Augustine's Confessions Abridged.
From the latter end of the third century to the former part of the fifth, we have seen a gradual declension of godliness ; and when we view, in the West, the increase of monastic darkness and superstition ; in the East, .the same- evils to a still greater degree, attended with such an augmentation of iniquity, that even where all the formalities of godliness are preserved, the power of it is hated aud persecuted, in the same manner as by Pagans; in fine, when the vestiges of Christian truth are scarcely discernible, we shall not be far amiss in pronouncing, that, in such a state of Religion, the wholesome effects of the first effusion of the Spirit of God are brought to a close.
It is evident, that real Christianity, notwithstanding its nominal increase under Christian emperors, must soon have been extinct, if God had not interposed with a second great effusion of his Spirit . He did so in the course of the fifth century, and the Church rose again from its ruins in one part at least of the Empire f.
* Ralls and public meetings of entertainment are as much the objects of his indignation as plays. Games of chance also he represents as the occasions of blasphemies, losses, anger, quarrels, and all manner of crimes. Du Pin. Chrysostora.
The truth is, men who really fear God, in all ages have been united against these things; and for this reason, which is felt by them, though not by others, namely, that they have too serious a conflict with indwelling sin, to give themselves up to external incitements of evil.
f The Western, as will appear in the course of the narrative.
It behoves us to attend to this gracious display Cent. of divine goodness ; and for this purpose, we must ^ look back into the last century, to trace the secret springs of this dispensation. They particularly involve the private life of Augustine, bishop of Hippo. He was the great instrument of reviving the knowledge of evangelical truth. By a very remarkable work of divine grace on his own soul, be was qualified to contend with the growing corruptions. It is a happy circumstance, that we have, in his Confessions, a large and distinct account of his own conversion. And who could relate it like himself ?—I proceed to give an account of these Confessions : the propriety and importance of so long a detail will afterwards appear*.
Augustine's Confessions Abridged.
Thou art great, O Lord, and most worthy to be praised ; great is thy power, and of thy wisdom there is no end. A man, a portion of thy creation, wishes to praise thee, a man carrying about him his mortality, carrying about him the evidences of his sin, and a testimony that thou resistest the proud ; even such a man wishes to praise thee. Thou excitest him, that he should delight to praise thee. For thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless till it find rest in thee.
Who shall give me to rest in thee? that thou mayest come into my heart, and inebriate it, that I may forget my own evils, and embrace thee, my
* The life of this great man was written by Possidius, sometimes called Possidonius, a pious presbyter of his diocese, afterwards bishop of Calama. Though poorly written, it yet deserves to be mentioned, as it confirms the authenticity of the historical parts of the Confessions. Augustine was born in the city of Tagasta in Numidia, of creditable parents. His father, Patricius, continued a Pagan till near his death; his mother, Monica was renowned for Christian piety. At the time of his full conversion to the Gospel he was upwards of thirty years of age.
Possid. Life or August.
Chap- only good? What art thou to me? Pity me, that I . ** . -may speak. What am I to thee, that thou shouldst command me to love thee, and be displeased with me, if I do not, and threaten me with the greatest miseries? Is that itself a small misery, to be destitute of the love of thee ? Alas! alas! tell me, by thy compassions, O Lord, my God, what thou art tome? Say Unto My Soul, I Am Thy SalvaTion. So speak, that I may hear. Behold! the ears of my heart are before thee, 0 Lord ; open them, and Say Unto My Soul, I Am Thy SalvaTion. May I run after this voice, and apprehend thee. Hide Not Thy Face From Me. May I die*, that I may see it, lest I die indeed. My soul is a habitation too narrow for thy entrance ; do thou enlarge it. It is in ruins ; do thou repair it. It has what must offend thine eyes, I know and must confess : But who shall cleanse it! or to whom shall I cry but to thee? Cleanse Me From My Secret Faults, And Keep Me From Presumptuous Sins. I Believe, And Therefore Speak. O Lord, thou knowest: Have not I confessed to thee my sins, and hast not thou pardoned the iniquity of my heart ? I will not contend in judgment with thee, who art truth itself: for I would not deceive myself. I will not contend in judgment with thee, for if thou Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, who can stand f ?
But, suffer me to speak, who am dust and ashes. Suffer me to speak, because I address thy mercy, and not the scornfulness of proud men. Perhaps thou deridest the simplicity of my thoughts, yet wilt thou turn and exercise compassion upon me. What else would I say, O Lord, my God, than that I
* He seems to wish to undergo any mortification, even loss of life itself, rather than lose the enjoyment of his God.
f It is obvious to observe, how a mind like Augustine's altogether resting on grace, and free justification, is freed from the solicitude of self-vindication in any part of his conduct; whereas, those who rest for salvation, in any degree, on themselves, are ever tempted to extenuate their sins.
know not whence I came hither into this,—shall I Cent.
call it mortal life, or living death? Thy compassion- v- ,
ate consolations supported me, and thou gavest me the nourishment of infancy.
Hear me, O God. Woe to the sins of man! Thou pitiest him, because thou madest him, and madest not sin in him. Who shall inform me of the sin of my infancy ? For none is clear from sin in thy sight, not even the infant, whose life is only one day. Could it be right in me to solicit with tears, what it would be noxious to receive ; to express vehement indignation against my parents and betters, if they did not comply with my will; and to endeavour, though with feeble blows, to avenge myself upon them? The imbecility of my infant limbs was innocent, not so the spirit of the infant. I have seen and observed an infant full of envy; pale with anger, he looked at his fellow-suckling with bitterness in his countenance. Since I was conceived in iniquity, and my mother nourished me in her womb in sin, where, Lord, where, or when was I innocent? But I pass by this whole time, no traces of which I recollect *.
