William Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.).

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phers, whom they call Academics, were wiser than
the rest, for that they hold, men ought to doubt
everything, and laid down that no truth can be com-
prehended 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 fiuniliar 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 harboring 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 Clmrch, O Lord of heaven and earth.
Creator of all things visible and invisible: and it

in. 0x11.8, 4. Volg.

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10.8 One norong doctrine

I geomod to mo vory unsooinly to boliovo Thcc to Imvp

I the shape of human flesh, and to be bounde<l by the
bodily lineaments of our members. And because,
when I wished to think on my God, I knew not what
to think o^ but a mass of bodies (for what wo8 not
such did not seem to me to be anything), this was

I the greatest, and almpstt only cause of my inevitablp


I 20. For hence I believed Evil also to be some 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), wliicli they
imagine to be some malignant mind creeping throuj^h

.that earth. And because a piety, such ns it was,

\ constrained me to believe, that the good Qod never
y^reated any evil nature, I conceived two masses, con-
frary 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 endeavored tp
recur to the Oatholic fiiith, I was driven back, since
that was not the Catholic faith, which I tiiought to
be so. And I seemed to myself more revercniini) if
I regarded Thee, my Qod (to whom Thy mercies
confess .out of my mouth), as unbounded at least on
all 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
in^agine Thee to be bounded by the form of a human
body. And it seemed to me better to believe Thep
to have created no evil (which to me in my igno-

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tlu parent ofothetB.


ranee seemed not onlj a substance, but a bodily,
substance, because I could not conceive of mind un-|
less as a subtile body, and that diffused in definite
spaces), tlian to believe that the nature of evil, such
as I conceived it, could come fix>m Thee. Yea, and
our Saviour Himself, Thy Only Begotten, I believed
to have been reached forth (as it were) for our sal-
vation, out of the mass of Thy most lucid substance,
so as to believe nothing of Him but what I could
image in my vanity. His Nature, then, being such,
I thought could not be bom 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 be«
lieve Him bom in the flesh, lest I should be forced to
believe Ilim defiled by the flesh. Now will Thy
spiritual ones mildly and lovingly smile upon mo,
if they Hhali read these my confessions. Yet such
wns I.

XI. 21. Furthermore, what the Manichees had
criticized 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 Hclpidius, as
he spoke and disputed face to face against the said
Manichees, had begun to stir me even at Carthage t
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


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110 Manic/iee8 atid Scripture opposed.

iwas, that tlio Scriptures of tho Now Tc8t:uiicnt had
I been connipted bj certain ones, I know not whom,
who wished to engraft the law of the Jews upon the
Christian faith: yet themselves produced not any
uncorrupted copies. But I, conceiving of things
corporeal only, was strongly held down, vclicraently
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.
XII. 22. I began then diligently to practise that
i for which I came to Rome, to teach rhetoric; and
\first, to gather some to my house, to whom, and
through whom, I hod begun to bo known; when lo!
I found other ofTonces committed in Rome, lo which
I was not exposed in Africa* Time, those '^ Hubvert-
ings ^ by profligate young men,* were not here prac-
tised, 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 hatedy though not with
a perfect /uUred:* 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, lov-
ing these fleeting mockeries of things temporal, and
filthy lucre, which fouls the hand that grasps it;
hugging the fleeting world, and despising Tlice, who
abidest, and recallest, and forgivest the adulteress
soul of man, when she returns to Thee. And now I

1 Supnu p. 48. 1 Flk ezxxlz. 22.

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Sources of Ambroses vifluence.


hate such depraved and crooked persons, though I
love them if they can be corrected so as to prefer to
money the learning which they acquire, and to learn-
ing, Thccs O God, tlio truth and fuhicss of assured
good, and most pure peace. But then, I rather for
my own sake disliked them, and wished them evil,
th^nf^tlped and wished them good for Thine.
f XIII. 23. When, therefore, they of Milan had sent.
Wji^mie, to the prefect of the city, to fuinish themt
with a rhetoric reader for their city, and send him at\
the public expense, I made application (through!
those very persons, intoxicated with Manichiean van-
ities, to be freed wherefrom I was to go, neither of
us, however, knowing it) that Symmachus, then pre-
fect of the city, would try me by setting me some
subject, and so send me. To Milan I came, to Am- 1
brose the Bishop, known to the whole world as^
among the best of men. Thy devout servant ; whose
eloquent discourse did tlion plentifully dispense unto
Thy people the fatness of Thy wheat, the gladness .
of Thy oil, and the sober inebriation of Thy wine.*
To him was I unconsciously led by Thee, that by him
I might consciously be led to Thee. That man of
God received me as a father, and showed me an
episcopal kindness on my coming. Tlicnceforth 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 the intent I ought, but, as it were, trying \


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}12 Augustine^ 9 perplexed notions.

