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

The confessions of Augustine online

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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 reports of friends, so many
of physicians, so many continually of other men,!
which unless we should believe, we should know noth-
ing at all in this life ; lastly, with how unshaken an*
assurance I believed of what parents I was bom,
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 bo
beard who should say to me, *^ How knowest thou

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124 Begim to believe the Scriptures.

those Scriptures to hnye been imparted unto man-
kind by the Spirit of the one true and most true
) Gbd?" For this very thing was of all most to be
( believed, since no contentiousness of all that multi-
tude of blasphemous questionings which I had read
in the self-contradicting philosophers, couhl wring
this belief from me, "That Thou art" whatsoever
|Thou art^ (what I knew not), and ♦'That the gov-
ernment of human things belongs to Thee."

8. This I believed, sometimes more strongly, more
weakly other- whiles ; yet I ever believed both that
Thou art, and host a care of us; though I was
ignorant both what was to be thought of Thy sub-
stance, and what way led or led back to Tlieo.
Since, then, wo ai*o too weak by abstract reasonings
to find out truth, and for this very cause need the
authority of Holy Writ, I began to believe that
Thou wouldest never have given such excellency of
! authority to Scripture in all lands, hodst Thou not
j willed thereby to be believed in, and sought. For
those things, sounding strangely in the Scripture,
which were wont to ofiend me, being now expounded
satisfactorily, I referred to the depth of the myste-
ries; and its authority appeared to me the more
I venerable, and more worthy of religious ci*edence,
' 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 foith the
intensest application of such as are not light of

1 Ex. Ui. 14.

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AugusHne^B imoard unrest


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.

VI. 9. I panted aftier honors, gains, marriage ; and
Thou dcridedst me. In these desires I undei*went
most bitter crosses, Thou being the more gracious,
the less Thou sufferedst aught to grow sweet to me
which was not Thyself. Behold my hearl^ O Lord,
who wouldest I should remember all this, and con-
fess to Thee. Let my soul cleave unto Thee, now
that Thou hast freed it from that fast-holding bird-
lime of death. How wretched was itt and Thou
didst irritate the sense of its wounds, that, forsaking
all else, it might be converted unto Thee, who art
above all, and without whom all things would be
nothing; and so be converted, and 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,M
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,

1 yalonlinlan n. : Comptro Aug. Contra rvtUJtniim, III, S6» and Fot»
fidotiliis Da Vita Angmtlnl, 1. — £d.


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126 The sight of a dnmken beggar a lesson.

passing throagh one of tlio streots of Milan, I ob-
served 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
ambitions; 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 ho
verily had not the true joy ; but yet I, with those my
ambitious designs, was seeking one much less true.
For 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 would this be
wise, and according to reason ? 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.

10. Away with those, then, from my soul, who say
to her, '^It makes a difference whence a msm's joy
is. That beggar-man joyed in drunkenness; Thou

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HU friend Alypiua.


wouldest joy in glory.'* What glory, Lord ? That i
which is not in Thee. For even as his was no true I
joy, so was that no true glory : and it overthrew my
soul nioro. For ho that very night would 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, Gk)d, knowest. But "it
doth make a difference whence a man's joy is.^ I
know it, and the joy of a faithful hope lieth incom-
parably beyond such vanity. Tea, and so was tliat
beggar then beyond me : for he verily was the hap-
pier; 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 the
same ex[)erienco with my own ; and I found it went
ill with me, and grieved, and doubled that very ill ;
and if any prosperity smiled on roe, I was loath to
catch at it, for almost before I could grasp it, it flew

VII. 11. These things we, who were living as
friends together, bemoaned together, but chiefly and
most familiarly did I speak thereof with Aly pius and
Ncbridius. Alypius was bom in the same town with
me, of persons of chief rank there, but he was
younger than I. He had studied under me, both
when I flrst lectured in our town, and afterwards at
Carthage, and he loved me much, because I seemed
to him kind, and learned ; and I loved him for his
great towardliness to virtue, which was eminent in |

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128 HU friend AlypiuB cured by Oody

I one of no grontor years, Yot tlio whirlpool of Car-
thaginian 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 in a public
school, he as yet come not under my teaclihig, by
reason of some unkindnoss risen betwixt his father
and me. I had found how deadly he doted upon the
Circus, and was deeply grieved that he seemed likely
to throw 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 author-
ity of a master. For I supposed that he thought of
me as his father did ; but it was not so ; and laying

/ aside his father's mind in that matter, he l>ogau to

I greet me, came sometimes into my lecture-room, hear
a little, and b^one.

