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St. Augustine of Hippo- Confessions, Book III
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 III.

OF THE SEVENTEENTH, EIGHTEENTH, AND NINETEENTH YEARS OF HIS AGE,
PASSED AT CARTHAGE, WHEN, HAVING COMPLETED HIS COURSE OF STUDIES, HE
IS CAUGHT IN THE SNARES OF A LICENTIOUS PASSION, AND FALLS INTO THE
ERRORS OF THE MANICHAEANS.

CHAP. I.–DELUDED BY AN INSANE LOVE, HE, THOUGH FOUL AND
DISHONOURABLE, DESIRES TO BE THOUGHT ELEGANT AND URBANE.

1. To Carthage I came, where a cauldron of unholy loves bubbled
up all around me. I loved not as yet I loved to love; and with a
hidden want, I abhorred myself that I wanted not. I searched about
for something to love, in love with loving, and hating security, and
a way not beset with snares. For within me I had a dearth of that
inward food, Thyself, my’ God, though that dearth caused me no
hunger; but I remained without all desire for incorruptible food,
not because I was already filled thereby, but the more empty I was
the more I loathed it. For this reason my soul was far from well,
and, full of ulcers, it miserably cast itself forth, craving to be
excited by contact with objects of sense. Yet, had these no soul,
they would not surely inspire love. To love and to be loved was
sweet to me, and all the more when I succeeded in enjoying the
person I loved. I befouled, therefore, the spring of friendship with
the filth of concupiscence, and I dimmed its lustre with the hell of
lustfulness; and yet, foul and dishonourable as I was, I craved,
through an excess of vanity, to be thought elegant and urbane. I
fell precipitately, then, into the love in which I longed to be
ensnared. My God, my mercy, with how much bitterness didst Thou, out
of Thy infinite goodness, besprinkle for me that sweetness! For I
was both beloved, and secretly arrived at the bond of enjoying; and
was joyfully bound with troublesome ties, that I might be scourged
with the burning iron rods of jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and
strife.

CHAP. II.–IN PUBLIC SPECTACLES HE IS MOVED BY AN EMPTY
COMPASSION. HE IS ATTACKED BY A TROUBLESOME SPIRITUAL DISEASE.

2. Stage-plays also drew me away, full of representations of my
miseries and of fuel to my fire.’ Why does man like to be made sad
when viewing doleful and tragical scenes, which yet he himself would
by no means suffer? And yet he wishes, as a spectator, to experience
from them a sense of grief, and in this very grief his,pleasure
consists. What is this but wretched insanity?” For a man is more
effected with these actions, the less free he is from such
affections. Howsoever, when he suffers in his own person, it is the
custom to style it “misery but when he compassionates others, then
it is styled “mercy.”‘ But what kind of mercy is it that arises from
fictitious and scenic passions? The hearer is not expected to
relieve, but merely invited to grieve; and the more he grieves, the
more he applauds the actor of these fictions. And if the misfortunes
of the characters (whether of olden times or merely imaginary) be so
represented as not to touch the feelings of the spectator, he goes
away disgusted and censorious; but if his feelings be touched, he
sits it out attentively, and sheds tears of joy.

3. Are sorrows, then, also loved? Surely all men desire to
rejoice? Or, as man wishes to be miserable, is he, nevertheless,
glad to be merciful, which, because it cannot exist without passion,
for this cause alone are passions loved? This also is from that vein
of friendship. But whither does it go? Whither does it flow?
Wherefore runs it into that torrent of pitch,’ seething forth those
huge tides of loathsome lusts into which it is changed and
transformed, being of its own will cast away and corrupted from its
celestial clearness? Shall, then, mercy be repudiated? By no means.
Let us, therefore, love sorrows sometimes. But beware of
uncleanness, O my soul, under the protection of my God, the God of
our fathers, who is to be praised and exalted above all for ever,
beware of uncleanness. For I have not now ceased to have compassion;
but then in the theatres I sympathized with lovers when they
sinfully enjoyed one another, although this was
done fictitiously in the play. And when they lost one another, I
grieved with them, as if pitying them, and yet had delight in both.
But now-a-days I feel much more pity for him that delighteth in his
wickedness, than for him who is counted as enduring hardships by
failing to obtain some pernicious pleasure, and the loss of some
miserable felicity. This, surely, is the truer mercy, but grief hath
no delight in it. For though he that condoles with the unhappy be
approved for his office of charity, yet would he who had real
compassion rather there were nothing for him to grieve about. For if
goodwill be ill-willed (which it cannot), then can he who is truly
and sincerely commiserating wish that there should be some unhappy
ones, that he might commiserate them. Some grief may then be
justified, none loved. For thus dost Thou, O Lord God, who lovest
souls far more purely than do we, and art more incorruptibly
compassionate, although Thou art wounded by no sorrow.”And who is
sufficient for these things?”

