St. Augustine of Hippo- Confessions BOOK VIII
AUTHOR: Augustine
PUBLISHED ON: March 27, 2003

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

St. Augustine of Hippo




I. O MY God, let me with gratitude remember and confess unto Thee
Thy mercies bestowed upon me. Let my bones be steeped in Thy love,
and let them say, Who is like unto Thee, O Lord? “Thou hast loosed
my bonds, I will offer unto Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”
And how Thou hast loosed them I will declare; and all who worship
Thee when they hear these things shall say: “Blessed be the Lord in
heaven and earth, great and wonderful is His name.” Thy words had
stuck fast into my breast, and I was hedged round about by Thee on
every side. Of Thy eternal life I was now certain, although I had
seen it’ “through a glass darkly.”* Yet I no longer doubted that
there was an incorruptible substance, from which was derived all
other substance; nor did I now desire to be more certain of Thee,
but more stedfast in Thee. As for my temporal life, all things were
uncertain, and my heart had to be purged from the old leaven? The
“Way,” the Saviour Himself, was pleasant unto me, but as yet I
disliked to pass through its straightness. And Thou didst put into
my mind, and it seemed good in my eyes, to go unto Simplicianus,
who appeared to me a faithful servant of Thine, and Thy grace shone
in him. I had also heard that from his very youth he had lived most
devoted to Thee. Now he had grown into years, and by reason of so
great age, passed in such zealous following of Thy ways, he appeared
to me likely to have gained much experience; and so in truth he had.
Out of which experience I
desired him to tell me (setting before him my griefs) which would be
the most fitting way for one afflicted as I was to walk in Thy way.

2. For the Church I saw to. be full, and one went this way, and
another that. But it was displeasing to me that I led a secular
life; yea, now that my passions had ceased to excite me. as of old
with hopes of honour and wealth, a very grievous burden it was to
undergo so great a servitude. For, compared with Thy sweetness, and
the.beauty of Thy house, which I loved, those things delighted me
no longer. But still very tenaciously was I held by the love of
women; nor did the apostle forbid me to marry, although he exhorted
me to something better, especially wishing that all men were as he
himself was.’ But I, being weak, made choice of the more agreeable
place, and because ‘of this alone was tossed up and down in all
beside, faint and languishing with withering cares, because in other
matters I was compelled, though unwilling, to agree to a married
life, to which I was given up and enthralled. I had heard from the
mouth of truth that “there be eunuchs, which have made themselves
eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake;” but, saith He, “he that
is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Vain, assuredly, are
all men in whom the. knowledge of God is not, and who could not, out
of the good things which are seen, find out Him who is good? But I
was no longer in that vanity; I had surmounted it, and by the united
testimony of Thy whole creation had found Thee, our Creator, and
Thy Word, God with Thee, and together with Thee and the Holy Ghost
one God, by whom Thou createdst all things. There is yet another
kind of impious men, who “when they knew God, they glorified Him not
as God, neither were thankful.” Into this also had I fallen; but
Thy right hand held me up, and bore me away, and Thou placedst me
where I might recover. For Thou hast said unto man, “Behold, the
fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;”‘ and desire not to seem wise,
because, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
s But I had now found the goodly pearl, which, selling all that I
had, I ought to have bought; and I hesitated.


3. To Simplicianus then I went,–the father of Ambrose (at that
time a bishop) in receiving Thy grace, and whom he truly loved as a
father. To him I narrated l;he windings of my error. But when I
mentioned to him that I had read certain books of the Platonists,
which Victorinus, sometime Professor of Rhetoric at Rome (who died a
Christian, as I had been told), had translated into Latin, he
congratulated me that I had not fallen upon the writings of other
philosophers, which were full of fallacies and deceit, “after the
rudiments of the world,” whereas they, in many ways, led to the
belief in God and His word? Then, to exhort me to the humility of
Christ, hidden from the wise, and revealed to little ones, he
spoke of Victorinus himself, whom, whilst he was at Rome, he had
known very intimately; and of him he related that about which I will
not be silent. For it contains great praise of Thy grace, which
ought to be confessed unto Thee, how that most learned old man,
highly skilled in all the liberal sciences, who had read,
criticised, and explained so many works of the philosophers; the
teacher of so many noble senators; who also, as a mark of his
excellent discharge of his duties, had (which men of this world
esteem a great honour) both merited and obtained a statue in the
Roman Forum, he,even to that age a worshipper of idols, and a
participator in the sacrilegious rites to which almost all the
nobility of Rome were wedded, and had inspired the people with ‘the
love of “The dog Anubis, and a medley crew Of monster gods [who]
‘gainst Neptune stand in arms, ‘Gainst Venus and Minerva, steel-clad
Mars,” whom Rome once conquered, now worshipped, all which old Victorinus
had with thundering eloquence defended so many years,–he now
blushed not to be the child of Thy Christ, and an infant at Thy
fountain, submitting his neck to the yoke of humility, and subduing
his forehead to the reproach of the Cross.

