CONFESS

 

401 AD
THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT AUGUSTINE
Translated by Edward Bouverie Pusey
BOOK I

Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy
power, and Thy wisdom infinite. And Thee would man praise; man, but
a particle of Thy creation; man, that bears about him his mortality,
the witness of his sin, the witness that Thou resistest the proud: yet
would man praise Thee; he, but a particle of Thy creation. Thou
awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself,
and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee. Grant me, Lord, to
know and understand which is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee?
and, again, to know Thee or to call on Thee? for who can call on Thee,
not knowing Thee? for he that knoweth Thee not, may call on Thee as
other than Thou art. Or, is it rather, that we call on Thee that we
may know Thee? but how shall they call on Him in whom they have not
believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher? and they
that seek the Lord shall praise Him: for they that seek shall find
Him, and they that find shall praise Him. I will seek Thee, Lord, by
calling on Thee; and will call on Thee, believing in Thee; for to us
hast Thou been preached. My faith, Lord, shall call on Thee, which
Thou hast given me, wherewith Thou hast inspired me, through the
Incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the Preacher.
And how shall I call upon my God, my God and Lord, since, when I
call for Him, I shall be calling Him to myself? and what room is there
within me, whither my God can come into me? whither can God come
into me, God who made heaven and earth? is there, indeed, O Lord my
God, aught in me that can contain Thee? do then heaven and earth,
which Thou hast made, and wherein Thou hast made me, contain Thee? or,
because nothing which exists could exist without Thee, doth
therefore whatever exists contain Thee? Since, then, I too exist,
why do I seek that Thou shouldest enter into me, who were not, wert
Thou not in me? Why? because I am not gone down in hell, and yet
Thou art there also. For if I go down into hell, Thou art there. I
could not be then, O my God, could not be at all, wert Thou not in me;
or, rather, unless I were in Thee, of whom are all things, by whom are
all things, in whom are all things? Even so, Lord, even so. Whither do
I call Thee, since I am in Thee? or whence canst Thou enter into me?
for whither can I go beyond heaven and earth, that thence my God
should come into me, who hath said, I fill the heaven and the earth.
Do the heaven and earth then contain Thee, since Thou fillest
them? or dost Thou fill them and yet overflow, since they do not
contain Thee? And whither, when the heaven and the earth are filled,
pourest Thou forth the remainder of Thyself? or hast Thou no need that
aught contain Thee, who containest all things, since what Thou fillest
Thou fillest by containing it? for the vessels which Thou fillest
uphold Thee not, since, though they were broken, Thou wert not
poured out. And when Thou art poured out on us, Thou art not cast
down, but Thou upliftest us; Thou art not dissipated, but Thou
gatherest us. But Thou who fillest all things, fillest Thou them
with Thy whole self? or, since all things cannot contain Thee
wholly, do they contain part of Thee? and all at once the same part?
or each its own part, the greater more, the smaller less? And is, then
one part of Thee greater, another less? or, art Thou wholly every
where, while nothing contains Thee wholly?
What art Thou then, my God? what, but the Lord God? For who is
Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? Most highest, most
good, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful, yet most just; most
hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet most strong, stable, yet
incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never
old; all-renewing, and bringing age upon the proud, and they know it
not; ever working, ever at rest; still gathering, yet nothing lacking;
supporting, filling, and overspreading; creating, nourishing, and
maturing; seeking, yet having all things. Thou lovest, without
passion; art jealous, without anxiety; repentest, yet grievest not;
art angry, yet serene; changest Thy works, Thy purpose unchanged;
receivest again what Thou findest, yet didst never lose; never in
need, yet rejoicing in gains; never covetous, yet exacting usury. Thou
receivest over and above, that Thou mayest owe; and who hath aught
that is not Thine? Thou payest debts, owing nothing; remittest
debts, losing nothing. And what had I now said, my God, my life, my
holy joy? or what saith any man when he speaks of Thee? Yet woe to him
that speaketh not, since mute are even the most eloquent.
Oh! that I might repose on Thee! Oh! that Thou wouldest enter into
my heart, and inebriate it, that I may forget my ills, and embrace
Thee, my sole good! What art Thou to me? In Thy pity, teach me to
utter it. Or what am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and, if
I give it not, art wroth with me, and threatenest me with grievous
woes? Is it then a slight woe to love Thee not? Oh! for Thy mercies'
sake, tell me, O Lord my God, what Thou art unto me. Say unto my soul,
I am thy salvation. So speak, that I may hear. Behold, Lord, my
heart is before Thee; open Thou the ears thereof, and say unto my
soul, I am thy salvation. After this voice let me haste, and take hold
on Thee. Hide not Thy face from me. Let me die- lest I die- only let
me see Thy face.
Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou
mayest enter in. It is ruinous; repair Thou it. It has that within
which must offend Thine eyes; I confess and know it. But who shall
cleanse it? or to whom should I cry, save Thee? Lord, cleanse me
from my secret faults, and spare Thy servant from the power of the
enemy. I believe, and therefore do I speak. Lord, Thou knowest. Have I
not confessed against myself my transgressions unto Thee, and Thou, my
God, hast forgiven the iniquity of my heart? I contend not in judgment
with Thee, who art the truth; I fear to deceive myself; lest mine
iniquity lie unto itself. Therefore I contend not in judgment with
Thee; for if Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who
shall abide it?
Yet suffer me to speak unto Thy mercy, me, dust and ashes. Yet
suffer me to speak, since I speak to Thy mercy, and not to scornful
man. Thou too, perhaps, despisest me, yet wilt Thou return and have
compassion upon me. For what would I say, O Lord my God, but that I
know not whence I came into this dying life (shall I call it?) or
living death. Then immediately did the comforts of Thy compassion take
me up, as I heard (for I remember it not) from the parents of my
flesh, out of whose substance Thou didst sometime fashion me. Thus
there received me the comforts of woman's milk. For neither my
mother nor my nurses stored their own breasts for me; but Thou didst
bestow the food of my infancy through them, according to Thine
ordinance, whereby Thou distributest Thy riches through the hidden
springs of all things. Thou also gavest me to desire no more than Thou
gavest; and to my nurses willingly to give me what Thou gavest them.
For they, with a heaven-taught affection, willingly gave me what
they abounded with from Thee. For this my good from them, was good for
them. Nor, indeed, from them was it, but through them; for from
Thee, O God, are all good things, and from my God is all my health.
This I since learned, Thou, through these Thy gifts, within me and
without, proclaiming Thyself unto me. For then I knew but to suck;
to repose in what pleased, and cry at what offended my flesh;
nothing more.
Afterwards I began to smile; first in sleep, then waking: for so
it was told me of myself, and I believed it; for we see the like in
other infants, though of myself I remember it not. Thus, little by
little, I became conscious where I was; and to have a wish to
express my wishes to those who could content them, and I could not;
for the wishes were within me, and they without; nor could they by any
sense of theirs enter within my spirit. So I flung about at random
limbs and voice, making the few signs I could, and such as I could,
like, though in truth very little like, what I wished. And when I
was not presently obeyed (my wishes being hurtful or
unintelligible), then I was indignant with my elders for not
submitting to me, with those owing me no service, for not serving
me; and avenged myself on them by tears. Such have I learnt infants to
be from observing them; and that I was myself such, they, all
unconscious, have shown me better than my nurses who knew it.
And, lo! my infancy died long since, and I live. But Thou, Lord, who
for ever livest, and in whom nothing dies: for before the foundation
of the worlds, and before all that can be called "before," Thou art,
and art God and Lord of all which Thou hast created: in Thee abide,
fixed for ever, the first causes of all things unabiding; and of all
things changeable, the springs abide in Thee unchangeable: and in Thee
live the eternal reasons of all things unreasoning and temporal.
Say, Lord, to me, Thy suppliant; say, all-pitying, to me, Thy pitiable
one; say, did my infancy succeed another age of mine that died
before it? was it that which I spent within my mother's womb? for of
that I have heard somewhat, and have myself seen women with child? and
what before that life again, O God my joy, was I any where or any
body? For this have I none to tell me, neither father nor mother,
nor experience of others, nor mine own memory. Dost Thou mock me for
asking this, and bid me praise Thee and acknowledge Thee, for that I
do know?
I acknowledge Thee, Lord of heaven and earth, and praise Thee for my
first rudiments of being, and my infancy, whereof I remember
nothing; for Thou hast appointed that man should from others guess
much as to himself; and believe much on the strength of weak
females. Even then I had being and life, and (at my infancy's close) I
could seek for signs whereby to make known to others my sensations.
Whence could such a being be, save from Thee, Lord? Shall any be his
own artificer? or can there elsewhere be derived any vein, which may
stream essence and life into us, save from thee, O Lord, in whom
essence and life are one? for Thou Thyself art supremely Essence and
Life. For Thou art most high, and art not changed, neither in Thee
doth to-day come to a close; yet in Thee doth it come to a close;
because all such things also are in Thee. For they had no way to
pass away, unless Thou upheldest them. And since Thy years fail not,
Thy years are one to-day. How many of ours and our fathers' years have
flowed away through Thy "to-day," and from it received the measure and
the mould of such being as they had; and still others shall flow away,
and so receive the mould of their degree of being. But Thou art
still the same, and all things of tomorrow, and all beyond, and all of
yesterday, and all behind it, Thou hast done to-day. What is it to me,
though any comprehend not this? Let him also rejoice and say, What
thing is this? Let him rejoice even thus! and be content rather by not
discovering to discover Thee, than by discovering not to discover
Thee.
Hear, O God. Alas, for man's sin! So saith man, and Thou pitiest
him; for Thou madest him, but sin in him Thou madest not. Who
remindeth me of the sins of my infancy? for in Thy sight none is
pure from sin, not even the infant whose life is but a day upon the
earth. Who remindeth me? doth not each little infant, in whom I see
what of myself I remember not? What then was my sin? was it that I
hung upon the breast and cried? for should I now so do for food
suitable to my age, justly should I be laughed at and reproved. What I
then did was worthy reproof; but since I could not understand reproof,
custom and reason forbade me to be reproved. For those habits, when
grown, we root out and cast away. Now no man, though he prunes,
wittingly casts away what is good. Or was it then good, even for a
while, to cry for what, if given, would hurt? bitterly to resent, that
persons free, and its own elders, yea, the very authors of its
birth, served it not? that many besides, wiser than it, obeyed not the
nod of its good pleasure? to do its best to strike and hurt, because
commands were not obeyed, which had been obeyed to its hurt? The
weakness then of infant limbs, not its will, is its innocence.
Myself have seen and known even a baby envious; it could not speak,
yet it turned pale and looked bitterly on its foster-brother. Who
knows not this? Mothers and nurses tell you that they allay these
things by I know not what remedies. Is that too innocence, when the
fountain of milk is flowing in rich abundance, not to endure one to
share it, though in extremest need, and whose very life as yet depends
thereon? We bear gently with all this, not as being no or slight
evils, but because they will disappear as years increase; for,
though tolerated now, the very same tempers are utterly intolerable
when found in riper years.
Thou, then, O Lord my God, who gavest life to this my infancy,
furnishing thus with senses (as we see) the frame Thou gavest,
compacting its limbs, ornamenting its proportions, and, for its
general good and safety, implanting in it all vital functions, Thou
commandest me to praise Thee in these things, to confess unto Thee,
and sing unto Thy name, Thou most Highest. For Thou art God,
Almighty and Good, even hadst Thou done nought but only this, which
none could do but Thou: whose Unity is the mould of all things; who
out of Thy own fairness makest all things fair; and orderest all
things by Thy law. This age then, Lord, whereof I have no remembrance,
which I take on others' word, and guess from other infants that I have
passed, true though the guess be, I am yet loth to count in this
life of mine which I live in this world. For no less than that which I
spent in my mother's womb, is it hid from me in the shadows of
forgetfulness. But if I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my
mother conceive me, where, I beseech Thee, O my God, where, Lord, or
when, was I Thy servant guiltless? But, lo! that period I pass by; and
what have I now to do with that, of which I can recall no vestige?
Passing hence from infancy, I came to boyhood, or rather it came
to me, displacing infancy. Nor did that depart,- (for whither went
it?)- and yet it was no more. For I was no longer a speechless infant,
but a speaking boy. This I remember; and have since observed how I
learned to speak. It was not that my elders taught me words (as,
soon after, other learning) in any set method; but I, longing by cries
and broken accents and various motions of my limbs to express my
thoughts, that so I might have my will, and yet unable to express
all I willed, or to whom I willed, did myself, by the understanding
which Thou, my God, gavest me, practise the sounds in my memory.
When they named any thing, and as they spoke turned towards it, I
saw and remembered that they called what they would point out by the
name they uttered. And that they meant this thing and no other was
plain from the motion of their body, the natural language, as it were,
of all nations, expressed by the countenance, glances of the eye,
gestures of the limbs, and tones of the voice, indicating the
affections of the mind, as it pursues, possesses, rejects, or shuns.
And thus by constantly hearing words, as they occurred in various
sentences, I collected gradually for what they stood; and having
broken in my mouth to these signs, I thereby gave utterance to my
will. Thus I exchanged with those about me these current signs of
our wills, and so launched deeper into the stormy intercourse of human
life, yet depending on parental authority and the beck of elders.
O God my God, what miseries and mockeries did I now experience, when
obedience to my teachers was proposed to me, as proper in a boy, in
order that in this world I might prosper, and excel in tongue-science,
which should serve to the "praise of men," and to deceitful riches.
Next I was put to school to get learning, in which I (poor wretch)
knew not what use there was; and yet, if idle in learning, I was
beaten. For this was judged right by our forefathers; and many,
passing the same course before us, framed for us weary paths,
through which we were fain to pass; multiplying toil and grief upon
the sons of Adam. But, Lord, we found that men called upon Thee, and
we learnt from them to think of Thee (according to our powers) as of
some great One, who, though hidden from our senses, couldest hear
and help us. For so I began, as a boy, to pray to Thee, my aid and
refuge; and broke the fetters of my tongue to call on Thee, praying
Thee, though small, yet with no small earnestness, that I might not be
beaten at school. And when Thou heardest me not (not thereby giving me
over to folly), my elders, yea my very parents, who yet wished me no
ill, mocked my stripes, my then great and grievous ill.
Is there, Lord, any of soul so great, and cleaving to Thee with so
intense affection (for a sort of stupidity will in a way do it); but
is there any one who, from cleaving devoutly to Thee, is endued with
so great a spirit, that he can think as lightly of the racks and hooks
and other torments (against which, throughout all lands, men call on
Thee with extreme dread), mocking at those by whom they are feared
most bitterly, as our parents mocked the torments which we suffered in
boyhood from our masters? For we feared not our torments less; nor
prayed we less to Thee to escape them. And yet we sinned, in writing
or reading or studying less than was exacted of us. For we wanted not,
O Lord, memory or capacity, whereof Thy will gave enough for our
age; but our sole delight was play; and for this we were punished by
those who yet themselves were doing the like. But elder folks'
idleness is called "business"; that of boys, being really the same, is
punished by those elders; and none commiserates either boys or men.
For will any of sound discretion approve of my being beaten as a
boy, because, by playing a ball, I made less progress in studies which
I was to learn, only that, as a man, I might play more
unbeseemingly? and what else did he who beat me? who, if worsted in
some trifling discussion with his fellow-tutor, was more embittered
and jealous than I when beaten at ball by a play-fellow?
And yet, I sinned herein, O Lord God, the Creator and Disposer of
all things in nature, of sin the Disposer only, O Lord my God, I
sinned in transgressing the commands of my parents and those of my
masters. For what they, with whatever motive, would have me learn, I
might afterwards have put to good use. For I disobeyed, not from a
better choice, but from love of play, loving the pride of victory in
my contests, and to have my ears tickled with lying fables, that
they might itch the more; the same curiosity flashing from my eyes
more and more, for the shows and games of my elders. Yet those who
give these shows are in such esteem, that almost all wish the same for
their children, and yet are very willing that they should be beaten,
if those very games detain them from the studies, whereby they would
have them attain to be the givers of them. Look with pity, Lord, on
these things, and deliver us who call upon Thee now; deliver those too
who call not on Thee yet, that they may call on Thee, and Thou
mayest deliver them.
As a boy, then, I had already heard of an eternal life, promised
us through the humility of the Lord our God stooping to our pride; and
even from the womb of my mother, who greatly hoped in Thee, I was
sealed with the mark of His cross and salted with His salt. Thou
sawest, Lord, how while yet a boy, being seized on a time with
sudden oppression of the stomach, and like near to death- Thou sawest,
my God (for Thou wert my keeper), with what eagerness and what faith I
sought, from the pious care of my mother and Thy Church, the mother of
us all, the baptism of Thy Christ, my God and Lord. Whereupon the
mother my flesh, being much troubled (since, with a heart pure in
Thy faith, she even more lovingly travailed in birth of my salvation),
would in eager haste have provided for my consecration and cleansing
by the health-giving sacraments, confessing Thee, Lord Jesus, for
the remission of sins, unless I had suddenly recovered. And so, as
if I must needs be again polluted should I live, my cleansing was
deferred, because the defilements of sin would, after that washing,
bring greater and more perilous guilt. I then already believed: and my
mother, and the whole household, except my father: yet did not he
prevail over the power of my mother's piety in me, that as he did
not yet believe, so neither should I. For it was her earnest care that
Thou my God, rather than he, shouldest be my father; and in this
Thou didst aid her to prevail over her husband, whom she, the
better, obeyed, therein also obeying Thee, who hast so commanded.
I beseech Thee, my God, I would fain know, if so Thou willest, for
what purpose my baptism was then deferred? was it for my good that the
rein was laid loose, as it were, upon me, for me to sin? or was it not
laid loose? If not, why does it still echo in our ears on all sides,
"Let him alone, let him do as he will, for he is not yet baptised?"
but as to bodily health, no one says, "Let him be worse wounded, for
he is not yet healed." How much better then, had I been at once
healed; and then, by my friends' and my own, my soul's recovered
health had been kept safe in Thy keeping who gavest it. Better
truly. But how many and great waves of temptation seemed to hang
over me after my boyhood! These my mother foresaw; and preferred to
expose to them the clay whence I might afterwards be moulded, than the
very cast, when made.
In boyhood itself, however (so much less dreaded for me than youth),
I loved not study, and hated to be forced to it. Yet I was forced; and
this was well done towards me, but I did not well; for, unless forced,
I had not learnt. But no one doth well against his will, even though
what he doth, be well. Yet neither did they well who forced me, but
what was well came to me from Thee, my God. For they were regardless
how I should employ what they forced me to learn, except to satiate
the insatiate desires of a wealthy beggary, and a shameful glory.
But Thou, by whom the very hairs of our head are numbered, didst use
for my good the error of all who urged me to learn; and my own, who
would not learn, Thou didst use for my punishment- a fit penalty for
one, so small a boy and so great a sinner. So by those who did not
well, Thou didst well for me; and by my own sin Thou didst justly
punish me. For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
But why did I so much hate the Greek, which I studied as a boy? I do
not yet fully know. For the Latin I loved; not what my first
masters, but what the so-called grammarians taught me. For those first
lessons, reading, writing and arithmetic, I thought as great a
burden and penalty as any Greek. And yet whence was this too, but from
the sin and vanity of this life, because I was flesh, and a breath
that passeth away and cometh not again? For those first lessons were
better certainly, because more certain; by them I obtained, and
still retain, the power of reading what I find written, and myself
writing what I will; whereas in the others, I was forced to learn
the wanderings of one Aeneas, forgetful of my own, and to weep for
dead Dido, because she killed herself for love; the while, with dry
eyes, I endured my miserable self dying among these things, far from
Thee, O God my life.
For what more miserable than a miserable being who commiserates
not himself; weeping the death of Dido for love to Aeneas, but weeping
not his own death for want of love to Thee, O God. Thou light of my
heart, Thou bread of my inmost soul, Thou Power who givest vigour to
my mind, who quickenest my thoughts, I loved Thee not. I committed
fornication against Thee, and all around me thus fornicating there
echoed "Well done! well done!" for the friendship of this world is
fornication against Thee; and "Well done! well done!" echoes on till
one is ashamed not to he thus a man. And for all this I wept not, I
who wept for Dido slain, and "seeking by the sword a stroke and
wound extreme," myself seeking the while a worse extreme, the
extremest and lowest of Thy creatures, having forsaken Thee, earth
passing into the earth. And if forbid to read all this, I was
grieved that I might not read what grieved me. Madness like this is
thought a higher and a richer learning, than that by which I learned
to read and write.
But now, my God, cry Thou aloud in my soul; and let Thy truth tell
me, "Not so, not so. Far better was that first study." For, lo, I
would readily forget the wanderings of Aeneas and all the rest, rather
than how to read and write. But over the entrance of the Grammar
School is a vail drawn! true; yet is this not so much an emblem of
aught recondite, as a cloak of error. Let not those, whom I no
longer fear, cry out against me, while I confess to Thee, my God,
whatever my soul will, and acquiesce in the condemnation of my evil
ways, that I may love Thy good ways. Let not either buyers or
sellers of grammar-learning cry out against me. For if I question them
whether it be true that Aeneas came on a time to Carthage, as the poet
tells, the less learned will reply that they know not, the more
learned that he never did. But should I ask with what letters the name
"Aeneas" is written, every one who has learnt this will answer me
aright, as to the signs which men have conventionally settled. If,
again, I should ask which might be forgotten with least detriment to
the concerns of life, reading and writing or these poetic fictions?
who does not foresee what all must answer who have not wholly
forgotten themselves? I sinned, then, when as a boy I preferred
those empty to those more profitable studies, or rather loved the
one and hated the other. "One and one, two"; "two and two, four"; this
was to me a hateful singsong: "the wooden horse lined with armed men,"
and "the burning of Troy," and "Creusa's shade and sad similitude,"
were the choice spectacle of my vanity.
Why then did I hate the Greek classics, which have the like tales?
For Homer also curiously wove the like fictions, and is most
sweetlyvain, yet was he bitter to my boyish taste. And so I suppose
would Virgil be to Grecian children, when forced to learn him as I was
Homer. Difficulty, in truth, the difficulty of a foreign tongue,
dashed, as it were, with gall all the sweetness of Grecian fable.
For not one word of it did I understand, and to make me understand I
was urged vehemently with cruel threats and punishments. Time was also
(as an infant) I knew no Latin; but this I learned without fear or
suffering, by mere observation, amid the caresses of my nursery and
jests of friends, smiling and sportively encouraging me. This I
learned without any pressure of punishment to urge me on, for my heart
urged me to give birth to its conceptions, which I could only do by
learning words not of those who taught, but of those who talked with
me; in whose ears also I gave birth to the thoughts, whatever I
conceived. No doubt, then, that a free curiosity has more force in our
learning these things, than a frightful enforcement. Only this
enforcement restrains the rovings of that freedom, through Thy laws, O
my God, Thy laws, from the master's cane to the martyr's trials, being
able to temper for us a wholesome bitter, recalling us to Thyself from
that deadly pleasure which lures us from Thee.
Hear, Lord, my prayer; let not my soul faint under Thy discipline,
nor let me faint in confessing unto Thee all Thy mercies, whereby Thou
hast drawn me out of all my most evil ways, that Thou mightest
become a delight to me above all the allurements which I once pursued;
that I may most entirely love Thee, and clasp Thy hand with all my
affections, and Thou mayest yet rescue me from every temptation,
even unto the end. For lo, O Lord, my King and my God, for Thy service
be whatever useful thing my childhood learned; for Thy service, that I
speak, write, read, reckon. For Thou didst grant me Thy discipline,
while I was learning vanities; and my sin of delighting in those
vanities Thou hast forgiven. In them, indeed, I learnt many a useful
word, but these may as well be learned in things not vain; and that is
the safe path for the steps of youth.
But woe is thee, thou torrent of human custom! Who shall stand
against thee? how long shalt thou not be dried up? how long roll the
sons of Eve into that huge and hideous ocean, which even they scarcely
overpass who climb the cross? Did not I read in thee of Jove the
thunderer and the adulterer? both, doubtless, he could not be; but
so the feigned thunder might countenance and pander to real
adultery. And now which of our gowned masters lends a sober ear to one
who from their own school cries out, "These were Homer's fictions,
transferring things human to the gods; would he had brought down
things divine to us!" Yet more truly had he said, "These are indeed
his fictions; but attributing a divine nature to wicked men, that
crimes might be no longer crimes, and whoso commits them might seem to
imitate not abandoned men, but the celestial gods."
And yet, thou hellish torrent, into thee are cast the sons of men
with rich rewards, for compassing such learning; and a great solemnity
is made of it, when this is going on in the forum, within sight of
laws appointing a salary beside the scholar's payments; and thou
lashest thy rocks and roarest, "Hence words are learnt; hence
eloquence; most necessary to gain your ends, or maintain opinions." As
if we should have never known such words as "golden shower," "lap,"
"beguile," "temples of the heavens," or others in that passage, unless
Terence had brought a lewd youth upon the stage, setting up Jupiter as
his example of seduction.

"Viewing a picture, where the tale was drawn,
Of Jove's descending in a golden shower
To Danae's lap a woman to beguile."

And then mark how he excites himself to lust as by celestial
authority:

"And what God? Great Jove,
Who shakes heaven's highest temples with his thunder,

And I, poor mortal man, not do the same!
I did it, and with all my heart I did it."

Not one whit more easily are the words learnt for all this vileness;
but by their means the vileness is committed with less shame. Not that
I blame the words, being, as it were, choice and precious vessels; but
that wine of error which is drunk to us in them by intoxicated
teachers; and if we, too, drink not, we are beaten, and have no
sober judge to whom we may appeal. Yet, O my God (in whose presence
I now without hurt may remember this), all this unhappily I learnt
willingly with great delight, and for this was pronounced a hopeful
boy.
Bear with me, my God, while I say somewhat of my wit, Thy gift,
and on what dotages I wasted it. For a task was set me, troublesome
enough to my soul, upon terms of praise or shame, and fear of stripes,
to speak the words of Juno, as she raged and mourned that she could
not

"This Trojan prince from Latinum turn."

Which words I had heard that Juno never uttered; but we were forced to
go astray in the footsteps of these poetic fictions, and to say in
prose much what he expressed in verse. And his speaking was most
applauded, in whom the passions of rage and grief were most
preeminent, and clothed in the most fitting language, maintaining
the dignity of the character. What is it to me, O my true life, my
God, that my declamation was applauded above so many of my own age and
class? is not all this smoke and wind? and was there nothing else
whereon to exercise my wit and tongue? Thy praises, Lord, Thy
praises might have stayed the yet tender shoot of my heart by the prop
of Thy Scriptures; so had it not trailed away amid these empty
trifles, a defiled prey for the fowls of the air. For in more ways
than one do men sacrifice to the rebellious angels.
But what marvel that I was thus carried away to vanities, and went
out from Thy presence, O my God, when men were set before me as
models, who, if in relating some action of theirs, in itself not
ill, they committed some barbarism or solecism, being censured, were
abashed; but when in rich and adomed and well-ordered discourse they
related their own disordered life, being bepraised, they gloried?
These things Thou seest, Lord, and holdest Thy peace;
long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. Wilt Thou hold Thy
peace for ever? and even now Thou drawest out of this horrible gulf
the soul that seeketh Thee, that thirsteth for Thy pleasures, whose
heart saith unto Thee, I have sought Thy face; Thy face, Lord, will
I seek. For darkened affections is removal from Thee. For it is not by
our feet, or change of place, that men leave Thee, or return unto
Thee. Or did that Thy younger son look out for horses or chariots,
or ships, fly with visible wings, or journey by the motion of his
limbs, that he might in a far country waste in riotous living all Thou
gavest at his departure? a loving Father, when Thou gavest, and more
loving unto him, when he returned empty. So then in lustful, that
is, in darkened affections, is the true distance from Thy face.
Behold, O Lord God, yea, behold patiently as Thou art wont how
carefully the sons of men observe the covenanted rules of letters
and syllables received from those who spake before them, neglecting
the eternal covenant of everlasting salvation received from Thee.
Insomuch, that a teacher or learner of the hereditary laws of
pronunciation will more offend men by speaking without the aspirate,
of a "uman being," in despite of the laws of grammar, than if he, a
"human being," hate a "human being" in despite of Thine. As if any
enemy could be more hurtful than the hatred with which he is
incensed against him; or could wound more deeply him whom he
persecutes, than he wounds his own soul by his enmity. Assuredly no
science of letters can be so innate as the record of conscience, "that
he is doing to another what from another he would be loth to
suffer." How deep are Thy ways, O God, Thou only great, that sittest
silent on high and by an unwearied law dispensing penal blindness to
lawless desires. In quest of the fame of eloquence, a man standing
before a human judge, surrounded by a human throng, declaiming against
his enemy with fiercest hatred, will take heed most watchfully,
lest, by an error of the tongue, he murder the word "human being"; but
takes no heed, lest, through the fury of his spirit, he murder the
real human being.
This was the world at whose gate unhappy I lay in my boyhood; this
the stage where I had feared more to commit a barbarism, than having
committed one, to envy those who had not. These things I speak and
confess to Thee, my God; for which I had praise from them, whom I then
thought it all virtue to please. For I saw not the abyss of
vileness, wherein I was cast away from Thine eyes. Before them what
more foul than I was already, displeasing even such as myself? with
innumerable lies deceiving my tutor, my masters, my parents, from love
of play, eagerness to see vain shows and restlessness to imitate them!
Thefts also I committed, from my parents' cellar and table, enslaved
by greediness, or that I might have to give to boys, who sold me their
play, which all the while they liked no less than I. In this play,
too, I often sought unfair conquests, conquered myself meanwhile by
vain desire of preeminence. And what could I so ill endure, or, when I
detected it, upbraided I so fiercely, as that I was doing to others?
and for which if, detected, I was upbraided, I chose rather to quarrel
than to yield. And is this the innocence of boyhood? Not so, Lord, not
so; I cry Thy mercy, my God. For these very sins, as riper years
succeed, these very sins are transferred from tutors and masters, from
nuts and balls and sparrows, to magistrates and kings, to gold and
manors and slaves, just as severer punishments displace the cane. It
was the low stature then of childhood which Thou our King didst
commend as an emblem of lowliness, when Thou saidst, Of such is the
kingdom of heaven.
Yet, Lord, to Thee, the Creator and Governor of the universe, most
excellent and most good, thanks were due to Thee our God, even hadst
Thou destined for me boyhood only. For even then I was, I lived, and
felt; and had an implanted providence over my well-being- a trace of
that mysterious Unity whence I was derived; I guarded by the inward
sense the entireness of my senses, and in these minute pursuits, and
in my thoughts on things minute, I learnt to delight in truth, I hated
to be deceived, had a vigorous memory, was gifted with speech, was
soothed by friendship, avoided pain, baseness, ignorance. In so
small a creature, what was not wonderful, not admirable? But all are
gifts of my God: it was not I who gave them me; and good these are,
and these together are myself. Good, then, is He that made me, and
He is my good; and before Him will I exult for every good which of a
boy I had. For it was my sin, that not in Him, but in His creatures-
myself and others- I sought for pleasures, sublimities, truths, and so
fell headlong into sorrows, confusions, errors. Thanks be to Thee,
my joy and my glory and my confidence, my God, thanks be to Thee for
Thy gifts; but do Thou preserve them to me. For so wilt Thou
preserve me, and those things shall be enlarged and perfected which
Thou hast given me, and I myself shall be with Thee, since even to
be Thou hast given me.
BOOK II

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 I do it; reviewing my most wicked ways in
the very bitterness of my remembrance, that Thou mayest grow sweet
unto me (Thou sweetness never failing, Thou blissful and assured
sweetness); and gathering me again out of that my dissipation, wherein
I was torn piecemeal, while turned from Thee, the One Good, I lost
myself among a multiplicity of things. For I even burnt in my youth
heretofore, to be satiated in things below; and I dared to grow wild
again, with these various and shadowy loves: my beauty consumed
away, and I stank in Thine eyes; pleasing myself, and desirous to
please in the eyes of men.
And what was it that I delighted in, but to love, and be loved?
but I kept not the measure of love, of mind to mind, friendship's
bright boundary: but out of the muddy concupiscence of the flesh,
and the bubblings of youth, mists fumed up which beclouded and
overcast my heart, that I could not discern the clear brightness of
love from the fog of lustfulness. Both did confusedly boil in me,
and hurried my unstayed youth over the precipice of unholy desires,
and sunk me in a gulf of flagitiousnesses. Thy wrath had gathered over
me, and I knew it not. I was grown deaf by the clanking of the chain
of my mortality, the punishment of the pride of my soul, and I strayed
further from Thee, and Thou lettest me alone, and I was tossed
about, and wasted, and dissipated, and I boiled over in my
fornications, and Thou heldest Thy peace, O Thou my tardy joy! Thou
then heldest Thy peace, and I wandered further and further from
Thee, into more and more fruitless seed-plots of sorrows, with a proud
dejectedness, and a restless weariness.
Oh! that some one had then attempered my disorder, and turned to
account the fleeting beauties of these, the extreme points of Thy
creation! had put a bound to their pleasureableness, that so the tides
of my youth might have cast themselves upon the marriage shore, if
they could not be calmed, and kept within the object of a family, as
Thy law prescribes, O Lord: who this way formest the offspring of this
our death, being able with a gentle hand to blunt the thorns which
were excluded from Thy paradise? For Thy omnipotency is not far from
us, even when we be far from Thee. Else ought I more watchfully to
have heeded 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 thinketh of the things of the
Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he that is married careth for
the things of this world, how he may please his wife.
To these words I should have listened more attentively, and being
severed for the kingdom of heaven's sake, had more happily awaited Thy
embraces; but I, poor wretch, foamed like a troubled sea, following
the rushing of my own tide, forsaking Thee, and exceeded all Thy
limits; yet I escaped not Thy scourges. For what mortal can? For
Thou wert ever with me mercifully rigorous, and besprinkling with most
bitter alloy all my unlawful pleasures: that I might seek pleasures
without alloy. But where to find such, I could not discover, save in
Thee, O Lord, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us, to heal; and
killest us, lest we 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 which human
shamelessness giveth free licence, though unlicensed by Thy laws) took
the rule over me, and I resigned myself wholly to it? My friends
meanwhile took no care by marriage to save my fall; their only care
was that I should learn to speak excellently, and be a persuasive
orator.
For that year were my studies intermitted: whilst after my return
from Madaura (a neighbour city, whither I had journeyed to learn
grammar and rhetoric), the expenses for a further journey to
Carthage were being provided for me; and that rather by the resolution
than the means of my father, who was but a poor freeman of Thagaste.
To whom tell I this? not to Thee, my God; but before Thee to mine
own kind, even to that small portion of mankind as may light upon
these writings of mine. And to what purpose? that whosoever reads
this, may think out of what depths we are to cry unto Thee. For what
is nearer to Thine ears than a confessing heart, and a life of
faith? Who did not extol my father, for that beyond the ability of his
means, he would furnish his son with all necessaries for a far journey
for his studies' sake? For many far abler citizens did no such thing
for their children. But yet this same father had no concern how I grew
towards Thee, or how chaste I were; so that I were but copious in
speech, however barren I were to Thy culture, O God, who art the
only true and good Lord of Thy field, my heart.
But while in that my sixteenth year I lived with my parents, leaving
all school for a while (a season of idleness being interposed
through the narrowness of my parents' fortunes), the briers of unclean
desires grew rank over my head, and there was no hand to root them
out. When that my father saw me at the baths, now growing towards
manhood, and endued with a restless youthfulness, he, as already hence
anticipating his descendants, gladly told it to my mother; rejoicing
in that tumult of the senses wherein the world forgetteth Thee its
Creator, and becometh enamoured of Thy creature, instead of Thyself,
through the fumes of that invisible wine of its self-will, turning
aside and bowing down to the very basest things. But in my mother's
breast Thou hadst already begun Thy temple, and the foundation of
Thy holy habitation, whereas my father was as yet but a Catechumen,
and that but recently. She then was startled with a holy fear and
trembling; and though I was not as yet baptised, feared for me those
crooked ways in which they walk who turn their back to Thee, and not
their face.
Woe is me! and dare I say that Thou heldest Thy peace, O my God,
while I wandered further from Thee? Didst Thou then indeed hold Thy
peace to me? And whose but Thine were these words which by my
mother, Thy faithful one, Thou sangest in my ears? Nothing whereof
sunk into my heart, so as to do it. For she wished, and I remember
in private with great anxiety warned me, "not to commit fornication;
but especially never to defile another man's wife." These seemed to me
womanish advices, which I should blush to obey. But they were Thine,
and I knew it not: and I thought Thou wert silent and that it was
she who spake; by whom Thou wert not silent unto me; and in her wast
despised by me, her son, the son of Thy handmaid, Thy servant. But I
knew it not; and ran headlong with such blindness, that amongst my
equals I was ashamed of a less shamelessness, when I heard them
boast of their flagitiousness, yea, and the more boasting, the more
they were degraded: and I took pleasure, not only in the pleasure of
the deed, but in the praise. What is worthy of dispraise but vice? But
I made myself worse than I was, that I might not be dispraised; and
when in any thing I had not sinned as the abandoned ones, I would
say that I had done what I had not done, that I might not seem
contemptible in proportion as I was innocent; or of less account,
the more chaste.
Behold with what companions I walked the streets of Babylon, and
wallowed in the mire thereof, as if in a bed of spices and precious
ointments. And that I might cleave the faster to its very centre,
the invisible enemy trod me down, and seduced me, for that I was
easy to be seduced. Neither did the mother of my flesh (who had now
fled out of the centre of Babylon, yet went more slowly in the
skirts thereof as she advised me to chastity, so heed what she had
heard of me from her husband, as to restrain within the bounds of
conjugal affection (if it could not be pared away to the quick) what
she felt to be pestilent at present and for the future dangerous.
She heeded not this, for she feared lest a wife should prove a clog
and hindrance to my hopes. Not those hopes of the world to come, which
my mother reposed in Thee; but the hope of learning, which both my
parents were too desirous I should attain; my father, because he had
next to no thought of Thee, and of me but vain conceits; my mother,
because she accounted that those usual courses of learning would not
only be no hindrance, but even some furtherance towards attaining
Thee. For thus I conjecture, recalling, as well as I may, the
disposition of my parents. The reins, meantime, were slackened to
me, beyond all temper of due severity, to spend my time in sport, yea,
even unto dissoluteness in whatsoever I affected. And in all was a
mist, intercepting from me, O my God, the brightness of Thy truth; and
mine iniquity burst out as from very fatness.
Theft is punished by Thy law, O Lord, and the law written in the
hearts of men, which iniquity itself effaces not. For what thief
will abide a thief? not even a rich thief, one stealing through
want. Yet I lusted to thieve, and did it, compelled by no hunger,
nor poverty, but through a cloyedness of well-doing, and a
pamperedness of iniquity. For I stole that, of which I had enough, and
much better. Nor cared I to enjoy what I stole, but joyed in the theft
and sin itself. A pear tree there was near our vineyard, laden with
fruit, tempting neither for colour nor taste. To shake and rob this,
some lewd young fellows of us went, late one night (having according
to our pestilent custom prolonged our sports in the streets till
then), and took huge loads, not for our eating, but to fling to the
very hogs, having only tasted them. And this, but to do what we
liked only, because it was misliked. Behold my heart, O God, behold my
heart, which Thou hadst pity upon in the bottom of the bottomless pit.
Now, behold, let my heart tell Thee what it sought there, that I
should be gratuitously evil, having no temptation to ill, but the
ill itself. It was foul, and I loved it; I loved to perish, I loved
mine own fault, not that for which I was faulty, but my fault
itself. Foul soul, falling from Thy firmament to utter destruction;
not seeking aught through the shame, but the shame itself!
For there is an attractiveness in beautiful bodies, in gold and
silver, and all things; and in bodily touch, sympathy hath much
influence, and each other sense hath his proper object answerably
tempered. Wordly honour hath also its grace, and the power of
overcoming, and of mastery; whence springs also the thirst of revenge.
But yet, to obtain all these, we may not depart from Thee, O Lord, nor
decline from Thy law. The life also which here we live hath its own
enchantment, through a certain proportion of its own, and a
correspondence with all things beautiful here below. Human
friendship also is endeared with a sweet tie, by reason of the unity
formed of many souls. Upon occasion of all these, and the like, is sin
committed, while through an immoderate inclination towards these goods
of the lowest order, the better and higher are forsaken,- Thou, our
Lord God, Thy truth, and Thy law. For these lower things have their
delights, but not like my God, who made all things; for in Him doth
the righteous delight, and He is the joy of the upright in heart.
When, then, we ask why a crime was done, we believe it not, unless
it appear that there might have been some desire of obtaining some
of those which we called lower goods, or a fear of losing them. For
they are beautiful and comely; although compared with those higher and
beatific goods, they be abject and low. A man hath murdered another;
why? he loved his wife or his estate; or would rob for his own
livelihood; or feared to lose some such things by him; or, wronged,
was on fire to be revenged. Would any commit murder upon no cause,
delighted simply in murdering? who would believe it? for as for that
furious and savage man, of whom it is said that he was gratuitously
evil and cruel, yet is the cause assigned; "lest" (saith he)
"through idleness hand or heart should grow inactive." And to what
end? that, through that practice of guilt, he might, having taken
the city, attain to honours, empire, riches, and be freed from fear of
the laws, and his embarrassments from domestic needs, and
consciousness of villainies. So then, not even Catiline himself
loved his own villainies, but something else, for whose sake he did
them.
What then did wretched I so love in thee, thou theft of mine, thou
deed of darkness, in that sixteenth year of my age? Lovely thou wert
not, because thou wert theft. But art thou any thing, that thus I
speak to thee? Fair were the pears we stole, because they were Thy
creation, Thou fairest of all, Creator of all, Thou good God; God, the
sovereign good and my true good. Fair were those pears, but not them
did my wretched soul desire; for I had store of better, and those I
gathered, only that I might steal. For, when gathered, I flung them
away, my only feast therein being my own sin, which I was pleased to
enjoy. For if aught of those pears came within my mouth, what
sweetened it was the sin. And now, O Lord my God, I enquire what in
that theft delighted me; and behold it hath no loveliness; I mean
not such loveliness as in justice and wisdom; nor such as is in the
mind and memory, and senses, and animal life of man; nor yet as the
stars are glorious and beautiful in their orbs; or the earth, or
sea, full of embryo-life, replacing by its birth that which
decayeth; nay, nor even that false and shadowy beauty which
belongeth to deceiving vices.
For so doth pride imitate exaltedness; whereas Thou alone art God
exalted over all. Ambition, what seeks it, but honours and glory?
whereas Thou alone art to be honoured above all, and glorious for
evermore. The cruelty of the great would fain be feared; but who is to
be feared but God alone, out of whose power what can be wrested or
withdrawn? when, or where, or whither, or by whom? The tendernesses of
the wanton would fain be counted love: yet is nothing more tender than
Thy charity; nor is aught loved more healthfully than that Thy
truth, bright and beautiful above all. Curiosity makes semblance of
a desire of knowledge; whereas Thou supremely knowest all. Yea,
ignorance and foolishness itself is cloaked under the name of
simplicity and uninjuriousness; because nothing is found more single
than Thee: and what less injurious, since they are his own works which
injure the sinner? Yea, sloth would fain be at rest; but what stable
rest besides the Lord? Luxury affects to be called plenty and
abundance; but Thou art the fulness and never-failing plenteousness of
incorruptible pleasures. Prodigality presents a shadow of
liberality: but Thou art the most overflowing Giver of all good.
Covetousness would possess many things; and Thou possessest all
things. Envy disputes for excellency: what more excellent than Thou?
Anger seeks revenge: who revenges more justly than Thou? Fear startles
at things unwonted and sudden, which endangers things beloved, and
takes forethought for their safety; but to Thee what unwonted or
sudden, or who separateth from Thee what Thou lovest? Or where but
with Thee is unshaken safety? Grief pines away for things lost, the
delight of its desires; because it would have nothing taken from it,
as nothing can from Thee.
Thus doth the soul commit fornication, when she turns from Thee,
seeking without Thee, what she findeth not pure and untainted, till
she returns to Thee. Thus all pervertedly imitate Thee, who remove far
from Thee, and lift themselves up against Thee. But even by thus
imitating Thee, they imply Thee to be the Creator of all nature;
whence there is no place whither altogether to retire from Thee.
What then did I love in that theft? and wherein did I even corruptly
and pervertedly imitate my Lord? Did I wish even by stealth to do
contrary to Thy law, because by power I could not, so that being a
prisoner, I might mimic a maimed liberty by doing with impunity things
unpermitted me, a darkened likeness of Thy Omnipotency? Behold, Thy
servant, fleeing from his Lord, and obtaining a shadow. O
rottenness, O monstrousness of life, and depth of death! could I
like what I might not, only because I might not?
What shall I render unto the Lord, that, whilst my memory recalls
these things, my soul is not affrighted at them? I will love Thee, O
Lord, and thank Thee, and confess unto Thy name; because Thou hast
forgiven me these so great and heinous deeds of mine. To Thy grace I
ascribe it, and to Thy mercy, that Thou hast melted away my sins as it
were ice. To Thy grace I ascribe also whatsoever I have not done of
evil; for what might I not have done, who even loved a sin for its own
sake? Yea, all I confess to have been forgiven me; both what evils I
committed by my own wilfulness, and what by Thy guidance I committed
not. What man is he, who, weighing his own infirmity, dares to ascribe
his purity and innocency to his own strength; that so he should love
Thee the less, as if he had less needed Thy mercy, whereby Thou
remittest sins to those that turn to Thee? For whosoever, called by
Thee, followed Thy voice, and avoided those things which he reads me
recalling and confessing of myself, let him not scorn me, who being
sick, was cured by that Physician, through whose aid it was that he
was not, or rather was less, sick: and for this let him love Thee as
much, yea and more; since by whom he sees me to have been recovered
from such deep consumption of sin, by Him he sees himself to have been
from the like consumption of sin preserved.
What fruit had I then (wretched man!) in those things, of the
remembrance whereof I am now ashamed? Especially, in that theft
which I loved for the theft's sake; and it too was nothing, and
therefore the more miserable I, who loved it. Yet alone I had not done
it: such was I then, I remember, alone I had never done it. I loved
then in it also the company of the accomplices, with whom I did it?
I did not then love nothing else but the theft, yea rather I did
love nothing else; for that circumstance of the company was also
nothing. What is, in truth? who can teach me, save He that
enlighteneth my heart, and discovereth its dark corners? What is it
which hath come into my mind to enquire, and discuss, and consider?
For had I then loved the pears I stole, and wished to enjoy them, I
might have done it alone, had the bare commission of the theft
sufficed to attain my pleasure; nor needed I have inflamed the itching
of my desires by the excitement of accomplices. But since my
pleasure was not in those pears, it was in the offence itself, which
the company of fellow-sinners occasioned.
What then was this feeling? For of a truth it was too foul: and
woe was me, who had it. But yet what was it? Who can understand his
errors? It was the sport, which as it were tickled our hearts, that we
beguiled those who little thought what we were doing, and much
disliked it. Why then was my delight of such sort that I did it not
alone? Because none doth ordinarily laugh alone? ordinarily no one;
yet laughter sometimes masters men alone and singly when on one
whatever is with them, if anything very ludicrous presents itself to
their senses or mind. Yet I had not done this alone; alone I had never
done it. Behold my God, before Thee, the vivid remembrance of my soul;
alone, I had never committed that theft wherein what I stole pleased
me not, but that I stole; nor had it alone liked me to do it, nor
had I done it. O friendship too unfriendly! thou incomprehensible
inveigler of the soul, thou greediness to do mischief out of mirth and
wantonness, thou thirst of others' loss, without lust of my own gain
or revenge: but when it is said, "Let's go, let's do it," we are
ashamed not to be shameless.
Who can disentangle that twisted and intricate knottiness? Foul is
it: I hate to think on it, to look on it. But Thee I long for, O
Righteousness and Innocency, beautiful and comely to all pure eyes,
and of a satisfaction unsating. With Thee is rest entire, and life
imperturbable. Whoso enters into Thee, enters into the joy of his
Lord: and shall not fear, and shall do excellently in the
All-Excellent. I sank away from Thee, and I wandered, O my God, too
much astray from Thee my stay, in these days of my youth, and I became
to myself a barren land.
BOOK III

To Carthage I came, where there sang all around me in my ears a
cauldron of unholy loves. I loved not yet, yet I loved to love, and
out of a deep-seated want, I hated myself for wanting not. I sought
what I might love, in love with loving, and safety I hated, and a
way without snares. For within me was a famine of that inward food,
Thyself, my God; yet, through that famine I was not hungered; but
was without all longing for incorruptible sustenance, not because
filled therewith, but the more empty, the more I loathed it. For
this cause my soul was sickly and full of sores, it miserably cast
itself forth, desiring to be scraped by the touch of objects of sense.
Yet if these had not a soul, they would not be objects of love. To
love then, and to be beloved, was sweet to me; but more, when I
obtained to enjoy the person I loved, I defiled, therefore, the spring
of friendship with the filth of concupiscence, and I beclouded its
brightness with the hell of lustfulness; and thus foul and unseemly, I
would fain, through exceeding vanity, be fine and courtly. I fell
headlong then into the love wherein I longed to be ensnared. My God,
my Mercy, with how much gall didst Thou out of Thy great goodness
besprinkle for me that sweetness? For I was both beloved, and secretly
arrived at the bond of enjoying; and was with joy fettered with
sorrow-bringing bonds, that I might be scourged with the iron
burning rods of jealousy, and suspicions, and fears, and angers, and
quarrels.
Stage-plays also carried me away, full of images of my miseries, and
of fuel to my fire. Why is it, that man desires to be made sad,
beholding doleful and tragical things, which yet himself would no
means suffer? yet he desires as a spectator to feel sorrow at them,
this very sorrow is his pleasure. What is this but a miserable
madness? for a man is the more affected with these actions, the less
free he is from such affections. Howsoever, when he suffers in his own
person, it uses to be styled misery: when he compassionates others,
then it is mercy. But what sort of compassion is this for feigned
and scenical passions? for the auditor is not called on to relieve,
but only to grieve: and he applauds the actor of these fictions the
more, the more he grieves. And if the calamities of those persons
(whether of old times, or mere fiction) be so acted, that the
spectator is not moved to tears, he goes away disgusted and
criticising; but if he be moved to passion, he stays intent, and weeps
for joy.
Are griefs then too loved? Verily all desire joy. Or whereas no
man likes to be miserable, is he yet pleased to be merciful? which
because it cannot be without passion, for this reason alone are
passions loved? This also springs from that vein of friendship. But
whither goes that vein? whither flows it? wherefore runs it into
that torrent of pitch bubbling forth those monstrous tides of foul
lustfulness, into which it is wilfully changed and transformed,
being of its own will precipitated and corrupted from its heavenly
clearness? Shall compassion then be put away? by no means. Be griefs
then sometimes loved. But beware of uncleanness, O my soul, under
the guardianship 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 pity; but then in the theatres I rejoiced
with lovers when they wickedly enjoyed one another, although this
was imaginary only in the play. And when they lost one another, as
if very compassionate, I sorrowed with them, yet had my delight in
both. But now I much more pity him that rejoiceth in his wickedness,
than him who is thought to suffer hardship, by missing some pernicious
pleasure, and the loss of some miserable felicity. This certainly is
the truer mercy, but in it grief delights not. For though he that
grieves for the miserable, be commended for his office of charity; yet
had he, who is genuinely compassionate, rather there were nothing
for him to grieve for. For if good will be ill willed (which can never
be), then may he, who truly and sincerely commiserates, wish there
might be some miserable, that he might commiserate. Some sorrow may
then be allowed, none loved. For thus dost Thou, O Lord God, who
lovest souls far more purely than we, and hast more incorruptibly pity
on them, yet are wounded with no sorrowfulness. And who is
sufficient for these things?
But I, miserable, then loved to grieve, and sought out what to
grieve at, when in another's and that feigned and personated misery,
that acting best pleased me, and attracted me the most vehemently,
which drew tears from me. What marvel that an unhappy sheep,
straying from Thy flock, and impatient of Thy keeping, I became
infected with a foul disease? And hence the love of griefs; not such
as should sink deep into me; for I loved not to suffer, what I loved
to look on; but such as upon hearing their fictions should lightly
scratch the surface; upon which, as on envenomed nails, followed
inflamed swelling, impostumes, and a putrefied sore. My life being
such, was it life, O my God?
And Thy faithful mercy hovered over me afar. Upon how grievous
iniquities consumed I myself, pursuing a sacrilegious curiosity,
that having forsaken Thee, it might bring me to the treacherous abyss,
and the beguiling service of devils, to whom I sacrificed my evil
actions, and in all these things Thou didst scourge me! I dared
even, while Thy solemnities were celebrated within the walls of Thy
Church, to desire, and to compass a business deserving death for its
fruits, for which Thou scourgedst me with grievous punishments, though
nothing to my fault, O Thou my exceeding mercy, my God, my refuge from
those terrible destroyers, among whom I wandered with a stiff neck,
withdrawing further from Thee, loving mine own ways, and not Thine;
loving a vagrant liberty.
Those studies also, which were accounted commendable, had a view
to excelling in the courts of litigation; the more bepraised, the
craftier. Such is men's blindness, glorying even in their blindness.
And now I was chief in the rhetoric school, whereat I joyed proudly,
and I swelled with arrogancy, though (Lord, Thou knowest) far
quieter and altogether removed from the subvertings of those
"Subverters" (for this ill-omened and devilish name was the very badge
of gallantry) among whom I lived, with a shameless shame that I was
not even as they. With them I lived, and was sometimes delighted
with their friendship, whose doings I ever did abhor -i.e., their
"subvertings," wherewith they wantonly persecuted the modesty of
strangers, which they disturbed by a gratuitous jeering, feeding
thereon their malicious birth. Nothing can be liker the very actions
of devils than these. What then could they be more truly called than
"Subverters"? themselves subverted and altogether perverted first, the
deceiving spirits secretly deriding and seducing them, wherein
themselves delight to jeer at and deceive others.
Among such as these, in that unsettled age of mine, learned I
books of eloquence, wherein I desired to be eminent, out of a damnable
and vainglorious end, a joy in human vanity. In the ordinary course of
study, I fell upon a certain book of Cicero, whose speech almost all
admire, not so his heart. This book of his contains an exhortation
to philosophy, and is called "Hortensius." But this book altered my
affections, and turned my prayers to Thyself O Lord; and made me
have other purposes and desires. Every vain hope at once became
worthless to me; and I longed with an incredibly burning desire for an
immortality of wisdom, and began now to arise, that I might return
to Thee. For not to sharpen my tongue (which thing I seemed to be
purchasing with my mother's allowances, in that my nineteenth year, my
father being dead two years before), not to sharpen my tongue did I
employ that book; nor did it infuse into me its style, but its matter.
How did I burn then, my God, how did I burn to re-mount from earthly
things to Thee, nor knew I what Thou wouldest do with me? For with
Thee is wisdom. But the love of wisdom is in Greek called
"philosophy," with which that book inflamed me. Some there be that
seduce through philosophy, under a great, and smooth, and honourable
name colouring and disguising their own errors: and almost all who
in that and former ages were such, are in that book censured and set
forth: there also is made plain that wholesome advice of Thy Spirit,
by Thy good and devout 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 fulness of the Godhead bodily. And since at that time
(Thou, O light of my heart, knowest) Apostolic Scripture was not known
to me, I was delighted with that exhortation, so far only, that I
was thereby strongly roused, and kindled, and inflamed to love, and
seek, and obtain, and hold, and embrace not this or that sect, but
wisdom itself whatever it were; and this alone checked me thus
unkindled, 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, even with my mother's milk, devoutly drunk in and
deeply treasured; and whatsoever was without that name, though never
so learned, polished, or true, took not entire hold of me.
I resolved then to bend my mind to the holy Scriptures, that I might
see what they were. But behold, I see a thing not understood by the
proud, nor laid open to children, lowly in access, in its recesses
lofty, and veiled with mysteries; and I was not such as could enter
into it, or stoop my neck to follow its steps. For not as I now speak,
did I feel when I turned to those Scriptures; but they seemed to me
unworthy to he compared to the stateliness of Tully: for my swelling
pride shrunk from their lowliness, nor could my sharp wit pierce the
interior thereof. Yet were they such as would grow up in a little one.
But I disdained to be a little one; and, swollen with pride, took
myself to be a great one.
Therefore I fell among men proudly doting, exceeding carnal and
prating, in whose mouths were the snares of the Devil, limed with
the mixture of the syllables of Thy name, and of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, our Comforter. These
names departed not out of their mouth, but so far forth as the sound
only and the noise of the tongue, for the heart was void of truth. Yet
they cried out "Truth, Truth," and spake much thereof to me, yet it
was not in them: but they spake falsehood, not of Thee only (who truly
art Truth), but even of those elements of this world, Thy creatures.
And I indeed ought to have passed by even philosophers who spake truth
concerning them, for love of Thee, my Father, supremely good, Beauty
of all things beautiful. O Truth, Truth, how inwardly did even then
the marrow of my soul pant after Thee, when they often and
diversely, and in many and huge books, echoed of Thee to me, though it
was but an echo? And these were the dishes wherein to me, hungering
after Thee, they, instead of Thee, served up the Sun and Moon,
beautiful works of Thine, but yet Thy works, not Thyself, no nor Thy
first works. For Thy spiritual works are before these corporeal works,
celestial though they be, and shining. But I hungered and thirsted not
even after those first works of Thine, but after Thee Thyself, the
Truth, in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning: yet they
still set before me in those dishes, glittering fantasies, than
which better were it to love this very sun (which is real to our sight
at least), than those fantasies which by our eyes deceive our mind.
Yet because I thought them to be Thee, I fed thereon; not eagerly, for
Thou didst not in them taste to me as Thou art; for Thou wast not
these emptinesses, nor was I nourished by them, but exhausted
rather. Food in sleep shows very like our food awake; yet are not
those asleep nourished by it, for they are asleep. But those were
not even any way like to Thee, as Thou hast now spoken to me; for
those were corporeal fantasies, false bodies, than which these true
bodies, celestial or terrestrial, which with our fleshly sight we
behold, are far more certain: these things the beasts and birds
discern as well as we, and they are more certain than when we fancy
them. And again, we do with more certainty fancy them, than by them
conjecture other vaster and infinite bodies which have no being.
Such empty husks was I then fed on; and was not fed. But Thou, my
soul's Love, in looking for whom I fail, that I may become strong, art
neither those bodies which we see, though in heaven; nor those which
we see not there; for Thou hast created them, nor dost Thou account
them among the chiefest of Thy works. How far then art Thou from those
fantasies of mine, fantasies of bodies which altogether are not,
than which the images of those bodies, which are, are far more
certain, and more certain still the bodies themselves, which yet
Thou art not; no, nor yet the soul, which is the life of the bodies.
So then, better and more certain is the life of the bodies than the
bodies. But Thou art the life of souls, the life of lives, having life
in Thyself; and changest not, life of my soul.
Where then wert Thou then to me, and how far from me? Far verily was
I straying from Thee, barred from the very husks of the swine, whom
with husks I fed. For how much better are the fables of poets and
grammarians than these snares? For verses, and poems, and "Medea
flying," are more profitable truly than these men's five elements,
variously disguised, answering to five dens of darkness, which have no
being, yet slay the believer. For verses and poems I can turn to
true food, and "Medea flying," though I did sing, I maintained not;
though I heard it sung, I believed not: but those things I did
believe. Woe, woe, by what steps was I brought down to the depths of
hell! toiling and turmoiling through want of Truth, since I sought
after Thee, my God (to Thee I confess it, who hadst mercy on me, not
as yet confessing), not according to the understanding of the mind,
wherein Thou willedst that I should excel the beasts, but according to
the sense of the flesh. But Thou wert more inward to me than my most
inward part; and higher than my highest. I lighted upon that bold
woman, simple and knoweth nothing, shadowed out in Solomon, sitting at
the door, and saying, Eat ye bread of secrecies willingly, and drink
ye stolen waters which are sweet: she seduced me, because she found my
soul dwelling abroad in the eye of my flesh, and ruminating on such
food as through it I had devoured.
For other than this, that which really is I knew not; and was, as it
were through sharpness of wit, persuaded to assent to foolish
deceivers, when they asked me, "whence is evil?" "is God bounded by
a bodily shape, and has hairs and nails?" "are they to be esteemed
righteous who had many wives at once, and did kill men, and
sacrifice living creatures?" At which I, in my ignorance, was much
troubled, and departing from the truth, seemed to myself to be
making towards it; because as yet I knew not that evil was nothing but
a privation of good, until at last a thing ceases altogether to be;
which how should I see, the sight of whose eyes reached only to
bodies, and of my mind to a phantasm? And I knew not God to be a
Spirit, not one who hath parts extended in length and breadth, or
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
defined by a certain space, than in its infinitude; and so is not
wholly every where, as Spirit, as God. And what that should be in
us, by which we were like to God, and might be rightly said to be
after the image of God, I was altogether ignorant.
Nor knew I that true inward righteousness which judgeth not
according to custom, but out of the most rightful law of God Almighty,
whereby the ways of places and times were disposed according to
those times and places; itself meantime being the same always and
every where, not one thing in one place, and another in another;
according to which Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, and
David, were righteous, and all those commended by the mouth of God;
but were judged unrighteous by silly men, judging out of man's
judgment, and measuring by their own petty habits, the moral habits of
the whole human race. As if in an armory, one ignorant of what were
adapted to each part should cover his head with greaves, or seek to be
shod with a helmet, and complain that they fitted not: or as if on a
day when business is publicly stopped in the afternoon, one were
angered at not being allowed to keep open shop, because he had been in
the forenoon; or when in one house he observeth some servant take a
thing in his hand, which the butler is not suffered to meddle with; or
something permitted out of doors, which is forbidden in the
dining-room; and should be angry, that in one house, and one family,
the same thing is not allotted every where, and to all. Even such
are they who are fretted to hear something to have been lawful for
righteous men formerly, which now is not; or that God, for certain
temporal respects, commanded them one thing, and these another,
obeying both the same righteousness: whereas they see, in one man, and
one day, and one house, different things to be fit for different
members, and a thing formerly lawful, after a certain time not so;
in one corner permitted or commanded, but in another rightly forbidden
and punished. Is justice therefore various or mutable? No, but the
times, over which it presides, flow not evenly, because they are
times. But men whose days are few upon the earth, for that by their
senses they cannot harmonise the causes of things in former ages and
other nations, which they had not experience of, with these which they
have experience of, whereas in one and the same body, day, or
family, they easily see what is fitting for each member, and season,
part, and person; to the one they take exceptions, to the other they
submit.
These things I then knew not, nor observed; they struck my sight
on all sides, and I saw them not. I indited verses, in which I might
not place every foot every where, but differently in different metres;
nor even in any one metre the self-same foot in all places. Yet the
art itself, by which I indited, 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 obeyed, did far more
excellently and sublimely contain in one all those things which God
commanded, and in no part varied; although in varying times it
prescribed not every thing at once, but apportioned and enjoined
what was fit for each. And I in my blindness, censured the holy
Fathers, not only wherein they made use of things present as God
commanded and inspired them, but also wherein they were foretelling
things to come, as God was revealing in them.
Can it at any time or place be unjust to love God with all his
heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind; and his neighbour
as himself? Therefore are those foul offences which be against nature,
to be every where and at all times detested and punished; such as were
those of the men of Sodom: which should all nations commit, they
should all stand guilty of the same crime, by the law of God, which
hath not so made men that they should so abuse one another. For even
that intercourse which should be between God and us is violated,
when that same nature, of which He is Author, is polluted by
perversity of lust. But those actions which are offences against the
customs of men, are to be avoided according to the customs severally
prevailing; so that a thing agreed upon, and confirmed, by custom or
law of any city or nation, may not be violated at the lawless pleasure
of any, whether native or foreigner. For any part which harmoniseth
not with its whole, is offensive. But when God commands a thing to
be done, against the customs or compact of any people, though it
were never by them done heretofore, it is to be done; and if
intermitted, it is to be restored; and if never ordained, is now to be
ordained. For lawful if it he for a king, in the state which he reigns
over, to command that which no one before him, nor he himself
heretofore, had commanded, and to obey him cannot be against the
common weal of the state (nay, it were against it if he were not
obeyed, for to obey princes is a general compact of human society);
how much more unhesitatingly ought we to obey God, in all which He
commands, the Ruler of all His creatures! For as among the powers in
man's society, the greater authority is obeyed in preference to the
lesser, so must God above all.
So in acts of violence, where there is a wish to hurt, whether by
reproach or injury; and these either for revenge, as one enemy against
another; or for some profit belonging to another, as the robber to the
traveller; or to avoid some evil, as towards one who is feared; or
through envy, as one less fortunate to one more so, or one well
thriven in any thing, to him whose being on a par with himself he
fears, or grieves at, or for the mere pleasure at another's pain, as
spectators of gladiators, or deriders and mockers of others. These
be the heads of iniquity which spring from the lust of the flesh, of
the eye, or of rule, either singly, or two combined, or all
together; and so do men live ill against the three, and seven, that
psaltery of often 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 acts of violence against Thee, who canst
not be harmed? But Thou avengest what men commit against themselves,
seeing also when they sin against Thee, they do wickedly against their
own souls, and iniquity gives itself the lie, by corrupting and
perverting their nature, which Thou hast created and ordained, or by
an immoderate use of things allowed, or in burning in things
unallowed, to that use which is against nature; or are found guilty,
raging with heart and tongue against Thee, kicking against the pricks;
or when, bursting the pale of human society, they boldly joy in
self-willed combinations or divisions, according as they have any
object to gain or subject of offence. And these things are done when
Thou art forsaken, O Fountain of Life, who art the only and true
Creator and Governor of the Universe, and by a self-willed pride,
any one false thing is selected therefrom and loved. So then by a
humble devoutness we return to Thee; and Thou cleansest us from our
evil habits, and art merciful to their sins who confess, and hearest
the groaning of the prisoner, and loosest us from the chains which
we made for ourselves, if we lift not up against Thee the horns of
an unreal liberty, suffering the loss of all, through covetousness
of more, by loving more our own private good than Thee, the Good of
all.
Amidst these offences of foulness and violence, and so many
iniquities, are sins of men, who are on the whole making
proficiency; which by those that judge rightly, are, after the rule of
perfection, discommended, yet the persons commended, upon hope of
future fruit, as in the green blade of growing corn. And there are
some, resembling offences of foulness or violence, which yet are no
sins; because they offend neither Thee, our Lord God, nor human
society; when, namely, things fitting for a given period are
obtained for the service of life, and we know not whether out of a
lust of having; or when things are, for the sake of correction, by
constituted authority punished, and we know not whether out of a
lust of hurting. Many an action then which in men's sight is
disapproved, is by Thy testimony approved; and many, by men praised,
are (Thou being witness) condemned: because the show of the action,
and the mind of the doer, and the unknown exigency of the period,
severally vary. But when Thou on a sudden commandest an unwonted and
unthought of thing, yea, although Thou hast sometime forbidden it, and
still for the time hidest the reason of Thy command, and it be against
the ordinance of some society of men, who doubts but it is to be done,
seeing that society of men is just which serves Thee? But blessed
are they who know Thy commands! For all things were done by Thy
servants; either to show forth something needful for the present, or
to foreshow things to come.
These things I being ignorant of, scoffed at those Thy holy servants
and prophets. And what gained I by scoffing at them, but to be scoffed
at by Thee, being insensibly and step by step drawn on to those
follies, as to believe that a fig-tree wept when it was plucked, and
the tree, its mother, shed milky tears? Which fig notwithstanding
(plucked by some other's, not his own, guilt) had some Manichaean
saint eaten, and mingled with his bowels, he should breathe out of
it angels, yea, there shall burst forth particles of divinity, at
every moan or groan in his prayer, which particles of the most high
and true God had remained bound in that fig, unless they had been
set at liberty by the teeth or belly of some "Elect" saint! And I,
miserable, believed that more mercy was to be shown to the fruits of
the earth than men, for whom they were created. For if any one an
hungered, not a Manichaean, should ask for any, that morsel would seem
as it were condemned to capital punishment, which should be given him.
And Thou sentest Thine hand from above, and drewest my soul out of
that profound darkness, my mother, Thy faithful one, weeping to Thee
for me, more than mothers weep the bodily deaths of their children.
For she, by that faith and spirit which she had from Thee, discerned
the death wherein I lay, and Thou heardest her, O Lord; Thou
heardest her, and despisedst not her tears, when streaming down,
they watered the ground under her eyes in every place where she
prayed; yea Thou heardest her. For whence was that dream whereby
Thou comfortedst her; so that she allowed me to live with her, and
to eat at the same table in the house, which she had begun to shrink
from, abhorring and detesting the blasphemies of my error? For she saw
herself standing on a certain wooden rule, and a shining youth
coming towards her, cheerful and smiling upon her, herself grieving,
and overwhelmed with grief. But he having (in order to instruct, as is
their wont not to be instructed) enquired of her the causes of her
grief and daily tears, and she answering that she was bewailing my
perdition, he bade her rest contented, and told her to look and
observe, "That where she was, there was I also." And when she
looked, she saw me standing by her in the same rule. Whence was
this, but that Thine ears were 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!
Whence was this also, that when she had told me this vision, and I
would fain bend it to mean, "That she rather should not despair of
being one day what I was"; she presently, without any hesitation,
replies: "No; for it was not told me that, 'where he, there thou
also'; but 'where thou, there he also'?" I confess to Thee, O Lord,
that to the best of my remembrance (and I have oft spoken of this),
that Thy answer, through my waking mother, -that she was not perplexed
by the plausibility of my false interpretation, and so quickly saw
what was to be seen, and which I certainly had not perceived before
she spake, -even then moved me more than the dream itself, by which
a joy to the holy woman, to be fulfilled so long after, was, for the
consolation of her present anguish, so long before foresignified.
For almost nine years passed, in which I wallowed in the mire of
that deep pit, and the darkness of falsehood, often assaying to
rise, but dashed down the more grievously. All which time that chaste,
godly, and sober widow (such as Thou lovest), now more cheered with
hope, yet no whit relaxing in her weeping and mourning, ceased not
at all hours of her devotions to bewail my case unto Thee. And her
prayers entered into Thy presence; and yet Thou sufferedst me to be
yet involved and reinvolved in that darkness.
Thou gavest her meantime another answer, which I call to mind; for
much I pass by, hasting to those things which more press me to confess
unto Thee, and much I do not remember. Thou gavest her then another
answer, by a Priest of Thine, a certain Bishop brought up in Thy
Church, and well studied in Thy books. Whom when this woman had
entreated to vouchsafe to converse with me, refute my errors,
unteach me ill things, and teach me good things (for this he was
wont to do, when he found persons fitted to receive it), he refused,
wisely, as I afterwards perceived. For he answered, that I was yet
unteachable, being puffed up with the novelty of that heresy, and
had already perplexed divers unskilful persons with captious
questions, as she had told him: "but let him alone a while" (saith
he), "only pray God for him, he will of himself by reading find what
that error is, and how great its impiety." At the same time he told
her, how himself, when a little one, had by his seduced mother been
consigned over to the Manichees, and had not only read, but frequently
copied out almost all, their books, and had (without any argument or
proof from any one) seen how much that sect was to be avoided; and had
avoided it. Which when he had said, and she would not be satisfied,
but urged him more, with entreaties and many tears, that he would
see me and discourse with me; he, a little displeased at her
importunity, saith, "Go thy ways and God bless thee, for it is not
possible that the son of these tears should perish." Which answer
she took (as she often mentioned in her conversations with me) as if
it had sounded from heaven.
BOOK IV