What miseries, Lord, did I experience, when I was directed, in the plan of my education, to obey my teachers, in order that 1 might acquire that knowledge, which might besubservient to the attainment of false riches and honour? Yet, I sinned ;
O thou, who ordainest all things, except our sins ;
I sinned in rebelling against the orders of parents and masters. That literature which they wished me to acquire, with whatever intention, was yet capable of being applied to a good use. My disobedience arose not from the love of better things, but from the love of play, and from a fondness for games and shows. Behold these things with an eye of mercy, and de
* The serious reader will not be inclined to pass over, in levity, these striking proofs of the sinful propensity of nature exerting itself antecedent to the growth of reason or the power of habit.
liver us who now call on thee; deliver also those who do not call on thee as yet, that they may call on thee, and experience thy deliverance!!
I had heard from childhood of the eternal life promised unto us through the humility of the Lord our God condescending to our pride. Thou sawest, when I was yet a boy, and seemed to be on the brink of death, through a sudden and violent pain of the stomach, with what eagerness I begged Christian baptism from the charity of my mother and of the church. My mother, who travailed in birth for my eternal salvation, was hastening to comply with my desires, that I might wash away my sins, confessing thee, O Lord Jesus; when I suddenly recovered my health. A relapse into presumptuous sin, after baptism, being judged more dangerous, and the prospect of life admitting too great a probability of such relapse, my baptism was still deferred. Thus did I at that time believe in Christ, my father being the only infidel in our family. My mother was zealous that Thou shouldst be my Father, rather than he: and in this she was favoured with thy help: obedient as she was to her husband, according to thy command, in this point she prevailed over him. Was the delay of my baptism for my benefit? What is the cause, that we hear every where such sounds as these, Let Him Do What He Will, He Is Nut Yet Baptized. How much better for me, had I been, in more early life, initiated into the fold of Christ* !
» The narrative before us may justly be called a history of the usual operations of the Spirit of God on his people. Convictions in early life, on remarkable occasion?, are common among these, and usually wear away, as in the case of Augustine. The examples of Constantine and Constantius deferring their baptism, seems to have made the practice fashionable, not from any idea of the unlawfulness of infant baptism, but from the selfish and pernicious notions which he has stated. No wonder, that he who justly thought that his own soul bad suffered much by the delay, was afterwards a strenuous aasertor of the expediency of more early baptism.
Yet, in childhood itself, though little dreaded by my mother, in comparison of the dangers of youth, I was indolent; and 1 improved in learning only through necessity. A false worldly ambition was the only motive laid before me by my teachers; but thou, who numberest the hairs of our heads, improvedst their error to my advantage, whilst thou justly punishedst the great sins of so young an offender by their corrections. The learning, which with no holy intention they taught me, was sanctified by thee, and my guilty laziness was scourged. So hast thou ordained, that a mind disordered by sin should be its own punishment.
But why I hated Greek literature, in which I was instructed when very young, I do not even yet sufficiently understand. For I was fond of Latin learning, not indeed the first rudiments, but those things which classical masters teach. To read and write, and learn arithmetic, would have been as severe drudgery to my spirit, as all the Greek literature. I lay this also to the account of my native depravity, which prefers the worse, and rejects the better. The uses of reading, writing, and arithmetic, are obvious; not so the study of the wanderings of jEneas, which I attended to while I forgat my own.-—Of what use was it to deplore the self-murdering Dido, while yet I could bear unmoved the death of my own soul, alienated from thee during the course of these pursuits,—from thee, my God, my life. O thou light of my heart, and bread of my inward man, and true husband of my soul! I loved thee not. I committed fornication against thee, and (such the spirit of the world) I was applauded with " well done" on all sides, and I should have been ashamed to have been found otherwise disposed. Yet the friendship of the world is fornication against thee. This is the kind of literature, which has arrogated to itself the name of polite and liberal. Learning, of real utility, is looked on as low and vulgar. Thus, in my childhood did I sin by a vicious preference. Two and two make four, was to me an odious singsong ; but the wooden horse, the burning of Troy, and the ghost of Creusa, were most enchanting spectacles of vanity. Yet why did I hate Greek literature, when employed in the same sort of objects? Homer is most agreeably trifling; to me, however, when a boy, he was by no means agreeable. I suppose Virgil would be the same to Grecian youths, on account of the difficulties of learning: a foreign language. Discipline is needful to overcome our puerile sloth, and this also is part of thy government of thy creatures, O God, for the purpose of restraining our sinful impetuosity. From the ferulas of masters to the trials of martyrs, thy wholesome severities may be traced, which tend to recall us to thee from that pernicious voluptuousness, by which we departed from thee.
Hear my prayer, O Lord, let not my soul faint under thy discipline, nor let me faint in confessing to thee thy mercies, by which thou hast delivered me from all my own evil ways; that thou mayest endear thyself to me, above all the blandishments which I was following, and that I may love thee most ardently, and embrace thy hand with all my heart, that thou mayest free me from all temptation, even to the end. O my King and my God, may whatever useful thing 1 learnt when a boy, serve thee ; may what I speak and read and number, serve thee; because while I was learning vain things thou gavest me thy discipline, and in those vain things forgavest the sins of my delights. For in them I learnt many useful words, though they might have been learned, abstracted from this connexion with vanity.
