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

The confessions of Augustine online

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sun and moon, — what day and hour, and how many
digits, — nor did their calculation fail, but it came to
l^ass as they foretold ; and they wrote down the rules
they had found out, and these are read at this day,
and out of them do others foretell in what year, and
month of the year, and what day of the month, and
what hour of the day, and what part of its light,
moon or sun is to be eclipsed, and so it shall bo as it
b foreshowed. At these things men, that know not
this art, marvel and are astonished, and they that
know it, exult, and are puffed up ; and by an ungodly
' pride departing from Thee, and failing of Tliy light,
they foresee so long before, a failure of the sun's
light, which shall be, but see not the failure of their
own, which now is. For they search not religiously
to know, whence they have the wit wherewith they
search out this. And finding that Thou madest
them, they give not themselves up to Tliee, to pre-
serve what Thou madest, nor sacrifice to Thoc, what
they have made themselves; nor slay their own soar-
ing imaginations, as fowls of the air^ nor their own
diving curiosities (wherewith, like the Jlshes of the^

1 rs. scdT. 18.



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We mu8f sacrifice seffy to Jcrt^ GqcL



9,8



sea^ they wander over the unknown paths of the
abyos), nor their own luxuriousness, as beaaU of the
field, tlint ThoUy Lord^ a coneumivg fire? mayest
bum up those dead cares of theirs, and recreate
tliemsclves immortally,

5. For they knew not the Way, Thy Word^* by
Wl^pm Thou madest ]these things which they num-
ber, and themselves whp number, and the sense
whereby they perceive what they number, and the
npderstanding out of which they number; or that
of Hiy wisdom there is no tmmber} But the Only
Begotten is Himself made unto us wisdom^ and
righteousness^ and sanct\ficationf and was numbered
among us, and paid tribute unto Ccesar} They
knew not this Way whereby to descend to Him
from themselves, and by Him ascend unto Him.
They know not this Way, and deemed themselvej
exalted among the stars and shining; and behold,
thcy/<7/ upon the earthy and tlieir foolish heart toc^s
ifarkenedJ They discourse many things truly con-
cerning the creature; but Truth, Artificer of the
creature, they seek not piously, and therefore find
Him not; or if they find Him, knowing JERm to be
Oody tltey glorify Eim not as Oody neither are
ihankfuly hut become vain in their imaginations^ and
profess themselves to be vnse^ attributing to them-
selves what is Thine ; and thereby with most per-
verse blindness, study to impute to Thee what is



W



iri.THI.7,8. 4Pi.tolTU.5.
SDeat.if.24. SI Cor. 1.80.
tJolmi.8. 6 HMt SCTil. 87.



7 le. xir. 18; Rer. xU. i\ Bom. i.9L
8IIOIII.1.2L



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94 Knowledge of God the greatest happitiesa.

their own, forging lies of Thee who art the Truth,
; and changing the glory of the uncorruptible Ood into
an image made like corruptible man^ and to birds^
and four footed bea^ts^ and creeping things^ changing
Thy truth into a liCy and worshipping ami serving
the creature more Hum tfie Creator}

6. Yet mjiny truths concerning the creatui-c learned
I from these men, and saw the reason thereof from
calculations, the succession of times, and the visible
r testimonies of the stars ; and compared them with
I the views of Manichfeus, which in his frenzy he had
written out most largely on these subjects; but I
discovered not any account of the solstices, or equi-
noxes, or the eclipses of the greater lights, nor what-
ever of this soi*t I had learned in the books of secular
philosophy. But I was commanded to believe ; and
yet it corresponded not with what had been estab-
lished by calculations and my own sight, but was
quite contrary.

IV. 7. Doth then, O Lord God of truth, he who
knoweth these things, therefore please Thee ? Surely
unhappy is he who knoweth all these, and knoweth
not Thee: but happy whoso knoweth Thee, though
he know not these. And whoso knoweth both Thee
1 and them, is not the happier for them, but for Thee
I only, if knowing TTiee^ he glorifies Thee as Oodj and
is thanff/ul^ and becomes not vain in his imagina-
tions.* For as ho is better off who knows how to
possess a tree, and return thanks to Thee for the use
thereof although he know not how many cubits high

1 Bom. 1. 28. t Bom. L tL



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Seretics a Moaming to the faithful.



