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St. Augustine of Hippo- Confessions BOOK II
AUTHOR: Augustine
PUBLISHED ON: March 26, 2003
DOC SOURCE: CCN

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

St. Augustine of Hippo
Confessions

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.

CHAP. 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,x and I became corrupt in Thine eyes, pleasing myself,
and eager to please in the eyes of men.

CHAP. 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 chins of my mortality, the punishment for my soul’s
pride; and I wandered farther from Thee, and Thou didst “suffer”‘
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;” and, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman; “‘ 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.” I should,
therefore, have listened more attentively to these words, and, being
severed “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake,” ‘ 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.’ For what mortal can
do so? But Thou weft 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, and
woundest us to heal us, and killest us that we may not die from
Thee. 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 away 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.

CHAP. 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 (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.s 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 fails 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, she feared those crooked ways in which they walk
who turn their back to Thee, and not their face?

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.”
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 tens
ciously 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,” — 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.” ‘

CHAP. 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 L 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

CHAP. 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.

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.” x 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.

CHAP. 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 weft not, since thou weft 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 fairests 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 cloth pride imitate high estate, I whereas Thou
alone art God, high above all. [ And what does ambition seek but
honours and l renown, whereas Thou alone art to be honoured i above
all, and renowned for evermore?

The cruelty of the powerful wishes to be feared; but who is to
be feared but God only,s 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? 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 fellness 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 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.s 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? Behold this servant of Thine, fleeing from his
Lord, and following a shadow! O rottenness! O monstrosity of life
and profundity of death!
Could I like that which was unlawful only because it was unlawful?

CHAP. 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,” x 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,s 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 hot 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’ 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.

CHAP. VIII.–IN HIS THEFT HE LOVED THE COMPANY OF HIS
FELLOW-SINNERS.

16. “What fruit had I then,”* 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.

CHAP. 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?” 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.

CHAP. X.–WITH GOD THERE IS TRUE REST AND

LIFE UNCHANGING.

18. Who can unravel that twisted and tang]ed 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, a 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.

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