Alas ! the torrent of human custom ! who shall resist thee ? How long will it be, ere thou be dried up ? How long wilt thou roll the sons of Eve into a great and tempestuous sea, which even they, who have fled for refuge to the cross, can scarcely escape? Have not I read of Jove, at once the thunderer and the adulterer? What is this, but to teach men to call their crimes no crimes, while they have the sanction of gods whom they imitate ? Terence introduces a profligate young man justifying his lewdness by the example of Jove, while he beholds on the wall a picture of Jupiter and Danae *, and excites himself to lust as by divine tuition. Shall He, Who Shakes Heaven With His Thunder, Do These Things; And May NOT I, A POOR Mortal, Do The Same? Yet I, my God, now indulged by thy grace to behold thee in peace, learnt these things with pleasure, was delighted with them, and was called a boy of promising genius. The motives of praise and disgrace then spurred on my restless heart to literary exertions. What acclamations were made to a puerile exercise of mine on a particular occasion ! Were not all these things smoke and wind ? Was there not another way of exercising my talents,—in celebrating thy praise ? But, what wonder, that I departed far from thee, my God, when men were proposed to me as objects of imitation, who would blush to be detected in a barbarism or solecism, in reciting their own actions, though innocent; and at the same time might recite the story of their own lewdness, not only with impunity, but even with commendation, provided they did so with a copious and elegant flow of diction.
0 thou God of long-suffering, who permittest men thus to affront thee ! Wilt thou not deliver from this horrible pit the soul that seeks thee, that thirsts after thy delights, and says, Tht Face, Lord, Will
1 Seek ? It was by the darkness of libidinous affection that the prodigal son f went to a great distance from thee, his Father, gracious in bestowing on him thy gifts; and still more gracious to him when returning in indigence. How studiously exact
* Terence in Eunuch. f Luke xv.
Chap, are men in observing the rules of letters and syllables, _IL , while they neglect the rules of eternal salvation! Thou dwellest on high, in inaccessible light, and scatterest penal blindness on unbridled lusts. A man shall seek the fame of eloquence, while, before the crowded audience, he guards against the least false pronunciation, and guards not at all against the fiercest malevolence of his own heart, raging against his fellow-creatures.
In this school did I wretchedly live. To please men was then to me the height of virtue, whilst I saw not the whirlpool of baseness in which I was cast from thine eyes. For what more filthy than I, all this time, deceiving by innumerable falsehoods both masters and parents, through the love of play and amusements ? I even robbed the storehouses of my parents, either from the spirit of gluttony, or to bestow things agreeable to my play-fellows* la my plays, I often sought to obtain fraudulent yictories, overcome by the desire of vain excellence. Yet, what should I dread so much to suffer, or be so ready to accuse, in another, if detected, as that very thing which I did to others; in which, however, if I myself was detected, I was more disposed to rage than to submit. Is this puerile innocence ? far from it, O Lord. Change the scene only from pedagogues and masters, from nuts and balls, and sparrows, to prefects, kings, gold, and estates, and we see the vices of men, just as heavier punishments succeed to ferulas.
Still, O Lord, in my childhood I have much to praise thee for. Many, many were thy gifts; the sin was mine that I sought pleasure, truth, and happiness, not in thee, but in the creature, and thence rushed into pains, confusions, and errors. I thank thee, 0 my delight and confidence, for thy gifts ; but do thou preserve them for me, and the things which thou hast given me shall be increased
and perfected, and I shall be with thee, because thou Cent. hast given me to be so*. . y.
I Am willing to recollect the scenes of baseness and carnal corruptions, which I passed through in my youth, not that I may love them, but that I may love thee, my God. I do it from the love of thy love, recollecting my own very evil ways in the bitterness of memory, that thou mayest be endearedto me, O Delight that never deceives; Delight happy and secure; thou which collectest and bindest together the dispersed parts of my broken soul. While averse from thee, the only God, I vanished into a variety of vanities f ! For in my youth I even burned to be satiated with forbidden pleasures, and became as rottenness in thy sight, while I pleased myself, and desired to please the eyes of men.
What was it that I delighted in, but to love and to be beloved ? But, by the excess of passion, the serenity of affection was not distinguished from the
* It is a very unjust surmise of Mr. Gibbon, to infer from Augustine's unwillingness to learn Greek, that he never attained the knowledge of that language ; when he tells us, that he was doubtless a person of uncommon quickness of parts. His sloth and other vicious practices in childhood were, I suppose, such as are common to children. But few are disposed to look on them as serious evils. To Augustine's mind they appeared what they were, the marks of an apostate nature. Though, sinee the destruction of Pagan idolatry, there is by no means the same danger of reading classic authors, yet how justly blamable is the practice of leading boys so much to lewd poets, instead of acquainting them with the more solid excellences of many prose authors ? A just selection of the most innocent and useful authors, and a perpetual comparison of their sentiments with those of Christianity, will not only guard against the poison of the classics, but instruct youth in the necessity and importance of Revelation. Schoolmasters, as well as children, may learn, in what we have seen, just matter of rebuke for exalting literary above moral excellence.
t The beautiful thought, thus diffusively ex pressed in ourauthor's usual manner, is happily painted in a single word by the Psalmist, Unite my heart to fear thy name. Psalm lxxxvL 11.
darkness of lust. My tender years were hurried along through the whirlpool of flagitiousness. Thy displeasure was all the time embittering my soul, and I knew it not. The noise of my carnal chains, and the punishment of my pride, rendered me deaf to thy voice : I went far from thee, thou sufferedst it: I was tossed and agitated; and I overflowed with the ebullitions of lewdness, and thou wast silent, O my too tardy joy ! At that time thou wast silent, and I wandered deeply from thee among many barren seeds of woes, in a state of proud degradation, and restless weariness. Thy omnipotence is not far from us, even when we are very far from thee; I might have heard thy voice, recommending a single life devoted to God, allowing indeed matrimony, and frowning on lewdness*. But I burst all legal bonds, yet escaped not thy scourges ;—who of mortals can ? For thou wast always present, severely merciful, mixing all my unlawful delights with bitter alloys, that I might seek for pleasure without alloy or obstacle, and not be able to find the possibility of this, but in thee; thee, I say, O Lord, who connectest pain with the breach of thy laws, who smitest that thou mayest heal, and slayest us that we may not die from thee. Where was I, and how long did I live in exile from thy house, in that sixteenth year of my age, when the madness of lust seized me altogether, and I willingly suffered the reins to fall from my hands? To the disgrace of our nature, this species of lust is every where tolerated, though forbidden by thy laws t. My friends took no pains to bridle me by the wholesome restraint of marriage;
" i Cor. vii.