For this space of nine years (from my nineteenth year to my
eight-and-twentieth) we lived seduced and seducing, deceived and
deceiving, in divers lusts; openly, by sciences which they call
liberal; secretly, with a false-named religion; here proud, there
superstitious, every where vain. Here, hunting after the emptiness
of popular praise, down even to theatrical applauses, and poetic
prizes, and strifes for grassy garlands, and the follies of shows, and
the intemperance of desires. There, desiring to be cleansed from these
defilements, by carrying food to those who were called "elect" and
"holy," out of which, in the workhouse of their stomachs, they
should forge for us Angels and Gods, by whom we might be cleansed.
These things did I follow, and practise with my friends, deceived by
me, and with me. Let the arrogant mock me, and such as have not
been, to their soul's health, stricken and cast down by Thee, O my
God; but I would still confess to Thee mine own shame in Thy praise.
Suffer me, I beseech Thee, and give me grace to go over in my
present remembrance the wanderings of my forepassed time, and to offer
unto Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving. For what am I to myself
without Thee, but a guide to mine own downfall? or what am I even at
the best, but an infant sucking the milk Thou givest, and feeding upon
Thee, the food that perisheth not? But what sort of man is any man,
seeing he is but a man? Let now the strong and the mighty laugh at us,
but let us poor and needy confess unto Thee.
In those years I taught rhetoric, and, overcome by cupidity, made
sale of a loquacity to overcome by. Yet I preferred (Lord, Thou
knowest) honest scholars (as they are accounted), and these I, without
artifice, taught artifices, not to be practised against the life of
the guiltless, though sometimes for the life of the guilty. And
Thou, O God, from afar perceivedst me stumbling in that slippery
course, and amid much smoke sending out some sparks of faithfulness,
which I showed in that my guidance of such as loved vanity, and sought
after leasing, myself their companion. In those years I had one,
-not in that which is called lawful marriage, but whom I had found out
in a wayward passion, void of understanding; yet but one, remaining
faithful even to her; in whom I in my own case experienced what
difference there is betwixt the self-restraint of the
marriage-covenant, for the sake of issue, and the bargain of a lustful
love, where children are born against their parents' will, although,
once born, they constrain love.
I remember also, that when I had settled to enter the lists for a
theatrical prize, some wizard asked me what I would give him to win;
but I, detesting and abhorring such foul mysteries, answered,
"Though the garland were of imperishable gold, I would not suffer a
fly to be killed to gain me it. " For he was to kill some living
creatures in his sacrifices, and by those honours to invite the devils
to favour me. But this ill also I rejected, not out of a pure love for
Thee, O God of my heart; for I knew not how to love Thee, who knew not
how to conceive aught beyond a material brightness. And doth not a
soul, sighing after such fictions, commit fornication against Thee,
trust in things unreal, and feed the wind? Still I would not
forsooth have sacrifices offered to devils for me, to whom I was
sacrificing myself by that superstition. For what else is it to feed
the wind, but to feed them, that is by going astray to become their
pleasure and derision?
Those impostors then, whom they style Mathematicians, I consulted
without scruple; because they seemed to use no sacrifice, nor to
pray to any spirit for their divinations: which art, however,
Christian and true piety consistently rejects and condemns. For, it is
a good thing to confess unto Thee, and to say, Have mercy upon me,
heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee; and not to abuse Thy
mercy for a licence to sin, but to remember the Lord's words,
Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto
thee. All which wholesome advice they labour to destroy, saying,
"The cause of thy sin is inevitably determined in heaven"; and "This
did Venus, or Saturn, or Mars": that man, forsooth, flesh and blood,
and proud corruption, might be blameless; while the Creator and
Ordainer of heaven and the stars is to bear the blame. And who is He
but our God? the very sweetness and well-spring of righteousness,
who renderest to every man according to his works: and a broken and
contrite heart wilt Thou not despise.
There was in those days a wise man, very skilful in physic, and
renowned therein, who had with his own proconsular hand put the
Agonistic garland upon my distempered head, but not as a physician:
for this disease Thou only curest, who resistest the proud, and givest
grace to the humble. But didst Thou fail me even by that old man, or
forbear to heal my soul? For having become more acquainted with him,
and hanging assiduously and fixedly on his speech (for though in
simple terms, it was vivid, lively, and earnest), when he had gathered
by my discourse that I was given to the books of nativity-casters,
he kindly and fatherly advised me to cast them away, and not
fruitlessly bestow a care and diligence, necessary for useful
things, upon these vanities; saying, that he had in his earliest years
studied that art, so as to make it the profession whereby he should
live, and that, understanding Hippocrates, he could soon have
understood such a study as this; and yet he had given it over, and
taken to physic, for no other reason but that he found it utterly
false; and he, a grave man, would not get his living by deluding
people. "But thou," saith he, "hast rhetoric to maintain thyself by,
so that thou followest this of free choice, not of necessity: the more
then oughtest thou to give me credit herein, who laboured to acquire
it so perfectly as to get my living by it alone." Of whom when I had
demanded, how then could many true things be foretold by it, he
answered me (as he could) "that the force of chance, diffused
throughout the whole order of things, brought this about. For if
when a man by haphazard opens the pages of some poet, who sang and
thought of something wholly different, a verse oftentimes fell out,
wondrously agreeable to the present business: it were not to be
wondered at, if out of the soul of man, unconscious what takes place
in it, by some higher instinct an answer should be given, by hap,
not by art, corresponding to the business and actions of the
demander."
And thus much, either from or through him, Thou conveyedst to me,
and tracedst in my memory, what I might hereafter examine for
myself. But at that time neither he, nor my dearest Nebridius, a youth
singularly good and of a holy fear, who derided the whole body of
divination, could persuade me to cast it aside, the authority of the
authors swaying me yet more, and as yet I had found no certain proof
(such as I sought) whereby it might without all doubt appear, that
what had been truly foretold by those consulted was the result of
haphazard, not of the art of the star-gazers.
In those years when I first began to teach rhetoric in my native
town, I had made one my friend, but too dear to me, from a community
of pursuits, of mine own age, and, as myself, in the first opening
flower of youth. He had grown up of a child with me, and we had been
both school-fellows and play-fellows. But he was not yet my friend
as afterwards, nor even then, as true friendship is; for true it
cannot be, unless in such as Thou cementest together, cleaving unto
Thee, by that love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy
Ghost, which is given unto us. Yet was it but too sweet, ripened by
the warmth of kindred studies: for, from the true faith (which he as a
youth had not soundly and thoroughly imbibed), I had warped him also
to those superstitious and pernicious fables, for which my mother
bewailed me. With me he now erred in mind, nor could my soul be
without him. But behold Thou wert close on the steps of Thy fugitives,
at once God of vengeance, and Fountain of mercies, turning us to
Thyself by wonderful means; Thou tookest that man out of this life,
when he had scarce filled up one whole year of my friendship, sweet to
me above all sweetness of that my life.
Who can recount all Thy praises, which he hath felt in his one self?
What diddest Thou then, my God, and how unsearchable is the abyss of
Thy judgments? For long, sore sick of a fever, he lay senseless in a
death-sweat; and his recovery being despaired of, he was baptised,
unknowing; myself meanwhile little regarding, and presuming that his
soul would retain rather what it had received of me, not what was
wrought on his unconscious body. But it proved far otherwise: for he
was refreshed, and restored. Forthwith, as soon as I could speak
with him (and I could, so soon as he was able, for I never left him,
and we hung but too much upon each other), I essayed to jest with him,
as though he would jest with me at that baptism which he had received,
when utterly absent in mind and feeling, but had now understood that
he had received. But he so shrunk from me, as from an enemy; and
with a wonderful and sudden freedom bade me, as I would continue his
friend, forbear such language to him. I, all astonished and amazed,
suppressed all my emotions till he should grow well, and his health
were strong enough for me to deal with him as I would. But he was
taken away from my frenzy, that with Thee he might be preserved for my
comfort; a few days after in my absence, he was attacked again by
the fever, and so departed.
At this grief my heart was utterly darkened; and whatever I beheld
was death. My native country was a torment to me, and my father's
house a strange unhappiness; and whatever I had shared with him,
wanting him, became a distracting torture. Mine eyes sought him
every where, but he was not granted them; and I hated all places,
for that they had not him; nor could they now tell me, "he is coming,"
as when he was alive and absent. I became a great riddle to myself,
and I asked my soul, why she was so sad, and why she disquieted me
sorely: but she knew not what to answer me. And if I said, Trust in
God, she very rightly obeyed me not; because that most dear friend,
whom she had lost, was, being man, both truer and better than that
phantasm she was bid to trust in. Only tears were sweet to me, for
they succeeded my friend, in the dearest of my affections.
And now, Lord, these things are passed by, and time hath assuaged my
wound. May I learn from Thee, who art Truth, and approach the ear of
my heart unto Thy mouth, that Thou mayest tell me why weeping is sweet
to the miserable? Hast Thou, although present every where, cast away
our misery far from Thee? And Thou abidest in Thyself, but we are
tossed about in divers trials. And yet unless we mourned in Thine
ears, we should have no hope left. Whence then is sweet fruit gathered
from the bitterness of life, from groaning, tears, sighs, and
complaints? Doth this sweeten it, that we hope Thou hearest? This is
true of prayer, for therein is a longing to approach unto Thee. But is
it also in grief for a thing lost, and the sorrow wherewith I was then
overwhelmed? For I neither hoped he should return to life nor did I
desire this with my tears; but I wept only and grieved. For I was
miserable, and had lost my joy. Or is weeping indeed a bitter thing,
and for very loathing of the things which we before enjoyed, does it
then, when we shrink from them, please us?
But what speak I of these things? for now is no time to question,
but to confess unto Thee. Wretched I was; and wretched is every soul
bound by the friendship of perishable things; he is torn asunder
when he loses them, and then he feels the wretchedness which he had
ere yet he lost them. So was it then with me; I wept most bitterly,
and found my repose in bitterness. Thus was I wretched, and that
wretched life I held dearer than my friend. For though I would
willingly have changed it, yet was I more unwilling to part with it
than with him; yea, I know not whether I would have parted with it
even for him, as is related (if not feigned) of Pylades and Orestes,
that they would gladly have died for each other or together, not to
live together being to them worse than death. But in me there had
arisen some unexplained feeling, too contrary to this, for at once I
loathed exceedingly to live and feared to die. I suppose, the more I
loved him, the more did I hate, and fear (as a most cruel enemy)
death, which had bereaved me of him: and I imagined it would
speedily make an end of all men, since it had power over him. Thus was
it with me, I remember. Behold my heart, O my God, behold and see into
me; for well I remember it, O my Hope, who cleansest me from the
impurity of such affections, directing mine eyes towards Thee, and
plucking my feet out of the snare. For I wondered that others, subject
to death, did live, since he whom I loved, as if he should never
die, was dead; and I wondered yet more that myself, who was to him a
second self, could live, he being dead. Well said one of his friend,
"Thou half of my soul"; for I felt that my soul and his soul were "one
soul in two bodies": and therefore was my life a horror to me, because
I would not live halved. And therefore perchance I feared to die, lest
he whom I had much loved should die wholly.
O madness, which knowest not how to love men, like men! O foolish
man that I then was, enduring impatiently the lot of man! I fretted
then, sighed, wept, was distracted; had neither rest nor counsel.
For I bore about a shattered and bleeding soul, impatient of being
borne by me, yet where to repose it, I found not. Not in calm
groves, not in games and music, nor in fragrant spots, nor in
curious banquetings, nor in the pleasures of the bed and the couch;
nor (finally) in books or poesy, found it repose. All things looked
ghastly, yea, the very light; whatsoever was not what he was, was
revolting and hateful, except groaning and tears. For in those alone
found I a little refreshment. But when my soul was withdrawn from them
a huge load of misery weighed me down. To Thee, O Lord, it ought to
have been raised, for Thee to lighten; I knew it; but neither could
nor would; the more, since, when I thought of Thee, Thou wert not to
me any solid or substantial thing. For Thou wert not Thyself, but a
mere phantom, and my error was my God. If I offered to discharge my
load thereon, that it might rest, it glided through the void, and came
rushing down again on me; and I had remained to myself a hapless spot,
where I could neither be, nor be from thence. For whither should my
heart flee from my heart? Whither should I flee from myself? Whither
not follow myself? And yet I fled out of my country; for so should
mine eyes less look for him, where they were not wont to see him.
And thus from Thagaste, I came to Carthage.
Times lose no time; nor do they roll idly by; through our senses
they work strange operations on the mind. Behold, they went and came
day by day, and by coming and going, introduced into my mind other
imaginations and other remembrances; and little by little patched me
up again with my old kind of delights, unto which that my sorrow
gave way. And yet there succeeded, not indeed other griefs, yet the
causes of other griefs. For whence had that former grief so easily
reached my very inmost soul, but that I had poured out my soul upon
the dust, in loving one that must die, as if he would never die? For
what restored and refreshed me chiefly was the solaces of other
friends, with whom I did love, what instead of Thee I loved; and
this was a great fable, and protracted lie, by whose adulterous
stimulus, our soul, which lay itching in our ears, was being
defiled. But that fable would not die to me, so oft as any of my
friends died. There were other things which in them did more take my
mind; to talk and jest together, to do kind offices by turns; to
read together honied books; to play the fool or be earnest together;
to dissent at times without discontent, as a man might with his own
self; and even with the seldomness of these dissentings, to season our
more frequent consentings; sometimes to teach, and sometimes learn;
long for the absent with impatience; and welcome the coming with
joy. These and the like expressions, proceeding out of the hearts of
those that loved and were loved again, by the countenance, the tongue,
the eyes, and a thousand pleasing gestures, were so much fuel to
melt our souls together, and out of many make but one.
This is it that is loved in friends; and so loved, that a man's
conscience condemns itself, if he love not him that loves him again,
or love not again him that loves him, looking for nothing from his
person but indications of his love. Hence that mourning, if one die,
and darkenings of sorrows, that steeping of the heart in tears, all
sweetness turned to bitterness; and upon the loss of life of the
dying, the death of the living. Blessed whoso loveth Thee, and his
friend in Thee, and his enemy for Thee. For he alone loses none dear
to him, to whom all are dear in Him who cannot be lost. And who is
this but our God, the God that made heaven and earth, and filleth
them, because by filling them He created them? Thee none loseth, but
who leaveth. And who leaveth Thee, whither goeth or whither teeth
he, but from Thee well-pleased, to Thee displeased? For where doth
he not find Thy law in his own punishment? And Thy law is truth, and
truth Thou.
Turn us, O God of Hosts, show us Thy countenance, and we shall be
whole. For whithersoever the soul of man turns itself, unless toward
Thee, it is riveted upon sorrows, yea though it is riveted on things
beautiful. And yet they, out of Thee, and out of the soul, were not,
unless they were from Thee. They rise, and set; and by rising, they
begin as it were to be; they grow, that they may be perfected; and
perfected, they wax old and wither; and all grow not old, but all
wither. So then when they rise and tend to be, the more quickly they
grow that they may be, so much the more they haste not to be. This
is the law of them. Thus much has Thou allotted them, because they are
portions of things, which exist not all at once, but by passing away
and succeeding, they together complete that universe, whereof they are
portions. And even thus is our speech completed by signs giving
forth a sound: but this again is not perfected unless one word pass
away when it hath sounded its part, that another may succeed. Out of
all these things let my soul praise Thee, O God, Creator of all; yet
let not my soul be riveted unto these things with the glue of love,
through the senses of the body. For they go whither they were to go,
that they might not be; and they rend her with pestilent longings,
because she longs to be, yet loves to repose in what she loves. But in
these things is no place of repose; they abide not, they flee; and who
can follow them with the senses of the flesh? yea, who can grasp them,
when they are hard by? For the sense of the flesh is slow, because
it is the sense of the flesh; and thereby is it bounded. It
sufficeth for that it was made for; but it sufficeth not to stay
things running their course from their appointed starting-place to the
end appointed. For in Thy Word, by which they are created, they hear
their decree, "hence and hitherto."
Be not foolish, O my soul, nor become deaf in the ear of thine heart
with the tumult of thy folly. Hearken thou too.
The Word itself calleth thee to return: and there is the place of
rest imperturbable, where love is not forsaken, if itself forsaketh
not. Behold, these things pass away, that others may replace them, and
so this lower universe be completed by all his parts. But do I
depart any whither? saith the Word of God. There fix thy dwelling,
trust there whatsoever thou hast thence, O my soul, at least now
thou art tired out with vanities. Entrust Truth, whatsoever thou
hast from the Truth, and thou shalt lose nothing; and thy decay
shall bloom again, and all thy diseases be healed, and thy mortal
parts be reformed and renewed, and bound around thee: nor shall they
lay thee whither themselves descend; but they shall stand fast with
thee, and abide for ever before God, Who abideth and standeth fast for
ever.
Why then be perverted and follow thy flesh? Be it converted and
follow thee. Whatever by her thou hast sense of, is in part; and the
whole, whereof these are parts, thou knowest not; and yet they delight
thee. But had the sense of thy flesh a capacity for comprehending
the whole, and not itself also, for thy punishment, been justly
restricted to a part of the whole, thou wouldest, that whatsoever
existeth at this present, should pass away, that so the whole might
better please thee. For what we speak also, by the same sense of the
flesh thou hearest; yet wouldest not thou have the syllables stay, but
fly away, that others may come, and thou hear the whole. And so
ever, when any one thing is made up of many, all of which do not exist
together, all collectively would please more than they do severally,
could all be perceived collectively. But far better than these is He
who made all; and He is our God, nor doth He pass away, for neither
doth aught succeed Him.
If bodies please thee, praise God on occasion of them, and turn back
thy love upon their Maker; lest in these things which please thee,
thou displease. If souls please thee, be they loved in God: for they
too are mutable, but in Him are they firmly stablished; else would
they pass, and pass away. In Him then be they beloved; and carry
unto Him along with thee what souls thou canst, and say to them,
"Him let us love, Him let us love: He made these, nor is He far off.
For He did not make them, and so depart, but they are of Him, and in
Him. See there He is, where truth is loved. He is within the very
heart, yet hath the heart strayed from Him. Go back into your heart,
ye transgressors, and cleave fast to Him that made you. Stand with
Him, and ye shall stand fast. Rest in Him, and ye shall be at rest.
Whither go ye in rough ways? Whither go ye? The good that you love
is from Him; but it is good and pleasant through reference to Him, and
justly shall it be embittered, because unjustly is any thing loved
which is from Him, if He be forsaken for it. To what end then would ye
still and still walk these difficult and toilsome ways? There is no
rest, where ye seek it. Seek what ye seek; but it is not there where
ye seek. Ye seek a blessed life in the land of death; it is not there.
For how should there be a blessed life where life itself is not?
"But our true Life came down hither, and bore our death, and slew
him, out of the abundance of His own life: and He thundered, calling
aloud to us to return hence to Him into that secret place, whence He
came forth to us, first into the Virgin's womb, wherein He espoused
the human creation, our mortal flesh, that it might not be for ever
mortal, and thence like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
rejoicing as a giant to run his course. For He lingered not, but
ran, calling aloud by words, deeds, death, life, descent, ascension;
crying aloud to us to return unto Him. And He departed from our
eyes, that we might return into our heart, and there find Him. For
He departed, and to, He is here. He would not be long with us, yet
left us not; for He departed thither, whence He never parted,
because the world was made by Him. And in this world He was, and
into this world He came to save sinners, unto whom my soul confesseth,
and He healeth it, for it hath sinned against Him. O ye sons of men,
how long so slow of heart? Even now, after the descent of Life to you,
will ye not ascend and live? But whither ascend ye, when ye are on
high, and set your mouth against the heavens? Descend, that ye may
ascend, and ascend to God. For ye have fallen, by ascending against
Him." Tell them this, that they may weep in the valley of tears, and
so carry them up with thee unto God; because out of His spirit thou
speakest thus unto them, if thou speakest, burning with the fire of
charity.
These things I then knew not, and I loved these lower beauties,
and I was sinking to the very depths, and to my friends I said, "Do we
love any thing but the beautiful? What then is the beautiful? and what
is beauty? What is it that attracts and wins us to the things we love?
for unless there were in them a grace and beauty, they could by no
means draw us unto them." And I marked and perceived that in bodies
themselves, there was a beauty, from their forming a sort of whole,
and again, another from apt and mutual correspondence, as of a part of
the body with its whole, or a shoe with a foot, and the like. And this
consideration sprang up in my mind, out of my inmost heart, and I
wrote "on the fair and fit," I think, two or three books. Thou
knowest, O Lord, for it is gone from me; for I have them not, but they
are strayed from me, I know not how.
But what moved me, O Lord my God, to dedicate these books unto
Hierius, an orator of Rome, whom I knew not by face, but loved for the
fame of his learning which was eminent in him, and some words of his I
had heard, which pleased me? But more did he please me, for that he
pleased others, who highly extolled him, amazed that out of a
Syrian, first instructed in Greek eloquence, should afterwards be
formed a wonderful Latin orator, and one most learned in things
pertaining unto philosophy. One is commended, and, unseen, he is
loved: doth this love enter the heart of the hearer from the mouth
of the commender? Not so. But by one who loveth is another kindled.
For hence he is loved who is commended, when the commender is believed
to extol him with an unfeigned heart; that is, when one that loves
him, praises him.
For so did I then love men, upon the judgment of men, not Thine, O
my God, in Whom no man is deceived. But yet why not for qualities,
like those of a famous charioteer, or fighter with beasts in the
theatre, known far and wide by a vulgar popularity, but far otherwise,
and earnestly, and so as I would be myself commended? For I would
not be commended or loved, as actors are (though I myself did
commend and love them), but had rather be unknown, than so known;
and even hated, than so loved. Where now are the impulses to such
various and divers kinds of loves laid up in one soul? Why, since we
are equally men, do I love in another what, if I did not hate, I
should not spurn and cast from myself? For it holds not, that as a
good horse is loved by him, who would not, though he might, be that
horse, therefore the same may be said of an actor, who shares our
nature. Do I then love in a man, what I hate to be, who am a man?
Man himself is a great deep, whose very hairs Thou numberest, O
Lord, and they fall not to the ground without Thee. And yet are the
hairs of his head easier to be numbered than his feelings, and the
beatings of his heart.
But that orator was of that sort whom I loved, as wishing to be
myself such; and I erred through a swelling pride, and was tossed
about with every wind, but yet was steered by Thee, though very
secretly. And whence do I know, and whence do I confidently confess
unto Thee, that I had loved him more for the love of his commenders,
than for the very things for which he was commended? Because, had he
been unpraised, and these self-same men had dispraised him, and with
dispraise and contempt told the very same things of him, I had never
been so kindled and excited to love him. And yet the things had not
been other, nor he himself other; but only the feelings of the
relators. See where the impotent soul lies along, that is not yet
stayed up by the solidity of truth! Just as the gales of tongues
blow from the breast of the opinionative, so is it carried this way
and that, driven forward and backward, and the light is overclouded to
it, and the truth unseen. And to, it is before us. And it was to me
a great matter, that my discourse and labours should be known to
that man: which should he approve, I were the more kindled; but if
he disapproved, my empty heart, void of Thy solidity, had been
wounded. And yet the "fair and fit," whereon I wrote to him, I dwelt
on with pleasure, and surveyed it, and admired it, though none
joined therein.
But I saw not yet, whereon this weighty matter turned in Thy wisdom,
O Thou Omnipotent, who only doest wonders; and my mind ranged
through corporeal forms; and "fair," I defined and distinguished
what is so in itself, and "fit," whose beauty is in correspondence
to some other thing: and this I supported by corporeal examples. And I
turned to the nature of the mind, but the false notion which I had
of spiritual things, let me not see the truth. Yet the force of
truth did of itself flash into mine eyes, and I turned away my panting
soul from incorporeal substance to lineaments, and colours, and
bulky magnitudes. And not being able to see these in the mind, I
thought I could not see my mind. And whereas in virtue I loved
peace, and in viciousness I abhorred discord; in the first I
observed a unity, but in the other, a sort of division. And in that
unity I conceived the rational soul, and the nature of truth and of
the chief good to consist; but in this division I miserably imagined
there to be some unknown substance of irrational life, and the
nature of the chief evil, which should not only be a substance, but
real life also, and yet not derived from Thee, O my God, of whom are
all things. And yet that first I called a Monad, as it had been a soul
without sex; but the latter a Duad; -anger, in deeds of violence,
and in flagitiousness, lust; not knowing whereof I spake. For I had
not known or learned that neither was evil a substance, nor our soul
that chief and unchangeable good.
For as deeds of violence arise, if that emotion of the soul be
corrupted, whence vehement action springs, stirring itself
insolently and unrulily; and lusts, when that affection of the soul is
ungoverned, whereby carnal pleasures are drunk in, so do errors and
false opinions defile the conversation, if the reasonable soul
itself be corrupted; as it was then in me, who knew not that it must
be enlightened by another light, that it may be partaker of truth,
seeing itself is not that nature of truth. For Thou shalt light my
candle, O Lord my God, Thou shalt enlighten my darkness: and of Thy
fulness have we all received, for Thou art the true light that
lighteth every man that cometh into the world; for in Thee there is no
variableness, neither shadow of change.
But I pressed towards Thee, and was thrust from Thee, that I might
taste of death: for thou resistest the proud. But what prouder, than
for me with a strange madness to maintain myself to be that by
nature which Thou art? For whereas I was subject to change (so much
being manifest to me, my very desire to become wise, being the wish,
of worse to become better), yet chose I rather to imagine Thee subject
to change, and myself not to be that which Thou art. Therefore I was
repelled by Thee, and Thou resistedst my vain stiffneckedness, and I
imagined corporeal forms, and, myself flesh, I accused flesh; and, a
wind that passeth away, I returned not to Thee, but I passed on and on
to things which have no being, neither in Thee, nor in me, nor in
the body. Neither were they created for me by Thy truth, but by my
vanity devised out of things corporeal. And I was wont to ask Thy
faithful little ones, my fellow-citizens (from whom, unknown to
myself, I stood exiled), I was wont, prating and foolishly, to ask
them, "Why then doth the soul err which God created?" But I would
not be asked, "Why then doth God err?" And I maintained that Thy
unchangeable substance did err upon constraint, rather than confess
that my changeable substance had gone astray voluntarily, and now,
in punishment, lay in error.
I was then some six or seven and twenty years old when I wrote those
volumes; revolving within me corporeal fictions, buzzing in the ears
of my heart, which I turned, O sweet truth, to thy inward melody,
meditating on the "fair and fit," and longing to stand and hearken
to Thee, and to rejoice greatly at the Bridegroom's voice, but could
not; for by the voices of mine own errors, I was hurried abroad, and
through the weight of my own pride, I was sinking into the lowest pit.
For Thou didst not make me to hear joy and gladness, nor did the bones
exult which were not yet humbled.
And what did it profit me, that scarce twenty years old, a book of
Aristotle, which they call the often Predicaments, falling into my
hands (on whose very name I hung, as on something great and divine, so
often as my rhetoric master of Carthage, and others, accounted
learned, mouthed it with cheeks bursting with pride), I read and
understood it unaided? And on my conferring with others, who said that
they scarcely understood it with very able tutors, not only orally
explaining it, but drawing many things in sand, they could tell me
no more of it than I had learned, reading it by myself. And the book
appeared to me to speak very clearly of substances, such as "man," and
of their qualities, as the figure of a man, of what sort it is; and
stature, how many feet high; and his relationship, whose brother he
is; or where placed; or when born; or whether he stands or sits; or be
shod or armed; or does, or suffers anything; and all the innumerable
things which might be ranged under these nine Predicaments, of which I
have given some specimens, or under that chief Predicament of
Substance.
What did all this further me, seeing it even hindered me? when,
imagining whatever was, was comprehended under those often
Predicaments, I essayed in such wise to understand, O my God, Thy
wonderful and unchangeable Unity also, as if Thou also hadst been
subjected to Thine own greatness or beauty; so that (as in bodies)
they should exist in Thee, as their subject: whereas Thou Thyself
art Thy greatness and beauty; but a body is not great or fair in
that it is a body, seeing that, though it were less great or fair,
it should notwithstanding be a body. But it was falsehood which of
Thee I conceived, not truth, fictions of my misery, not the
realities of Thy blessedness. For Thou hadst commanded, and it was
done in me, that the earth should bring forth briars and thorns to me,
and that in the sweat of my brows I should eat my bread.
And what did it profit me, that all the books I could procure of the
so-called liberal arts, I, the vile slave of vile affections, read
by myself, and understood? And I delighted in them, but knew not
whence came all, that therein was true or certain. For I had my back
to the light, and my face to the things enlightened; whence my face,
with which I discerned the things enlightened, itself was not
enlightened. Whatever was written, either on rhetoric, or logic,
geometry, music, and arithmetic, by myself without much difficulty
or any instructor, I understood, Thou knowest, O Lord my God;
because both quickness of understanding, and acuteness in
discerning, is Thy gift: yet did I not thence sacrifice to Thee. So
then it served not to my use, but rather to my perdition, since I went
about to get so good a portion of my substance into my own keeping;
and I kept not my strength for Thee, but wandered from Thee into a far
country, to spend it upon harlotries. For what profited me good
abilities, not employed to good uses? For I felt not that those arts
were attained with great difficulty, even by the studious and
talented, until I attempted to explain them to such; when he most
excelled in them who followed me not altogether slowly.
But what did this further me, imagining that Thou, O Lord God, the
Truth, wert a vast and bright body, and I a fragment of that body?
Perverseness too great! But such was I. Nor do I blush, O my God, to
confess to Thee Thy mercies towards me, and to call upon Thee, who
blushed not then to profess to men my blasphemies, and to bark against
Thee. What profited me then my nimble wit in those sciences and all
those most knotty volumes, unravelied by me, without aid from human
instruction; seeing I erred so foully, and with such sacrilegious
shamefulness, in the doctrine of piety? Or what hindrance was a far
slower wit to Thy little ones, since they departed not far from
Thee, that in the nest of Thy Church they might securely be fledged,
and nourish the wings of charity, by the food of a sound faith. O Lord
our God, under the shadow of Thy wings let us hope; protect us, and
carry us. Thou wilt carry us both when little, and even to hoar
hairs wilt Thou carry us; for our firmness, when it is Thou, then is
it firmness; but when our own, it is infirmity. Our good ever lives
with Thee; from which when we turn away, we are turned aside. Let us
now, O Lord, return, that we may not be overturned, because with
Thee our good lives without any decay, which good art Thou; nor need
we fear, lest there be no place whither to return, because we fell
from it: for through our absence, our mansion fell not- Thy eternity.
BOOK V

Accept the sacrifice of my confessions from the ministry of my
tongue, which Thou hast formed and stirred up to confess unto Thy
name. Heal Thou all my bones, and let them say, O Lord, who is like
unto Thee? For he who confesses to Thee doth not teach Thee what takes
place within him; seeing a closed heart closes not out Thy eye, nor
can man's hard-heartedness thrust back Thy hand: for Thou dissolvest
it at Thy will in pity or in vengeance, and nothing can hide itself
from Thy heat. But let my soul praise Thee, that it may love Thee; and
let it confess Thy own mercies to Thee, that it may praise Thee. Thy
whole creation ceaseth not, nor is silent in Thy praises; neither
the spirit of man with voice directed unto Thee, nor creation
animate or inanimate, by the voice of those who meditate thereon: that
so our souls may from their weariness arise towards Thee, leaning on
those things which Thou hast created, and passing on to Thyself, who
madest them wonderfully; and there is refreshment and true strength.
Let the restless, the godless, depart and flee from Thee; yet Thou
seest them, and dividest the darkness. And behold, the universe with
them is fair, though they are foul. And how have they injured Thee? or
how have they disgraced Thy government, which, from the heaven to this
lowest earth, is just and perfect? For whither fled they, when they
fled from Thy presence? or where dost not Thou find them? But they
fled, that they might not see Thee seeing them, and, blinded, might
stumble against Thee (because Thou forsakest nothing Thou hast
made); that the unjust, I say, might stumble upon Thee, and justly
be hurt; withdrawing themselves from thy gentleness, and stumbling
at Thy uprightness, and falling upon their own ruggedness. Ignorant,
in truth, that Thou art every where, Whom no place encompasseth! and
Thou alone art near, even to those that remove far from Thee. Let them
then be turned, and seek Thee; because not as they have forsaken their
Creator, hast Thou forsaken Thy creation. Let them be turned and
seek Thee; and behold, Thou art there in their heart, in the heart
of those that confess to Thee, and cast themselves upon Thee, and weep
in Thy bosom, after all their rugged ways. Then dost Thou gently
wipe away their tears, and they weep the more, and joy in weeping;
even for that Thou, Lord, -not man of flesh and blood, but -Thou,
Lord, who madest them, re-makest and comfortest them. But where was I,
when I was seeking Thee? And Thou wert before me, but I had gone
away from Thee; nor did I find myself, how much less Thee!
I would lay open before my God that nine-and-twentieth year of
mine age. There had then come to Carthage a certain Bishop of the
Manichees, Faustus by name, a great snare of the Devil, and many
were entangled by him through that lure of his smooth language:
which though I did commend, yet could I separate from the truth of the
things which I was earnest to learn: nor did I so much regard the
service of oratory as the science which this Faustus, so praised among
them, set before me to feed upon. Fame had before bespoken him most
knowing in all valuable learning, and exquisitely skilled in the
liberal sciences. And since I had read and well remembered much of the
philosophers, I compared some things of theirs with those long
fables of the Manichees, and found the former the more probable;
even although they could only prevail so far as to make judgment of
this lower world, the Lord of it they could by no means find out.
For Thou art great, O Lord, and hast respect unto the humble, but
the proud Thou beholdest afar off. Nor dost Thou draw near, but to the
contrite in heart, nor art found by the proud, no, not though by
curious skill they could number the stars and the sand, and measure
the starry heavens, and track the courses of the planets.
For with their understanding and wit, which Thou bestowedst on them,
they search out these things; and much have they found out; and
foretold, many years before, eclipses of those luminaries, the sun and
moon, -what day and hour, and how many digits, -nor did their
calculation fail; and it came to pass as they foretold; and they wrote
down the rules they had found out, and these are read at this day, and
out of them do others foretell in what year and month of the year, and
what day of the month, and what hour of the day, and what part of
its light, moon or sun is to be eclipsed, and so it shall be, as it is
foreshowed. At these things men, that know not this art, marvel and
are astonished, and they that know it, exult, and are puffed up; and
by an ungodly pride departing from Thee, and failing of Thy light,
they foresee a failure of the sun's light, which shall be, so long
before, but see not their own, which is. For they search not
religiously whence they have the wit, wherewith they search out
this. And finding that Thou madest them, they give not themselves up
to Thee, to preserve what Thou madest, nor sacrifice to Thee what they
have made themselves; nor slay their own soaring imaginations, as
fowls of the air, nor their own diving curiosities (wherewith, like
the fishes of the seal they wander over the unknown paths of the
abyss), nor their own luxuriousness, as beasts of the field, that
Thou, Lord, a consuming fire, mayest burn up those dead cares of
theirs, and re-create themselves immortally.
But they knew not the way, Thy Word, by Whom Thou madest these
things which they number, and themselves who number, and the sense
whereby they perceive what they number, and the understanding, out
of which they number; or that of Thy wisdom there is no number. But
the Only Begotten is Himself made unto us wisdom, and righteousness,
and sanctification, and was numbered among us, and paid tribute unto
Caesar. They knew not this way whereby to descend to Him from
themselves, and by Him ascend unto Him. They knew not this way, and
deemed themselves exalted amongst the stars and shining; and behold,
they fell upon the earth, and their foolish heart was darkened. They
discourse many things truly concerning the creature; but Truth,
Artificer of the creature, they seek not piously, and therefore find
Him not; or if they find Him, knowing Him to be God, they glorify
Him not as God, neither are thankful, but become vain in their
imaginations, and profess themselves to be wise, attributing to
themselves what is Thine; and thereby with most perverse blindness,
study to impute to Thee what is their own, forging lies of Thee who
art the Truth, and changing the glory of uncorruptible God into an
image made like corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts,
and creeping things, changing Thy truth into a lie, and worshipping
and serving the creature more than the Creator.
Yet many truths concerning the creature retained I from these men,
and saw the reason thereof from calculations, the succession of times,
and the visible testimonies of the stars; and compared them with the
saying of Manichaeus, which in his frenzy he had written most
largely on these subjects; but discovered not any account of the
solstices, or equinoxes, or the eclipses of the greater lights, nor
whatever of this sort I had learned in the books of secular
philosophy. But I was commanded to believe; and yet it corresponded
not with what had been established by calculations and my own sight,
but was quite contrary.
Doth then, O Lord God of truth, whoso knoweth these things,
therefore please Thee? Surely unhappy is he who knoweth all these, and
knoweth not Thee: but happy whoso knoweth Thee, though he know not
these. And whoso knoweth both Thee and them is not the happier for
them, but for Thee only, if, knowing Thee, he glorifies Thee as God,
and is thankful, and becomes not vain in his imaginations. For as he
is better off who knows how to possess a tree, and return thanks to
Thee for the use thereof, although he know not how many cubits high it
is, or how wide it spreads, than he that can measure it, and count all
its boughs, and neither owns it, nor knows or loves its Creator: so
a believer, whose all this world of wealth is, and who having nothing,
yet possesseth all things, by cleaving unto Thee, whom all things
serve, though he know not even the circles of the Great Bear, yet is
it folly to doubt but he is in a better state than one who can measure
the heavens, and number the stars, and poise the elements, yet
neglecteth Thee who hast made all things in number, weight, and
measure.
But yet who bade that Manichaeus write on these things also, skill
in which was no element of piety? For Thou hast said to man, Behold
piety and wisdom; of which he might be ignorant, though he had perfect
knowledge of these things; but these things, since, knowing not, he
most impudently dared to teach, he plainly could have no knowledge
of piety. For it is vanity to make profession of these worldly
things even when known; but confession to Thee is piety. Wherefore
this wanderer to this end spake much of these things, that convicted
by those who had truly learned them, it might be manifest what
understanding he had in the other abstruser things. For he would not
have himself meanly thought of, but went about to persuade men,
"That the Holy Ghost, the Comforter and Enricher of Thy faithful ones,
was with plenary authority personally within him." When then he was
found out to have taught falsely of the heaven and stars, and of the
motions of the sun and moon (although these things pertain not to
the doctrine of religion), yet his sacrilegious presumption would
become evident enough, seeing he delivered things which not only he
knew not, but which were falsified, with so mad a vanity of pride,
that he sought to ascribe them to himself, as to a divine person.
For when I hear any Christian brother ignorant of these things,
and mistaken on them, I can patiently behold such a man holding his
opinion; nor do I see that any ignorance as to the position or
character of the corporeal creation can injure him, so long as he doth
not believe any thing unworthy of Thee, O Lord, the Creator of all.
But it doth injure him, if he imagine it to pertain to the form of the
doctrine of piety, and will yet affirm that too stiffly whereof he
is ignorant. And yet is even such an infirmity, in the infancy of
faith, borne by our mother Charity, till the new-born may grow up unto
a perfect man, so as not to be carried about with every wind of
doctrine. But in him who in such wise presumed to be the teacher,
source, guide, chief of all whom he could so persuade, that whoso
followed him thought that he followed, not a mere man, but Thy Holy
Spirit; who would not judge that so great madness, when once convicted
of having taught any thing false, were to be detested and utterly
rejected? But I had not as yet clearly ascertained whether the
vicissitudes of longer and shorter days and nights, and of day and
night itself, with the eclipses of the greater lights, and whatever
else of the kind I had read of in other books, might be explained
consistently with his sayings; so that, if they by any means might, it
should still remain a question to me whether it were so or no; but I
might, on account of his reputed sanctity, rest my credence upon his
authority.
And for almost all those nine years, wherein with unsettled mind I
had been their disciple, I had longed but too intensely for the coming
of this Faustus. For the rest of the sect, whom by chance I had
lighted upon, when unable to solve my objections about these things,
still held out to me the coming of this Faustus, by conference with
whom these and greater difficulties, if I had them, were to be most
readily and abundantly cleared. When then he came, I found him a man
of pleasing discourse, and who could speak fluently and in better
terms, yet still but the self-same things which they were wont to say.
But what availed the utmost neatness of the cup-bearer to my thirst
for a more precious draught? Mine ears were already cloyed with the
like, nor did they seem to me therefore better, because better said;
nor therefore true, because eloquent; nor the soul therefore wise,
because the face was comely, and the language graceful. But they who
held him out to me were no good judges of things; and therefore to
them he appeared understanding and wise, because in words pleasing.
I felt however that another sort of people were suspicious even of
truth, and refused to assent to it, if delivered in a smooth and
copious discourse. But Thou, O my God, hadst already taught me by
wonderful and secret ways, and therefore I believe that Thou taughtest
me, because it is truth, nor is there besides Thee any teacher of
truth, where or whencesoever it may shine upon us. Of Thyself
therefore had I now learned, that neither ought any thing to seem to
be spoken truly, because eloquently; nor therefore falsely, because
the utterance of the lips is inharmonious; nor, again, therefore true,
because rudely delivered; nor therefore false, because the language is
rich; but that wisdom and folly are as wholesome and unwholesome food;
and adorned or unadorned phrases as courtly or country vessels; either
kind of meats may be served up in either kind of dishes.
That greediness then, wherewith I had of so long time expected
that man, was delighted verily with his action and feeling when
disputing, and his choice and readiness of words to clothe his
ideas. I was then delighted, and, with many others and more than they,
did I praise and extol him. It troubled me, however, that in the
assembly of his auditors, I was not allowed to put in and
communicate those questions that troubled me, in familiar converse
with him. Which when I might, and with my friends began to engage
his ears at such times as it was not unbecoming for him to discuss
with me, and had brought forward such things as moved me; I found
him first utterly ignorant of liberal sciences, save grammar, and that
but in an ordinary way. But because he had read some of Tully's
Orations, a very few books of Seneca, some things of the poets, and
such few volumes of his own sect as were written in Latin and
neatly, and was daily practised in speaking, he acquired a certain
eloquence, which proved the more pleasing and seductive because
under the guidance of a good wit, and with a kind of natural
gracefulness. Is it not thus, as I recall it, O Lord my God, Thou
judge of my conscience? before Thee is my heart, and my remembrance,
Who didst at that time direct me by the hidden mystery of Thy
providence, and didst set those shameful errors of mine before my
face, that I might see and hate them.
For after it was clear that he was ignorant of those arts in which I
thought he excelled, I began to despair of his opening and solving the
difficulties which perplexed me (of which indeed however ignorant,
he might have held the truths of piety, had he not been a Manichee).
For their books are fraught with prolix fables, of the heaven, and
stars, sun, and moon, and I now no longer thought him able
satisfactorily to decide what I much desired, whether, on comparison
of these things with the calculations I had elsewhere read, the
account given in the books of Manichaeus were preferable, or at
least as good. Which when I proposed to he considered and discussed,
he, so far modestly, shrunk from the burthen. For he knew that he knew
not these things, and was not ashamed to confess it. For he was not
one of those talking persons, many of whom I had endured, who
undertook to teach me these things, and said nothing. But this man had
a heart, though not right towards Thee, yet neither altogether
treacherous to himself. For he was not altogether ignorant of his
own ignorance, nor would he rashly be entangled in a dispute, whence
he could neither retreat nor extricate himself fairly. Even for this I
liked him the better. For fairer is the modesty of a candid mind, than
the knowledge of those things which I desired; and such I found him,
in all the more difficult and subtile questions.
My zeal for the writings of Manichaeus being thus blunted, and
despairing yet more of their other teachers, seeing that in divers
things which perplexed me, he, so renowned among them, had so turned
out; I began to engage with him in the study of that literature, on
which he also was much set (and which as rhetoric-reader I was at that
time teaching young students at Carthage), and to read with him,
either what himself desired to hear, or such as I judged fit for his
genius. But all my efforts whereby I had purposed to advance in that
sect, upon knowledge of that man, came utterly to an end; not that I
detached myself from them altogether, but as one finding nothing
better, I had settled to be content meanwhile with what I had in
whatever way fallen upon, unless by chance something more eligible
should dawn upon me. Thus, that Faustus, to so many a snare of
death, had now neither willing nor witting it, begun to loosen that
wherein I was taken. For Thy hands, O my God, in the secret purpose of
Thy providence, did not forsake my soul; and out of my mother's
heart's blood, through her tears night and day poured out, was a
sacrifice offered for me unto Thee; and Thou didst deal with me by
wondrous ways. Thou didst it, O my God: for the steps of a man are
ordered by the Lord, and He shall dispose his way. Or how shall we
obtain salvation, but from Thy hand, re-making what it made?
Thou didst deal with me, that I should be persuaded to go to Rome,
and to teach there rather, what I was teaching at Carthage. And how
I was persuaded to this, I will not neglect to confess to Thee;
because herein also the deepest recesses of Thy wisdom, and Thy most
present mercy to us, must be considered and confessed. I did not
wish therefore to go to Rome, because higher gains and higher
dignities were warranted me by my friends who persuaded me to this
(though even these things had at that time an influence over my mind),
but my chief and almost only reason was, that I heard that young men
studied there more peacefully, and were kept quiet under a restraint
of more regular discipline; so that they did not, at their
pleasures, petulantly rush into the school of one whose pupils they
were not, nor were even admitted without his permission. Whereas at
Carthage there reigns among the scholars a most disgraceful and unruly
licence. They burst in audaciously, and with gestures almost
frantic, disturb all order which any one hath established for the good
of his scholars. Divers outrages they commit, with a wonderful
stolidity, punishable by law, did not custom uphold them; that
custom evincing them to be the more miserable, in that they now do
as lawful what by Thy eternal law shall never be lawful; and they
think they do it unpunished, whereas they are punished with the very
blindness whereby they do it, and suffer incomparably worse than
what they do. The manners then which, when a student, I would not make
my own, I was fain as a teacher to endure in others: and so I was well
pleased to go where, all that knew it, assured me that the like was
not done. But Thou, my refuge and my portion in the land of the
living; that I might change my earthly dwelling for the salvation of
my soul, at Carthage didst goad me, that I might thereby be torn
from it; and at Rome didst proffer me allurements, whereby I might
be drawn thither, by men in love with a dying life, the one doing
frantic, the other promising vain, things; and, to correct my steps,
didst secretly use their and my own perverseness. For both they who
disturbed my quiet were blinded with a disgraceful frenzy, and they
who invited me elsewhere savoured of earth. And I, who here detested
real misery, was there seeking unreal happiness.
But why I went hence, and went thither, Thou knewest, O God, yet
showedst it neither to me, nor to my mother, who grievously bewailed
my journey, and followed me as far as the sea. But I deceived her,
holding me by force, that either she might keep me back or go with me,
and I feigned that I had a friend whom I could not leave, till he
had a fair wind to sail. And I lied to my mother, and such a mother,
and escaped: for this also hast Thou mercifully forgiven me,
preserving me, thus full of execrable defilements, from the waters
of the sea, for the water of Thy Grace; whereby when I was cleansed,
the streams of my mother's eyes should be dried, with which for me she
daily watered the ground under her face. And yet refusing to return
without me, I scarcely persuaded her to stay that night in a place
hard by our ship, where was an Oratory in memory of the blessed
Cyprian. That night I privily departed, but she was not behind in
weeping and prayer. And what, O Lord, was she with so many tears
asking of Thee, but that Thou wouldest not suffer me to sail? But
Thou, in the depth of Thy counsels and hearing the main point of her
desire, regardest not what she then asked, that Thou mightest make
me what she ever asked. The wind blew and swelled our sails, and
withdrew the shore from our sight; and she on the morrow was there,
frantic with sorrow, and with complaints and groans filled Thine ears,
Who didst then disregard them; whilst through my desires, Thou wert
hurrying me to end all desire, and the earthly part of her affection
to me was chastened by the allotted scourge of sorrows. For she
loved my being with her, as mothers do, but much more than many; and
she knew not how great joy Thou wert about to work for her out of my
absence. She knew not; therefore did she weep and wail, and by this
agony there appeared in her the inheritance of Eve, with sorrow
seeking what in sorrow she had brought forth. And yet, after
accusing my treachery and hardheartedness, she betook herself again to
intercede to Thee for me, went to her wonted place, and I to Rome.
And lo, there was I received by the scourge of bodily sickness,
and I was going down to hell, carrying all the sins which I had
committed, both against Thee, and myself, and others, many and
grievous, over and above that bond of original sin, whereby we all die
in Adam. For Thou hadst not forgiven me any of these things in Christ,
nor had He abolished by His Cross the enmity which by my sins I had
incurred with Thee. For how should He, by the crucifixion of a
phantasm, which I believed Him to be? So true, then, was the death
of my soul, as that of His flesh seemed to me false; and how true
the death of His body, so false was the life of my soul, which did not
believe it. And now the fever heightening, I was parting and departing
for ever. For had I then parted hence, whither had I departed, but
into fire and torments, such as my misdeeds deserved in the truth of
Thy appointment? And this she knew not, yet in absence prayed for
me. But Thou, everywhere present, heardest her where she was, and,
where I was, hadst compassion upon me; that I should recover the
health of my body, though frenzied as yet in my sacrilegious heart.
For I did not in all that danger desire Thy baptism; and I was
better as a boy, when I begged it of my mother's piety, as I have
before recited and confessed. But I had grown up to my own shame,
and I madly scoffed at the prescripts of Thy medicine, who wouldest
not suffer me, being such, to die a double death. With which wound had
my mother's heart been pierced, it could never be healed. For I cannot
express the affection she bore to me, and with how much more
vehement anguish she was now in labour of me in the spirit, than at
her childbearing in the flesh.
I see not then how she should have been healed, had such a death
of mine stricken through the bowels of her love. And where would
have been those her so strong and unceasing prayers, unintermitting to
Thee alone? But wouldest Thou, God of mercies, despise the contrite
and humbled heart of that chaste and sober widow, so frequent in
almsdeeds, so full of duty and service to Thy saints, no day
intermitting the oblation at Thine altar, twice a day, morning and
evening, without any intermission, coming to Thy church, not for
idle tattlings and old wives' fables; but that she might hear Thee
in Thy discourses, and Thou her in her prayers. Couldest Thou
despise and reject from Thy aid the tears of such an one, wherewith
she begged of Thee not gold or silver, nor any mutable or passing
good, but the salvation of her son's soul? Thou, by whose gift she was
such? Never, Lord. Yea, Thou wert at hand, and wert hearing and doing,
in that order wherein Thou hadst determined before that it should be
done. Far be it that Thou shouldest deceive her in Thy visions and
answers, some whereof I have, some I have not mentioned, which she
laid up in her faithful heart, and ever praying, urged upon Thee, as
Thine own handwriting. For Thou, because Thy mercy endureth for
ever, vouchsafest to those to whom Thou forgivest all of their
debts, to become also a debtor by Thy promises.
Thou recoveredst me then of that sickness, and healedst the son of
Thy handmaid, for the time in body, that he might live, for Thee to
bestow upon him a better and more abiding health. And even then, at
Rome, I joined myself to those deceiving and deceived "holy ones"; not
with their disciples only (of which number was he, in whose house I
had fallen sick and recovered); but also with those whom they call
"The Elect." For I still thought "that it was not we that sin, but
that I know not what other nature sinned in us"; and it delighted my
pride, to be free from blame; and when I had done any evil, not to
confess I had done any, that Thou mightest heal my soul because it had
sinned against Thee: but I loved to excuse it, and to accuse I know
not what other thing, which was with me, but which I was not. But in
truth it was wholly I, and mine impiety had divided me against myself:
and that sin was the more incurable, whereby I did not judge myself
a sinner; and execrable iniquity it was, that I had rather have
Thee, Thee, O God Almighty, to be overcome in me to my destruction,
than myself of Thee to salvation. Not as yet then hadst Thou set a
watch before my mouth, and a door of safe keeping around my lips, that
my heart might not turn aside to wicked speeches, to make excuses of
sins, with men that work iniquity; and, therefore, was I still
united with their Elect.
But now despairing to make proficiency in that false doctrine,
even those things (with which if I should find no better, I had
resolved to rest contented) I now held more laxly and carelessly.
For there half arose a thought in me that those philosophers, whom
they call Academics, were wiser than the rest, for that they held
men ought to doubt everything, and laid down that no truth can be
comprehended by man: for so, not then understanding even their
meaning, I also was clearly convinced that they thought, as they are
commonly reported. Yet did I freely and openly discourage that host of
mine from that over-confidence which I perceived him to have in
those fables, which the books of Manichaeus are full of. Yet I lived
in more familiar friendship with them, than with others who were not
of this heresy. Nor did I maintain it with my ancient eagerness; still
my intimacy with that sect (Rome secretly harbouring many of them)
made me slower to seek any other way: especially since I despaired
of finding the truth, from which they had turned me aside, in Thy
Church, O Lord of heaven and earth, Creator of all things visible
and invisible: and it seemed to me very unseemly to believe Thee to
have the shape of human flesh, and to be bounded by the bodily
lineaments of our members. And because, when I wished to think on my
God, I knew not what to think of, but a mass of bodies (for what was
not such did not seem to me to be anything), this was the greatest,
and almost only cause of my inevitable error.
For hence I believed Evil also to be some such kind of substance,
and to have its own foul and hideous bulk; whether gross, which they
called earth, or thin and subtile (like the body of the air), which
they imagine to be some malignant mind, creeping through that earth.
And because a piety, such as it was, constrained me to believe that
the good God never created any evil nature, I conceived two masses,
contrary to one another, both unbounded, but the evil narrower, the
good more expansive. And from this pestilent beginning, the other
sacrilegious conceits followed on me. For when my mind endeavoured
to recur to the Catholic faith, I was driven back, since that was
not the Catholic faith which I thought to be so. And I seemed to
myself more reverential, if I believed of Thee, my God (to whom Thy
mercies confess out of my mouth), as unbounded, at least on other
sides, although on that one where the mass of evil was opposed to
Thee, I was constrained to confess Thee bounded; than if on all
sides I should imagine Thee to be bounded by the form of a human body.
And it seemed to me better to believe Thee to have created no evil
(which to me ignorant seemed not some only, but a bodily substance,
because I could not conceive of mind unless as a subtile body, and
that diffused in definite spaces), than to believe the nature of evil,
such as I conceived it, could come from Thee. Yea, and our Saviour
Himself, Thy Only Begotten, I believed to have been reached forth
(as it were) for our salvation, out of the mass of Thy most lucid
substance, so as to believe nothing of Him, but what I could imagine
in my vanity. His Nature then, being such, I thought could not be born
of the Virgin Mary, without being mingled with the flesh: and how that
which I had so figured to myself could be mingled, and not defiled,
I saw not. I feared therefore to believe Him born in the flesh, lest I
should be forced to believe Him defiled by the flesh. Now will Thy
spiritual ones mildly and lovingly smile upon me, if they shall read
these my confessions. Yet such was I.
Furthermore, what the Manichees had criticised in Thy Scriptures,
I thought could not be defended; yet at times verily I had a wish to
confer upon these several points with some one very well skilled in
those books, and to make trial what he thought thereon; for the
words of one Helpidius, as he spoke and disputed face to face
against the said Manichees, had begun to stir me even at Carthage:
in that he had produced things out of the Scriptures, not easily
withstood, the Manichees' answer whereto seemed to me weak. And this
answer they liked not to give publicly, but only to us in private.
It was, that the Scriptures of the New Testament had been corrupted by
I know not whom, who wished to engraff the law of the Jews upon the
Christian faith: yet themselves produced not any uncorrupted copies.
But I, conceiving of things corporeal only, was mainly held down,
vehemently oppressed and in a manner suffocated by those "masses";
panting under which after the breath of Thy truth, I could not breathe
it pure and untainted.
I began then diligently to practise that for which I came to Rome,
to teach rhetoric; and first, to gather some to my house, to whom, and
through whom, I had begun to be known; when to, I found other offences
committed in Rome, to which I was not exposed in Africa. True, those
"subvertings" by profligate young men were not here practised, as
was told me: but on a sudden, said they, to avoid paying their
master's stipend, a number of youths plot together, and remove to
another; -breakers of faith, who for love of money hold justice cheap.
These also my heart hated, though not with a perfect hatred: for
perchance I hated them more because I was to suffer by them, than
because they did things utterly unlawful. Of a truth such are base
persons, and they go a whoring from Thee, loving these fleeting
mockeries of things temporal, and filthy lucre, which fouls the hand
that grasps it; hugging the fleeting world, and despising Thee, Who
abidest, and recallest, and forgivest the adulteress soul of man, when
she returns to Thee. And now I hate such depraved and crooked persons,
though I love them if corrigible, so as to prefer to money the
learning which they acquire, and to learning, Thee, O God, the truth
and fulness of assured good, and most pure peace. But then I rather
for my own sake misliked them evil, than liked and wished them good
for Thine.
When therefore they of Milan had sent to Rome to the prefect of
the city, to furnish them with a rhetoric reader for their city, and
sent him at the public expense, I made application (through those very
persons, intoxicated with Manichaean vanities, to be freed wherefrom I
was to go, neither of us however knowing it) that Symmachus, then
prefect of the city, would try me by setting me some subject, and so
send me. To Milan I came, to Ambrose the Bishop, known to the whole
world as among the best of men, Thy devout servant; whose eloquent
discourse did then plentifully dispense unto Thy people the flour of
Thy wheat, the gladness of Thy oil, and the sober inebriation of Thy
wine. To him was I unknowing led by Thee, that by him I might
knowingly be led to Thee. That man of God received me as a father, and
showed me an Episcopal kindness on my coming. Thenceforth I began to
love him, at first indeed not as a teacher of the truth (which I
utterly despaired of in Thy Church), but as a person kind towards
myself. And I listened diligently to him preaching to the people,
not with that intent I ought, but, as it were, trying his eloquence,
whether it answered the fame thereof, or flowed fuller or lower than
was reported; and I hung on his words attentively; but of the matter I
was as a careless and scornful looker-on; and I was delighted with the
sweetness of his discourse, more recondite, yet in manner less winning
and harmonious, than that of Faustus. Of the matter, however, there
was no comparison; for the one was wandering amid Manichaean
delusions, the other teaching salvation most soundly. But salvation is
far from sinners, such as I then stood before him; and yet was I
drawing nearer by little and little, and unconsciously.
For though I took no pains to learn what he spake, but only to
hear how he spake (for that empty care alone was left me, despairing
of a way, open for man, to Thee), yet together with the words which
I would choose, came also into my mind the things which I would
refuse; for I could not separate them. And while I opened my heart
to admit "how eloquently he spake," there also entered "how truly he
spake"; but this by degrees. For first, these things also had now
begun to appear to me capable of defence; and the Catholic faith,
for which I had thought nothing could be said against the Manichees'
objections, I now thought might be maintained without shamelessness;
especially after I had heard one or two places of the Old Testament
resolved, and ofttimes "in a figure," which when I understood
literally, I was slain spiritually. Very many places then of those
books having been explained, I now blamed my despair, in believing
that no answer could be given to such as hated and scoffed at the
Law and the Prophets. Yet did I not therefore then see that the
Catholic way was to be held, because it also could find learned
maintainers, who could at large and with some show of reason answer
objections; nor that what I held was therefore to be condemned,
because both sides could be maintained. For the Catholic cause
seemed to me in such sort not vanquished, as still not as yet to be
victorious.
Hereupon I earnestly bent my mind, to see if in any way I could by
any certain proof convict the Manichees of falsehood. Could I once
have conceived a spiritual substance, all their strongholds had been
beaten down, and cast utterly out of my mind; but I could not.
Notwithstanding, concerning the frame of this world, and the whole
of nature, which the senses of the flesh can reach to, as I more and
more considered and compared things, I judged the tenets of most of
the philosophers to have been much more probable. So then after the
manner of the Academics (as they are supposed) doubting of every
thing, and wavering between all, I settled so far, that the
Manichees were to be abandoned; judging that, even while doubting, I
might not continue in that sect, to which I already preferred some
of the philosophers; to which philosophers notwithstanding, for that
they were without the saving Name of Christ, I utterly refused to
commit the cure of my sick soul. I determined therefore so long to
be a Catechumen in the Catholic Church, to which I had been
commended by my parents, till something certain should dawn upon me,
whither I might steer my course.
BOOK VI