4. O Lord, Lord, who hast bowed the heavens and come down,
touched the mountains and they did smoke, by what means didst Thou
convey Thyself into that bosom? He used to read, as Simplicianus
said, the Holy Scripture, most studiously sought after and searched
into all the Christian writings, and said to Simplicianus,–not
openly, but secretly, and as a friend,–” Know thou that I am a
Christian.” To which he replied, “I will not believe it, nor will I
rank you among the Christians unless I see you in the Church of
Christ.” Whereupon he replied derisively, “Is it then the walls that
make Christians?” And this he often said, that he already was a
Christian; and Simplidanus making the same answer, the conceit of
the “walls” was by the other as often renewed. For he was fearful of
offending his friends, proud demon-worshippers, from the height of
whose Babylonian dignity, as from cedars of Lebanon which had not
yet been broken by the Lord, he thought a storm of enmity would
descend upon him. But after that, from reading and inquiry, he had
derived strength, and feared lest he should be denied by Christ
before the holy angels if he now was afraid to confess Him before
men,$ and appeared to himself guilty of a great fault in being
ashamed of the sacraments of the humility of Thy word, and not being
ashamed of the sacrilegious rites of those proud demons, whose pride
he had imitated and their rites adopted, he became bold-faced
against vanity, and shame-faced toward the truth, and suddenly and
unexpectedly said to Simplicianus,–‘ as he himself informed me,–”
Let us go to the church; I wish to be made a Christian.” But he, not
containing himself for joy, accompanied him. And having been
admitted to the first sacraments of instruction, he not long after
gave in his name, that he might be regenerated by baptism,–Rome
marvelling, and the Church rejoicing. The proud saw, and were
enraged; they gnashed with their teeth, and melted away! But the
Lord God was the hope of Thy servant, and He regarded not vanities
and lying madness.

5. Finally, when the hour arrived for him to make profession of
his faith (which at Rome they who are about to approach Thy grace
are wont to deliver from an elevated place, in view of the faithful
people, in a set form of words learnt by heart)fl the presbyters, he
said, offered Victorinus to make his profession more privately, as
the custom was to do to those who were likely, through bashfulness,
to be afraid; but he chose rather to profess his salvation in the
presence of the holy assembly. For it was not salvation that he
taught in rhetoric, and yet he had publicly professed that. How much
less, therefore, ought he, when pronouncing Thy word, to dread Thy
meek flock, who, in the delivery of his own words, had not feared
the mad multitudes! So, then, when he ascended to make his
profession, all, as they recognised him, whispered his name one to
the other, with a voice of congratulation. And who was there amongst
them that did not know him? And there ran a low murmur through the
mouths of all the rejoicing multitude, “Victorinus! Vic-torinus!”
Sudden was the burst of exultation at the sight of him; and suddenly
were they: hushed, that they might hear him. He pronounced the true
faith with an excellent boldness, and all desired to take him to
their very heart–yea, by their love and joy they took him thither;
such were the hands with which they took him.


6. Good God, what passed in man to make him rejoice more at the
salvation of a soul despaired of, and delivered from greater danger,
than if there had always been hope of him, or the danger had been
less? For so Thou also,, O merciful Father, dost “joy over one
sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons
that need no repentance.” And with much joyfulness do we hear,
whenever we hear, how the lost sheep is brought home again on the
Shepherd’s shoulders, while the angels rejoice, and the drachma is
restored to Thy treasury, the neighhours rejoicing with the woman
who found it and the joy of the solemn service of Thy house
constraineth to tears, when in Thy house it is read of Thy younger
son that he “was dead, and is alive again, and was lost, and is
found.”‘ For Thou rejoicest both in us and in Thy angels, holy
through holy charity. For Thou art ever the same; for all things
which abide neither the same nor for ever, Thou ever knowest after
the same manner.