f Would to God that this were not the case in Christian countries, as well as Pagan I If the reader feel himself inclined to treat with levity the serious manner in which juvenile vices are treated by the author, he will, when better informed of the malignity of sin, coddemn his own taste, not that of Augustine. The same contrast may be extended to the case of his theft, which follows.
their anxiety was, that I should acquire the arts and Cent. graces of eloquence. ,- _ ^'
That year I had vacation from my studies, being returned from Madaura, a neighbouring city, where I had begun to learn oratory, to my father's house at Tagasta. He, with a spirit above his circumstances, for he was but a poor freeman of the town just mentioned, determined to send me to Carthage, that I might have the greatest advantages of proficiency. Why do I relate these things before thee, my God, to my fellow-creatures, the few of them, who may read these lines ?—That both I and they may consider out of how great a depth it behoves us to cry to thee. And what is nearer than thine ears, if the heart confide in thee, and the life flow from faith ? Who did not then extol the noble spirit of my father, laying out so much money on the education of his son ; a spirit, so much superior to that of many much richer citizens, who had not the heart to send their sons to Carthage? While yet he had no concern in what manner I grew up to thee. Whether I was chaste or not, cost him no thought, provided I was eloquent. In this year of vacation my passions were rampant without control. This pleased my father, who expressed his pleasure on the occasion to my mother. She had lately begun to feel thy holy love, and had been washed in the laver of regeneration. He was a catechumen in profession. Instantly, she conceived a pious trepidation on my account. My God, thou spakest to me by her, and warnedst me strongly against the ways of vice. Thy voice in her 1 despised, and thought it to be only the voice of a woman, which made not the least impression on my mind. So blinded was I, that I should have blushed to be thought less wicked than my companions, and even invented false stories of my sinful exploits, to obtain their commendation. My pious parent was prevented from encouraging me to marry, because
Chap- she thought the usual studies, which I was now to . enter upon, might be serviceable to promote in me the work of true religion. My father thought little of thee, but much of his son in vain expectations. Thus, while they both were too anxious for my literary improvements, I made progress in vice, and shut myself up in the darkness of sin, so as to bar up, against myself, the admission of thy truth as much as possible.
Thy law certainly punishes theft, O Lord, and so does the Law* Written in the hearts of men. For, what thief can bear another ? Yet, compelled by no want, I deliberately committed theft; through the wantonness of iniquity and the contempt of justice. It was not the effect of the theft, but the sin itself, which I wished to enjoy. There was a pear-tree in the neighbourhood of my father's vineyard, loaded with fruit, though not of the most tempting kind. At dead of night, in company with some profligate youths, I plundered the tree : the spoil was principally thrown to the hogs; for I had abundance of better fruit at home. Behold my heart, my God, behold my heart, which thou hast pitied in its deep abyss of sin. What did I mean, that I should be gratuitously wicked ? I loved destruction itself. In the common course of wickedness men have some end in view. Even Catiline himself loved not his crimes, but something else, for the sake of which he perpetrated them. We are deceived by appearances of good, embracing the shadows, while we follow our own lusts, instead of seeking the substance, which is only in thee. Thus, the soul commits fornication, when it is turned from thee, and seeks, out of thee, that pleasure, honour, power, wealth, or wisdom, which it never will find in its genuine purity, till it return to thee. All, who remove themselves far from thee, and set
* He means the voice of natural conscience. See Romans, cb. ii. ver. 15.
up themselves in opposition, perversely imitate some attribute of God ; though even by such imitation they own thee to be the Creator of the universe. This is the general nature of sin. It deceives by some fictitious shadow of that good, which in God alone is to be found. But what vicious or perverse imitation of my Lord was there in my theft ? I can conceive none, unless it be the pleasure of acting arbitrarily and with impunity against law ;—a dark similitude of Omnipotence. O rottenness! O monster of life, and profundity of death! Could I delight in what was not lawful, merely because it was not lawful ? What reward shall I give to the Lord, that I can now recollect these things without fear of damnation ? I will love and bless thee, Lord, because thou has pardoned such horrible evils. I impute it to thy grace that thou hast melted my sins as ice is melted. I impute also to thy grace my exemption from those evils which I have not committed. For of what was I not capable, who loved even gratuitous wickedness ? I am sensible that all is forgiven; not only the evils which I have actually committed, but also those evils which by thy guidance I have been kept from committing. He who, called by thee, hiith avoided the evils which he hears me confessing, should not deride me a poor patient healed by the Physician, since he himself is indebted to the same Benefactor for his health, or, to speak more properly, for his being afflicted with a less degree of sickness.
Othe unsearchable seduction of pernicious friendship, the avidity of doing mischief from sport, the pleasure of making others suffer; and this without any distinct workings, either of avarice or of revenge! We hear others say, Let us go, let us do it, and we are ashamed to appear defective in impudence. Who can unfold to me the intricacies of this knot of wickedness ? It is filthy, I will pry no more into it. I will not see it. Thee will I choose, O righteousness and innocence, light truly honourable, and satiety insatiable! With thee is perfect rest, and life without perturbation. He who enters into thee, enters into the joy of his Lord, and shall not fear, and shall be in the best situation in thee, the Best of Beings. I departed from thee; I erred and strayed, O my God, from thy firm and upright ways; and in my youth I became to myself a region of desolation.