4. But I, wretched one, then loved to grieve, I and sought out
what to grieve at, as when, in another man’s misery, though reigned
and counterfeited, that delivery of the actor best pleased me, and
attracted me the most powerfully, which moved me to tears. ‘What
marvel was it that an unhappy sheep, straying from Thy flock, and
impatient of Thy care, I became infected with a foul disease? And
hence came my love of griefs—not such as should probe me too
deeply, for I loved not to suffer such things as I loved to look
upon, but such as, when hearing their fictions, should lightly
affect the surface; upon which, like as with empoisoned nails,
followed burning, swelling, putrefaction, and horrible corruption.
Such was my life! But was it life, O my God?

CHAP. III.–NOT EVEN WHEN AT CHURCH DOES

   HE SUPPRESS HIS DESIRES. IN THE SCHOOL OF

   RHETORIC HE ABHORS THE ACTS OF THE SUBVERTERS.

5. And Thy faithful mercy hovered over me afar. Upon what
unseemly iniquities did I wear myself out, following a sacrilegious
curiosity, that, having deserted Thee, it might drag me into the
treacherous abyss, and to the beguiling obedience of devils, unto
whom I immolated my wicked deeds, and in all which Thou didst
scourge me! I dared, even while Thy solemn rites were being
celebrated within the walls of Thy church, to desire, and to plan a
business sufficient to procure me the fruits of death; for which
Thou chastisedst me with grievous punishments, but nothing in
comparison with my fault, O Thou my greatest mercy, my God, my
refuge from those terrible hurts, among which I wandered with
presumptuous neck, receding farther from Thee, loving my own ways,
and not Thine–loving a vagrant liberty.

6. Those studies, also, which were accounted honourable, were
directed towards the courts of law; to excel in which, the more
crafty I was, the more I should be praised. Such is the blindness of
men, that they even glory in their blindness. And now I was head in
‘the School of Rhetoric, whereat I rejoiced proudly, and became
inflated with arrogance, though more sedate, O Lord, as Thou
knowest, and altogether removed from the subvertings of those
“subverters” (for this stupid and diabolical name was held to be
the very brand of gallantry) amongst whom I lived, with an impudent
shamefacedness that I was not even as they were. And with them I
was, and at times I was delighted with their friendship whose acts I
ever abhorred, that is, their “subverting,”
wherewith they insolently attacked the modesty of strangers, which
they disturbed by uncalled for jeers, gratifying thereby their
mischievous mirth.

Nothing can more nearly resemble the actions of devils than
these. By what name, therefore, could they be more truly called than
“subverters “?–being themselves subverted first, and altogether
perverted–being secretly mocked at and seduced by the deceiving
spirits, in what they themselves delight to jeer at and deceive
others.

CHAP. IV.–IN THE NINETEENTH YEAR OF HIS AGE (HIS FATHER HAVING
DIED TWO YEARS BEFORE) HE IS LED BY THE “HORTENSIUS” OF CICERO TO
“PHILOSOPHY,” TO GOD, AND A BETTER MODE OF THINKING.