95



it is, or bow wide it spreads, than he that can meas-
ure it, and count all its boughs, and neither owns it
nor knows or loves its Creator: so a l>cliever, tol
whom nil tids world of wealth belongs (since lutving
nothing^ lie yet posaesseth aU things^ by cleaving
unto Tliee, whom all things serve), though he know
not even the circles of the Great Bear, is doubtless
in a better state than one who can measure the heav-
ens and number the stars, and poise the elements, .
yet neglccteth Thee who hast made all things %n\
number^ weight and mecumre.* ^

Y. 8. I3ut yet who bade that unknown Manichaeus
to write on these things, the knowledge of which is
no element of piety? For Thou hast said to man,)
JBeholdj pietg and wisdom;^ of which he might be
ignorant, though he had perfect knowledge of these
things, liut since Manichaeus in reality knew not
these things, and yet most impudently dared to teach
them, ho plainly could have no knowledge of pietyl
For it is vanity to make profession of these worldly
things even when known ; but confession to Thee is
piety. Wherefore this errorist to this end spake
much of these things, that convicted by those who
had truly learned them, it might be ninnifest what
understanding he had in the other abstniser things.
For he would not have himself meanly thought of,
but' went about to persuade men, "That the Holy
Ohost, the Comforter and Enricher of Thy faithful
ones, wns with plenary authority personally within
him.'* When, therefore, ho was found out to have



1 Cor. vi. 10.



awi«i.zi.20.



SJobxxvin.28. LXX.



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96 Thith not to be valued^ nor

taught falsely of the hoaven and stars, an<1 of tho
motions of the sun and moon (although these things
pertain not to the doctrine of religion), his sacri-
legious presumption became evident enongli, seeing
ho delivered things v^hich not only he knew not, but
which wore falsified, with so mod a vanity of pride,
that be sought to ascribe them to himself, as to a
divine person.

{ 9. For when I hear any Christian brother ignorant
I of these things, and mistaken on them, I can patiently
behold such a man holding his opinion ; nor do I see
that any ignorance as to the position or character of
the corporeal creation can injure him, so long as he
doth not believe anything unworthy of Thee, O
Lord, the Creator of all. But it doth injure him if
he imagine it to pertain to the form of tho doctrine
of piety, and will affirm that too stiffly whereof he is
ignorant. And yet b even such an infirmity, in the
infiincy of faith, borne by our mother Charity, till the
new-bom may ffrow up unto a perfect man, souanot
to be carried about with every toind of doctrine}
But in the instance of him who in such wise pre-
sumed to be the teacher, source, guide, chief of all
whom he could so persuade, that whoso followed
him thought that he followed not a mere man, but
Thy Holy Spirit; who would not judge that when
he were once convicted of having taught anything
false, he were to be detested and utterly rejected ?
But I bad not as yet clearly ascertained whether the
vicissitudes of longer and shorter days and nights^

1 E|>li. l7. 18, 14.



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9U^9ectedifor its otUtoard garb.



97



and of day and night itself with the eclipses of the
greater lights, and whatever else of the kind I had
read of in other books, might be explained consist-
ently with his sayings; so that, if they by any
means might be, it should still remain a question to
me whether it were so or no ; and yet I might, on
account of his reputed sanctity, rest my credence
upon his authority.

yi. 10. And for almost all those nine years,
wherein with unsettled mind I had been their disci-
ple, I had longed but too intensely for the coming 1
of this Faustus. For the rest of the sect, whom by
chance I had lighted upon, when unable to solve my
objections about these things, still held out to me
the coming of this Faustus, by conference with
whom, these and greater difficulties, if I had them,
were to t>c most readily and abundantly cleai*ed.
When, tlien, he came, I found him a man of pleasing
discourse, and who could speak fluently and in better
terms, yet still but the self-same things which they
were wont to say. But what availed the utmost
neatness of the cup-bearer, to my thirat for a more
precious draught? Mine ears were already cloyed
with the like, nor did they seem to me therefore
better, bocause better said ; nor therefore true, bo-
cause eloquent; nor the soul therefore wise, because
the fhce was comely and the language graceful. But
they who held him out to me were no good judges
of things ; and therefore to them he appeared intel- \
ligent and wise, because his words were pleasing. I ^
romomlK»red, however, that another soit of pcoplo



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98 FmisUi^ tuperficiality^ how diagtdsed.

wero snspiciotis oven of truth, and refused to assent
to it, if delivured in a smooth and copious discourse.
But Thou, O my Ood, hadst already taught me by
wonderful and secret ways ; and I believe that Thou
taughtest me, because it is truth; nor is there, besides
/Thee, any teacher of truth, where or whencesoeyer
jit may shine upon us. Of Thyself, therefore, hod I
now learned that neither ought anything to seem to
be spoken truly, because eloquently; nor therefore
falsely, because the utterance of the lips is inharmo-
nious ; nor, again, therefore true, because rudely de-
livered ; nor therefore false, because the lanp^nage is
rich ; but that wisdom and folly are as wholesome
and unwholesome food ; and adorned or unadorned
[phrases, as courtly or country vessels : either kind of
meats may be served up in either kind of dishes.

