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

The confessions of Augustine online

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tracted leisure live together in the search after wis-
dom, as we had long desired. He himself was even
then most chaste, so much so that it was wonderful ;
and all the more, since in the outset of his youth he
had entered into that course, but had not stuck fiist
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
Gk>d acceptably, and retained their friends, and loved

1 Wisd. TlU. a. Yolff.

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Modes of life.


them faithfully. Of whose greatness of spirit I came
&r short; and bound with the disease of the flesh,
and its deadly sweetness, I drew along my chain,
dreading to bo 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 pleasur-
able snares, wherein his virtuous and free feet might
be entangled.

22. For when he wondered that I, whom he es-
teemed not slightly, should stick so fast in the bird-
lime 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 a great difference between his momen-
tary and scarce-remembered knowledge of that life,
which so he might easily despise, and my continued
acquaintance with it, whereto if but the honorable
name of nuuriage were added, he ought not to won-
der why I could not contemn it; he began also to
desire to be married, — not as overcome with desire
of such pleasure, but out of curiosity. For he would
fiiin 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,


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140 , Marriage.

lie that loves danger shall fall into it} For wliatever
honor there be in the offiee of a well-ordered married
life and a family, moved us but slightly. The habit
of satisfying an insatiable appetite tormented me,
while it held me captive ; and an admiring wonder
was leading him captive. Thus were we, until Thou,
Most High, not forsaking our dust, commiserating
us miserable, didst come to our help, by wondrous
and secret ways.

XIII. 23. 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 becoming daily more disposed,
and observed that her prayers, and Thy promises,
were being fulfilled in my faith. At which time,
verily, both at my request and her 0¥m longing, with
strong cries of heart she daily begged of Thee, that
Thou wouldest by a vision discover unto her some-
thing concerning my future marriage; but Thou
never wouldest. She saw indeed certain vain and
fSuitastlc things, such as the energy of the human
spirit, busied thereon, brought together; and these
she told me o^ not with that confidence she was
wont, when Thou showedst her anything, but slight-
ing them. For she could, she said, through a certain
feeling, which in words she could not express, discern
betwixt Thy ravelations, 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 ; but|
as I liked her, I waited for her.


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Proposed reduse l\fe.


XrV. 24. And many of us friends conferring
about, and detesting the turbulent turmoils of hu-
man life, bad 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 niake 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 ten persons in this society;
some of us were very rich, especially liomanianus,
our townsman, from childhood a very familiar friend
6f mine, whom the grievous perplexities of his affairs
had brought up to court. He was the most earnest
for this project; and his voice was of great weight,
because his ample estate far exceeded any of the
rest Wo had settled, also, that two annual officers,
as it were, should provide all things necessary, the
rest being updisturbed. But when we began to con-
sider whether the wives, which some of us already
had, and others hoped to have, would allow this, all
that plan, which was being so well moulded, fell to
pieces in our hands, and was utterly dashed and cast
aside. Thence we betook us to sighs, and groans,
and to follow the broad and beaten ways of the
world.^ Many were the thoughts in our heart, but
Thy cpunsd standeth forever.* Out of which coun-
fiel Thou didst deride ours, and preparedst Thine
oWn i purposing to give its meat in dite season^ and

1 Hatt. tU. 18.


i Fft. 3ajLlU4 U*

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142 Ilii inveterate Hne*

to open Thy Jiand^ and to JUl our soxda aoUh bUsi-

XV, 25. Meanwhile my sins were multiplied, and
my concubine being torn from my side as a hin-
drance to my marriage, my heart, which clave unto
her, was torn and wounded and bleeding. And she
returned to Africa, 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 because not till after two years was I to
obtain my wife, and not being so much a lover of
marriage as a slave to lust, procured another concu-
bine, that so, by the servitude of an enduring custom,
the disease of my soul might be kept up antl carried
on in its vigor, or even augmented, into the dominion
of marriage. Nor was my wound cured, which had
been made by the previous incision, but after inflam-
mation and most acute pain, it mortified, and then
my pains became less acute, but more desperate.

XVI. 26. Praise be to Thee, glory to Thee, O
Fountain of mercies. I was becoming more miser-
able, and Thou becoming 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 dis-
putes with my friends, Alypius and Nebridius, con-
cembg the nature of good and evil, I held that


■■'.n,'^ ' ' i' ' ' ' ' =

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His inveterate eifis.


