst secretly employ their and my perversity.
For both they who disturbed my tranquillity were blinded by a
shameful madness, and they who allured me elsewhere smacked of the
earth. And I, who hated real misery here, sought fictitious
happiness there.

15. But the cause of my going thence and going thither, Thou, O
God, knewest, yet revealedst it not, either to me or to my mother,
who grievously lamented my journey, and went with me as far as the
sea. But I deceived her, when she violently restrained me either
that she might retain me or accompany me, and I pretended that I had
a friend whom I could not quit until he had a favourable wind to set
sail. And I lied to my mother — and such a mother! — and got away.
For this also Thou hast in mercy pardoned me, saving me, thus
replete with abominable pollutions, from the waters of the sea, for
the water of Thy grace, whereby, when I was purified, the fountains
of my mother’s eyes should be dried, from which for me she day by
day watered the ground under her face. And yet, refusing to go back
without me, it was with difficulty I persuaded her to remain that
night in a place quite close to our ship, where there was an
oratory in memory of the blessed Cyprian. That night I secretly
left, but she was not backward in prayers and weeping. And what was
it, O Lord, that she, with such an abundance of tears, was asking of
Thee, but that Thou wouldest not permit me to sail? But Thou,
mysteriously counselling and hearing the real purpose of her desire,
granted not what she then asked, in order to make me what she was
ever asking. The wind blew and filled our sails, and withdrew the
shore from our sight; and she, wild with grief, was there on the
morrow, and filled Thine ears with complaints and groans, which Thou
didst disregard; whilst, by the means of my longings, Thou wert
hastening me on to the cessation of all longing, and the gross part
of her love to me was whipped out by the just lash of sorrow. But,
like all mothers, –though even more than others, — she loved to
have me with her, and knew not what joy Thou weft preparing for her
by my absence. Being ignorant of this, she did weep and mourn, and
in her agony was seen the inheritance of Eve, — seeking in sorrow
what in sorrow she had brought forth. And yet, after accusing my
perfidy and cruelty, she again continued her intercessions for me
with Thee, returned to her accustomed place, and I to Rome.

CHAP. IX.–BEING ATTACKED BY FEVER, HE IS IN GREAT DANGER.

16. And behold, there was I received by the scourge of bodily
sickness, and I was descending into hell burdened with all the sins
that I had committed, both against Thee, myself, and others, many
and grievous, over and above that bond of original sin whereby we
all die in Adam. For none of these things hadst Thou
forgiven me in Christ, neither had He “abolished” by His cross “the
enmity” t which, by my sins, I had incurred with Thee. For how could
He, by the crucifixion of a phantasm? which I supposed Him to be? As
true, then, was the death of my soul, as that of His flesh appeared
to me to be untrue; and as true the death of His flesh as the life
of my soul, which believed it not, was false. The fever increasing,
I was now passing away and perishing. For had I then gone hence,
whither should I have gone but into the fiery torments meet for my
misdeeds, in the truth of Thy ordinance? She was ignorant of this,
yet, while absent, prayed for me. But Thou, everywhere present,
hearkened to her where she was, and hadst pity upon me where I was,
that I should regain my bodily health, although still frenzied in my
sacrilegious heart. For all that peril did not make me wish to be
baptized, and I was better when, as a lad, I entreated it of my
mother’s piety, as I have already related and confessed? But I had
grown up to my own dishonour, and all the purposes of Thy medicine I
madly derided, who wouldst not suffer me, though such a one, to die
a double death. Had my mother’s heart been smitten with this wound,
it never could have been cured. For I cannot sufficiently express
the love she had for me, nor how she now travailed for me in the
spirit with a far keener anguish than when she bore me in the flesh.