I Came to Carthage surrounded and agitated with flagitious lusts. After thee, O my God, the true bread of life, I hungered not; and though famished with real indigence, and longing after that which satisfieth not, Ihad no desire for incorruptible food, not because I was full of it, for the more empty I was, the more fastidious I grew. My sordid passions, however, were gilded over with the decent and plausible appearances of love and friendship. Foul and base as I was, I affected the reputation of liberal and polite humanity. I rushed into the lusts with which I desired to be captivated. My God, my mercy, with how great bitterness didst thou, in thy extraordinary kindness, mix those vain allurements by which I was miserably enslaved and beaten ! for beaten I truly was with all the iron rods of envy, suspicion, fear, indignation, and quarrelling. The spectacles of the theatre, in particular, now hurried me away, full of the images of my miseries, and the fomentations of my fire.
The arts of the Forum also engaged my ambition ; the more fraudulent, the more laudable. Pride and arrogance now elated my soul, though I was far from approving the frantic proceedings of the men called Eversores, who made a practice of disturbing modest pleaders, and confounding their minds by riots. Amidst these things, in that imbecility of judgment which attends youth, I studied the books of eloquence with the most ardent desire
of vain-glory, and in the course of my reading dipped into the Hortensius of Cicero, which contains an exhortation to the study of philosophy. This book was the instrument of effecting a remarkable change in my views. I suddenly gave up the fantastic hope of reputation by eloquence, and felt a most ardent thirst after wisdom. In the mean time, I was maintained at Carthage at my mother's expense, being in the nineteenth year of my age, my father having died two years before. How did I long, my God, to fly from earthly things to thee, and yet I knew not what thou wert doing with me. At that time, O light of my heart, though I was unacquainted with the apostolical admonition, Take
HEED, LEST ANY MAN SPOIL YOU TH HOUGH
Philosophy And Vain Deceit*; thou knowest what was the sole object of my delight in the Ciceronian volume, namely, that I was vehemently excited by it to seek for wisdom, not in this or that sect, but wherever it was to be found. And the only thing which damped my zeal was, that the name of Christ, that precious name, which from my mother's milk I had learned to reverence, was not there. And, whatever was without this name, however just, and learned, and polite, could not wholly carry away my heart. I determined therefore to apply my mind to the Holy Scriptures, to see what they were; and I now see the whole subject was impenetrable to the proud, low in appearance, sublime in operation, and veiled with mysteries ; and my frame of heart was such as to exclude me from it, nor could I stoop to take its yoke upon me. I had not these sensations when I attended* to the Scriptures, but they appeared to me unworthy to be compared with the dignity of Cicero. My pride was disgusted with their manner, and my penetration could not enter into their meaning f. It is true? • Coloss. ii.
t An excellent description of the usual effect of a little Scriptural study on a proud mind, which, by the just judgment
Chap- those who are content to be little children, find by ll- , degrees an illumination of their souls; but I disdained to be a child, and elated with pride imagined myself to be possessed of manly wisdom.
In this situation I fell in with the Manichees, men, who had in their mouths the mere sound of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and were always talking of The Truth, The Truth, and yet formed the most absurd opinions of the works of nature, on which subjects the heathen philosophers far excelled them. O truth, how eagerly did I pant after thee, while they only used the word with their mouths, or repeated it in many huge volumes! But they taught me to look for my God in the Sun and Moon, and also in a number of splendid phantasms of their own creation*. I endeavoured to feed on these vanities, but they being not my God, though I then supposed so, I was not nourished, but exhausted. How far did I wander then from thee! excluded even From The Husks Which The Swine Did Eat ! For the fables of the poets, which I did not believe, though 1 was entertained with them, were preferable to the absurdities of these lovers of truth. Alas! alas! by what steps was I led into Satanic depths! Panting after truth, I sought thee, my God,
of God, is given up to judicial infatuation and specious delusion in some way or other.
* The Manichees, so called from Manes their founder, had existed about an hundred years. It would not be worth while to notice them at all, were it not for their connexion with the life of Augustine. Like mo3t of the ancient heretics, they abounded in senseless whims, not worthy of any solicitous explanation. This they had in common with the Pagan Philosophers, that they supposed the supreme Being to be material, and to penetrate all nature. Their grand peculiarity was to admit of two independent principles, a good and an evil one, in order to solve the arduous question concerning the origin of evil. Like all heretics, they made a great parade of seeking truth with liberal impartiality, and were thus qualified to deceive unwary spirits, who, far from suspecting their own imbecility of judgment, and regardless of the word of God and hearty prayer, have no idea of attaining religious knowledge by any other method than by natural reason.
not in intellectual, but in carnal speculation ; for I Cent. would confess all to thee, who didst compassionate vmy misery, even while I was hardened against thee. The Manichees seduced me, partly with their subtle and captious questions concerning the origin of evil, partly with their blasphemies against the Old Testament Saints*. I did not then understand, that though the divine rule of right and wrong is immutable in the abstract, and the love of God and our neighbour is always indispensably necessary, yet that there were particular acts of duty adapted to the times and seasons and circumstances in which they were placed, which abstracted from such consideration would be unlawful. In much ignorance I at that time derided thy holy servants, and was justly exposed to believe most ridiculous absurdities. And thou sentest thy hand from above, and freedst me from this depth of evil, while my mother was praying for me, more solicitous on account of the death of my soul, than other parents for the death of the body. She was favoured with a dream, by which thou comfortedst her soul with hope of my recovery. She appeared to herself to be standing on a plank, and a person came to her and asked her the cause of her affliction ; and on being answered, that it was on my account, he charged her to be of good cheer, for that where she was, there also I should be. On which she immediately beheld me standing by her on the same plank. Whence was this but from thee, gracious Omnipotent, who takest care of each and all of us, as of single persons ? When she related this to me, I endeavoured to evade the force of it, by observing, that it might mean to exhort her to be what I was. Without hesitation she replied, it was not said, where he iS»
*The Manichees objected to the characters of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, &c. on account of various actions allowed under the dispensation of their times, but forbidden under the New Testament, and thence formed an argument against the Divinity of the Old Testament.