7. What, then, passes in the soul when it more delights at
finding or having restored to it the thing it loves than if it had
always possessed them? Yea, and other things bear witness hereunto;
and all things are full of witnesses, crying out, “So it is.” The
victorious commander triumpheth; yet he would not have conquered had
he not fought, and the greater the peril of the battle, the more the
rejoicing of the triumph. The storm tosses the voyagers, threatens
shipwreck, and every one waxes pale at the approach of death; but
sky and sea grow calm, and they rejoice much, as they feared much. A
loved one is sick, and his pulse indicates danger; all who desire
his safety are at once sick at heart: he recovers, though not able
as yet to walk with his former strength, and there is such joy as
was not before when he walked sound and strong. Yea, the very
pleasures of human life–not those only which rush upon us
unexpectedly, and against our wills, but those that are voluntary
and designed–do men obtain by difficulties. There is no pleasure at
all in eating and drinking unless the pains of hunger and thirst go
before. And drunkards eat certain salt meats with the view of
creating a troublesome heat, which the drink allaying causes
pleasure. It is also the custom that the affianced bride should not
immediately be given up, that the husband may not less esteem her
whom, as betrothed, he longed not for. This law obtains in base
and accursed joy; in that joy also which is permitted and lawful; in
the sincerity of honest friendship; and in Him who was dead, and
lived again, had been lost, and was found. The greater joy is
everywhere preceded by the greater pain. What meaneth this, O Lord
my God, when Thou art, an everlasting joy unto Thine own self, and
some things about Thee are ever rejoicing in Thee?s What meaneth
this, that this portion of things thus ebbs and flows, alternately
offended and reconciled? Is this the fashion of them, and is this
all Thou hast allotted to them, whereas from the highest heaven to
the lowest earth, from’ the beginning of the world to its end, from
the angel to the worm, from the first movement unto the last, Thou
settedst each in its right place, and appointedst each its proper
seasons, everything good after its kind? Woe is me! How high art
Thou in the highest, and how deep in the deepest! Thou withdrawest
no whither, and scarcely do we return to Thee.


9. Haste, Lord, and act; stir us up, and call us back; inflame
us, and draw us to Thee; stir
us up, and grow sweet unto us; let us now love Thee, let us “run
after Thee.” Do not many men, out of a deeper hell of blindness
than that of Victorinus, return unto Thee, and approach, and are
enlightened, receiving that light, which they that receive, receive
power from Thee to become Thy sons? But if they be less known among
the people, even they that know them joy less for them. For when
many rejoice together, the joy of each one is the fuller in that
they are incited and inflamed by one another. Again, because those
that are known to many influence many towards salvation, and take
the lead with many to follow them. And, therefore, do they also who
preceded them much rejoice in regard to them, because they rejoice
not in them alone. May it be averted that in Thy tabernacle the
persons of the rich should be accepted before the poor, or the noble
before the ignoble; since rather “Thou hast chosen the weak things
of the world to confound the things which are mighty and base
things of the world, and things which are despised, hast Thou
chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things
that are.” And yet, even that “least of the apostles,” by whose
tongue Thou soundest out these words, when Paulus the
proconsuls–his pride overcome by the apostle’s warfare–was made to
pass under the easy yokes of Thy Christ, and became a provincial of
the great King,–he also, instead of Saul, his former name, desired
to be called Paul, in testimony of so great a victory. For the
enemy is more overcome in one of whom he hath more hold, and by whom
he hath hold of more. But the proud hath he more hold of by reason
of their nobility; and by them of more, by reason of their
authority? By how much the more welcome, then, was the heart of
Victorinus esteemed, which the devil had held as an unassailable
retreat, and the tongue of Victorinus, with which mighty and cutting
weapon he had slain many; so much the more abundantly should Thy
sons rejoice, seeing that our King hath bound the strong man? and
they saw his vessels taken from him and cleansed, and made meet
for Thy honour, and become serviceable for the Lord unto every good


10. But when that man of Thine, Simplicianus, related this to me
about Victorinus, I burned to imitate him; and it was for this end
he had related it. But when he had added this also, that in the time
of the Emperor Julian, there was a law made by which Christians were
forbidden to teach grammar and oratory, and he, in obedience to
this law, chose rather to abandon the wordy school than Thy word, by
which Thou makest eloquent the tongues of the dumb’s,–he appeared
to me not more brave than happy, in having thus.discovered an
opportunity of waiting on Thee only, which thing I was sighing for,
thus bound, not with the irons of another, but my own iron will. My
will was the enemy master of, and thence had made a chain for me and
bound me. Because of a perverse will was lust made; and lust
indulged in became custom; and custom not resisted became necessity.
By which links, as it were, joined together (whence I term it a
“chain “), did a hard bondage hold me enthralled? But that new will
which had begun to develope in me, freely to worship Thee, and to
wish to enjoy Thee, O God, the only sure enjoyment, was not able as
yet to overcome my former wilfulness, made strong by long
indulgence. Thus did my two wills, one old and the other new, one
carnal, the other spiritual, contend within me; and by their discord
they unstrung my soul.

11. Thus came I to understand, from my own experience, what I had
read, how that “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit
against the flesh.” I verily lusted both ways; yet more in that
which I approved in myself, than in that which I disapproved in
myself. For in this last it was now rather not “I,” because in much
I rather suffered against my will than did it willingly. And yet it
was through me that custom became more combative against me, because
I had come willingly whither I willed not. And who, then, can with
any justice speak against it, when just punishment follows the
sinner? Nor had I now any longer my wonted excuse, that as yet I
hesitated to be above the world and serve Thee, because my
perception of the truth was uncertain; for now it was certain. But
I, still bound to the earth, refused to be Thy soldier; and was as
much afraid of being freed from all embarrassments, as we ought to
fear to be embarrassed.