O Thou, my hope from my youth, where wert Thou to me, and whither
wert Thou gone? Hadst not Thou created me, and separated me from the
beasts of the field, and fowls of the air? Thou hadst made me wiser,
yet did I walk in darkness, and in slippery places, and sought Thee
abroad out of myself, and found not the God of my heart; and had
come into the depths of the sea, and distrusted and despaired of
ever finding truth. My mother had now come to me, resolute through
piety, following me over sea and land, in all perils confiding in
Thee. For in perils of the sea, she comforted the very mariners (by
whom passengers unacquainted with the deep, use rather to be comforted
when troubled), assuring them of a safe arrival, because Thou hadst by
a vision assured her thereof. She found me in grievous peril,
through despair of ever finding truth. But when I had discovered to
her that I was now no longer a Manichee, though not yet a Catholic
Christian, she was not overjoyed, as at something unexpected; although
she was now assured concerning that part of my misery, for which she
bewailed me as one dead, though to be reawakened by Thee, carrying
me forth upon the bier of her thoughts, that Thou mightest say to
the son of the widow, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise; and he should
revive, and begin to speak, and Thou shouldest deliver him to his
mother. Her heart then was shaken with no tumultuous exultation,
when she heard that what she daily with tears desired of Thee was
already in so great part realised; in that, though I had not yet
attained the truth, I was rescued from falsehood; but, as being
assured, that Thou, Who hadst promised the whole, wouldest one day
give the rest, most calmly, and with a heart full of confidence, she
replied to me, "She believed in Christ, that before she departed
this life, she should see me a Catholic believer." Thus much to me.
But to Thee, Fountain of mercies, poured she forth more copious
prayers and tears, that Thou wouldest hasten Thy help, and enlighten
my darkness; and she hastened the more eagerly to the Church, and hung
upon the lips of Ambrose, praying for the fountain of that water,
which springeth up unto life everlasting. But that man she loved as an
angel of God, because she knew that by him I had been brought for
the present to that doubtful state of faith I now was in, through
which she anticipated most confidently that I should pass from
sickness unto health, after the access, as it were, of a sharper
fit, which physicians call "the crisis."
When then my mother had once, as she was wont in Afric, brought to
the Churches built in memory of the Saints, certain cakes, and bread
and wine, and was forbidden by the door-keeper; so soon as she knew
that the Bishop had forbidden this, she so piously and obediently
embraced his wishes, that I myself wondered how readily she censured
her own practice, rather than discuss his prohibition. For
wine-bibbing did not lay siege to her spirit, nor did love of wine
provoke her to hatred of the truth, as it doth too many (both men
and women), who revolt at a lesson of sobriety, as men well-drunk at a
draught mingled with water. But she, when she had brought her basket
with the accustomed festival-food, to be but tasted by herself, and
then given away, never joined therewith more than one small cup of
wine, diluted according to her own abstemious habits, which for
courtesy she would taste. And if there were many churches of the
departed saints that were to be honoured in that manner, she still
carried round that same one cup, to be used every where; and this,
though not only made very watery, but unpleasantly heated with
carrying about, she would distribute to those about her by small sips;
for she sought there devotion, not pleasure. So soon, then, as she
found this custom to be forbidden by that famous preacher and most
pious prelate, even to those that would use it soberly, lest so an
occasion of excess might be given to the drunken; and for these, as it
were, anniversary funeral solemnities did much resemble the
superstition of the Gentiles, she most willingly forbare it: and for a
basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to
the Churches of the martyrs a breast filled with more purified
petitions, and to give what she could to the poor; that so the
communication of the Lord's Body might be there rightly celebrated,
where, after the example of His Passion, the martyrs had been
sacrificed and crowned. But yet it seems to me, O Lord my God, and
thus thinks my heart of it in Thy sight, that perhaps she would not so
readily have yielded to the cutting off of this custom, had it been
forbidden by another, whom she loved not as Ambrose, whom, for my
salvation, she loved most entirely; and he her again, for her most
religious conversation, whereby in good works, so fervent in spirit,
she was constant at church; so that, when he saw me, he often burst
forth into her praises; congratulating me that I had such a mother;
not knowing what a son she had in me, who doubted of all these things,
and imagined the way to life could not be found out.
Nor did I yet groan in my prayers, that Thou wouldest help me; but
my spirit was wholly intent on learning, and restless to dispute.
And Ambrose himself, as the world counts happy, I esteemed a happy
man, whom personages so great held in such honour; only his celibacy
seemed to me a painful course. But what hope he bore within him,
what struggles he had against the temptations which beset his very
excellencies, or what comfort in adversities, and what sweet joys
Thy Bread had for the hidden mouth of his spirit, when chewing the cud
thereof, I neither could conjecture, nor had experienced. Nor did he
know the tides of my feelings, or the abyss of my danger. For I
could not ask of him, what I would as I would, being shut out both
from his ear and speech by multitudes of busy people, whose weaknesses
he served. With whom when he was not taken up (which was but a
little time), he was either refreshing his body with the sustenance
absolutely necessary, or his mind with reading. But when he was
reading, his eye glided over the pages, and his heart searched out the
sense, but his voice and tongue were at rest. Ofttimes when we had
come (for no man was forbidden to enter, nor was it his wont that
any who came should be announced to him), we saw him thus reading to
himself, and never otherwise; and having long sat silent (for who
durst intrude on one so intent?) we were fain to depart,
conjecturing that in the small interval which he obtained, free from
the din of others' business, for the recruiting of his mind, he was
loth to be taken off; and perchance he dreaded lest if the author he
read should deliver any thing obscurely, some attentive or perplexed
hearer should desire him to expound it, or to discuss some of the
harder questions; so that his time being thus spent, he could not turn
over so many volumes as he desired; although the preserving of his
voice (which a very little speaking would weaken) might be the truer
reason for his reading to himself. But with what intent soever he
did it, certainly in such a man it was good.
I however certainly had no opportunity of enquiring what I wished of
that so holy oracle of Thine, his breast, unless the thing might be
answered briefly. But those tides in me, to be poured out to him,
required his full leisure, and never found it. I heard him indeed
every Lord's day, rightly expounding the Word of truth among the
people; and I was more and more convinced that all the knots of
those crafty calumnies, which those our deceivers had knit against the
Divine Books, could be unravelled. But when I understood withal,
that "man created by Thee, after Thine own image," was not so
understood by Thy spiritual sons, whom of the Catholic Mother Thou
hast born again through grace, as though they believed and conceived
of Thee as bounded by human shape (although what a spiritual substance
should be I had not even a faint or shadowy notion); yet, with joy I
blushed at having so many years barked not against the Catholic faith,
but against the fictions of carnal imaginations. For so rash and
impious had I been, that what I ought by enquiring to have learned,
I had pronounced on, condemning. For Thou, Most High, and most near;
most secret, and most present; Who hast not limbs some larger, some
smaller, but art wholly every where, and no where in space, art not of
such corporeal shape, yet hast Thou made man after Thine own image;
and behold, from head to foot is he contained in space.
Ignorant then how this Thy image should subsist, I should have
knocked and proposed the doubt, how it was to be believed, not
insultingly opposed it, as if believed. Doubt, then, what to hold
for certain, the more sharply gnawed my heart, the more ashamed I was,
that so long deluded and deceived by the promise of certainties, I had
with childish error and vehemence, prated of so many uncertainties.
For that they were falsehoods became clear to me later. However I
was certain that they were uncertain, and that I had formerly
accounted them certain, when with a blind contentiousness, I accused
Thy Catholic Church, whom I now discovered, not indeed as yet to teach
truly, but at least not to teach that for which I had grievously
censured her. So I was confounded, and converted: and I joyed, O my
God, that the One Only Church, the body of Thine Only Son (wherein the
name of Christ had been put upon me as an infant), had no taste for
infantine conceits; nor in her sound doctrine maintained any tenet
which should confine Thee, the Creator of all, in space, however great
and large, yet bounded every where by the limits of a human form.
I joyed also that the old Scriptures of the law and the Prophets
were laid before me, not now to be perused with that eye to which
before they seemed absurd, when I reviled Thy holy ones for so
thinking, whereas indeed they thought not so: and with joy I heard
Ambrose in his sermons to the people, oftentimes most diligently
recommend this text for a rule, The letter killeth, but the Spirit
giveth life; whilst he drew aside the mystic veil, laying open
spiritually what, according to the letter, seemed to teach something
unsound; teaching herein nothing that offended me, though he taught
what I knew not as yet, whether it were true. For I kept my heart from
assenting to any thing, fearing to fall headlong; but by hanging in
suspense I was the worse killed. For I wished to be as assured of
the things I saw not, as I was that seven and three are ten. For I was
not so mad as to think that even this could not be comprehended; but I
desired to have other things as clear as this, whether things
corporeal, which were not present to my senses, or spiritual,
whereof I knew not how to conceive, except corporeally. And by
believing might I have been cured, that so the eyesight of my soul
being cleared, might in some way be directed to Thy truth, which
abideth always, and in no part faileth. But as it happens that one who
has tried a bad physician, fears to trust himself with a good one,
so was it with the health of my soul, which could not be healed but by
believing, and lest it should believe falsehoods, refused to be cured;
resisting Thy hands, Who hast prepared the medicines of faith, and
hast applied them to the diseases of the whole world, and given unto
them so great authority.
Being led, however, from this to prefer the Catholic doctrine, I
felt that her proceeding was more unassuming and honest, in that she
required to be believed things not demonstrated (whether it was that
they could in themselves be demonstrated but not to certain persons,
or could not at all be), whereas among the Manichees our credulity was
mocked by a promise of certain knowledge, and then so many most
fabulous and absurd things were imposed to be believed, because they
could not be demonstrated. Then Thou, O Lord, little by little with
most tender and most merciful hand, touching and composing my heart,
didst persuade me- considering what innumerable things I believed,
which I saw not, nor was present while they were done, as so many
things in secular history, so many reports of places and of cities,
which I had not seen; so many of friends, so many of physicians, so
many continually of other men, which unless we should believe, we
should do nothing at all in this life; lastly, with how unshaken an
assurance I believed of what parents I was born, which I could not
know, had I not believed upon hearsay -considering all this, Thou
didst persuade me, that not they who believed Thy Books (which Thou
hast established in so great authority among almost all nations),
but they who believed them not, were to be blamed; and that they
were not to be heard, who should say to me, "How knowest thou those
Scriptures to have been imparted unto mankind by the Spirit of the one
true and most true God?" For this very thing was of all most to be
believed, since no contentiousness of blasphemous questionings, of all
that multitude which I had read in the self-contradicting
philosophers, could wring this belief from me, "That Thou art"
whatsoever Thou wert (what I knew not), and "That the government of
human things belongs to Thee."
This I believed, sometimes more strongly, more weakly otherwhiles;
yet I ever believed both that Thou wert, and hadst a care of us;
though I was ignorant, both what was to be thought of Thy substance,
and what way led or led back to Thee. Since then we were too weak by
abstract reasonings to find out truth: and for this very cause
needed the authority of Holy Writ; I had now begun to believe that
Thou wouldest never have given such excellency of authority to that
Writ in all lands, hadst Thou not willed thereby to be believed in,
thereby sought. For now what things, sounding strangely in the
Scripture, were wont to offend me, having heard divers of them
expounded satisfactorily, I referred to the depth of the mysteries,
and its authority appeared to me the more venerable, and more worthy
of religious credence, in that, while it lay open to all to read, it
reserved the majesty of its mysteries within its profounder meaning,
stooping to all in the great plainness of its words and lowliness of
its style, yet calling forth the intensest application of such as
are not light of heart; that so it might receive all in its open
bosom, and through narrow passages waft over towards Thee some few,
yet many more than if it stood not aloft on such a height of
authority, nor drew multitudes within its bosom by its holy lowliness.
These things I thought on, and Thou wert with me; I sighed, and Thou
heardest me; I wavered, and Thou didst guide me; I wandered through
the broad way of the world, and Thou didst not forsake me.
I panted after honours, gains, marriage; and thou deridedst me. In
these desires I underwent most bitter crosses, Thou being the more
gracious, the less Thou sufferedst aught to grow sweet to me, which
was not Thou. Behold my heart, O Lord, who wouldest I should
remember all this, and confess to Thee. Let my soul cleave unto
Thee, now that Thou hast freed it from that fast-holding birdlime of
death. How wretched was it! and Thou didst irritate the feeling of its
wound, that forsaking all else, it might be converted unto Thee, who
art above all, and without whom all things would be nothing; be
converted, and be healed. How miserable was I then, and how didst Thou
deal with me, to make me feel my misery on that day, when I was
preparing to recite a panegyric of the Emperor, wherein I was to utter
many a lie, and lying, was to be applauded by those who knew I lied,
and my heart was panting with these anxieties, and boiling with the
feverishness of consuming thoughts. For, passing through one of the
streets of Milan, I observed a poor beggar, then, I suppose, with a
full belly, joking and joyous: and I sighed, and spoke to the
friends around me, of the many sorrows of our frenzies; for that by
all such efforts of ours, as those wherein I then toiled dragging
along, under the goading of desire, the burthen of my own
wretchedness, and, by dragging, augmenting it, we yet looked to arrive
only at that very joyousness whither that beggar-man had arrived
before us, who should never perchance attain it. For what he had
obtained by means of a few begged pence, the same was I plotting for
by many a toilsome turning and winding; the joy of a temporary
felicity. For he verily had not the true joy; but yet I with those
my ambitious designs was seeking one much less true. And certainly
he was joyous, I anxious; he void of care, I full of fears. But should
any ask me, had I rather be merry or fearful? I would answer merry.
Again, if he asked had I rather be such as he was, or what I then was?
I should choose to be myself, though worn with cares and fears; but
out of wrong judgment; for, was it the truth? For I ought not to
prefer myself to him, because more learned than he, seeing I had no
joy therein, but sought to please men by it; and that not to instruct,
but simply to please. Wherefore also Thou didst break my bones with
the staff of Thy correction.
Away with those then from my soul who say to her, "It makes a
difference whence a man's joy is. That beggar-man joyed in
drunkenness; Thou desiredst to joy in glory." What glory, Lord? That
which is not in Thee. For even as his was no true joy, so was that
no true glory: and it overthrew my soul more. He that very night
should digest his drunkenness; but I had slept and risen again with
mine, and was to sleep again, and again to rise with it, how many
days, Thou, God, knowest. But "it doth make a difference whence a
man's joy is." I know it, and the joy of a faithful hope lieth
incomparably beyond such vanity. Yea, and so was he then beyond me:
for he verily was the happier; not only for that he was thoroughly
drenched in mirth, I disembowelled with cares: but he, by fair wishes,
had gotten wine; I, by lying, was seeking for empty, swelling
praise. Much to this purpose said I then to my friends: and I often
marked in them how it fared with me; and I found it went ill with
me, and grieved, and doubled that very ill; and if any prosperity
smiled on me, I was loth to catch at it, for almost before I could
grasp it, it flew away.
These things we, who were living as friends together, bemoaned
together, but chiefly and most familiarly did I speak thereof with
Alypius and Nebridius, of whom Alypius was born in the same town
with me, of persons of chief rank there, but younger than I. For he
had studied under me, both when I first lectured in our town, and
afterwards at Carthage, and he loved me much, because I seemed to
him kind, and learned; and I him, for his great towardliness to
virtue, which was eminent enough in one of no greater years. Yet the
whirlpool of Carthaginian habits (amongst whom those idle spectacles
are hotly followed) had drawn him into the madness of the Circus.
But while he was miserably tossed therein, and I, professing
rhetoric there, had a public school, as yet he used not my teaching,
by reason of some unkindness risen betwixt his father and me. I had
found then how deadly he doted upon the Circus, and was deeply grieved
that he seemed likely, nay, or had thrown away so great promise: yet
had I no means of advising or with a sort of constraint reclaiming
him, either by the kindness of a friend, or the authority of a master.
For I supposed that he thought of me as did his father; but he was not
such; laying aside then his father's mind in that matter, he began
to greet me, come sometimes into my lecture room, hear a little, and
be gone.
I however had forgotten to deal with him, that he should not,
through a blind and headlong desire of vain pastimes, undo so good a
wit. But Thou, O Lord, who guidest the course of all Thou hast
created, hadst not forgotten him, who was one day to be among Thy
children, Priest and Dispenser of Thy Sacrament; and that his
amendment might plainly be attributed to Thyself, Thou effectedst it
through me, unknowingly. For as one day I sat in my accustomed
place, with my scholars before me, he entered, greeted me, sat down,
and applied his mind to what I then handled. I had by chance a passage
in hand, which while I was explaining, a likeness from the
Circensian races occurred to me, as likely to make what I would convey
pleasanter and plainer, seasoned with biting mockery of those whom
that madness had enthralled; God, Thou knowest that I then thought not
of curing Alypius of that infection. But he took it wholly to himself,
and thought that I said it simply for his sake. And whence another
would have taken occasion of offence with me, that right-minded
youth took as a ground of being offended at himself, and loving me
more fervently. For Thou hadst said it long ago, and put it into Thy
book, Rebuke a wise man and he will love Thee. But I had not rebuked
him, but Thou, who employest all, knowing or not knowing, in that
order which Thyself knowest (and that order is just), didst of my
heart and tongue make burning coals, by which to set on fire the
hopeful mind, thus languishing, and so cure it. Let him be silent in
Thy praises, who considers not Thy mercies, which confess unto Thee
out of my inmost soul. For he upon that speech burst out of that pit
so deep, wherein he was wilfully plunged, and was blinded with its
wretched pastimes; and he shook his mind with a strong self-command;
whereupon all the filths of the Circensian pastimes flew off from him,
nor came he again thither. Upon this, he prevailed with his
unwilling father that he might be my scholar. He gave way, and gave
in. And Alypius beginning to be my hearer again, was involved in the
same superstition with me, loving in the Manichees that show of
continency which he supposed true and unfeigned. Whereas it was a
senseless and seducing continency, ensnaring precious souls, unable as
yet to reach the depth of virtue, yet readily beguiled with the
surface of what was but a shadowy and counterfeit virtue.
He, not forsaking that secular course which his parents had
charmed him to pursue, had gone before me to Rome, to study law, and
there he was carried away incredibly with an incredible eagerness
after the shows of gladiators. For being utterly averse to and
detesting spectacles, he was one day by chance met by divers of his
acquaintance and fellow-students coming from dinner, and they with a
familiar violence haled him, vehemently refusing and resisting, into
the Amphitheatre, during these cruel and deadly shows, he thus
protesting: "Though you hale my body to that place, and there set
me, can you force me also to turn my mind or my eyes to those shows? I
shall then be absent while present, and so shall overcome both you and
them." They, hearing this, led him on nevertheless, desirous perchance
to try that very thing, whether he could do as he said. When they were
come thither, and had taken their places as they could, the whole
place kindled with that savage pastime. But he, closing the passage of
his eyes, forbade his mind to range abroad after such evil; and
would he had stopped his ears also! For in the fight, when one fell, a
mighty cry of the whole people striking him strongly, overcome by
curiosity, and as if prepared to despise and be superior to it
whatsoever it were, even when seen, he opened his eyes, and was
stricken with a deeper wound in his soul than the other, whom he
desired to behold, was in his body; and he fell more miserably than he
upon whose fall that mighty noise was raised, which entered through
his ears, and unlocked his eyes, to make way for the striking and
beating down of a soul, bold rather than resolute, and the weaker,
in that it had presumed on itself, which ought to have relied on Thee.
For so soon as he saw that blood, he therewith drunk down
savageness; nor turned away, but fixed his eye, drinking in frenzy,
unawares, and was delighted with that guilty fight, and intoxicated
with the bloody pastime. Nor was he now the man he came, but one of
the throng he came unto, yea, a true associate of theirs that
brought him thither. Why say more? He beheld, shouted, kindled,
carried thence with him the madness which should goad him to return
not only with them who first drew him thither, but also before them,
yea and to draw in others. Yet thence didst Thou with a most strong
and most merciful hand pluck him, and taughtest him to have confidence
not in himself, but in Thee. But this was after.
But this was already being laid up in his memory to be a medicine
hereafter. So was that also, that when he was yet studying under me at
Carthage, and was thinking over at mid-day in the market-place what he
was to say by heart (as scholars use to practise), Thou sufferedst him
to be apprehended by the officers of the market-place for a thief. For
no other cause, I deem, didst Thou, our God, suffer it, but that he
who was hereafter to prove so great a man, should already begin to
learn that in judging of causes, man was not readily to be condemned
by man out of a rash credulity. For as he was walking up and down by
himself before the judgment-seat, with his note-book and pen, lo, a
young man, a lawyer, the real thief, privily bringing a hatchet, got
in, unperceived by Alypius, as far as the leaden gratings which
fence in the silversmiths' shops, and began to cut away the lead.
But the noise of the hatchet being heard, the silversmiths beneath
began to make a stir, and sent to apprehend whomever they should find.
But he, hearing their voices, ran away, leaving his hatchet, fearing
to be taken with it. Alypius now, who had not seen him enter, was
aware of his going, and saw with what speed he made away. And being
desirous to know the matter, entered the place; where finding the
hatchet, he was standing, wondering and considering it, when behold,
those that had been sent, find him alone with the hatchet in his hand,
the noise whereof had startled and brought them thither. They seize
him, hale him away, and gathering the dwellers in the market-place
together, boast of having taken a notorious thief, and so he was being
led away to be taken before the judge.
But thus far was Alypius to be instructed. For forthwith, O Lord,
Thou succouredst his innocency, whereof Thou alone wert witness. For
as he was being led either to prison or to punishment, a certain
architect met them, who had the chief charge of the public
buildings. Glad they were to meet him especially, by whom they were
wont to be suspected of stealing the goods lost out of the
marketplace, as though to show him at last by whom these thefts were
committed. He, however, had divers times seen Alypius at a certain
senator's house, to whom he often went to pay his respects; and
recognising him immediately, took him aside by the hand, and enquiring
the occasion of so great a calamity, heard the whole matter, and
bade all present, amid much uproar and threats, to go with him. So
they came to the house of the young man who had done the deed.
There, before the door, was a boy so young as to be likely, not
apprehending any harm to his master, to disclose the whole. For he had
attended his master to the market-place. Whom so soon as Alypius
remembered, he told the architect: and he showing the hatchet to the
boy, asked him "Whose that was?" "Ours," quoth he presently: and being
further questioned, he discovered every thing. Thus the crime being
transferred to that house, and the multitude ashamed, which had
begun to insult over Alypius, he who was to be a dispenser of Thy
Word, and an examiner of many causes in Thy Church, went away better
experienced and instructed.
Him then I had found at Rome, and he clave to me by a most strong
tie, and went with me to Milan, both that he might not leave me, and
might practise something of the law he had studied, more to please his
parents than himself. There he had thrice sat as Assessor, with an
uncorruptness much wondered at by others, he wondering at others
rather who could prefer gold to honesty. His character was tried
besides, not only with the bait of covetousness, but with the goad
of fear. At Rome he was Assessor to the count of the Italian Treasury.
There was at that time a very powerful senator, to whose favours
many stood indebted, many much feared. He would needs, by his usual
power, have a thing allowed him which by the laws was unallowed.
Alypius resisted it: a bribe was promised; with all his heart he
scorned it: threats were held out; he trampled upon them: all
wondering at so unwonted a spirit, which neither desired the
friendship, nor feared the enmity of one so great and so mightily
renowned for innumerable means of doing good or evil. And the very
judge, whose councillor Alypius was, although also unwilling it should
be, yet did not openly refuse, but put the matter off upon Alypius,
alleging that he would not allow him to do it: for in truth had the
judge done it, Alypius would have decided otherwise. With this one
thing in the way of learning was he well-nigh seduced, that he might
have books copied for him at Praetorian prices, but consulting
justice, he altered his deliberation for the better; esteeming
equity whereby he was hindered more gainful than the power whereby
he were allowed. These are slight things, but he that is faithful in
little, is faithful also in much. Nor can that any how be void,
which proceeded out of the mouth of Thy Truth: If ye have not been
faithful in the unrighteous Mammon, who will commit to your trust true
riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another
man's, who shall give you that which is your own? He being such, did
at that time cleave to me, and with me wavered in purpose, what course
of life was to be taken.
Nebridius also, who having left his native country near Carthage,
yea and Carthage itself, where he had much lived, leaving his
excellent family-estate and house, and a mother behind, who was not to
follow him, had come to Milan, for no other reason but that with me he
might live in a most ardent search after truth and wisdom. Like me
he sighed, like me he wavered, an ardent searcher after true life, and
a most acute examiner of the most difficult questions. Thus were there
the mouths of three indigent persons, sighing out their wants one to
another, and waiting upon Thee that Thou mightest give them their meat
in due season. And in all the bitterness which by Thy mercy followed
our worldly affairs, as we looked towards the end, why we should
suffer all this, darkness met us; and we turned away groaning, and
saying, How long shall these things be? This too we often said; and so
saying forsook them not, for as yet there dawned nothing certain,
which these forsaken, we might embrace.
And I, viewing and reviewing things, most wondered at the length
of time from that my nineteenth year, wherein I had begun to kindle
with the desire of wisdom, settling when I had found her, to abandon
all the empty hopes and lying frenzies of vain desires. And lo, I
was now in my thirtieth year, sticking in the same mire, greedy of
enjoying things present, which passed away and wasted my soul; while I
said to myself, "Tomorrow I shall find it; it will appear manifestly
and I shall grasp it; to, Faustus the Manichee will come, and clear
every thing! O you great men, ye Academicians, it is true then, that
no certainty can be attained for the ordering of life! Nay, let us
search the more diligently, and despair not. Lo, things in the
ecclesiastical books are not absurd to us now, which sometimes
seemed absurd, and may be otherwise taken, and in a good sense. I will
take my stand, where, as a child, my parents placed me, until the
clear truth be found out. But where shall it be sought or when?
Ambrose has no leisure; we have no leisure to read; where shall we
find even the books? Whence, or when procure them? from whom borrow
them? Let set times be appointed, and certain hours be ordered for the
health of our soul. Great hope has dawned; the Catholic Faith
teaches not what we thought, and vainly accused it of; her
instructed members hold it profane to believe God to be bounded by the
figure of a human body: and do we doubt to 'knock,' that the rest 'may
be opened'? The forenoons our scholars take up; what do we during
the rest? Why not this? But when then pay we court to our great
friends, whose favour we need? When compose what we may sell to
scholars? When refresh ourselves, unbending our minds from this
intenseness of care?
"Perish every thing, dismiss we these empty vanities, and betake
ourselves to the one search for truth! Life is vain, death
uncertain; if it steals upon us on a sudden, in what state shall we
depart hence? and where shall we learn what here we have neglected?
and shall we not rather suffer the punishment of this negligence?
What, if death itself cut off and end all care and feeling? Then
must this be ascertained. But God forbid this! It is no vain and empty
thing, that the excellent dignity of the authority of the Christian
Faith hath overspread the whole world. Never would such and so great
things be by God wrought for us, if with the death of the body the
life of the soul came to an end. Wherefore delay then to abandon
worldly hopes, and give ourselves wholly to seek after God and the
blessed life? But wait! Even those things are pleasant; they have
some, and no small sweetness. We must not lightly abandon them, for it
were a shame to return again to them. See, it is no great matter now
to obtain some station, and then what should we more wish for? We have
store of powerful friends; if nothing else offer, and we be in much
haste, at least a presidentship may be given us: and a wife with
some money, that she increase not our charges: and this shall be the
bound of desire. Many great men, and most worthy of imitation, have
given themselves to the study of wisdom in the state of marriage.
While I went over these things, and these winds shifted and drove my
heart this way and that, time passed on, but I delayed to turn to
the Lord; and from day to day deferred to live in Thee, and deferred
not daily to die in myself. Loving a happy life, I feared it in its
own abode, and sought it, by fleeing from it. I thought I should be
too miserable, unless folded in female arms; and of the medicine of
Thy mercy to cure that infirmity I thought not, not having tried it.
As for continency, I supposed it to be in our own power (though in
myself I did not find that power), being so foolish as not to know
what is written, None can be continent unless Thou give it; and that
Thou wouldest give it, if with inward groanings I did knock at Thine
ears, and with a settled faith did cast my care on Thee.
Alypius indeed kept me from marrying; alleging that so could we by
no means with undistracted leisure live together in the love of
wisdom, as we had long desired. For himself was even then most pure in
this point, so that it was wonderful; and that the more, since in
the outset of his youth he had entered into that course, but had not
stuck fast therein; rather had he felt remorse and revolting at it,
living thenceforth until now most continently. But I opposed him
with the examples of those who as married men had cherished wisdom,
and served God acceptably, and retained their friends, and loved
them faithfully. Of whose greatness of spirit I was far short; and
bound with the disease of the flesh, and its deadly sweetness, drew
along my chain, dreading to be loosed, and as if my wound had been
fretted, put back his good persuasions, as it were the hand of one
that would unchain me. Moreover, by me did the serpent speak unto
Alypius himself, by my tongue weaving and laying in his path
pleasurable snares, wherein his virtuous and free feet might be
entangled.
For when he wondered that I, whom he esteemed not slightly, should
stick so fast in the birdlime of that pleasure, as to protest (so
oft as we discussed it) that I could never lead a single life; and
urged in my defence when I saw him wonder, that there was great
difference between his momentary and scarce-remembered knowledge of
that life, which so he might easily despise, and my continued
acquaintance whereto if the honourable name of marriage were added, he
ought not to wonder why I could not contemn that course; he began also
to desire to be married; not as overcome with desire of such pleasure,
but out of curiosity. For he would fain know, he said, what that
should be, without which my life, to him so pleasing, would to me seem
not life but a punishment. For his mind, free from that chain, was
amazed at my thraldom; and through that amazement was going on to a
desire of trying it, thence to the trial itself, and thence perhaps to
sink into that bondage whereat he wondered, seeing he was willing to
make a covenant with death; and he that loves danger, shall fall
into it. For whatever honour there be in the office of well-ordering a
married life, and a family, moved us but slightly. But me for the most
part the habit of satisfying an insatiable appetite tormented, while
it held me captive; him, an admiring wonder was leading captive. So
were we, until Thou, O Most High, not forsaking our dust,
commiserating us miserable, didst come to our help, by wondrous and
secret ways.
Continual effort was made to have me married. I wooed, I was
promised, chiefly through my mother's pains, that so once married, the
health-giving baptism might cleanse me, towards which she rejoiced
that I was being daily fitted, and observed that her prayers, and
Thy promises, were being fulfilled in my faith. At which time
verily, both at my request and her own longing, with strong cries of
heart she daily begged of Thee, that Thou wouldest by a vision
discover unto her something concerning my future marriage; Thou
never wouldest. She saw indeed certain vain and fantastic things, such
as the energy of the human spirit, busied thereon, brought together;
and these she told me of, not with that confidence she was wont,
when Thou showedst her any thing, but slighting them. For she could,
she said, through a certain feeling, which in words she could not
express, discern betwixt Thy revelations, and the dreams of her own
soul. Yet the matter was pressed on, and a maiden asked in marriage,
two years under the fit age; and, as pleasing, was waited for.
And many of us friends conferring about, and detesting the turbulent
turmoils of human life, had debated and now almost resolved on
living apart from business and the bustle of men; and this was to be
thus obtained; we were to bring whatever we might severally procure,
and make one household of all; so that through the truth of our
friendship nothing should belong especially to any; but the whole thus
derived from all, should as a whole belong to each, and all to all. We
thought there might be some often persons in this society; some of
whom were very rich, especially Romanianus our townsman, from
childhood a very familiar friend of mine, whom the grievous
perplexities of his affairs had brought up to court; who was the
most earnest for this project; and therein was his voice of great
weight, because his ample estate far exceeded any of the rest. We
had settled also that two annual officers, as it were, should
provide all things necessary, the rest being undisturbed. But when
we began to consider whether the wives, which some of us already
had, others hoped to have, would allow this, all that plan, which
was being so well moulded, fell to pieces in our hands, was utterly
dashed and cast aside. Thence we betook us to sighs, and groans, and
our steps to follow the broad and beaten ways of the world; for many
thoughts were in our heart, but Thy counsel standeth for ever. Out
of which counsel Thou didst deride ours, and preparedst Thine own;
purposing to give us meat in due season, and to fill our souls with
blessing.
Meanwhile my sins were being multiplied, and my concubine being torn
from my side as a hindrance to my marriage, my heart which clave
unto her was torn and wounded and bleeding. And she returned to Afric,
vowing unto Thee never to know any other man, leaving with me my son
by her. But unhappy I, who could not imitate a very woman, impatient
of delay, inasmuch as not till after two years was I to obtain her I
sought not being so much a lover of marriage as a slave to lust,
procured another, though no wife, that so by the servitude of an
enduring custom, the disease of my soul might be kept up and carried
on in its vigour, or even augmented, into the dominion of marriage.
Nor was that my wound cured, which had been made by the cutting away
of the former, but after inflammation and most acute pain, it
mortified, and my pains became less acute, but more desperate.
To Thee be praise, glory to Thee, Fountain of mercies. I was
becoming more miserable, and Thou nearer. Thy right hand was
continually ready to pluck me out of the mire, and to wash me
thoroughly, and I knew it not; nor did anything call me back from a
yet deeper gulf of carnal pleasures, but the fear of death, and of Thy
judgment to come; which amid all my changes, never departed from my
breast. And in my disputes with my friends Alypius and Nebridius of
the nature of good and evil, I held that Epicurus had in my mind won
the palm, had I not believed that after death there remained a life
for the soul, and places of requital according to men's deserts, which
Epicurus would not believe. And I asked, "were we immortal, and to
live in perpetual bodily pleasure, without fear of losing it, why
should we not be happy, or what else should we seek?" not knowing that
great misery was involved in this very thing, that, being thus sunk
and blinded, I could not discern that light of excellence and
beauty, to be embraced for its own sake, which the eye of flesh cannot
see, and is seen by the inner man. Nor did I, unhappy, consider from
what source it sprung, that even on these things, foul as they were, I
with pleasure discoursed with my friends, nor could I, even
according to the notions I then had of happiness, be happy without
friends, amid what abundance soever of carnal pleasures. And yet these
friends I loved for themselves only, and I felt that I was beloved
of them again for myself only.
O crooked paths! Woe to the audacious soul, which hoped, by
forsaking Thee, to gain some better thing! Turned it hath, and
turned again, upon back, sides, and belly, yet all was painful; and
Thou alone rest. And behold, Thou art at hand, and deliverest us
from our wretched wanderings, and placest us in Thy way, and dost
comfort us, and say, "Run; I will carry you; yea I will bring you
through; there also will I carry you."
BOOK VII