Chap- there thou shalt be; but, where thou art, there he , , shall be. Her prompt answer made a stronger impression on my mind than the dream itself. For nine years, while I was rolling in the filth of sin, often attempting to rise, and still sinking deeper, did she in vigorous hope persist in incessant prayer. I remember, also, that she entreated a certain bishop to undertake to reason me out of my errors. He was a person not backward to attempt this, where he found a docile subject. " But your son," says he, " is too much elated at present, and carried away with the pleasing novelty of his error, to regard any arguments, as appears by the pleasure he takes in puzzling many ignorant persons with his captious questions. Let him alone ; only continue praying to the Lord for him ; he will in the course of his study discover his error. I myself, perverted by my mother, was once a Manichee, and read almost all their books, and yet at length was convinced of my error, without the help of any disputant." All this satisfied not my anxious parent; with floods of tears she persisted in her request; when at last he, a little out of temper on account of her importunity, said, " Be gone, good woman ; it is not possible, that the child of such tears should perish." She has often told me since, that this answer impressed her mind like a voice from Heaven.
For the space of nine years, namely, from the nineteenth to the twenty-eighth yearofmy age, Hived deceived and deceiving others, seducing men into various lusts, openly by what are called the liberal arts, and secretly by a false religion : in the former proud, in the latter superstitious; inall things seeking vain glory, even to theatrical applauses and contentious contests ; and to complete the dismal picture, a slave to the lusts of the flesh. So infatuated was I with the Manichean follies, that I drew my friends Cent.
into them, and with them practised the impieties of t .
the sect. The arrogant may despise me, and all who
have never felt a salutary work of self-humiliation
from thee, my God. But I would confess to thee
my own disgraces, for thy glory. What am I, left
to myself, but a guide rashly conducting others to a
precipice ? And when I am in a better state, what
am I, but an infant feeding upon thee, the bread
that perisheth not ? What is any man, since he is
flesh ? Let the proud and the strong despise us; but
we who are weak and poor would confess to thee.
At this time I maintained myself by teaching rhetoric ; and without fraud I taught my scholars, not how to oppress the innocent, but sometimes how to vindicate the guilty. I lived also with one woman, but without matrimony. At this time I ceased not also to consult astrologers; nor could I be induced by the arguments of a very sensible physician, nor by the admonitions of my excellent friend Nebridius, to reject these follies.
While I was teaching rhetoric in this manner in my native town, I enjoyed the friendship of a young man of my own age, a school-fellow and companion from infancy. Indeed there is no true friendship, except thou cement it among those who cleave to thee, through the love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us. But it was a friendship too sweet, inflamed by the fervour of similar studies. For I had drawn him aside from the true faith, which he held not in a deep and genuine manner, into the Manichean follies, on account of which my mother bewailed me. And lo! thou who pursuest thy fugitives, O God of vengeance and source of mercies, and convertest us to thyself by wonderful methods, lo! thou removedst him from this life, when I had scarcely enjoyed his friendship a year after my return to Tagasta. While he lay a long time senseless in a fever, and his life was
Chap, despaired of, he was baptized without his own n- , knowledge ; a thing which I regarded with great indifference, as not doubting but he would retain my instructions which had been instilled into his mind, rather than that which had been applied to his body, when he was ignorant of the matter. However, against all expectation he recovered. As soon as 1 had an opportunity of conversing with him, I attempted to turn into ridicule his late baptism, in which I expected his concurrence. But he dreaded me as an enemy, and with wonderful freedom suddenly admonished me, that if I would be his friend, I should drop the subject. Confounded at this unexpected behaviour, I deferred the conversation, till he should be thoroughly recovered. But he was removed from my madness, that he might be saved with thee my God, and that I might have comfort afterwards in reflecting on his salvation. In a few days the fever returned, and he died. How miserable was my life! My country was a punishment, my father's house a wonderful infelicity, and whatever I had enjoyed in common with him, without him was torment itself. I found I could now no longer say, He will come shortly, as I was wont to do. If I said, Hope in God, my soul refused; for the man whom I had lost was an object preferable to the phantasm *, on which I was bid to fix my hopes. Weeping alone was sweet to me, and supplied the absence of my friend.
Wretched I now was, and wretched is every soul that is bound by the friendship of mortal things. Behold my heart, my God, my hope, who cleansest me from the contagion of such affections, and directest my eyes to thee, and pluckest my feet out of the net. O madness! not knowing how to love men as men. —O foolish man! bearing with no moderation the lot of humanity. The load of misery burdened me,
* He means the fantastic idea of God, which as a Manicbee he had embraced.
which I knew thou alone couldst cure; but I was Cent. unwilling and impotent, because when I thought of / > thee, I had only a shadowy idol before me. If I attempted to throw my burden on thee, it returned upon myself, as I found nothing that would support it. I fled however from my country, and came to Carthage.
Time, other objects, and other friendships, gradually lessened my sorrow. But happy is he who loves thee, and his friend in thee, and his enemy for thy sake. For he only loses no friend to whom all are dear in him who is never lost; and who is he but our God, who made and fills heaven and earth. None loses thee but he who lets thee go; and he who dismisses thee, whither does he fly, but from the Propitious to the Adverse? God of power ! turn us, and show thy face, and we shall be saved. For, wherever the soul of man turns itself, it fixes upon sorrow, except in thee. Be not vain, my soul, and make not the ear of thy heart deaf with the tumult of vanity. The word itself calls to thee to return; there is the place of rest not to be disturbed. There with God fix thy mansion; there intrust whatever thou hast, my soul, when fatigued with vanities. If souls please thee, love them in God, and carry them with thee to him as many as thou canst, and say to them, let us love him, he made these things, and he is not far off. The good ye love is from him, but it will deservedly be bitter, if ye love it to excess, deserting him. Ye seek a happy life: he who is our life descended hither and destroyed death. After his descent, will ye not ascend and live ? But why ascend, since ye are too high already? Come down, that ye may ascend to God. For by rising up against him ye have fallen. Tell your friends these things, that they may weep; and so take them with thee to God, if indeed thou sayest these things from his Spirit, and if indeed the fire of his love burn in thee.