12. I, however, had forgotten to deal with him, eio
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, a priest and dis-
penser of Thy Sacrament ; and that his amendment
might plainly be attributed to Thyself Thou effect-
edst it through me, but unknowingly. For as one

I day I sat in my accustomed place, with my scholars
before me, he entered, greeted me, sat down, and

I ^plied his mind to what I then handled. I had by
chance a passage in hand, which, while I was explain-
ing, a likeness from the Circensian races occurred to

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t/irough a chance word of Augustine. 129

me, as likely to make what I would convey pleas-
anter and plainer, seasoned with biting mockery of
those whom that madness had enthralled; Ood,
Thoa k newest, 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 what another would have taken as occa-
sion 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 wiU 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 hope-
ful minil, thus languishing, and so euro it. Let him
bd silent in Thy praises, who considers not Thy mer-
cies, which confess unto Thee out of my inmost soul.
For upon that speech, Alypius burst out of that pit
so dee]), wherein he was wilfully plunged, and was
blinded with its wretched pastimes ; and he roused
his mind with a strong self-command ; whereupon alii
the filths of the Circensian pastimes flew off from |
him, nor returned he again thither. Upon this, he 1
prevailed with his unwilling fitther, that he might be
my scholar. He gave way, and gave in. And Alyp- !
ius beginning to be my hearer again, was involved
in the same superstition with me, loving in the Man-
ichees that show of consistency, which he supposed

1 rroT. te. 8.

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180 . Alypius betrayed hy seff^ofifldence

true and unfeigned. Whereas it was a senseless and
seducing ooutinenoy) ensnaring precious souls, un-
able as yet to reach the depth of virtue, yet readily
beguiled with the surface of what was but a shadowy
and counterfeit virtue.

YIII. Id. Not forsaking that secular course which
his parents had charmed him to pursue, he luid gone
Ibefore 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 such spectacles, he was one
day by chance met by divers of his acquainUuices and
fellow-students coming from dinner, and they with a
familiar violence haled him, vehemently rcfitsing 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 pres-
ent, and so shall overcome both you and them."
They hearing this, led him on nevertheless, desirous
perchance to try that very thing, whether ho 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 passages of his eyes, forbade his mind to range
abroad after such evils ; and would he had stopped his
ears also I For in the fight, when one fell, a mighty
cry of the whole people striking him strongly, over-
come by curiosity, and as if prepared to despise and
be superior to it whatsoever it were, even when seen,

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to love gladiatorial combats. 181

he opened his eyes, and was stricken with a deeper
wound in his soul, than the gladiator, whom he de-
sired to behold, was in his body ; and he fell more
miBorably than he, u]>on whose fiill that migbty noise
was raised, which entered through his ears and un-
locked 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 sav-
ageness ; 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 be-
held, 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 otiiers. 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 afterwards.

IX. 14. All this was being laid up in his memory
to be a medicine hereafter. So was tliis, 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 are
accustomed). Thou sufieredst him to be apprehended
by the officers of the market-place for a thief. For
no other cause I deem, didst Thou, our Qod, suffer

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132 Chd instructs btfarehand

it| bat that ho, who was horooftor to provo bo groat a
man, should already begin to learn that, in judging
of eanses, man is not readily to be oondemned 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, lot a young man, a law-
yer, tlio real thief, privily bringing a hatchet, got in,
unperceived by Alypius, as far as the leaden grat-
ings, which fence in the silveramitbs' 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 the thief bearing their voices,
ran away, leaving his hatchet, fearing to bo taken
with it Alypius now, who had not seen him enter,
was aware of his leaving, and saw with what speed
he made away. And being desirous to know the
matter, entered the place ; where finding the hntchet,
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 noto-
rious thie^ and so he was being led away to be taken
before the judge.

15, But thus far was Alypius to be instnicted.
For forthwith, O Lord, Thou suoc^redst his inno-
cency, 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

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iho%e whom He employ b.


of the public baildings. Glad they were to meet
him e8i>eoially, by whom they wei*o wout to be sus-
pected of stealing the goods lost out of the market-
place, that they might show liim at last by whom
these thefts were committed. He, however, had
frequently seen Alypius at a certain senator's house,
to whom he often went to pay his respects ; and re-
cognizing him immediately, he took him aside by the
hand, and bquiring the occasion of so great a calam-
ity, 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 an Alypius remembered, he told the architect :
and he, showing tlie hatchet to the boy, asked him
** Whose that was?" — ** Ours,** quoth he, presently :
and being further questioned, he discovered every-
thing. Thus the crime was transferred to that house,
and the multitude which had begun to insult over
Alypius, was ashamed ; and he who was to be a dis-
penser of Thy Word, and an examiner of many causes
in Tliy Clmrch, went away better experienced and

X. 16. This Alypius I found at Rome, and he
clave to me by a 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

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184 AlypitufB unutttal honesty.

thrice sat as assessor with an uncorruptncss much
wondered at by others, he wondering at others,
rather, who could prefer gold to honesty. His char-
acter 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 &vors many stood indebted, and whom many
much feared. He would needs do, by abuse of power,
what 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 iUondship, nor feared the enmity
of one so great and so renowned for innumerable
means of doing good or evil. And the very judge
also, whose counsellor Alypius was, although unwill-
ing it should be, yet did not openly refiise, 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, however,
was he well-nigh seduced, namely, that he might
have books copied for him at the city's expense ; but
consulting justice, he altered his deliberation for the
better; esteeming equity whereby ho was hindered
more gainful than the power whereby he were al-
lowed. These are slight things, but he tfuU is faith'
fuX in litihy is faithful also in much} Nor can that
be void which proceeded out of the mouth of Thy