7. Among such as these, at that unstable period of my life, I
studied books of eloquence, wherein I was eager to be eminent from a
damnable and inflated purpose, even a delight in human vanity. In
the ordinary course of study, I lighted upon a certain book of
Cicero, whose language, though not his heart, almost all admire.
This book of his contains an exhortation to philosophy, and is
called Hortensius. This book, in truth, changed my affections, and
turned my prayers to Thyself, O Lord, and made me have other hopes
and desires. Worthless suddenly became every vain hope to me; and,
with an incredible warmth of heart, I
yearned for an immortality of wisdom, and began now to arise that
I might return to Thee. Not, then, to improve my language–which I
appeared to be purchasing with my mother’s means, in that my
nineteenth year, my father having died two years before–not to
improve my language did I have recourse to that book; nor did it
persuade me by its style, but its matter.

8. How ardent was I then, my God, how ardent to fly from earthly
things to Thee! Nor did I know how Thou wouldst deal with me. For
with Thee is wisdom.

In Greek the love of wisdom is called “philosophy,”‘ with which
hat book inflamed me. There be some who seduce through philosophy,
under a great, and alluring, and honourable name colouring ind
adorning their own errors. And almost all who in that and former
times were such, are in that book censured and pointed out. There is
also disclosed that most salutary admonition of Thy Spirit, by Thy
good and pious servant: “Beware lest any man spoil you through
philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the
rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in Him dwelleth
all the fellness of the Godhead bodily.” And since at that time (as
Thou, O Light of my heart, know-est) the words of the apostle were
unknown to me, I was delighted with that exhortation, in so far only
as I was thereby stimulated, and enkindled, and inflamed to love,
seek, obtain, hold, and embrace, not this or that sect, but.wisdom
itself, whatever it were; and this alone checked me thus ardent,
that the name of Christ was not in it. For this name, according to
Thy mercy, O Lord, this name of my Saviour Thy Son, had my tender
heart piously drunk in, deeply treasured even with my mother’s milk;
and whatsoever was without that name, though never so erudite,
polished, and truthful, took not complete hold of me.

CHAP. V.–HE REJECTS THE SACRED SCRIPTURES AS TOO SIMPLE, AND AS
NOT TO BE COMPARED WITH THE DIGNITY OF TULLY.

9. I resolved, therefore, to direct my mind to the Holy
Scriptures, that I might see what they were. And behold, I perceive
something not comprehended by the proud, not disclosed to children,
but lowly as you approach, sublime as you advance, and veiled in
mysteries; and I was not of the number of those who could enter into
it, or bend my neck to follow its steps. For not as when now I speak
did I feel when I tuned towards those Scriptures, but they
appeared to me to be unworthy to be compared with the dignity of
Tully; for my inflated pride shunned their style, nor could the
sharpness of my wit pierce their inner meaning.’ Yet, truly, were
they such as would develope in little ones; but I scorned to be a
little one, and, swollen with pride, I looked upon myself as a great
one.

CHAPTER VI.–DECEIVED BY HIS OWN FAULT, HE FALLS INTO THE ERRORS OF
THE
MANICHAEANS, WHO GLORIED IN THE TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND IN A
THOROUGH EXAMINATION OF THINGS.