11. That longing, then, wherewith I had so long
expected that man, was delighted verily with his
action and feeling when disputing, and his choice
and readiness of words to clothe his ideas. I was
delighted, and, with many others and more than
they, did I praise and extol him. It troubled me,
j however, that in the assembly of his auditors, I was
not allowed to put in, and communicate those ques-
tions that troubled me, in familiar converse with
him. Which, when I might, and with my friends
began to engage his ears at such times as it was not
unbecoming for him to discuss with me, and had
brought forward such things as moved me, I found
I him first utterly ignorant of liberal sciences, save
I grammar, and that but in an ordinary way. But



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FanstuB* Buperjiciality^ how disyuUed* 99

because he had read some of Tolly's Orations, a very
few books of Seneca, some things of the poets, and
such few volumes of his own sect as were written in
Latin and neatly, and was daily practised in speak-
ing, he acquired a certain eloquence, which proved
the more pleasing and seductive because under the
guidance of a good wit, and with a kind of natural
gracefulness. Was it not thus, as I recall it, O Lord
my God, Thou Judge of my conscience ? My heart
and my remembrance is before Thee, Who didst at
that time direct me by the hidden mystery of Thy
providence, and didst set those shameful errors of I
mine before my fape, that I might see and hate
them.^

VII. 12. For, after it was dear that he was igno-
rant of those arts in which I thought he excelled, I
began to despair of bis opening and solving the difli4
culties which perplexed me (of which, indeed, how-^
ever ignorant, he might yet have held the truths of
piety, had he not been a Manichee) ; for their books
are fraught with prolix fables of the heaven, and
stars, sun and moon ; and I now no longer thought
him able satisfactorily to decide what I much desired,
whether, on comparison of these things with the cal-
culatiouH I had elsewhere read, the account given in
the books of ManichaDus were preferable, or at least
as good. Which, when I proposed to be considered
and discussed, he, so far modestly, shrunk from the
burthen. For he knew that he knew not these
things, and was not ashamed to confess it. For he

1 n. 1. 21.



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loo 8n(xres to others disentangle Augustine.

" ■- ». .. ■ .^ . . ■

irih n6t oiio of ihdM talking ponk)n8, tniiny of Whdm
I had endnrcd, who nndertook to teach me {hese
things, and said nothing. Bat this man had a heart|
though riot right towards Thee, yet neither alto-
gether treacherous to himsel£ For he was not al-
together ignorant of his own ignorance, nor would
he rashly be entangled in a dispute, whence hd could
neither retreat, nor extricate himself fidrly. Even
fbf this I liked him the better. For fairer U the
modesty of a candid mind, than the knowledge of
those things which I desired ; and such I found hini
in all the more difficult and subtile questions.

id. My zeal for the writings of Manicha3us being
thus blunted, and despairing yet more of their other
pitchers, seeing that in divers things which perplexed
me, he, so renowned among them, had so turned out;
I began to engage with him in the study of that lit-
erature, on which he also was much set (and which
vA rhetoric-reader I was at that time teaching young
^ students at Carthage), and to read with him, either
what himself desired to hear, or such as I judged fit
for his genius. But all my efforts whereby I had
purposed to advance in that sect, upon knowledge
of that man, came utterly to an end ; not that I
detached myself from them altogether, but as one
finding nothing better, I had settled to be content
meanwhile witli wh&t I had in whatever way fiillen
upon, Unless by chance something more eligible
should dawn upon me. Thus Faustus, to so many a
sndre of death, had now, neither willing nor witting
it, begun to loosen that wherein I was taken. For



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Augustine Ud td JRome^for his scUvntioru 101

Thy hands, my Qod, in thd secret purpose of Thy I
providence, did not forsake my soul ; ilnd oat of my '
nlother's heart's blood, through her teiii^ night and
day poured out, was a sacrifice oiTorod for me unto
Thee; and Thou didst deal with me by Wondious
ways.* Thou didst it, O my Qodr for the steps of a t
fjtan are ordered by th4 Zordy and Ms shaU disj^ose ».
his v>ay? Or how shall we obtain salvation, but |
b6m Tliy hand, remaking what It made 1 '