12. Thus with the baggage of the world was I! sweetly burdened,
as when in slumber; and the thoughts wherein I meditated upon Thee
were like unto the efforts of those desiring to awake, who, still
overpowered with a heavy drowsiness, are again steeped therein. And
as no one desires to sleep always, and in the sober judgment of all
waking is better, yet does a man generally defer to shake off
drowsiness, when there is a heavy lethargy in all his limbs, and,
though displeased, yet even after it is time to rise with pleasure
yields to it, so was I assured that it were much better for me to
give up my t self to Thy charity, than to yield myself to my own
cupidity; but the former course satisfied and vanquished me, the
latter pleased me and fettered me. Nor had I aught to answer Thee
[calling to me, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give thee light.” And to Thee showing me on
every side, that what Thou saidst was true, I, convicted by the
truth, had nothing at all to reply, but the drawling and drowsy
words: “Presently, lo, presently;” “Leave me a little while.” But
“presently, presently,” had no present; and my “leave me a little
while” went on for a long while. In vain did I “delight in Thy law
after the inner man,” when “another law in my members warred against
the law of my mind, and brought me into captivity to the law of sin
which is in my members.” For the law of sin is the violence of
custom, whereby the mind is drawn and held, even against its will;
deserving to be so held in that it so willingly falls into it. “O
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this
death” but Thy grace only, through Jesus Christ our Lord?


13. And how, then, Thou didst deliver me out of the bonds of
carnal desire, wherewith I was most firmly lettered, and out of the
drudgery of worldly business, will I now declare and confess unto
Thy name, “O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Amid increasing
anxiety, I was transacting my usual affairs, and daily sighing unto
Thee. I resorted as frequently to Thy church as the business, under
the burden of which I groaned, left me free to do. Alypius was with
me, being after the third sitting disengaged from his legal
occupation, and awaiting further opportunity of selling his counsel,
as I was wont to sell the power of speaking, if it can be supplied
by teaching. But Nebridius had, on account of our friendship,
consented to teach under Verecundus, a citizen and a grammarian of
Milan, and a very intimate friend of us all; who vehemently desired,
and by the right of friendship demanded from our company, the
faithful aid he greatly stood in need of. Nebridius, then, was not
drawn to this by any desire of gain (for he could have made much
more of his learning had he been so inclined), but, as a most sweet
and kindly friend, he would not be wanting in an office of
friendliness, and slight our request. But in this he acted very
discreetly, taking care not to become known to those personages whom
the world esteems great; thus avoiding distraction of mind, which he
desired to have free and at leisure as many hours as possible, to
search, or read, or hear something concerning wisdom.

14. Upon a certain day, then, Nebridius being away (why, I do not
remember), lo, there came to the house to see Alypius and me,
Pontitianus, a countryman of ours, in so far as he was an African,
who held high office in the emperor’s court. What he wanted with us
I’ know not, but we sat down to talk together, and it fell out that
upon a table before us, used for games, he noticed a book; he took
it up, opened it, and, contrary to his expectation, found it to be
the Apostle Paul,–for he imagined it to be one of those books which
I was wearing myself out in teaching. At this he looked up at me
smilingly, and expressed his delight and wonder that he had so
unexpectedly found this book, and this only, before my eyes. For he
was both a Christian and baptized, and often prostrated himself
before Thee our God in the church, in constant and daily prayers.
When, then, I had told him that I bestowed much pains upon these
writings, a conversation ensued on his speaking of Antony, the
Egyptian I monk, whose name was in high repute among Thy servants,
though up to that time not familiar to us. When he came to know
this, he lingered on that topic, imparting to us a knowledge of this
man so eminent, and marvelling at our ignorance. But we were amazed,
hearing Thy wonderful works most fully manifested in times so
recent, and almost in our own, wrought in the true faith and the
Catholic Church. We all wondered–we, that they were so great, and
he, that we had never heard of them.

