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

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My friends meanwhile took no care by marriage to
9ave my fall ; their only care was that I should learn
tOifli^ak excellently, and be a persuasive orator.
(jO^. 5. For that year were my studies intermitted:
wmlst, after my return fix>m Madaura (a neighboring
city, whither I had journeyed to learn grammar and
rhetoric), the expenses for a fiirther journey to Car-
thage were being provided for me ; and that, rather
by the resolution than the means of my father, who
was but a poor freeman of Tageste. To whom tell
I this? not to Thee, my Ood ; but before Thee to

ilCor.TU.a2,88. tDeut zuU.419.

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^ec^ of idleness — hismothei's fears for him. 3l

mine own kind, even to such small portion of man-
kind as may light npon these writings of mine. And
to what pnrpose? that whosoever reads this, may
think out of what depths toe 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, that heyond the ahility of his means, he would
famish his son with all necessaries for a far journey
for his studies' sake? 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 ; nor, were I but copious in speech,
how barren in Thy culture, O God, was the field of
my heart

6. -But while in that my sixteenth year I lived with
my parents, leaving school for a while (a season
of idleness being intcqiosod, through the narrowness
of my parents' fortunes), the briers of unclean desire
grew rank over my head, and there was no hand to
root them out. When my father saw me at the
baths, now growing toward manhood, and endued
with a restless youthfhlness, as if anticipating his
descendants, he gladly told it to my mother; rejoic-
ing 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 the invisible wine of its self-
will, turning aside and bowing down to the very
basest things. But in my mother's bi'east Thou
hadst already Thy temple, and the foundation of

1 re. oxxx. 1.

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82 God 9pake to him throuffh his mother.

Thy holy habitation, whereas my £ither was as yet
but a catechumen, and that but recently. She then
was startled with an holy fear and trembling ; and
though I was not as yet baptized, feared for me those
crooked ways, in which they walk, toAo turn their
back to T/ieBy (vid not tikcirface}

7 Woe is me ! and dare I say that Thou heldest
Thy }>eace, O my God, while I wandered further
from Thee? Didst Thou then indeed hold Thy
peace to me? And whose but thine were those
words which by my mother, Thy fiuthful one. Thou
sangest in my ears? But it entered not into my
heart to do as she desired. For she wbhed, 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 old
wives' counsels, which I should blush to obey. But
ithey were Thine, and I knew it not ; and I thought
'Thou wcrt silent, and that it was she who spake; by
whom Thou wort not silent unto me: and in her
person wast Thou despised by me, her son, Um $on of
Tliy handmaid, Thy servant? But I knew it not
then ; and I ran headlong with such blindness, that
amongst my equals I was ashamed to be less vicious,
when I heard them boast of their wickedness ; yea,
and the more boast, the more they were degraded ;

1 and I took pleasure, not only in the pleasure of the
deed, but in the praise. What is worthy of blame
but Vice? But I made myself worse than I was,
that I might not be dispraised ; and when in any-

1 J«r. II. 37. t Pb. exTl. 16.

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Ood spake to him through his mother. 88

thing I had not sinned like the abandoned ones, I
woald 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.
8. Behold with what companions I walked thci
streets of Babylon, and wallowed in the mire thereof,)
as if in a bed of spices and precious ointments. And
that I might be knit the more firmly to the very root
of sin, the invisible enemy trod me down, and se-
duced me, for I was then made fit matter for him
to work upon. Neither did the mother of my flesh
(who had now fled out of tJie cetUre qf JBdbylo)i}
yet went more slowly in the skirts thereof), al-
though she advised me to chastity, so heed what
she had heard of me from her husband, as to re-
strain within the bounds of conjugal affection (if it
could not bo pared away to tlio quick), what she felt
to be pestilent at present, and for the future danger-
ous. She heeded not this, 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 slie ac-
counted that those usual courses of learning would
not only be no hindrance, but even some further-
ance towards attaining Thee. Thus I conjecture, re-
calling, as well as I may, the disposition of my pa-
rents. The reins, meantime, were slackened to me.

1 Jer. li. 6.

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84 The/t far the pleature of ihiwing.