VIII. 14. It was Thy doing, O Lord, that I should
be persuaded to go to liotite, and to teach th^re^
what I was teaching at Carthage. And how I was
persuaded to this, I will not neglect to confess to
Thee : because herein also the deepest recesses o^
Thy wisdom, and Thy most present mercy to us,
must be considered and confessed. I did not wish
to go to Rome, because highei' gains and higher^
dignities were warranted me by my friends whoj
persuaded me to this (though even these things had
at that time an influence over my mind) ; but my
chief and almost only reason was, that I heard that
young men studied there more peacefully, and were
kept quiet under a restraint of more regular disci
pline ; so that they did not, at their pleasure, petu-
Idntly rush into the school of one whoso pupils they
were not, nor were even admitted without his per-
mission. Whereas, at Carthage, there reigns among
the scholars a most disgraceful and unruly license.
They bui-st in audaciously, and, with gestures almost
frantic, disturb all order which any one hath estalv



iJoel U. 96.



S Pi xzxrU. 28.



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102 Otheri vanities and his own.

Ibhed for tko good of his sdiolars. Divers outr&gos
they commit, with a wondi^ful stolidity, punishable
by law, did not custom uphold them ; that custom
evincing them to be the more miserable, in that they
now do as lawful what by Thy eternal law shall never
be lawfhl; and they think they do it un|Minished,
whereas they are punished with the voiy blindness
whereby they do it, and suffer incomparably worse
than what they do. The manners, then, whieli, when
a student, I would not make my own, I was fain, as
a teacher, to endure in others : and so I was well
pleased to go where all that knew assured me that
the like was not done. But Thou, my refnye and
my portion in the land of the living}^ that I might
change my earthly dwelling for the salvation of my
soul, at Carthage didst goad me, that I might thereby
be torn from it ; and at Rome didst proffer mo allure-
ments, whereby I might be drawn thither, by men in
love with a dying life : the one class doing frantic,
the other promising vain, things ; and, to coiTect my
steps, didst secretly use their and my own pcrverse-
ness. For both they who dbturbed my quiet were
blinded with a disgraceful frenzy, and they who in-
vited me elsewhere, savored of earth. And I, who
here detested real misery, went there seeldng unreal
happiness.

15. But why I went hence, and went thither,
Thou knowest, O God, yet showodst it neither to
me nor to my mother, who grievously bewailed my
I journey, and followed me as far as the sea. But I

1 Fib. ezlfi.6.



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Ills moth^B prayers heard^ though denied. 108

deceived her, as she held me by force, that either she
might keep me back, or go with me ; and I feigned
that I had a friend whom I could not leave, till he
had A fair wind to soil. And I lied to my mother,
and to such a mother, and escaped. For this also
hast T])ou mercifully forgiven me, preserving me,
thus full of execrable defilements, from the waters
of the sea, for the water of Thy Grace; whereby,
when I was cleansed, the streams of my mothei''s
eyes sliould be dried, with which for me she daily
watered the ground under her fiice. And yet refus-
ing to return without me, I scarcely persuaded her
to stay that night in a place hard by our ship, where
was an Oratory in memory of the blessed Cyprian.
That night I privily departed, but she remained
weeping and in prayer. And what, O Lord, was she(
with so many tears asking of Thee, but that Thou^
wouUlnst not suffer me to sail? But Thou, in the'
depth of Thy counsels and hearing the miun point
of her desire, regai*dest not what she then asked,
that Thou mightest make me what she ever asked.
The wind blew and swelled our sails, and withdrew
the shore from our sight; and she on the morrow
was tlicre, frantic with sorrow, and with complaints
and gn>:uis filled Thine ears, who didst then disre-
gard them ; whilst through my desires. Thou wert
hurrying me to end all desire, and the earthly part
of her affection to me was chastened by the allotted
scourge of sorrows. For she loved to have me with
her, as mothera do, but much more than most; and
she kiiuw not how great joy Thou wert about to



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104 JERs apcUhy in dangerous iUneas.

work fot Iior out of my absonoo. Sho knew not;
therefore did she weep and wail, and by this agony
therd ap()eared in her the inheritance of Eve, with
Borrow seeking what in Borrow she had brought forth.
And yet, after accusing my treachery and hardheart-
edness, she betook herself again to intercede to Thee
for mo, went to her wonted place, and I to Roiuo.