10. Therefore I fell among men proudly raving, very carnal, and
voluble, in whose mouths were the snares of the devil–the birdlime
being composed of a mixture of the syllables of Thy name, and of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, the
Comforter. These names departed not out of their mouths, but so far
forth as the sound only and the clatter of the tongue, for the heart
was empty of truth. Still they cried, “Truth, Truth,” and spoke much
about it to me, “yet was it not in them;’ but they spake falsely
not of Thee only–who, verily, art the Truth –but also of these
elements of this world, Thy
creatures. And I, in truth, should have passed by philosophers, even
when speaking truth concerning them, for love of Thee, my Father,
supremely good, beauty of all things beautiful. O Truth, Truth! how
inwardly even then did the marrow of my soul pant after Thee, when
they frequently, and in a multiplicity of ways, and in numerous and
huge books, sounded out Thy name to me, though it was but a voice!x
And these were the dishes in which to me, hungering for Thee, they,
instead of Thee, served up the sun and moon, Thy beauteous
works–but yet Thy works, not Thyself, nay, nor Thy first works. For
before these corporeal works are Thy spiritual ones, celestial and
shining though they be. But I hungered and thirsted not even after
those first works of Thine, but after Thee Thyself, the Truth, “with
whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning;” yet they still
served up to me in those dishes glowing phantasies, than which
better were it to love this very sun (which, at least, is true to
our sight), than those illusions which deceive the mind through the
eye. And yet, because I supposed them to be Thee, I fed upon them;
not with avidity, for Thou didst not taste to my mouth as Thou art,
for Thou wast not these empty fictions; neither was I nourished by
them, but the rather exhausted. Food in our sleep appears like our
food awake; yet the sleepers are not nourished by it, for they are
asleep. But those things were not in any way like unto Thee as Thou
hast now spoken unto me, in that those were corporeal phantasies,’
false bodies, than which these true bodies, whether celestial or
terrestrial, which we perceive with our fleshly sight, are much more
certain. These things the very beasts and birds perceive as well as
we, and they are more certain than when we imagine them. And again,
we do with more certainty imagine them, than by them conceive of
other greater and infinite bodies which have no existence. With such
empty husks was I then fed, and was not fed. ‘ But Thou, my Love, in
looking for whom I! fails that I may be strong, art neither those
bodies that we see, although in heaven, nor art Thou those which we
see not there; for Thou hast created them, nor dost Thou reckon them
amongst Thy greatest works. How far, then, art Thou from those
phantasies of mine, phantasies of bodies which are not at all, than
which the images of those bodies which are, are more certain, and
still more certain the bodies themselves, which yet Thou art not;
nay, nor yet the soul, which is the life of the bodies. Better,
then, and more certain is the life of bodies than the bodies
themselves. But Thou art the life of souls, the life of lives,
having life in Thyself; and Thou changest not, O Life of my soul.

11. Where, then, weft Thou then to me, and how far from me? Far,
indeed, was I wandering away from Thee, being even shut out from the
very husks of the swine, whom with husks I fed? For how much better,
then, are the fables of the grammarians and poets than these snares
l For verses, and poems, and Medea flying, are more profitable truly
than these men’s five elements, variously painted, to answer to the
five caves of darkness, none of which exist, and which slay the
believer. For verses and poems I can turn into true food, but the
“Medea flying,” though I sang, I maintained it not; though I heard
it sung, I believed it not; but those things I did believe. Woe,
woe, by what steps was I dragged down “to the depths of hell!
“T–toiling and turmoiling through want of Truth, when I sought
after Thee, my God,–to Thee I confess it, who hadst mercy on me
when I had not yet confessed,–sought after Thee not according to
the understanding of the mind, in which Thou desiredst that I should
excel the beasts, but according to the sense of the flesh! Thou wert
more inward to me than my most inward part; and higher than my
highest. I came upon that bold woman, who “is simple, and knoweth
nothing,” the enigma of Solomon, sitting “at the door of the
house on a seat,” and saying, “Stolen waters are sweet,, and bread
eaten in secret is pleasant.” This woman seduced me, because she
found my soul beyond its portals, dwelling in the eye of my flesh,
and thinking on such food as through it I had devoured.

CHAP. VII.–HE ATTACKS THE DOCTRINE OF THE MANICHAEANS CONCERNING
EVIL, GOD, AND THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE PATRIARCHS.

12. For I was ignorant as to that which really is, and was, as it
were, violently moved to give
my support to foolish deceivers, when they asked me, “Whence is
evil?”– and, “Is God limited by a bodily shape, and has He hairs
and nails?”–and, “Are they to be esteemed righteous who had many
wives at once and did kill men, and sacrificed living creatures?”
At which things I, in my ignorance, was much disturbed, and,
retreating from the truth, I appeared to myself to be going towards
it; because as yet I knew not that evil was naught but a privation
of good, until in the end it ceases altogether to be; which how
should I see, the sight of whose eyes saw no further than bodies,
and of my mind no further than a phantasm? And I knew not God to be
a Spirit,a not one who hath parts extended in length and breadth,
nor whose being was bulk; for every bulk is less in a part than in
the whole, and, if it be infinite, it must be less in such part as
is limited by a certain space than in its infinity; and cannot be
wholly everywhere, as Spirit, as God is. And what that should be in
us, by which we were like unto God, and might rightly in Scripture
be said to be after “the image of God,”‘ I was entirely ignorant.