ibis oloqnonoo, wbethor it answorod tho faiiio thereof
' or flowed Ailler 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, yot in manner less winning and harmoni-
ous, than that of Faustus. Of the matter, however,
there was no comparison ; for the one was wandering
(amid Manichtean delusions, the other teaching salva-
tion most soundly. But salvation is far from sin-
ners^ such aa I then stood before him ; and yet was
I drawing nearer by little and little, and uncon-

yXr^ 21. For though I took no painn to learn
wmrt;^e spake, but only to bear bow he spake (for
that empty interest in style alone was lofl mo, de-
spairing of a way, open for man, to Tliee) ; 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 ** bow eloquently be spake," there
also entered ^ how truly be spake ;" but this by de-
grees. For first, the things spoken by Ambrose
began now to appear to me capable of defence ; and
the Catholic &ith, for which I bad thought nothing
could be said against the Manichees' objections, I
now thought might be maintained without shame-
lessness; cHpccially after I had hoard ihio or two
places of the Old Testament resolved, and ofttimes
**tn a figure^** which when I understood only accord-

1 Flk ezlx. U6. SlCor.zili.l2; aCor.iiL6.

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AuguBtin^B perplexed notions. 118

ing to the letter, I was slain. Very many places
then of those books having been explained, I now
blamed my despair, in believing that no answer
oould bo given to such as bated and sooflfod at the
Law and the Prophets. Yet did I not therefore
then sec, that the Catholic way was to be held, be-
caase it .also conld find learned maintainers, who
could at lai^ and with some show of reason answer
objections; nor that what I held was therefore to
be condemned, because both sides could be main-
tained. For the Catholic cause seemed to me in
such sort not vanquished, as still not as yet to be

25. Hereupon I earnestly bent my mind, to see if
in any way I could by any certain proof convict the 1
Manichees of &lsehood. Could I once have con-j
ceivcd a spiritual substance, all their strongholds
had been beaten down, and cast utterly .out of
mind ; but I could not. Notwithstanding, concern-
ing the frame of this world, and the whole of na-
ture, 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)^
doubtmg everything, and wavering between all, I
settled so &r, that the Manichees were to be aban-
doned; judging that, even while doubting, I ought
not to continue in that sect to which I already pre-
ferred some of the philosophers ; to which philoso-

1 Comimre Aaguttine*! JM CMiaf JM^ Lib. XIX. o. 1. — Bd.

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114 He returns to the Church.

phers, notwithstanding, for that they were without
the saving Name of Christ, I utterly refused to com-
mit the cure of my sick souL I determined there-
fore to be a Catechumen in the Catholic Church, to
which I had been commended by my parents, until
something certain should dawn upon me, whither I
might steer my course.

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BUT frruuoK with thb oomtrabt abaloot of ood*s matural


U.^. Thou^ my hope from my youih^ where
wert Thou to mo, and whither wert Thou gone?
IladRt not Thou created me, and separated me from
the beasts of the field, and fowls of the air f Thou
hadst made mo wiser, yet did I walk in darkness,
and in slippery places, and sought Thee abroad out
of myself and found not the Qod of my heart ; and
had come into the depths of the sea, and distrustedl
and dcpaired of over finding truth. My mother had
now come to me, resolute through piety, following
mo over sea and land, in all perils confiding in Thee.
For in perils of the sea, she comforted the very mar-
iners (by whom passengers unacquainted with the
deep, used rather to be comforted when troubled),
assuring them of a safe arrival, because Thou hadst


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116 Monica^ a hopes of her aoru

I by a vision assured her thereof. She found ine in
grievous peril, through despair of ever finding truth.
But when I had discovered to her that I was now
no longer a Maniohee, though not yet a Catholic
Christian, she was not overjoyed, as at something
unexpected ; although she was now relieved concern-
ing a part of my misery, for which she bewailed mo
as one dead, though to be reawakened by Thee. I
was carried forth, therefore, upon the bier of her
thoughts, that Thou mightest say to the son of the
fjoidowj Young mauy I say unto thee^ Arise ; and lie
should revive^ and begin to spedk^ and thou shoiddest
deliver him to his mother} Her heart then was
shaken with no tumultuous exidtation, when she
heard that what she daily with tears desired of
Thee, was already in so great part realized ; in that,
though I had not yet attained the truth, I was res-
cued from falsehood; but, as being assured that
Thou, who hadst promised the whole, would est one
day give the rest, more calmly, and with an heart
full of confidence, she replied to me, ^ She believed
I in Christ, that before she departed this life, she
I 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 dark-
ness; and she hastened the more eagerly to the
Church, and hung upon the lips of Ambrose, pniying
for the fountain of thai ioater^ which springeth up
unto life everlasting.* But that man she loved as an

1 Luke vii. 14, 16. t John ir. 14.

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Her obedience to Ambrose.


angel of Ood^ 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 coiifidontly that I should pass from sickness
unto health, after the access, as it were, of a sharper
fit, which physicians call *' the crisis.*^

II. 2. When then my mother had once, as she was
wont in Afnca, 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 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 of festival-food, to be but tasted
by herself, and then given away, never joined there-
with more than one small cup of wine, diluted ac-
cording to her own abstemious habits, which for
courtesy she would taste. And if there were many
churchcH of the departed saints, that wore to be
honored in that manner, she still carried round that
same one cup, to be used everywhere; and this,
though not only made very watery, but unpleasantly
heated by carrying about, she would distribute to
those about her by small sips ; for she sought there

I Comparo Aaguatliil ^piMtoUu xxll., xxix. — Ed.