Deceased was now that my evil and abominable youth, and I was
passing into early manhood; the more defiled by vain things as I
grew in years, who could not imagine any substance, but such as is
wont to be seen with these eyes. I thought not of Thee, O God, under
the figure of a human body; since I began to hear aught of wisdom, I
always avoided this; and rejoiced to have found the same in the
faith of our spiritual mother, Thy Catholic Church. But what else to
conceive of Thee I knew not. And I, a man, and such a man, sought to
conceive of Thee the sovereign, only, true God; and I did in my inmost
soul believe that Thou wert incorruptible, and uninjurable, and
unchangeable; because though not knowing whence or how, yet I saw
plainly, and was sure, that that which may be corrupted must be
inferior to that which cannot; what could not be injured I preferred
unhesitatingly to what could receive injury; the unchangeable to
things subject to change. My heart passionately cried out against
all my phantoms, and with this one blow I sought to beat away from the
eye of my mind all that unclean troop which buzzed around it. And
to, being scarce put off, in the twinkling of an eye they gathered
again thick about me, flew against my face, and beclouded it; so
that though not under the form of the human body, yet was I
constrained to conceive of Thee (that incorruptible, uninjurable,
and unchangeable, which I preferred before the corruptible, and
injurable, and changeable) as being in space, whether infused into the
world, or diffused infinitely without it. Because whatsoever I
conceived, deprived of this space, seemed to me nothing, yea
altogether nothing, not even a void, as if a body were taken out of
its place, and the place should remain empty of any body at all, of
earth and water, air and heaven, yet would it remain a void place,
as it were a spacious nothing.
I then being thus gross-hearted, nor clear even to myself,
whatsoever was not extended over certain spaces, nor diffused, nor
condensed, nor swelled out, or did not or could not receive some of
these dimensions, I thought to be altogether nothing. For over such
forms as my eyes are wont to range, did my heart then range: nor yet
did I see that this same notion of the mind, whereby I formed those
very images, was not of this sort, and yet it could not have formed
them, had not itself been some great thing. So also did I endeavour to
conceive of Thee, Life of my life, as vast, through infinite spaces on
every side penetrating the whole mass of the universe, and beyond
it, every way, through unmeasurable boundless spaces; so that the
earth should have Thee, the heaven have Thee, all things have Thee,
and they be bounded in Thee, and Thou bounded nowhere. For that as the
body of this air which is above the earth, hindereth not the light
of the sun from passing through it, penetrating it, not by bursting or
by cutting, but by filling it wholly: so I thought the body not of
heaven, air, and sea only, but of the earth too, pervious to Thee,
so that in all its parts, the greatest as the smallest, it should
admit Thy presence, by a secret inspiration, within and without,
directing all things which Thou hast created. So I guessed, only as
unable to conceive aught else, for it was false. For thus should a
greater part of the earth contain a greater portion of Thee, and a
less, a lesser: and all things should in such sort be full of Thee,
that the body of an elephant should contain more of Thee, than that of
a sparrow, by how much larger it is, and takes up more room; and
thus shouldest Thou make the several portions of Thyself present
unto the several portions of the world, in fragments, large to the
large, petty to the petty. But such art not Thou. But not as yet hadst
Thou enlightened my darkness.
It was enough for me, Lord, to oppose to those deceived deceivers,
and dumb praters, since Thy word sounded not out of them; -that was
enough which long ago, while we were yet at Carthage, Nebridius used
to propound, at which all we that heard it were staggered: "That
said nation of darkness, which the Manichees are wont to set as an
opposing mass over against Thee, what could it have done unto Thee,
hadst Thou refused to fight with it? For, if they answered, 'it
would have done Thee some hurt,' then shouldest Thou be subject to
injury and corruption: but if could do Thee no hurt,' then was no
reason brought for Thy fighting with it; and fighting in such wise, as
that a certain portion or member of Thee, or offspring of Thy very
Substance, should he mingled with opposed powers, and natures not
created by Thee, and be by them so far corrupted and changed to the
worse, as to be turned from happiness into misery, and need
assistance, whereby it might be extricated and purified; and that this
offspring of Thy Substance was the soul, which being enthralled,
defiled, corrupted, Thy Word, free, pure, and whole, might relieve;
that Word itself being still corruptible because it was of one and the
same Substance. So then, should they affirm Thee, whatsoever Thou art,
that is, Thy Substance whereby Thou art, to be incorruptible, then
were all these sayings false and execrable; but if corruptible, the
very statement showed it to be false and revolting." This argument
then of Nebridius sufficed against those who deserved wholly to be
vomited out of the overcharged stomach; for they had no escape,
without horrible blasphemy of heart and tongue, thus thinking and
speaking of Thee.
But I also as yet, although I held and was firmly persuaded that
Thou our Lord the true God, who madest not only our souls, but our
bodies, and not only our souls and bodies, but all beings, and all
things, wert undefilable and unalterable, and in no degree mutable;
yet understood I not, clearly and without difficulty, the cause of
evil. And yet whatever it were, I perceived it was in such wise to
be sought out, as should not constrain me to believe the immutable God
to be mutable, lest I should become that evil I was seeking out. I
sought it out then, thus far free from anxiety, certain of the untruth
of what these held, from whom I shrunk with my whole heart: for I saw,
that through enquiring the origin of evil, they were filled with evil,
in that they preferred to think that Thy substance did suffer ill than
their own did commit it.
And I strained to perceive what I now heard, that free-will was
the cause of our doing ill, and Thy just judgment of our suffering
ill. But I was not able clearly to discern it. So then endeavouring to
draw my soul's vision out of that deep pit, I was again plunged
therein, and endeavouring often, I was plunged back as often. But this
raised me a little into Thy light, that I knew as well that I had a
will, as that I lived: when then I did will or nill any thing, I was
most sure that no other than myself did will and nill: and I all but
saw that there was the cause of my sin. But what I did against my
will, I saw that I suffered rather than did, and I judged not to be my
fault, but my punishment; whereby, however, holding Thee to be just, I
speedily confessed myself to be not unjustly punished. But again I
said, Who made me? Did not my God, Who is not only good, but
goodness itself? Whence then came I to will evil and nill good, so
that I am thus justly punished? who set this in me, and ingrated
into me this plant of bitterness, seeing I was wholly formed by my
most sweet God? If the devil were the author, whence is that same
devil? And if he also by his own perverse will, of a good angel became
a devil, whence, again, came in him that evil will whereby he became a
devil, seeing the whole nature of angels was made by that most good
Creator? By these thoughts I was again sunk down and choked; yet not
brought down to that hell of error (where no man confesseth unto
Thee), to think rather that Thou dost suffer ill, than that man doth
it.
For I was in such wise striving to find out the rest, as one who had
already found that the incorruptible must needs be better than the
corruptible: and Thee therefore, whatsoever Thou wert, I confessed
to be incorruptible. For never soul was, nor shall be, able to
conceive any thing which may be better than Thou, who art the
sovereign and the best good. But since most truly and certainly, the
incorruptible is preferable to the corruptible (as I did now prefer
it), then, wert Thou not incorruptible, I could in thought have
arrived at something better than my God. Where then I saw the
incorruptible to be preferable to the corruptible, there ought I to
seek for Thee, and there observe "wherein evil itself was"; that is,
whence corruption comes, by which Thy substance can by no means be
impaired. For corruption does no ways impair our God; by no will, by
no necessity, by no unlooked-for chance: because He is God, and what
He wills is good, and Himself is that good; but to be corrupted is not
good. Nor art Thou against Thy will constrained to any thing, since
Thy will is not greater than Thy power. But greater should it be, were
Thyself greater than Thyself. For the will and power of God is God
Himself. And what can be unlooked-for by Thee, Who knowest all things?
Nor is there any nature in things, but Thou knowest it. And what
should we more say, "why that substance which God is should not be
corruptible," seeing if it were so, it should not be God?
And I sought "whence is evil," and sought in an evil way; and saw
not the evil in my very search. I set now before the sight of my
spirit the whole creation, whatsoever we can see therein (as sea,
earth, air, stars, trees, mortal creatures); yea, and whatever in it
we do not see, as the firmament of heaven, all angels moreover, and
all the spiritual inhabitants thereof. But these very beings, as
though they were bodies, did my fancy dispose in place, and I made one
great mass of Thy creation, distinguished as to the kinds of bodies;
some, real bodies, some, what myself had feigned for spirits. And this
mass I made huge, not as it was (which I could not know), but as I
thought convenient, yet every way finite. But Thee, O Lord, I imagined
on every part environing and penetrating it, though every way
infinite: as if there were a sea, every where, and on every side,
through unmeasured space, one only boundless sea, and it contained
within it some sponge, huge, but bounded; that sponge must needs, in
all its parts, be filled from that unmeasurable sea: so conceived I
Thy creation, itself finite, full of Thee, the Infinite; and I said,
Behold God, and behold what God hath created; and God is good, yea,
most mightily and incomparably better than all these: but yet He,
the Good, created them good; and see how He environeth and fulfils
them. Where is evil then, and whence, and how crept it in hither? What
is its root, and what its seed? Or hath it no being? Why then fear
we and avoid what is not? Or if we fear it idly, then is that very
fear evil, whereby the soul is thus idly goaded and racked. Yea, and
so much a greater evil, as we have nothing to fear, and yet do fear.
Therefore either is that evil which we fear, or else evil is, that
we fear. Whence is it then? seeing God, the Good, hath created all
these things good. He indeed, the greater and chiefest Good, hath
created these lesser goods; still both Creator and created, all are
good. Whence is evil? Or, was there some evil matter of which He made,
and formed, and ordered it, yet left something in it which He did
not convert into good? Why so then? Had He no might to turn and change
the whole, so that no evil should remain in it, seeing He is
All-mighty? Lastly, why would He make any thing at all of it, and
not rather by the same All-mightiness cause it not to be at all? Or,
could it then be against His will? Or if it were from eternity, why
suffered He it so to be for infinite spaces of times past, and was
pleased so long after to make something out of it? Or if He were
suddenly pleased now to effect somewhat, this rather should the
All-mighty have effected, that this evil matter should not be, and
He alone be, the whole, true, sovereign, and infinite Good. Or if it
was not good that He who was good should not also frame and create
something that were good, then, that evil matter being taken away
and brought to nothing, He might form good matter, whereof to create
all things. For He should not be All-mighty, if He might not create
something good without the aid of that matter which Himself had not
created. These thoughts I revolved in my miserable heart,
overcharged with most gnawing cares, lest I should die ere I had found
the truth; yet was the faith of Thy Christ, our Lord and Saviour,
professed in the Church Catholic, firmly fixed in my heart, in many
points, indeed, as yet unformed, and fluctuating from the rule of
doctrine; yet did not my mind utterly leave it, but rather daily
took in more and more of it.
But this time also had I rejected the lying divinations and
impious dotages of the astrologers. Let Thine own mercies, out of my
very inmost soul, confess unto Thee for this also, O my God. For Thou,
Thou altogether (for who else calls us back from the death of all
errors, save the Life which cannot die, and the Wisdom which needing
no light enlightens the minds that need it, whereby the universe is
directed, down to the whirling leaves of trees?) -Thou madest
provision for my obstinacy wherewith I struggled against
Vindicianus, an acute old man, and Nebridius, a young man of admirable
talents; the first vehemently affirming, and the latter often
(though with some doubtfulness) saying, "That there was no such art
whereby to foresee things to come, but that men's conjectures were a
sort of lottery, and that out of many things which they said should
come to pass, some actually did, unawares to them who spake it, who
stumbled upon it, through their oft speaking." Thou providedst then
a friend for me, no negligent consulter of the astrologers; nor yet
well skilled in those arts, but (as I said) a curious consulter with
them, and yet knowing something, which he said he had heard of his
father, which how far it went to overthrow the estimation of that art,
he knew not. This man then, Firminus by name, having had a liberal
education, and well taught in Rhetoric, consulted me, as one very dear
to him, what, according to his socalled constellations, I thought on
certain affairs of his, wherein his worldly hopes had risen, and I,
who had herein now begun to incline towards Nebridius' opinion, did
not altogether refuse to conjecture, and tell him what came into my
unresolved mind; but added, that I was now almost persuaded that these
were but empty and ridiculous follies. Thereupon he told me that his
father had been very curious in such books, and had a friend as
earnest in them as himself, who with joint study and conference fanned
the flame of their affections to these toys, so that they would
observe the moments whereat the very dumb animals, which bred about
their houses, gave birth, and then observed the relative position of
the heavens, thereby to make fresh experiments in this so-called
art. He said then that he had heard of his father, that what time
his mother was about to give birth to him, Firminus, a woman-servant
of that friend of his father's was also with child, which could not
escape her master, who took care with most exact diligence to know the
births of his very puppies. And so it was that (the one for his
wife, and the other for his servant, with the most careful
observation, reckoning days, hours, nay, the lesser divisions of the
hours) both were delivered at the same instant; so that both were
constrained to allow the same constellations, even to the minutest
points, the one for his son, the other for his new-born slave. For
so soon as the women began to be in labour, they each gave notice to
the other what was fallen out in their houses, and had messengers
ready to send to one another so soon as they had notice of the
actual birth, of which they had easily provided, each in his own
province, to give instant intelligence. Thus then the messengers of
the respective parties met, he averred, at such an equal distance from
either house that neither of them could make out any difference in the
position of the stars, or any other minutest points; and yet Firminus,
born in a high estate in his parents' house, ran his course through
the gilded paths of life, was increased in riches, raised to
honours; whereas that slave continued to serve his masters, without
any relaxation of his yoke, as Firminus, who knew him, told me.
Upon hearing and believing these things, told by one of such
credibility, all that my resistance gave way; and first I
endeavoured to reclaim Firminus himself from that curiosity, by
telling him that upon inspecting his constellations, I ought if I were
to predict truly, to have seen in them parents eminent among their
neighbours, a noble family in its own city, high birth, good
education, liberal learning. But if that servant had consulted me upon
the same constellations, since they were his also, I ought again (to
tell him too truly) to see in them a lineage the most abject, a
slavish condition, and every thing else utterly at variance with the
former. Whence then, if I spake the truth, I should, from the same
constellations, speak diversely, or if I spake the same, speak
falsely: thence it followed most certainly that whatever, upon
consideration of the constellations, was spoken truly, was spoken
not out of art, but chance; and whatever spoken falsely, was not out
of ignorance in the art, but the failure of the chance.
An opening thus made, ruminating with myself on the like things,
that no one of those dotards (who lived by such a trade, and whom I
longed to attack, and with derision to confute) might urge against
me that Firminus had informed me falsely, or his father him; I bent my
thoughts on those that are born twins, who for the most part come
out of the womb so near one to other, that the small interval (how
much force soever in the nature of things folk may pretend it to have)
cannot be noted by human observation, or be at all expressed in
those figures which the astrologer is to inspect, that he may
pronounce truly. Yet they cannot be true: for looking into the same
figures, he must have predicted the same of Esau and Jacob, whereas
the same happened not to them. Therefore he must speak falsely; or
if truly, then, looking into the same figures, he must not give the
same answer. Not by art, then, but by chance, would he speak truly.
For Thou, O Lord, most righteous Ruler of the Universe, while
consulters and consulted know it not, dost by Thy hidden inspiration
effect that the consulter should hear what, according to the hidden
deservings of souls, he ought to hear, out of the unsearchable depth
of Thy just judgment, to Whom let no man say, What is this? Why
that? Let him not so say, for he is man.
Now then, O my Helper, hadst Thou loosed me from those fetters:
and I sought "whence is evil," and found no way. But Thou sufferedst
me not by any fluctuations of thought to be carried away from the
Faith whereby I believed Thee both to be, and Thy substance to be
unchangeable, and that Thou hast a care of, and wouldest judge men,
and that in Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord, and the holy Scriptures,
which the authority of Thy Catholic Church pressed upon me, Thou hadst
set the way of man's salvation, to that life which is to be after this
death. These things being safe and immovably settled in my mind, I
sought anxiously "whence was evil?" What were the pangs of my
teeming heart, what groans, O my God! yet even there were Thine ears
open, and I knew it not; and when in silence I vehemently sought,
those silent contritions of my soul were strong cries unto Thy
mercy. Thou knewest what I suffered, and no man. For, what was that
which was thence through my tongue distilled into the ears of my
most familiar friends? Did the whole tumult of my soul, for which
neither time nor utterance sufficed, reach them? Yet went up the whole
to Thy hearing, all which I roared out from the groanings of my heart;
and my desire was before Thee, and the light of mine eyes was not with
me: for that was within, I without: nor was that confined to place,
but I was intent on things contained in place, but there found I no
resting-place, nor did they so receive me, that I could say, "It is
enough," "it is well": nor did they yet suffer me to turn back,
where it might be well enough with me. For to these things was I
superior, but inferior to Thee; and Thou art my true joy when
subjected to Thee, and Thou hadst subjected to me what Thou
createdst below me. And this was the true temperament, and middle
region of my safety, to remain in Thy Image, and by serving Thee, rule
the body. But when I rose proudly against Thee, and ran against the
Lord with my neck, with the thick bosses of my buckler, even these
inferior things were set above me, and pressed me down, and no where
was there respite or space of breathing. They met my sight on all
sides by heaps and troops, and in thought the images thereof presented
themselves unsought, as I would return to Thee, as if they would say
unto me, "Whither goest thou, unworthy and defiled?" And these
things had grown out of my wound; for Thou "humbledst the proud like
one that is wounded," and through my own swelling was I separated from
Thee; yea, my pride-swollen face closed up mine eyes.
But Thou, Lord, abidest for ever, yet not for ever art Thou angry
with us; because Thou pitiest our dust and ashes, and it was
pleasing in Thy sight to reform my deformities; and by inward goads
didst Thou rouse me, that I should be ill at ease, until Thou wert
manifested to my inward sight. Thus, by the secret hand of Thy
medicining was my swelling abated, and the troubled and bedimmed
eyesight of my mind, by the smarting anointings of healthful
sorrows, was from day to day healed.
And Thou, willing first to show me how Thou resistest the proud, but
givest grace unto the humble, and by how great an act of Thy mercy
Thou hadst traced out to men the way of humility, in that Thy Word was
made flesh, and dwelt among men:- Thou procuredst for me, by means
of one puffed up with most unnatural pride, certain books of the
Platonists, translated from Greek into Latin. And therein I read,
not indeed in the very words, but to the very same purpose, enforced
by many and divers reasons, that In the beginning was the Word, and
the Word was with God, and the Word was God: the Same was in the
beginning with God: all things were made by Him, and without Him was
nothing made: that which was made by Him is life, and the life was the
light of men, and the light shineth in the darkness, and the
darkness comprehended it not. And that the soul of man, though it
bears witness to the light, yet itself is not that light; but the Word
of God, being God, is that true light that lighteth every man that
cometh into the world. And that He was in the world, and the world was
made by Him, and the world knew Him not. But, that He came unto His
own, and His own received Him not; but as many as received Him, to
them gave He power to become the sons of God, as many as believed in
His name; this I read not there.
Again I read there, that God the Word was born not of flesh nor of
blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of
God. But that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, I read
not there. For I traced in those books that it was many and divers
ways said, that the Son was in the form of the Father, and thought
it not robbery to be equal with God, for that naturally He was the
Same Substance. But that He emptied Himself, taking the form of a
servant, being made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as
a man, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, and that the
death of the cross: wherefore God exalted Him from the dead, and
gave Him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee
should how, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under
the earth; and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus
Christ is in the glory of God the Father; those books have not. For
that before all times and above all times Thy Only-Begotten Son
remaineth unchangeable, co-eternal with Thee, and that of His
fulness souls receive, that they may be blessed; and that by
participation of wisdom abiding in them, they are renewed, so as to be
wise, is there. But that in due time He died for the ungodly; and that
Thou sparedst not Thine Only Son, but deliveredst Him for us all, is
not there. For Thou hiddest these things from the wise, and revealedst
them to babes; that they that labour and are heavy laden might come
unto Him, and He refresh them, because He is meek and lowly in
heart; and the meek He directeth in judgment, and the gentle He
teacheth His ways, beholding our lowliness and trouble, and
forgiving all our sins. But such as are lifted up in the lofty walk of
some would-be sublimer learning, hear not Him, saying, Learn of Me,
for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your
souls. Although they knew God, yet they glorify Him not as God, nor
are thankful, but wax vain in their thoughts; and their foolish
heart is darkened; professing that they were wise, they became fools.
And therefore did I read there also, that they had changed the glory
of Thy incorruptible nature into idols and divers shapes, into the
likeness of the image of corruptible man, and birds, and beasts, and
creeping things; namely, into that Egyptian food for which Esau lost
his birthright, for that Thy first-born people worshipped the head
of a four-footed beast instead of Thee; turning in heart back
towards Egypt; and bowing Thy image, their own soul, before the
image of a calf that eateth hay. These things found I here, but I
fed not on them. For it pleased Thee, O Lord, to take away the
reproach of diminution from Jacob, that the elder should serve the
younger: and Thou calledst the Gentiles into Thine inheritance. And
I had come to Thee from among the Gentiles; and I set my mind upon the
gold which Thou willedst Thy people to take from Egypt, seeing Thine
it was, wheresoever it were. And to the Athenians Thou saidst by Thy
Apostle, that in Thee we live, move, and have our being, as one of
their own poets had said. And verily these books came from thence. But
I set not my mind on the idols of Egypt, whom they served with Thy
gold, who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and
served the creature more than the Creator.
And being thence admonished to return to myself, I entered even into
my inward self, Thou being my Guide: and able I was, for Thou wert
become my Helper. And I entered and beheld with the eye of my soul
(such as it was), above the same eye of my soul, above my mind, the
Light Unchangeable. Not this ordinary light, which all flesh may
look upon, nor as it were a greater of the same kind, as though the
brightness of this should be manifold brighter, and with its greatness
take up all space. Not such was this light, but other, yea, far
other from these. Nor was it above my soul, as oil is above water, nor
yet as heaven above earth: but above to my soul, because It made me;
and I below It, because I was made by It. He that knows the Truth,
knows what that Light is; and he that knows It, knows eternity. Love
knoweth it. O Truth Who art Eternity! and Love Who art Truth! and
Eternity Who art Love! Thou art my God, to Thee do I sigh night and
day. Thee when I first knew, Thou liftedst me up, that I might see
there was what I might see, and that I was not yet such as to see. And
Thou didst beat back the weakness of my sight, streaming forth Thy
beams of light upon me most strongly, and I trembled with love and
awe: and I perceived myself to be far off from Thee, in the region
of unlikeness, as if I heard this Thy voice from on high: "I am the
food of grown men, grow, and thou shalt feed upon Me; nor shalt thou
convert Me, like the food of thy flesh into thee, but thou shalt be
converted into Me." And I learned, that Thou for iniquity chastenest
man, and Thou madest my soul to consume away like a spider. And I
said, "Is Truth therefore nothing because it is not diffused through
space finite or infinite?" And Thou criedst to me from afar: "Yet
verily, I AM that I AM." And I heard, as the heart heareth, nor had
I room to doubt, and I should sooner doubt that I live than that Truth
is not, which is clearly seen, being understood by those things
which are made. And I beheld the other things below Thee, and I
perceived that they neither altogether are, nor altogether are not,
for they are, since they are from Thee, but are not, because they
are not what Thou art. For that truly is which remains unchangeably.
It is good then for me to hold fast unto God; for if I remain not in
Him, I cannot in myself; but He remaining in Himself, reneweth all
things. And Thou art the Lord my God, since Thou standest not in
need of my goodness.
And it was manifested unto me, that those things be good which yet
are corrupted; which neither were they sovereignly good, nor unless
they were good could he corrupted: for if sovereignly good, they
were incorruptible, if not good at all, there were nothing in them
to be corrupted. For corruption injures, but unless it diminished
goodness, it could not injure. Either then corruption injures not,
which cannot be; or which is most certain, all which is corrupted is
deprived of good. But if they he deprived of all good, they shall
cease to be. For if they shall be, and can now no longer he corrupted,
they shall be better than before, because they shall abide
incorruptibly. And what more monstrous than to affirm things to become
better by losing all their good? Therefore, if they shall be
deprived of all good, they shall no longer be. So long therefore as
they are, they are good: therefore whatsoever is, is good. That evil
then which I sought, whence it is, is not any substance: for were it a
substance, it should be good. For either it should be an incorruptible
substance, and so a chief good: or a corruptible substance; which
unless it were good, could not be corrupted. I perceived therefore,
and it was manifested to me that Thou madest all things good, nor is
there any substance at all, which Thou madest not; and for that Thou
madest not all things equal, therefore are all things; because each is
good, and altogether very good, because our God made all things very
good.
And to Thee is nothing whatsoever evil: yea, not only to Thee, but
also to Thy creation as a whole, because there is nothing without,
which may break in, and corrupt that order which Thou hast appointed
it. But in the parts thereof some things, because unharmonising with
other some, are accounted evil: whereas those very things harmonise
with others, and are good; and in themselves are good. And all these
things which harmonise not together, do yet with the inferior part,
which we call Earth, having its own cloudy and windy sky harmonising
with it. Far be it then that I should say, "These things should not
be": for should I see nought but these, I should indeed long for the
better; but still must even for these alone praise Thee; for that Thou
art to be praised, do show from the earth, dragons, and all deeps,
fire, hail, snow, ice, and stormy wind, which fulfil Thy word;
mountains, and all hills, fruitful trees, and all cedars; beasts,
and all cattle, creeping things, and flying fowls; kings of the earth,
and all people, princes, and all judges of the earth; young men and
maidens, old men and young, praise Thy Name. But when, from heaven,
these praise Thee, praise Thee, our God, in the heights all Thy
angels, all Thy hosts, sun and moon, all the stars and light, the
Heaven of heavens, and the waters that be above the heavens, praise
Thy Name; I did not now long for things better, because I conceived of
all: and with a sounder judgment I apprehended that the things above
were better than these below, but altogether better than those above
by themselves.
There is no soundness in them, whom aught of Thy creation
displeaseth: as neither in me, when much which Thou hast made,
displeased me. And because my soul durst not be displeased at my
God, it would fain not account that Thine, which displeased it.
Hence it had gone into the opinion of two substances, and had no rest,
but talked idly. And returning thence, it had made to itself a God,
through infinite measures of all space; and thought it to be Thee, and
placed it in its heart; and had again become the temple of its own
idol, to Thee abominable. But after Thou hadst soothed my head,
unknown to me, and closed mine eyes that they should not behold
vanity, I ceased somewhat of my former self, and my frenzy was
lulled to sleep; and I awoke in Thee, and saw Thee infinite, but in
another way, and this sight was not derived from the flesh.
And I looked back on other things; and I saw that they owed their
being to Thee; and were all bounded in Thee: but in a different way;
not as being in space; but because Thou containest all things in Thine
hand in Thy Truth; and all things are true so far as they nor is there
any falsehood, unless when that is thought to be, which is not. And
I saw that all things did harmonise, not with their places only, but
with their seasons. And that Thou, who only art Eternal, didst not
begin to work after innumerable spaces of times spent; for that all
spaces of times, both which have passed, and which shall pass, neither
go nor come, but through Thee, working and abiding.
And I perceived and found it nothing strange, that bread which is
pleasant to a healthy palate is loathsome to one distempered: and to
sore eyes light is offensive, which to the sound is delightful. And
Thy righteousness displeaseth the wicked; much more the viper and
reptiles, which Thou hast created good, fitting in with the inferior
portions of Thy Creation, with which the very wicked also fit in;
and that the more, by how much they be unlike Thee; but with the
superior creatures, by how much they become more like to Thee. And I
enquired what iniquity was, and found it to be substance, but the
perversion of the will, turned aside from Thee, O God, the Supreme,
towards these lower things, and casting out its bowels, and puffed
up outwardly.
And I wondered that I now loved Thee, and no phantasm for Thee.
And yet did I not press on to enjoy my God; but was borne up to Thee
by Thy beauty, and soon borne down from Thee by mine own weight,
sinking with sorrow into these inferior things. This weight was carnal
custom. Yet dwelt there with me a remembrance of Thee; nor did I any
way doubt that there was One to whom I might cleave, but that I was
not yet such as to cleave to Thee: for that the body which is
corrupted presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle
weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things. And most
certain I was, that Thy invisible works from the creation of the world
are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even
Thy eternal power and Godhead. For examining whence it was that I
admired the beauty of bodies celestial or terrestrial; and what
aided me in judging soundly on things mutable, and pronouncing,
"This ought to be thus, this not"; examining, I say, whence it was
that I so judged, seeing I did so judge, I had found the
unchangeable and true Eternity of Truth above my changeable mind.
And thus by degrees I passed from bodies to the soul, which through
the bodily senses perceives; and thence to its inward faculty, to
which the bodily senses represent things external, whitherto reach the
faculties of beasts; and thence again to the reasoning faculty, to
which what is received from the senses of the body is referred to be
judged. Which finding itself also to be in me a thing variable, raised
itself up to its own understanding, and drew away my thoughts from the
power of habit, withdrawing itself from those troops of
contradictory phantasms; that so it might find what that light was
whereby it was bedewed, when, without all doubting, it cried out,
"That the unchangeable was to be preferred to the changeable";
whence also it knew That Unchangeable, which, unless it had in some
way known, it had had no sure ground to prefer it to the changeable.
And thus with the flash of one trembling glance it arrived at THAT
WHICH IS. And then I saw Thy invisible things understood by the things
which are made. But I could not fix my gaze thereon; and my
infirmity being struck back, I was thrown again on my wonted habits,
carrying along with me only a loving memory thereof, and a longing for
what I had, as it were, perceived the odour of, but was not yet able
to feed on.
Then I sought a way of obtaining strength sufficient to enjoy
Thee; and found it not, until I embraced that Mediator betwixt God and
men, the Man Christ Jesus, who is over all, God blessed for
evermore, calling unto me, and saying, I am the way, the truth, and
the life, and mingling that food which I was unable to receive, with
our flesh. For, the Word was made flesh, that Thy wisdom, whereby Thou
createdst all things, might provide milk for our infant state. For I
did not hold to my Lord Jesus Christ, I, humbled, to the Humble; nor
knew I yet whereto His infirmity would guide us. For Thy Word, the
Eternal Truth, far above the higher parts of Thy Creation, raises up
the subdued unto Itself: but in this lower world built for Itself a
lowly habitation of our clay, whereby to abase from themselves such as
would be subdued, and bring them over to Himself; allaying their
swelling, and tomenting their love; to the end they might go on no
further in self-confidence, but rather consent to become weak,
seeing before their feet the Divinity weak by taking our coats of
skin; and wearied, might cast themselves down upon It, and It
rising, might lift them up.
But I thought otherwise; conceiving only of my Lord Christ as of a
man of excellent wisdom, whom no one could be equalled unto;
especially, for that being wonderfully born of a Virgin, He seemed, in
conformity therewith, through the Divine care for us, to have attained
that great eminence of authority, for an ensample of despising
things temporal for the obtaining of immortality. But what mystery
there lay in "The Word was made flesh," I could not even imagine. Only
I had learnt out of what is delivered to us in writing of Him that
He did eat, and drink, sleep, walk, rejoiced in spirit, was sorrowful,
discoursed; that flesh did not cleave by itself unto Thy Word, but
with the human soul and mind. All know this who know the
unchangeableness of Thy Word, which I now knew, as far as I could, nor
did I at all doubt thereof. For, now to move the limbs of the body
by will, now not, now to be moved by some affection, now not, now to
deliver wise sayings through human signs, now to keep silence,
belong to soul and mind subject to variation. And should these
things be falsely written of Him, all the rest also would risk the
charge, nor would there remain in those books any saving faith for
mankind. Since then they were written truly, I acknowledged a
perfect man to be in Christ; not the body of a man only, nor, with the
body, a sensitive soul without a rational, but very man; whom, not
only as being a form of Truth, but for a certain great excellence of
human nature and a more perfect participation of wisdom, I judged to
be preferred before others. But Alypius imagined the Catholics to
believe God to be so clothed with flesh, that besides God and flesh,
there was no soul at all in Christ, and did not think that a human
mind was ascribed to Him. And because he was well persuaded that the
actions recorded of Him could only be performed by a vital and a
rational creature, he moved the more slowly towards the Christian
Faith. But understanding afterwards that this was the error of the
Apollinarian heretics, he joyed in and was conformed to the Catholic
Faith. But somewhat later, I confess, did I learn how in that
saying, The Word was made flesh, the Catholic truth is distinguished
from the falsehood of Photinus. For the rejection of heretics makes
the tenets of Thy Church and sound doctrine to stand out more clearly.
For there must also be heresies, that the approved may be made
manifest among the weak.
But having then read those books of the Platonists, and thence
been taught to search for incorporeal truth, I saw Thy invisible
things, understood by those things which are made; and though cast
back, I perceived what that was which through the darkness of my
mind I was hindered from contemplating, being assured "That Thou wert,
and wert infinite, and yet not diffused in space, finite or
infinite; and that Thou truly art Who art the same ever, in no part
nor motion varying; and that all other things are from Thee, on this
most sure ground alone, that they are." Of these things I was assured,
yet too unsure to enjoy Thee. I prated as one well skilled; but had
I not sought Thy way in Christ our Saviour, I had proved to be, not
skilled, but killed. For now I had begun to wish to seem wise, being
filled with mine own punishment, yet I did not mourn, but rather
scorn, puffed up with knowledge. For where was that charity building
upon the foundation of humility, which is Christ Jesus? or when should
these books teach me it? Upon these, I believe, Thou therefore
willedst that I should fall, before I studied Thy Scriptures, that
it might be imprinted on my memory how I was affected by them; and
that afterwards when my spirits were tamed through Thy books, and my
wounds touched by Thy healing fingers, I might discern and distinguish
between presumption and confession; between those who saw whither they
were to go, yet saw not the way, and the way that leadeth not to
behold only but to dwell in the beatific country. For had I first been
formed in Thy Holy Scriptures, and hadst Thou in the familiar use of
them grown sweet unto me, and had I then fallen upon those other
volumes, they might perhaps have withdrawn me from the solid ground of
piety, or, had I continued in that healthful frame which I had
thence imbibed, I might have thought that it might have been
obtained by the study of those books alone.
Most eagerly then did I seize that venerable writing of Thy
Spirit; and chiefly the Apostle Paul. Whereupon those difficulties
vanished away, wherein he once seemed to me to contradict himself, and
the text of his discourse not to agree with the testimonies of the Law
and the Prophets. And the face of that pure word appeared to me one
and the same; and I learned to rejoice with trembling. So I began; and
whatsoever truth I had read in those other books, I found here amid
the praise of Thy Grace; that whoso sees, may not so glory as if he
had not received, not only what he sees, but also that he sees (for
what hath he, which he hath not received?), and that he may be not
only admonished to behold Thee, who art ever the same, but also
healed, to hold Thee; and that he who cannot see afar off, may yet
walk on the way, whereby he may arrive, and behold, and hold Thee.
For, though a man be delighted with the law of God after the inner
man, what shall he do with that other law in his members which warreth
against the law of his mind, and bringeth him into captivity to the
law of sin which is in his members? For, Thou art righteous, O Lord,
but we have sinned and committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and
Thy hand is grown heavy upon us, and we are justly delivered over unto
that ancient sinner, the king of death; because he persuaded our
will to be like his will whereby he abode not in Thy truth. What shall
wretched man do? who shall deliver him from the body of his death, but
only Thy Grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, whom Thou hast begotten
co-eternal, and formedst in the beginning of Thy ways, in whom the
prince of this world found nothing worthy of death, yet killed he Him;
and the handwriting, which was contrary to us, was blotted out? This
those writings contain not. Those pages present not the image of
this piety, the tears of confession, Thy sacrifice, a troubled spirit,
a broken and a contrite heart, the salvation of the people, the Bridal
City, the earnest of the Holy Ghost, the Cup of our Redemption. No man
sings there, Shall not my soul be submitted unto God? for of Him
cometh my salvation. For He is my God and my salvation, my guardian, I
shall no more be moved. No one there hears Him call, Come unto Me, all
ye that labour. They scorn to learn of Him, because He is meek and
lowly in heart; for these things hast Thou hid from the wise and
prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. For it is one thing,
from the mountain's shaggy top to see the land of peace, and to find
no way thither; and in vain to essay through ways unpassable,
opposed and beset by fugitives and deserters, under their captain
the lion and the dragon: and another to keep on the way that leads
thither, guarded by the host of the heavenly General; where they spoil
not who have deserted the heavenly army; for they avoid it, as very
torment. These things did wonderfully sink into my bowels, when I read
that least of Thy Apostles, and had meditated upon Thy works, and
trembled exceedingly.
BOOK VIII

O my God, let me, with thanksgiving, remember, and confess unto Thee
Thy mercies on me. Let my bones be bedewed with Thy love, and let them
say unto Thee, Who is like unto Thee, O Lord? Thou hast broken my
bonds in sunder, I will offer unto Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
And how Thou hast broken them, I will declare; and all who worship
Thee, when they hear this, shall say, "Blessed be the Lord, in
heaven and in earth, great and wonderful is his name. " Thy words
had stuck fast in my heart, and I was hedged round about on all
sides by Thee. Of Thy eternal life I was now certain, though I saw
it in a figure and as through a glass. Yet I had ceased to doubt
that there was an incorruptible substance, whence was all other
substance; nor did I now desire to be more certain of Thee, but more
steadfast in Thee. But for my temporal life, all was wavering, and
my heart had to be purged from the old leaven. The Way, the Saviour
Himself, well pleased me, but as yet I shrunk from going through its
straitness. And Thou didst put into my mind, and it seemed good in
my eyes, to go to Simplicianus, who seemed to me a good servant of
Thine; and Thy grace shone in him. I had heard also that from his very
youth he had lived most devoted unto Thee. Now he was grown into
years; and by reason of so great age spent in such zealous following
of Thy ways, he seemed to me likely to have learned much experience;
and so he had. Out of which store I wished that he would tell me
(setting before him my anxieties) which were the fittest way for one
in my case to walk in Thy paths.
For, I saw the church full; and one went this way, and another
that way. But I was displeased that I led a secular life; yea now that
my desires no longer inflamed me, as of old, with hopes of honour
and profit, a very grievous burden it was to undergo so heavy a
bondage. For, in comparison of Thy sweetness, and the beauty of Thy
house which I loved, those things delighted me no longer. But still
I was enthralled with the love of woman; nor did the Apostle forbid me
to marry, although he advised me to something better, chiefly
wishing that all men were as himself was. But I being weak, chose
the more indulgent place; and because of this alone, was tossed up and
down in all beside, faint and wasted with withering cares, because
in other matters I was constrained against my will to conform myself
to a married life, to which I was given up and enthralled. I had heard
from the mouth of the Truth, that there were some eunuchs which had
made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake: but, saith
He, let him who can receive it, receive it. Surely vain are all men
who are ignorant of God, and 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 common witness of all Thy
creatures had found Thee our Creator, and Thy Word, God with Thee, and
together with Thee one God, by whom Thou createdst all things. There
is yet another kind of ungodly, who knowing God, glorified Him not
as God, neither were thankful. Into this also had I fallen, but Thy
right hand upheld me, and took me thence, and Thou placedst me where I
might recover. For Thou hast said unto man, Behold, the fear of the
Lord is wisdom, and, Desire not to seem wise; because they who
affirmed themselves to be wise, became fools. But I had now found
the goodly pearl, which, selling all that I had, I ought to have
bought, and I hesitated.
To Simplicianus then I went, the father of Ambrose (a Bishop now) in
receiving Thy grace, and whom Ambrose truly loved as a father. To
him I related the mazes of my wanderings. But when I mentioned that
I had read certain books of the Platonists, which Victorinus, sometime
Rhetoric Professor of Rome (who had died a Christian, as I had heard),
had translated into Latin, he testified his joy that I had not
fallen upon the writings of other philosophers, full of fallacies
and deceits, after the rudiments of this world, whereas the Platonists
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 while at Rome he had
most intimately known: and of him he related what I will not
conceal. For it contains great praise of Thy grace, to be confessed
unto Thee, how that aged man, most learned and skilled in the
liberal sciences, and who had read, and weighed so many works of the
philosophers; the instructor of so many noble Senators, who also, as a
monument of his excellent discharge of his office, had (which men of
this world esteem a high honour) both deserved and obtained a statue
in the Roman Forum; he, to that age a worshipper of idols, and a
partaker of the sacrilegious rites, to which almost all the nobility
of Rome were given up, and had inspired the people with the love of

Anubis, barking Deity, and all
The monster Gods of every kind, who fought
'Gainst Neptune, Venus, and Minerva:

whom Rome once conquered, now adored, all which the aged Victorinus
had with thundering eloquence so many years defended; -he now
blushed not to be the child of Thy Christ, and the new-born babe of
Thy fountain; submitting his neck to the yoke of humility, and
subduing his forehead to the reproach of the Cross.
O Lord, Lord, Which hast bowed the heavens and come down, touched
the mountains and they did smoke, by what means didst Thou convey
Thyself into that breast? He used to read (as Simplicianus said) the
holy Scripture, most studiously sought and searched into all the
Christian writings, and said to Simplicianus (not openly, but
privately and as a friend), "Understand that I am already a
Christian." Whereto he answered, "I will not believe it, nor will I
rank you among Christians, unless I see you in the Church of
Christ." The other, in banter, replied, "Do walls then make
Christians?" And this he often said, that he was already a
Christian; and Simplicianus as often made the same answer, and the
conceit of the "walls" was by the other as often renewed. For he
feared to offend his friends, proud daemon-worshippers, from the
height of whose Babylonian dignity, as from cedars of Libanus, which
the Lord had not yet broken down, he supposed the weight of enmity
would fall upon him. But after that by reading and earnest thought
he had gathered firmness, and feared to be denied by Christ before the
holy angels, should he now be afraid to confess Him before men, and
appeared to himself guilty of a heavy offence, in being ashamed of the
Sacraments of the humility of Thy Word, and not being ashamed of the
sacrilegious rites of those proud daemons, whose pride he had imitated
and their rites adopted, he became bold-faced against vanity, and
shame-faced towards the truth, and suddenly and unexpectedly said to
Simplicianus (as himself told me), "Go we to the Church; I wish to
be made a Christian." But he, not containing himself for joy, went
with him. And having been admitted to the first Sacrament and become a
Catechumen, not long after he further gave in his name, that he
might be regenerated by baptism, Rome wondering, the Church rejoicing.
The proud saw, and were wroth; 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.
To conclude, when the hour was come for making profession of his
faith (which at Rome they, who are about to approach to Thy grace,
deliver, from an elevated place, in the sight of all the faithful,
in a set form of words committed to memory), the presbyters, he
said, offered Victorinus (as was done to such as seemed likely through
bashfulness to be alarmed) to make his profession more privately:
but he chose rather to profess his salvation in the presence of the
holy multitude. "For it was not salvation that he taught in
rhetoric, and yet that he had publicly professed: how much less then
ought he, when pronouncing Thy word, to dread Thy meek flock, who,
when delivering his own words, had not feared a mad multitude!"
When, then, he went up to make his profession, all, as they knew
him, whispered his name one to another with the voice of
congratulation. And who there knew him not? and there ran a low murmur
through all the mouths of the rejoicing multitude, Victorinus!
Victorinus! Sudden was the burst of rapture, that they saw him;
suddenly were they hushed that they might hear him. He pronounced
the true faith with an excellent boldness, and all wished to draw
him into their very heart; yea by their love and joy they drew him
thither, such were the hands wherewith they drew him.
Good God! what takes place in man, that he should more rejoice at
the salvation of a soul despaired of, and freed from greater peril,
than if there had always been hope of him, or the danger had been
less? For so Thou also, merciful Father, dost more rejoice over one
penitent than over ninety-nine just persons that need no repentance.
And with much joyfulness do we hear, so often as we hear with what joy
the sheep which had strayed is brought back upon the shepherd's
shoulder, and the groat is restored to Thy treasury, the neighbours
rejoicing with the woman who found it; and the joy of the solemn
service of Thy house forceth to tears, when in Thy house it is read of
Thy younger son, that he was dead, and liveth again; had been lost,
and is found. For Thou rejoicest in us, and in Thy holy angels, holy
through holy charity. For Thou art ever the same; for all things which
abide not the same nor for ever, Thou for ever knowest in the same
way.
What then takes place in the soul, when it is more delighted at
finding or recovering the things it loves, than if it had ever had
them? yea, and other things witness hereunto; and all things are
full of witnesses, crying out, "So is it." The conquering commander
triumpheth; yet had he not conquered unless he had fought; and the
more peril there was in the battle, so much the more joy is there in
the triumph. The storm tosses the sailors, threatens shipwreck; all
wax pale at approaching death; sky and sea are calmed, and they are
exceeding joyed, as having been exceeding afraid. A friend is sick,
and his pulse threatens danger; all who long for his recovery are sick
in mind with him. He is restored, though as yet he walks not with
his former strength; yet there is such joy, as was not, when before he
walked sound and strong. Yea, the very pleasures of human life men
acquire by difficulties, not those only which fall upon us unlooked
for, and against our wills, but even by self-chosen, and
pleasure-seeking trouble. Eating and drinking have no pleasure, unless
there precede the pinching of hunger and thirst. Men, given to
drink, eat certain salt meats, to procure a troublesome heat, which
the drink allaying, causes pleasure. It is also ordered that the
affianced bride should not at once be given, lest as a husband he
should hold cheap whom, as betrothed, he sighed not after.
This law holds in foul and accursed joy; this in permitted and
lawful joy; this in the very purest perfection of friendship; this, in
him who was dead, and lived again; had been lost and was found.
Every where the greater joy is ushered in by the greater pain. What
means this, O Lord my God, whereas Thou art everlastingly joy to
Thyself, and some things around Thee evermore rejoice in Thee? What
means this, that this portion of things thus ebbs and flows
alternately displeased and reconciled? Is this their allotted measure?
Is this all Thou hast assigned to them, whereas from the highest
heavens to the lowest earth, from the beginning of the world to the
end of ages, from the angel to the worm, from the first motion to
the last, Thou settest each in its place, and realisest each in
their season, every thing good after its kind? Woe is me! how high art
Thou in the highest, and how deep in the deepest! and Thou never
departest, and we scarcely return to Thee.
Up, Lord, and do; stir us up, and recall us; kindle and draw us;
inflame, grow sweet unto us, let us now love, let us run. Do not many,
out of a deeper hell of blindness than Victorinus, return to Thee,
approach, and are enlightened, receiving that Light, which they who
receive, receive power from Thee to become Thy sons? But if they be
less known to the nations, even they that know them, joy less for
them. For when many joy together, each also has more exuberant joy for
that they are kindled and inflamed one by the other. Again, because
those known to many, influence the more towards salvation, and lead
the way with many to follow. And therefore do they also who preceded
them much rejoice in them, because they rejoice not in them alone. For
far be it, that in Thy tabernacle the persons of the rich should be
accepted before the poor, or the noble before the ignoble; seeing
rather Thou hast chosen the weak things of the world to confound the
strong; and the base things of this world, and the things despised
hast Thou chosen, and those things which are not, that Thou mightest
bring to nought things that are. And yet even that least of Thy
apostles, by whose tongue Thou soundedst forth these words, when
through his warfare, Paulus the Proconsul, his pride conquered, was
made to pass under the easy yoke of Thy Christ, and became a
provincial of the great King; he also for his former name Saul, was
pleased 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; by whom he
hath hold of more. But the proud he hath more hold of, through their
nobility; and by them, of more through their authority. By how much
the more welcome then the heart of Victorinus was esteemed, which
the devil had held as an impregnable possession, the tongue of
Victorinus, with which mighty and keen weapon he had slain many; so
much the more abundantly ought Thy sons to rejoice, for 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 work.
But when that man of Thine, Simplicianus, related to me this of
Victorinus, I was on fire to imitate him; for for this very end had he
related it. But when he had subjoined also, how in the days of the
Emperor Julian a law was made, whereby Christians were forbidden to
teach the liberal sciences or oratory; and how he, obeying this law,
chose rather to give over the wordy school than Thy Word, by which
Thou makest eloquent the tongues of the dumb; he seemed to me not more
resolute than blessed, in having thus found opportunity to wait on
Thee only. Which thing I was sighing for, bound as I was, not with
another's irons, but by my own iron will. My will the enemy held,
and thence had made a chain for me, and bound me. For of a forward
will, was a lust made; and a lust served, became custom; and custom
not resisted, became necessity. By which links, as it were, joined
together (whence I called it a chain) a hard bondage held me
enthralled. But that new will which had begun to be in me, freely to
serve Thee, and to wish to enjoy Thee, O God, the only assured
pleasantness, was not yet able to overcome my former wilfulness,
strengthened by age. Thus did my two wills, one new, and the other
old, one carnal, the other spiritual, struggle within me; and by their
discord, undid my soul.
Thus, I understood, by my own experience, what I had read, how the
flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.
Myself verily either way; yet more myself, in that which I approved in
myself, than in that which in myself I disapproved. For in this
last, it was now for the more part not myself, because in much I
rather endured against my will, than acted willingly. And yet it was
through me that custom had obtained this power of warring against
me, because I had come willingly, whither I willed not. And who has
any right to speak against it, if just punishment follow the sinner?
Nor had I now any longer my former plea, that I therefore as yet
hesitated to be above the world and serve Thee, for that the truth was
not altogether ascertained to me; for now it too was. But I still
under service to the earth, refused to fight under Thy banner, and
feared as much to be freed of all incumbrances, as we should fear to
be encumbered with it. Thus with the baggage of this present world was
I held down pleasantly, as in sleep: and the thoughts wherein I
meditated on Thee were like the efforts of such as would awake, who
yet overcome with a heavy drowsiness, are again drenched therein.
And as no one would sleep for ever, and in all men's sober judgment
waking is better, yet a man for the most part, feeling a heavy
lethargy in all his limbs, defers to shake off sleep, and though
half displeased, yet, even after it is time to rise, with pleasure
yields to it, so was I assured that much better were it for me to give
myself up to Thy charity, than to give myself over to mine own
cupidity; but though the former course satisfied me and gained the
mastery, the latter pleased me and held me mastered. Nor had I any
thing to answer Thee calling to me, Awake, thou that sleepest, and
arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. And when Thou
didst on all sides show me that what Thou saidst was true, I,
convicted by the truth, had nothing at all to answer, but only those
dull and drowsy words, "Anon, anon," "presently," "leave me but a
little." But "presently, presently," had no present, and my "little
while" went on for a long while; in vain I delighted in Thy law
according to the inner man, when another law in my members rebelled
against the law of my mind, and led me captive under the law of sin
which was in my members. For the law of sin is the violence of custom,
whereby the mind is drawn and holden, even against its will; but
deservedly, for that it willingly fell into it. Who then should
deliver me thus wretched from the body of this death, but Thy grace
only, through Jesus Christ our Lord?
And how Thou didst deliver me out of the bonds of desire,
wherewith I was bound most straitly to carnal concupiscence, and out
of the drudgery of worldly things, I will now declare, and confess
unto Thy name, O Lord, my helper and my redeemer. Amid increasing
anxiety, I was doing my wonted business, and daily sighing unto
Thee. I attended Thy Church, whenever free from the business under the
burden of which I groaned. Alypius was with me, now after the third
sitting released from his law business, and awaiting to whom to sell
his counsel, as I sold the skill of speaking, if indeed teaching can
impart it. Nebridius had now, in consideration of our friendship,
consented to teach under Verecundus, a citizen and a grammarian of
Milan, and a very intimate friend of us all; who urgently desired, and
by the right of friendship challenged from our company, such
faithful aid as he greatly needed. Nebridius then was not drawn to
this by any desire of advantage (for he might have made much more of
his learning had he so willed), but as a most kind and gentle
friend, he would not be wanting to a good office, and slight our
request. But he acted herein very discreetly, shunning to become known
to personages great according to this world, avoiding the
distraction of mind thence ensuing, and desiring to have it free and
at leisure, as many hours as might be, to seek, or read, or hear
something concerning wisdom.
Upon a day then, Nebridius being absent (I recollect not why), to,
there came to see me and Alypius, one Pontitianus, our countryman so
far as being an African, in high office in the Emperor's court. What
he would with us, I know not, but we sat down to converse, and it
happened that upon a table for some game, before us, he observed a
book, took, opened it, and contrary to his expectation, found it the
Apostle Paul; for he thought it some of those books which I was
wearing myself in teaching. Whereat smiling, and looking at me, he
expressed his joy and wonder that he had on a sudden found this
book, and this only before my eyes. For he was a Christian, and
baptised, and often bowed himself before Thee our God in the Church,
in frequent and continued prayers. When then I had told him that I
bestowed very great pains upon those Scriptures, a conversation
arose (suggested by his account) on Antony the Egyptian monk: whose
name was in high reputation among Thy servants, though to that hour
unknown to us. Which when he discovered, he dwelt the more upon that
subject, informing and wondering at our ignorance of one so eminent.
But we stood amazed, hearing Thy wonderful works most fully
attested, in times so recent, and almost in our own, wrought in the
true Faith and Church Catholic. We all wondered; we, that they were so
great, and he, that they had not reached us.
Thence his discourse turned to the flocks in the monasteries, and
their holy ways, a sweet-smelling savour unto Thee, and the fruitful
deserts of the wilderness, whereof we knew nothing. And there was a
monastery at Milan, full of good brethren, without the city walls,
under the fostering care of Ambrose, and we knew it not. He went on
with his discourse, and we listened in intent silence. He told us then
how one afternoon at Triers, when the Emperor was taken up with the
Circensian games, he and three others, his companions, went out to
walk in gardens near the city walls, and there as they happened to
walk in pairs, one went apart with him, and the other two wandered
by themselves; and these, in their wanderings, lighted upon a
certain cottage, inhabited by certain of Thy servants, poor in spirit,
of whom is the kingdom of heaven, and there they found a little book
containing the life of Antony. This one of them began to read, admire,
and kindle at it; and as he read, to meditate on taking up such a
life, and giving over his secular service to serve Thee. And these two
were of those whom they style agents for the public affairs. Then
suddenly, filled with a holy love, and a sober shame, in anger with
himself cast his eyes upon his friend, saying, "Tell me, I pray
thee, what would we attain by all these labours of ours? what aim we
at? what serve we for? Can our hopes in court rise higher than to be
the Emperor's favourites? and in this, what is there not brittle,
and full of perils? and by how many perils arrive we at a greater
peril? and when arrive we thither? But a friend of God, if I wish
it, I become now at once." So spake he. And in pain with the travail
of a new life, he turned his eyes again upon the book, and read on,
and was changed inwardly, where Thou sawest, and his mind was stripped
of the world, as soon appeared. For as he read, and rolled up and down
the waves of his heart, he stormed at himself a while, then discerned,
and determined on a better course; and now being Thine, said to his
friend, "Now have I broken loose from those our hopes, and am resolved
to serve God; and this, from this hour, in this place, I begin upon.
If thou likest not to imitate me, oppose not." The other answered,
he would cleave to him, to partake so glorious a reward, so glorious a
service. Thus both being now Thine, were building the tower at the
necessary cost, the forsaking all that they had, and following Thee.
Then Pontitianus and the other with him, that had walked in other
parts of the garden, came in search of them to the same place; and
finding them, reminded them to return, for the day was now far
spent. But they relating their resolution and purpose, and how that
will was begun and settled in them, begged them, if they would not
join, not to molest them. But the others, though nothing altered
from their former selves, did yet bewail themselves (as he
affirmed), and piously congratulated them, recommending themselves
to their prayers; and so, with hearts lingering on the earth, went
away to the palace. But the other two, fixing their heart on heaven,
remained in the cottage. And both had affianced brides, who when
they heard hereof, also dedicated their virginity unto God.
Such was the story of Pontitianus; but Thou, O Lord, while he was
speaking, didst turn me round towards myself, taking me from behind my
back where I had placed me, unwilling to observe myself; and setting
me before my face, that I might see how foul I was, how crooked and
defiled, bespotted and ulcerous. And I beheld and stood aghast; and
whither to flee from myself I found not. And if I sought to turn
mine eye from off myself, he went on with his relation, and Thou again
didst set me over against myself, and thrustedst me before my eyes,
that I might find out mine iniquity, and hate it. I had known it,
but made as though I saw it not, winked at it, and forgot it.
But now, the more ardently I loved those whose healthful
affections I heard of, that they had resigned themselves wholly to
Thee to be cured, the more did I abhor myself, when compared with
them. For many of my years (some twelve) had now run out with me since
my nineteenth, when, upon the reading of Cicero's Hortensius, I was
stirred to an earnest love of wisdom; and still I was deferring to
reject mere earthly felicity, and give myself to search out that,
whereof not the finding only, but the very search, was to be preferred
to the treasures and kingdoms of the world, though already found,
and to the pleasures of the body, though spread around me at my
will. But I wretched, most wretched, in the very commencement of my
early youth, had begged chastity of Thee, and said, "Give me
chastity and continency, only not yet." For I feared lest Thou
shouldest hear me soon, and soon cure me of the disease of
concupiscence, which I wished to have satisfied, rather than
extinguished. And I had wandered through crooked ways in a
sacrilegious superstition, not indeed assured thereof, but as
preferring it to the others which I did not seek religiously, but
opposed maliciously.
And I had thought that I therefore deferred from day to day to
reject the hopes of this world, and follow Thee only, because there
did not appear aught certain, whither to direct my course. And now was
the day come wherein I was to be laid bare to myself, and my
conscience was to upbraid me. "Where art thou now, my tongue? Thou
saidst that for an uncertain truth thou likedst not to cast off the
baggage of vanity; now, it is certain, and yet that burden still
oppresseth thee, while they who neither have so worn themselves out
with seeking it, nor for often years and more have been thinking
thereon, have had their shoulders lightened, and received wings to fly
away." Thus was I gnawed within, and exceedingly confounded with a
horrible shame, while Pontitianus was so speaking. And he having
brought to a close his tale and the business he came for, went his
way; and I into myself. What said I not against myself? with what
scourges of condemnation lashed I not my soul, that it might follow
me, striving to go after Thee! Yet it drew back; refused, but
excused not itself. All arguments were spent and confuted; there
remained a mute shrinking; and she feared, as she would death, to be
restrained from the flux of that custom, whereby she was wasting to
death.
Then in this great contention of my inward dwelling, which I had
strongly raised against my soul, in the chamber of my heart,
troubled in mind and countenance, I turned upon Alypius. "What ails
us?" I exclaim: "what is it? what heardest thou? The unlearned start
up and take heaven by force, and we with our learning, and without
heart, to, where we wallow in flesh and blood! Are we ashamed to
follow, because others are gone before, and not ashamed not even to
follow?" Some such words I uttered, and my fever of mind tore me
away from him, while he, gazing on me in astonishment, kept silence.
For it was not my wonted tone; and my forehead, cheeks, eyes,
colour, tone of voice, spake my mind more than the words I uttered.
A little garden there was to our lodging, which we had the use of,
as of the whole house; for the master of the house, our host, was
not living there. Thither had the tumult of my breast hurried me,
where no man might hinder the hot contention wherein I had engaged
with myself, until it should end as Thou knewest, I knew not. Only I
was healthfully distracted and dying, to live; knowing what evil thing
I was, and not knowing what good thing I was shortly to become. I
retired then into the garden, and Alypius, on my steps. For his
presence did not lessen my privacy; or how could he forsake me so
disturbed? We sate down as far removed as might be from the house. I
was troubled in spirit, most vehemently indignant that I entered not
into Thy will and covenant, O my God, which all my bones cried out
unto me to enter, and praised it to the skies. And therein we enter
not by ships, or chariots, or feet, no, move not so far as I had
come from the house to that place where we were sitting. For, not to
go only, but to go in thither was nothing else but to will to go,
but to will resolutely and thoroughly; not to turn and toss, this
way and that, a maimed and half-divided will, struggling, with one
part sinking as another rose.
Lastly, in the very fever of my irresoluteness, I made with my
body many such motions as men sometimes would, but cannot, if either
they have not the limbs, or these be bound with bands, weakened with
infirmity, or any other way hindered. Thus, if I tore my hair, beat my
forehead, if locking my fingers I clasped my knee; I willed, I did it.
But I might have willed, and not done it; if the power of motion in my
limbs had not obeyed. So many things then I did, when "to will" was
not in itself "to be able"; and I did not what both I longed
incomparably more to do, and which soon after, when I should will, I
should be able to do; because soon after, when I should will, I should
will thoroughly. For in these things the ability was one with the
will, and to will was to do; and yet was it not done: and more
easily did my body obey the weakest willing of my soul, in moving
its limbs at its nod, than the soul obeyed itself to accomplish in the
will alone this its momentous will.
Whence is this monstrousness? and to what end? Let Thy mercy gleam
that I may ask, if so be the secret penalties of men, and those
darkest pangs of the sons of Adam, may perhaps answer me. Whence is
this monstrousness? and to what end? The mind commands the body, and
it obeys instantly; the mind commands itself, and is resisted. The
mind commands the hand to be moved; and such readiness is there,
that command is scarce distinct from obedience. Yet the mind is
mind, the hand is body. The mind commands the mind, its own self, to
will, and yet it doth not. Whence this monstrousness? and to what end?
It commands itself, I say, to will, and would not command, unless it
willed, and what it commands is not done. But it willeth not entirely:
therefore doth it not command 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 what it commandeth, is not. For were the will entire, it
would not even command it to be, because it would already be. It is
therefore no monstrousness partly to will, partly to nill, but a
disease of the mind, that it doth not wholly rise, by truth upborne,
borne down by custom. And therefore are there two wills, for that
one of them is not entire: and what the one lacketh, the other hath.
Let them perish from Thy presence, O God, as perish vain talkers and
seducers of the soul: who observing that in deliberating there were
two wills, affirm that there are two minds in us of two kinds, one
good, the other evil. Themselves are truly evil, when they hold
these evil things; and themselves shall become good when they hold the
truth and assent unto the truth, that Thy Apostle may say to them,
Ye were sometimes darkness, but now light in the Lord. But they,
wishing to be light, not in the Lord, but in themselves, imagining the
nature of the soul to be that which God is, are made more gross
darkness through a dreadful arrogancy; for that they went back farther
from Thee, the true Light that enlightened every man that cometh
into the world. Take heed what you say, and blush for shame: draw near
unto Him and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed.
Myself when I was deliberating upon serving the Lord my God now, as
I had long purposed, it was I who willed, I who nilled, I, I myself. I
neither willed entirely, nor nilled entirely. Therefore was I at
strife with myself, and rent asunder by myself. And this rent befell
me against my will, and yet indicated, not the presence of another
mind, but the punishment of my own. Therefore it was no more I that
wrought it, but sin that dwelt in me; the punishment of a sin more
freely committed, in that I was a son of Adam.
For if there he so many contrary natures as there be conflicting
wills, there shall now be not two only, but many. If a man
deliberate whether he should go to their conventicle or to the
theatre, these Manichees cry out, Behold, here are two natures: one
good, draws this way; another bad, draws back that way. For whence
else is this hesitation between conflicting wills? But I say that both
be bad: that which draws to them, as that which draws back to the
theatre. But they believe not that will to be other than good, which
draws to them. What then if one of us should deliberate, and amid
the strife of his two wills be in a strait, whether he should go to
the theatre or to our church? would not these Manichees also be in a
strait what to answer? For either they must confess (which they fain
would not) that the will which leads to our church is good, as well as
theirs, who have received and are held by the mysteries of theirs:
or they must suppose two evil natures, and two evil souls
conflicting in one man, and it 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 more deny that where one deliberates, one soul
fluctuates between contrary wills.
Let them no more say then, when they perceive two conflicting
wills in one man, that the conflict is between two contrary souls,
of two contrary substances, from two contrary principles, one good,
and the other bad. For Thou, O true God, dost disprove, check, and
convict them; as when, both wills being bad, one deliberates whether
he should kill a man by poison or by the sword; whether he should
seize this or that estate of another's, when he cannot both; whether
he should purchase pleasure by luxury, or keep his money by
covetousness; whether he go to the circus or the theatre, if both be
open on one day; or thirdly, to rob another's house, if he have the
opportunity; or, fourthly, to commit adultery, if at the same time
he have the means thereof also; all these meeting together in the same
juncture of time, and all being equally desired, which cannot at one
time be acted: for they rend the mind amid four, or even (amid the
vast variety of things desired) more, conflicting wills, nor do they
yet allege that there are so many divers substances. So also in
wills which are good. For I ask them, is it good to take pleasure in
reading the Apostle? or good to take pleasure in a sober Psalm? or
good to discourse on the Gospel? They will answer to each, "it is
good." What then if all give equal pleasure, and all at once? Do not
divers wills distract the mind, while he deliberates which he should
rather choose? yet are they all good, and are at variance till one
be chosen, whither the one entire 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 this or that with an entire will; and
therefore is rent asunder with grievous perplexities, while out of
truth it sets this first, but out of habit sets not that aside.
Thus soul-sick was I, and tormented, accusing myself much more
severely than my wont, rolling and turning me in my chain, till that
were wholly broken, whereby I now was but just, 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 not bursting that same slight remaining tie, it should
recover strength, and bind me the faster. For I said with myself,
"Be it done now, be it done now." And as I spake, I all but enacted
it: I all but did it, and did it not: yet sunk not back to my former
state, but kept my stand hard by, and took breath. And I essayed
again, and wanted somewhat less of it, and somewhat less, and all
but touched, and laid hold of it; and yet came not at it, nor
touched nor laid hold of it; hesitating to die to death and to live to
life: and the worse whereto I was inured, prevailed more with me
than the better whereto I was unused: and the very moment wherein I
was to become other than I was, the nearer it approached me, the
greater horror did it strike into me; yet did it not strike me back,
nor turned me away, but held me in suspense.
The very toys of toys, and vanities of vanities, my ancient
mistresses, still held me; they plucked my fleshy garment, and
whispered softly, "Dost thou cast us off? 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 was it which
they suggested in that I said, "this or that," what did they
suggest, O my God? Let Thy mercy turn it away from the soul of Thy
servant. What defilements did they suggest! what shame! And now I much
less than half heard them, and not openly showing themselves and
contradicting me, but muttering as it were behind my back, and privily
plucking me, as I was departing, but to look back on them. Yet they
did retard me, so that I hesitated to burst and shake myself free from
them, and to spring over whither I was called; a violent habit
saying to me, "Thinkest thou, thou canst live without them?"
But now it spake very faintly. For on that side whither I had set my
face, and whither I trembled to go, there appeared unto me the
chaste dignity of Continency, serene, yet not relaxedly, gay, honestly
alluring me to come and doubt not; and stretching forth to receive and
embrace me, her holy hands full of multitudes of good examples:
there were so many young men and maidens here, a multitude of youth
and every age, grave widows and aged virgins; and Continence herself
in all, not barren, but a fruitful mother of children of joys, by Thee
her Husband, O Lord. And she smiled on me with a persuasive mockery,
as would she say, "Canst not thou what these youths, what these
maidens can? or can they either in themselves, and not rather in the
Lord their God? The Lord their God gave me unto them. Why standest
thou in thyself, and so standest not? cast thyself upon Him, fear
not He will not withdraw Himself that thou shouldest fall; cast
thyself fearlessly upon Him, He will receive, and will heal thee." And
I blushed exceedingly, for that I yet heard the muttering of those
toys, and hung in suspense. And she again seemed to say, "Stop thine
ears against those thy unclean members on 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 self against
self only. But Alypius sitting close by my side, in silence waited the
issue of my unwonted emotion.
But when a deep consideration had from the secret bottom of my
soul drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my
heart; there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of
tears. Which that I might pour forth wholly, in its natural
expressions, I rose from Alypius: solitude was suggested to me as
fitter for the business of weeping; so I retired so far that even
his presence could not be a burden to me. Thus was it then with me,
and he perceived something of it; for something I suppose I had
spoken, wherein the tones of my voice appeared choked with weeping,
and so had risen up. He then remained where we were sitting, most
extremely astonished. I cast myself down I know not how, under a
certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine
eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. And, not indeed in
these words, yet to this purpose, spake I much unto Thee: and Thou,
O Lord, how long? how long, Lord, wilt Thou be angry for ever?
Remember not our former iniquities, for I felt that I was held by
them. I sent up these sorrowful words: How long, how long, "to-morrow,
and tomorrow?" Why not now? why not is there this hour an end to my
uncleanness?
So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my
heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of
boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, "Take up and
read; Take up and read. " Instantly, my countenance altered, I began
to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of
play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the
like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to
be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the
first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in
during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if
what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast,
and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come
and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto
Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was
sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose
thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section 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, in concupiscence. No
further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this
sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all
the darkness of doubt vanished away.
Then putting my finger between, or some other mark, I shut the
volume, and with a calmed countenance made it known to Alypius. And
what was wrought in him, which I knew not, he thus showed me. He asked
to see what I had read: I showed him; and he looked even further
than I had read, and I knew not what followed. This followed, him that
is weak in the faith, receive; which he applied to himself, and
disclosed to me. And by this admonition was he strengthened; and by
a good resolution and purpose, and most corresponding to his
character, wherein he did always very far differ from me, for the
better, without any turbulent delay he joined me. Thence we go in to
my mother; we tell her; she rejoiceth: we relate in order how it
took place; she leaps for joy, and triumpheth, and blesseth Thee,
Who are able to do above that which we ask or think; for she perceived
that Thou hadst given her more for me, than she was wont to beg by her
pitiful and most sorrowful groanings. For thou convertedst me unto
Thyself, so that I sought neither wife, nor any hope of this world,
standing in that rule of faith, where Thou hadst showed me unto her in
a vision, so many years before. And Thou didst convert her mourning
into joy, much more plentiful than she had desired, and in a much more
precious and purer way than she erst required, by having grandchildren
of my body.
BOOK IX