13. Nor had I knowledge of that true inner righteousness, which
doth not judge according to custom, but out of the most perfect law
of God Almighty, by which the manners of places and times were
adapted to those places and times–being itself the while the same
always and everywhere, not one thing in one place, and another in
another; according to which Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and
Moses, and David, and all those commended by the mouth of God were
righteous, but were judged unrighteous by foolish men, judging out
of man’s judgment,s and gauging by the petty standard of their own
manners the manners of the whole human race. Like as if in an
armoury, one knowing not what were adapted to the several members
should put greaves on his head, or boot himself with a helmet, and
then complain because they would not fit. Or as if, on some day when
in the afternoon business was forbidden, one were to fume at not
being allowed to sell as it was lawful to him in the forenoon. Or
when in some house he sees a servant take something in his hand
which the butler is not permitted to touch, or something done behind
a stable which would be prohibited in the dining-room, and should be
indignant that in one house, and one family, the same!thing is not
distributed everywhere to all. Such are they who cannot endure to
hear something to have been lawful for righteous men in former times
which is not so now; or that God, for certain temporal reasons,
commanded them one thing, and these another, but both obeying the
same righteousness; though they see, in one man, one day, and one
house, different things to be fit for different members, and a thing
which was formerly lawful after a time unlawful –that permitted or
commanded in one corner, which done in another is justly prohibited
and punished. Is justice, then, various and changeable? Nay, but the
times over which she presides are not all alike, because they are
times?

But men, whose days upon the earth are few,s because by their own
perception they cannot harmonize the causes of former ages and other
nations, of which they had no experience, with these of which they
have experience, though in one and the same body, day, or family,
they can readily see what is suitable for each member, season, part,
and person–to the one they take exception, to the other they
submit.

14. These things I then knew not, nor observed. They met my eyes
on every side, and I saw them not. I composed poems, in which it was
not permitted me to place every foot everywhere, but in one metre
one way, and in another, nor even in any one verse the same foot in
all places. Yet the art itself by which I composed had not different
principles for these different cases, but comprised all in one.
Still I saw not how that righteousness, which good and holy men
submitted to, far more excellently and sublimely comprehended in one
all those things which God commanded,
and in no part varied, though in varying times it did not prescribe
all things at once, but distributed and enjoined what was proper for
each. And I, being blind, blamed those pious fathers, not only for
making use of present things as God commanded and inspired them to
do, but also for foreshowing things to come as God was revealing
them.

CHAP. VIII. — HE ARGUES AGAINST THE SAME AS TO THE REASON OF
OFFENCES.

15. Can it at any time or place be an unrighteous thing for a man
to love God with all his Mart, with all his soul, and with all his
mind, and his neighbour as himself? Therefore those offences which
be contrary to nature are everywhere and at all times to be held in
detestation and punished; such were those of the Sodomites, which
should all nations commit, they should all be held guilty of the
same crime by the divine law, which hath not so made men that they
should in that way abuse one another. For even that fellowship which
should be between God and us is violated, when that same nature of
which He is author is polluted by the perversity of lust. But those
offences which are contrary to the customs of men are to be avoided
according to the customs severally prevailing; so that an agreement
made, and confirmed by custom or law of any city or nation, may not
be violated at the lawless pleasure of any, whether citizen or
stranger. For any part which is not consistent with its whole is
unseemly. But when God commands anything contrary to the customs or
compacts of any nation to be done, though it were never done by them
before, it is to be done; and if intermitted it is to be restored,
and, if never established, to be established. For if it be lawful
for a king, in the state over which he reigns, to command that which
neither he himself nor any one before him had commanded, and to obey
him cannot be held to be inimical to the public interest, — nay, it
were so if he were not obeyed (for obedience to princes is a general
compact of human society), — how much more, then, ought we
unhesitatingly to obey God, the Governor of all His creatures! For
as among the authorities of human society the greater authority is
obeyed before the lesser, so must God above all.