17. I cannot conceive, therefore, how she could have been healed
if such a death of mine had transfixed the bowels of her love. Where
then would have been her so earnest, frequent, and unintermitted
prayers to Thee alone? But couldst Thou, most merciful God, despise
the “contrite and humble heart” s of that pure and prudent widow, so
constant in alms-deeds, so gracious and attentive to Thy saints, not
permitting one day to pass without oblation at Thy altar, twice a
day, at morning and even-tide, coming to Thy church without
intermission–not for vain gossiping, nor old wives’ “fables,” but
in order that she might listen to Thee in Thy sermons, and Thou to
her in her prayers? Couldst Thou–Thou by whose gift she was such
—despise and disregard without succouring the tears of such a one,
wherewith she entreated Thee not for gold or silver, nor for any
changing or fleeting good, but for the salvation of the soul of her
son? By no means, Lord. Assuredly Thou wert near, and weft hearing
and doing in that method in which Thou hadst predetermined that it
should be done. Far be it from Thee that Thou shouldst delude her in
those visions and the answers she had from Thee,–some of which I
have spoken of,s and others not?—which she kept in her faithful
breast, and, always petitioning, pressed upon Thee as Thine
autograph. For Thou, “because Thy mercy endureth for ever,” n
condescendest to those whose debts Thou hast pardoned, to become
likewise a debtor by Thy promises.

CHAP. X.–WHEN HE HAD LEFT THE MANICHAEANS, HE RETAINED HIS
DEPRAVED OPINIONS

  CONCERNING SIN AND THE ORIGIN OF THE SAVIOUR.

18. Thou restoredst me then from that illness, and made sound the
son of Thy hand-maid meanwhile in body, that he might live for Thee,
to endow him with a higher and
more enduring health. And even then at Rome I joined those deluding
and deluded “saints;” not their “hearers” only,–of the number of
whom was he in whose house I had fallen ill, and had recovered,–but
those also whom they designate “The Elect.” For it still seemed to
me “that it was not we that sin, but that I know not what other
nature sinned in us.” And it gratified my pride to be free from
blame and, after I had committed any fault, not to acknowledge that
I had done any,–” that Thou mightest heal my soul because it had
sinned against Thee;” but I loved to excuse it, and to accuse
something else (I wot not what) which was with me, but was not I.
But assuredly it was wholly I, and my impiety had divided me against
myself; and that sin was all the more incurable in that I did not
deem myself a sinner. And execrable iniquity it was, O God
omnipotent, that I would rather have Thee to be overcome in me to my
destruction, than myself of Thee to salvation! Not yet, therefore,
hadst Thou set a watch before my mouth, and kept the door of my
lips, that my heart might not incline to wicked speeches, to make
excuses of sins, with men that work iniquity — and, therefore, was
I still united with their “Elect.”

19. But now, hopeless of making proficiency in that false
doctrine, even those things with which I had decided upon contenting
myself, providing that I could find nothing better, I now held more
loosely and negligently. For I was half inclined to believe that
those philosophers whom they call “Academics” s were more sagacious
than the rest, in that they held that we ought to doubt everything,
and ruled that man had not the power of comprehending any truth; for
so, not yet realizing their meaning, I a/so was fully persuaded that
they thought just as they are commonly held to do. And I did not
fail frankly to restrain in my host that assurance which I observed
him to have in those fictions of which the works of Manichaeus are
full. Notwithstanding, I was on terms of more intimate friendship
with them than with others who were not of this heresy. Nor did I
defend it with my former ardour; still my familiarity with that sect
(many of them being concealed in Rome) made me slower to seek any
other way,–particularly since I was hopeless of finding the truth,
from which in Thy Church, O Lord of heaven and earth, Creator’ of
all things visible and invisible, they had turned me aside, –and it
seemed to me most unbecoming to believe Thee to have the form of
human flesh, and to be bounded by the bodily lineaments of our
members. And because, when I desired to meditate on my God, I knew
not what to think ‘ of but a mass of bodies (for what was not such
‘ did not seem to me to be), this was the greatest ‘and almost sole
cause of my inevitable error.

20. For hence I also believed evil to be a similar sort of
substance, and to be possessed of its own foul and misshapen
mass—whether dense, which they denominated earth, or thin and
subtle, as is the body of the air, which they fancy some malignant
spirit crawling through that earth. And because a piety–such as it
was—compelled me to believe that the good God never created any
evil nature, I conceived two masses, the one opposed to the other,
both infinite, but the evil the more contracted, the good the more
expansive.