15. From this his conversation turned to the companies in the
monasteries, and their manners so fragrant unto Thee, and of the
fruitful deserts of the wilderness, of which we knew nothing. And
there was a monastery at Milan full of good brethren, without the
walls of the city, under the fostering care of Ambrose, and we were
ignorant of it. He went on with his relation, and we listened
intently and in silence. He then related to us how on a certain
afternoon, at Triers, when the emperor was taken up with seeing the
Circensian games, he and three others, his comrades, went out for a
walk in the gardens close to the city walls, and there, as they
chanced to walk two and two, one strolled away with him, while the
other two went by themselves; and these, in their ram
bling, came upon a certain cottage inhabited by some of Thy
servants, “poor in spirit,” of whom “is the kingdom of heaven,”
where they found a book in which was written the life. of Antony.
This one of them began to read, marvel at, and be inflamed by it;
and in the reading, to meditate on embracing such a life, and giving
up his worldly employments to serve Thee. And these were of the body
called “Agents for Public Affairs.” Then, suddenly being
overwhelmed with a holy love and a sober sense of shame, in anger
with himself, he cast his eyes upon his friend, exclaiming, “Tell
me, I entreat thee, what end we are striving for by all these
labours of ours. What is our aim? What is our motive in doing
service? Can our hopes in court rise higher than to be ministers of
the emperor? And in such a position, what is there not brittle, and
fraught with danger, and by how many dangers arrive we at greater

And when arrive we thither? But if I desire to become a friend of
God, behold, I am even now made it.” Thus spake he, and in the pangs
of the travail of the new life, he turned his eyes again upon the
page and continued reading, and was inwardly changed where Thou
sawest, and his mind was divested of the world, as soon became
evident; for as he read, and the surging of his heart rolled along,
he raged awhile, discerned and resolved on a better course, and now,
having become Thine, he said to his friend, “Now have I broken loose
from those hopes of ours, and am determined to serve God; and this,
from this hour, in this place, I enter upon. If thou art reluctant
to imitate me, hinder me not.” The other replied that he would
cleave to him, to share in so great a reward and so great a service.
Thus both of them, being now Thine, were building a tower at the
necessary cost of forsaking all that they had and following Thee.
Then Pontitianus, and he that had walked with him through other
parts of the garden, came in search of them to the same place, and
having found them, reminded them to return as the day had declined.
But they, making known to him their resolution and purpose, and how
such a resolve had sprung up and become confirmed in them, entreated
them not to molest them, if they refused to join themselves unto
them. But the others, no whir changed from their former selves, did
yet (as he said) bewail themselves, and piously congratulated them,
recommending themselves to their prayers; and with their hearts
inclining towards earthly things, returned to the palace. But the
other two, setting their affections upon heavenly things, remained
in the cottage.

And both of them had affianced brides, who, when they heard of
this, dedicated also their virginity unto God.


16. Such was the story of Pontitianus. But Thou, O Lord, whilst
he was speaking, didst turn me towards myself, taking me from behind
my back, where I
had placed myself while unwilling to exercise self-scrutiny; and
Thou didst set me face to face with myself, that I might behold how
foul I was, and how crooked and sordid, bespotted and ulcerous. And
I beheld and loathed myself; and whither to fly from myself I
discovered not. And if I sought to turn my gaze away from myself, he
continued his narrative, and Thou again opposedst me unto myself, ‘
and thrustedst me before my own eyes, that I might discover my
iniquity, and hate it.’ I had known it, but acted as though I knew
it not,–winked at it, and forgot it.

17. But now, the more ardently I loved those whose healthful
affections I heard tell of, that they had given up themselves wholly
to Thee to be cured, the more did I abhor myself when compared with
them. For man), of my years (perhaps twelve) had passed away since
my nineteenth, when, on the reading of Cicero’s Hartensius, I was
roused to a desire for wisdom; and still I was delaying to reject
mere worldly happiness, and to devote myself to search out that
whereof not the finding alone, but the bare search, ought to have
been pre ferred before the treasures and kingdoms of this world,
though already found, and before the pleasures of the body, though
encompassing me at my will. But I, miserable young man, supremely
miserable even in the very outset of my youth, had entreated
chastity of Thee, and said, “Grant me chastity and continency, but
not yet.” For I was afraid lest Thou shouldest hear me soon, and
soon deliver me from the disease of concupiscence, which I desired
to have satisfied rather than extinguished. And I had wandered
through perverse ways in a sacrilegious superstition; not indeed
assured thereof, but preferring that to the others, which I did not
seek religiously, but opposed maliciously.

18. And I had thought that I delayed from day to day to reject
worldly hopes and follow Thee only, because there did not appear
anything certain whereunto to direct my course. And now had the day
arrived in which I was to be laid bare to myself, and my conscience
was to chide me. “Where art thou, O my tongue? Thou saidst, verily,
that for an uncertain truth thou wert not willing to cast off the
baggage of vanity. Behold, now it is certain, and yet doth that
burden still oppress thee; whereas they who neither have so worn
themselves out with searching after it, nor yet have spent ten years
and more in thinking thereon, have had their shoulders unburdened,
and gotten wings to fly away.” Thus was I inwardly consumed and
mightily confounded with an horrible shame, while Pontitianus was
relating these things. And he, having finished his story, and the
business he came for, went his way. And unto myself, what said I not
within myself? With what scourges of rebuke lashed I not my soul to
make it follow me, struggling to go after Thee! Yet it drew back; it
refused, and exercised not itself. All its arguments were exhausted
and confuted. There remained a silent trembling; and it feared, as
it would death, to be restrained from the flow of that custom
whereby it was [wasting away even to death.