16. So also in deeds of violence, where there is a desire to
harm, whether by contumely or injury; and both of these either by
reason of revenge, as one enemy against another; or to obtain some
advantage over another, as the highwayman to the traveller; or for
the avoiding of some evil, as with him who is in fear of another; or
through envy, as the unfortunate man to one who is happy; or as he
that is prosperous in anything to him who he fears will become equal
to himself, or whose equality he grieves at; or for the mere
pleasure in another’s pains, as the spectators of gladiators, or the
deriders and mockers of others. These be the chief iniquities which
spring forth from the lust of the flesh, of the eye, and of power,
whether singly, or t,no together, or all at once. And so do men live
in opposition to the three and seven, that psaltery “of ten
strings,” Thy ten commandments, O God most high and most sweet. But
what foul offences can there be against Thee who canst not be
defiled? Or what deeds of violence against thee who canst not be
harmed? But Thou avengest that which men perpetrate against
themselves, seeing also that when they sin against Thee, they do
wickedly against their own souls; and iniquity gives itself the lie,
either by corrupting or perverting their nature, which Thou hast
made and ordained, or by an!immoderate use of things permitted, or
in “burning” in things forbidden to that use which is against
nature; or when convicted, raging with heart and voice against Thee,
kicking against the pricks; or when, breaking through the pale of.
human society, they audaciously rejoice in private combinations or
divisions, according as they have been pleased or offended. And
these things are done whenever Thou art forsaken, O Fountain of
Life, who art the only and true Creator and Ruler of the universe,
and by a self-willed pride any one false thing is selected therefrom
and loved. So, then, by a humble piety we return to Thee; and thou
purgest us from our evil customs, and art merciful unto the sins of
those who confess unto Thee, and dost “hear the groaning of the
prisoner,” and dost loosen us from those fetters which we have
forged for ourselves, if we lift not up against Thee the horns of a
false liberty, –
losing all through craving more, by loving more our own private good
than Thee, the good of all.

CHAP. IX. — THAT THE JUDGMENT OF GOD AND MEN AS TO HUMAN ACTS OF
VIOLENCE, IS DIFFERENT.

17. But amidst these offences of infamy and violence, and so many
iniquities, are the sins of men who are, on the whole, making
progress; which, by those who judge rightly, and after the rule of
perfection, are censured, yet commended withal, upon the hope of
bearing fruit, like as in the green blade of the growing corn. And
there are some which resemble offences of infamy or violence, and
yet are not sins, because they neither offend Thee, our Lord God,
nor social custom: when, for example, things suitable for the times
are provided for the use of life, and we are uncertain whether it be
out of a lust of having; or when acts are punished by constituted
authority for the sake of correction, and we are uncertain whether
it be out of a lust of hurting. Many a deed, then, which in the
sight of men is disapproved, is approved by Thy testimony; and many
a one who is praised by men is, Thou being witness, condemned;
because frequently the view of the deed, and the mind of the doer,
and the hidden exigency of the period, severally vary. But when Thou
unexpectedly commandest an unusual and unthought-of thing — yea,
even if Thou hast formerly forbidden it, and still for the time
keepest secret the reason of Thy command, and it even be contrary to
the ordinance of some society of men, who doubts but it is to be
done, inasmuch as that society is righteous which serves Thee? But
blessed are they who know Thy commands I For all things were done by
them who served Thee either to exhibit something necessary at the
time, or to foreshow things to come.

CHAP. X. — HE REPROVES THE TRIFLINGS OF THE MANICHAEANS AS TO
THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH.

18. These things being ignorant of, I derided those holy servants
and prophets of Thine. And what did I gain by deriding them but to
be derided by Thee, being insensibly, and little by little, led on
to those follies, as to credit that a fig-tree wept when it was
plucked, and that the mother-tree shed milky tears? Which fig
notwithstanding, plucked not by his own but another’s wickedness,
had some “saint” eaten and mingled with his entrails, he should
breathe out of it angels; yea, in his prayers he shall assuredly
groan and sigh forth particles of God, which particles of the most
high and true God should have remained bound in that fig unless they
had been set free by the teeth and belly of some “elect saint”! And
I, miserable one, believed that more mercy was to be shown to the
fruits of the earth than unto men, for whom they were created; for
if a hungry man — who was not a Manichaean — should beg for any,
that morsel which should be given him would appear, as it were,
condemned to capital punishment.