I made approaches to thee, O Lord, and thou repelledst me, because thou resistest the proud ; and what was prouder, than to assert that I was naturally what thou art* ? Alas ! of what avail was it that I understood the logic of Aristotle, and what are called the liberal arts ! I had, it is true, a facility of comprehension, and an acuteness in argumentation, thy gift; but I sacrificed not thence to thee. Hence they were to me a curse, and not a blessing. Yet, all this time, I looked on thee as an immense lucid body, of which I myself was a fragment. How much better was it with thy children of more tardy genius, who did not recede from thy nest, but were fledged and grew up in safety in thy Church, and nourished the wings of love with the food of sound faith ! O Lord our God, let us trust in the shadow of thy wings. " Do thou carry us to hoary hairs f." When thou art our strength, we have strength ; our own is weakness.
Receive the sacrifice of my confessions, and heal all my bones, that they may say, Lord, who is like unto thee ? The heart that is shut against thee excludes not thine eye, nor does the hardness of men's hearts repel thine hand, but thou softenest them when thou pleasest, in compassion or in vengeance, and none can hide himself from thy flame. But may my soul praise thee, that it may love thee, and may it acknowledge thy compassions, that it may praise thee! Let men be converted and seek thee; and behold, thou art in the heart of those who confess to thee, and cast themselves upon thee, and in thy bosom deplore their evil ways ; and thou in mercy wilt wipe away their tears, that they may weep the more, and
* In this blasphemy the Manichees followed the Pagan philosophers. They had no idea, also, that God was a spirit Hence our Author's long conflict, before he could form a spiritual idea of God.
f Isaiah xlvi. 4.
rejoice in tears, because thou, Lord, refreshest and comfortest them.
In the sight of my God I will give an account of the twenty-ninth year of my age. A Manichee bishop, named Faustus, had now come to Carthage, a great snare of the devil, and many were enchanted by his eloquence, which though I could not but commend, I yet distinguished from truth. Report had represented him as a very liberal and accomplished scholar. And as I had read many things of the philosophers, I compared them with the tedious tables of the Manichees, and found the former more probable. Thou regardest, Lord, the humble; the proud thou beholdest afar off. No doubt the foretelling of eclipses, and other things that might be mentioned, demonstrate the truth of the philosophical sciences in secular things. Unhappy is that man who knows all these things and knows not Thee; but blessed is he who knows thee, though he knows not these things. But he who knows both thee and them, is not happier on their account, but on account of thee alone is happy, if knowing thee he glorify thee as God, and be thankful, and be not vain ip his imaginations. For, as he is in a better situation, who possesseth a tree, and is thankful to thee for the use of it, though he knows neither its height nor breadth, than he who measures it, and counts all its branches, and neither possesses it, nor knows nor has learned his Creator; so the believer, whose property all the riches of the world are, And Who
HAVING NOTHING, YET POSSESSETH ALL THINGS
by cleaving to thee whom all things serve, is indisputably better than the most knowing natural philosopher upon earth, who lives in the neglect of thee *.
* An excellent comparison between the state of an illiterate believer, who feeds on Christ by faith, and that of an accomplished man of science, even of one skilled in speculative theology among other branches of knowledge, but destitute of spiritual life.
Chap. Yet the rashness of the Manichee writer, who , ^ , undertook to write of Astronomy, though completely ignorant of the science, is inexcusable, especially as he contended that the Holy Ghost resided personally in him. The ignorance of a believer in such subjects is very excusable; even if he fancy his mistaken notions in natural philosophy to be branches of religion. But who can bear to hear a pretender to infallible inspiration vending absurdities on the works of nature? Here then I had my doubts concerning the divinity of Manicheism, and in vain proposed them to those of the sect whom I met with. " You must wait till the all-accomplished Faustus come to Carthage," was all the answer I received. On his arrival I found him an agreeable speaker, and one who could deliver their dotages in a more persuasive tone. But by this time I was surfeited with these subjects, and I had been taught by thee, my God, who hast instructed me marvellously, but secretly, that style and manner, howeverexcellent, were not the same thing as sound argument. The address, indeed, the pathos, the propriety of language, and facility of expression in clothing his sentiments, delighted me ; but my mind was unsatisfied. The proofs of ignorance in science which I saw in Manicheism, connected with pretensions to infallibility, staggered my mind with respect to their whole system. On freely conversing with him, I found him possessed of an ingenuous frankness, more valuable than all the subjects of my investigation. He owned his ignorance in all philosophy, and left me convinced of it. Grammar alone, and some Ciceronean and other classical furniture, made up his stock of knowledge, and supplied him with a copiousness of diction, which received additional ornament from his natural vivacity of imagination. My hope of discovering truth was now at an end: I remained still a Manichee, because I despaired of succeeding better on any other plan. Thus that same Faustus, who had been the snare of death to many, was the first Cent. who relaxed my fetters, though contrary to his own . \' intention. Thy hands, my God, in the secret of thy providence, forsook not my soul: day and night the prayers of my mother came up before thee, and thou wroughtest upon me in ways marvellous indeed, but secret. Thou didst it, my God : For Man's Goings Are From The Lord : and who affords salvation but thy hand, which restores what thou hast made ? It was from thy influence that I was persuaded to go to Rome to teach, instead of Carthage. The deep recesses of thy wisdom and mercy must be confessed by me in this dispensation. I understood, that at Rome a teacher was not exposed to those turbulent proceedings, which were so common at Carthage. Thus the madness of one set of men, and the friendship of others, promising me vain things, were thy means of introducing me into the way of life and peace, and in secret thou madest use of their perverseness and my own. Here I detested real misery, there sought false felicity. But the true cause of this removal was at that time hidden both from me and my mother, who bewailed me going away, and followed me to the sea-side; but I deceived her, though she held me close with a view either to call me back, or to go along with me. I pretended that I only meant to keep company with a friend till he set sail; and with difficulty persuaded her to remain that night in a place dedicated to the memory of Cyprian. But that night I departed privily; and she continued weeping and praying. Thus did I deceive my mother, and Such a mother ! Yet was I preserved from the dangers of the sea, foul as I was in all the mire of sin, and a time was coming, when thou wouldest wipe away mymother's tears, with which she watered the earth, and even forgive this my base undutifulness. And what did she beg of thee, my God, at that time, but that I might be hindered from sailing? Thou, in profound