19. In the midst, then, of this great strife of my inner
dwelling, which I had strongly raised up against my soul in the
chamber of my heart, troubled both in mind and countenance, I
seized upon Alypius, and exclaimed: “What is wrong with us? What is
this? What heardest thou? The unlearned start up and ‘ take ‘
heaven, and we, with our learning, but wanting heart, see where we
wallow in flesh and blood! Because others have preceded us, are we
ashamed to follow, and not rather ashamed at not following?” Some
such words I gave utterance to, and in my excitement flung myself
from him, while he gazed upon me in silent astonishment. For I spoke
not in my wonted tone, and my brow, cheeks, eyes, colour, tone of
voice, all expressed my emotion more than the words. There was a
little garden belonging to our lodging, of which we had the use, as
of the whole house; for the master, our landlord, did not live

Thither had the tempest within my breast hurried me, where no one
might impede the fiery struggle in which I was engaged with myself,
until it came to the issue that Thou knewest, though I did not. But
I was mad that I might be whole, and dying that I might have life,
knowing what evil thing I was, but not knowing what good thing I was
shortly to become. Into the garden, then, I
retired, Alypius following my steps. For his presence was no bar to
my solitude; or how could he desert me so troubled? We sat down at
as great a distance from the house as we could. I was disquieted in
spirit, being most impatient with myself that I entered not into Thy
will and covenant, O my God, which all my bones cried out unto me to
enter, extolling it to the skies. And we enter not therein by ships,
or chariots, or feet, no, nor by going so far as I had come from the
house to that place where we were sitting. For not to go only, but
to enter there, was naught else but to will to go, but to will it
resolutely and thoroughly; not to stagger and sway about this way
and that, a changeable and half-wounded will, wrestling, with one
part falling as another rose.

20. Finally, in the very fever of my irresolution, I made many of
those motions with my body which men sometimes desire to do, but
cannot, if either they have not the limbs, or if their limbs be
bound with fetters, weakened by disease, or hindered in any other
way. Thus, if I tore my hair, struck my forehead, or if, entwining
my fingers, I clasped my knee, this I did because I willed it. But I
might have willed and not done it, if the power of motion in my
limbs had not responded. So many things, then, I did, when to have
the will was not to have the power, and I did not that which both
with an unequalled desire I longed more to do, and which shortly
when I should will I should have the power to do; because shortly
when I should will, I should will thoroughly. For in such things the
power was one with the will, and to will was to do, and yet was it
not done; and more readily did the body obey the slightest wish of
the soul in the moving its limbs at the order of the mind, than the
soul obeyed itself to accomplish in the will alone this its great


21. Whence is this monstrous thing? And why is it? Let Thy mercy
shine on me, that I may inquire, if so be the hiding-places of man’s
punishment, and the darkest contritions of the sons of Adam, may
perhaps answer me. Whence is this monstrous thing? and why is it?
The mind commands the body, and it obeys forthwith; the mind
commands itself, and is resisted. The mind commands the hand to be
moved, and such readiness is there that the command is scarce to be
distinguished from the obedience. Yet the mind is mind, and the hand
is body. The mind commands the mind to will, and yet, though it be
itself, it obeyeth not. Whence this monstrous thing? and why is it?
I repeat, it commands itself to will, and would not give the command
unless it willed; yet is not that done which it commandeth. But it
willeth not entirely; therefore it commandeth not entirely. For so
far forth it commandeth, as it willeth; and so far forth is the
thing commanded not done, as it willeth not. For the will commandeth
that there be a will; — not another, but itself. But it doth not
command entirely, therefore that is not which it commandeth. For
were it entire, it would not even command it to be, because it would
already be. It is, therefore, no monstrous thing partly to will,
partly to be unwilling, but an infirmity of the mind, that it doth
not wholly rise, sustained by truth, pressed down by custom. And so
there are two wills, because one of them is not entire; and the one
is supplied with what the other needs.


22. Let them perish from Thy presence, O God, as “vain talkers
and deceivers” of the soul do perish, who, observing that there were
two wills in deliberating, affirm that there are two kinds of minds
in us, — one good, the other evil. They themselves verily are evil
when they hold these evil opinions; and they shall become good when
they hold the truth, and shall consent unto the truth, that Thy
apostle may say unto them, “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are
ye light in the Lord.” But, they, desiring to be light, not “in the
Lord,” but in themselves, conceiving the nature of the soul to be
the same as that which God is, are made more gross darkness; for
that through a shocking arrogancy they went farther from Thee, “the
true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
Take heed what you say, and blush for shame; draw near unto Him and
be “lightened,” and your faces shall not be “ashamed.” I, when I was
deliberating upon serving the Lord my God now, as I had long
purposed, — I it was who willed, I who was unwilling. It was I,
even I myself. I neither willed entirely, nor was entirely
unwilling. Therefore was I at war with myself, and destroyed by
myself. And this destruction overtook me against my will, and yet
showed not the presence of another mind, but the punishment of mine
own. “Now, then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth
in me,” — the punishment of a more unconfined sin, in that I was a
son of Adam.