' I ■ ■ ■ .. ■ I .1 11 »

beyond all roason, to spend my time in sport, yea,
giving too large a scope to my affections. And in
all was a mist, intercepting from me, O my GU>d, the
brightness of Thy truth; and mine iniquity burst
ouf^i>/roni veryfatneaa}

\JV^. Theft, b punisliod by Thy Law, Lord,
aimtho law written in the hearts of men, which
iniquity itself cannot blot out. For what thief will
endure a thief? not even a rich thief will endure one
who steals through want. Tet I lusted to thieve, and
did it, compelled by no hunger, nor poverty, but
through a disgust at well-doing, and a pampered*
ness of iniquity. For I stole tliat of which I had
enough and much better. Nor ciiivd 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, tempt-
ing neither for color nor taste. To shake and rob'
this, some lewd young fellows of us went, late one
night (having, according to our pestilent custom, pro-
longed our sports in the streets till then), and took
huge loads, not for our eating, but to fling to the
very hogs, having only tnsted them. And this we
did only because we would do that which wais not
lawful.* Behold my heart, O Gk)d, 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 when I would 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 my

1 Pt Ixxtit. 7.

s Baxter in hit tutobiogrtphy mtket a oonftttion almott idflntteAl
with this one. See lkM>k I l*t i. — Ed.

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All sin prcpoaes same end.


own &ult ; not that for which I was &ulty, but my
fault it8el£ Foul soul, falling from Thy firmament
to utter destruction ; not seeking aught through the
slianio, but the shamo itsrif !

V. 10. For there is an attractiveness in beautifhl
bodies, in gold and silver, and all things; and in
bodily touch sympathy has much influence, and
each other sense hath his proper object answerably
tempered. Worldly honor 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 whereby 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 im-
moderate inclination towai*ds these goods of the
lowest order, the better and higher are forsaken, —
Thyself our Lord God, Thy truth, and Thy law.
For these lower things have their delights, but they
are not like my God, who made all things; for in
IRm doth tfie rifffUcous delifffUj and lie is t/ie Joy
of the vprigJU in heart}

11. When, therefore, inquiry is made why any.
wickedness was done, it is usually conceived to have
proceeded either from the desiro of obtaining some
of tho9e things which we called lower goods, or

1 ft. Ixir. 10.

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86 All Hn proposes some end^ and

I from a fear of losing them. For they are beautiful
and comely; although, compared with 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 something by him; or was on firo to
be revenged. Would any commit murder only for
the delight he takes in murdering ? Who would be-
lieve 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 inac-
tive."^ And to what end? that, through that prac-
tice of guilt, he might, when once he had taken the
city, attain to honor, empire, riches, and be freed
from fear of the laws, which he feared through the
conscience of his own viUany, and from the possi-
bility of want. So not even Catiline himself loved
his own villanies, but something else, to obtain which
he would be wicked.

YI. 12. 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 Qod ;
Ood, the sovereign good and my true good. Fair
I were those pears, but not them did my wretched
soul desire ; for I had store of better, and I gath*

1 SalluttU Ccumnm, IG ^ Ko.

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imitates pervertecBt/ some excellence of God. 87

ered those only that I might steal. For, when gath-
ered, I flang them away^ my only feast therein being
my own sin, which I was pleased to enjoy. For if
anght of those pears came within my mouth, what
sweetened it was the sin. And now, O Lord my
GU>d, I enquire what in th.'vt theft delighted me ; and i
behold it bath no loveliness; I mean not such loveli-'
ness 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 be-
longeth to deceiving vices.

13. For so doth pride imitate exaltedness ; whereas t
Thou alone art God exalted over all. Ambition,
what seeks it, but honors and glory? whereas Thou
alone art to be honored 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 ten-
derness 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 foolish-
ness itself is cloaked under the name of simplicity
and harmlessness ; yet nothing is found mora single
than Thee : and what less injurious, since they are

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88 Men seek the creature instead of the Creator.

hiB own works, which injure tho sinner ? Yes, sloth
would fain be at rest; but what stable rest be-
sides the Lord ? Luxury afieets to be called plenty
and abundance ; but Thou art the fulness and nev-
er-failing plenteousness of incorruptible pleasures.
Prodigality presents a show of liberality : but Thou
art the most overflowing Qivcr of all good. Gov-
etousness would possess many things; and Thou
possessest all things. Envy i^rangles for precedence;
but what can contend with Thee? Anger seeks
revenge ; and who revenges justly but Thou ? Fear
startles at things unwonted or sudden, which endan*
ger things beloved, and takes forethought for their
safety ; but to Thee what is unwonted or sudden,, or
who can separate from Thee what Thou lovest ?^ Or
where but with Thee is safety ? Grief pines away
for the lost delight of its desires ; and wishes that it
might not be deprived of any thing, more than Thou
canst be.