Epicanis would have, 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 drsorts, which Epicurus would not believe.
And I nskcd, " were we immortal, and to live in per-
petual binlily 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 which is seen only 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 no-
tions I then had of happiness, be hnpi)y without
fiiends, amid what abundance soever of carnal pleas-
ures. 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! Tossed up and down, upon back, sides, and
breast, it found only pain; for Thou alone art 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, " linn ; I will
carry you ; yea, I will bring you through ; beyond
also will I carry you.**

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I. 1. My evil and abominable youth was now
ended, and I was passing into early manhood ; the
more defiled by vain things as I grew in years, for I
oould not imagine any substance but such ns is wont
to be seen with these eyes. I did not think of Thee,
O God, under the figure of an 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 Thee I knew not. And I,
a man, and such a man, sought to conceive of Thee
the sovereign, only, tmc God; and I did in my in-
most soul believe that Thou art incorruptible, and
uninjnrable, and unchangeable; because, though not
knowing whence or how, yet I saw plainly and was

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His thirtj/ifirst year.


sure that the corruptible most be inferior to the in-
corruptible; what could not be injurecl, I preferred
unhesitatingly to what could receive injury ; the un-
ohauga'ihlo, to things subject to change. My heart
passionately cried out against all phantoms, and with
one blow I sought to beat away from the eye of my
mind all that nndean troop which buzzed around* it
And lo ! being scarcely driven ofl^ in the twinkling
of an eye they gathered agidn thick about me, flew
agunst my &ce, 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 change-
able) as being in space, either 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, qj^ and heaven, yet would it remain a void
place, as it were a spacious nothing.

2. I tlien being thus gross-hearted, nor clear even
to myself, whatsoever was not extended over certain
spaces, nor diiTused, nor condensed, nor swelled out,
or did not or could not receive some of these dimen-
sions, I thought to.be altogether nothing. For over
such forms as my eyes are wont to range, did my
heart tlion range : nor yet did I see that this same
notion of the mind, whereby I formed those very
images, was not of this sensuous sort, and yet the

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146 Inquiries about the Being of OocL

■' ■ ... I ■!■■ I 11— —1— ■ I I H II »

miml oould not have formod thorn, had not itself been
some great thing. So also did I endeavor to con-
oeivo of Thee, Life of my life, as vast, throngh infinite
spaces on every side penetrating the whole mass of
the universe, and beyond it, every way, through
unmeasurablo boundless spaces; so that tlie earth
should have Thee, the heaven have Thee, all things
have Thee, and they be bounded in Thee, and Thou
bounded nowhere. For as the body of this air which
is above the ea^h hinderqth not the light of the
f^un 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 eailh too^ pervious to Thee, so that in dll
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 cre-
ated. So I guessed, only as unable to conceive
aught else, for it was false. For in that case, a
greater part of the earth would contain a greater
portion of Thee, and a less, a lesser : and all things
would be full of Thee, in such manner that the body
of an elephant would contain more of Thee than
that of a span*ow, since it is laiger, and takes up
more room ; and thus Thou wouldest make the sev-
eral portions of Thyself present unto the several
portions of the world, in fi*agmonts, lai^o to the
large, little to the little. But such art nut Thou,
who hadst not as yet enlightened my darkness.

n. 8. It was enough for me, Lord, to oppose to
those deceived deceivers, and dumb praters, what

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Manner of OocTs presence in the Universe. 147

Kebridius used to propound, while we were yet at
Carthage, at which all we that heard it were stag-
gered : ^ That kingdom of dai'kness, which the Man-
ichecs nrc wont to set as an opposing mass, over
ngainsl God, what could it have done unto God, had
He refused to fight with it? For, if they answer, 'it
would have done God some hurt,' then would God
be subject to ii^ury and corruption : but if they an«
swer ' it could do God no hurt,' then there was no
reason why God should fight with it ; and fightings
too, in such wise, as that a certain portion or mem*-
ber of God, or ofiTspring of His very Substance,
should be mingled with opposed powers and na*
tures not created by God, 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 ol&pring of God's Substance was the soul,
which Ijcing enthralled, defiled, corrupted, the Divine
Word, free, pure, and whole, might relieve; that
Word Itself being also corruptible, because It was
of one and the same Substance.^ So then, should
they affiim God, whatsoever He is (that is, the Sub-
stance whereby He is), to be incorruptible, then were
all thvm sayings false and execrable; but if corrupt-
ible, the very statement showed it to be false and
revolting." This argument, then, of Nebridius suf*
Seed against those, who deserved wholly to be vom-

1 Comimre the •ooount of the Miinlohiraii eomnogony, together with
that of tlic Banilideui and Valeotinian Gnoetkism, In Gnerioke^e Cbnroh

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148 The problem of evil

ited oat of the overcharged stomach ; for thoy had
no escape from horrible blasphemy of heart and
tongue, thus thinking and speaking of Thee.

III. 4. Bat although I held, and was firmly per*
Buaded, that Thoa oar 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, art undefilable and unalterable, and in no
degree mutable, yet I understood not, clearly and
without difficulty, the cause of evil. And yet, what-
ever 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
the evil I was seeking to understand. I sought it
out, then, thus fiu* free from anxiety, certain of the
untruth of what the Manichees held, fi-om whom I
shrunk with my whole heart; for I saw that, through
inquiring the origin of evil, they were filled with evil,
in that they preferred to think that Thy substance
did sufier ill than that their own did commit it

5. And I strained to perceive what I now heard,
that fi-eewill was the cause of our dotnff ill, and Thy
just judgment of our mffering ill. But I was not
able clearly to discern it So, then, endeavoring to
draw my soul's vision out of that deep pit, I was
again plunged therein, and endeavoring often, I was
plunged back as often. But this raised me a little
into Tliy light, so that I knew as well that I liad a
will, as that I lived : when then I did will or nill
anything, I was most sure that no other than myself
did will and nill : and I all but saw that there was