CHAP. XI. — HE REFERS TO THE TEARS, AND THE

MEMORABLE DREAM CONCERNINGHER SON,

GRANTED BY GOD TO HIS MOTHER.

19. And Thou sendedst Thine hand from above, and drewest my soul
out of that profound darkness, when my mother, Thy faithful one,
wept to thee on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the
bodily death of their children. For she saw that I was dead by that
faith and spirit which she had from Thee, and Thou heardest her, O
Lord. Thou heardest her, and despisedst not her tears, when, pouring
down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she
prayed; yea, Thou heardest her. For whence was that dream with which
Thou consoledst her, so that she permitted me to live with her, and
to have my meals at the same table in the house, which she had begun
to avoid, hating and detesting the blasphemies of my error? For she
saw herself standing on a certain wooden rule, and a bright youth
advancing towards her, joyous and smiling
upon her, whilst she was grieving and bowed down with sorrow. But he
having inquired of her the cause of her sorrow and daily weeping (he
wishing to teach, as is their wont, and not to be taught), and she
answering that it was my perdition she was lamenting, he bade her
rest contented, and told her to behold and see “that where she was,
there was I also.” And when she looked she saw me standing near her
on the same rule. Whence was this, unless that Thine ears were
inclined towards her heart? O Thou Good Omnipotent, who so carest
for every one of us as if Thou caredst for him only, and so for all
as if they were but one!

20. Whence was this, also, that when she had narrated this vision
to me, and I tried to put this construction on it, “That she rather
should not despair of being some day what I was,” she immediately,
without hesitation, replied, “No; for it was not told me that where
he is, there shalt thou be,’ but ‘where thou art, there shall he
be'”? I confess to Thee, O Lord, that, to the best of my remembrance
(and I have oft spoken of this), Thy answer through my watchful
mother — that she was not disquieted by the speciousness of my
false interpretation, and saw in a moment what was to be seen, and
which I myself had not in truth perceived before she spoke — even
then moved me more than the dream itself, by which the happiness to
that pious woman, to be realized so long after, was, for the
alleviation of her present anxiety, so long before predicted. You
nearly nine years passed in which I wallowed in the slime of that
deep pit and the darkness of falsehood, striving often to rise, but
being all the more heavily dashed down. But yet that chaste, pious,
and sober widow (such as Thou lovest), now more buoyed up with hope,
though no whir less zealous in her weeping and mourning, desisted
not, at all the hours of her supplications, to bewail my case unto
Thee. And her prayers entered into Thy presence, and yet Thou didst
still suffer me to be involved and re-involved in that darkness.

CHAP. XII. — THE EXCELLENT ANSWER OF THE BISHOP WHEN REFERRED TO
BY HIS MOTHER

AS TO THE CONVERSION OF HER SON.

21. And meanwhile Thou grantedst her another answer, which I
recall; for much I pass over, hastening on to those things which the
more strongly impel me to confess unto Thee, and much I do not
remember. Thou didst grant her then another answer, by a priest of
Thine, a certain bishop, reared in Thy Church and well versed in Thy
books. He, when this woman had entreated that he would vouchsafe to
have some talk with me, refute my errors, unteach me evil things,
and teach me good (for this he was in the habit of doing when he
found people fitted to receive it), refused, very prudently, as I
afterwards came to see. For he answered that I was still
unteachable, being inflated with the.e novelty of that heresy, and
that I had already perplexed divers inexperienced persons with
vexatious questions, as she had informed him. “But leave him alone
for a time,” saith he, “only pray God for him; he will of himself,
by reading, discover what that error is, and how great its impiety.”
He disclosed to her at the same time how he himself, when a little
one, had, by his misguided mother, been given over to the
Manichaeans, and had not only read, but even written out almost all
their books, and had come to see (without argument or proof from any
one) how much that sect was to be shunned, and had shunned it. Which
when he had said, and she would not be satisfied, but repeated more
earnestly her entreaties, shedding copious tears, that he would see
and discourse with me, he, a little vexed at her importunity,
exclaimed, “Go thy way, and God bless thee, for it is not possible
that the son of these tears should perish.” Which answer (as she
often mentioned in her conversations with me) she accepted as though
it were a voice from heaven.

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