14. Thus doth the soul commit fornication, when
she turns from Thee, seeking otherwhere than in
Thee, what she findeth not pure and untainted till
she returns to Thee.. Thus perversely all imitate
Thee, who remove far from Thee, and lift themselves
up against Thee. But even by thus imitating Thee,
they imply Thee to bo the Creator of all nature;
and that there is no place whither they can retire
from Theo. What then did I love in that theft?
and wherein did I even coiTuptly and perversely
imitate my Lord ? Did I wish, by a kind of sleight^

1 Bom. Till. 9.

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Through Ood alofie are nien kept from sin. 9d
■ ■ ■ 11 I ^

to do contrary to Thy law, because I coald not by
strong hand; that whilst I was no better than a
bond slave, I might counterfeit a false libeity, by
doing without punishment what I could not do with-
out sin, in a darkened likeness of Thy Omnipotency ?
YII. 15. Behold this slave, fleeing from his Loi*d,
and laying hold of a shadow.^ O rottenness I O^
monstrousness of life, and depth of death I did I like/
what I ought not, only because I ought not f WhcU
$JiaU I render unto the Lordf that, whilst my mem-t
ory recalls these things, my soul is not aflMghted
at them? Make nie to love Thee^ JLordy aaxd
ihwik ITtee^ and co7\fes8 unto Thy name; because
Thou hast forgiven me these groat and heinous
deeds of mine, and hast melted away my sins as;
they were ice. To Thy grace I ascribe also what-
soever sins I have not committed ; for what might I
not have done, who even loved a sin for its own
sake ? Yea, I confess all to have been forgiven me ;
both what evils I committed by my own wilfulness,
and what by Thy help I committed not. What manr
is he, who, weighing his own infirmity, dares to as-'
cribe liis chastity and innocency to his own strength; \
that so lie should love Thee the less, as if he less '
needed Thy mercy, whci-eby Thou romittost sins to
those that turn to Thee ? For whosoever, called by
Thee, followed Thy voice, and avoided those things
which he finds me recalling and confessing of my-
self let him not laugh at me, who, being siok^
was cured by tliat Physician, through whose aid it

lJonahli4. srB.oxvl.12.

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40 Man not strong enough

was that ho is not siok at all, or rather is less siek ;
but let him love Thee as much as I do, yea, and
more; since he sees me to have been recovered from
such deep consumption of sin, by Him who pre-
sei^^^^hmi from the like consumption of sin.
\/yni^I6. And whcU fruit had I even frotn tliose
thtngsj of the remembrance tofiereof I am now
ashamed? ^ Especially from that theft which I loved
for the theft's sake; it was nothing, and therefore
,the more miserable was I, who loved it. Alone, I
had not done it : such as I was then, I remember,
alone I had never done it I loved it in the com-
pany of the accomplices, with whom I did it. Did
I then love something else besides the theft? Nay I
did love nothing else ; for that circumstance of the
company was also nothing. Wlio can teach me the
truth, save He that enlighteneth my heart, and dis-
covereth its dark comers? What is this which I
take in hand to inquire, and discuss, and consider ?
For had I 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 secure my
pleasure ; nor needed I have inflamed the itching of
my desires, by the excitement of accomplices. But
fsince my pleasure was not in those pears, it was in
the offence itself, to which the company of fellow-
sinners did concur.

IX. 17. What, then, was this feeling ? Of a truth
it was foul : and woo was me, who had it ; but yet
(What was it ? Who can tmderstand his errors t* It

1 Bom. Ti. ai. sPikxlx.ll.

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to bear iU society.


was the sport, which, as it were, tickled our hearts, /
in that we deceived those who little thought what
we were doing, and would have disliked it Why
then was my delight of such soit, that I did it not
alone? Because none doth ordinarily laugh alone?
ordinarily no one; yet laughter sometimes masters
men alone and singly when no one whatever is with
them, if anything very ludicrous presents itself to
their senses or mind. But I had not done this
alone ; alone, I had never, never done it. Behold,
my God, before Thee, the vivid remembrance of my
soul; alone, I had never committed that thefl; for
what I stole pleased me not. O friendship, thou art
too unfriendly I thou incomprehensible seducer of
the soul ; out of mirth and wantonness grow desire
to do others hurt, without lust of our own gain or
revenge : but when it is said, " Let 's go, let *s do it,"
we are ashamed not to be shameless.