And from this mischievous commencement the other profanities
followed on me.

For when my mind tried to revert to the Catholic faith, I was
cast back, since what I had held to be the Catholic faith was not
so. And it appeared to me more de
vout to look upon Thee, my God,–to whom i make confession of Thy
mercies,–as infinite, at least, on other sides, although on that
side where the mass of evil was in opposition to Thee x I was
compelled to confess Thee finite, that if on every side I should
conceive Thee to be confined by the form of a human body. And better
did it seem to me to believe that no evil had been created by
Thee–which to me in my ignorance appeared not only some substance,
but a bodily one, because I had no conception of the mind excepting
as a subtle body, and that diffused in local spaces–than to believe
that anything could emanate from Thee of such a kind as I considered
the nature of evil to be. And our very Saviour Himself, also, Thine
only-begotten, I believed to have been reached forth, as it were,
for our salvation out of the lump of Thy most effulgent mass, so as
to believe nothing of Him but what I was able to imagine in my
vanity. Such a nature, then, I thought could not be born of the
Virgin Mary without being mingled with the flesh; and how that which
I had thus figured to myself could be mingled without being
contaminated, I saw not. I was afraid, therefore, to believe Him to
be born in the flesh, lest I should be compelled to believe Him
contaminated by the flesh? Now will Thy spiritual ones blandly and
lovingly smile at me if they shall read these my confessions; yet
such was I.

CHAP. XI.–HELPIDIUS DISPUTED WELL AGAINST THE MANICHAEANS AS TO
THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.

21. Furthermore, whatever they had censured in Thy Scriptures I
thought impossible to be defended; and yet sometimes, indeed, I
desired to confer on these several points with some one well learned
in those books, and to try what he thought of them. For at this time
the words of one Helpidius, speaking and disputing face to face
against the said Manichaeans, had begun to move me even at Carthage,
in that he brought forth things from the Scriptures not easily
withstood, to which their answer appeared to me feeble. And this
answer they did not give forth publicly, but only to us in private,
–when they said that the writings of the New Testament had been
tampered with by I know not whom, who were desirous of ingrafting
the Jewish law upon the Christian faith; but they themselves did not
bring forward any uncorrupted copies.’ But I, thinking of corporeal
things, very much ensnared and in a measure stifled, was oppressed
by those masses; panting under which for the breath of Thy Truth, I
was not able to breathe it pure and undefiled.

CHAP. XII.–PROFESSING RHETORIC AT ROME, HE DISCOVERS THE FRAUD
OF HIS SCHOLARS.

22. Then began I assiduously to practise that for which I came to
Rome–the teaching of rhetoric; and first to bring together at my
home some to whom, and through whom, I had begun to be known; when,
behold, I learnt that other offences were committed in Rome which I
had not to bear in Africa. For those subvertings by abandoned young
men were not practised here, as I had been informed; yet, suddenly,
said they, to evade paying their master’s fees, many of the youths
conspire together, and remove themselves to another,–breakers of
faith, who, for the love of money, set a small value on justice.
These also my heart “hated,” though not with a “perfect hatred;”
for, perhaps, I hated them more in that I was to suffer by them,
than for the illicit acts they committed. Such of a truth are base
persons, and they are unfaithful to Thee, loving these transitory
mockeries of temporal things, and vile gain, which begrimes the hand
that lays hold on it; and embracing the fleeting world, and scorning
Thee, who abidest, and invitest to return, and pardonest the
prostituted human soul when it returneth to Thee. And now I hate
such crooked and perverse men, although I love them if they are to
be corrected so as to prefer the learning they obtain to money, and
to learning. Thee, O God, the truth and fulness of certain good and
most chaste peace. But then was the wish stronger in me for my own
sake not to suffer them evil, than was the wish that they should
become good for Thine.

CHAP. XIII.–HE IS SENT TO MILAN, THAT HE, ABOUT TO TEACH
RHETORIC, MAY BE KNOWN BY AMBROSE.

