THE SECOND BOOK.
OBJECT OF THESE CONFESSIONS — FURTHER ILLS OF IDLENESS DEVELOPED IN HIS SIXTEENTH YEAR —KVILS OK ILL society. WHICH BETRAYED HIM INTO theft.
I. 1. I will now call to mind my past foulness, and the carnal corruptions of my soul; not because I love them, but that I may love Thee, O my God. For love of Thy love I do it; reviewing my most wicked ways in the very bitterness of my remembrance, that Thou mayest grow sweet unto me: O Thou sweetness never failing, Thou blissful and assured sweetness, gathering me again out of that dissipation wherein I was torn piecemeal, being turned from Thee, the One Good, and lost among a multiplicity of things. For in my youth I burned to be satiated, and dared to grow rank and wild with various and shadowy loves: my beauty consumed away, and I went rotting in Thine eyes; pleasing myself, and desirous to please the eyes of men.
II. 2. And what was it that I delighted in but to love, and be beloved? but I kept not the measure of love, of mind to mind, friendship's bright boundary; but out of the muddy concupiscence of the flesh, and the bubblings of youth, mists fumed up which beclouded and overcast my heart, that I could not discern the clear brightness of love, from the fog of Object of these confessions. 29
lustfulncss. Both did confusedly boil in me, and hurried my unstayed youth over the precipice of unholy desires, and sunk me in a gulf of flagitiousness. Thy wrath had gathered over me, and I knew it not. I was grown deaf by the clanking of the chain of my mortality, the punishment of the pride of my soul, and I strayed further from Thee, and Thou lettest me alone, and I was tossed about, and wasted, and dissipated, and I boiled over in my fornications, and Thou heldest Thy peace, O Thou my tardy joy! Thou then heldest Thy peace, and I wandered further and further from Thee, into more and more fruitless seed-plots of sorrows, with a proud dejectedness, and a restless weariness.
3. Oh! that some one had then attempered my dis-' order, and turned to account the fleeting beauties of these the extreme points of Thy creation! had put a bound to their pleasurableness, so that the tides of my youth might have cast themselves upon the marriage shore, if they could not be calmed, and kept within the object of a family, as Thy law prescribes, O Lord: who this way formest the offspring of this our death, being able with a gentle hand to blunt the thorns, which were excluded from Thy paradise? For Thy omnipotency is not far from us, even when we be far from Thee. Else ought I more watchfully to have heeded the voice from the clouds: Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh, but I spare you} And it is good for a man not to touch a iooman.' And he that is unmarried thinketh of the 30 Matl's neglect of youth, and God's care of it.
1 1 Cor. vii. 28. 2 1 Cor. vii. 1.
things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he that is married careth for the things of this world, how he may please-his wife}
4. To these words had I listened more attentively, I had more happily awaited Thy embraces; but I, poor wretch, foamed like a troubled sea, following the rushing of my own tide, forsaking Thee, and transgressing all Thy limitations; yet I escaped not Thy scourges. For what mortal can? For Thou wert ever with me mercifully cruel, besprinkling with most bitter disgust all my unlawful pleasures: that I might seek pleasures without alloy. But where to find such I could not discover, save in Thee, O Lord, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us, to heal; and killest us, lest we die from Thee.2 Where was I, and how far went I exiled from the delicacies of Thy house, in that sixteenth year of the age of my flesh, when the madness of lust took the rule over me, and I resigned myself wholly to it? My friends meanwhile took no care by marriage to save my fall; their only care was that I should learn to speak excellently, and be a persuasive orator.
III. 5. For that year were my studies intermitted: whilst, after my return from Madaura (a neighboring city, whither I had journeyed to learn grammar and rhetoric), the expenses for a further journey to Carthage 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 God; but before Thee to Effects of'idleness — his mother's fears for him. 31
11 Cor. vii. 32, 33. 2 Deut xxxii. 39.
mine own kind, even to such small portion of mankind as may light upon these writings of mine. And to what purpose? that whosoever reads this, may think out of what depths we 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 beyond the ability of his means, he would furnish 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 interposed, 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 youthfulness, as if anticipating his descendants, he gladly told it to my mother; rejoicing 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 selfwill, turning aside and bowing down to the very basest things. But in my mother's breast Thou hadst already Thy temple, and the foundation of 32 God spake to him through his mother.
1 Ps. CXXX. 1.
Thy holy habitation, whereas my father 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, who turn their back to Thee, and not their face}
7 Woe is me! and dare I say that Thou heldest Thy peace, 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 faithful one, Thou sangest in my ears? But it entered not into my heart to do as she desired. For she wished, 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 they were Thine, and I knew it not; and I thought Thou wert silent, and that it was she who spake; by whom Thou wert not silent unto me: and in her person wast Thou despised by me, her son, the son of Thy 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; 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 anyGod spake to him through his mother. 33
1 Jer. ii. 27. 2 Ps. cxvi. 16.
thing I had not sinned like the abandoned ones, I would 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 the 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 seduced 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 the centre of Babylon;} yet went more slowly in the skirts thereof), although she advised me to chastity, so heed what she had heard of me from her husband, as to restrain within the bounds of conjugal affection (if it could not be pared away to the quick), what she felt to be pestilent at present, and for the future dangerous. 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 she accounted that those usual courses of learning would not only be no hindrance, but even some forbearance towards attaining Thee. Thus I conjecture, recalling, as well as I may, the disposition of my parents. The reins, meantime, were slackened to me, 34 Theft for the pleasure of thieving.