23. For if there be as many contrary natures as there are
conflicting wills, there will not now be two natures only, but many.
If any one deliberate whether he should go to their conventicle, or
to the theatre, those men at once cry out, “Behold, here are two
natures, –one good, drawing this way, another bad, drawing back
that way; for whence else is this indecision between conflicting
wills?” But I reply that both are bad — that which draws to them,
and that which draws back to the theatre. But they believe not that
will to be other than good which draws to them. Supposing, then, one
of us should deliberate, and through the conflict of his two wills should
waver whether he should go to the theatre or to our church, would
not these also waver what to answer? For either they must confess,
which they are not willing to do, that the will which leads to our
church is good, as well as that of those who have received and are
held by the mysteries of theirs, or they must imagine that there are
two evil natures and two evil minds in one man, at war one with the
other; and that will not be true which they say, that there is one
good and another bad; or they must be converted to the truth, and no
longer deny that where any one deliberates, there is one soul
fluctuating between conflicting wills.

24. Let them no more say, then, when they perceive two wills to
be antagonistic to each other in the same man, that the contest is
between two opposing minds, of two opposing substances, from two
opposing principles, the one good and the other bad. For Thou, O
true God, dost disprove, check, and convince them; like as when both
wills are bad, one deliberates whether he should kill a man by
poison, or by the sword; whether he should take possession of this
or that estate of another’s, when he cannot both; whether he should
purchase pleasure by prodigality, or retain his money by
covetousness; whether he should go to the circus or the theatre, if
both are open on the same day; or, thirdly, whether he should rob
another man’s house, if he have the opportunity; or, fourthly,
whether he should commit adultery, if at the same time he have the
means of doing so, — all these things concurring in the same point
of time, and all being equally longed for, although impossible to be
enacted at one time. For they rend the mind amid four, or even
(among the vast variety of things men desire) more antagonistic
wills, nor do they yet affirm that there are so many different

Thus also is it in wills which are good. For I ask them, is it a
good thing to have delight in reading the apostle, or good to have
delight in a sober psalm, or good to discourse on the gospel? To
each of these they will answer, “It is good.” What, then, if all
equally delight us, and all at the same time? Do not different wills
distract the mind, when a man is deliberating which he should rather
choose? Yet are they all good, and are at variance until one be
fixed upon, whither the whole united will may be borne, which before
was divided into many. Thus, also, when above eternity delights us,
and the pleasure of temporal good holds us down below, it is the
same soul which willeth not that or this with an entire will, and is
therefore torn asunder with grievous perplexities, while out of
truth it prefers that, but out of custom forbears not this.


25. Thus was I sick and tormented, accusing myself far more
severely than was my wont, tossing and turning me in my chain till
that was utterly broken, whereby I now was but slightly, but still
was held. And Thou, O Lord, pressedst upon me in my inward parts by
a severe mercy, redoubling the lashes of fear and shame, lest I
should again give way, and that same slender remaining tie not being
broken off, it should recover strength, and enchain me the faster.
For I said mentally, “Lo, let it be done now, let it be done now.”
And as,I spoke, I all but came to a resolve. I all but did it, yet I
did it not. Yet fell I not back to my old condition, but took up my
position hard by, and drew breath. And I tried again, and wanted but
very little of reaching it, and somewhat less, and then all but
touched and grasped it; and yet came not at it, nor touched, nor
grasped it, hesitating to die unto death, and to live unto life; and
the worse, whereto I had been habituated, prevailed more with me
than the better, which I had not tried. And the very moment in which
I was to become another man, the nearer it approached me, the
greater horror did it strike into me; but it did not strike me back,
nor turn me aside, but kept me in suspense.