O Lord, I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant, and the son of Thy
handmaid: Thou hast broken my bonds in sunder. I will offer to Thee
the sacrifice of Let my heart and my tongue praise Thee; yea, let
all my bones say, O Lord, who is like unto Thee? Let them say, and
answer Thou me, and say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. Who am I,
and what am I? What evil have not been either my deeds, or if not my
deeds, my words, or if not my words, my will? But Thou, O Lord, are
good and merciful, and Thy right hand had respect unto the depth of my
death, and from the bottom of my heart emptied that abyss of
corruption. And this Thy whole gift was, to nill what I willed, and to
will what Thou willedst. But where through all those years, and out of
what low and deep recess was my free-will called forth in a moment,
whereby to submit my neck to Thy easy yoke, and my shoulders unto
Thy light burden, O Christ Jesus, my Helper and my Redeemer? How sweet
did it at once become to me, to want the sweetnesses of those toys!
and what I feared to be parted from, was now a joy to part with. For
Thou didst cast them forth from me, Thou true and highest sweetness.
Thou castest them forth, and for them enteredst in Thyself, sweeter
than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood; brighter than all
light, but more hidden than all depths, higher than all honour, but
not to the high in their own conceits. Now was my soul free from the
biting cares of canvassing and getting, and weltering in filth, and
scratching off the itch of lust. And my infant tongue spake freely
to Thee, my brightness, and my riches, and my health, the Lord my God.
And I resolved in Thy sight, not tumultuously to tear, but gently to
withdraw, the service of my tongue from the marts of lip-labour:
that the young, no students in Thy law, nor in Thy peace, but in lying
dotages and law-skirmishes, should no longer buy at my mouth arms
for their madness. And very seasonably, it now wanted but very few
days unto the Vacation of the Vintage, and I resolved to endure
them, then in a regular way to take my leave, and having been
purchased by Thee, no more to return for sale. Our purpose then was
known to Thee; but to men, other than our own friends, was it not
known. For we had agreed among ourselves not to let it out abroad to
any: although to us, now ascending from the valley of tears, and
singing that song of degrees, Thou hadst given sharp arrows, and
destroying coals against the subtle tongue, which as though advising
for us, would thwart, and would out of love devour us, as it doth
its meat.
Thou hadst pierced our hearts with Thy charity, and we carried Thy
words as it were fixed in our entrails: and the examples of Thy
servants, whom for black Thou hadst made bright, and for dead,
alive, being piled together in the receptacle of our thoughts, kindled
and burned up that our heavy torpor, that we should not sink down to
the abyss; and they fired us so vehemently, that all the blasts of
subtle tongues from gainsayers might only inflame us the more
fiercely, not extinguish us. Nevertheless, because for Thy Name's sake
which Thou hast hallowed throughout the earth, this our vow and
purpose might also find some to commend it, it seemed like ostentation
not to wait for the vacation now so near, but to quit beforehand a
public profession, which was before the eyes of all; so that all
looking on this act of mine, and observing how near was the time of
vintage which I wished to anticipate, would talk much of me, as if I
had desired to appear some great one. And what end had it served me,
that people should repute and dispute upon my purpose, and that our
good should be evil spoken of.
Moreover, it had at first troubled me that in this very summer my
lungs began to give way, amid too great literary labour, and to
breathe deeply with difficulty, and by the pain in my chest to show
that they were injured, and to refuse any full or lengthened speaking;
this had troubled me, for it almost constrained me of necessity to lay
down that burden of teaching, or, if I could be cured and recover,
at least to intermit it. But when the full wish for leisure, that I
might see how that Thou art the Lord, arose, and was fixed, in me;
my God, Thou knowest, I began even to rejoice that I had this
secondary, and that no feigned, excuse, which might something moderate
the offence taken by those who, for their sons' sake, wished me
never to have the freedom of Thy sons. Full then of such joy, I
endured till that interval of time were run; it may have been some
twenty days, yet they were endured manfully; endured, for the
covetousness which aforetime bore a part of this heavy business, had
left me, and I remained alone, and had been overwhelmed, had not
patience taken its place. Perchance, some of Thy servants, my
brethren, may say that I sinned in this, that with a heart fully set
on Thy service, I suffered myself to sit even one hour in the chair of
lies. Nor would I be contentious. But hast not Thou, O most merciful
Lord, pardoned and remitted this sin also, with my other most horrible
and deadly sins, in the holy water?
Verecundus was worn down with care about this our blessedness, for
that being held back by bonds, whereby he was most straitly bound,
he saw that he should be severed from us. For himself was not yet a
Christian, his wife one of the faithful; and yet hereby, more
rigidly than by any other chain, was he let and hindered from the
journey which we had now essayed. For he would not, he said, be a
Christian on any other terms than on those he could not. However, he
offered us courteously to remain at his country-house so long as we
should stay there. Thou, O Lord, shalt reward him in the
resurrection of the just, seeing Thou hast already given him the lot
of the righteous. For although, in our absence, being now at Rome,
he was seized with bodily sickness, and therein being made a
Christian, and one of the faithful, he departed this life; yet hadst
Thou mercy not on him only, but on us also: lest remembering the
exceeding kindness of our friend towards us, yet unable to number
him among Thy flock, we should be agonised with intolerable sorrow.
Thanks unto Thee, our God, we are Thine: Thy suggestions and
consolations tell us, Faithful in promises, Thou now requitest
Verecundus for his country-house of Cassiacum, where from the fever of
the world we reposed in Thee, with the eternal freshness of Thy
Paradise: for that Thou hast forgiven him his sins upon earth, in that
rich mountain, that mountain which yieldeth milk, Thine own mountain.
He then had at that time sorrow, but Nebridius joy. For although
he also, not being yet a Christian, had fallen into the pit of that
most pernicious error, believing the flesh of Thy Son to be a phantom:
yet emerging thence, he believed as we did; not as yet endued with any
Sacraments of Thy Church, but a most ardent searcher out of truth.
Whom, not long after our conversion and regeneration by Thy Baptism,
being also a faithful member of the Church Catholic, and serving
Thee in perfect chastity and continence amongst his people in
Africa, his whole house having through him first been made
Christian, didst Thou release from the flesh; and now he lives in
Abraham's bosom. Whatever that be, which is signified by that bosom,
there lives my Nebridius, my sweet friend, and Thy child, O Lord,
adopted of a freed man: there he liveth. For what other place is there
for such a soul? There he liveth, whereof he asked much of me, a
poor inexperienced man. Now lays he not his ear to my mouth, but his
spiritual mouth unto Thy fountain, and drinketh as much as he can
receive, wisdom in proportion to his thirst, endlessly happy. Nor do I
think that he is so inebriated therewith, as to forget me; seeing
Thou, Lord, Whom he drinketh, art mindful of us. So were we then,
comforting Verecundus, who sorrowed, as far as friendship permitted,
that our conversion was of such sort; and exhorting him to become
faithful, according to his measure, namely, of a married estate; and
awaiting Nebridius to follow us, which, being so near, he was all
but doing: and so, lo! those days rolled by at length; for long and
many they seemed, for the love I bare to the easeful liberty, that I
might sing to Thee, from my inmost marrow, My heart hath said unto
Thee, I have sought Thy face: Thy face, Lord, will I seek.
Now was the day come wherein I was in deed to be freed of my
Rhetoric Professorship, whereof in thought I was already freed. And it
was done. Thou didst rescue my tongue, whence Thou hadst before
rescued my heart. And I blessed Thee, rejoicing; retiring with all
mine to the villa. What I there did in writing, which was now enlisted
in Thy service, though still, in this breathing-time as it were,
panting from the school of pride, my books may witness, as well what I
debated with others, as what with myself alone, before Thee: what with
Nebridius, who was absent, my Epistles bear witness. And when shall
I have time to rehearse all Thy great benefits towards us at that
time, especially when hasting on to yet greater mercies? For my
remembrance recalls me, and pleasant is it to me, O Lord, to confess
to Thee, by what inward goads Thou tamedst me; and how Thou hast
evened me, lowering the mountains and hills of my high imaginations,
straightening my crookedness, and smoothing my rough ways; and how
Thou also subduedst the brother of my heart, Alypius, unto the name of
Thy Only Begotten, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which he would
not at first vouchsafe to have inserted in our writings. For rather
would he have them savour of the lofty cedars of the Schools, which
the Lord hath now broken down, than of the wholesome herbs of the
Church, the antidote against serpents.
Oh, in what accents spake I unto Thee, my God, when I read the
Psalms of David, those faithful songs, and sounds of devotion, which
allow of no swelling spirit, as yet a Catechumen, and a novice in
Thy real love, resting in that villa, with Alypius a Catechumen, my
mother cleaving to us, in female garb with masculine faith, with the
tranquillity of age, motherly love, Christian piety! Oh, what
accents did I utter unto Thee in those Psalms, and how was I by them
kindled towards Thee, and on fire to rehearse them, if possible,
through the whole world, against the pride of mankind! And yet they
are sung through the whole world, nor can any hide himself from Thy
heat. With what vehement and bitter sorrow was I angered at the
Manichees! and again I pitied them, for they knew not those
Sacraments, those medicines, and were mad against the antidote which
might have recovered them of their madness. How I would they had
then been somewhere near me, and without my knowing that they were
there, could have beheld my countenance, and heard my words, when I
read the fourth Psalm in that time of my rest, and how that Psalm
wrought upon me: When I called, the God of my righteousness heard
me; in tribulation Thou enlargedst me. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, and
hear my prayer. Would that what I uttered on these words, they could
hear, without my knowing whether they heard, lest they should think
I spake it for their sakes! Because in truth neither should I speak
the same things, nor in the same way, if I perceived that they heard
and saw me; nor if I spake them would they so receive them, as when
I spake by and for myself before Thee, out of the natural feelings
of my soul.
I trembled for fear, and again kindled with hope, and with rejoicing
in Thy mercy, O Father; and all issued forth both by mine eyes and
voice, when Thy good Spirit turning unto us, said, O ye sons of men,
how long slow of heart? why do ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?
For I had loved vanity, and sought after leasing. And Thou, O Lord,
hadst already magnified Thy Holy One, raising Him from the dead, and
setting Him at Thy right hand, whence from on high He should send
His promise, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth. And He had already
sent Him, but I knew it not; He had sent Him, because He was now
magnified, rising again from the dead, and ascending into heaven.
For till then, the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet
glorified. And the prophet cries out, How long, slow of heart? why
do ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Know this, that the Lord
hath magnified His Holy One. He cries out, How long? He cries out,
Know this: and I so long, not knowing, loved vanity, and sought
after leasing: and therefore I heard and trembled, because it was
spoken unto such as I remembered myself to have been. For in those
phantoms which I had held for truths, was there vanity and leasing;
and I spake aloud many things earnestly and forcibly, in the
bitterness of my remembrance. Which would they had heard, who yet love
vanity and seek after leasing! They would perchance have been
troubled, and have vomited it up; and Thou wouldest hear them when
they cried unto Thee; for by a true death in the flesh did He die
for us, who now intercedeth unto Thee for us.
I further read, Be angry, and sin not. And how was I moved, O my
God, who had now learned to be angry at myself for things past, that I
might not sin in time to come! Yea, to be justly angry; for that it
was not another nature of a people of darkness which sinned for me, as
they say who are not angry at themselves, and treasure up wrath
against the day of wrath, and of the revelation of Thy just
judgment. Nor were my good things now without, nor sought with the
eyes of flesh in that earthly sun; for they that would have joy from
without soon become vain, and waste themselves on the things seen
and temporal, and in their famished thoughts do lick their very
shadows. Oh that they were wearied out with their famine, and said,
Who will show us good things? And we would say, and they hear, The
light of Thy countenance is sealed upon us. For we are not that
light which enlighteneth every man, but we are enlightened by Thee;
that having been sometimes darkness, we may be light in Thee. Oh
that they could see the eternal Internal, which having tasted, I was
grieved that I could not show It them, so long as they brought me
their heart in their eyes roving abroad from Thee, while they said,
Who will show us good things? For there, where I was angry within
myself in my chamber, where I was inwardly pricked, where I had
sacrificed, slaying my old man and commencing the purpose of a new
life, putting my trust in Thee,- there hadst Thou begun to grow
sweet unto me, and hadst put gladness in my heart. And I cried out, as
I read this outwardly, finding it inwardly. Nor would I be
multiplied with worldly goods; wasting away time, and wasted by
time; whereas I had in Thy eternal Simple Essence other corn, and
wine, and oil.
And with a loud cry of my heart I cried out in the next verse, O
in peace, O for The Self-same! O what said he, I will lay me down
and sleep, for who shall hinder us, when cometh to pass that saying
which is written, Death is swallowed up in victory? And Thou
surpassingly art the Self-same, Who art not changed; and in Thee is
rest which forgetteth all toil, for there is none other with Thee, nor
are we to seek those many other things, which are not what Thou art:
but Thou, Lord, alone hast made me dwell in hope. I read, and kindled;
nor found I what to do to those deaf and dead, of whom myself had
been, a pestilent person, a bitter and a blind bawler against those
writings, which are honied with the honey of heaven, and lightsome
with Thine own light: and I was consumed with zeal at the enemies of
this Scripture.
When shall I recall all which passed in those holy-days? Yet neither
have I forgotten, nor will I pass over the severity of Thy scourge,
and the wonderful swiftness of Thy mercy. Thou didst then torment me
with pain in my teeth; which when it had come to such height that I
could not speak, it came into my heart to desire all my friends
present to pray for me to Thee, the God of all manner of health. And
this I wrote on wax, and gave it them to read. Presently so soon as
with humble devotion we had bowed our knees, that pain went away.
But what pain? or how went it away? I was affrighted, O my Lord, my
God; for from infancy I had never experienced the like. And the
power of Thy Nod was deeply conveyed to me, and rejoicing in faith,
I praised Thy Name. And that faith suffered me not to be at ease about
my past sins, which were not yet forgiven me by Thy baptism.
The vintage-vacation ended, I gave notice to the Milanese to provide
their scholars with another master to sell words to them; for that I
had both made choice to serve Thee, and through my difficulty of
breathing and pain in my chest was not equal to the Professorship. And
by letters I signified to Thy Prelate, the holy man Ambrose, my former
errors and present desires, begging his advice what of Thy
Scriptures I had best read, to become readier and fitter for receiving
so great grace. He recommended Isaiah the Prophet: I believe,
because he above the rest is a more clear foreshower of the Gospel and
of the calling of the Gentiles. But I, not understanding the first
lesson in him, and imagining the whole to be like it, laid it by, to
be resumed when better practised in our Lord's own words.
Thence, when the time was come wherein I was to give in my name,
we left the country and returned to Milan. It pleased Alypius also
to be with me born again in Thee, being already clothed with the
humility befitting Thy Sacraments; and a most valiant tamer of the
body, so as, with unwonted venture, to wear the frozen ground of Italy
with his bare feet. We joined with us the boy Adeodatus, born after
the flesh, of my sin. Excellently hadst Thou made him. He was not
quite fifteen, and in wit surpassed many grave and learned men. I
confess unto Thee Thy gifts, O Lord my God, Creator of all, and
abundantly able to reform our deformities: for I had no part in that
boy, but the sin. For that we brought him up in Thy discipline, it was
Thou, none else, had inspired us with it. I confess unto Thee Thy
gifts. There is a book of ours entitled The Master; it is a dialogue
between him and me. Thou knowest that all there ascribed to the person
conversing with me were his ideas, in his sixteenth year. Much
besides, and yet more admirable, I found in him. That talent struck
awe into me. And who but Thou could be the workmaster of such wonders?
Soon didst Thou take his life from the earth: and I now remember him
without anxiety, fearing nothing for his childhood or youth, or his
whole self. Him we joined with us, our contemporary in grace, to he
brought up in Thy discipline: and we were baptised, and anxiety for
our past life vanished from us. Nor was I sated in those days with the
wondrous sweetness of considering the depth of Thy counsels concerning
the salvation of mankind. How did I weep, in Thy Hymns and
Canticles, touched to the quick by the voices of Thy sweet-attuned
Church! The voices flowed into mine ears, and the Truth distilled into
my heart, whence the affections of my devotion overflowed, and tears
ran down, and happy was I therein.
Not long had the Church of Milan begun to use this kind of
consolation and exhortation, the brethren zealously joining with
harmony of voice and hearts. For it was a year, or not much more, that
Justina, mother to the Emperor Valentinian, a child, persecuted Thy
servant Ambrose, in favour of her heresy, to which she was seduced
by the Arians. The devout people kept watch in the Church, ready to
die with their Bishop Thy servant. There my mother Thy handmaid,
bearing a chief part of those anxieties and watchings, lived for
prayer. We, yet unwarmed by the heat of Thy Spirit, still were stirred
up by the sight of the amazed and disquieted city. Then it was first
instituted that after the manner of the Eastern Churches, Hymns and
Psalms should be sung, lest the people should wax faint through the
tediousness of sorrow: and from that day to this the custom is
retained, divers (yea, almost all) Thy congregations, throughout other
parts of the world following herein.
Then didst Thou by a vision discover to Thy forenamed Bishop where
the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius the martyrs lay hid (whom Thou
hadst in Thy secret treasury stored uncorrupted so many years), whence
Thou mightest seasonably produce them to repress the fury of a
woman, but an Empress. For when they were discovered and dug up, and
with due honour translated to the Ambrosian Basilica, not only they
who were vexed with unclean spirits (the devils confessing themselves)
were cured, but a certain man who had for many years been blind, a
citizen, and well known to the city, asking and hearing the reason
of the people's confused joy, sprang forth desiring his guide to
lead him thither. Led thither, he begged to be allowed to touch with
his handkerchief the bier of Thy saints, whose death is precious in
Thy sight. Which when he had done, and put to his eyes, they were
forthwith opened. Thence did the fame spread, thence Thy praises
glowed, shone; thence the mind of that enemy, though not turned to the
soundness of believing, was yet turned back from her fury of
persecuting. Thanks to Thee, O my God. Whence and whither hast Thou
thus led my remembrance, that I should confess these things also
unto Thee? which great though they be, I had passed by in
forgetfulness. And yet then, when the odour of Thy ointments was so
fragrant, did we not run after Thee. Therefore did I more weep among
the singing of Thy Hymns, formerly sighing after Thee, and at length
breathing in Thee, as far as the breath may enter into this our
house of grass.
Thou that makest men to dwell of one mind in one house, didst join
with us Euodius also, a young man of our own city. Who being an
officer of Court, was before us converted to Thee and baptised: and
quitting his secular warfare, girded himself to Thine. We were
together, about to dwell together in our devout purpose. We sought
where we might serve Thee most usefully, and were together returning
to Africa: whitherward being as far as Ostia, my mother departed
this life. Much I omit, as hastening much. Receive my confessions
and thanksgivings, O my God, for innumerable things whereof I am
silent. But I will not omit whatsoever my soul would bring forth
concerning that Thy handmaid, who brought me forth, both in the flesh,
that I might be born to this temporal light, and in heart, that I
might be born to Light eternal. Not her gifts, but Thine in her, would
I speak of; for neither did she make nor educate herself. Thou
createdst her; nor did her father and mother know what a one should
come from them. And the sceptre of Thy Christ, the discipline of Thine
only Son, in a Christian house, a good member of Thy Church,
educated her in Thy fear. Yet for her good discipline was she wont
to commend not so much her mother's diligence, as that of a certain
decrepit maid-servant, who had carried her father when a child, as
little ones used to be carried at the backs of elder girls. For
which reason, and for her great age, and excellent conversation, was
she, in that Christian family, well respected by its heads. Whence
also the charge of her master's daughters was entrusted to her, to
which she gave diligent heed, restraining them earnestly, when
necessary, with a holy severity, and teaching them with a grave
discretion. For, except at those hours wherein they were most
temporately fed at their parents' table, she would not suffer them,
though parched with thirst, to drink even water; preventing an evil
custom, and adding this wholesome advice: "Ye drink water now, because
you have not wine in your power; but when you come to be married,
and be made mistresses of cellars and cupboards, you will scorn water,
but the custom of drinking will abide." By this method of instruction,
and the authority she had, she refrained the greediness of
childhood, and moulded their very thirst to such an excellent
moderation that what they should not, that they would not.
And yet (as Thy handmaid told me her son) there had crept upon her a
love of wine. For when (as the manner was) she, as though a sober
maiden, was bidden by her parents to draw wine out of the hogshed,
holding the vessel under the opening, before she poured the wine
into the flagon, she sipped a little with the tip of her lips; for
more her instinctive feelings refused. For this she did, not out of
any desire of drink, but out of the exuberance of youth, whereby it
boils over in mirthful freaks, which in youthful spirits are wont to
be kept under by the gravity of their elders. And thus by adding to
that little, daily littles (for whoso despiseth little things shall
fall by little and little), she had fallen into such a habit as
greedily to drink off her little cup brim-full almost of wine. Where
was then that discreet old woman, and that her earnest countermanding?
Would aught avail against a secret disease, if Thy healing hand, O
Lord, watched not over us? Father, mother, and governors absent,
Thou present, who createdst, who callest, who also by those set over
us, workest something towards the salvation of our souls, what didst
Thou then, O my God? how didst Thou cure her? how heal her? didst Thou
not out of another soul bring forth a hard and a sharp taunt, like a
lancet out of Thy secret store, and with one touch remove all that
foul stuff? For a maid-servant with whom she used to go to the cellar,
falling to words (as it happens) with her little mistress, when
alone with her, taunted her with this fault, with most bitter
insult, calling her wine-bibber. With which taunt she, stung to the
quick, saw the foulness of her fault, and instantly condemned and
forsook it. As flattering friends pervert, so reproachful enemies
mostly correct. Yet not what by them Thou doest, but what themselves
purposed, dost Thou repay them. For she in her anger sought to vex her
young mistress, not to amend her; and did it in private, either for
that the time and place of the quarrel so found them; or lest
herself also should have anger, for discovering it thus late. But
Thou, Lord, Governor of all in heaven and earth, who turnest to Thy
purposes the deepest currents, and the ruled turbulence of the tide of
times, didst by the very unhealthiness of one soul heal another;
lest any, when he observes this, should ascribe it to his own power,
even when another, whom he wished to be reformed, is reformed
through words of his.
Brought up thus modestly and soberly, and made subject rather by
Thee to her parents, than by her parents to Thee, so soon as she was
of marriageable age, being bestowed upon a husband, she served him
as her lord; and did her diligence to win him unto Thee, preaching
Thee unto him by her conversation; by which Thou ornamentedst her,
making her reverently amiable, and admirable unto her husband. And she
so endured the wronging of her bed as never to have any quarrel with
her husband thereon. For she looked for Thy mercy upon him, that
believing in Thee, he might be made chaste. But besides this, he was
fervid, as in his affections, so in anger: but she had learnt not to
resist an angry husband, not in deed only, but not even in word.
Only when he was smoothed and tranquil, and in a temper to receive it,
she would give an account of her actions, if haply he had
overhastily taken offence. In a word, while many matrons, who had
milder husbands, yet bore even in their faces marks of shame, would in
familiar talk blame their husbands' lives, she would blame their
tongues, giving them, as in jest, earnest advice: "That from the
time they heard the marriage writings read to them, they should
account them as indentures, whereby they were made servants; and so,
remembering their condition, ought not to set themselves up against
their lords." And when they, knowing what a choleric husband she
endured, marvelled that it had never been heard, nor by any token
perceived, that Patricius had beaten his wife, or that there had
been any domestic difference between them, even for one day, and
confidentially asking the reason, she taught them her practice above
mentioned. Those wives who observed it found the good, and returned
thanks; those who observed it not, found no relief, and suffered.
Her mother-in-law also, at first by whisperings of evil servants
incensed against her, she so overcame by observance and persevering
endurance and meekness, that she of her own accord discovered to her
son the meddling tongues whereby the domestic peace betwixt her and
her daughter-in-law had been disturbed, asking him to correct them.
Then, when in compliance with his mother, and for the well-ordering of
the family, he had with stripes corrected those discovered, at her
will who had discovered them, she promised the like reward to any who,
to please her, should speak ill of her daughter-in-law to her: and
none now venturing, they lived together with a remarkable sweetness of
mutual kindness.
This great gift also thou bestowedst, O my God, my mercy, upon
that good handmaid of Thine, in whose womb Thou createdst me, that
between any disagreeing and discordant parties where she was able, she
showed herself such a peacemaker, that hearing on both sides most
bitter things, such as swelling and indigested choler uses to break
out into, when the crudities of enmities are breathed out in sour
discourses to a present friend against an absent enemy, she never
would disclose aught of the one unto the other, but what might tend to
their reconcilement. A small good this might appear to me, did I not
to my grief know numberless persons, who through some horrible and
wide-spreading contagion of sin, not only disclose to persons mutually
angered things said in anger, but add withal things never spoken,
whereas to humane humanity, it ought to seem a light thing not to
toment or increase ill will by ill words, unless one study withal by
good words to quench it. Such was she, Thyself, her most inward
Instructor, teaching her in the school of the heart.
Finally, her own husband, towards the very end of his earthly
life, did she gain unto Thee; nor had she to complain of that in him
as a believer, which before he was a believer she had borne from
him. She was also the servant of Thy servants; whosoever of them
knew her, did in her much praise and honour and love Thee; for that
through the witness of the fruits of a holy conversation they
perceived Thy presence in her heart. For she had been the wife of
one man, had requited her parents, had govemed her house piously,
was well reported of for good works, had brought up children, so often
travailing in birth of them, as she saw them swerving from Thee.
Lastly, of all of us Thy servants, O Lord (whom on occasion of Thy own
gift Thou sufferest to speak), us, who before her sleeping in Thee
lived united together, having received the grace of Thy baptism, did
she so take care of, as though she had been mother of us all; so
served us, as though she had been child to us all.
The day now approaching whereon she was to depart this life (which
day Thou well knewest, we knew not), it came to pass, Thyself, as I
believe, by Thy secret ways so ordering it, that she and I stood
alone, leaning in a certain window, which looked into the garden of
the house where we now lay, at Ostia; where removed from the din of
men, we were recruiting from the fatigues of a long journey, for the
voyage. We were discoursing then together, alone, very sweetly; and
forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto
those things which are before, we were enquiring between ourselves
in the presence of the Truth, which Thou art, of what sort the eternal
life of the saints was to be, which eye hath not seen, nor ear
heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man. But yet we gasped
with the mouth of our heart, after those heavenly streams of Thy
fountain, the fountain of life, which is with Thee; that being bedewed
thence according to our capacity, we might in some sort meditate
upon so high a mystery.
And when our discourse was brought to that point, that the very
highest delight of the earthly senses, in the very purest material
light, was, in respect of the sweetness of that life, not only not
worthy of comparison, but not even of mention; we raising up ourselves
with a more glowing affection towards the "Self-same," did by
degrees pass through all things bodily, even the very heaven whence
sun and moon and stars shine upon the earth; yea, we were soaring
higher yet, by inward musing, and discourse, and admiring of Thy
works; and we came to our own minds, and went beyond them, that we
might arrive at that region of never-failing plenty, where Thou
feedest Israel for ever with the food of truth, and where life is
the Wisdom by whom all these things are made, and what have been,
and what shall be, and she is not made, but is, as she hath been,
and so shall she be ever; yea rather, to "have been," and "hereafter
to be," are not in her, but only "to be," seeing she is eternal. For
to "have been," and to "be hereafter," are not eternal. And while we
were discoursing and panting after her, we slightly touched on her
with the whole effort of our heart; and we sighed, and there we
leave bound the first fruits of the Spirit; and returned to vocal
expressions of our mouth, where the word spoken has beginning and end.
And what is like unto Thy Word, our Lord, who endureth in Himself
without becoming old, and maketh all things new?
We were saying then: If to any the tumult of the flesh were
hushed, hushed the images of earth, and waters, and air, hushed also
the pole of heaven, yea the very soul be hushed to herself, and by not
thinking on self surmount self, hushed all dreams and imaginary
revelations, every tongue and every sign, and whatsoever exists only
in transition, since if any could hear, all these say, We made not
ourselves, but He made us that abideth for ever- If then having
uttered this, they too should be hushed, having roused only our ears
to Him who made them, and He alone speak, not by them but by
Himself, that we may hear His Word, not through any tongue of flesh,
nor Angel's voice, nor sound of thunder, nor in the dark riddle of a
similitude, but might hear Whom in these things we love, might hear
His Very Self without these (as we two now strained ourselves, and
in swift thought touched on that Eternal Wisdom which abideth over
all); -could this be continued on, and other visions of kind far
unlike be withdrawn, and this one ravish, and absorb, and wrap up
its beholder amid these inward joys, so that life might be for ever
like that one moment of understanding which now we sighed after;
were not this, Enter into thy Master's joy? And when shall that be?
When we shall all rise again, though we shall not all be changed?
Such things was I speaking, and even if not in this very manner, and
these same words, yet, Lord, Thou knowest that in that day when we
were speaking of these things, and this world with all its delights
became, as we spake, contemptible to us, my mother said, "Son, for
mine own part I have no further delight in any thing in this life.
What I do here any longer, and to what I am here, I know not, now that
my hopes in this world are accomplished. One thing there was for which
I desired to linger for a while in this life, that I might see thee
a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath done this for me
more abundantly, that I should now see thee withal, despising
earthly happiness, become His servant: what do I here?"
What answer I made her unto these things, I remember not. For scarce
five days after, or not much more, she fell sick of a fever; and in
that sickness one day she fell into a swoon, and was for a while
withdrawn from these visible things. We hastened round her; but she
was soon brought back to her senses; and looking on me and my
brother standing by her, said to us enquiringly, "Where was I?" And
then looking fixedly on us, with grief amazed: "Here," saith she,
"shall you bury your mother." I held my peace and refrained weeping;
but my brother spake something, wishing for her, as the happier lot,
that she might die, not in a strange place, but in her own land.
Whereat, she with anxious look, checking him with her eyes, for that
he still savoured such things, and then looking upon me: "Behold,"
saith she, "what he saith": and soon after to us both, "Lay," she
saith, "this body any where; let not the care for that any way
disquiet you: this only I request, that you would remember me at the
Lord's altar, wherever you be." And having delivered this sentiment in
what words she could, she held her peace, being exercised by her
growing sickness.
But I, considering Thy gifts, Thou unseen God, which Thou instillest
into the hearts of Thy faithful ones, whence wondrous fruits do
spring, did rejoice and give thanks to Thee, recalling what I before
knew, how careful and anxious she had ever been as to her place of
burial, which she had provided and prepared for herself by the body of
her husband. For because they had lived in great harmony together, she
also wished (so little can the human mind embrace things divine) to
have this addition to that happiness, and to have it remembered
among men, that after her pilgrimage beyond the seas, what was earthly
of this united pair had been permitted to be united beneath the same
earth. But when this emptiness had through the fulness of Thy goodness
begun to cease in her heart, I knew not, and rejoiced admiring what
she had so disclosed to me; though indeed in that our discourse also
in the window, when she said, "What do I here any longer?" there
appeared no desire of dying in her own country. I heard afterwards
also, that when we were now at Ostia, she with a mother's
confidence, when I was absent, one day discoursed with certain of my
friends about the contempt of this life, and the blessing of death:
and when they were amazed at such courage which Thou hadst given to
a woman, and asked, "Whether she were not afraid to leave her body
so far from her own city?" she replied, "Nothing is far to God; nor
was it to be feared lest at the end of the world, He should not
recognise whence He were to raise me up." On the ninth day then of her
sickness, and the fifty-sixth year of her age, and the
three-and-thirtieth of mine, was that religious and holy soul freed
from the body.
I closed her eyes; and there flowed withal a mighty sorrow into my
heart, which was overflowing into tears; mine eyes at the same time,
by the violent command of my mind, drank up their fountain wholly dry;
and woe was me in such a strife! But when she breathed her last, the
boy Adeodatus burst out into a loud lament; then, checked by us all,
held his peace. In like manner also a childish feeling in me, which
was, through my heart's youthful voice, finding its vent in weeping,
was checked and silenced. For we thought it not fitting to solemnise
that funeral with tearful lament, and groanings; for thereby do they
for the most part express grief for the departed, as though unhappy,
or altogether dead; whereas she was neither unhappy in her death,
nor altogether dead. Of this we were assured on good grounds, the
testimony of her good conversation and her faith unfeigned.
What then was it which did grievously pain me within, but a fresh
wound wrought through the sudden wrench of that most sweet and dear
custom of living together? I joyed indeed in her testimony, when, in
that her last sickness, mingling her endearments with my acts of duty,
she called me "dutiful," and mentioned, with great affection of
love, that she never had heard any harsh or reproachful sound
uttered by my mouth against her. But yet, O my God, Who madest us,
what comparison is there betwixt that honour that I paid to her, and
her slavery for me? Being then forsaken of so great comfort in her, my
soul was wounded, and that life rent asunder as it were, which, of
hers and mine together, had been made but one.
The boy then being stilled from weeping, Euodius took up the
Psalter, and began to sing, our whole house answering him, the
Psalm, I will sing of mercy and judgments to Thee, O Lord. But hearing
what we were doing, many brethren and religious women came together;
and whilst they (whose office it was) made ready for the burial, as
the manner is, I (in a part of the house, where I might properly),
together with those who thought not fit to leave me, discoursed upon
something fitting the time; and by this balm of truth assuaged that
torment, known to Thee, they unknowing and listening intently, and
conceiving me to be without all sense of sorrow. But in Thy ears,
where none of them heard, I blamed the weakness of my feelings, and
refrained my flood of grief, which gave way a little unto me; but
again came, as with a tide, yet not so as to burst out into tears, nor
to change of countenance; still I knew what I was keeping down in my
heart. And being very much displeased that these human things had such
power over me, which in the due order and appointment of our natural
condition must needs come to pass, with a new grief I grieved for my
grief, and was thus worn by a double sorrow.
And behold, the corpse was carried to the burial; we went and
returned without tears. For neither in those prayers which we poured
forth unto Thee, when the Sacrifice of our ransom was offered for her,
when now the corpse was by the grave's side, as the manner there is,
previous to its being laid therein, did I weep even during those
prayers; yet was I the whole day in secret heavily sad, and with
troubled mind prayed Thee, as I could, to heal my sorrow, yet Thou
didst not; impressing, I believe, upon my memory by this one instance,
how strong is the bond of all habit, even upon a soul, which now feeds
upon no deceiving Word. It seemed also good to me to go and bathe,
having heard that the bath had its name (balneum) from the Greek
Balaneion for that it drives sadness from the mind. And this also I
confess unto Thy mercy, Father of the fatherless, that I bathed, and
was the same as before I bathed. For the bitterness of sorrow could
not exude out of my heart. Then I slept, and woke up again, and
found my grief not a little softened; and as I was alone in my bed,
I remembered those true verses of Thy Ambrose. For Thou art the

"Maker of all, the Lord,
And Ruler of the height,
Who, robing day in light, hast poured
Soft slumbers o'er the night,
That to our limbs the power
Of toil may be renew'd,
And hearts be rais'd that sink and cower,
And sorrows be subdu'd."

And then by little and little I recovered my former thoughts of Thy
handmaid, her holy conversation towards Thee, her holy tenderness
and observance towards us, whereof I was suddenly deprived: and I
was minded to weep in Thy sight, for her and for myself, in her behalf
and in my own. And I gave way to the tears which I before
restrained, to overflow as much as they desired; reposing my heart
upon them; and it found rest in them, for it was in Thy ears, not in
those of man, who would have scornfully interpreted my weeping. And
now, Lord, in writing I confess it unto Thee. Read it, who will, and
interpret it, how he will: and if he finds sin therein, that I wept my
mother for a small portion of an hour (the mother who for the time was
dead to mine eyes, who had for many years wept for me that I might
live in Thine eyes), let him not deride me; but rather, if he be one
of large charity, let him weep himself for my sins unto Thee, the
Father of all the brethren of Thy Christ.
But now, with a heart cured of that wound, wherein it might seem
blameworthy for an earthly feeling, I pour out unto Thee, our God,
in behalf of that Thy handmaid, a far different kind of tears, flowing
from a spirit shaken by the thoughts of the dangers of every soul that
dieth in Adam. And although she having been quickened in Christ,
even before her release from the flesh, had lived to the praise of Thy
name for her faith and conversation; yet dare I not say that from what
time Thou regeneratedst her by baptism, no word issued from her
mouth against Thy Commandment. Thy Son, the Truth, hath said,
Whosoever shall say unto his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of
hell fire. And woe be even unto the commendable life of men, if,
laying aside mercy, Thou shouldest examine it. But because Thou art
not extreme in enquiring after sins, we confidently hope to find
some place with Thee. But whosoever reckons up his real merits to
Thee, what reckons he up to Thee but Thine own gifts? O that men would
know themselves to be men; and that he that glorieth would glory in
the Lord.
I therefore, O my Praise and my Life, God of my heart, laying
aside for a while her good deeds, for which I give thanks to Thee with
joy, do now beseech Thee for the sins of my mother. Hearken unto me, I
entreat Thee, by the Medicine of our wounds, Who hung upon the tree,
and now sitting at Thy right hand maketh intercession to Thee for
us. I know that she dealt mercifully, and from her heart forgave her
debtors their debts; do Thou also forgive her debts, whatever she
may have contracted in so many years, since the water of salvation.
Forgive her, Lord, forgive, I beseech Thee; enter not into judgment
with her. Let Thy mercy be exalted above Thy justice, since Thy
words are true, and Thou hast promised mercy unto the merciful;
which Thou gavest them to be, who wilt have mercy on whom Thou wilt
have mercy; and wilt have compassion on whom Thou hast had compassion.
And, I believe, Thou hast already done what I ask; but accept, O
Lord, the free-will offerings of my mouth. For she, the day of her
dissolution now at hand, took no thought to have her body
sumptuously wound up, or embalmed with spices; nor desired she a
choice monument, or to be buried in her own land. These things she
enjoined us not; but desired only to have her name commemorated at Thy
Altar, which she had served without intermission of one day: whence
she knew the holy Sacrifice to be dispensed, by which the hand-writing
that was against us is blotted out; through which the enemy was
triumphed over, who summing up our offences, and seeking what to lay
to our charge, found nothing in Him, in Whom we conquer. Who shall
restore to Him the innocent blood? Who repay Him the price wherewith
He bought us, and so take us from Him? Unto the Sacrament of which our
ransom, Thy handmaid bound her soul by the bond of faith. Let none
sever her from Thy protection: let neither the lion nor the dragon
interpose himself by force or fraud. For she will not answer that
she owes nothing, lest she be convicted and seized by the crafty
accuser: but she will answer that her sins are forgiven her by Him, to
Whom none can repay that price which He, Who owed nothing, paid for
us.
May she rest then in peace with the husband before and after whom
she had never any; whom she obeyed, with patience bringing forth fruit
unto Thee, that she might win him also unto Thee. And inspire, O
Lord my God, inspire Thy servants my brethren, Thy sons my masters,
whom with voice, and heart, and pen I serve, that so many as shall
read these Confessions, may at Thy Altar remember Monnica Thy
handmaid, with Patricius, her sometimes husband, by whose bodies
Thou broughtest me into this life, how I know not. May they with
devout affection remember my parents in this transitory light, my
brethren under Thee our Father in our Catholic Mother, and my
fellow-citizens in that eternal Jerusalem which Thy pilgrim people
sigheth after from their Exodus, even unto their return thither.
That so my mother's last request of me, may through my confessions,
more than through my prayers, be, through the prayers of many, more
abundantly fulfilled to her.
BOOK X