23. When, therefore, they of Milan had sent
to Rome to the prefect of the city, to provide them with a teacher
of rhetoric for their city, and to despatch him at the public
expense, I made interest through those identical persons, drunk with
Manichaean vanities, to be freed from whom I was going
away,–neither of us, however, being aware of it,–that Symmachus,
the then prefect, having proved me by proposing a subject, would
send me. And to Milan I came, unto Ambrose the bishop, known to the
whole world as among the best of men, Thy devout servant; whose
eloquent discourse did at that time strenuously dispense unto Thy
people the flour of Thy wheat, the “gladness” of Thy “oil,” and the
sober intoxication of Thy “wine.’ x To him was I unknowingly led by
Thee, that by him I might knowingly be led to Thee. That man of God
received me like a father, and looked with a benevolent and
episcopal kindliness on my change of abode. And I began to love him,
not at first, indeed, as a teacher of the truth,–which I entirely
despaired of in Thy Church,–but as a man friendly to myself. And I
studiously hearkened to him preaching to the people, not with the
motive I should, but, as it were, trying to discover whether his
eloquence came up to the fame thereof, or flowed fuller or lower
than was asserted; and I hung on his words intently, but of the
matter I was but as a careless and contemptuous spectator; and I
was delighted with the pleasantness of his speech, more erudite, yet
less cheerful and soothing in manner, than that of Faustus. Of the
matter, however, there could be no comparison; for the latter was
straying amid Manichaean deceptions, whilst the former was teaching
salvation most soundly. But “salvation is far from the wicked,”
such as I then stood before him; and yet I was drawing nearer
gradually and unconsciously.

CHAP. XIV.–HAVING HEARD THE BISHOP, HE PERCEIVES THE FORCE OF
THE CATHOLIC FAITH, YET DOUBTS, AFTER THE MANNER OF THE MODERN
ACADEMICS.

24. For although I took no trouble to learn what he spake, but
only to hear how he spake (for that empty care alone remained to me,
despairing of a way accessible for man to Thee), yet, together with
the words which I prized, there came into my mind also the things
about which I was careless; for I could not separate them. And
whilst I opened my heart to admit “how skilfully he spake,” there
also entered with it, but gradually, “and how truly he spake!” For
first, these things also had begun to appear to me to be defensible;
and the Catholic faith, for which I had fancied nothing could be
said against the attacks of the Manichaeans, I now conceived might
be maintained without presumption; especially after I had heard one
or two parts of the Old Testament explained, and often
allegorically–which when I accepted literally, I was “killed”
spiritually.s Many places, then, of those books having been
ex-pounded to me, I now blamed my despair in having believed that no
reply could be made to those who hated and derided the Law and the
Prophets. Yet I did not then see that for that reason the Catholic
way was to be held because it had its learned advocates, who could
at length, and not irrationally, answer objections; nor that what I
held ought therefore to be condemned because both sides were equally
defensible. For that way did not appear to me to be vanquished; nor
yet did it seem to me to be victorious.

25. Hereupon did I earnestly bend my mind to see if in any way I
could possibly prove the Manichaeans guilty of falsehood. Could I
have realized a spiritual substance, all their strongholds would
have been beaten down, and cast utterly out of my mind; but I could
not. But vet, concerning the body of this world, and the whole of
nature, which the senses of the flesh can attain unto, I, now more
and more considering and comparing things, judged that the greater
part of the philosophers held much the more probable opinions. So,
then, after the manner of the Academics (as they are supposed),
doubting of everything and fluctuating between all, I decided that
the Manichaeans were to be abandoned; judging that, even while in
that period of doubt, I could not remain in a sect to which I
preferred some of the philosophers; to which philosophers, however,
because they were without the saving name of Christ, I utterly
refused to commit the cure of my fainting soul. I resolved,
therefore, to be a catechumen in the Catholic Church, which my i
parents had commended to me, until something settled should manifest
itself to me whither I might steer my course.

Doc Viewed 9908 times

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.