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TTieprMem of evil


the cause of my sin. Bat what I did against mj
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 speed-
ily 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 thi^ in me, and in-
grafted into me this plant of bitterness, seeing I was
wholly foimed 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 deviV seeing the whole na-
ture of angels was made by that most good Creator?
By thcHo thoughts I was again sunk down and clicked;
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.*

rV. 6. For I was striving to find out the rest,
having already found that the incorruptible must
needs be better than the corruptible : and whatso-
ever Thou wert, I confessed Thee to be incorrupt-
ible. For never soul was, nor shall bo, able to
conceive anything which may be better than Thou,
who art the sovereign and the best good. But
since, most tnily and certainly, the incorruptible its

1 The qncRtton : What is the efllelent oauM of an eril willf Aogustiiie,
at a latpr dny, afllnncd (o bo inadmlMlblo because It inrolrea a self-con-
tradiotloii. Soe Do Clvitate Del, XII. 7. — Ed.

3 PH. ▼!. fi

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150 27ie problem of eviL

f' l ' ■ I wii i IP ■!■■» ■■ I » m I n il

preferable to the corruptible (as I did now prefer
it), then if Thou wert not incorruptible, I could in
thongl^t have arrived at something better tliai^ my
God. Where then I saw the incorruptible to b^
preferable to the corruptible, there ought I to seek
for Thee, and there observe ^wherein evil itself
was;'' that is, whence corruption comes, l»y which
Thy substance can by no means be impaired. Fpr
corruption doea 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 con*upted is not good. Nor
art Thou against Thy will constrained to do any-
thing,since Thy will is not greater than Thy power. But
croater should it be, were Thyself greater than Thy-
self. For the will and power of God, b God Him-
self. 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 more rea-
son should we give, ^ why that substance which God
is should not be corruptible," seeing if it wei'c so, it
should not be God ?

V. ?• 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 in-
habitants thereo£ But these very beings, as though
they were bodies, did my iknoy dispose each in its

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T/ie problem of evil 151

own place, and I made one great mass of Thy crea-
tion, distinguished as to the kinds of bodies ; some,
real bodies; some, what myself had feigned for spuits.
And this mass I made huge, not as it was (whiol^ I
could not know), but as I thought fitting, yet every
way finite. But Thee, Lord, I unagined on every
part environing and penetrating it, though every
way infinite : as if there were a sea, everywhere, and
on every side, through unmeasured space, one only
boundless sea, and it contained within it a 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, lull of Thee,
the Infinite; and I said. Behold Gk>d, and behold
what God hath created ; and Qod is good, yea, most
mightily and incomparably better than all these : but
yet lie, the Good, created them good : and see how
Ho environs and full-fills 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 cither that evil which wo fear
actually exists, or else our fear is evil. Whence is evil,
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 Cre-
ator and created, all are good. Whence, then, is evil ?
Was tliore some cvjl inntlcr out of which IIo madci

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152 !77le problem of evil

and formed, and ordered those lesser goods, yet left
something m this matter which He did not convert
into good ? Why so, then ? Had He no might to
tarn and change the whole, so that no evil should
remain in it, seeing He is All-mighty? Lastly, why
would He make anything at all of it, and not rather
by the same AUmightiness 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 Almighty have effected, that this evil matter
should not be, and He alone be, the whole, true,
sovereign and infinite Good. Or, if it wtis not good
that He, who is good, should not also frame and
create something that were good, then, tliat evil
matter being taken away and brought to nothing,
He might form good matter, whereof to create all
things. For He would not be Almighty, 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, over-
charged with the most gnawing anxiety lest I should
die ere I had found the truth ; yet was the fnith of
Thy Christ our Lord and Saviour, professed in the
Church Catholic, firmly fixed in my heart, in many
points, although yet unformed, and fluotuatinir from
the rule of doctrine ; yet my mind did not utterly
leave it, but rather daily took in more and more
of it. •

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No faith to be placed in aetroloffere. 168

VI. 8. B7 this time, also, had I rejected the lying
divinations and impious dotages of the astrologers.
Let Tliine own mercies, out of my very inmost soulj
confess unto Thee for Uiis also, O my Gk>d. For
Thou, lliou altogether (for who else calls us back
from the death of all errors, save the Life which can**
not die, and the Wisdom which, needing no light,
enlightens the minds that need it, whereby the
universe is directed, down to the whirlmg leaves
of trees?) Thou madest provision for my obstinacy
wherewith I struggled agunst Yindicianus,^ an acute
old man, and Nebridius, a young man of admirable
talents ; the first vehemently afBrming, 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 lot-
tery, and that out of many things, which they sdd
should come to pass, some actually did, unawares to
them who spake it, who stumbled upon it, through
their oft speaking." Thou providest then a friend
fot me, who was no negligent consulter of the astrol*
ogers; nor yet was he well skilled in those astrolog-
ical arts, but (as I said) a curious consulter with

Online LibraryWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.)The confessions of Augustine → online text (page 12 of 31)