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118 Her obedience to Ambrose*

devotion, not pleasuro. So soon, then, as bIio found
this eastom to be forbidden by that famons i>reacher,
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 furthermore, because
these, as it were, anniversary Ameral solemnities did
much rosomblo the superstition of the Gentiles, —
she most willingly forbare it: and in the place of a
basket filled with the fruits of the earth, she 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 rightly celebrated in the
places whei*e, after the example of His Passion, the
martyrs had boon 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 cus-
tom, had it been forbidden by another whom she
loved not as Ambrose, whom, for my salvation, she
loved most entirely ; and he loved her again, for her
most religious conversation, whereby in good works,
BO ferverU in spirit^ she was constant at church ; so
that, when he saw me, he often burst forth in her
praise, 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
lO found out.
8. Nor did I yet groan in my prayers, that
TGou wouldest help me ; but my spirit was wholly
\ intent on learning, and restless to dispute. And

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Ambrose^B mode of life.


Ambrose himflel^ as the world connts happy, I es-
teemed a happy man, whom personages so great held
in sncli honor; 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 ])is very excellencies, or what comfort in adver-
sity, 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 experi-
enced. 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 peo-
ple, 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 liis voice and tongue were at rest Ofttimcs
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?) wo
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 loath to be taken off; and perchance he feared
lest if the authpr he read should deliver anything
obscurely, some attentive or perplexed hearer should

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120 Ambro$e^$ mode of H/e.

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 liimself. But with
what intent soover he did it, certainly in such a man
it was good.

4. I, however, had no opportunity of inquiring
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 «e-
pcunding the Word of truth} among the ]>eople ;
and I was more and more convinced, that all the

i knots of those crafty calumnies, which those our
deceivers had knit against the Divine Books, could
be unravelled. But when I understood withal, that
the words, ^ man^ created by Thee^ after Thi/ie own
imaged were not so understood by Thy s])iritual
sons, whom of the Catholic Mother Thou hast regen-
erated 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 feint or shadowy notion) ; yet, with joy I
blushed at having so many years barked not against
the Oatholic faith, but against the fictions of cuimal
imaginations. For so rash and impious had I been,
that what I ought by inquiring to have learned, I

1 8 Tim. U. 16.

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Augustine^B notions qfthe CatAolio faith. 121

had ignorantly pronounced npon, condemning. For (
Tboo, Most High, and most near, most secret, and
most present, Who hast not limbs some larger, some
smaller, bat art wholly everywhere, and nowhere in
space, art not of corporeal shape, yet hast Thou made
man .after Thine own image ; and behold, from head)
to foot is he contained in space.

lY. 5. Being ignorant tiien how this Thy image
should subsist, I should have knocked and proposed
the question, how it was to be believed, and not in-
sultingly opposed it, as if believed. Doubt, then, as
to what to hold for certain, the more sharply gnawed
my heart, the more ashamed I was, that so long de-
luded and deceived by the promise of certainties, I
had with childish error and vehemence, prated of so
many uncertainties. For that they were falsehoods,
becnino dear to mo later. However, I was certain
that they were uncertain, and that I had formerly
accounted them certain, when with a blind conten-
tiousness, 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 doc-
trines maintained any tenet which should confine
Thee, the Creator of all, in space, however great and
large, yet bounded everywhere by the limits of a
human form.

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122 Process iohereby Augustine

6. I joyod also that tho old Scriptaros of tlio law
and tho 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 witli joy I
y hoard Ambrose, in his sermons to tho people, oilen-
j times most diligently recommend this text for a rule,
The letter killethy but the Spirit giveth l\fe;^ whilst
he drew aside the mystic veil, laying open spiritually
what, according to the letter, seemed to teach some-
thing unsound; teaching herein nothing that of-
fended me, though he taught what I knew not ns yet
/whether it were true. For I kept my heart from
i assenting to anything, fearing to fall headlong; but
i by hanging in 8U8]>ense 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 compre-
hended ; 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. By believ-
ing I might have been cured, and the eyesight of my
soul being cleared, might have been directed to Thy
truth, which abideth always, and in no part fnileth.
But as he who has tried a bad physician, fears to
trust himself with a good one, so was it with tho
health of my soul, which could not be healed hut by
believing, and lest it should believe falsehoods, re-
fused to be cured; resisting Thy hands, who hast


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came to believe the Scriptures. 128

prepared the medicines of faith, and hast applied
them to the diseases of the whole world, and given
unto them so great authority.

V. 7. Being led, however, from this to prefer the
Catholic doctrine, I felt that her proceeding was
more unassuming and honest, in that she required
belief in things not demonstrated (whether it was
that thcj 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 merciful hand, touching and composing my heart,
didst persuade me, — considering what innumerable

Online LibraryWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.)The confessions of Augustine → online text (page 10 of 31)