Let me know Thee, O Lord, who knowest me: let me know Thee, as I
am known. Power of my soul, enter into it, and fit it for Thee, that
Thou mayest have and hold it without spot or wrinkle. This is my hope,
therefore do I speak; and in this hope do I rejoice, when I rejoice
healthfully. Other things of this life are the less to be sorrowed
for, the more they are sorrowed for; and the more to be sorrowed
for, the less men sorrow for them. For behold, Thou lovest the
truth, and he that doth it, cometh to the light. This would I do in my
heart before Thee in confession: and in my writing, before many
witnesses.
And from Thee, O Lord, unto whose eyes the abyss of man's conscience
is naked, what could be hidden in me though I would not confess it?
For I should hide Thee from me, not me from Thee. But now, for that my
groaning is witness, that I am displeased with myself, Thou shinest
out, and art pleasing, and beloved, and longed for; that I may be
ashamed of myself, and renounce myself, and choose Thee, and neither
please Thee nor myself, but in Thee. To Thee therefore, O Lord, am I
open, whatever I am; and with what fruit I confess unto Thee, I have
said. Nor do I it with words and sounds of the flesh, but with the
words of my soul, and the cry of the thought which Thy ear knoweth.
For when I am evil, then to confess to Thee is nothing else than to be
displeased with myself; but when holy, nothing else than not to
ascribe it to myself: because Thou, O Lord, blessest the godly, but
first Thou justifieth him when ungodly. My confession then, O my
God, in Thy sight, is made silently, and not silently. For in sound,
it is silent; in affection, it cries aloud. For neither do I utter any
thing right unto men, which Thou hast not before heard from me; nor
dost Thou hear any such thing from me, which Thou hast not first
said unto me.
What then have I to do with men, that they should hear my
confessions- as if they could heal all my infirmities- a race, curious
to know the lives of others, slothful to amend their own? Why seek
they to hear from me what I am; who will not hear from Thee what
themselves are? And how know they, when from myself they hear of
myself, whether I say true; seeing no man knows what is in man, but
the spirit of man which is in him? But if they hear from Thee of
themselves, they cannot say, "The Lord lieth." For what is it to
hear from Thee of themselves, but to know themselves? and who
knoweth and saith, "It is false," unless himself lieth? But because
charity believeth all things (that is, among those whom knitting
unto itself it maketh one), I also, O Lord, will in such wise
confess unto Thee, that men may hear, to whom I cannot demonstrate
whether I confess truly; yet they believe me, whose ears charity
openeth unto me.
But do Thou, my inmost Physician, make plain unto me what fruit I
may reap by doing it. For the confessions of my past sins, which
Thou hast forgiven and covered, that Thou mightest bless me in Thee,
changing my soul by Faith and Thy Sacrament, when read and heard, stir
up the heart, that it sleep not in despair and say "I cannot," but
awake in the love of Thy mercy and the sweetness of Thy grace, whereby
whoso is weak, is strong, when by it he became conscious of his own
weakness. And the good delight to hear of the past evils of such as
are now freed from them, not because they are evils, but because
they have been and are not. With what fruit then, O Lord my God, to
Whom my conscience daily confesseth, trusting more in the hope of
Thy mercy than in her own innocency, with what fruit, I pray, do I
by this book confess to men also in Thy presence what I now am, not
what I have been? For that other fruit I have seen and spoken of.
But what I now am, at the very time of making these confessions,
divers desire to know, who have or have not known me, who have heard
from me or of me; but their ear is not at my heart where I am,
whatever I am. They wish then to hear me confess what I am within;
whither neither their eye, nor ear, nor understanding can reach;
they wish it, as ready to believe- but will they know? For charity,
whereby they are good, telleth them that in my confessions I lie
not; and she in them, believeth me.
But for what fruit would they hear this? Do they desire to joy
with me, when they hear how near, by Thy gift, I approach unto Thee?
and to pray for me, when they shall hear how much I am held back by my
own weight? To such will I discover myself For it is no mean fruit,
O Lord my God, that by many thanks should be given to Thee on our
behalf, and Thou be by many entreated for us. Let the brotherly mind
love in me what Thou teachest is to be loved, and lament in me what
Thou teachest is to be lamented. Let a brotherly, not a stranger,
mind, not that of the strange children, whose mouth talketh of vanity,
and their right hand is a right hand of iniquity, but that brotherly
mind which when it approveth, rejoiceth for me, and when it
disapproveth me, is sorry for me; because whether it approveth or
disapproveth, it loveth me. To such will I discover myself: they
will breathe freely at my good deeds, sigh for my ill. My good deeds
are Thine appointments, and Thy gifts; my evil ones are my offences,
and Thy judgments. Let them breathe freely at the one, sigh at the
other; and let hymns and weeping go up into Thy sight, out of the
hearts of my brethren, Thy censers. And do Thou, O Lord, he pleased
with the incense of Thy holy temple, have mercy upon me according to
Thy great mercy for Thine own name's sake; and no ways forsaking
what Thou hast begun, perfect my imperfections.
This is the fruit of my confessions of what I am, not of what I have
been, to confess this, not before Thee only, in a secret exultation
with trembling, and a secret sorrow with hope; but in the ears also of
the believing sons of men, sharers of my joy, and partners in my
mortality, my fellow-citizens, and fellow-pilgrims, who are gone
before, or are to follow on, companions of my way. These are Thy
servants, my brethren, whom Thou willest to be Thy sons; my masters,
whom Thou commandest me to serve, if I would live with Thee, of
Thee. But this Thy Word were little did it only command by speaking,
and not go before in performing. This then I do in deed and word, this
I do under Thy wings; in over great peril, were not my soul subdued
unto Thee under Thy wings, and my infirmity known unto Thee. I am a
little one, but my Father ever liveth, and my Guardian is sufficient
for me. For He is the same who begat me, and defends me: and Thou
Thyself art all my good; Thou, Almighty, Who are with me, yea,
before I am with Thee. To such then whom Thou commandest me to serve
will I discover, not what I have been, but what I now am and what I
yet am. But neither do I judge myself. Thus therefore I would be
heard.
For Thou, Lord, dost judge me: because, although no man knoweth
the things of a man, but the spirit of a man which is in him, yet is
there something of man, which neither the spirit of man that is in
him, itself knoweth. But Thou, Lord, knowest all of him, Who hast made
him. Yet I, though in Thy sight I despise myself, and account myself
dust and ashes; yet know I something of Thee, which I know not of
myself. And truly, now we see through a glass darkly, not face to face
as yet. So long therefore as I be absent from Thee, I am more
present with myself than with Thee; and yet know I Thee that Thou
art in no ways passible; but I, what temptations I can resist, what
I cannot, I know not. And there is hope, because Thou art faithful,
Who wilt not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but
wilt with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be
able to bear it. I will confess then what I know of myself, I will
confess also what I know not of myself. And that because what I do
know of myself, I know by Thy shining upon me; and what I know not
of myself, so long know I not it, until my darkness be made as the
noon-day in Thy countenance.
Not with doubting, but with assured consciousness, do I love Thee,
Lord. Thou hast stricken my heart with Thy word, and I loved Thee. Yea
also heaven, and earth, and all that therein is, behold, on every side
they bid me love Thee; nor cease to say so unto all, that they may
be without excuse. But more deeply wilt Thou have mercy on whom Thou
wilt have mercy, and wilt have compassion on whom Thou hast had
compassion: else in deaf ears do the heaven and the earth speak Thy
praises. But what do I love, when I love Thee? not beauty of bodies,
nor the fair harmony of time, nor the brightness of the light, so
gladsome to our eyes, nor sweet melodies of varied songs, nor the
fragrant smell of flowers, and ointments, and spices, not manna and
honey, not limbs acceptable to embracements of flesh. None of these
I love, when I love my God; and yet I love a kind of light, and
melody, and fragrance, and meat, and embracement when I love my God,
the light, melody, fragrance, meat, embracement of my inner man: where
there shineth unto my soul what space cannot contain, and there
soundeth what time beareth not away, and there smelleth what breathing
disperseth not, and there tasteth what eating diminisheth not, and
there clingeth what satiety divorceth not. This is it which I love
when I love my God.
And what is this? I asked the earth, and it answered me, "I am not
He"; and whatsoever are in it confessed the same. I asked the sea
and the deeps, and the living creeping things, and they answered,
"We are not thy God, seek above us." I asked the moving air; and the
whole air with his inhabitants answered, "Anaximenes was deceived, I
am not God. " I asked the heavens, sun, moon, stars, "Nor (say they)
are we the God whom thou seekest." And I replied unto all the things
which encompass the door of my flesh: "Ye have told me of my God, that
ye are not He; tell me something of Him." And they cried out with a
loud voice, "He made us. " My questioning them, was my thoughts on
them: and their form of beauty gave the answer. And I turned myself
unto myself, and said to myself, "Who art thou?" And I answered, "A
man." And behold, in me there present themselves to me soul, and body,
one without, the other within. By which of these ought I to seek my
God? I had sought Him in the body from earth to heaven, so far as I
could send messengers, the beams of mine eyes. But the better is the
inner, for to it as presiding and judging, all the bodily messengers
reported the answers of heaven and earth, and all things therein,
who said, "We are not God, but He made us." These things did my
inner man know by the ministry of the outer: I the inner knew them; I,
the mind, through the senses of my body. I asked the whole frame of
the world about my God; and it answered me, "I am not He, but He
made me.
Is not this corporeal figure apparent to all whose senses are
perfect? why then speaks it not the same to all? Animals small and
great see it, but they cannot ask it: because no reason is set over
their senses to judge on what they report. But men can ask, so that
the invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood by
the things that are made; but by love of them, they are made subject
unto them: and subjects cannot judge. Nor yet do the creatures
answer such as ask, unless they can judge; nor yet do they change
their voice (i.e., their appearance), if one man only sees, another
seeing asks, so as to appear one way to this man, another way to that,
but appearing the same way to both, it is dumb to this, speaks to
that; yea rather it speaks to all; but they only understand, who
compare its voice received from without, with the truth within. For
truth saith unto me, "Neither heaven, nor earth, nor any other body is
thy God." This, their very nature saith to him that seeth them:
"They are a mass; a mass is less in a part thereof than in the whole."
Now to thee I speak, O my soul, thou art my better part: for thou
quickenest the mass of my body, giving it life, which no body can give
to a body: but thy God is even unto thee the Life of thy life.
What then do I love, when I love my God? who is He above the head of
my soul? By my very soul will I ascend to Him. I will pass beyond that
power whereby I am united to my body, and fill its whole frame with
life. Nor can I by that power find my God; for so horse and mule
that have no understanding might find Him; seeing it is the same
power, whereby even their bodies live. But another power there is, not
that only whereby I animate, but that too whereby I imbue with sense
my flesh, which the Lord hath framed for me: commanding the eye not to
hear, and the ear not to see; but the eye, that through it I should
see, and the ear, that through it I should hear; and to the other
senses severally, what is to each their own peculiar seats and
offices; which, being divers, I the one mind, do through them enact. I
will pass beyond this power of mine also; for this also have the
horse, and mule, for they also perceive through the body.
I will pass then beyond this power of my nature also, rising by
degrees unto Him Who made me. And I come to the fields and spacious
palaces of my memory, where are the treasures of innumerable images,
brought into it from things of all sorts perceived by the senses.
There is stored up, whatsoever besides we think, either by enlarging
or diminishing, or any other way varying those things which the
sense hath come to; and whatever else hath been committed and laid up,
which forgetfulness hath not yet swallowed up and buried. When I enter
there, I require what I will to be brought forth, and something
instantly comes; others must be longer sought after, which are
fetched, as it were, out of some inner receptacle; others rush out
in troops, and while one thing is desired and required, they start
forth, as who should say, "Is it perchance I?" These I drive away with
the hand of my heart, from the face of my remembrance; until what I
wish for be unveiled, and appear in sight, out of its secret place.
Other things come up readily, in unbroken order, as they are called
for; those in front making way for the following; and as they make
way, they are hidden from sight, ready to come when I will. All
which takes place when I repeat a thing by heart.
There are all things preserved distinctly and under general heads,
each having entered by its own avenue: as light, and all colours and
forms of bodies by the eyes; by the ears all sorts of sounds; all
smells by the avenue of the nostrils; all tastes by the mouth; and
by the sensation of the whole body, what is hard or soft; hot or cold;
or rugged; heavy or light; either outwardly or inwardly to the body.
All these doth that great harbour of the memory receive in her
numberless secret and inexpressible windings, to be forthcoming, and
brought out at need; each entering in by his own gate, and there
laid up. Nor yet do the things themselves enter in; only the images of
the things perceived are there in readiness, for thought to recall.
Which images, how they are formed, who can tell, though it doth
plainly appear by which sense each hath been brought in and stored up?
For even while I dwell in darkness and silence, in my memory I can
produce colours, if I will, and discern betwixt black and white, and
what others I will: nor yet do sounds break in and disturb the image
drawn in by my eyes, which I am reviewing, though they also are there,
lying dormant, and laid up, as it were, apart. For these too I call
for, and forthwith they appear. And though my tongue be still, and
my throat mute, so can I sing as much as I will; nor do those images
of colours, which notwithstanding be there, intrude themselves and
interrupt, when another store is called for, which flowed in by the
ears. So the other things, piled in and up by the other senses, I
recall at my pleasure. Yea, I discern the breath of lilies from
violets, though smelling nothing; and I prefer honey to sweet wine,
smooth before rugged, at the time neither tasting nor handling, but
remembering only.
These things do I within, in that vast court of my memory. For there
are present with me, heaven, earth, sea, and whatever I could think on
therein, besides what I have forgotten. There also meet I with myself,
and recall myself, and when, where, and what I have done, and under
what feelings. There be all which I remember, either on my own
experience, or other's credit. Out of the same store do I myself
with the past continually combine fresh and fresh likenesses of things
which I have experienced, or, from what I have experienced, have
believed: and thence again infer future actions, events and hopes, and
all these again I reflect on, as present. "I will do this or that,"
say I to myself, in that great receptacle of my mind, stored with
the images of things so many and so great, "and this or that will
follow." "O that this or that might be!" "God avert this or that!"
So speak I to myself: and when I speak, the images of all I speak of
are present, out of the same treasury of memory; nor would I speak
of any thereof, were the images wanting.
Great is this force of memory, excessive great, O my God; a large
and boundless chamber! who ever sounded the bottom thereof? yet is
this a power of mine, and belongs unto my nature; nor do I myself
comprehend all that I am. Therefore is the mind too strait to
contain itself. And where should that be, which it containeth not of
itself? Is it without it, and not within? how then doth it not
comprehend itself? A wonderful admiration surprises me, amazement
seizes me upon this. And men go abroad to admire the heights of
mountains, the mighty billows of the sea, the broad tides of rivers,
the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, and pass
themselves by; nor wonder that when I spake of all these things, I did
not see them with mine eyes, yet could not have spoken of them, unless
I then actually saw the mountains, billows, rivers, stars which I
had seen, and that ocean which I believe to be, inwardly in my memory,
and that, with the same vast spaces between, as if I saw them
abroad. Yet did not I by seeing draw them into myself, when with
mine eyes I beheld them; nor are they themselves with me, but their
images only. And I know by what sense of the body each was impressed
upon me.
Yet not these alone does the unmeasurable capacity of my memory
retain. Here also is all, learnt of the liberal sciences and as yet
unforgotten; removed as it were to some inner place, which is yet no
place: nor are they the images thereof, but the things themselves.
For, what is literature, what the art of disputing, how many kinds
of questions there be, whatsoever of these I know, in such manner
exists in my memory, as that I have not taken in the image, and left
out the thing, or that it should have sounded and passed away like a
voice fixed on the ear by that impress, whereby it might be
recalled, as if it sounded, when it no longer sounded; or as a smell
while it passes and evaporates into air affects the sense of smell,
whence it conveys into the memory an image of itself, which
remembering, we renew, or as meat, which verily in the belly hath
now no taste, and yet in the memory still in a manner tasteth; or as
any thing which the body by touch perceiveth, and which when removed
from us, the memory still conceives. For those things are not
transmitted into the memory, but their images only are with an
admirable swiftness caught up, and stored as it were in wondrous
cabinets, and thence wonderfully by the act of remembering, brought
forth.
But now when I hear that there be three kinds of questions, "Whether
the thing be? what it is? of what kind it is? I do indeed hold the
images of the sounds of which those words be composed, and that
those sounds, with a noise passed through the air, and now are not.
But the things themselves which are signified by those sounds, I never
reached with any sense of my body, nor ever discerned them otherwise
than in my mind; yet in my memory have I laid up not their images, but
themselves. Which how they entered into me, let them say if they
can; for I have gone over all the avenues of my flesh, but cannot find
by which they entered. For the eyes say, "If those images were
coloured, we reported of them." The ears say, "If they sound, we
gave knowledge of them." The nostrils say, "If they smell, they passed
by us." The taste says, "Unless they have a savour, ask me not." The
touch says, "If it have not size, I handled it not; if I handled it
not, I gave no notice of it." Whence and how entered these things into
my memory? I know not how. For when I learned them, I gave not
credit to another man's mind, but recognised them in mine; and
approving them for true, I commended them to it, laying them up as
it were, whence I might bring them forth when I willed. In my heart
then they were, even before I learned them, but in my memory they were
not. Where then? or wherefore, when they were spoken, did I
acknowledge them, and said, "So is it, it is true," unless that they
were already in the memory, but so thrown back and buried as it were
in deeper recesses, that had not the suggestion of another drawn
them forth I had perchance been unable to conceive of them?
Wherefore we find, that to learn these things whereof we imbibe
nor the images by our senses, but perceive within by themselves,
without images, as they are, is nothing else, but by conception, to
receive, and by marking to take heed that those things which the
memory did before contain at random and unarranged, be laid up at hand
as it were in that same memory where before they lay unknown,
scattered and neglected, and so readily occur to the mind familiarised
to them. And how many things of this kind does my memory bear which
have been already found out, and as I said, placed as it were at hand,
which we are said to have learned and come to know which were I for
some short space of time to cease to call to mind, they are again so
buried, and glide back, as it were, into the deeper recesses, that
they must again, as if new, he thought out thence, for other abode
they have none: but they must be drawn together again, that they may
be known; that is to say, they must as it were be collected together
from their dispersion: whence the word "cogitation" is derived. For
cogo (collect) and cogito (re-collect) have the same relation to
each other as ago and agito, facio and factito. But the mind hath
appropriated to itself this word (cogitation), so that, not what is
"collected" any how, but what is "recollected," i.e., brought
together, in the mind, is properly said to be cogitated, or thought
upon.
The memory containeth also reasons and laws innumerable of numbers
and dimensions, none of which hath any bodily sense impressed;
seeing they have neither colour, nor sound, nor taste, nor smell,
nor touch. I have heard the sound of the words whereby when
discussed they are denoted: but the sounds are other than the
things. For the sounds are other in Greek than in Latin; but the
things are neither Greek, nor Latin, nor any other language. I have
seen the lines of architects, the very finest, like a spider's thread;
but those are still different, they are not the images of those
lines which the eye of flesh showed me: he knoweth them, whosoever
without any conception whatsoever of a body, recognises them within
himself. I have perceived also the numbers of the things with which we
number all the senses of my body; but those numbers wherewith we
number are different, nor are they the images of these, and
therefore they indeed are. Let him who seeth them not, deride me for
saying these things, and I will pity him, while he derides me.
All these things I remember, and how I learnt them I remember.
Many things also most falsely objected against them have I heard,
and remember; which though they be false, yet is it not false that I
remember them; and I remember also that I have discerned betwixt those
truths and these falsehoods objected to them. And I perceive that
the present discerning of these things is different from remembering
that I oftentimes discerned them, when I often thought upon them. I
both remember then to have often understood these things; and what I
now discern and understand, I lay up in my memory, that hereafter I
may remember that I understand it now. So then I remember also to have
remembered; as if hereafter I shall call to remembrance, that I have
now been able to remember these things, by the force of memory shall I
call it to remembrance.
The same memory contains also the affections of my mind, not in
the same manner that my mind itself contains them, when it feels them;
but far otherwise, according to a power of its own. For without
rejoicing I remember myself to have joyed; and without sorrow do I
recollect my past sorrow. And that I once feared, I review without
fear; and without desire call to mind a past desire. Sometimes, on the
contrary, with joy do I remember my fore-past sorrow, and with sorrow,
joy. Which is not wonderful, as to the body; for mind is one thing,
body another. If I therefore with joy remember some past pain of body,
it is not so wonderful. But now seeing this very memory itself is mind
(for when we give a thing in charge, to be kept in memory, we say,
"See that you keep it in mind"; and when we forget, we say, "It did
not come to my mind," and, "It slipped out of my mind," calling the
memory itself the mind); this being so, how is it that when with joy I
remember my past sorrow, the mind hath joy, the memory hath sorrow;
the mind upon the joyfulness which is in it, is joyful, yet the memory
upon the sadness which is in it, is not sad? Does the memory perchance
not belong to the mind? Who will say so? The memory then is, as it
were, the belly of the mind, and joy and sadness, like sweet and
bitter food; which, when committed to the memory, are as it were
passed into the belly, where they may be stowed, but cannot taste.
Ridiculous it is to imagine these to be alike; and yet are they not
utterly unlike.
But, behold, out of my memory I bring it, when I say there be four
perturbations of the mind, desire, joy, fear, sorrow; and whatsoever I
can dispute thereon, by dividing each into its subordinate species,
and by defining it, in my memory find I what to say, and thence do I
bring it: yet am I not disturbed by any of these perturbations, when
by calling them to mind, I remember them; yea, and before I recalled
and brought them back, they were there; and therefore could they, by
recollection, thence be brought. Perchance, then, as meat is by
chewing the cud brought up out of the belly, so by recollection
these out of the memory. Why then does not the disputer, thus
recollecting, taste in the mouth of his musing the sweetness of joy,
or the bitterness of sorrow? Is the comparison unlike in this, because
not in all respects like? For who would willingly speak thereof, if so
oft as we name grief or fear, we should be compelled to be sad or
fearful? And yet could we not speak of them, did we not find in our
memory, not only the sounds of the names according to the images
impressed by the senses of the body, but notions of the very things
themselves which we never received by any avenue of the body, but
which the mind itself perceiving by the experience of its own
passions, committed to the memory, or the memory of itself retained,
without being committed unto it.
But whether by images or no, who can readily say? Thus, I name a
stone, I name the sun, the things themselves not being present to my
senses, but their images to my memory. I name a bodily pain, yet it is
not present with me, when nothing aches: yet unless its image were
present to my memory, I should not know what to say thereof, nor in
discoursing discern pain from pleasure. I name bodily health; being
sound in body, the thing itself is present with me; yet, unless its
image also were present in my memory, I could by no means recall
what the sound of this name should signify. Nor would the sick, when
health were named, recognise what were spoken, unless the same image
were by the force of memory retained, although the thing itself were
absent from the body. I name numbers whereby we number; and not
their images, but themselves are present in my memory. I name the
image of the sun, and that image is present in my memory. For I recall
not the image of its image, but the image itself is present to me,
calling it to mind. I name memory, and I recognise what I name. And
where do I recognise it, but in the memory itself? Is it also
present to itself by its image, and not by itself?
What, when I name forgetfulness, and withal recognise what I name?
whence should I recognise it, did I not remember it? I speak not of
the sound of the name, but of the thing which it signifies: which if I
had forgotten, I could not recognise what that sound signifies. When
then I remember memory, memory itself is, through itself, present with
itself: but when I remember forgetfulness, there are present both
memory and forgetfulness; memory whereby I remember, forgetfulness
which I remember. But what is forgetfulness, but the privation of
memory? How then is it present that I remember it, since when
present I cannot remember? But if what we remember we hold it in
memory, yet, unless we did remember forgetfulness, we could never at
the hearing of the name recognise the thing thereby signified, then
forgetfulness is retained by memory. Present then it is, that we
forget not, and being so, we forget. It is to be understood from
this that forgetfulness when we remember it, is not present to the
memory by itself but by its image: because if it were present by
itself, it would not cause us to remember, but to forget. Who now
shall search out this? who shall comprehend how it is?
Lord, I, truly, toil therein, yea and toil in myself; I am become
a heavy soil requiring over much sweat of the brow. For we are not now
searching out the regions of heaven, or measuring the distances of the
stars, or enquiring the balancings of the earth. It is I myself who
remember, I the mind. It is not so wonderful, if what I myself am not,
be far from me. But what is nearer to me than myself? And to, the
force of mine own memory is not understood by me; though I cannot so
much as name myself without it. For what shall I say, when it is clear
to me that I remember forgetfulness? Shall I say that that is not in
my memory, which I remember? or shall I say that forgetfulness is
for this purpose in my memory, that I might not forget? Both were most
absurd. What third way is there? How can I say that the image of
forgetfulness is retained by my memory, not forgetfulness itself, when
I remember it? How could I say this either, seeing that when the image
of any thing is impressed on the memory, the thing itself must needs
be first present, whence that image may be impressed? For thus do I
remember Carthage, thus all places where I have been, thus men's faces
whom I have seen, and things reported by the other senses; thus the
health or sickness of the body. For when these things were present, my
memory received from them images, which being present with me, I might
look on and bring back in my mind, when I remembered them in their
absence. If then this forgetfulness is retained in the memory
through its image, not through itself, then plainly itself was once
present, that its image might be taken. But when it was present, how
did it write its image in the memory, seeing that forgetfulness by its
presence effaces even what it finds already noted? And yet, in
whatever way, although that way be past conceiving and explaining, yet
certain am I that I remember forgetfulness itself also, whereby what
we remember is effaced.
Great is the power of memory, a fearful thing, O my God, a deep
and boundless manifoldness; and this thing is the mind, and this am
I myself. What am I then, O my God? What nature am I? A life various
and manifold, and exceeding immense. Behold in the plains, and
caves, and caverns of my memory, innumerable and innumerably full of
innumerable kinds of things, either through images, as all bodies;
or by actual presence, as the arts; or by certain notions or
impressions, as the affections of the mind, which, even when the
mind doth not feel, the memory retaineth, while yet whatsoever is in
the memory is also in the mind- over all these do I run, I fly; I dive
on this side and on that, as far as I can, and there is no end. So
great is the force of memory, so great the force of life, even in
the mortal life of man. What shall I do then, O Thou my true life,
my God? I will pass even beyond this power of mine which is called
memory: yea, I will pass beyond it, that I may approach unto Thee, O
sweet Light. What sayest Thou to me? See, I am mounting up through
my mind towards Thee who abidest above me. Yea, I now will pass beyond
this power of mine which is called memory, desirous to arrive at Thee,
whence Thou mayest be arrived at; and to cleave unto Thee, whence
one may cleave unto Thee. For even beasts and birds have memory;
else could they not return to their dens and nests, nor many other
things they are used unto: nor indeed could they be used to any thing,
but by memory. I will pass then beyond memory also, that I may
arrive at Him who hath separated me from the four-footed beasts and
made me wiser than the fowls of the air, I will pass beyond memory
also, and where shall I find Thee, Thou truly good and certain
sweetness? And where shall I find Thee? If I find Thee without my
memory, then do I not retain Thee in my memory. And how shall I find
Thee, if I remember Thee not?
For the woman that had lost her groat, and sought it with a light;
unless she had remembered it, she had never found it. For when it
was found, whence should she know whether it were the same, unless she
remembered it? I remember to have sought and found many a thing; and
this I thereby know, that when I was seeking any of them, and was
asked, "Is this it?" "Is that it?" so long said I "No," until that
were offered me which I sought. Which had I not remembered (whatever
it were) though it were offered me, yet should I not find it,
because I could not recognise it. And so it ever is, when we seek
and find any lost thing. Notwithstanding, when any thing is by
chance lost from the sight, not from the memory (as any visible body),
yet its image is still retained within, and it is sought until it be
restored to sight; and when it is found, it is recognised by the image
which is within: nor do we say that we have found what was lost,
unless we recognise it; nor can we recognise it, unless we remember
it. But this was lost to the eyes, but retained in the memory.
But what when the memory itself loses any thing, as falls out when
we forget and seek that we may recollect? Where in the end do we
search, but in the memory itself? and there, if one thing be perchance
offered instead of another, we reject it, until what we seek meets us;
and when it doth, we say, "This is it"; which we should not unless
we recognised it, nor recognise it unless we remembered it.
Certainly then we had forgotten it. Or, had not the whole escaped
us, but by the part whereof we had hold, was the lost part sought for;
in that the memory felt that it did not carry on together all which it
was wont, and maimed, as it were, by the curtailment of its ancient
habit, demanded the restoration of what it missed? For instance, if we
see or think of some one known to us, and having forgotten his name,
try to recover it; whatever else occurs, connects itself not
therewith; because it was not wont to be thought upon together with
him, and therefore is rejected, until that present itself, whereon the
knowledge reposes equably as its wonted object. And whence does that
present itself, but out of the memory itself? for even when we
recognise it, on being reminded by another, it is thence it comes. For
we do not believe it as something new, but, upon recollection, allow
what was named to be right. But were it utterly blotted out of the
mind, we should not remember it, even when reminded. For we have not
as yet utterly forgotten that, which we remember ourselves to have
forgotten. What then we have utterly forgotten, though lost, we cannot
even seek after.
How then do I seek Thee, O Lord? For when I seek Thee, my God, I
seek a happy life. I will seek Thee, that my soul may live. For my
body liveth by my soul; and my soul by Thee. How then do I seek a
happy life, seeing I have it not, until I can say, where I ought to
say it, "It is enough"? How seek I it? By remembrance, as though I had
forgotten it, remembering that I had forgotten it? Or, desiring to
learn it as a thing unknown, either never having known, or so
forgotten it, as not even to remember that I had forgotten it? is
not a happy life what all will, and no one altogether wills it not?
where have they known it, that they so will it? where seen it, that
they so love it? Truly we have it, how, I know not. Yea, there is
another way, wherein when one hath it, then is he happy; and there
are, who are blessed, in hope. These have it in a lower kind, than
they who have it in very deed; yet are they better off than such as
are happy neither in deed nor in hope. Yet even these, had they it not
in some sort, would not so will to be happy, which that they do
will, is most certain. They have known it then, I know not how, and so
have it by some sort of knowledge, what, I know not, and am
perplexed whether it be in the memory, which if it be, then we have
been happy once; whether all severally, or in that man who first
sinned, in whom also we all died, and from whom we are all born with
misery, I now enquire not; but only, whether the happy life be in
the memory? For neither should we love it, did we not know it. We hear
the name, and we all confess that we desire the thing; for we are
not delighted with the mere sound. For when a Greek hears it in Latin,
he is not delighted, not knowing what is spoken; but we Latins are
delighted, as would he too, if he heard it in Greek; because the thing
itself is neither Greek nor Latin, which Greeks and Latins, and men of
all other tongues, long for so earnestly. Known therefore it is to
all, for they with one voice be asked, "would they be happy?" they
would answer without doubt, "they would." And this could not be,
unless the thing itself whereof it is the name were retained in
their memory.
But is it so, as one remembers Carthage who hath seen it? No. For
a happy life is not seen with the eye, because it is not a body. As we
remember numbers then? No. For these, he that hath in his knowledge,
seeks not further to attain unto; but a happy life we have in our
knowledge, and therefore love it, and yet still desire to attain it,
that we may be happy. As we remember eloquence then? No. For
although upon hearing this name also, some call to mind the thing, who
still are not yet eloquent, and many who desire to be so, whence it
appears that it is in their knowledge; yet these have by their
bodily senses observed others to be eloquent, and been delighted,
and desire to be the like (though indeed they would not be delighted
but for some inward knowledge thereof, nor wish to be the like, unless
they were thus delighted); whereas a happy life, we do by no bodily
sense experience in others. As then we remember joy? Perchance; for my
joy I remember, even when sad, as a happy life, when unhappy; nor
did I ever with bodily sense see, hear, smell, taste, or touch my joy;
but I experienced it in my mind, when I rejoiced; and the knowledge of
it clave to my memory, so that I can recall it with disgust sometimes,
at others with longing, according to the nature of the things, wherein
I remember myself to have joyed. For even from foul things have I been
immersed in a sort of joy; which now recalling, I detest and execrate;
otherwhiles in good and honest things, which I recall with longing,
although perchance no longer present; and therefore with sadness I
recall former joy.
Where then and when did I experience my happy life, that I should
remember, and love, and long for it? Nor is it I alone, or some few
besides, but we all would fain be happy; which, unless by some certain
knowledge we knew, we should not with so certain a will desire. But
how is this, that if two men be asked whether they would go to the
wars, one, perchance, would answer that he would, the other, that he
would not; but if they were asked whether they would be happy, both
would instantly without any doubting say they would; and for no
other reason would the one go to the wars, and the other not, but to
be happy. Is it perchance that as one looks for his joy in this thing,
another in that, all agree in their desire of being happy, as they
would (if they were asked) that they wished to have joy, and this
joy they call a happy life? Although then one obtains this joy by
one means, another by another, all have one end, which they strive
to attain, namely, joy. Which being a thing which all must say they
have experienced, it is therefore found in the memory, and
recognised whenever the name of a happy life is mentioned.
Far be it, Lord, far be it from the heart of Thy servant who here
confesseth unto Thee, far be it, that, be the joy what it may, I
should therefore think myself happy. For there is a joy which is not
given to the ungodly, but to those who love Thee for Thine own sake,
whose joy Thou Thyself art. And this is the happy life, to rejoice
to Thee, of Thee, for Thee; this is it, and there is no other. For
they who think there is another, pursue some other and not the true
joy. Yet is not their will turned away from some semblance of joy.
It is not certain then that all wish to be happy, inasmuch as they
who wish not to joy in Thee, which is the only happy life, do not
truly desire the happy life. Or do all men desire this, but because
the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the
flesh, that they cannot do what they would, they fall upon that
which they can, and are content therewith; because, what they are
not able to do, they do not will so strongly as would suffice to
make them able? For I ask any one, had he rather joy in truth, or in
falsehood? They will as little hesitate to say "in the truth," as to
say "that they desire to be happy," for a happy life is joy in the
truth: for this is a joying in Thee, Who art the Truth, O God my
light, health of my countenance, my God. This is the happy life
which all desire; this life which alone is happy, all desire; to joy
in the truth all desire. I have met with many that would deceive;
who would be deceived, no one. Where then did they know this happy
life, save where they know the truth also? For they love it also,
since they would not be deceived. And when they love a happy life,
which is no other than joying in the truth, then also do they love the
truth; which yet they would not love, were there not some notice of it
in their memory. Why then joy they not in it? why are they not
happy? because they are more strongly taken up with other things which
have more power to make them miserable, than that which they so
faintly remember to make them happy. For there is yet a little light
in men; let them walk, let them walk, that the darkness overtake
them not.
But why doth "truth generate hatred," and the man of Thine,
preaching the truth, become an enemy to them? whereas a happy life
is loved, which is nothing else but joying in the truth; unless that
truth is in that kind loved, that they who love anything else would
gladly have that which they love to be the truth: and because they
would not be deceived, would not be convinced that they are so?
Therefore do they hate the truth for that thing's sake which they
loved instead of the truth. They love truth when she enlightens,
they hate her when she reproves. For since they would not be deceived,
and would deceive, they love her when she discovers herself unto them,
and hate her when she discovers them. Whence she shall so repay
them, that they who would not be made manifest by her, she both
against their will makes manifest, and herself becometh not manifest
unto them. Thus, thus, yea thus doth the mind of man, thus blind and
sick, foul and ill-favoured, wish to be hidden, but that aught
should be hidden from it, it wills not. But the contrary is requited
it, that itself should not be hidden from the Truth; but the Truth
is hid from it. Yet even thus miserable, it had rather joy in truths
than in falsehoods. Happy then will it be, when, no distraction
interposing, it shall joy in that only Truth, by Whom all things are
true.
See what a space I have gone over in my memory seeking Thee, O Lord;
and I have not found Thee, without it. Nor have I found any thing
concerning Thee, but what I have kept in memory, ever since I learnt
Thee. For since I learnt Thee, I have not forgotten Thee. For where
I found Truth, there found I my God, the Truth itself; which since I
learnt, I have not forgotten. Since then I learnt Thee, Thou
residest in my memory; and there do I find Thee, when I call Thee to
remembrance, and delight in Thee. These be my holy delights, which
Thou hast given me in Thy mercy, having regard to my poverty.
But where in my memory residest Thou, O Lord, where residest Thou
there? what manner of lodging hast Thou framed for Thee? what manner
of sanctuary hast Thou builded for Thee? Thou hast given this honour
to my memory, to reside in it; but in what quarter of it Thou
residest, that am I considering. For in thinking on Thee, I passed
beyond such parts of it as the beasts also have, for I found Thee
not there among the images of corporeal things: and I came to those
parts to which I committed the affections of my mind, nor found Thee
there. And I entered into the very seat of my mind (which it hath in
my memory, inasmuch as the mind remembers itself also), neither wert
Thou there: for as Thou art not a corporeal image, nor the affection
of a living being (as when we rejoice, condole, desire, fear,
remember, forget, or the like); so neither art Thou the mind itself;
because Thou art the Lord God of the mind; and all these are
changed, but Thou remainest unchangeable over all, and yet hast
vouchsafed to dwell in my memory, since I learnt Thee. And why seek
I now in what place thereof Thou dwellest, as if there were places
therein? Sure I am, that in it Thou dwellest, since I have
remembered Thee ever since I learnt Thee, and there I find Thee,
when I call Thee to remembrance.
Where then did I find Thee, that I might learn Thee? For in my
memory Thou wert not, before I learned Thee. Where then did I find
Thee, that I might learn Thee, but in Thee above me? Place there is
none; we go backward and forward, and there is no place. Every
where, O Truth, dost Thou give audience to all who ask counsel of
Thee, and at once answerest all, though on manifold matters they ask
Thy counsel. Clearly dost Thou answer, though all do not clearly hear.
All consult Thee on what they will, though they hear not always what
they will. He is Thy best servant who looks not so much to hear that
from Thee which himself willeth, as rather to will that, which from
Thee he heareth.
Too late loved I Thee, O Thou Beauty of ancient days, yet ever
new! too late I loved Thee! And behold, Thou wert within, and I
abroad, and there I searched for Thee; deformed I, plunging amid those
fair forms which Thou hadst made. Thou wert with me, but I was not
with Thee. Things held me far from Thee, which, unless they were in
Thee, were not at all. Thou calledst, and shoutedst, and burstest my
deafness. Thou flashedst, shonest, and scatteredst my blindness.
Thou breathedst odours, and I drew in breath and panted for Thee. I
tasted, and hunger and thirst. Thou touchedst me, and I burned for Thy
peace.
When I shall with my whole self cleave to Thee, I shall no where
have sorrow or labour; and my life shall wholly live, as wholly full
of Thee. But now since whom Thou fillest, Thou liftest up, because I
am not full of Thee I am a burden to myself. Lamentable joys strive
with joyous sorrows: and on which side is the victory, I know not. Woe
is me! Lord, have pity on me. My evil sorrows strive with my good
joys; and on which side is the victory, I know not. Woe is me! Lord,
have pity on me. Woe is me! lo! I hide not my wounds; Thou art the
Physician, I the sick; Thou merciful, I miserable. Is not the life
of man upon earth all trial? Who wishes for troubles and difficulties?
Thou commandest them to be endured, not to be loved. No man loves what
he endures, though he love to endure. For though he rejoices that he
endures, he had rather there were nothing for him to endure. In
adversity I long for prosperity, in prosperity I fear adversity.
What middle place is there betwixt these two, where the life of man is
not all trial? Woe to the prosperities of the world, once and again,
through fear of adversity, and corruption of joy! Woe to the
adversities of the world, once and again, and the third time, from the
longing for prosperity, and because adversity itself is a hard
thing, and lest it shatter endurance. Is not the life of man upon
earth all trial: without any interval?
And all my hope is no where but in Thy exceeding great mercy. Give
what Thou enjoinest, and enjoin what Thou wilt. Thou enjoinest us
continency; and when I knew, saith one, that no man can be
continent, unless God give it, this also was a part of wisdom to
know whose gift she is. By continency verily are we bound up and
brought back into One, whence we were dissipated into many. For too
little doth he love Thee, who loves any thing with Thee, which he
loveth not for Thee. O love, who ever burnest and never consumest! O
charity, my God, kindle me. Thou enjoinest continency: give me what
Thou enjoinest, and enjoin what Thou wilt.
Verily Thou enjoinest me continency from the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the ambition of the world. Thou enjoinest
continency from concubinage; and for wedlock itself, Thou hast
counselled something better than what Thou hast permitted. And since
Thou gavest it, it was done, even before I became a dispenser of Thy
Sacrament. But there yet live in my memory (whereof I have much
spoken) the images of such things as my ill custom there fixed;
which haunt me, strengthless when I am awake: but in sleep, not only
so as to give pleasure, but even to obtain assent, and what is very
like reality. Yea, so far prevails the illusion of the image, in my
soul and in my flesh, that, when asleep, false visions persuade to
that which when waking, the true cannot. Am I not then myself, O
Lord my God? And yet there is so much difference betwixt myself and
myself, within that moment wherein I pass from waking to sleeping,
or return from sleeping to waking! Where is reason then, which, awake,
resisteth such suggestions? And should the things themselves be
urged on it, it remaineth unshaken. Is it clasped up with the eyes? is
it lulled asleep with the senses of the body? And whence is it that
often even in sleep we resist, and mindful of our purpose, and abiding
most chastely in it, yield no assent to such enticements? And yet so
much difference there is, that when it happeneth otherwise, upon
waking we return to peace of conscience: and by this very difference
discover that we did not, what yet we be sorry that in some way it was
done in us.
Art Thou not mighty, God Almighty, so as to heal all the diseases of
my soul, and by Thy more abundant grace to quench even the impure
motions of my sleep! Thou wilt increase, Lord, Thy gifts more and more
in me, that my soul may follow me to Thee, disentangled from the
birdlime of concupiscence; that it rebel not against itself, and
even in dreams not only not, through images of sense, commit those
debasing corruptions, even to pollution of the flesh, but not even
to consent unto them. For that nothing of this sort should have,
over the pure affections even of a sleeper, the very least
influence, not even such as a thought would restrain, -to work this,
not only during life, but even at my present age, is not hard for
the Almighty, Who art able to do above all that we ask or think. But
what I yet am in this kind of my evil, have I confessed unto my good
Lord; rejoicing with trembling, in that which Thou hast given me,
and bemoaning that wherein I am still imperfect; hoping that Thou wilt
perfect Thy mercies in me, even to perfect peace, which my outward and
inward man shall have with Thee, when death shall be swallowed up in
victory.
There is another evil of the day, which I would were sufficient
for it. For by eating and drinking we repair the daily decays of our
body, until Thou destroy both belly and meat, when Thou shalt slay
my emptiness with a wonderful fulness, and clothe this incorruptible
with an eternal incorruption. But now the necessity is sweet unto
me, against which sweetness I fight, that I be not taken captive;
and carry on a daily war by fastings; often bringing my body into
subjection; and my pains are removed by pleasure. For hunger and
thirst are in a manner pains; they burn and kill like a fever,
unless the medicine of nourishments come to our aid. Which since it is
at hand through the consolations of Thy gifts, with which land, and
water, and air serve our weakness, our calamity is termed
gratification.
This hast Thou taught me, that I should set myself to take food as
physic. But while I am passing from the discomfort of emptiness to the
content of replenishing, in the very passage the snare of
concupiscence besets me. For that passing, is pleasure, nor is there
any other way to pass thither, whither we needs must pass. And
health being the cause of eating and drinking, there joineth itself as
an attendant a dangerous pleasure, which mostly endeavours to go
before it, so that I may for her sake do what I say I do, or wish to
do, for health's sake. Nor have each the same measure; for what is
enough for health, is too little for pleasure. And oft it is
uncertain, whether it be the necessary care of the body which is yet
asking for sustenance, or whether a voluptuous deceivableness of
greediness is proffering its services. In this uncertainty the unhappy
soul rejoiceth, and therein prepares an excuse to shield itself,
glad that it appeareth not what sufficeth for the moderation of
health, that under the cloak of health, it may disguise the matter
of gratification. These temptations I daily endeavour to resist, and I
call on Thy right hand, and to Thee do I refer my perplexities;
because I have as yet no settled counsel herein.
I hear the voice of my God commanding, Let not your hearts be
overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness. Drunkenness is far from
me; Thou wilt have mercy, that it come not near me. But full feeding
sometimes creepeth upon Thy servant; Thou wilt have mercy, that it may
be far from me. For no one can be continent unless Thou give it.
Many things Thou givest us, praying for them; and what good soever
we have received before we prayed, from Thee we received it; yea to
the end we might afterwards know this, did we before receive it.
Drunkard was I never, but drunkards have I known made sober by Thee.
From Thee then it was, that they who never were such, should not so
be, as from Thee it was, that they who have been, should not ever so
be; and from Thee it was, that both might know from Whom it was. I
heard another voice of Thine, Go not after thy lusts, and from thy
pleasure turn away. Yea by Thy favour have I heard that which I have
much loved; neither if we eat, shall we abound; neither if we eat not,
shall we lack; which is to say, neither shall the one make me
plenteous, nor the other miserable. I heard also another, for I have
learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content; I know
how to abound, and how to suffer need. I can do all things through
Christ that strengtheneth me. Behold a soldier of the heavenly camp,
not the dust which we are. But remember, Lord, that we are dust, and
that of dust Thou hast made man; and he was lost and is found. Nor
could he of himself do this, because he whom I so loved, saying this
through the in-breathing of Thy inspiration, was of the same dust. I
can do all things (saith he) through Him that strengtheneth me.
Strengthen me, that I can. Give what Thou enjoinest, and enjoin what
Thou wilt. He confesses to have received, and when he glorieth, in the
Lord he glorieth. Another have I heard begging that he might
receive. Take from me (saith he) the desires of the belly; whence it
appeareth, O my holy God, that Thou givest, when that is done which
Thou commandest to be done.
Thou hast taught me, good Father, that to the pure, all things are
pure; but that it is evil unto the man that eateth with offence;
and, that every creature of Thine is good, and nothing to be
refused, which is received with thanksgiving; and that meat commendeth
us not to God; and, that no man should judge us in meat or drink; and,
that he which eateth, let him not despise him that eateth not; and let
not him that eateth not, judge him that eateth. These things have I
learned, thanks be to Thee, praise to Thee, my God, my Master,
knocking at my ears, enlightening my heart; deliver me out of all
temptation. I fear not uncleanness of meat, but the uncleanness of
lusting. I know; that Noah was permitted to eat all kind of flesh that
was good for food; that Elijah was fed with flesh; that endued with an
admirable abstinence, was not polluted by feeding on living creatures,
locusts. I know also that Esau was deceived by lusting for lentiles;
and that David blamed himself for desiring a draught of water; and
that our King was tempted, not concerning flesh, but bread. And
therefore the people in the wilderness also deserved to be reproved,
not for desiring flesh, but because, in the desire of food, they
murmured against the Lord.
Placed then amid these temptations, I strive daily against
concupiscence in eating and drinking. For it is not of such nature
that I can settle on cutting it off once for all, and never touching
it afterward, as I could of concubinage. The bridle of the throat then
is to be held attempered between slackness and stiffness. And who is
he, O Lord, who is not some whit transported beyond the limits of
necessity? whoever he is, he is a great one; let him make Thy Name
great. But I am not such, for I am a sinful man. Yet do I too
magnify Thy name; and He maketh intercession to Thee for my sins who
hath overcome the world; numbering me among the weak members of His
body; because Thine eyes have seen that of Him which is imperfect, and
in Thy book shall all be written.
With the allurements of smells, I am not much concerned. When
absent, I do not miss them; when present, I do not refuse them; yet
ever ready to be without them. So I seem to myself; perchance I am
deceived. For that also is a mournful darkness whereby my abilities
within me are hidden from me; so that my mind making enquiry into
herself of her own powers, ventures not readily to believe herself;
because even what is in it is mostly hidden, unless experience
reveal it. And no one ought to be secure in that life, the whole
whereof is called a trial, that he who hath been capable of worse to
be made better, may not likewise of better be made worse. Our only
hope, only confidence, only assured promise is Thy mercy.
The delights of the ear had more firmly entangled and subdued me;
but Thou didst loosen and free me. Now, in those melodies which Thy
words breathe soul into, when sung with a sweet and attuned voice, I
do a little repose; yet not so as to be held thereby, but that I can
disengage myself when I will. But with the words which are their
life and whereby they find admission into me, themselves seek in my
affections a place of some estimation, and I can scarcely assign
them one suitable. For at one time I seem to myself to give them
more honour than is seemly, feeling our minds to be more holily and
fervently raised unto a flame of devotion, by the holy words
themselves when thus sung, than when not; and that the several
affections of our spirit, by a sweet variety, have their own proper
measures in the voice and singing, by some hidden correspondence
wherewith they are stirred up. But this contentment of the flesh, to
which the soul must not be given over to be enervated, doth oft
beguile me, the sense not so waiting upon reason as patiently to
follow her; but having been admitted merely for her sake, it strives
even to run before her, and lead her. Thus in these things I
unawares sin, but afterwards am aware of it.
At other times, shunning over-anxiously this very deception, I err
in too great strictness; and sometimes to that degree, as to wish
the whole melody of sweet music which is used to David's Psalter,
banished from my ears, and the Church's too; and that mode seems to me
safer, which I remember to have been often told me of Athanasius,
Bishop of Alexandria, who made the reader of the psalm utter it with
so slight inflection of voice, that it was nearer speaking than
singing. Yet again, when I remember the tears I shed at the Psalmody
of Thy Church, in the beginning of my recovered faith; and how at this
time I am moved, not with the singing, but with the things sung,
when they are sung with a clear voice and modulation most suitable,
I acknowledge the great use of this institution. Thus I fluctuate
between peril of pleasure and approved wholesomeness; inclined the
rather (though not as pronouncing an irrevocable opinion) to approve
of the usage of singing in the church; that so by the delight of the
ears the weaker minds may rise to the feeling of devotion. Yet when it
befalls me to be more moved with the voice than the words sung, I
confess to have sinned penally, and then had rather not hear music.
See now my state; weep with me, and weep for me, ye, whoso regulate
your feelings within, as that good action ensues. For you who do not
act, these things touch not you. But Thou, O Lord my God, hearken;
behold, and see, and have mercy and heal me, Thou, in whose presence I
have become a problem to myself; and that is my infirmity.
There remains the pleasure of these eyes of my flesh, on which to
make my confessions in the hearing of the ears of Thy temple, those
brotherly and devout ears; and so to conclude the temptations of the
lust of the flesh, which yet assail me, groaning earnestly, and
desiring to be clothed upon with my house from heaven. The eyes love
fair and varied forms, and bright and soft colours. Let not these
occupy my soul; let God rather occupy it, who made these things,
very good indeed, yet is He my good, not they. And these affect me,
waking, the whole day, nor is any rest given me from them, as there is
from musical, sometimes in silence, from all voices. For this queen of
colours, the light, bathing all which we behold, wherever I am through
the day, gliding by me in varied forms, soothes me when engaged on
other things, and not observing it. And so strongly doth it entwine
itself, that if it be suddenly withdrawn, it is with longing sought
for, and if absent long, saddeneth the mind.
O Thou Light, which Tobias saw, when, these eyes closed, he taught
his son the way of life; and himself went before with the feet of
charity, never swerving. Or which Isaac saw, when his fleshly eyes
being heavy and closed by old age, it was vouchsafed him, not
knowingly, to bless his sons, but by blessing to know them. Or which
Jacob saw, when he also, blind through great age, with illumined
heart, in the persons of his sons shed light on the different races of
the future people, in them foresignified; and laid his hands,
mystically crossed, upon his grandchildren by Joseph, not as their
father by his outward eye corrected them, but as himself inwardly
discerned. This is the light, it is one, and all are one, who see
and love it. But that corporeal light whereof I spake, it seasoneth
the life of this world for her blind lovers, with an enticing and
dangerous sweetness. But they who know how to praise Thee for it, "O
all-creating Lord," take it up in Thy hymns, and are not taken up with
it in their sleep. Such would I be. These seductions of the eyes I
resist, lest my feet wherewith I walk upon Thy way be ensnared; and
I lift up mine invisible eyes to Thee, that Thou wouldest pluck my
feet out of the snare. Thou dost ever and anon pluck them out, for
they are ensnared. Thou ceasest not to pluck them out, while I often
entangle myself in the snares on all sides laid; because Thou that
keepest Israel shalt neither slumber nor sleep.
What innumerable toys, made by divers arts and manufactures, in
our apparel, shoes, utensils and all sorts of works, in pictures
also and divers images, and these far exceeding all necessary and
moderate use and all pious meaning, have men added to tempt their
own eyes withal; outwardly following what themselves make, inwardly
forsaking Him by whom themselves were made, and destroying that
which themselves have been made! But I, my God and my Glory, do
hence also sing a hymn to Thee, and do consecrate praise to Him who
consecrateth me, because those beautiful patterns which through
men's souls are conveyed into their cunning hands, come from that
Beauty, which is above our souls, which my soul day and night
sigheth after. But the framers and followers of the outward beauties
derive thence the rule of judging of them, but not of using them.
And He is there, though they perceive Him not, that so they might
not wander, but keep their strength for Thee, and not scatter it
abroad upon pleasurable weariness. And I, though I speak and see this,
entangle my steps with these outward beauties; but Thou pluckest me
out, O Lord, Thou pluckest me out; because Thy loving-kindness is
before my eyes. For I am taken miserably, and Thou pluckest me out
mercifully; sometimes not perceiving it, when I had but lightly
lighted upon them; otherwhiles with pain, because I had stuck fast
in them.
To this is added another form of temptation more manifoldly
dangerous. For besides that concupiscence of the flesh which
consisteth in the delight of all senses and pleasures, wherein its
slaves, who go far from Thee, waste and perish, the soul hath, through
the same senses of the body, a certain vain and curious desire, veiled
under the title of knowledge and learning, not of delighting in the
flesh, but of making experiments through the flesh. The seat whereof
being in the appetite of knowledge, and sight being the sense
chiefly used for attaining knowledge, it is in Divine language
called The lust of the eyes. For, to see, belongeth properly to the
eyes; yet we use this word of the other senses also, when we employ
them in seeking knowledge. For we do not say, hark how it flashes,
or smell how it glows, or taste how it shines, or feel how it
gleams; for all these are said to be seen. And yet we say not only,
see how it shineth, which the eyes alone can perceive; but also, see
how it soundeth, see how it smelleth, see how it tasteth, see how hard
it is. And so the general experience of the senses, as was said, is
called The lust of the eyes, because the office of seeing, wherein the
eyes hold the prerogative, the other senses by way of similitude
take to themselves, when they make search after any knowledge.
But by this may more evidently be discerned, wherein pleasure and
wherein curiosity is the object of the senses; for pleasure seeketh
objects beautiful, melodious, fragrant, savoury, soft; but
curiosity, for trial's sake, the contrary as well, not for the sake of
suffering annoyance, but out of the lust of making trial and knowing
them. For what pleasure hath it, to see in a mangled carcase what will
make you shudder? and yet if it be lying near, they flock thither,
to be made sad, and to turn pale. Even in sleep they are afraid to see
it. As if when awake, any one forced them to see it, or any report
of its beauty drew them thither! Thus also in the other senses,
which it were long to go through. From this disease of curiosity are
all those strange sights exhibited in the theatre. Hence men go on
to search out the hidden powers of nature (which is besides our
end), which to know profits not, and wherein men desire nothing but to
know. Hence also, if with that same end of perverted knowledge magical
arts be enquired by. Hence also in religion itself, is God tempted,
when signs and wonders are demanded of Him, not desired for any good
end, but merely to make trial of.
In this so vast wilderness, full of snares and dangers, behold
many of them I have cut off, and thrust out of my heart, as Thou
hast given me, O God of my salvation. And yet when dare I say, since
so many things of this kind buzz on all sides about our daily life-
when dare I say that nothing of this sort engages my attention, or
causes in me an idle interest? True, the theatres do not now carry
me away, nor care I to know the courses of the stars, nor did my
soul ever consult ghosts departed; all sacrilegious mysteries I
detest. From Thee, O Lord my God, to whom I owe humble and
single-hearted service, by what artifices and suggestions doth the
enemy deal with me to desire some sign! But I beseech Thee by our
King, and by our pure and holy country, Jerusalem, that as any
consenting thereto is far from me, so may it ever be further and
further. But when I pray Thee for the salvation of any, my end and
intention is far different. Thou givest and wilt give me to follow
Thee willingly, doing what Thou wilt.
Notwithstanding, in how many most petty and contemptible things is
our curiosity daily tempted, and how often we give way, who can
recount? How often do we begin as if we were tolerating people telling
vain stories, lest we offend the weak; then by degrees we take
interest therein! I go not now to the circus to see a dog coursing a
hare; but in the field, if passing, that coursing peradventure will
distract me even from some weighty thought, and draw me after it:
not that I turn aside the body of my beast, yet still incline my
mind thither. And unless Thou, having made me see my infirmity didst
speedily admonish me either through the sight itself by some
contemplation to rise towards Thee, or altogether to despise and
pass it by, I dully stand fixed therein. What, when sitting at home, a
lizard catching flies, or a spider entangling them rushing into her
nets, oft-times takes my attention? Is the thing different, because
they are but small creatures? I go on from them to praise Thee the
wonderful Creator and Orderer of all, but this does not first draw
my attention. It is one thing to rise quickly, another not to fall.
And of such things is my life full; and my one hope is Thy wonderful
great mercy. For when our heart becomes the receptacle of such things,
and is overcharged with throngs of this abundant vanity, then are
our prayers also thereby often interrupted and distracted, and
whilst in Thy presence we direct the voice of our heart to Thine ears,
this so great concern is broken off by the rushing in of I know not
what idle thoughts. Shall we then account this also among things of
slight concernment, or shall aught bring us back to hope, save Thy
complete mercy, since Thou hast begun to change us?
And Thou knowest how far Thou hast already changed me, who first
healedst me of the lust of vindicating myself, that so Thou mightest
forgive all the rest of my iniquities, and heal all my infirmities,
and redeem life from corruption, and crown me with mercy and pity, and
satisfy my desire with good things: who didst curb my pride with Thy
fear, and tame my neck to Thy yoke. And now I bear it and it is
light unto me, because so hast Thou promised, and hast made it; and
verily so it was, and I knew it not, when I feared to take it.
But, O Lord, Thou alone Lord without pride, because Thou art the
only true Lord, who hast no lord; hath this third kind of temptation
also ceased from me, or can it cease through this whole life? To wish,
namely, to be feared and loved of men, for no other end, but that we
may have a joy therein which is no joy? A miserable life this and a
foul boastfulness! Hence especially it comes that men do neither
purely love nor fear Thee. And therefore dost Thou resist the proud,
and givest grace to the humble: yea, Thou thunderest down upon the
ambitions of the world, and the foundations of the mountains
tremble. Because now certain offices of human society make it
necessary to be loved and feared of men, the adversary of our true
blessedness layeth hard at us, every where spreading his snares of
"well-done, well-done"; that greedily catching at them, we may be
taken unawares, and sever our joy from Thy truth, and set it in the
deceivingness of men; and be pleased at being loved and feared, not
for Thy sake, but in Thy stead: and thus having been made like him, he
may have them for his own, not in the bands of charity, but in the
bonds of punishment: who purposed to set his throne in the north, that
dark and chilled they might serve him, pervertedly and crookedly
imitating Thee. But we, O Lord, behold we are Thy little flock;
possess us as Thine, stretch Thy wings over us, and let us fly under
them. Be Thou our glory; let us be loved for Thee, and Thy word feared
in us. Who would be praised of men when Thou blamest, will not be
defended of men when Thou judgest; nor delivered when Thou condemnest.
But when- not the sinner is praised in the desires of his soul, nor he
blessed who doth ungodlily, but- a man is praised for some gift
which Thou hast given him, and he rejoices more at the praise for
himself than that he hath the gift for which he is praised, he also is
praised, while Thou dispraisest; better is he who praised than he
who is praised. For the one took pleasure in the gift of God in man;
the other was better pleased with the gift of man, than of God.
By these temptations we are assailed daily, O Lord; without
ceasing are we assailed. Our daily furnace is the tongue of men. And
in this way also Thou commandest us continence. Give what Thou
enjoinest, and enjoin what Thou wilt. Thou knowest on this matter
the groans of my heart, and the floods of mine eyes. For I cannot
learn how far I am more cleansed from this plague, and I much fear
my secret sins, which Thine eyes know, mine do not. For in other kinds
of temptations I have some sort of means of examining myself; in this,
scarce any. For, in refraining my mind from the pleasures of the flesh
and idle curiosity, I see how much I have attained to, when I do
without them; foregoing, or not having them. For then I ask myself how
much more or less troublesome it is to me not to have them? Then,
riches, which are desired, that they may serve to some one or two or
all of the three concupiscences, if the soul cannot discern whether,
when it hath them, it despiseth them, they may be cast aside, that
so it may prove itself. But to be without praise, and therein essay
our powers, must we live ill, yea so abandonedly and atrociously, that
no one should know without detesting us? What greater madness can be
said or thought of? But if praise useth and ought to accompany a
good life and good works, we ought as little to forego its company, as
good life itself. Yet I know not whether I can well or ill be
without anything, unless it be absent.
What then do I confess unto Thee in this kind of temptation, O Lord?
What, but that I am delighted with praise, but with truth itself, more
than with praise? For were it proposed to me, whether I would, being
frenzied in error on all things, be praised by all men, or being
consistent and most settled in the truth be blamed by all, I see which
I should choose. Yet fain would I that the approbation of another
should not even increase my joy for any good in me. Yet I own, it doth
increase it, and not so only, but dispraise doth diminish it. And when
I am troubled at this my misery, an excuse occurs to me, which of what
value it is, Thou God knowest, for it leaves me uncertain. For since
Thou hast commanded us not continency alone, that is, from what things
to refrain our love, but righteousness also, that is, whereon to
bestow it, and hast willed us to love not Thee only, but our neighbour
also; often, when pleased with intelligent praise, I seem to myself to
be pleased with the proficiency or towardliness of my neighbour, or to
be grieved for evil in him, when I hear him dispraise either what he
understands not, or is good. For sometimes I am grieved at my own
praise, either when those things be praised in me, in which I
mislike myself, or even lesser and slight goods are more esteemed than
they ought. But again how know I whether I am therefore thus affected,
because I would not have him who praiseth me differ from me about
myself; not as being influenced by concern for him, but because
those same good things which please me in myself, please me more
when they please another also? For some how I am not praised when my
judgment of myself is not praised; forasmuch as either those things
are praised, which displease me; or those more, which please me
less. Am I then doubtful of myself in this matter?
Behold, in Thee, O Truth, I see that I ought not to be moved at my
own praises, for my own sake, but for the good of my neighbour. And
whether it be so with me, I know not. For herein I know less of myself
than of Thee. I beseech now, O my God, discover to me myself also,
that I may confess unto my brethren, who are to pray for me, wherein I
find myself maimed. Let me examine myself again more diligently. If in
my praise I am moved with the good of my neighbour, why am I less
moved if another be unjustly dispraised than if it be myself? Why am I
more stung by reproach cast upon myself, than at that cast upon
another, with the same injustice, before me? Know I not this also?
or is it at last that I deceive myself, and do not the truth before
Thee in my heart and tongue? This madness put far from me, O Lord,
lest mine own mouth be to me the sinner's oil to make fat my head. I
am poor and needy; yet best, while in hidden groanings I displease
myself, and seek Thy mercy, until what is lacking in my defective
state be renewed and perfected, on to that peace which the eye of
the proud knoweth not.
Yet the word which cometh out of the mouth, and deeds known to
men, bring with them a most dangerous temptation through the love of
praise: which, to establish a certain excellency of our own,
solicits and collects men's suffrages. It tempts, even when it is
reproved by myself in myself, on the very ground that it is
reproved; and often glories more vainly of the very contempt of
vain-glory; and so it is no longer contempt of vain-glory, whereof
it glories; for it doth not contemn when it glorieth.
Within also, within is another evil, arising out of a like
temptation; whereby men become vain, pleasing themselves in
themselves, though they please not, or displease or care not to please
others. But pleasing themselves, they much displease Thee, not only
taking pleasure in things not good, as if good, but in Thy good
things, as though their own; or even if as Thine, yet as though for
their own merits; or even if as though from Thy grace, yet not with
brotherly rejoicing, but envying that grace to others. In all these
and the like perils and travails, Thou seest the trembling of my
heart; and I rather feel my wounds to be cured by Thee, than not
inflicted by me.
Where hast Thou not walked with me, O Truth, teaching me what to
beware, and what to desire; when I referred to Thee what I could
discover here below, and consulted Thee? With my outward senses, as
I might, I surveyed the world, and observed the life, which my body
hath from me, and these my senses. Thence entered I the recesses of my
memory, those manifold and spacious chambers, wonderfully furnished
with innumerable stores; and I considered, and stood aghast; being
able to discern nothing of these things without Thee, and finding none
of them to be Thee. Nor was I myself, who found out these things,
who went over them all, and laboured to distinguish and to value every
thing according to its dignity, taking some things upon the report
of my senses, questioning about others which I felt to be mingled with
myself, numbering and distinguishing the reporters themselves, and
in the large treasure-house of my memory revolving some things,
storing up others, drawing out others. Nor yet was I myself when I did
this, i.e., that my power whereby I did it, neither was it Thou, for
Thou art the abiding light, which I consulted concerning all these,
whether they were, what they were, and how to be valued; and I heard
Thee directing and commanding me; and this I often do, this delights
me, and as far as I may be freed from necessary duties, unto this
pleasure have I recourse. Nor in all these which I run over consulting
Thee can I find any safe place for my soul, but in Thee; whither my
scattered members may be gathered, and nothing of me depart from Thee.
And sometimes Thou admittest me to an affection, very unusual, in my
inmost soul; rising to a strange sweetness, which if it were perfected
in me, I know not what in it would not belong to the life to come. But
through my miserable encumbrances I sink down again into these lower
things, and am swept back by former custom, and am held, and greatly
weep, but am greatly held. So much doth the burden of a bad custom
weigh us down. Here I can stay, but would not; there I would, but
cannot; both ways, miserable.
Thus then have I considered the sicknesses of my sins in that
threefold concupiscence, and have called Thy right hand to my help.
For with a wounded heart have I beheld Thy brightness, and stricken
back I said, "Who can attain thither? I am cast away from the sight of
Thine eyes." Thou art the Truth who presidest over all, but I
through my covetousness would not indeed forego Thee, but would with
Thee possess a lie; as no man would in such wise speak falsely, as
himself to be ignorant of the truth. So then I lost Thee, because Thou
vouchsafest not to be possessed with a lie.
Whom could I find to reconcile me to Thee? was I to have recourse to
Angels? by what prayers? by what sacraments? Many endeavouring to
return unto Thee, and of themselves unable, have, as I hear, tried
this, and fallen into the desire of curious visions, and been
accounted worthy to be deluded. For they, being high minded, sought
Thee by the pride of learning, swelling out rather than smiting upon
their breasts, and so by the agreement of their heart, drew unto
themselves the princes of the air, the fellow-conspirators of their
pride, by whom, through magical influences, they were deceived,
seeking a mediator, by whom they might be purged, and there was
none. For the devil it was, transforming himself into an Angel of
light. And it much enticed proud flesh, that he had no body of
flesh. For they were mortal, and sinners; but thou, Lord, to whom they
proudly sought to be reconciled, art immortal, and without sin. But
a mediator between God and man must have something like to God,
something like to men; lest being in both like to man, he should he
far from God: or if in both like God, too unlike man: and so not be
a mediator. That deceitful mediator then, by whom in Thy secret
judgments pride deserved to be deluded, hath one thing in common
with man, that is sin; another he would seem to have in common with
God; and not being clothed with the mortality of flesh, would vaunt
himself to be immortal. But since the wages of sin is death, this hath
he in common with men, that with them he should be condemned to death.
But the true Mediator, Whom in Thy secret mercy Thou hast showed
to the humble, and sentest, that by His example also they might
learn that same humility, that Mediator between God and man, the Man
Christ Jesus, appeared betwixt mortal sinners and the immortal just
One; mortal with men, just with God: that because the wages of
righteousness is life and peace, He might by a righteousness conjoined
with God make void that death of sinners, now made righteous, which He
willed to have in common with them. Hence He was showed forth to
holy men of old; that so they, through faith in His Passion to come,
as we through faith of it passed, might be saved. For as Man, He was a
Mediator; but as the Word, not in the middle between God and man,
because equal to God, and God with God, and together one God.
How hast Thou loved us, good Father, who sparedst not Thine only
Son, but deliveredst Him up for us ungodly! How hast Thou loved us,
for whom He that thought it no robbery to be equal with Thee, was made
subject even to the death of the cross, He alone, free among the dead,
having power to lay down His life, and power to take it again: for
us to Thee both Victor and Victim, and therefore Victor, because the
Victim; for us to Thee Priest and Sacrifice, and therefore Priest
because the Sacrifice; making us to Thee, of servants, sons by being
born of Thee, and serving us. Well then is my hope strong in Him, that
Thou wilt heal all my infirmities, by Him Who sitteth at Thy right
hand and maketh intercession for us; else should I despair. For many
and great are my infirmities, many they are, and great; but Thy
medicine is mightier. We might imagine that Thy Word was far from
any union with man, and despair of ourselves, unless He had been
made flesh and dwelt among us.
Affrighted with my sins and the burden of my misery, I had cast in
my heart, and had purposed to flee to the wilderness: but Thou
forbadest me, and strengthenedst me, saying, Therefore Christ died for
all, that they which live may now no longer live unto themselves,
but unto Him that died for them. See, Lord, I cast my care upon
Thee, that I may live, and consider wondrous things out of Thy law.
Thou knowest my unskilfulness, and my infirmities; teach me, and
heal me. He, Thine only Son, in Whom are hid all the treasures of
wisdom and knowledge, hath redeemed me with His blood. Let not the
proud speak evil of me; because I meditate on my ransom, and eat and
drink, and communicate it; and poor, desired to be satisfied from Him,
amongst those that eat and are satisfied, and they shall praise the
Lord who seek Him.
BOOK XI