IX. 16. And lol there was I received by the
scourge of bodily sickness, and I was going down to
hell, carrying all the sins which I had committed,
both agfdnst Thee, and myself and others, many and
grievous, over and above that bond of original sin,
whereby toenail die in Adam} For Thou hadst not
forgiven ihe any of these things in Ohrist, nor had
He abolished by IRs cross the enmity which by my
Isins I had incuiTed by Thee. For how could He, by
the crucifixion of a phantasm, which I believed Hinl
to be ? Thus the death of my soul was as real as
the death of His flesh seemed to me &lse ; and as
real as was the death of His body, so false was the
life of my soul, which did not believe it And now,
the fever heightening, I was parting and dcpaiting
forever. For had I then parted hence, whither had
I departed, but into fire and torments, such as my
misdeeds deserved in the truth of Thy appointment?
And thta my mother knew not, yet in absence prayed
|for me. But Thou, everywhere present, heaviest her
where she was, and, where I was, hadst compassion
upon me ; that I should recover the health of my
body, though fi*enzied a^ yet in my sacrilegious heart

1 1 Cor. 3ET. 28.



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Monica? s devotions and visions^



105



For I did not in all that danger desire Thy baptism ;
and I was better as a boy» when I begged it of my
mother's piety, as I have before recited and con-
fessed. But I had grown up to my own shame, and
I madly scoffed at the prescripts of Thy medicine,
yet wouldest Thou not suffer me, being such, to die
a double death. With which wound had my mo-
ther's heart been pierced, it could nev^ be healed.
For I cannot express the affection she bare to me,
and with how much more vehement anguish she
was now in labor of me in the spirit^ than at her
ohildbeanng in the flesh.^

17. I see not then how she should have been
healeil, had such a death of mine stricken through
the bowels of her love. And whero, then, would
have been her so strong and unceasing pray era?
But wouldest Thou, O Qod of mercies, despise the
contrite and humbled heart* of that chaste and sober
widow, so frequent in almsdeeds, so full of duty and
service to Thy saints, no day intermitting the oblation
at Thine altar, twice a day, morning and evening,
without any intermission, coming to Thy church, not
for idle tattlings and old wives' /oMe^,* but that she
might hear Thee in Thy discourees, and Thou her, in
lier pi'iiyero ? Couldest Thou despise and reject from
Thy uid the tears of such an one, wherewith she
begged of Thee not gold or silver, nor any mutable
or passing good, but the salvation of her son's soul ?
Thou, by whose gift she was such ? Never, Lord.
Yea, Thou wert at hand, and wert hearing and doing,



iGal.lT.9.



aps.u.m.



8 1 Tim.?. 10.



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106 Aiigtiatine cofUmues a JUdnic/iee.

in that ordor wliorein Thou Imdst dctormincd boforOi

that it should be done. Far be it that Thou should-

est deceive her in Thy visions and answers, some

whereof I have, some I have not mentioned, which

she laid up in her faithful heart, and ever praying,

urged upon Thee, as Thine own handwriting. For

. Thou, because Thy mercy endureth forever^ vouch-

t safest to those to whom Thou forgivest nil their

I debts, to become also a debtor by Thy promises.

I X. 18. Thou recoveredst me then of that sickness,

(and healedst the son of Thy handmaid, for the time,

in body, that he might live, for Thee to bestow upon

him a better and more abiding health. And even

then, at Rome, I joined myself to those deceiving

and deceived "holy ones;** not with their disciples

only (of which number was he in whose house I had

fallen sick and recovered) ; but also with those whom

they call «' The Elect.** For I still thought, " that it

(was not we that sin, but that I know not what other

I nature sinned in us ;** and it delighted tny pride to

( be free from blame, and when I had done any evil,

J not to confess I had done any, ifuU T?Kni mightest

\ hecU my satil because it had sinned against Thee:^

but I loved to excuse it, and to accuse I know not

what other thing, which was with me, but which I

was not But in truth it was wholly I, and mine

impiety had divided me against myself: and that sin

was the more incurable, whereby I did not judge

myself a sinner: and execrable iniquity it was, that

I had rather have Thee, Thee, O God Almighty, to

1 Fk. zli. 4.



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Jlisk qf scepticism in parting from error. 107

be overcome in me to my destruction, than myself
to be overcome of Thee to salvation. Not as yet
then hadst Thoa set a vxUdh before my mouthy and a
door ofsqfe Jceqnng around my KpSy t/uU my /leart
might not turn aside to wicked speeches^ to make
excuses of svis^ with men that work iniquity : and
therefore was I still united with their JSlect}

19. But now despairing to make proficiency in that
fidse doctrine, even those things, with which, if I
should find no better, I had resolved to rest con-
tented, I now held more laidy and carelessly. For
there half arose a thought in me> that those philoso-



Online LibraryWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.)The confessions of Augustine → online text (page 9 of 31)