1 Jer. II. 6.
beyond all reason, to spend my time in sport, yea, giving too large a scope to my affections. And in all was a mist, intercepting from me, 0 my God, the brightness of Thy truth; and mine iniquity burst out as from very fatness}
IV. 9. Theft is punished by Thy Law, O Lord, and the 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. Yet I lusted to thieve, and did it, compelled by no hunger, nor poverty, but through a disgust at well-doing, and a pamperedness of iniquity. For I stole that of which I had enough and much better. Nor cared 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, tempting 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, prolonged our sports in the streets till then), and took huge loads, not for our eating, but to fling to the very hogs, having only tasted them. And this we did only because we would do that which was not lawful.3 Behold my heart, O God, 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 All sin proposes some end. 35
1 Ps Ixxiii. 7.
2 Baxter in his autobiography makes a confession almost identical with this one. See Book I. Pt. i. — Ed.
own fault; not that for which I was faulty, but my fault itself. Foul soul, falling from Thy firmament to utter destruction; not seeking aught through the shame, but the shame itself!
V. 10. For there is an attractiveness in beautiful 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 immoderate inclination towards 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 Him doth the righteous delight, and He is the joy of the upright in heart}
11. When, therefore, inquiry is made why any wickedness was done, it is usually conceived to have proceeded either from the desire of obtaining some of those things which we called lower goods, or
t Ps. lxiv. 10.
36 A.l l sin proposes some end, and
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 fire to be revenged. Would any commit murder only for the delight he takes in murdering? Who would believe 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 inactive."1 And to what end? that, through that practice 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 villany, and from the possibility of want. So not even Catiline himself loved his own villanies, but something else, to obtain which he would be wicked.
VI. 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 God; God, the sovereign good and my true good. Fair were those pears, but not them did my wretched soul desire; for I had store of better, and I gathimitates perverteclly some excellence of God. 37
1 Sallustii CatiUna, 16. —Ed.
ered those only that I might steal. For, when gathered, I flung them away, my only feast therein being my own sin, which I was pleased to enjoy. For if aught of those pears came within my mouth, what sweetened it was the sin. And now, O Lord my God, I enquire what in that theft delighted me; and behold it hath no loveliness; I mean not such loveliness 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 belongeth to deceiving vices.
13. For so doth pride imitate exaltedness; whereas 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 tenderness 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 foolishness itself is cloaked under the name of simplicity and harmlessness; yet nothing is found more single than Thee: and what less injurious, since they are 38 men seek the creature instead of the Creator.
his own works, which injure the sinner? Yes, sloth would fain be at rest; but what stable rest besides the Lord? Luxury affects to be called plenty and abundance; but Thou art the fulness and never-failing plenteousness of incorruptible pleasures. Prodigality presents a show of liberality: but Thou art the most overflowing Giver of all good. Covetousness would possess many things; and Thou possessest all things. Envy wrangles 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 endanger 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?1 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 be the Creator of all nature; and that there is no place whither they can retire from Thee. What then did I love in that theft? and wherein did I even corruptly and perversely imitate my Lord? Did I wish, by a kind of sleight, Through God alone are men kept from sin. 89
1 Rom. viil. 9.
to do contrary to Thy law, because I could not by strong hand; that whilst I was no better than a bond slave, I might counterfeit a false liberty, by doing without punishment what I could not do without sin, in a darkened likeness of Thy Omnipoteney? VII. 15. Behold this slave, fleeing from his Lord, and laying hold of a shadow.1 O rottenness! O monstrousness of life, and depth of deathI did I like what I ought not, only because I ought not? What shal l I render unto the Lord,2 that, whilst my memory recalls these things, my soul is not affrighted at them? Make me to love Thee, O Lord, and thank Thee, and confess unto Thy name; because Thou hast forgiven me these great and heinous deeds of mine, and hast melted away my sins as they were ice. To Thy grace I ascribe also whatsoever 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 man is he, who, weighing his own infirmity, dares to ascribe his chastity and innocency to his own strength; that so he should love Thee the less, as if he less needed Thy mercy, whereby Thou remittest 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 myself, let him not laugh at me, who, being sick, was cured by that physician,, through whose aid it 40 Man not strong enough
1 Jonah i. 4. 2 Ps. cxvi. 12.
was that he is not sick at all, or rather is less sick; 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 preserved him from the like consumption of sin.
VIII. 16. And what fruit had I even from those things, of the remembrance whereof I am now ashamed?l 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 company 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. Who can teach me the truth, save He that enlighteneth my heart, and discoveret h its dark corners? 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 since my pleasure was not in those pears, it was in the offence itself, to which the company of fellowsinners did concur.
IX. 17. What, then, was this feeling? Of a truth it was foul: and woe was me, who had it; but yet what was it? Who can understand his errors ?2 It to bear ill society. 41
1 Rom. vi. 21. 2 I's. xix. 12.
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 sort, 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 theft; for what I stole pleased me not. O friendship, thou art too unfriendly! 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 intricate 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 unsating. With Thee is rest entire, and life imperturbable. He that enters into Thee, enters into the joy of his Lord /' and shall 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 youth, and I became to myself a barren land.
1 Matt. xxv. 21.