Lord, since eternity is Thine, art Thou ignorant of what I say to
Thee? or dost Thou see in time, what passeth in time? Why then do I
lay in order before Thee so many relations? Not, of a truth, that Thou
mightest learn them through me, but to stir up mine own and my
readers' devotions towards Thee, that we may all say, Great is the
Lord, and greatly to be praised. I have said already; and again will
say, for love of Thy love do I this. For we pray also, and yet Truth
hath said, Your Father knoweth what you have need of, before you
ask. It is then our affections which we lay open unto Thee, confessing
our own miseries, and Thy mercies upon us, that Thou mayest free us
wholly, since Thou hast begun, that we may cease to be wretched in
ourselves, and be blessed in Thee; seeing Thou hast called us, to
become poor in spirit, and meek, and mourners, and hungering and
athirst after righteousness, and merciful, and pure in heart, and
peace-makers. See, I have told Thee many things, as I could and as I
would, because Thou first wouldest that I should confess unto Thee, my
Lord God. For Thou art good, for Thy mercy endureth for ever.
But how shall I suffice with the tongue of my pen to utter all Thy
exhortations, and all Thy terrors, and comforts, and guidances,
whereby Thou broughtest me to preach Thy Word, and dispense Thy
Sacrament to Thy people? And if I suffice to utter them in order,
the drops of time are precious with me; and long have I burned to
meditate in Thy law, and therein to confess to Thee my skill and
unskilfulness, the daybreak of Thy enlightening, and the remnants of
my darkness, until infirmity be swallowed up by strength. And I
would not have aught besides steal away those hours which I find
free from the necessities of refreshing my body and the powers of my
mind, and of the service which we owe to men, or which though we owe
not, we yet pay.
O Lord my god, give ear unto my prayer, and let Thy mercy hearken
unto my desire: because it is anxious not for myself alone, but
would serve brotherly charity; and Thou seest my heart, that so it is.
I would sacrifice to Thee the service of my thought and tongue; do
Thou give me, what I may offer Thee. For I am poor and needy, Thou
rich to all that call upon Thee; Who, inaccessible to care, carest for
us. Circumcise from all rashness and all lying both my inward and
outward lips: let Thy Scriptures be my pure delights: let me not be
deceived in them, nor deceive out of them. Lord, hearken and pity, O
Lord my God, Light of the blind, and Strength of the weak; yea also
Light of those that see, and Strength of the strong; hearken unto my
soul, and hear it crying out of the depths. For if Thine ears be not
with us in the depths also, whither shall we go? whither cry? The
day is Thine, and the night is Thine; at Thy beck the moments flee by.
Grant thereof a space for our meditations in the hidden things of
Thy law, and close it not against us who knock. For not in vain
wouldest Thou have the darksome secrets of so many pages written;
nor are those forests without their harts which retire therein and
range and walk; feed, lie down, and ruminate. Perfect me, O Lord,
and reveal them unto me. Behold, Thy voice is my joy; Thy voice
exceedeth the abundance of pleasures. Give what I love: for I do love;
and this hast Thou given: forsake not Thy own gifts, nor despise Thy
green herb that thirsteth. Let me confess unto Thee whatsoever I shall
find in Thy books, and hear the voice of praise, and drink in Thee,
and meditate on the wonderful things out of Thy law; even from the
beginning, wherein Thou madest the heaven and the earth, unto the
everlasting reigning of Thy holy city with Thee.
Lord, have mercy on me, and hear my desire. For it is not, I deem,
of the earth, not of gold and silver, and precious stones, or gorgeous
apparel, or honours and offices, or the pleasures of the flesh, or
necessaries for the body and for this life of our pilgrimage: all
which shall be added unto those that seek Thy kingdom and Thy
righteousness. Behold, O Lord my God, wherein is my desire. The wicked
have told me of delights, but not such as Thy law, O Lord. Behold,
wherein is my desire. Behold, Father, behold, and see and approve; and
be it pleasing in the sight of Thy mercy, that I may find grace before
Thee, that the inward parts of Thy words be opened to me knocking. I
beseech by our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, the Man of Thy right hand,
the Son of man, whom Thou hast established for Thyself, as Thy
Mediator and ours, through Whom Thou soughtest us, not seeking Thee,
but soughtest us, that we might seek Thee,- Thy Word, through Whom
Thou madest all things, and among them, me also;- Thy Only-Begotten,
through Whom Thou calledst to adoption the believing people, and
therein me also;- I beseech Thee by Him, who sitteth at Thy right
hand, and intercedeth with Thee for us, in Whom are hidden all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge. These do I seek in Thy books. Of
Him did Moses write; this saith Himself; this saith the Truth.
I would hear and understand, how "In the Beginning Thou madest the
heaven and earth." Moses wrote this, wrote and departed, passed
hence from Thee to Thee; nor is he now before me. For if he were, I
would hold him and ask him, and beseech him by Thee to open these
things unto me, and would lay the ears of my body to the sounds
bursting out of his mouth. And should he speak Hebrew, in vain will it
strike on my senses, nor would aught of it touch my mind; but if
Latin, I should know what he said. But whence should I know, whether
he spake truth? Yea, and if I knew this also, should I know it from
him? Truly within me, within, in the chamber of my thoughts, Truth,
neither Hebrew, nor Greek, nor Latin, nor barbarian, without organs of
voice or tongue, or sound of syllables, would say, "It is truth,"
and I forthwith should say confidently to that man of Thine, "thou
sayest truly." Whereas then I cannot enquire of him, Thee, Thee I
beseech, O Truth, full of Whom he spake truth, Thee, my God, I
beseech, forgive my sins; and Thou, who gavest him Thy servant to
speak these things, give to me also to understand them.
Behold, the heavens and the earth are; they proclaim that they
were created; for they change and vary. Whereas whatsoever hath not
been made, and yet is, hath nothing in it, which before it had not;
and this it is, to change and vary. They proclaim also, that they made
not themselves; "therefore we are, because we have been made; we
were not therefore, before we were, so as to make ourselves." Now
the evidence of the thing, is the voice of the speakers. Thou
therefore, Lord, madest them; who art beautiful, for they are
beautiful; who art good, for they are good; who art, for they are; yet
are they not beautiful nor good, nor are they, as Thou their Creator
art; compared with Whom, they are neither beautiful, nor good, nor
are. This we know, thanks be to Thee. And our knowledge, compared with
Thy knowledge, is ignorance.
But how didst Thou make the heaven and the earth? and what the
engine of Thy so mighty fabric? For it was not as a human artificer,
forming one body from another, according to the discretion of his
mind, which can in some way invest with such a form, as it seeth in
itself by its inward eye. And whence should he be able to do this,
unless Thou hadst made that mind? and he invests with a form what
already existeth, and hath a being, as clay, or stone, or wood, or
gold, or the like. And whence should they be, hadst not Thou appointed
them? Thou madest the artificer his body, Thou the mind commanding the
limbs, Thou the matter whereof he makes any thing; Thou the
apprehension whereby to take in his art, and see within what he doth
without; Thou the sense of his body, whereby, as by an interpreter, he
may from mind to matter, convey that which he doth, and report to
his mind what is done; that it within may consult the truth, which
presideth over itself, whether it be well done or no. All these praise
Thee, the Creator of all. But how dost Thou make them? how, O God,
didst Thou make heaven and earth? Verily, neither in the heaven, nor
in the earth, didst Thou make heaven and earth; nor in the air, or
waters, seeing these also belong to the heaven and the earth; nor in
the whole world didst Thou make the whole world; because there was
no place where to make it, before it was made, that it might be. Nor
didst Thou hold any thing in Thy hand, whereof to make heaven and
earth. For whence shouldest Thou have this, which Thou hadst not made,
thereof to make any thing? For what is, but because Thou art?
Therefore Thou spokest, and they were made, and in Thy Word Thou
madest them.
But how didst Thou speak? In the way that the voice came out of
the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son? For that voice passed by
and passed away, began and ended; the syllables sounded and passed
away, the second after the first, the third after the second, and so
forth in order, until the last after the rest, and silence after the
last. Whence it is abundantly clear and plain that the motion of a
creature expressed it, itself temporal, serving Thy eternal will.
And these Thy words, created for a time, the outward ear reported to
the intelligent soul, whose inward ear lay listening to Thy Eternal
Word. But she compared these words sounding in time, with that Thy
Eternal Word in silence, and said "It is different, far different.
These words are far beneath me, nor are they, because they flee and
pass away; but the Word of my Lord abideth above me for ever." If then
in sounding and passing words Thou saidst that heaven and earth should
be made, and so madest heaven and earth, there was a corporeal
creature before heaven and earth, by whose motions in time that
voice might take his course in time. But there was nought corporeal
before heaven and earth; or if there were, surely Thou hadst,
without such a passing voice, created that, whereof to make this
passing voice, by which to say, Let the heaven and the earth be
made. For whatsoever that were, whereof such a voice were made, unless
by Thee it were made, it could not be at all. By what Word then
didst Thou speak, that a body might be made, whereby these words again
might be made?
Thou callest us then to understand the Word, God, with Thee God,
Which is spoken eternally, and by It are all things spoken
eternally. For what was spoken was not spoken successively, one
thing concluded that the next might be spoken, but all things together
and eternally. Else have we time and change; and not a true eternity
nor true immortality. This I know, O my God, and give thanks. I
know, I confess to Thee, O Lord, and with me there knows and blesses
Thee, whoso is not unthankful to assure Truth. We know, Lord, we know;
since inasmuch as anything is not which was, and is, which was not, so
far forth it dieth and ariseth. Nothing then of Thy Word doth give
place or replace, because It is truly immortal and eternal. And
therefore unto the Word coeternal with Thee Thou dost at once and
eternally say all that Thou dost say; and whatever Thou sayest shall
be made is made; nor dost Thou make, otherwise than by saying; and yet
are not all things made together, or everlasting, which Thou makest by
saying.
Why, I beseech Thee, O Lord my God? I see it in a way; but how to
express it, I know not, unless it be, that whatsoever begins to be,
and leaves off to be, begins then, and leaves off then, when in Thy
eternal Reason it is known, that it ought to begin or leave off; in
which Reason nothing beginneth or leaveth off. This is Thy Word, which
is also "the Beginning, because also It speaketh unto us." Thus in the
Gospel He speaketh through the flesh; and this sounded outwardly in
the ears of men; that it might be believed and sought inwardly, and
found in the eternal Verity; where the good and only Master teacheth
all His disciples. There, Lord, hear I Thy voice speaking unto me;
because He speaketh us, who teacheth us; but He that teacheth us
not, though He speaketh, to us He speaketh not. Who now teacheth us,
but the unchangeable Truth? for even when we are admonished through
a changeable creature; we are but led to the unchangeable Truth; where
we learn truly, while we stand and hear Him, and rejoice greatly
because of the Bridegroom's voice, restoring us to Him, from Whom we
are. And therefore the Beginning, because unless It abided, there
should not, when we went astray, be whither to return. But when we
return from error, it is through knowing; and that we may know, He
teacheth us, because He is the Beginning, and speaking unto us.
In this Beginning, O God, hast Thou made heaven and earth, in Thy
Word, in Thy Son, in Thy Power, in Thy Wisdom, in Thy Truth;
wondrously speaking, and wondrously making. Who shall comprehend?
Who declare it? What is that which gleams through me, and strikes my
heart without hurting it; and I shudder and kindle? I shudder,
inasmuch as I unlike it; I kindle, inasmuch as I am like it. It is
Wisdom, Wisdom's self which gleameth through me; severing my
cloudiness which yet again mantles over me, fainting from it,
through the darkness which for my punishment gathers upon me. For my
strength is brought down in need, so that I cannot support my
blessings, till Thou, Lord, Who hast been gracious to all mine
iniquities, shalt heal all my infirmities. For Thou shalt also
redeem my life from corruption, and crown me with loving kindness
and tender mercies, and shalt satisfy my desire with good things,
because my youth shall be renewed like an eagle's. For in hope we
are saved, wherefore we through patience wait for Thy promises. Let
him that is able, hear Thee inwardly discoursing out of Thy oracle:
I will boldly cry out, How wonderful are Thy works, O Lord, in
Wisdom hast Thou made them all; and this Wisdom is the Beginning,
and in that Beginning didst Thou make heaven and earth.
Lo, are they not full of their old leaven, who say to us, "What
was God doing before He made heaven and earth? For if (say they) He
were unemployed and wrought not, why does He not also henceforth,
and for ever, as He did heretofore? For did any new motion arise in
God, and a new will to make a creature, which He had never before
made, how then would that be a true eternity, where there ariseth a
will, which was not? For the will of God is not a creature, but before
the creature; seeing nothing could be created, unless the will of
the Creator had preceded. The will of God then belongeth to His very
Substance. And if aught have arisen in God's Substance, which before
was not, that Substance cannot be truly called eternal. But if the
will of God has been from eternity that the creature should be, why
was not the creature also from eternity?"
Who speak thus, do not yet understand Thee, O Wisdom of God, Light
of souls, understand not yet how the things be made, which by Thee,
and in Thee are made: yet they strive to comprehend things eternal,
whilst their heart fluttereth between the motions of things past and
to come, and is still unstable. Who shall hold it, and fix it, that it
be settled awhile, and awhile catch the glory of that everfixed
Eternity, and compare it with the times which are never fixed, and see
that it cannot be compared; and that a long time cannot become long,
but out of many motions passing by, which cannot be prolonged
altogether; but that in the Eternal nothing passeth, but the whole
is present; whereas no time is all at once present: and that all
time past, is driven on by time to come, and all to come followeth
upon the past; and all past and to come, is created, and flows out
of that which is ever present? Who shall hold the heart of man, that
it may stand still, and see how eternity ever still-standing,
neither past nor to come, uttereth the times past and to come? Can
my hand do this, or the hand of my mouth by speech bring about a thing
so great?
See, I answer him that asketh, "What did God before He made heaven
and earth?" I answer not as one is said to have done merrily
(eluding the pressure of the question), "He was preparing hell
(saith he) for pryers into mysteries." It is one thing to answer
enquiries, another to make sport of enquirers. So I answer not; for
rather had I answer, "I know not," what I know not, than so as to
raise a laugh at him who asketh deep things and gain praise for one
who answereth false things. But I say that Thou, our God, art the
Creator of every creature: and if by the name "heaven and earth,"
every creature be understood; I boldly say, "that before God made
heaven and earth, He did not make any thing." For if He made, what did
He make but a creature? And would I knew whatsoever I desire to know
to my profit, as I know, that no creature was made, before there was
made any creature.
But if any excursive brain rove over the images of forepassed times,
and wonder that Thou the God Almighty and All-creating and
All-supporting, Maker of heaven and earth, didst for innumerable
ages forbear from so great a work, before Thou wouldest make it; let
him awake and consider, that he wonders at false conceits. For
whence could innumerable ages pass by, which Thou madest not, Thou the
Author and Creator of all ages? or what times should there be, which
were not made by Thee? or how should they pass by, if they never were?
Seeing then Thou art the Creator of all times, if any time was
before Thou madest heaven and earth, why say they that Thou didst
forego working? For that very time didst Thou make, nor could times
pass by, before Thou madest those times. But if before heaven and
earth there was no time, why is it demanded, what Thou then didst? For
there was no "then," when there was no time.
Nor dost Thou by time, precede time: else shouldest Thou not precede
all times. But Thou precedest all things past, by the sublimity of
an ever-present eternity; and surpassest all future because they are
future, and when they come, they shall be past; but Thou art the Same,
and Thy years fail not. Thy years neither come nor go; whereas ours
both come and go, that they all may come. Thy years stand together,
because they do stand; nor are departing thrust out by coming years,
for they pass not away; but ours shall all be, when they shall no more
be. Thy years are one day; and Thy day is not daily, but To-day,
seeing Thy To-day gives not place unto to-morrow, for neither doth
it replace yesterday. Thy To-day, is Eternity; therefore didst Thou
beget The Coeternal, to whom Thou saidst, This day have I begotten
Thee. Thou hast made all things; and before all times Thou art:
neither in any time was time not.
At no time then hadst Thou not made any thing, because time itself
Thou madest. And no times are coeternal with Thee, because Thou
abidest; but if they abode, they should not be times. For what is
time? Who can readily and briefly explain this? Who can even in
thought comprehend it, so as to utter a word about it? But what in
discourse do we mention more familiarly and knowingly, than time? And,
we understand, when we speak of it; we understand also, when we hear
it spoken of by another. What then is time? If no one asks me, I know:
if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not: yet I say
boldly that I know, that if nothing passed away, time past were not;
and if nothing were coming, a time to come were not; and if nothing
were, time present were not. Those two times then, past and to come,
how are they, seeing the past now is not, and that to come is not yet?
But the present, should it always be present, and never pass into time
past, verily it should not be time, but eternity. If time present
(if it is to be time) only cometh into existence, because it passeth
into time past, how can we say that either this is, whose cause of
being is, that it shall not be; so, namely, that we cannot truly say
that time is, but because it is tending not to be?
And yet we say, "a long time" and "a short time"; still, only of
time past or to come. A long time past (for example) we call an
hundred years since; and a long time to come, an hundred years
hence. But a short time past, we call (suppose) often days since;
and a short time to come, often days hence. But in what sense is
that long or short, which is not? For the past, is not now; and the
future, is not yet. Let us not then say, "it is long"; but of the
past, "it hath been long"; and of the future, "it will be long." O
my Lord, my Light, shall not here also Thy Truth mock at man? For that
past time which was long, was it long when it was now past, or when it
was yet present? For then might it be long, when there was, what could
be long; but when past, it was no longer; wherefore neither could that
be long, which was not at all. Let us not then say, "time past hath
been long": for we shall not find, what hath been long, seeing that
since it was past, it is no more, but let us say, "that present time
was long"; because, when it was present, it was long. For it had not
yet passed away, so as not to be; and therefore there was, what
could be long; but after it was past, that ceased also to be long,
which ceased to be.
Let us see then, thou soul of man, whether present time can be long:
for to thee it is given to feel and to measure length of time. What
wilt thou answer me? Are an hundred years, when present, a long
time? See first, whether an hundred years can be present. For if the
first of these years be now current, it is present, but the other
ninety and nine are to come, and therefore are not yet, but if the
second year be current, one is now past, another present, the rest
to come. And so if we assume any middle year of this hundred to be
present, all before it, are past; all after it, to come; wherefore
an hundred years cannot be present. But see at least whether that
one which is now current, itself is present; for if the current
month be its first, the rest are to come; if the second, the first
is already past, and the rest are not yet. Therefore, neither is the
year now current present; and if not present as a whole, then is not
the year present. For twelve months are a year; of which whatever by
the current month is present; the rest past, or to come. Although
neither is that current month present; but one day only; the rest
being to come, if it be the first; past, if the last; if any of the
middle, then amid past and to come.
See how the present time, which alone we found could be called long,
is abridged to the length scarce of one day. But let us examine that
also; because neither is one day present as a whole. For it is made up
of four and twenty hours of night and day: of which, the first hath
the rest to come; the last hath them past; and any of the middle
hath those before it past, those behind it to come. Yea, that one hour
passeth away in flying particles. Whatsoever of it hath flown away, is
past; whatsoever remaineth, is to come. If an instant of time be
conceived, which cannot be divided into the smallest particles of
moments, that alone is it, which may be called present. Which yet
flies with such speed from future to past, as not to be lengthened out
with the least stay. For if it be, it is divided into past and future.
The present hath no space. Where then is the time, which we may call
long? Is it to come? Of it we do not say, "it is long"; because it
is not yet, so as to be long; but we say, "it will be long." When
therefore will it be? For if even then, when it is yet to come, it
shall not be long (because what can be long, as yet is not), and so it
shall then be long, when from future which as yet is not, it shall
begin now to be, and have become present, that so there should exist
what may be long; then does time present cry out in the words above,
that it cannot be long.
And yet, Lord, we perceive intervals of times, and compare them, and
say, some are shorter, and others longer. We measure also, how much
longer or shorter this time is than that; and we answer, "This is
double, or treble; and that, but once, or only just so much as
that." But we measure times as they are passing, by perceiving them;
but past, which now are not, or the future, which are not yet, who can
measure? unless a man shall presume to say, that can be measured,
which is not. When then time is passing, it may be perceived and
measured; but when it is past, it cannot, because it is not.
I ask, Father, I affirm not: O my God, rule and guide me. "Who
will tell me that there are not three times (as we learned when
boys, and taught boys), past, present, and future; but present only,
because those two are not? Or are they also; and when from future it
becometh present, doth it come out of some secret place; and so,
when retiring, from present it becometh past? For where did they,
who foretold things to come, see them, if as yet they be not? For that
which is not, cannot be seen. And they who relate things past, could
not relate them, if in mind they did not discern them, and if they
were not, they could no way be discerned. Things then past and to
come, are."
Permit me, Lord, to seek further. O my hope, let not my purpose be
confounded. For if times past and to come be, I would know where
they be. Which yet if I cannot, yet I know, wherever they be, they are
not there as future, or past, but present. For if there also they be
future, they are not yet there; if there also they be past, they are
no longer there. Wheresoever then is whatsoever is, it is only as
present. Although when past facts are related, there are drawn out
of the memory, not the things themselves which are past, but words
which, conceived by the images of the things, they, in passing, have
through the senses left as traces in the mind. Thus my childhood,
which now is not, is in time past, which now is not: but now when I
recall its image, and tell of it, I behold it in the present,
because it is still in my memory. Whether there be a like cause of
foretelling things to come also; that of things which as yet are
not, the images may be perceived before, already existing, I
confess, O my God, I know not. This indeed I know, that we generally
think before on our future actions, and that that forethinking is
present, but the action whereof we forethink is not yet, because it is
to come. Which, when we have set upon, and have begun to do what we
were forethinking, then shall that action be; because then it is no
longer future, but present.
Which way soever then this secret fore-perceiving of things to
come be; that only can be seen, which is. But what now is, is not
future, but present. When then things to come are said to be seen,
it is not themselves which as yet are not (that is, which are to
be), but their causes perchance or signs are seen, which already
are. Therefore they are not future but present to those who now see
that, from which the future, being foreconceived in the mind, is
foretold. Which fore-conceptions again now are; and those who foretell
those things, do behold the conceptions present before them. Let now
the numerous variety of things furnish me some example. I behold the
day-break, I foreshow, that the sun, is about to rise. What I
behold, is present; what I foresignify, to come; not the sun, which
already is; but the sun-rising, which is not yet. And yet did I not in
my mind imagine the sun-rising itself (as now while I speak of it),
I could not foretell it. But neither is that day-break which I discern
in the sky, the sun-rising, although it goes before it; nor that
imagination of my mind; which two are seen now present, that the other
which is to be may be foretold. Future things then are not yet: and if
they be not yet, they are not: and if they are not, they cannot be
seen; yet foretold they may be from things present, which are already,
and are seen.
Thou then, Ruler of Thy creation, by what way dost Thou teach
souls things to come? For Thou didst teach Thy Prophets. By what way
dost Thou, to whom nothing is to come, teach things to come; or rather
of the future, dost teach things present? For, what is not, neither
can it be taught. Too far is this way of my ken: it is too mighty
for me, I cannot attain unto it; but from Thee I can, when Thou
shalt vouchsafe it, O sweet light of my hidden eyes.
What now is clear and plain is, that neither things to come nor past
are. Nor is it properly said, "there be three times, past, present,
and to come": yet perchance it might be properly said, "there be three
times; a present of things past, a present of things present, and a
present of things future." For these three do exist in some sort, in
the soul, but otherwhere do I not see them; present of things past,
memory; present of things present, sight; present of things future,
expectation. If thus we be permitted to speak, I see three times,
and I confess there are three. Let it be said too, "there be three
times, past, present, and to come": in our incorrect way. See, I
object not, nor gainsay, nor find fault, if what is so said be but
understood, that neither what is to be, now is, nor what is past.
For but few things are there, which we speak properly, most things
improperly; still the things intended are understood.
I said then even now, we measure times as they pass, in order to
be able to say, this time is twice so much as that one; or, this is
just so much as that; and so of any other parts of time, which be
measurable. Wherefore, as I said, we measure times as they pass. And
if any should ask me, "How knowest thou?" I might answer, "I know,
that we do measure, nor can we measure things that are not; and things
past and to come, are not." But time present how do we measure, seeing
it hath no space? It is measured while passing, but when it shall have
passed, it is not measured; for there will be nothing to be
measured. But whence, by what way, and whither passes it while it is a
measuring? whence, but from the future? Which way, but through the
present? whither, but into the past? From that therefore, which is not
yet, through that, which hath no space, into that, which now is not.
Yet what do we measure, if not time in some space? For we do not
say, single, and double, and triple, and equal, or any other like
way that we speak of time, except of spaces of times. In what space
then do we measure time passing? In the future, whence it passeth
through? But what is not yet, we measure not. Or in the present, by
which it passes? but no space, we do not measure: or in the past, to
which it passes? But neither do we measure that, which now is not.
My soul is on fire to know this most intricate enigma. Shut it not
up, O Lord my God, good Father; through Christ I beseech Thee, do
not shut up these usual, yet hidden things, from my desire, that it be
hindered from piercing into them; but let them dawn through Thy
enlightening mercy, O Lord. Whom shall I enquire of concerning these
things? and to whom shall I more fruitfully confess my ignorance, than
to Thee, to Whom these my studies, so vehemently kindled toward Thy
Scriptures, are not troublesome? Give what I love; for I do love,
and this hast Thou given me. Give, Father, Who truly knowest to give
good gifts unto Thy children. Give, because I have taken upon me to
know, and trouble is before me until Thou openest it. By Christ I
beseech Thee, in His Name, Holy of holies, let no man disturb me.
For I believed, and therefore do I speak. This is my hope, for this do
I live, that I may contemplate the delights of the Lord. Behold,
Thou hast made my days old, and they pass away, and how, I know not.
And we talk of time, and time, and times, and times, "How long time is
it since he said this"; "how long time since he did this"; and "how
long time since I saw that"; and "this syllable hath double time to
that single short syllable." These words we speak, and these we
hear, and are understood, and understand. Most manifest and ordinary
they are, and the self-same things again are but too deeply hidden,
and the discovery of them were new.
I heard once from a learned man, that the motions of the sun,
moon, and stars, constituted time, and I assented not. For why
should not the motions of all bodies rather be times? Or, if the
lights of heaven should cease, and a potter's wheel run round,
should there be no time by which we might measure those whirlings, and
say, that either it moved with equal pauses, or if it turned sometimes
slower, otherwhiles quicker, that some rounds were longer, other
shorter? Or, while we were saying this, should we not also be speaking
in time? Or, should there in our words be some syllables short, others
long, but because those sounded in a shorter time, these in a
longer? God, grant to men to see in a small thing notices common to
things great and small. The stars and lights of heaven, are also for
signs, and for seasons, and for years, and for days; they are; yet
neither should I say, that the going round of that wooden wheel was
a day, nor yet he, that it was therefore no time.
I desire to know the force and nature of time, by which we measure
the motions of bodies, and say (for example) this motion is twice as
long as that. For I ask, Seeing "day" denotes not the stay only of the
sun upon the earth (according to which day is one thing, night
another); but also its whole circuit from east to east again;
according to which we say, "there passed so many days," the night
being included when we say, "so many days," and the nights not
reckoned apart;- seeing then a day is completed by the motion of the
sun and by his circuit from east to east again, I ask, does the motion
alone make the day, or the stay in which that motion is completed,
or both? For if the first be the day; then should we have a day,
although the sun should finish that course in so small a space of
time, as one hour comes to. If the second, then should not that make a
day, if between one sun-rise and another there were but so short a
stay, as one hour comes to; but the sun must go four and twenty
times about, to complete one day. If both, then neither could that
be called a day; if the sun should run his whole round in the space of
one hour; nor that, if, while the sun stood still, so much time should
overpass, as the sun usually makes his whole course in, from morning
to morning. I will not therefore now ask, what that is which is called
day; but, what time is, whereby we, measuring the circuit of the
sun, should say that it was finished in half the time it was wont,
if so be it was finished in so small a space as twelve hours; and
comparing both times, should call this a single time, that a double
time; even supposing the sun to run his round from east to east,
sometimes in that single, sometimes in that double time. Let no man
then tell me, that the motions of the heavenly bodies constitute
times, because, when at the prayer of one, the sun had stood still,
till he could achieve his victorious battle, the sun stood still,
but time went on. For in its own allotted space of time was that
battle waged and ended. I perceive time then to be a certain
extension. But do I perceive it, or seem to perceive it? Thou, Light
and Truth, wilt show me.
Dost Thou bid me assent, if any define time to be "motion of a
body?" Thou dost not bid me. For that no body is moved, but in time, I
hear; this Thou sayest; but that the motion of a body is time, I
hear not; Thou sayest it not. For when a body is moved, I by time
measure, how long it moveth, from the time it began to move until it
left off? And if I did not see whence it began; and it continue to
move so that I see not when it ends, I cannot measure, save
perchance from the time I began, until I cease to see. And if I look
long, I can only pronounce it to be a long time, but not how long;
because when we say "how long," we do it by comparison; as, "this is
as long as that," or "twice so long as that," or the like. But when we
can mark the distances of the places, whence and whither goeth the
body moved, or his parts, if it moved as in a lathe, then can we say
precisely, in how much time the motion of that body or his part,
from this place unto that, was finished. Seeing therefore the motion
of a body is one thing, that by which we measure how long it is,
another; who sees not, which of the two is rather to be called time?
For and if a body be sometimes moved, sometimes stands still, then
we measure, not his motion only, but his standing still too by time;
and we say, "it stood still, as much as it moved"; or "it stood
still twice or thrice so long as it moved"; or any other space which
our measuring hath either ascertained, or guessed; more or less, as we
use to say. Time then is not the motion of a body.
And I confess to Thee, O Lord, that I yet know not what time is, and
again I confess unto Thee, O Lord, that I know that I speak this in
time, and that having long spoken of time, that very "long" is not
long, but by the pause of time. How then know I this, seeing I know
not what time is? or is it perchance that I know not how to express
what I know? Woe is me, that do not even know, what I know not.
Behold, O my God, before Thee I lie not; but as I speak, so is my
heart. Thou shalt light my candle; Thou, O Lord my God, wilt enlighten
my darkness.
Does not my soul most truly confess unto Thee, that I do measure
times? Do I then measure, O my God, and know not what I measure? I
measure the motion of a body in time; and the time itself do I not
measure? Or could I indeed measure the motion of a body how long it
were, and in how long space it could come from this place to that,
without measuring the time in which it is moved? This same time
then, how do I measure? do we by a shorter time measure a longer, as
by the space of a cubit, the space of a rood? for so indeed we seem by
the space of a short syllable, to measure the space of a long
syllable, and to say that this is double the other. Thus measure we
the spaces of stanzas, by the spaces of the verses, and the spaces
of the verses, by the spaces of the feet, and the spaces of the
feet, by the spaces of the syllables, and the spaces of long, by the
space of short syllables; not measuring by pages (for then we
measure spaces, not times); but when we utter the words and they
pass by, and we say "it is a long stanza, because composed of so
many verses; long verses, because consisting of so many feet; long
feet, because prolonged by so many syllables; a long syllable
because double to a short one. But neither do we this way obtain any
certain measure of time; because it may be, that a shorter verse,
pronounced more fully, may take up more time than a longer, pronounced
hurriedly. And so for a verse, a foot, a syllable. Whence it seemed to
me, that time is nothing else than protraction; but of what, I know
not; and I marvel, if it be not of the mind itself? For what, I
beseech Thee, O my God, do I measure, when I say, either
indefinitely "this is a longer time than that," or definitely "this is
double that"? That I measure time, I know; and yet I measure not
time to come, for it is not yet; nor present, because it is not
protracted by any space; nor past, because it now is not. What then do
I measure? Times passing, not past? for so I said.
Courage, my mind, and press on mightily. God is our helper, He
made us, and not we ourselves. Press on where truth begins to dawn.
Suppose, now, the voice of a body begins to sound, and does sound, and
sounds on, and list, it ceases; it is silence now, and that voice is
past, and is no more a voice. Before it sounded, it was to come, and
could not be measured, because as yet it was not, and now it cannot,
because it is no longer. Then therefore while it sounded, it might;
because there then was what might be measured. But yet even then it
was not at a stay; for it was passing on, and passing away. Could it
be measured the rather, for that? For while passing, it was being
extended into some space of time, so that it might be measured,
since the present hath no space. If therefore then it might, then, to,
suppose another voice hath begun to sound, and still soundeth in one
continued tenor without any interruption; let us measure it while it
sounds; seeing when it hath left sounding, it will then be past, and
nothing left to be measured; let us measure it verily, and tell how
much it is. But it sounds still, nor can it be measured but from the
instant it began in, unto the end it left in. For the very space
between is the thing we measure, namely, from some beginning unto some
end. Wherefore, a voice that is not yet ended, cannot be measured,
so that it may be said how long, or short it is; nor can it be
called equal to another, or double to a single, or the like. But
when ended, it no longer is. How may it then be measured? And yet we
measure times; but yet neither those which are not yet, nor those
which no longer are, nor those which are not lengthened out by some
pause, nor those which have no bounds. We measure neither times to
come, nor past, nor present, nor passing; and yet we do measure times.
"Deus Creator omnium," this verse of eight syllables alternates
between short and long syllables. The four short then, the first,
third, fifth, and seventh, are but single, in respect of the four
long, the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth. Every one of these to
every one of those, hath a double time: I pronounce them, report on
them, and find it so, as one's plain sense perceives. By plain sense
then, I measure a long syllable by a short, and I sensibly find it
to have twice so much; but when one sounds after the other, if the
former be short, the latter long, how shall I detain the short one,
and how, measuring, shall I apply it to the long, that I may find this
to have twice so much; seeing the long does not begin to sound, unless
the short leaves sounding? And that very long one do I measure as
present, seeing I measure it not till it be ended? Now his ending is
his passing away. What then is it I measure? where is the short
syllable by which I measure? where the long which I measure? Both have
sounded, have flown, passed away, are no more; and yet I measure,
and confidently answer (so far as is presumed on a practised sense)
that as to space of time this syllable is but single, that double. And
yet I could not do this, unless they were already past and ended. It
is not then themselves, which now are not, that I measure, but
something in my memory, which there remains fixed.
It is in thee, my mind, that I measure times. Interrupt me not, that
is, interrupt not thyself with the tumults of thy impressions. In thee
I measure times; the impression, which things as they pass by cause in
thee, remains even when they are gone; this it is which still present,
I measure, not the things which pass by to make this impression.
This I measure, when I measure times. Either then this is time, or I
do not measure times. What when we measure silence, and say that
this silence hath held as long time as did that voice? do we not
stretch out our thought to the measure of a voice, as if it sounded,
that so we may be able to report of the intervals of silence in a
given space of time? For though both voice and tongue be still, yet in
thought we go over poems, and verses, and any other discourse, or
dimensions of motions, and report as to the spaces of times, how
much this is in respect of that, no otherwise than if vocally we did
pronounce them. If a man would utter a lengthened sound, and had
settled in thought how long it should be, he hath in silence already
gone through a space of time, and committing it to memory, begins to
utter that speech, which sounds on, until it be brought unto the end
proposed. Yea it hath sounded, and will sound; for so much of it as is
finished, hath sounded already, and the rest will sound. And thus
passeth it on, until the present intent conveys over the future into
the past; the past increasing by the diminution of the future, until
by the consumption of the future, all is past.
But how is that future diminished or consumed, which as yet is
not? or how that past increased, which is now no longer, save that
in the mind which enacteth this, there be three things done? For it
expects, it considers, it remembers; that so that which it
expecteth, through that which it considereth, passeth into that
which it remembereth. Who therefore denieth, that things to come are
not as yet? and yet, there is in the mind an expectation of things
to come. And who denies past things to be now no longer? and yet is
there still in the mind a memory of things past. And who denieth the
present time hath no space, because it passeth away in a moment? and
yet our consideration continueth, through which that which shall be
present proceedeth to become absent. It is not then future time,
that is long, for as yet it is not: but a long future, is "a long
expectation of the future," nor is it time past, which now is not,
that is long; but a long past, is "a long memory of the past."
I am about to repeat a Psalm that I know. Before I begin, my
expectation is extended over the whole; but when I have begun, how
much soever of it I shall separate off into the past, is extended
along my memory; thus the life of this action of mine is divided
between my memory as to what I have repeated, and expectation as to
what I am about to repeat; but "consideration" is present with me,
that through it what was future, may be conveyed over, so as to become
past. Which the more it is done again and again, so much the more
the expectation being shortened, is the memory enlarged: till the
whole expectation be at length exhausted, when that whole action being
ended, shall have passed into memory. And this which takes place in
the whole Psalm, the same takes place in each several portion of it,
and each several syllable; the same holds in that longer action,
whereof this Psalm may be part; the same holds in the whole life of
man, whereof all the actions of man are parts; the same holds
through the whole age of the sons of men, whereof all the lives of men
are parts.
But because Thy loving-kindness is better than all lives, behold, my
life is but a distraction, and Thy right hand upheld me, in my Lord
the Son of man, the Mediator betwixt Thee, The One, and us many,
many also through our manifold distractions amid many things, that
by Him I may apprehend in Whom I have been apprehended, and may be
re-collected from my old conversation, to follow The One, forgetting
what is behind, and not distended but extended, not to things which
shall be and shall pass away, but to those things which are before,
not distractedly but intently, I follow on for the prize of my
heavenly calling, where I may hear the voice of Thy praise, and
contemplate Thy delights, neither to come, nor to pass away. But now
are my years spent in mourning. And Thou, O Lord, art my comfort, my
Father everlasting, but I have been severed amid times, whose order
I know not; and my thoughts, even the inmost bowels of my soul, are
rent and mangled with tumultuous varieties, until I flow together into
Thee, purified and molten by the fire of Thy love.
And now will I stand, and become firm in Thee, in my mould, Thy
truth; nor will I endure the questions of men, who by a penal
disease thirst for more than they can contain, and say, "what did
God before He made heaven and earth?" Or, "How came it into His mind
to make any thing, having never before made any thing?" Give them, O
Lord, well to bethink themselves what they say, and to find, that
"never" cannot be predicated, when "time" is not. This then that He is
said "never to have made"; what else is it to say, than "in 'no have
made?" Let them see therefore, that time cannot be without created
being, and cease to speak that vanity. May they also be extended
towards those things which are before; and understand Thee before
all times, the eternal Creator of all times, and that no times be
coeternal with Thee, nor any creature, even if there be any creature
before all times.
O Lord my God, what a depth is that recess of Thy mysteries, and how
far from it have the consequences of my transgressions cast me! Heal
mine eyes, that I may share the joy of Thy light. Certainly, if
there be mind gifted with such vast knowledge and foreknowledge, as to
know all things past and to come, as I know one well-known Psalm,
truly that mind is passing wonderful, and fearfully amazing; in that
nothing past, nothing to come in after-ages, is any more hidden from
him, than when I sung that Psalm, was hidden from me what, and how
much of it had passed away from the beginning, what, and how much
there remained unto the end. But far be it that Thou the Creator of
the Universe, the Creator of souls and bodies, far be it, that Thou
shouldest in such wise know all things past and to come. Far, far more
wonderfully, and far more mysteriously, dost Thou know them. For
not, as the feelings of one who singeth what he knoweth, or heareth
some well-known song, are through expectation of the words to come,
and the remembering of those that are past, varied, and his senses
divided, -not so doth any thing happen unto Thee, unchangeably
eternal, that is, the eternal Creator of minds. Like then as Thou in
the Beginning knewest the heaven and the earth, without any variety of
Thy knowledge, so madest Thou in the Beginning heaven and earth,
without any distraction of Thy action. Whoso understandeth, let him
confess unto Thee; and whoso understandeth not, let him confess unto
Thee. Oh how high art Thou, and yet the humble in heart are Thy
dwelling-place; for Thou raisest up those that are bowed down, and
they fall not, whose elevation Thou art.
BOOK XII

My heart, O Lord, touched with the words of Thy Holy Scripture, is
much busied, amid this poverty of my life. And therefore most times,
is the poverty of human understanding copious in words, because
enquiring hath more to say than discovering, and demanding is longer
than obtaining, and our hand that knocks, hath more work to do, than
our hand that receives. We hold the promise, who shall make it null?
If God be for us, who can be against us? Ask, and ye shall have; seek,
and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every
one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him
that knocketh, shall it be opened. These be Thine own promises: and
who need fear to be deceived, when the Truth promiseth?
The lowliness of my tongue confesseth unto Thy Highness, that Thou
madest heaven and earth; this heaven which I see, and this earth
that I tread upon, whence is this earth that I bear about me; Thou
madest it. But where is that heaven of heavens, O Lord, which we
hear of in the words of the Psalm. The heaven of heavens are the
Lord's; but the earth hath He given to the children of men? Where is
that heaven which we see not, to which all this which we see is earth?
For this corporeal whole, not being wholly every where, hath in such
wise received its portion of beauty in these lower parts, whereof
the lowest is this our earth; but to that heaven of heavens, even
the heaven of our earth, is but earth: yea both these great bodies,
may not absurdly be called earth, to that unknown heaven, which is the
Lord's, not the sons' of men.
And now this earth was invisible and without form, and there was I
know not what depth of abyss, upon which there was no light, because
it had no shape. Therefore didst Thou command it to be written, that
darkness was upon the face of the deep; what else than the absence
of light? For had there been light, where should it have been but by
being over all, aloft, and enlightening? Where then light was not,
what was the presence of darkness, but the absence of light?
Darkness therefore was upon it, because light was not upon it; as
where sound is not, there is silence. And what is it to have silence
there, but to have no sound there? Hast not Thou, O Lord, taught his
soul, which confesseth unto Thee? Hast not Thou taught me, Lord,
that before Thou formedst and diversifiedst this formless matter,
there was nothing, neither colour, nor figure, nor body, nor spirit?
and yet not altogether nothing; for there was a certain
formlessness, without any beauty.
How then should it be called, that it might be in some measure
conveyed to those of duller mind, but by some ordinary word? And what,
among all parts of the world can be found nearer to an absolute
formlessness, than earth and deep? For, occupying the lowest stage,
they are less beautiful than the other higher parts are, transparent
all and shining. Wherefore then may I not conceive the formlessness of
matter (which Thou hadst created without beauty, whereof to make
this beautiful world) to be suitably intimated unto men, by the name
of earth invisible and without form.
So that when thought seeketh what the sense may conceive under this,
and saith to itself, "It is no intellectual form, as life, or justice;
because it is the matter of bodies; nor object of sense, because being
invisible, and without form, there was in it no object of sight or
sense";- while man's thought thus saith to itself, it may endeavour
either to know it, by being ignorant of it; or to be ignorant, by
knowing it.
But I, Lord, if I would, by my tongue and my pen, confess unto
Thee the whole, whatever Thyself hath taught me of that matter, -the
name whereof hearing before, and not understanding, when they who
understood it not, told me of it, so I conceived of it as having
innumerable forms and diverse, and therefore did not conceive it at
all, my mind tossed up and down foul and horrible "forms" out of all
order, but yet "forms" and I called it without form not that it wanted
all form, but because it had such as my mind would, if presented to
it, turn from, as unwonted and jarring, and human frailness would be
troubled at. And still that which I conceived, was without form, not
as being deprived of all form, but in comparison of more beautiful
forms; and true reason did persuade me, that I must utterly uncase
it of all remnants of form whatsoever, if I would conceive matter
absolutely without form; and I could not; for sooner could I imagine
that not to be at all, which should be deprived of all form, than
conceive a thing betwixt form and nothing, neither formed, nor
nothing, a formless almost nothing. So my mind gave over to question
thereupon with my spirit, it being filled with the images of formed
bodies, and changing and varying them, as it willed; and I bent myself
to the bodies themselves, and looked more deeply into their
changeableness, by which they cease to be what they have been, and
begin to be what they were not; and this same shifting from form to
form, I suspected to be through a certain formless state, not
through a mere nothing; yet this I longed to know, not to suspect
only.-If then my voice and pen would confess unto Thee the whole,
whatsoever knots Thou didst open for me in this question, what
reader would hold out to take in the whole? Nor shall my heart for all
this cease to give Thee honour, and a song of praise, for those things
which it is not able to express. For the changeableness of
changeable things, is itself capable of all those forms, into which
these changeable things are changed. And this changeableness, what
is it? Is it soul? Is it body? Is it that which constituteth soul or
body? Might one say, "a nothing something", an "is, is not," I would
say, this were it: and yet in some way was it even then, as being
capable of receiving these visible and compound figures.
But whence had it this degree of being, but from Thee, from Whom are
all things, so far forth as they are? But so much the further from
Thee, as the unliker Thee; for it is not farness of place. Thou
therefore, Lord, Who art not one in one place, and otherwise in
another, but the Self-same, and the Self-same, and the Self-same,
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, didst in the Beginning, which
is of Thee, in Thy Wisdom, which was born of Thine own Substance,
create something, and that out of nothing. For Thou createdst heaven
and earth; not out of Thyself, for so should they have been equal to
Thine Only Begotten Son, and thereby to Thee also; whereas no way were
it right that aught should be equal to Thee, which was not of Thee.
And aught else besides Thee was there not, whereof Thou mightest
create them, O God, One Trinity, and Trine Unity; and therefore out of
nothing didst Thou create heaven and earth; a great thing, and a small
thing; for Thou art Almighty and Good, to make all things good, even
the great heaven, and the petty earth. Thou wert, and nothing was
there besides, out of which Thou createdst heaven and earth; things of
two sorts; one near Thee, the other near to nothing; one to which Thou
alone shouldest be superior; the other, to which nothing should be
inferior.
But that heaven of heavens was for Thyself, O Lord; but the earth
which Thou gavest to the sons of men, to be seen and felt, was not
such as we now see and feel. For it was invisible, without form, and
there was a deep, upon which there was no light; or, darkness was
above the deep, that is, more than in the deep. Because this deep of
waters, visible now, hath even in his depths, a light proper for its
nature; perceivable in whatever degree unto the fishes, and creeping
things in the bottom of it. But that whole deep was almost nothing,
because hitherto it was altogether without form; yet there was already
that which could be formed. For Thou, Lord, madest the world of a
matter without form, which out of nothing, Thou madest next to
nothing, thereof to make those great things, which we sons of men
wonder at. For very wonderful is this corporeal heaven; of which
firmament between water and water, the second day, after the
creation of light, Thou saidst, Let it be made, and it was made. Which
firmament Thou calledst heaven; the heaven, that is, to this earth and
sea, which Thou madest the third day, by giving a visible figure to
the formless matter, which Thou madest before all days. For already
hadst Thou made both an heaven, before all days; but that was the
heaven of this heaven; because In the beginning Thou hadst made heaven
and earth. But this same earth which Thou madest was formless
matter, because it was invisible and without form, and darkness was
upon the deep, of which invisible earth and without form, of which
formlessness, of which almost nothing, Thou mightest make all these
things of which this changeable world consists, but subsists not;
whose very changeableness appears therein, that times can be
observed and numbered in it. For times are made by the alterations
of things, while the figures, the matter whereof is the invisible
earth aforesaid, are varied and turned.
And therefore the Spirit, the Teacher of Thy servant, when It
recounts Thee to have In the Beginning created heaven and earth,
speaks nothing of times, nothing of days. For verily that heaven of
heavens which Thou createdst in the Beginning, is some intellectual
creature, which, although no ways coeternal unto Thee, the Trinity,
yet partaketh of Thy eternity, and doth through the sweetness of
that most happy contemplation of Thyself, strongly restrain its own
changeableness; and without any fall since its first creation,
cleaving close unto Thee, is placed beyond all the rolling vicissitude
of times. Yea, neither is this very formlessness of the earth,
invisible, and without form, numbered among the days. For where no
figure nor order is, there does nothing come, or go; and where this is
not, there plainly are no days, nor any vicissitude of spaces of
times.
O let the Light, the Truth, the Light of my heart, not mine own
darkness, speak unto me. I fell off into that, and became darkened;
but even thence, even thence I loved Thee. I went astray, and
remembered Thee. I heard Thy voice behind me, calling to me to return,
and scarcely heard it, through the tumultuousness of the enemies of
peace. And now, behold, I return in distress and panting after Thy
fountain. Let no man forbid me! of this will I drink, and so live. Let
me not be mine own life; from myself I lived ill, death was I to
myself; and I revive in Thee. Do Thou speak unto me, do Thou discourse
unto me. I have believed Thy Books, and their words be most full of
mystery.
Already Thou hast told me with a strong voice, O Lord, in my inner
ear, that Thou art eternal, Who only hast immortality; since Thou
canst not be changed as to figure or motion, nor is Thy will altered
by times: seeing no will which varies is immortal. This is in Thy
sight clear to me, and let it be more and more cleared to me, I
beseech Thee; and in the manifestation thereof, let me with sobriety
abide under Thy wings. Thou hast told me also with a strong voice, O
Lord, in my inner ear, that Thou hast made all natures and substances,
which are not what Thyself is, and yet are; and that only is not
from Thee, which is not, and the motion of the will from Thee who art,
unto that which in a less degree is, because such motion is
transgression and sin; and that no man's sin doth either hurt Thee, or
disturb the order of Thy government, first or last. This is in Thy
sight clear unto me, and let it be more and more cleared to me, I
beseech Thee: and in the manifestation thereof, let me with sobriety
abide under Thy wings.
Thou hast told me also with a strong voice, in my inner ear, that
neither is that creature coeternal unto Thyself, whose happiness
Thou only art, and which with a most persevering purity, drawing its
nourishment from Thee, doth in no place and at no time put forth its
natural mutability; and, Thyself being ever present with it, unto Whom
with its whole affection it keeps itself, having neither future to
expect, nor conveying into the past what it remembereth, is neither
altered by any change, nor distracted into any times. O blessed
creature, if such there be, for cleaving unto Thy Blessedness; blest
in Thee, its eternal Inhabitant and its Enlightener! Nor do I find
by what name I may the rather call the heaven of heavens which is
the Lord's, than Thine house, which contemplateth Thy delights without
any defection of going forth to another; one pure mind, most
harmoniously one, by that settled estate of peace of holy spirits, the
citizens of Thy city in heavenly places; far above those heavenly
places that we see.
By this may the soul, whose pilgrimage is made long and far away, by
this may she understand, if she now thirsts for Thee, if her tears
be now become her bread, while they daily say unto her, Where is Thy
God? if she now seeks of Thee one thing, and desireth it, that she may
dwell in Thy house all the days of her life (and what is her life, but
Thou? and what Thy days, but Thy eternity, as Thy years which fail
not, because Thou art ever the same?); by this then may the soul
that is able, understand how far Thou art, above all times, eternal;
seeing Thy house which at no time went into a far country, although it
be not coeternal with Thee, yet by continually and unfailingly
cleaving unto Thee, suffers no changeableness of times. This is in Thy
sight clear unto me, and let it be more and more cleared unto me, I
beseech Thee, and in the manifestation thereof, let me with sobriety
abide under Thy wings.
There is, behold, I know not what formlessness in those changes of
these last and lowest creatures; and who shall tell me (unless such
a one as through the emptiness of his own heart, wonders and tosses
himself up and down amid his own fancies?), who but such a one would
tell me, that if all figure be so wasted and consumed away, that there
should only remain that formlessness, through which the thing was
changed and turned from one figure to another, that that could exhibit
the vicissitudes of times? For plainly it could not, because,
without the variety of motions, there are no times: and no variety,
where there is no figure.
These things considered, as much as Thou givest, O my God, as much
as Thou stirrest me up to knock, and as much as Thou openest to me
knocking, two things I find that Thou hast made, not within the
compass of time, neither of which is coeternal with Thee. One, which
is so formed, that without any ceasing of contemplation, without any
interval of change, though changeable, yet not changed, it may
thoroughly enjoy Thy eternity and unchangeableness; the other which
was so formless, that it had not that, which could be changed from one
form into another, whether of motion, or of repose, so as to become
subject unto time. But this Thou didst not leave thus formless,
because before all days, Thou in the Beginning didst create Heaven and
Earth; the two things that I spake of. But the Earth was invisible and
without form, and darkness was upon the deep. In which words, is the
formlessness conveyed unto us (that such capacities may hereby be
drawn on by degrees, as are not able to conceive an utter privation of
all form, without yet coming to nothing), out of which another
Heaven might be created, together with a visible and well-formed
earth: and the waters diversly ordered, and whatsoever further is in
the formation of the world, recorded to have been, not without days,
created; and that, as being of such nature, that the successive
changes of times may take place in them, as being subject to appointed
alterations of motions and of forms.
This then is what I conceive, O my God, when I hear Thy Scripture
saying, In the beginning God made Heaven and Earth: and the Earth
was invisible and without form, and darkness was upon the deep, and
not mentioning what day Thou createdst them; this is what I
conceive, that because of the Heaven of heavens, -that intellectual
Heaven, whose Intelligences know all at once, not in part, not darkly,
not through a glass, but as a whole, in manifestation, face to face;
not, this thing now, and that thing anon; but (as I said) know all
at once, without any succession of times; -and because of the earth
invisible and without form, without any succession of times, which
succession presents "this thing now, that thing anon"; because where
is no form, there is no distinction of things: -it is, then, on
account of these two, a primitive formed, and a primitive formless;
the one, heaven but the Heaven of heaven, the other earth but the
earth invisible and without form; because of these two do I
conceive, did Thy Scripture say without mention of days, In the
Beginning God created Heaven and Earth. For forthwith it subjoined
what earth it spake of; and also, in that the Firmament is recorded to
be created the second day, and called Heaven, it conveys to us of
which Heaven He before spake, without mention of days.
Wondrous depth of Thy words! whose surface, behold! is before us,
inviting to little ones; yet are they a wondrous depth. O my God, a
wondrous depth! It is awful to look therein; an awfulness of honour,
and a trembling of love. The enemies thereof I hate vehemently; oh
that Thou wouldest slay them with Thy two-edged sword, that they might
no longer be enemies unto it: for so do I love to have them slain unto
themselves, that they may live unto Thee. But behold others not
faultfinders, but extollers of the book of Genesis; "The Spirit of
God," say they, "Who by His servant Moses wrote these things, would
not have those words thus understood; He would not have it understood,
as thou sayest, but otherwise, as we say." Unto Whom Thyself, O Thou
God all, being judge, do I thus answer.
"Will you affirm that to be false, which with a strong voice Truth
tells me in my inner ear, concerning the Eternity of the Creator, that
His substance is no ways changed by time, nor His will separate from
His substance? Wherefore He willeth not one thing now, another anon,
but once, and at once, and always, He willeth all things that He
willeth; not again and again, nor now this, now that; nor willeth
afterwards, what before He willed not, nor willeth not, what before He
willed; because such a will is and no mutable thing is eternal: but
our God is eternal. Again, what He tells me in my inner ear, the
expectation of things to come becomes sight, when they are come, and
this same sight becomes memory, when they be past. Now all thought
which thus varies is mutable; and is eternal: but our God is eternal."
These things I infer, and put together, and find that my God, the
eternal God, hath not upon any new will made any creature, nor doth
His knowledge admit of any thing transitory. "What will ye say then, O
ye gainsayers? Are these things false?" "No," they say; "What then? Is
it false, that every nature already formed, or matter capable of form,
is not, but from Him Who is supremely good, because He is
supremely?" "Neither do we deny this," say they. "What then? do you
deny this, that there is a certain sublime creature, with so chaste
a love cleaving unto the true and truly eternal God, that although not
coeternal with Him, yet is it not detached from Him, nor dissolved
into the variety and vicissitude of times, but reposeth in the most
true contemplation of Him only?" Because Thou, O God, unto him that
loveth Thee so much as Thou commandest, dost show Thyself, and
sufficest him; and therefore doth he not decline from Thee, nor toward
himself. This is the house of God, not of earthly mould, nor of
celestial bulk corporeal but spiritual, and partaker of Thy
eternity, because without defection for ever. For Thou hast made it
fast for ever and ever, Thou hast given it a law which it shall not
pass. Nor yet is it coeternal with Thee, O God, because not without
beginning; for it was made.
For although we find no time before it, for wisdom was created
before all things; not that Wisdom which is altogether equal and
coeternal unto Thee, our God, His Father, and by Whom all things
were created, and in Whom, as the Beginning, Thou createdst heaven and
earth; but that wisdom which is created, that is, the intellectual
nature, which by contemplating the light, is light. For this, though
created, is also called wisdom. But what difference there is betwixt
the Light which enlighteneth, and which is enlightened, so much is
there betwixt the Wisdom that createth, and that created; as betwixt
the Righteousness which justifieth, and the righteousness which is
made by justification. For we also are called Thy righteousness; for
so saith a certain servant of Thine, That we might be made the
righteousness of God in Him. Therefore since a certain created
wisdom was created before all things, the rational and intellectual
mind of that chaste city of Thine, our mother which is above, and is
free and eternal in the heavens (in what heavens, if not in those that
praise Thee, the Heaven of heavens? Because this is also the Heaven of
heavens for the Lord); -though we find no time before it (because that
which hath been created before all things, precedeth also the creature
of time), yet is the Eternity of the Creator Himself before it, from
Whom, being created, it took the beginning, not indeed of time (for
time itself was not yet), but of its creation.
Hence it is so of Thee, our God, as to be altogether other than
Thou, and not the Self-same: because though we find time neither
before it, nor even in it (it being meet ever to behold Thy face,
nor is ever drawn away from it, wherefore it is not varied by any
change), yet is there in it a liability to change, whence it would wax
dark, and chill, but that by a strong affection cleaving unto Thee,
like perpetual noon, it shineth and gloweth from Thee. O house most
lightsome and delightsome! I have loved thy beauty, and the place of
the habitation of the glory of my Lord, thy builder and possessor. Let
my wayfaring sigh after thee, and I say to Him that made thee, let Him
take possession of me also in thee, seeing He hath made me likewise. I
have gone astray like a lost sheep: yet upon the shoulders of my
Shepherd, thy builder, hope I to be brought back to thee.
"What say ye to me, O ye gainsayers that I was speaking unto, who
yet believe Moses to have been the holy servant of God, and his
books the oracles of the Holy Ghost? Is not this house of God, not
coeternal indeed with God, yet after its measure, eternal in the
heavens, when you seek for changes of times in vain, because you
will not find them? For that, to which it is ever good to cleave
fast to God, surpasses all extension, and all revolving periods of
time." "It is," say they. "What then of all that which my heart loudly
uttered unto my God, when inwardly it heard the voice of His praise,
what part thereof do you affirm to be false? Is it that the matter was
without form, in which because there was no form, there was no
order? But where no order was, there could be no vicissitude of times:
and yet this almost nothing,' inasmuch as it was not altogether
nothing, was from Him certainly, from Whom is whatsoever is, in what
degree soever it is." "This also," say they, "do we not deny."
With these I now parley a little in Thy presence, O my God, who
grant all these things to be true, which Thy Truth whispers unto my
soul. For those who deny these things, let them bark and deafen
themselves as much as they please; I will essay to persuade them to
quiet, and to open in them a way for Thy word. But if they refuse, and
repel me; I beseech, O my God, be not Thou silent to me. Speak Thou
truly in my heart; for only Thou so speakest: and I will let them
alone blowing upon the dust without, and raising it up into their
own eyes: and myself will enter my chamber, and sing there a song of
loves unto Thee; groaning with groanings unutterable, in my wayfaring,
and remembering Jerusalem, with heart lifted up towards it,
Jerusalem my country, Jerusalem my mother, and Thyself that rulest
over it, the Enlightener, Father, Guardian, Husband, the pure and
strong delight, and solid joy, and all good things unspeakable, yea
all at once, because the One Sovereign and true Good. Nor will I be
turned away, until Thou gather all that I am, from this dispersed
and disordered estate, into the peace of that our most dear mother,
where the first-fruits of my spirit be already (whence I am
ascertained of these things), and Thou conform and confirm it for
ever, O my God, my Mercy. But those who do not affirm all these truths
to be false, who honour Thy holy Scripture, set forth by holy Moses,
placing it, as we, on the summit of authority to be followed, and do
yet contradict me in some thing, I answer thus; By Thyself judge, O
our God, between my Confessions and these men's contradictions.
For they say, "Though these things be true, yet did not Moses intend
those two, when, by revelation of the Spirit, he said, In the
beginning God created heaven and earth. He did not under the name of
heaven, signify that spiritual or intellectual creature which always
beholds the face of God; nor under the name of earth, that formless
matter." "What then?" "That man of God," say they, "meant as we say,
this declared he by those words." "What?" "By the name of heaven and
earth would he first signify," say they, "universally and
compendiously, all this visible world; so as afterwards by the
enumeration of the several days, to arrange in detail, and, as it
were, piece by piece, all those things, which it pleased the Holy
Ghost thus to enounce. For such were that rude and carnal people to
which he spake, that he thought them fit to be entrusted with the
knowledge of such works of God only as were visible." They agree,
however, that under the words earth invisible and without form, and
that darksome deep (out of which it is subsequently shown, that all
these visible things which we all know, were made and arranged
during those "days") may, not incongruously, be understood of this
formless first matter.
What now if another should say that "this same formlessness and
confusedness of matter, was for this reason first conveyed under the
name of heaven and earth, because out of it was this visible world
with all those natures which most manifestly appear in it, which is
ofttimes called by the name of heaven and earth, created and
perfected?" What again if another say that "invisible and visible
nature is not indeed inappropriately called heaven and earth; and
so, that the universal creation, which God made in His Wisdom, that
is, in the Beginning, was comprehended under those two words?
Notwithstanding, since all things be made not of the substance of God,
but out of nothing (because they are not the same that God is, and
there is a mutable nature in them all, whether they abide, as doth the
eternal house of God, or be changed, as the soul and body of man are):
therefore the common matter of all things visible and invisible (as
yet unformed though capable of form), out of which was to be created
both heaven and earth (i. the invisible and visible creature when
formed), was entitled by the same names given to the earth invisible
and without form and the darkness upon the deep, but with this
distinction, that by the earth invisible and without form is
understood corporeal matter, antecedent to its being qualified by
any form; and by the darkness upon the deep, spiritual matter,
before it underwent any restraint of its unlimited fluidness, or
received any light from Wisdom?"
It yet remains for a man to say, if he will, that "the already
perfected and formed natures, visible and invisible, are not signified
under the name of heaven and earth, when we read, In the beginning God
made heaven and earth, but that the yet unformed commencement of
things, the stuff apt to receive form and making, was called by
these names, because therein were confusedly contained, not as yet
distinguished by their qualities and forms, all those things which
being now digested into order, are called Heaven and Earth, the one
being the spiritual, the other the corporeal, creation."
All which things being heard and well considered, I will not
strive about words: for that is profitable to nothing, but the
subversion of the hearers. But the law is good to edify, if a man
use it lawfully: for that the end of it is charity, out of a pure
heart and good conscience, and faith unfeigned. And well did our
Master know, upon which two commandments He hung all the Law and the
Prophets. And what doth it prejudice me, O my God, Thou light of my
eyes in secret, zealously confessing these things, since divers things
may be understood under these words which yet are all true, -what, I
say, doth it prejudice me, if I think otherwise than another
thinketh the writer thought? All we readers verily strive to trace out
and to understand his meaning whom we read; and seeing we believe
him to speak truly, we dare not imagine him to have said any thing,
which ourselves either know or think to be false. While every man
endeavours then to understand in the Holy Scriptures, the same as
the writer understood, what hurt is it, if a man understand what Thou,
the light of all true-speaking minds, dost show him to be true,
although he whom he reads, understood not this, seeing he also
understood a Truth, though not this truth?
For true it is, O Lord, that Thou madest heaven and earth; and it is
true too, that the Beginning is Thy Wisdom, in Which Thou createst
all: and true again, that this visible world hath for its greater part
the heaven and the earth, which briefly comprise all made and
created natures. And true too, that whatsoever is mutable, gives us to
understand a certain want of form, whereby it receiveth a form, or
is changed, or turned. It is true, that that is subject to no times,
which so cleaveth to the unchangeable Form, as though subject to
change, never to be changed. It is true, that that formlessness
which is almost nothing, cannot be subject to the alteration of times.
It is true, that that whereof a thing is made, may by a certain mode
of speech, be called by the name of the thing made of it; whence
that formlessness, whereof heaven and earth were made, might be called
heaven and earth. It is true, that of things having form, there is not
any nearer to having no form, than the earth and the deep. It is true,
that not only every created and formed thing, but whatsoever is
capable of being created and formed, Thou madest, of Whom are all
things. It is true, that whatsoever is formed out of that which had no
form, was unformed before it was formed.
Out of these truths, of which they doubt not whose inward eye Thou
hast enabled to see such things, and who unshakenly believe Thy
servant Moses to have spoken in the Spirit of truth; -of all these
then, he taketh one, who saith, In the Beginning God made the heaven
and the earth; that is, "in His Word coeternal with Himself, God
made the intelligible and the sensible, or the spiritual and the
corporeal creature." He another, that saith, In the Beginning God made
heaven and earth; that is, "in His Word coeternal with Himself, did
God make the universal bulk of this corporeal world, together with all
those apparent and known creatures, which it containeth." He
another, that saith, In the Beginning God made heaven and earth;
that is, "in His Word coeternal with Himself, did God make the
formless matter of creatures spiritual and corporeal." He another,
that saith, In the Beginning God created heaven and earth; that is,
"in His Word coeternal with Himself, did God create the formless
matter of the creature corporeal, wherein heaven and earth lay as
yet confused, which, being now distinguished and formed, we at this
day see in the bulk of this world." He another, who saith, In the
Beginning God made heaven and earth; that is, "in the very beginning
of creating and working, did God make that formless matter, confusedly
containing in itself both heaven and earth; out of which, being
formed, do they now stand out, and are apparent, with all that is in
them."
And with regard to the understanding of the words following, out
of all those truths, he chooses one to himself, who saith, But the
earth was invisible, and without form, and darkness was upon the deep;
that is, "that corporeal thing that God made, was as yet a formless
matter of corporeal things, without order, without light. " Another he
who says, The earth was invisible and without form, and darkness was
upon the deep; that is, "this all, which is called heaven and earth,
was still a formless and darksome matter, of which the corporeal
heaven and the corporeal earth were to be made, with all things in
them, which are known to our corporeal senses." Another he who says,
The earth was invisible and without form, and darkness was upon the
deep; that is, "this all, which is called heaven and earth, was
still a formless and a darksome matter; out of which was to be made,
both that intelligible heaven, otherwhere called the Heaven of
heavens, and the earth, that is, the whole corporeal nature, under
which name is comprised this corporeal heaven also; in a word, out
of which every visible and invisible creature was to be created."
Another he who says, The earth was invisible and without form, and
darkness was upon the deep, "the Scripture did not call that
formlessness by the name of heaven and earth; but that formlessness,
saith he, already was, which he called the earth invisible without
form, and darkness upon the deep; of which he had before said, that
God had made heaven and earth, namely, the spiritual and corporeal
creature." Another he who says, The earth was invisible and without
form, and darkness was upon the deep; that is, "there already was a
certain formless matter, of which the Scripture said before, that
God made heaven and earth; namely, the whole corporeal bulk of the
world, divided into two great parts, upper and lower, with all the
common and known creatures in them."
For should any attempt to dispute against these two last opinions,
thus, "If you will not allow, that this formlessness of matter seems
to be called by the name of heaven and earth; Ergo, there was
something which God had not made, out of which to make heaven and
earth; for neither hath Scripture told us, that God made this
matter, unless we understand it to be signified by the name of
heaven and earth, or of earth alone, when it is said, In the Beginning
God made the heaven and earth; that so in what follows, and the
earth was invisible and without form (although it pleased Him so to
call the formless matter), we are to understand no other matter, but
that which God made, whereof is written above, God made heaven and
earth." The maintainers of either of those two latter opinions will,
upon hearing this, return for answer, "we do not deny this formless
matter to be indeed created by God, that God of Whom are all things,
very good; for as we affirm that to be a greater good, which is
created and formed, so we confess that to be a lesser good which is
made capable of creation and form, yet still good. We say however that
Scripture hath not set down, that God made this formlessness, as
also it hath not many others; as the Cherubim, and Seraphim, and those
which the Apostle distinctly speaks of, Thrones, Dominions,
Principalities, Powers. All which that God made, is most apparent.
Or if in that which is said, He made heaven and earth, all things be
comprehended, what shall we say of the waters, upon which the Spirit
of God moved? For if they be comprised in this word earth; how then
can formless matter be meant in that name of earth, when we see the
waters so beautiful? Or if it be so taken; why then is it written,
that out of the same formlessness, the firmament was made, and
called heaven; and that the waters were made, is not written? For
the waters remain not formless and invisible, seeing we behold them
flowing in so comely a manner. But if they then received that
beauty, when God said, Let the waters under the firmament be
gathered together, that so the gathering together be itself the
forming of them; what will be said as to those waters above the
firmament? Seeing neither if formless would they have been worthy of
so honourable a seat, nor is it written, by what word they were
formed. If then Genesis is silent as to God's making of any thing,
which yet that God did make neither sound faith nor well-grounded
understanding doubteth, nor again will any sober teaching dare to
affirm these waters to be coeternal with God, on the ground that we
find them to be mentioned in the hook of Genesis, but when they were
created, we do not find; why (seeing truth teaches us) should we not
understand that formless matter (which this Scripture calls the
earth invisible and without form, and darksome deep) to have been
created of God out of nothing, and therefore not to be coeternal to
Him; notwithstanding this history hath omitted to show when it was
created?"
These things then being heard and perceived, according to the
weakness of my capacity (which I confess unto Thee, O Lord, that
knowest it), two sorts of disagreements I see may arise, when a
thing is in words related by true reporters; one, concerning the truth
of the things, the other, concerning the meaning of the relater. For
we enquire one way about the making of the creature, what is true;
another way, what Moses, that excellent minister of Thy Faith, would
have his reader and hearer understand by those words. For the first
sort, away with all those who imagine themselves to know as a truth,
what is false; and for this other, away with all them too, which
imagine Moses to have written things that be false. But let me be
united in Thee, O Lord, with those and delight myself in Thee, with
them that feed on Thy truth, in the largeness of charity, and let us
approach together unto the words of Thy book, and seek in them for Thy
meaning, through the meaning of Thy servant, by whose pen Thou hast
dispensed them.
But which of us shall, among those so many truths, which occur to
enquirers in those words, as they are differently understood, so
discover that one meaning, as to affirm, "this Moses thought," and
"this would he have understood in that history"; with the same
confidence as he would, "this is true," whether Moses thought this
or that? For behold, O my God, I Thy servant, who have in this book
vowed a sacrifice of confession unto Thee, and pray, that by Thy mercy
I may pay my vows unto Thee, can I, with the same confidence wherewith
I affirm, that in Thy incommutable world Thou createdst all things
visible and invisible, affirm also, that Moses meant no other than
this, when he wrote, In the Beginning God made heaven and earth? No.
Because I see not in his mind, that he thought of this when he wrote
these things, as I do see it in Thy truth to be certain. For he
might have his thoughts upon God's commencement of creating, when he
said In the beginning; and by heaven and earth, in this place he might
intend no formed and perfected nature whether spiritual or
corporeal, but both of them inchoate and as yet formless. For I
perceive, that whichsoever of the two had been said, it might have
been truly said; but which of the two he thought of in these words,
I do not so perceive. Although, whether it were either of these, or
any sense beside (that I have not here mentioned), which this so great
man saw in his mind, when he uttered these words, I doubt not but that
he saw it truly, and expressed it aptly.
Let no man harass me then, by saying, Moses thought not as you
say, but as I say: for if he should ask me, "How know you that Moses
thought that which you infer out of his words?" I ought to take it
in good part, and would answer perchance as I have above, or something
more at large, if he were unyielding. But when he saith, "Moses
meant not what you say, but what I say," yet denieth not that what
each of us say, may both be true, O my God, life of the poor, in Whose
bosom is no contradiction, pour down a softening dew into my heart,
that I may patiently bear with such as say this to me, not because
they have a divine Spirit, and have seen in the heart of Thy servant
what they speak, but because they be proud; not knowing Moses'
opinion, but loving their own, not because it is truth, but because it
is theirs. Otherwise they would equally love another true opinion,
as I love what they say, when they say true: not because it is theirs,
but because it is true; and on that very ground not theirs because
it is true. But if they therefore love it, because it is true, then is
it both theirs, and mine; as being in common to all lovers of truth.
But whereas they contend that Moses did not mean what I say, but
what they say, this I like not, love not: for though it were so, yet
that their rashness belongs not to knowledge, but to overboldness, and
not insight but vanity was its parent. And therefore, O Lord, are
Thy judgements terrible; seeing Thy truth is neither mine, nor his,
nor another's; but belonging to us all, whom Thou callest publicly
to partake of it, warning us terribly, not to account it private to
ourselves, lest we he deprived of it. For whosoever challenges that as
proper to himself, which Thou propoundest to all to enjoy, and would
have that his own which belongs to all, is driven from what is in
common to his own; that is, from truth, to a lie. For he that speaketh
a lie, speaketh it of his own.
Hearken, O God, Thou best judge; Truth Itself, hearken to what I
shall say to this gainsayer, hearken, for before Thee do I speak,
and before my brethren, who employ Thy law lawfully, to the end of
charity: hearken and behold, if it please Thee, what I shall say to
him. For this brotherly and peaceful word do I return unto Him: "If we
both see that to be true that Thou sayest, and both see that to be
true that I say, where, I pray Thee, do we see it? Neither I in
thee, nor thou in me; but both in the unchangeable Truth itself, which
is above our souls." Seeing then we strive not about the very light of
the Lord God, why strive we about the thoughts of our neighbour
which we cannot so see, as the unchangeable Truth is seen: for that,
if Moses himself had appeared to us and said, "This I meant";
neither so should we see it, but should believe it. Let us not then be
puffed up for one against another, above that which is written: let us
love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and
with all our mind: and our neighbour as ourself. With a view to
which two precepts of charity, unless we believe that Moses meant,
whatsoever in those books he did mean, we shall make God a liar,
imagining otherwise of our fellow servant's mind, than he hath
taught us. Behold now, how foolish it is, in such abundance of most
true meanings, as may be extracted out of those words, rashly to
affirm, which of them Moses principally meant; and with pernicious
contentions to offend charity itself, for whose sake he spake every
thing, whose words we go about to expound.
And yet I, O my God, Thou lifter up of my humility, and rest of my
labour, Who hearest my confessions, and forgivest my sins: seeing Thou
commandest me to love my neighbour as myself, I cannot believe that
Thou gavest a less gift unto Moses Thy faithful servant, than I
would wish or desire Thee to have given me, had I been born in the
time he was, and hadst Thou set me in that office, that by the service
of my heart and tongue those books might be dispensed, which for so
long after were to profit all nations, and through the whole world
from such an eminence of authority, were to surmount all sayings of
false and proud teachings. I should have desired verily, had I then
been Moses (for we all come from the same lump, and what is man,
saving that Thou art mindful of him?), I would then, had I been then
what he was, and been enjoined by Thee to write the book of Genesis,
have desired such a power of expression and such a style to be given
me, that neither they who cannot yet understand how God created, might
reject the sayings, as beyond their capacity; and they who had
attained thereto, might find what true opinion soever they had by
thought arrived at, not passed over in those few words of that Thy
servant: and should another man by the light of truth have
discovered another, neither should that fail of being discoverable
in those same words.
For as a fountain within a narrow compass, is more plentiful, and
supplies a tide for more streams over larger spaces, than any one of
those streams, which, after a wide interval, is derived from the
same fountain; so the relation of that dispenser of Thine, which was
to benefit many who were to discourse thereon, does out of a narrow
scantling of language, overflow into streams of clearest truth, whence
every man may draw out for himself such truth as he can upon these
subjects, one, one truth, another, another, by larger
circumlocutions of discourse. For some, when they read, or hear
these words, conceive that God like a man or some mass endued with
unbounded power, by some new and sudden resolution, did, exterior to
itself, as it were at a certain distance, create heaven and earth, two
great bodies above and below, wherein all things were to be contained.
And when they hear, God said, Let it be made, and it was made; they
conceive of words begun and ended, sounding in time, and passing away;
after whose departure, that came into being, which was commanded so to
do; and whatever of the like sort, men's acquaintance with the
material world would suggest. In whom, being yet little ones and
carnal, while their weakness is by this humble kind of speech, carried
on, as in a mother's bosom, their faith is wholesomely built up,
whereby they hold assured, that God made all natures, which in
admirable variety their eye beholdeth around. Which words, if any
despising, as too simple, with a proud weakness, shall stretch himself
beyond the guardian nest; he will, alas, fall miserably. Have pity,
O Lord God, lest they who go by the way trample on the unfledged bird,
and send Thine angel to replace it into the nest, that it may live,
till it can fly.
But others, unto whom these words are no longer a nest, but deep
shady fruit-bowers, see the fruits concealed therein, fly joyously
around, and with cheerful notes seek out, and pluck them. For
reading or hearing these words, they see that all times past and to
come, are surpassed by Thy eternal and stable abiding; and yet that
there is no creature formed in time, not of Thy making. Whose will,
because it is the same that Thou art, Thou madest all things, not by
any change of will, nor by a will, which before was not, and that
these things were not out of Thyself, in Thine own likeness, which
is the form of all things; but out of nothing, a formless
unlikeness, which should be formed by Thy likeness (recurring to Thy
Unity, according to their appointed capacity, so far as is given to
each thing in his kind), and might all be made very good; whether they
abide around Thee, or being in gradation removed in time and place,
made or undergo the beautiful variations of the Universe. These things
they see, and rejoice, in the little degree they here may, in the
light of Thy truth.
Another bends his mind on that which is said, In the Beginning God
made heaven and earth; and beholdeth therein Wisdom, the Beginning
because It also speaketh unto us. Another likewise bends his mind on
the same words, and by Beginning understands the commencement of
things created; In the beginning He made, as if it were said, He at
first made. And among them that understand In the Beginning to mean,
"In Thy Wisdom Thou createdst heaven and earth," one believes the
matter out of which the heaven and earth were to be created, to be
there called heaven and earth; another, natures already formed and
distinguished; another, one formed nature, and that a spiritual, under
the name Heaven, the other formless, a corporeal matter, under the
name Earth. They again who by the names heaven and earth, understand
matter as yet formless, out of which heaven and earth were to be
formed, neither do they understand it in one way; but the one, that
matter out of which both the intelligible and the sensible creature
were to be perfected; another, that only, out of which this sensible
corporeal mass was to he made, containing in its vast bosom these
visible and ordinary natures. Neither do they, who believe the
creatures already ordered and arranged, to be in this place called
heaven and earth, understand the same; but the one, both the invisible
and visible, the other, the visible only, in which we behold this
lightsome heaven, and darksome earth, with the things in them
contained.
But he that no otherwise understands In the Beginning He made,
than if it were said, At first He made, can only truly understand
heaven and earth of the matter of heaven and earth, that is, of the
universal intelligible and corporeal creation. For if he would
understand thereby the universe, as already formed, it may be
rightly demanded of him, "If God made this first, what made He
afterwards?" and after the universe, he will find nothing; whereupon
must he against his will hear another question; "How did God make this
first, if nothing after?" But when he says, God made matter first
formless, then formed, there is no absurdity, if he be but qualified
to discern, what precedes by eternity, what by time, what by choice,
and what in original. By eternity, as God is before all things; by
time, as the flower before the fruit; by choice, as the fruit before
the flower; by original, as the sound before the tune. Of these
four, the first and last mentioned, are with extreme difficulty
understood, the two middle, easily. For a rare and too lofty a
vision is it, to behold Thy Eternity, O Lord, unchangeably making
things changeable; and thereby before them. And who, again, is of so
sharpsighted understanding, as to be able without great pains to
discern, how the sound is therefore before the tune; because a tune is
a formed sound; and a thing not formed, may exist; whereas that
which existeth not, cannot be formed. Thus is the matter before the
thing made; not because it maketh it, seeing itself is rather made;
nor is it before by interval of time; for we do not first in time
utter formless sounds without singing, and subsequently adapt or
fashion them into the form of a chant, as wood or silver, whereof a
chest or vessel is fashioned. For such materials do by time also
precede the forms of the things made of them, but in singing it is not
so; for when it is sung, its sound is heard; for there is not first
a formless sound, which is afterwards formed into a chant. For each
sound, so soon as made, passeth away, nor canst thou find ought to
recall and by art to compose. So then the chant is concentrated in its
sound, which sound of his is his matter. And this indeed is formed,
that it may be a tune; and therefore (as I said) the matter of the
sound is before the form of the tune; not before, through any power it
hath to make it a tune; for a sound is no way the workmaster of the
tune; but is something corporeal, subjected to the soul which singeth,
whereof to make a tune. Nor is it first in time; for it is given forth
together with the tune; nor first in choice, for a sound is not better
than a tune, a tune being not only a sound, but a beautiful sound. But
it is first in original, because a tune receives not form to become
a sound, but a sound receives a form to become a tune. By this
example, let him that is able, understand how the matter of things was
first made, and called heaven and earth, because heaven and earth were
made out of it. Yet was it not made first in time; because the forms
of things give rise to time; but that was without form, but now is, in
time, an object of sense together with its form. And yet nothing can
be related of that matter, but as though prior in time, whereas in
value it is last (because things formed are superior to things without
form) and is preceded by the Eternity of the Creator: that so there
might be out of nothing, whereof somewhat might be created.
In this diversity of the true opinions, let Truth herself produce
concord. And our God have mercy upon us, that we may use the law
lawfully, the end of the commandment, pure charity. By this if man
demands of me, "which of these was the meaning of Thy servant
Moses"; this were not the language of my Confessions, should I not
confess unto Thee, "I know not"; and yet I know that those senses
are true, those carnal ones excepted, of which I have spoken what
seemed necessary. And even those hopeful little ones who so think,
have this benefit, that the words of Thy Book affright them not,
delivering high things lowlily, and with few words a copious
meaning. And all we who, I confess, see and express the truth
delivered in those words, let us love one another, and jointly love
Thee our God, the fountain of truth, if we are athirst for it, and not
for vanities; yea, let us so honour this Thy servant, the dispenser of
this Scripture, full of Thy Spirit, as to believe that, when by Thy
revelation he wrote these things, he intended that, which among them
chiefly excels both for light of truth, and fruitfulness of profit.
So when one says, "Moses meant as I do"; and another, "Nay, but as I
do," I suppose that I speak more reverently, "Why not rather as
both, if both be true?" And if there be a third, or a fourth, yea if
any other seeth any other truth in those words, why may not he be
believed to have seen all these, through whom the One God hath
tempered the holy Scriptures to the senses of many, who should see
therein things true but divers? For I certainly (and fearlessly I
speak it from my heart), that were I to indite any thing to have
supreme authority, I should prefer so to write, that whatever truth
any could apprehend on those matters, might he conveyed in my words,
rather than set down my own meaning so clearly as to exclude the rest,
which not being false, could not offend me. I will not therefore, O my
God, be so rash, as not to believe, that Thou vouchsafedst as much
to that great man. He without doubt, when he wrote those words,
perceived and thought on what truth soever we have been able to
find, yea and whatsoever we have not been able, nor yet are, but which
may be found in them.
Lastly, O Lord, who art God and not flesh and blood, if man did
see less, could any thing be concealed from Thy good Spirit (who shall
lead me into the land of uprightness), which Thou Thyself by those
words wert about to reveal to readers in times to come, though he
through whom they were spoken, perhaps among many true meanings,
thought on some one? which if so it be, let that which he thought on
be of all the highest. But to us, O Lord, do Thou, either reveal
that same, or any other true one which Thou pleasest; that so, whether
Thou discoverest the same to us, as to that Thy servant, or some other
by occasion of those words, yet Thou mayest feed us, not error deceive
us. Behold, O Lord my God, how much we have written upon a few
words, how much I beseech Thee! What strength of ours, yea what ages
would suffice for all Thy books in this manner? Permit me then in
these more briefly to confess unto Thee, and to choose some one
true, certain, and good sense that Thou shalt inspire me, although
many should occur, where many may occur; this being the law my
confession, that if I should say that which Thy minister intended,
that is right and best; for this should I endeavour, which if I should
not attain, yet I should say that, which Thy Truth willed by his words
to tell me, which revealed also unto him, what It willed.
BOOK XIII