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Aufftt8tin^$ longing qfter amendment. 185

Truth ; ^ye have not been faithful in the unright'
eou8 Mammonj who wiU commit to your trust true
riches? Afid \f ye have not been faithful in thai
which is another man^Sy who shall give you that
which is your ownt^ Ho being such, did at that
time cleave to me, and with me wavered in purpose,
what course of life was to be taken.

17. Ncbridius, also, who, having left his native
country near Carthage, yea, and Carthage itself, where
he had lived some time, leaving his excellent fitmily*-
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 diffi-
cult qm^Htions. Thus were there the mouths of three
indigent persons sighing out their wants one to an*
other, and waiting uj)07i Thee tfiat Tliou mightest
give iJian their meal in due seasofiJ And in all the
bitterness, which by Thy mercy followed our worldly
affairs, as we looked towards the end, and asked why
we should suffer all this, darkness met us ; and we
turned away groaning, and saying, ffow long shall
these tilings be? Tliis, too, wo often said: and yet,
so saying, forsook not these worldly things ; for as
yet there dawned nothing certain which we might
embrace in the place of them.

XL 18. And I, viewing and reviewing things,
wondered extremely at the length of time that had

1 Luke xrl. 11, 12.

t V%, OXlT. 1ft.

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186 AugtMtin^s longing after amendment.

elapsed since my nineteenth year, when I firul began
to kindle with the desire of wisdom, resolving when
I had found it to abandon all the empty hopes and
lying frenzies of vain desires. And lo I I was now in
my thirtieth year, sticking in the same mire, greedy
of enjoying present things, which passed away and
wasted my soul ; while I said to myself ** To-morrow
I shall find it; it will appear manifestly, and I shall
grasp it; lo! Faustus the Manichee will come, and
clear up everything! O you great men, ye Acade-
micians, it is true then that no certainty can be
attained for the ordering of life ! Nay, let me search
the more diligently, and despiur not. Lo ! things in
the ecclesiastical books are not absurd to mo now,
which sometimes seemed absurd, and may be other-
wise 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 po leisure; I have
no leisure to read; where shall I find even the
books? Whence, or when procure them? fix)m
whom borrow them? Let set times be 'appointed,
and certain hours ordered for the health of my soul.
Great hope has dawned ; the Catholic Faith teaches
not what I thought, and vainly accused it of; her in-
structed members hold it profane to believe Ood to
be bounded by the figure of a human body : and
shall I hesitate to ^knock,' that the rest Mnay be
opened ?* The forenoons my scholars take up ; what
do I during the rest of the day? Why not exam-
ine this subject? But when shall I pay court to my

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Augu8tine^8 perphxities and vaciUations. 187

- - - ■ - - — ■••

great friends, whose favor I need? When compose
what I may sell to scholars? When refresh myself
unbending my mind from this intensoness of care?

19. Perish everything, dismiss these empty van-
ities, and betake myself to the one search for truth I
Life is vain, death uncertsdn ; if it steals upon me on
a sudden, in what state shaU I depart hence? and
where shall I learn what here I have neglected?
and sliall I not rather suffer the punbhment of this
negligence? What, if death itself cut off and end
all care and feeling ? Then must this be ascertained.
But God forbid this t 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 do X delay
then to abandon worldly hopes, and give myseUT
wholly to seek after Gk>d and the blessed life? But
wait I Worldly things are pleasant ; they have no
small sweetness. I must not lightly abandon them,
for it were a shame to return again to them. See, it
is no difficult matter now to obtain some station, and
then what more should I wish for? I have store of
powerful friends ; if nothing else offer, and I be in
much haste, at least a presidentship ' may be given
me : and a wife with some money, that she increase
not my charges : and this shall be the bound of my
desire. Many great men and most worthy of imita-

1 TIm goTernment of a proriuoe.

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188 He is ignorant that God gives strength.

tion, havo given themselves to tlio study of wisdom
in the state of marriage."

20. While I went over these things, and these
winds shifted and drove my heart this way and that,
time passed on, bnt I delayed to turn to the Lord ;
and from day to day deferred to live in Thee, and so
died in myself. Loving a happy life, I feared to seek
it in its own true 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 infirniity I thought not, not hav-
ing tried it. As for continency, I supposed it must
be in our own power (though in myself I did not
find that power), being so foolish as not U* know
what is written, None can be conti7ient tmlcaH IViou
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.

XII. 21. Alypius indeed kept me from mairying;
alleging, that in that case, we could not in undis-

Online LibraryWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.)The confessions of Augustine → online text (page 11 of 31)