X. 18. Who can disentangle that twisted and in-
tricate knottiness of my soul? 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 unsatingl
With Thee is rest entire, and life imperturbable. I^"
that enters into Tliee, erUers into t/ie Joy of his
Zord;^ and sliall 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 youtfr, and I became to
myself a barren land.

1 Hitt zxT. n.

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[*o Carthftge I oamo, where there snng all
around mo in my oars a oauldron of unholy loves.
I loved not truly, as yet, yet I loved to love, and out
of a deep-seated craving, I hated myself for not crav-
ing. 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 hun-
gered ; but was without all lon^ng 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 Ibiserably 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
bo beloved, was sweet to me ; but more when I ob-
tained to enjoy the person I loved. I defiled, there-
fore, the clear spring of friendship with the filth of
concupiscence, and I beclouded its brightness with the

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Tnie and false sympathy. 43

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, witli how much
gaU 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-brinpng bonds,
that I might be scourged with the iron burning-rods
of jealousy, and suspicions, and fears, and angers, and

(ix^ 2. 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
by no means suffer ? yet he desires as a spectator to
feel sorrow at them, and this very sorrow is his plea-
sure. What is this but a miserable madness ? for a
man is the moro affected with these actions, the less
A^e he is from such affections. When a man suf«
fers in his own person, it is styled misery; when
he compassionates others, then it is mercy. But
what soit of compassion is this for feigned and
Bcenical passions ? for the auditor is not called on to
relieve, but only to gi-iovc : and he applauds the ac-
tor 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 spec-
tator is not moved to tears, he goes away dbgusted
and criticising; but if he be inovod to passion, he
stays intent, and weeps for joy.

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44 IVue ami false sympathy.

I 8. AvQ griefs then too love<l? Vorily nil dcBiro
[ joy. Or since no man likes to be miserable, is he
yet pleased to be merciful ? which because it cannot
j be without sorrow, for this reason alone is sorrow
I loved ? This also springs from the vein of fnend-
ship. 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. Let griefs then sometimes be
loved. But beware of undeanness, O my soul, un-
der the guardianship of my God, the Ood of ottr
fathers^ who is to be praised and exalted above att
for ever^ beware of undeanness. For I do not take
myself to be without 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 perni-
cious pleasure, and the loss of some miserable felicity.
This certainly is the truer mercy, but in it, grief de-
lights not For though he that grieves for the mis-
erable, be commended for his ofHco of charity; yet
had he, who is genuinely compassionate, rather^thcre
were nothing to grieve for. For if good will be ill-

1 Song of the Three Children, Ter. 8.

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Ir^ury offodae sympathy.


willed (which can never be), then may ho, who truly J
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 a more incoiTuptible pity,
yet art wounded with no sorrowfulness. And who is I
sufficient for these things f^

4. But I, miserable, then loved to grieve, and
sought out what to grieve at ; and that acting best
pleased me, and attracted me the most vehemently,
which drew tears from me. What marvel was it that
a forlorn sheep, straying from Thy flock, and impa-
tient of Thy keeping, I became infected with a foul
disease? And hence the love of grieft; not such asi
should sink deep into me; for I loved not to suffer
what I loved to look on ; but such as upon heaiing
their fictions should lightly scratch the surface ; from
which, as from envenomed nails, followed inflamed
swelling, impostumes, and a putrified sore. My life
^tp^such, was it life, O my God ?

VlII^5. And Thy faithful mercy hovered over me f
from afiur. Upon how grievous iniquities consumed I
myself, following a sacrilegious curiosity, that having
forsaken Thee, it might bring mo to the treacherous
abyss, and the beguiling service of devils, to whom I
offered my evil actions as a saciifice. And in all these
things Thou didst scoui^e me 1 I dared even, while
Thy solemnities were celebrated within the walls
of Thy church, to lust, and to compass a business


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46 Augu9t%n^9 literary ambition.

Online LibraryWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.)The confessions of Augustine → online text (page 5 of 31)