I call upon Thee, O my God, my mercy, Who createdst me, and
forgottest not me, forgetting Thee. I call Thee into my soul which, by
the longing Thyself inspirest into her, Thou preparest for Thee.
Forsake me not now calling upon Thee, whom Thou preventedst before I
called, and urgedst me with much variety of repeated calls, that I
would hear Thee from afar, and be converted, and call upon Thee,
that calledst after me; for Thou, Lord, blottedst out all my evil
deservings, so as not to repay into my hands, wherewith I fell from
Thee; and Thou hast prevented all my well deservings, so as to repay
the work of Thy hands wherewith Thou madest me; because before I
was, Thou wert; nor was I any thing, to which Thou mightest grant to
be; and yet behold, I am, out of Thy goodness, preventing all this
which Thou hast made me, and whereof Thou hast made me. For neither
hadst Thou need of me, nor am I any such good, as to be helpful unto
Thee, my Lord and God; not in serving Thee, as though Thou wouldest
tire in working; or lest Thy power might be less, if lacking my
service: nor cultivating Thy service, as a land, that must remain
uncultivated, unless I cultivated Thee: but serving and worshipping
Thee, that I might receive a well-being from Thee, from whom it comes,
that I have a being capable of well-being.
For of the fulness of Thy goodness, doth Thy creature subsist,
that so a good, which could no ways profit Thee, nor was of Thee (lest
so it should be equal to Thee), might yet be since it could be made of
Thee. For what did heaven and earth, which Thou madest in the
Beginning, deserve of Thee? Let those spiritual and corporeal
natures which Thou madest in Thy Wisdom, say wherein they deserved
of Thee, to depend thereon (even in that their several inchoate and
formless state, whether spiritual or corporeal, ready to fall away
into an immoderate liberty and far-distant unlikeliness unto Thee;
-the spiritual, though without form, superior to the corporeal
though formed, and the corporeal though without form, better than were
it altogether nothing), and so to depend upon Thy Word, as formless,
unless by the same Word they were brought back to Thy Unity, indued
with form and from Thee the One Sovereign Good were made all very
good. How did they deserve of Thee, to be even without form, since
they had not been even this, but from Thee?
How did corporeal matter deserve of Thee, to be even invisible and
without form? seeing it were not even this, but that Thou madest it,
and therefore because it was not, could not deserve of Thee to be
made. Or how could the inchoate spiritual creature deserve of Thee,
even to ebb and flow darksomely like the deep, -unlike Thee, unless it
had been by the same Word turned to that, by Whom it was created,
and by Him so enlightened, become light; though not equally, yet
conformably to that Form which is equal unto Thee? For as in a body,
to be, is not one with being beautiful, else could it not be deformed;
so likewise to a created spirit to live, is not one with living
wisely; else should it be wise unchangeably. But good it is for it
always to hold fast to Thee; lest what light it hath obtained by
turning to Thee, it lose by turning from Thee, and relapse into life
resembling the darksome deep. For we ourselves also, who as to the
soul are a spiritual creature, turned away from Thee our light, were
in that life sometimes darkness; and still labour amidst the relics of
our darkness, until in Thy Only One we become Thy righteousness,
like the mountains of God. For we have been Thy judgments, which are
like the great deep.
That which Thou saidst in the beginning of the creation, Let there
be light, and there was light; I do, not unsuitably, understand of the
spiritual creature: because there was already a sort of life, which
Thou mightest illuminate. But as it had no claim on Thee for a life,
which could be enlightened, so neither now that it was, had it any, to
be enlightened. For neither could its formless estate be pleasing unto
Thee, unless it became light, and that not by existing simply, but
by beholding the illuminating light, and cleaving to it; so that, that
it lived, and lived happily, it owes to nothing but Thy grace, being
turned by a better change unto That which cannot be changed into worse
or better; which Thou alone art, because Thou alone simply art; unto
Thee it being not one thing to live, another to live blessedly, seeing
Thyself art Thine own Blessedness.
What then could he wanting unto Thy good, which Thou Thyself art,
although these things had either never been, or remained without form;
which thou madest, not out of any want, but out of the fulness of
Thy goodness, restraining them and converting them to form, not as
though Thy joy were fulfilled by them? For to Thee being perfect, is
their imperfection displeasing, and hence were they perfected by Thee,
and please Thee; not as wert Thou imperfect, and by their perfecting
wert also to be perfected. For Thy good Spirit indeed was borne over
the waters, not borne up by them, as if He rested upon them. For
those, on whom Thy good Spirit is said to rest, He causes to rest in
Himself. But Thy incorruptible and unchangeable will, in itself
all-sufficient for itself, was borne upon that life which Thou hadst
created; to which, living is not one with happy living, seeing it
liveth also, ebbing and flowing in its own darkness: for which it
remaineth to be converted unto Him, by Whom it was made, and to live
more and more by the fountain of life, and in His light to see
light, and to be perfected, and enlightened, and beautified.
Lo, now the Trinity appears unto me in a glass darkly, which is Thou
my God, because Thou, O Father, in Him Who is the Beginning of our
wisdom, Which is Thy Wisdom, born of Thyself, equal unto Thee and
coeternal, that is, in Thy Son, createdst heaven and earth. Much now
have we said of the Heaven of heavens, and of the earth invisible
and without form, and of the darksome deep, in reference to the
wandering instability of its spiritual deformity, unless it had been
converted unto Him, from Whom it had its then degree of life, and by
His enlightening became a beauteous life, and the heaven of that
heaven, which was afterwards set between water and water. And under
the name of God, I now held the Father, who made these things, and
under the name of Beginning, the Son, in whom He made these things;
and believing, as I did, my God as the Trinity, I searched further
in His holy words, and to, Thy Spirit moved upon the waters. Behold
the Trinity, my God, Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, Creator of all
creation.
But what was the cause, O true-speaking Light? -unto Thee lift I
up my heart, let it not teach me vanities, dispel its darkness; and
tell me, I beseech Thee, by our mother charity, tell me the reason,
I beseech Thee, why after the mention of heaven, and of the earth
invisible and without form, and darkness upon the deep, Thy
Scripture should then at length mention Thy Spirit? Was it because
it was meet that the knowledge of Him should be conveyed, as being
"borne above"; and this could not be said, unless that were first
mentioned, over which Thy Spirit may be understood to have been borne.
For neither was He borne above the Father, nor the Son, nor could He
rightly be said to be borne above, if He were borne over nothing.
First then was that to be spoken of, over which He might be borne; and
then He, whom it was meet not otherwise to be spoken of than as
being borne. But wherefore was it not meet that the knowledge of Him
should be conveyed otherwise, than as being borne above?
Hence let him that is able, follow with his understanding Thy
Apostle, where he thus speaks, Because Thy love is shed abroad in
our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us: and where
concerning spiritual gifts, he teacheth and showeth unto us a more
excellent way of charity; and where he bows his knee unto Thee for us,
that we may know the supereminent knowledge of the love of Christ. And
therefore from the beginning, was He borne supereminent above the
waters. To whom shall I speak this? how speak of the weight of evil
desires, downwards to the steep abyss; and how charity raises up again
by Thy Spirit which was borne above the waters? to whom shall I
speak it? how speak it? For it is not in space that we are merged
and emerge. What can be more, and yet what less like? They be
affections, they be loves; the uncleanness of our spirit flowing
away downwards with the love of cares, and the holiness of Thine
raising us upward by love of unanxious repose; that we may lift our
hearts unto Thee, where Thy Spirit is borne above the waters; and come
to that supereminent repose, when our soul shall have passed through
the waters which yield no support.
Angels fell away, man's soul fell away, and thereby pointed the
abyss in that dark depth, ready for the whole spiritual creation,
hadst not Thou said from the beginning, Let there be light, and
there had been light, and every obedient intelligence of Thy
heavenly City had cleaved to Thee, and rested in Thy Spirit, Which
is borne unchangeably over every thing changeable. Otherwise, had even
the heaven of heavens been in itself a darksome deep; but now it is
light in the Lord. For even in that miserable restlessness of the
spirits, who fell away and discovered their own darkness, when bared
of the clothing of Thy light, dost Thou sufficiently reveal how
noble Thou madest the reasonable creature; to which nothing will
suffice to yield a happy rest, less than Thee; and so not even
herself. For Thou, O our God, shalt lighten our darkness: from Thee
riseth our garment of light; and then shall our darkness be as the
noon day. Give Thyself unto me, O my God, restore Thyself unto me:
behold I love, and if it be too little, I would love more strongly.
I cannot measure so as to know, how much love there yet lacketh to me,
ere my life may run into Thy embracements, nor turn away, until it
be hidden in the hidden place of Thy Presence. This only I know,
that woe is me except in Thee: not only without but within myself
also; and all abundance, which is not my God, is emptiness to me.
But was not either the Father, or the Son, borne above the waters?
if this means, in space, like a body, then neither was the Holy
Spirit; but if the unchangeable supereminence of Divinity above all
things changeable, then were both Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost
borne upon the waters. Why then is this said of Thy Spirit only, why
is it said only of Him? As if He had been in place, Who is not in
place, of Whom only it is written, that He is Thy gift? In Thy Gift we
rest; there we enjoy Thee. Our rest is our place. Love lifts us up
thither, and Thy good Spirit lifts up our lowliness from the gates
of death. In Thy good pleasure is our peace. The body by its own
weight strives towards its own place. Weight makes not downward
only, but to his own place. Fire tends upward, a stone downward.
They are urged by their own weight, they seek their own places. Oil
poured below water, is raised above the water; water poured upon
oil, sinks below the oil. They are urged by their own weights to
seek their own places. When out of their order, they are restless;
restored to order, they are at rest. My weight, is my love; thereby am
I borne, whithersoever I am borne. We are inflamed, by Thy Gift we are
kindled; and are carried upwards; we glow inwardly, and go forwards.
We ascend Thy ways that be in our heart, and sing a song of degrees;
we glow inwardly with Thy fire, with Thy good fire, and we go; because
we go upwards to the peace of Jerusalem: for gladdened was I in
those who said unto me, We will go up to the house of the Lord.
There hath Thy good pleasure placed us, that we may desire nothing
else, but to abide there for ever.
Blessed creature, which being itself other than Thou, has known no
other condition, than that, so soon as it was made, it was, without
any interval, by Thy Gift, Which is borne above every thing
changeable, borne aloft by that calling whereby Thou saidst, Let there
be light, and there was light. Whereas in us this took place at
different times, in that we were darkness, and are made light: but
of that is only said, what it would have been, had it not been
enlightened. And, this is so spoken, as if it had been unsettled and
darksome before; that so the cause whereby it was made otherwise,
might appear, namely, that being turned to the Light unfailing it
became light. Whoso can, let him understand this; let him ask of Thee.
Why should he trouble me, as if I could enlighten any man that
cometh into this world?
Which of us comprehendeth the Almighty Trinity? and yet which speaks
not of It, if indeed it be It? Rare is the soul, which while it speaks
of It, knows what it speaks of. And they contend and strive, yet,
without peace, no man sees that vision. I would that men would
consider these three, that are in themselves. These three be indeed
far other than the Trinity: I do but tell, where they may practise
themselves, and there prove and feel how far they be. Now the three
I spake of are, To Be, to Know, and to Will. For I Am, and Know, and
Will: I Am Knowing and Willing: and I Know myself to Be, and to
Will: and I Will to Be, and to Know. In these three then, let him
discern that can, how inseparable a life there is, yea one life, mind,
and one essence, yea lastly how inseparable a distinction there is,
and yet a distinction. Surely a man hath it before him; let him look
into himself, and see, and tell me. But when he discovers and can
say any thing of these, let him not therefore think that he has
found that which is above these Unchangeable, which Is unchangeably,
and Knows unchangeably, and Wills unchangeably; and whether because of
these three, there is in God also a Trinity, or whether all three be
in Each, so that the three belong to Each; or whether both ways at
once, wondrously, simply and yet manifoldly, Itself a bound unto
Itself within Itself, yet unbounded; whereby It is, and is Known
unto Itself and sufficeth to itself, unchangeably the Self-same, by
the abundant greatness of its Unity, -who can readily conceive this?
who could any ways express it? who would, any way, pronounce thereon
rashly?
Proceed in thy confession, say to the Lord thy God, O my faith,
Holy, Holy, Holy, O Lord my God, in Thy Name have we been baptised,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; in Thy Name do we baptise, Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost, because among us also, in His Christ did God make
heaven and earth, namely, the spiritual and carnal people of His
Church. Yea and our earth, before it received the form of doctrine,
was invisible and without form; and we were covered with the
darkness of ignorance. For Thou chastenedst man for iniquity, and
Thy judgments were like the great deep unto him. But because Thy
Spirit was borne above the waters, Thy mercy forsook not our misery,
and Thou saidst, Let there be light, Repent ye, for the kingdom of
heaven is at hand. Repent ye, let there be light. And because our soul
was troubled within us, we remembered Thee, O Lord, from the land of
Jordan, and that mountain equal unto Thyself, but little for our
sakes: and our darkness displeased us, we turned unto Thee and there
was light. And, behold, we were sometimes darkness, but now light in
the Lord.
But as yet by faith and not by sight, for by hope we are saved;
but hope that is seen, is not hope. As yet doth deep call unto deep,
but now in the voice of Thy water-spouts. As yet doth he that saith, I
could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even
he as yet, doth not think himself to have apprehended, and
forgetteth those things which are behind, and reacheth forth to
those which are before, and groaneth being burthened, and his soul
thirsteth after the Living God, as the hart after the water-brooks,
and saith, When shall I come? desiring to be clothed upon with his
house which is from heaven, and calleth upon this lower deep,
saying, Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the
renewing of your mind. And, be not children in understanding, but in
malice, be ye children, that in understanding ye may be perfect; and O
foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you? But now no longer in his
own voice; but in Thine who sentest Thy Spirit from above; through Him
who ascended up on high, and set open the flood-gates of His gifts,
that the force of His streams might make glad the city of God. Him
doth this friend of the Bridegroom sigh after, having now the
first-fruits of the Spirit laid up with Him, yet still groaning within
himself, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of his body;
to Him he sighs, a member of the Bride; for Him he is jealous, as
being a friend of the Bridegroom; for Him he is jealous, not for
himself; because in the voice of Thy water-spouts, not in his own
voice, doth he call to that other depth, over whom being jealous he
feareth, lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so
their minds should be corrupted from the purity that is in our
Bridegroom Thy only Son. O what a light of beauty will that be, when
we shall see Him as He is, and those tears be passed away, which
have been my meat day and night, whilst they daily say unto me,
Where is now Thy God?
Behold, I too say, O my God, Where art Thou? see, where Thou art! in
Thee I breathe a little, when I pour out my soul by myself in the
voice of joy and praise, the sound of him that keeps holy-day. And yet
again it is sad, because it relapseth, and becomes a deep, or rather
perceives itself still to be a deep. Unto it speaks my faith which
Thou hast kindled to enlighten my feet in the night, Why art thou sad,
O my soul, and why dost thou trouble me? Hope in the Lord; His word is
a lanthorn unto thy feet: hope and endure, until the night, the mother
of the wicked, until the wrath of the Lord, be overpast, whereof we
also were once children, who were sometimes darkness, relics whereof
we bear about us in our body, dead because of sin; until the day
break, and the shadows fly away. Hope thou in the Lord; in the morning
I shall stand in Thy presence, and contemplate Thee: I shall for
ever confess unto Thee. In the morning I shall stand in Thy
presence, and shall see the health of my countenance, my God, who also
shall quicken our mortal bodies, by the Spirit that dwelleth in us,
because He hath in mercy been borne over our inner darksome and
floating deep: from Whom we have in this pilgrimage received an
earnest, that we should now be light: whilst we are saved by hope, and
are the children of light, and the children of the day, not the
children of the night, nor of the darkness, which yet sometimes we
were. Betwixt whom and us, in this uncertainty of human knowledge,
Thou only dividest; Thou, who provest our hearts, and callest the
light, day, and the darkness, night. For who discerneth us, but
Thou? And what have we, that we have not received of Thee? out of
the same lump vessels are made unto honour, whereof others also are
made unto dishonour.
Or who, except Thou, our God, made for us that firmament of
authority over us in Thy Divine Scripture? as it is said, For heaven
shall be folded up like a scroll; and now is it stretched over us like
a skin. For Thy Divine Scripture is of more eminent authority, since
those mortals by whom Thou dispensest it unto us, underwent mortality.
And Thou knowest, Lord, Thou knowest, how Thou with skins didst clothe
men, when they by sin became mortal. Whence Thou hast like a skin
stretched out the firmament of Thy book, that is, Thy harmonizing
words, which by the ministry of mortal men Thou spreadest over us. For
by their very death was that solid firmament of authority, in Thy
discourses set forth by them, more eminently extended over all that be
under it; which whilst they lived here, was not so eminently extended.
Thou hadst not as yet spread abroad the heaven like a skin; Thou hadst
not as yet enlarged in all directions the glory of their deaths.
Let us look, O Lord, upon the heavens, the work of Thy fingers;
clear from our eyes that cloud, which Thou hast spread under them.
There is Thy testimony, which giveth wisdom unto the little ones:
perfect, O my God, Thy praise out of the mouth of babes and sucklings.
For we know no other books, which so destroy pride, which so destroy
the enemy and the defender, who resisteth Thy reconciliation by
defending his own sins. I know not, Lord, I know not any other such
pure words, which so persuade me to confess, and make my neck pliant
to Thy yoke, and invite me to serve Thee for nought. Let me understand
them, good Father: grant this to me, who am placed under them: because
for those placed under them, hast Thou established them.
Other waters there be above this firmament, I believe immortal,
and separated from earthly corruption. Let them praise Thy Name, let
them praise Thee, the supercelestial people, Thine angels, who have no
need to gaze up at this firmament, or by reading to know of Thy
Word. For they always behold Thy face, and there read without any
syllables in time, what willeth Thy eternal will; they read, they
choose, they love. They are ever reading; and that never passes away
which they read; for by choosing, and by loving, they read the very
unchangeableness of Thy counsel. Their book is never closed, nor their
scroll folded up; seeing Thou Thyself art this to them, and art
eternally; because Thou hast ordained them above this firmament, which
Thou hast firmly settled over the infirmity of the lower people, where
they might gaze up and learn Thy mercy, announcing in time Thee Who
madest times. For Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Thy
truth reacheth unto the clouds. The clouds pass away, but the heaven
abideth. The preachers of Thy word pass out of this life into another;
but Thy Scripture is spread abroad over the people, even unto the
end of the world. Yet heaven and earth also shall pass away, but Thy
words shall not pass away. Because the scroll shall be rolled
together: and the grass over which it was spread, shall with the
goodliness of it pass away; but Thy Word remaineth for ever, which now
appeareth unto us under the dark image of the clouds, and through
the glass of the heavens, not as it is: because we also, though the
well-beloved of Thy Son, yet it hath not yet appeared what we shall
be. He looketh through the lattice of our flesh, and He spake us
tenderly, and kindled us, and we ran after His odours. But when He
shall appear, then shall we be like Him, for we shall see Him as He
is. As He is, Lord, will our sight be.
For altogether, as Thou art, Thou only knowest; Who art
unchangeably, and knowest unchangeably, and willest unchangeably.
And Thy Essence Knoweth, and Willeth unchangeably; and Thy Knowledge
Is, and Willeth unchangeably; and Thy Will Is, and Knoweth
unchangeably. Nor seemeth it right in Thine eyes, that as the
Unchangeable Light knoweth Itself, so should it be known by the
thing enlightened, and changeable. Therefore is my soul like a land
where no water is, because as it cannot of itself enlighten itself, so
can it not of itself satisfy itself. For so is the fountain of life
with Thee, like as in Thy light we shall see light.
Who gathered the embittered together into one society? For they have
all one end, a temporal and earthly felicity, for attaining whereof
they do all things, though they waver up and down with an
innumerable variety of cares. Who, Lord, but Thou, saidst, Let the
waters be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land
appear, which thirsteth after Thee? For the sea also is Thine, and
Thou hast made it, and Thy hands prepared the dry land. Nor is the
bitterness of men's wills, but the gathering together of the waters,
called sea; for Thou restrainest the wicked desires of men's souls,
and settest them their bounds, how far they may be allowed to pass,
that their waves may break one against another: and thus makest Thou
it a sea, by the order of Thy dominion over all things.
But the souls that thirst after Thee, and that appear before Thee
(being by other bounds divided from the society of the sea), Thou
waterest by a sweet spring, that the earth may bring forth her
fruit, and Thou, Lord God, so commanding, our soul may bud forth works
of mercy according to their kind, loving our neighbour in the relief
of his bodily necessities, having seed in itself according to its
likeness, when from feeling of our infirmity, we compassionate so as
to relieve the needy; helping them, as we would be helped; if we
were in like need; not only in things easy, as in herb yielding
seed, but also in the protection of our assistance, with our best
strength, like the tree yielding fruit: that is, well-doing in
rescuing him that suffers wrong, from the hand of the powerful, and
giving him the shelter of protection, by the mighty strength of just
judgment.
So, Lord, so, I beseech Thee, let there spring up, as Thou doest, as
Thou givest cheerfulness and ability, let truth spring out of the
earth, and righteousness look down from heaven, and let there be
lights in the firmament. Let us break our bread to the hungry, and
bring the houseless poor to our house. Let us clothe the naked, and
despise not those of our own flesh. Which fruits having sprung out
of the earth, see it is good: and let our temporary light break forth;
and ourselves, from this lower fruitfulness of action, arriving at the
delightfulness of contemplation, obtaining the Word of Life above,
appear like lights in the world, cleaving to the firmament of Thy
Scripture. For there Thou instructest us, to divide between the things
intellectual, and things of sense, as betwixt the day and the night;
or between souls, given either to things intellectual, or things of
sense, so that now not Thou only in the secret of Thy judgment, as
before the firmament was made, dividest between the light and the
darkness, but Thy spiritual children also set and ranked in the same
firmament (now that Thy grace is laid open throughout the world),
may give light upon the earth, and divide betwixt the day and the
night, and be for signs of times, that old things are passed away,
and, behold, all things are become new; and that our salvation is
nearer than when we believed: and that the night is far spent, and the
day is at hand: and that Thou wilt crown Thy year with blessing,
sending the labourers of Thy goodness into Thy harvest, in sowing
whereof, others have laboured, sending also into another field,
whose harvest shall be in the end. Thus grantest Thou the prayers of
him that asketh, and blessest the years of the just; but Thou art
the same, and in Thy years which fail not, Thou preparest a garner for
our passing years. For Thou by an eternal counsel dost in their proper
seasons bestow heavenly blessings upon the earth. For to one is
given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, as it were the lesser light:
to another faith; to another the gift with the light of perspicuous
truth, as it were for the rule of the day. To another the word of
knowledge by the same Spirit, as it were the lesser light: to
another faith; to another the gift of healing; to another the
working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of
spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues. And all these as it
were stars. For all these worketh the one and self-same spirit,
dividing to every man his own as He will; and causing stars to
appear manifestly, to profit withal. But the word of knowledge,
wherein are contained all Sacraments, which are varied in their
seasons as it were the moon, and those other notices of gifts, which
are reckoned up in order, as it were stars, inasmuch as they come
short of that brightness of wisdom, which gladdens the forementioned
day, are only for the rule of the night. For they are necessary to
such, as that Thy most prudent servant could not speak unto as unto
spiritual, but as unto carnal; even he, who speaketh wisdom among
those that are perfect. But the natural man, as it were a babe in
Christ and fed on milk, until he be strengthened for solid meat and
his eye be enabled to behold the Sun, let him not dwell in a night
forsaken of all light, but be content with the light of the moon and
the stars. So dost Thou speak to us, our All-wise God, in Thy Book,
Thy firmament; that we may discern all things, in an admirable
contemplation; though as yet in signs and in times, and in days, and
in years.
But first, wash you, be clean; put away evil from your souls, and
from before mine eyes, that the dry land may appear. Learn to do good,
judge the fatherless, plead for the widow, that the earth may bring
forth the green herb for meat, and the tree bearing fruit; and come,
let us reason together, saith the Lord, that there may be lights in
the firmament of the heaven, and they may shine upon the earth. That
rich man asked of the good Master, what he should do to attain eternal
life. Let the good Master tell him (whom he thought no more than
man; but He is good because He is God), let Him tell him, if he
would enter into life, he must keep the commandments: let him put away
from him the bitterness of malice and wickedness; not kill, not commit
adultery, not steal, not bear false witness; that the dry land may
appear, and bring forth the honouring of father and mother, and the
love of our neighbour. All these (saith he) have I kept. Whence then
so many thorns, if the earth be fruitful? Go, root up the spreading
thickets of covetousness; sell that thou hast, and be filled with
fruit, by giving to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in
heaven; and follow the Lord if thou wilt be perfect, associated with
them, among whom He speaketh wisdom, Who knoweth what to distribute to
the day, and to the night, that thou also mayest know it, and for thee
there may be lights in the firmament of heaven; which will not be,
unless thy heart be there: nor will that either be, unless there thy
treasure be; as thou hast heard of the good Master. But that barren
earth was grieved; and the thorns choked the word.
But you, chosen generation, you weak things of the world, who have
forsaken all, that ye may follow the Lord; go after Him, and
confound the mighty; go after Him, ye beautiful feet, and shine ye
in the firmament, that the heavens may declare His glory, dividing
between the light of the perfect, though not as the angels, and the
darkness of the little ones, though not despised. Shine over the
earth; and let the day, lightened by the sun, utter unto day, speech
of wisdom; and night, shining with the moon, show unto night, the word
of knowledge. The moon and stars shine for the night; yet doth not the
night obscure them, seeing they give it light in its degree. For
behold God saying, as it were, Let there be lights in the firmament of
heaven; there came suddenly a sound from heaven, as it had been the
rushing of a mighty wind, and there appeared cloven tongues like as of
fire, and it sat upon each of them. And there were made lights in
the firmament of heaven, having the word of life. Run ye to and fro
every where, ye holy fires, ye beauteous fires; for ye are the light
of the world, nor are ye put under a bushel; He whom you cleave
unto, is exalted, and hath exalted you. Run ye to and fro, and be
known unto all nations.
Let the sea also conceive and bring forth your works; and let the
waters bring forth the moving creature that hath life. For ye,
separating the precious from the vile, are made the mouth of God, by
whom He saith, Let the waters bring forth, not the living creature
which the earth brings forth, but the moving creature having life, and
the fowls that fly above the earth. For Thy Sacraments, O God, by
the ministry of Thy holy ones, have moved amid the waves of
temptations of the world, to hallow the Gentiles in Thy Name, in Thy
Baptism. And amid these things, many great wonders were wrought, as it
were great whales: and the voices of Thy messengers flying above the
earth, in the open firmament of Thy Book; that being set over them, as
their authority under which they were to fly, whithersoever they went.
For there is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard:
seeing their sound is gone through all the earth, and their words to
the end of the world, because Thou, Lord, multipliedst them by
blessing.
Speak I untruly, or do I mingle and confound, and not distinguish
between the lucid knowledge of these things in the firmament of
heaven, and the material works in the wavy sea, and under the
firmament of heaven? For of those things whereof the knowledge is
substantial and defined, without any increase by generation, as it
were lights of wisdom and knowledge, yet even of them, the material
operations are many and divers; and one thing growing out of
another, they are multiplied by Thy blessing, O God, who hast
refreshed the fastidiousness of mortal senses; that so one thing in
the understanding of our mind, may, by the motions of the body, be
many ways set out, and expressed. These Sacraments have the waters
brought forth; but in Thy word. The necessities of the people
estranged from the eternity of Thy truth, have brought them forth, but
in Thy Gospel; because the waters themselves cast them forth, the
diseased bitterness whereof was the cause, why they were sent forth in
Thy Word.
Now are all things fair that Thou hast made; but behold, Thyself art
unutterably fairer, that madest all; from whom had not Adam fallen,
the brackishness of the sea had never flowed out of him, that is,
the human race so profoundly curious, and tempestuously swelling,
and restlessly tumbling up and down; and then had there been no need
of Thy dispensers to work in many waters, after a corporeal and
sensible manner, mysterious doings and sayings. For such those
moving and flying creatures now seem to me to mean, whereby people
being initiated and consecrated by corporeal Sacraments, should not
further profit, unless their soul had a spiritual life, and unless
after the word of admission, it looked forwards to perfection.
And hereby, in Thy Word, not the deepness of the sea, but the
earth separated from the bitterness of the waters, brings forth, not
the moving creature that hath life, but the living soul. For now
hath it no more need of baptism, as the heathen have, and as itself
had, when it was covered with the waters; (for no other entrance is
there into the kingdom of heaven, since Thou hast appointed that
this should be the entrance:) nor does it seek after wonderfulness
of miracles to work belief; for it is not such, that unless it sees
signs and wonders, it will not believe, now that the faithful earth is
separated from the waters that were bitter with infidelity; and
tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that
believe not. Neither then does that earth which Thou hast founded upon
the waters, need that flying kind, which at Thy word the waters
brought forth. Send Thou Thy word into it by Thy messengers: for we
speak of their working, yet it is Thou that workest in them that
they may work out a living soul in it. The earth brings it forth,
because the earth is the cause that they work this in the soul; as the
sea was the cause that they wrought upon the moving creatures that
have life, and the fowls that fly under the firmament of heaven, of
whom the earth hath no need; although it feeds upon that fish which
was taken out of the deep, upon that table which Thou hast prepared in
the presence of them that believe. For therefore was He taken out of
the deep, that He might feed the dry land; and the fowl, though bred
in the sea, is yet multiplied upon the earth. For of the first
preachings of the Evangelists, man's infidelity was the cause; yet are
the faithful also exhorted and blessed by them manifoldly, from day to
day. But the living soul takes his beginning from the earth: for it
profits only those already among the Faithful, to contain themselves
from the love of this world, that so their soul may live unto Thee,
which was dead while it lived in pleasures; in death-bringing
pleasures, Lord, for Thou, Lord, art the life-giving delight of the
pure heart.
Now then let Thy ministers work upon the earth, -not as upon the
waters of infidelity, by preaching and speaking by miracles, and
Sacraments, and mystic words; wherein ignorance, the mother of
admiration, might be intent upon them, out of a reverence towards
those secret signs. For such is the entrance unto the Faith for the
sons of Adam forgetful of Thee, while they hide themselves from Thy
face, and become a darksome deep. But- let Thy ministers work now as
on the dry land, separated from the whirlpools of the great deep:
and let them be a pattern unto the Faithful, by living before them,
and stirring them up to imitation. For thus do men hear, so as not
to hear only, but to do also. Seek the Lord, and your soul shall live,
that the earth may bring forth the living soul. Be not conformed to
the world. Contain yourselves from it: the soul lives by avoiding what
it dies by affecting. Contain yourselves from the ungoverned
wildness of pride, the sluggish voluptuousness of luxury, and the
false name of knowledge: that so the wild beasts may be tamed, the
cattle broken to the yoke, the serpents, harmless. For these be the
motions of our mind under an allegory; that is to say, the haughtiness
of pride, the delight of lust, and the poison of curiosity, are the
motions of a dead soul; for the soul dies not so as to lose all
motion; because it dies by forsaking the fountain of life, and so is
taken up by this transitory world, and is conformed unto it.
But Thy word, O God, is the fountain of life eternal; and passeth
not away: wherefore this departure of the soul is restrained by Thy
word, when it is said unto us, Be not conformed unto this world;
that so the earth may in the fountain of life bring forth a living
soul; that is, a soul made continent in Thy Word, by Thy
Evangelists, by following the followers of Thy Christ. For this is
after his kind; because a man is wont to imitate his friend. Be ye
(saith he) as I am, for I also am as you are. Thus in this living soul
shall there be good beasts, in meekness of action (for Thou hast
commanded, Go on with thy business in meekness, so shalt thou be
beloved by all men); and good cattle, which neither if they eat, shall
they over-abound, nor, if they eat not, have any lack; and good
serpents, not dangerous, to do hurt, but wise to take heed; and only
making so much search into this temporal nature, as may suffice that
eternity be clearly seen, being understood by the things that are
made. For these creatures are obedient unto reason, when being
restrained from deadly prevailing upon us, they live, and are good.
For behold, O Lord, our God, our Creator, when our affections have
been restrained from the love of the world, by which we died through
evil-living; and begun to be a living soul, through good living; and
Thy word which Thou spokest by Thy apostle, is made good in us, Be not
conformed to this world: there follows that also, which Thou presently
subjoinedst, saying, But be ye transformed by the renewing of your
mind; not now after your kind, as though following your neighbour
who went before you, nor as living after the example of some better
man (for Thou saidst not, "Let man be made after his kind," but, Let
us make man after our own image and similitude), that we might prove
what Thy will is. For to this purpose said that dispenser of Thine
(who begat children by the Gospel), that he might not for ever have
them babes, whom he must be fain to feed with milk, and cherish as a
nurse; be ye transformed (saith he) by the renewing of your mind, that
ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Wherefore Thou sayest not, "Let man be made," but Let us make man. Nor
saidst Thou, "according to his kind"; but, after our image and
likeness. For man being renewed in his mind, and beholding and
understanding Thy truth, needs not man as his director, so as to
follow after his kind; but by Thy direction proveth what is that good,
that acceptable, and perfect will of Thine: yea, Thou teachest him,
now made capable, to discern the Trinity of the Unity, and the Unity
of the Trinity. Wherefore to that said in the plural. Let us make man,
is yet subjoined in the singular, And God made man: and to that said
in the plural. After our likeness, is subjoined in the singular, After
the image of God. Thus is man renewed in the knowledge of God, after
the image of Him that created him: and being made spiritual, he
judgeth all things (all things which are to be judged), yet himself is
judged of no man.
But that he judgeth all things, this answers to his having
dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowls of the air,
and over all cattle and wild beasts, and over all the earth, and
over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For this he
doth by the understanding of his mind, whereby he perceiveth the
things of the Spirit of God; whereas otherwise, man being placed in
honour, had no understanding, and is compared unto the brute beasts,
and is become like unto them. In Thy Church therefore, O our God,
according to Thy grace which Thou hast bestowed upon it (for we are
Thy workmanship created unto good works), not those only who are
spiritually set over, but they also who spiritually are subject to
those that are set over them, -for in this way didst Thou make man
male and female, in Thy grace spiritual, where, according to the sex
of body, there is neither male nor female, because neither Jew nor
Grecian, neither bond nor free. -Spiritual persons (whether such as
are set over, or such as obey); do judge spiritually; not of that
spiritual knowledge which shines in the firmament (for they ought
not to judge as to so supreme authority), nor may they judge of Thy
Book itself, even though something there shineth not clearly; for we
submit our understanding unto it, and hold for certain, that even what
is closed to our sight, is yet rightly and truly spoken. For so man,
though now spiritual and renewed in the knowledge of God after His
image that created him, ought to be a doer of the law, not a judge.
Neither doth he judge of that distinction of spiritual and carnal men,
who are known unto Thine eyes, O our God, and have not as yet
discovered themselves unto us by works, that by their fruits we
might know them: but Thou, Lord, dost even now know them, and hast
divided and called them in secret, or ever the firmament was made. Nor
doth he, though spiritual, judge the unquiet people of this world; for
what hath he to do, to judge them that are without, knowing not
which of them shall hereafter come into the sweetness of Thy grace;
and which continue in the perpetual bitterness of ungodliness?
Man therefore, whom Thou hast made after Thine own image, received
not dominion over the lights of heaven, nor over that hidden heaven
itself, nor over the day and the night, which Thou calledst before the
foundation of the heaven, nor over the gathering together of the
waters, which is the sea; but He received dominion over the fishes
of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and over all cattle, and over
all the earth, and over all creeping things which creep upon the
earth. For He judgeth and approveth what He findeth right, and He
disalloweth what He findeth amiss, whether in the celebration of those
Sacraments by which such are initiated, as Thy mercy searches out in
many waters: or in that, in which that Fish is set forth, which, taken
out of the deep, the devout earth feedeth upon: or in the
expressions and signs of words, subject to the authority of Thy
Book, -such signs, as proceed out of the mouth, and sound forth,
flying as it were under the firmament, by interpreting, expounding,
discoursing disputing, consecrating, or praying unto Thee, so that the
people may answer, Amen. The vocal pronouncing of all which words,
is occasioned by the deep of this world, and the blindness of the
flesh, which cannot see thoughts; So that there is need to speak aloud
into the ears; so that, although flying fowls be multiplied upon the
earth, yet they derive their beginning from the waters. The
spiritual man judgeth also by allowing of what is right, and
disallowing what he finds amiss, in the works and lives of the
faithful; their alms, as it were the earth bringing forth fruit, and
of the living soul, living by the taming of the affections, in
chastity, in fasting, in holy meditations; and of those things,
which are perceived by the senses of the body. Upon all these is he
now said to judge, wherein he hath also power of correction.
But what is this, and what kind of mystery? Behold, Thou blessest
mankind, O Lord, that they may increase and multiply, and replenish
the earth; dost Thou not thereby give us a hint to understand
something? why didst Thou not as well bless the light, which Thou
calledst day; nor the firmament of heaven, nor the lights, nor the
stars, nor the earth, nor the sea? I might say that Thou, O God, who
created created us after Thine Image, I might say, that it had been
Thy good pleasure to bestow this blessing peculiarly upon man; hadst
Thou not in like manner blessed the fishes and the whales, that they
should increase and multiply, and replenish the waters of the sea, and
that the fowls should be multiplied upon the earth. I might say
likewise, that this blessing pertained properly unto such creatures,
as are bred of their own kind, had I found it given to the
fruit-trees, and plants, and beasts of the earth. But now neither unto
the herbs, nor the trees, nor the beasts, nor serpents is it said,
Increase and multiply; notwithstanding all these as well as the
fishes, fowls, or men, do by generation increase and continue their
kind.
What then shall I say, O Truth my Light? "that it was idly said, and
without meaning?" Not so, O Father of piety, far he it from a minister
of Thy word to say so. And if I understand not what Thou meanest by
that phrase, let my betters, that is, those of more understanding than
myself, make better use of it, according as Thou, my God, hast given
to each man to understand. But let my confession also be pleasing in
Thine eyes, wherein I confess unto Thee, that I believe, O Lord,
that Thou spokest not so in vain; nor will I suppress, what this
lesson suggests to me. For it is true, nor do I see what should hinder
me from thus understanding the figurative sayings of Thy Bible. For
I know a thing to be manifoldly signified by corporeal expressions,
which is understood one way by the mind; and that understood many ways
in the mind, which is signified one way by corporeal expression.
Behold, the single love of God and our neighbour, by what manifold
sacraments, and innumerable languages, and in each several language,
in how innumerable modes of speaking, it is corporeally expressed.
Thus do the offspring of the waters increase and multiply. Observe
again, whosoever readest this; behold, what Scripture delivers, and
the voice pronounces one only way, In the Beginning God created heaven
and earth; is it not understood manifoldly, not through any deceit
of error, but by various kinds of true senses? Thus do man's offspring
increase and multiply.
If therefore we conceive of the natures of the things themselves,
not allegorically, but properly, then does the phrase increase and
multiply, agree unto all things, that come of seed. But if we treat of
the words as figuratively spoken (which I rather suppose to be the
purpose of the Scripture, which doth not, surely, superfluously
ascribe this benediction to the offspring of aquatic animals and man
only); then do we find "multitude" to belong to creatures spiritual as
well as corporeal, as in heaven and earth, and to righteous and
unrighteous, as in light and darkness; and to holy authors who have
been the ministers of the Law unto us, as in the firmament which is
settled betwixt the waters and the waters; and to the society of
people yet in the bitterness of infidelity, as in the sea; and to
the zeal of holy souls, as in the dry land; and to works of mercy
belonging to this present life, as in the herbs bearing seed, and in
trees bearing fruit; and to spiritual gifts set forth for edification,
as in the lights of heaven; and to affections formed unto
temperance, as in the living soul. In all these instances we meet with
multitudes, abundance, and increase; but what shall in such wise
increase and multiply that one thing may be expressed many ways, and
one expression understood many ways; we find not, except in signs
corporeally expressed, and in things mentally conceived. By signs
corporeally pronounced we understand the generations of the waters,
necessarily occasioned by the depth of the flesh; by things mentally
conceived, human generations, on account of the fruitfulness of
reason. And for this end do we believe Thee, Lord, to have said to
these kinds, Increase and multiply. For in this blessing, I conceive
Thee to have granted us a power and a faculty, both to express several
ways what we understand but one; and to understand several ways,
what we read to be obscurely delivered but in one. Thus are the waters
of the sea replenished, which are not moved but by several
significations: thus with human increase is the earth also
replenished, whose dryness appeareth in its longing, and reason ruleth
over it.
I would also say, O Lord my God, what the following Scripture
minds me of; yea, I will say, and not fear. For I will say the
truth, Thyself inspiring me with what Thou willedst me to deliver
out of those words. But by no other inspiration than Thine, do I
believe myself to speak truth, seeing Thou art the Truth, and every
man a liar. He therefore that speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own;
that therefore I may speak truth, I will speak of Thine. Behold,
Thou hast given unto us for food every herb bearing seed which is upon
all the earth; and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree
yielding seed. And not to us alone, but also to all the fowls of the
air, and to the beasts of the earth, and to all creeping things; but
unto the fishes and to the great whales, hast Thou not given them. Now
we said that by these fruits of the earth were signified, and
figured in an allegory, the works of mercy which are provided for
the necessities of this life out of the fruitful earth. Such an
earth was the devout Onesiphorus, unto whose house Thou gavest
mercy, because he often refreshed Thy Paul, and was not ashamed of his
chain. Thus did also the brethren, and such fruit did they bear, who
out of Macedonia supplied what was lacking to him. But how grieved
he for some trees, which did not afford him the fruit due unto him,
where he saith, At my first answer no man stood by me, but all men
forsook me. I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. For
these fruits are due to such as minister the spiritual doctrine unto
us out of their understanding of the divine mysteries; and they are
due to them, as men; yea and due to them also, as the living soul,
which giveth itself as an example, in all continency; and due unto
them also, as flying creatures, for their blessings which are
multiplied upon the earth, because their sound went out into all
lands.
But they are fed by these fruits, that are delighted with them;
nor are they delighted with them, whose God is their belly. For
neither in them that yield them, are the things yielded the fruit, but
with what mind they yield them. He therefore that served God, and
not his own belly, I plainly see why he rejoiced; I see it, and I
rejoice with him. For he had received from the Philippians, what
they had sent by Epaphroditus unto him: and yet I perceive why he
rejoiced. For whereat he rejoiced upon that he fed; for, speaking in
truth, I rejoiced (saith he) greatly in the Lord, that now at the last
your care of me hath flourished again, wherein ye were also careful,
but it had become wearisome unto you. These Philippians then had now
dried up, with a long weariness, and withered as it were as to bearing
this fruit of a good work; and he rejoiceth for them, that they
flourished again, not for himself, that they supplied his wants.
Therefore subjoins he, not that I speak in respect of want, for I have
learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both
how to be abased, and I know how to abound; every where and in all
things I am instructed both to be full, and to be hungry; both to
abound, and to suffer need. I can do all things through Him which
strengtheneth me.
Whereat then rejoicest thou, O great Paul? whereat rejoicest thou?
whereon feedest thou, O man, renewed in the knowledge of God, after
the image of Him that created thee, thou living soul, of so much
continency, thou tongue like flying fowls, speaking mysteries? (for to
such creatures, is this food due;) what is it that feeds thee? joy.
Hear we what follows: notwithstanding, ye have well done, that ye
did communicate with my affliction. Hereat he rejoiceth, hereon
feedeth; because they had well done, not because his strait was eased,
who saith unto Thee, Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; for
that he knew to abound, and to suffer want, in Thee Who
strengthenest him. For ye Philippians also know (saith he), that in
the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church
communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye
only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my
necessity. Unto these good works, he now rejoiceth that they are
returned; and is gladdened that they flourished again, as when a
fruitful field resumes its green.
Was it for his own necessities, because he said, Ye sent unto my
necessity? Rejoiceth he for that? Verily not for that. But how know we
this? Because himself says immediately, not because I desire a gift,
but I desire fruit. I have learned of Thee, my God, to distinguish
betwixt a gift, and fruit. A gift, is the thing itself which he gives,
that imparts these necessaries unto us; as money, meat, drink,
clothing, shelter, help: but the fruit, is the good and right will
of the giver. For the Good Master said not only, He that receiveth a
prophet, but added, in the name of a prophet: nor did He only say,
He that receiveth a righteous man, but added, in the name of a
righteous man. So verily shall the one receive the reward of a
prophet, the other, the reward of a righteous man: nor saith He
only, He that shall give to drink a cup of cold water to one of my
little ones; but added, in the name of a disciple: and so
concludeth, Verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. The
gift is, to receive a prophet, to receive a righteous man, to give a
cup of cold water to a disciple: but the fruit, to do this in the name
of a prophet, in the name of a righteous man, in the name of a
disciple. With fruit was Elijah fed by the widow that knew she fed a
man of God, and therefore fed him: but by the raven was he fed with
a gift. Nor was the inner man of Elijah so fed, but the outer only;
which might also for want of that food have perished.
I will then speak what is true in Thy sight, O Lord, that when
carnal men and infidels (for the gaining and initiating whom, the
initiatory Sacraments and the mighty workings of miracles are
necessary, which we suppose to be signified by the name of fishes
and whales) undertake the bodily refreshment, or otherwise succour Thy
servant with something useful for this present life; whereas they be
ignorant, why this is to be done, and to what end; neither do they
feed these, nor are these fed by them; because neither do the one do
it out of an holy and right intent; nor do the other rejoice at
their gifts, whose fruit they as yet behold not. For upon that is
the mind fed, of which it is glad. And therefore do not the fishes and
whales feed upon such meats, as the earth brings not forth until after
it was separated and divided from the bitterness of the waves of the
sea.
And Thou, O God, sawest every thing that Thou hadst made, and,
behold, it was very good. Yea we also see the same, and behold, all
things are very good. Of the several kinds of Thy works, when Thou
hadst said "let them be," and they were, Thou sawest each that it
was good. Seven times have I counted it to be written, that Thou
sawest that that which Thou madest was good: and this is the eighth,
that Thou sawest every thing that Thou hadst made, and, behold, it was
not only good, but also very good, as being now altogether. For
severally, they were only good; but altogether, both good, and very
good. All beautiful bodies express the same; by reason that a body
consisting of members all beautiful, is far more beautiful than the
same members by themselves are, by whose well-ordered blending the
whole is perfected; notwithstanding that the members severally be also
beautiful.
And I looked narrowly to find, whether seven, or eight times Thou
sawest that Thy works were good, when they pleased Thee; but in Thy
seeing I found no times, whereby I might understand that Thou sawest
so often, what Thou madest. And I said, "Lord, is not this Thy
Scripture true, since Thou art true, and being Truth, hast set it
forth? why then dost Thou say unto me, 'that in Thy seeing there be no
times'; whereas this Thy Scripture tells me, that what Thou madest
each day, Thou sawest that it was good: and when I counted them, I
found how often." Unto this Thou answerest me, for Thou art my God,
and with a strong voice tellest Thy servant in his inner ear, breaking
through my deafness and crying, "O man, that which My Scripture saith,
I say: and yet doth that speak in time; but time has no relation to My
Word; because My Word exists in equal eternity with Myself. So the
things which ye see through My Spirit, I see; like as what ye speak by
My Spirit, I speak. And so when ye see those things in time, I see
them not in time; as when ye speak in time, I speak them not in time."
And I heard, O Lord my God, and drank up a drop of sweetness out
of Thy truth, and understood, that certain men there be who mislike
Thy works; and say, that many of them Thou madest, compelled by
necessity; such as the fabric of the heavens, and harmony of the
stars; and that Thou madest them not of what was Thine, but that
they were otherwhere and from other sources created, for Thee to bring
together and compact and combine, when out of Thy conquered enemies
Thou raisedst up the walls of the universe; that they, bound down by
the structure, might not again be able to rebel against Thee. For
other things, they say Thou neither madest them, nor even
compactedst them, such as all flesh and all very minute creatures, and
whatsoever hath its root in the earth; but that a mind at enmity
with Thee, and another nature not created by Thee, and contrary unto
Thee, did, in these lower stages of the world, beget and frame these
things. Frenzied are they who say thus, because they see not Thy works
by Thy Spirit, nor recognise Thee in them.
But they who by Thy Spirit see these things, Thou seest in them.
Therefore when they see that these things are good, Thou seest that
they are good; and whatsoever things for Thy sake please, Thou
pleasest in them, and what through Thy Spirit please us, they please
Thee in us. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the
spirit of a man, which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no
one, but the Spirit of God. Now we (saith he) have received, not the
spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might
know the things that are freely given to us of God. And I am
admonished, "Truly the things of God knoweth no one, but the Spirit of
God: how then do we also know, what things are given us of God?"
Answer is made me; "because the things which we know by His Spirit,
even these no one knoweth, but the Spirit of God. For as it is rightly
said unto those that were to speak by the Spirit of God, it is not
ye that speak: so is it rightly said to them that know through the
Spirit of God, 'It is not ye that know.' And no less then is it
rightly said to those that see through the Spirit of God, 'It is not
ye that see'; so whatsoever through the Spirit of God they see to be
good, it is not they, but God that sees that it is good." It is one
thing then for a man to think that to be ill which is good, as the
forenamed do; another, that that which is good, a man should see
that it is good (as Thy creatures be pleasing unto many, because
they be good, whom yet Thou pleasest not in them, when they prefer
to enjoy them, to Thee); and another, that when a man sees a thing
that it is good, God should in him see that it is good, so, namely,
that He should be loved in that which He made, Who cannot be loved,
but by the Holy Ghost which He hath given. Because the love of God
is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, Which is given unto
us: by Whom we see that whatsoever in any degree is, is good. For from
Him it is, who Himself Is not in degree, but what He Is, Is.
Thanks to Thee, O Lord. We behold the heaven and earth, whether
the corporeal part, superior and inferior, or the spiritual and
corporeal creature; and in the adorning of these parts, whereof the
universal pile of the world, or rather the universal creation, doth
consist, we see light made, and divided from the darkness. We see
the firmament of heaven, whether that primary body of the world,
between the spiritual upper waters and the inferior corporeal
waters, or (since this also is called heaven) this space of air
through which wander the fowls of heaven, betwixt those waters which
are in vapours borne above them, and in clear nights distill down in
dew; and those heavier waters which flow along the earth. We behold
a face of waters gathered together in the fields of the sea; and the
dry land both void, and formed so as to be visible and harmonized, yea
and the matter of herbs and trees. We behold the lights shining from
above, the sun to suffice for the day, the moon and the stars to cheer
the night; and that by all these, times should be marked and
signified. We behold on all sides a moist element, replenished with
fishes, beasts, and birds; because the grossness of the air, which
bears up the flights of birds, thickeneth itself by the exhalation
of the waters. We behold the face of the earth decked out with earthly
creatures, and man, created after Thy image and likeness, even through
that Thy very image and likeness (that is the power of reason and
understanding), set over all irrational creatures. And as in his
soul there is one power which has dominion by directing, another
made subject, that it might obey; so was there for the man,
corporeally also, made a woman, who in the mind of her reasonable
understanding should have a parity of nature, but in the sex of her
body, should be in like manner subject to the sex of her husband, as
the appetite of doing is fain to conceive the skill of right-doing
from the reason of the mind. These things we behold, and they are
severally good, and altogether very good.
Let Thy works praise Thee, that we may love Thee; and let us love
Thee, that Thy works may praise Thee, which from time have beginning
and ending, rising and setting, growth and decay, form and
privation. They have then their succession of morning and evening,
part secretly, part apparently; for they were made of nothing, by
Thee, not of Thee; not of any matter not Thine, or that was before,
but of matter concreated (that is, at the same time created by
Thee), because to its state without form, Thou without any interval of
time didst give form. For seeing the matter of heaven and earth is one
thing, and the form another, Thou madest the matter of merely nothing,
but the form of the world out of the matter without form: yet both
together, so that the form should follow the matter, without any
interval of delay.
We have also examined what Thou willedst to be shadowed forth,
whether by the creation, or the relation of things in such an order.
And we have seen, that things singly are good, and together very good,
in Thy Word, in Thy Only-Begotten, both heaven and earth, the Head and
the body of the Church, in Thy predestination before all times,
without morning and evening. But when Thou begannest to execute in
time the things predestinated, to the end Thou mightest reveal
hidden things, and rectify our disorders; for our sins hung over us,
and we had sunk into the dark deep; and Thy good Spirit was borne over
us, to help us in due season; and Thou didst justify the ungodly,
and dividest them from the wicked; and Thou madest the firmament of
authority of Thy Book between those placed above, who were to he
docile unto Thee, and those under, who were to be subject to them: and
Thou gatheredst together the society of unbelievers into one
conspiracy, that the zeal of the faithful might appear, and they might
bring forth works of mercy, even distributing to the poor their
earthly riches, to obtain heavenly. And after this didst Thou kindle
certain lights in the firmament, Thy Holy ones, having the word of
life; and shining with an eminent authority set on high through
spiritual gifts; after that again, for the initiation of the
unbelieving Gentiles, didst Thou out of corporeal matter produce the
Sacraments, and visible miracles, and forms of words according to
the firmament of Thy Book, by which the faithful should be blessed and
multiplied. Next didst Thou form the living soul of the faithful,
through affections well ordered by the vigour of continency: and after
that, the mind subjected to Thee alone and needing to imitate no human
authority, hast Thou renewed after Thy image and likeness; and didst
subject its rational actions to the excellency of the understanding,
as the woman to the man; and to all Offices of Thy Ministry, necessary
for the perfecting of the faithful in this life, Thou willedst, that
for their temporal uses, good things, fruitful to themselves in time
to come, be given by the same faithful. All these we see, and they are
very good, because Thou seest them in us, Who hast given unto us Thy
Spirit, by which we might see them, and in them love Thee.
O Lord God, give peace unto us: (for Thou hast given us all things;)
the peace of rest, the peace of the Sabbath, which hath no evening.
For all this most goodly array of things very good, having finished
their courses, is to pass away, for in them there was morning and
evening.
But the seventh day hath no evening, nor hath it setting; because
Thou hast sanctified it to an everlasting continuance; that that which
Thou didst after Thy works which were very good, resting the seventh
day, although Thou madest them in unbroken rest, that may the voice of
Thy Book announce beforehand unto us, that we also after our works
(therefore very good, because Thou hast given them us), shall rest
in Thee also in the Sabbath of eternal life.
For then shalt Thou rest in us, as now Thou workest in us; and so
shall that be Thy rest through us, as these are Thy works through
us. But Thou, Lord, ever workest, and art ever at rest. Nor dost
Thou see in time, nor art moved in time, nor restest in a time; and
yet Thou makest things seen in time, yea the times themselves, and the
rest which results from time.
We therefore see these things which Thou madest, because they are:
but they are, because Thou seest them. And we see without, that they
are, and within, that they are good, but Thou sawest them there,
when made, where Thou sawest them, yet to be made. And we were at a
later time moved to do well, after our hearts had conceived of Thy
Spirit; but in the former time we were moved to do evil, forsaking
Thee; but Thou, the One, the Good God, didst never cease doing good.
And we also have some good works, of Thy gift, but not eternal;
after them we trust to rest in Thy great hallowing. But Thou, being
the Good which needeth no good, art ever at rest, because Thy rest
is Thou Thyself. And what man can teach man to understand this? or
what Angel, an Angel? or what Angel, a man? Let it be asked of Thee,
sought in Thee, knocked for at Thee; so, so shall it be received, so
shall it be found, so shall it be opened. Amen.
GRATIAS TIBI DOMINE

 

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