26. The very toys of toys, and vanities of vanities, my old
mistresses, still enthralled me; they shook my fleshly garment, and
whispered softly, “Dost thou part with us? And from that moment
shall we no more be with thee for ever? And from that moment shall
not this or that be lawful for thee for ever?” And what did they
suggest to me in the words “this or that?” What is it that they
suggested, O my God? Let Thy mercy avert it from the soul of Thy
servant. What impurities did they suggest! What shame! And now I far
less than half heard them, not openly showing themselves and
contradicting me, but muttering, as it were, behind my back, and
furtively plucking me as I was departing, to make me look back upon
them. Yet they did delay me, so that I hesitated to burst and shake
myself free from them, and to leap over whither I was called, — an
unruly habit saying to me, “Dost thou think thou canst live without

27. But now it said this very faintly; for on that side towards
which I had set my face, and whither I trembled to go, did the
chaste dignity of Continence appear unto me, cheerful, but not
dissolutely gay, honestly alluring me to come and doubt nothing, and
extending her holy hands, full of a multiplicity of good examples,
to receive and embrace me. There
were there so many young men and maidens, a multitude of youth and
every age, grave widows and ancient virgins, and Continence herself
in all, not barren, but a fruitful mother of children of joys, by
Thee, O Lord, her Husband. And she smiled on me with an encouraging
mockery, as if to say, “Canst not thou do what these youths and
maidens can? Or can one or other do it of themselves, and not rather
in the Lord their God? The Lord their God gave me unto them.

Why standest thou in thine own strength, and so standest not?
Cast thyself upon Him; fear not, He will not withdraw that thou
shouldest fall; cast thyself upon Him without fear, He will receive
thee, and heal thee.” And I blushed beyond measure, for I still heard the muttering of those
toys, and hung in suspense. And she again seemed to say, “Shut up
thine ears against those unclean members of thine upon the earth,
that they may be mortified.

They tell thee of delights, but not as doth the law of the Lord
thy God.” This controversy in my heart was naught but self against
self. But Alypius, sitting close by my side, awaited in silence the
result of my unwonted emotion.


28. But when a profound reflection had, from the secret depths of
my soul, drawn together and heaped up all my misery before the sight
of my heart, there arose a mighty storm, accompanied by as mighty a
shower of tears. Which, that I might pour forth fully, with its
natural expressions, I stole away from Alypius; for it suggested
itself to me that solitude was fitter for the business of weeping.
So I retired to such a distance that even his presence could not be
oppressive to me. Thus was it with me at that time, and he perceived
it; for something, I believe, I had spoken, wherein the sound of my
voice appeared choked with weeping, and in that state had I risen
up. He then remained where we had been sitting, most completely
astonished. I flung myself down, how, I know not, under a certain
fig-tree, giving free course to my tears, and the streams of mine
eyes gushed out, an acceptable sacrifice unto Thee. And, not indeed
in these words, yet to this effect, spake I much unto Thee,– “But
Thou, O Lord, how long?” “How long, Lord? Wilt Thou be angry for
ever? Oh, remember not against us former iniquities;” for I felt
that I was enthralled by them. I sent up these sorrowful cries, –
“zhow long, how long? Tomorrow, and tomorrow? Why not now? Why is
there not this hour an end to my uncleanness?”

29. I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter
contrition of my heart, when, lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or
girl, I know not which, coming from a neighbouring house, chanting,
and oft repeating, “Take up and read; take up and read.” Immediately
my countenance was changed, and I began most earnestly to consider
whether it was usual for children in any kind of game to sing such
words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So,
restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose up, interpreting it no
other way than as a command to me from Heaven to open the book, and
to read the first chapter I should light upon. For I had heard of
Antony, that, accidentally coming in whilst the gospel was being
read, he received the admonition as if what was read were addressed
to him, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou
shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” And by such
oracle was he forthwith converted unto Thee. So quickly I returned
to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I put down the
volume of the apostles, when I rose thence. I grasped, opened, and
in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell, — “Not
in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in
strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make
not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” No
further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as
the sentence ended, — by a light, as it were, of security infused
into my heart, — all the gloom of doubt vanished away.

30. Closing the book, then, and putting either my finger between,
or some other mark, I now with a tranquil countenance made it known
to Alypius. And he thus disclosed to me what was wrought in him,
which I knew not. He asked to look at what I had read. I showed him;
and he looked even further than I had read, and I knew not what
followed. This it was, verily, “Him that is weak in the faith,
receive ye;” which he applied to himself, and discovered to me. By
this admonition was he strengthened; and by a good resolution and
purpose, very much in accord with his character (wherein, for the
better, he was always far different from me), without any restless
delay he joined me. Thence we go in to my mother. We make it known
to her, — she rejoiceth. We relate how it came to pass, — she
leapeth for joy, and triumpheth, and blesseth Thee, who art “able to
do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think; for she
perceived Thee to have given her more for me than she used to ask by
her pitiful and most doleful groanings. For Thou didst so convert me
unto Thyself, that I sought neither a wife, nor any other of this
world’s hopes, — standing in that rule of faith in which Thou, so
many years before, had showed me unto her in a vision. And thou
didst turn her grief into a gladness, much more plentiful than she
had desired, and much dearer and chaster than she used to crave, by
having grandchildren of my body.

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