Chap- wisdom regarding the Hinge of her desire, neglect. _, edst the particular object of her present prayers, that thou mightest gratify the general object of her devotions. The wind favoured us, and carried us out of sight of the shore when in the morning she was distracted with grief, and filled thine ears with groans and complaints; whilst thou, in contempt of her violent agonies, hurriedst me along by my lusts to complete their desires, and punishedst her carnal desire with the just scourge of immoderate griefs *. She loved my presence with her, as is natural to mothers, though in her the affection was uncommonly strong, and she knew not what joy thou wast preparing for her from my absence. She knew not; therefore she wept and wailed. Yet after she had wearied herself in accusing my perfidy and cruelty, she returned to her former employment of praying for me, and went home, while I went to Rome.
And there I was punished with the scourge of bodily sickness, and I drew nigh to hell, carrying the load of all my sins, original and actual. For Christ had not freed me from them by the body of his flesh through death. For how could a fantastic death, such as I, a Manichee, then believed his to be, deliver my soul ? Whither must I have gone, had I at that time departed hence, but to the fire and torments worthy of my deeds, according to the truth of thy appointment f ! She was ignorant of this, and yet prayed for me, being absent. But thou, every where present, heard est her, and pitiedst
* It requires a mind well seasoned with Christian discernment and humility, to admire in all this the Providence of God working good out of evil; to separate what is truly holy and humble in the affections of our author's mother, from what was really carnal and earthly ; and hence to discover the justness of his reflections.
f Does the reader think this harsh ? Let him consider whether it can be any thing else than the want of a firm belief of the word of God, and a contempt of his holiness and authority, that can make him think so, and he will do well to apply the awful case to his own conscience.
me. Still in the crisis of my danger, I desired not thy baptism as I had done when a boy : I had grown up to my own disgrace, and madly derided thy medicine of human misery. How my mother, whose affection both natural and spiritual toward me was inexpressible, would have borne such a stroke, I cannot conceive. Morning and evening she frequented the church, to hear thy word and to pray, and the salvation of her son was the constant burden of her supplications. Thou heardest her, O Lord, and performedst in due season, what thou hadst predestinated. Thou recoveredst me from the fever, that at length I might obtain also a recovery of still greater importance.
The Manichees are divided into two bodies, auditors, and elect. He, in whose house I lodged, was of the former sort. I myself was ranked among the latter. With them I fancied myself perfectly sinless, and laid the blame of the evils I committed on another nature, that sinned within me *, and my pride was highly gratified with the conception. My attachment to this sect, however, grew more lax, as I found the impossibility of discovering truth, and felt a secret predilection in favour of the academic philosophy, which commends a state of doubt and uncertainty f- My landlord, who had not so much experience of the sect as I had, was elevated with their fancies. I checked his sanguine views ; and though the intimacy I had contracted with this
* Every human soul was supposed by the Manichees to have in it a mixture of the good and the evil principle.
f A very natural and common effect of reasoning pride. When a man attempts to discover and adjust religious truth by leaning to his own understanding, he frequently finds scepticism the sole result of his most painful investigations; and every thing appears doubtful to him, except the incompetency of fallen man to understand these things, and the propriety of seeking a new nature and a spiritual understanding from above. If the errors of Manicheism appear very absurd, there are other modes of deviation from Scripture truth, which would appear no less so, were they as unfashionable in our times.
people (for a number of them live at Rome) made me backward to seek elsewhere for truth, I was, however, little solicitous to defend the reputation of their tenets. It was a deplorable evil with me, that my prejudice was so strong against the Christian faith. When I thought of thee, my God, I could not conceive any thing but what was corporeal, though of the most exquisite subtilty: butwhatwas immaterial, appeared to be nothing. And here I seemed incurable in error. I did not conceive it possible, that a good Being should create an evil one, and therefore chose to admit limits to the infinite Author of Nature, by supposing him to be controlled by an independent evil principle. Yet, though my ideas were material, I could not bear to think of God being flesh. That was too gross and low in my apprehensions. Thy only begotten Son appeared to me as the most lucid part of thee, afforded for our salvation. I concluded, that such a nature could not be born of the Virgin Mary without partaking of human flesh, which I thought must pollute it. Hence arose my fantastic ideas of Jesus*, so destructive of all piety. Thy spiritual children may smile at me with charitable sympathy, if they read these my confessions; such, however, were my views. Indeed, while I was at Carthage the discourse of one Helpidius had moved me in some degree, who produced from the New Tastament several powerful arguments against their positions; and their answer appeared to me to be weak, which yet they did not deliver openly, but in secret. They pretended that the Scriptures of the New Testament had been falsified by some, who desired to insert Judaism into Christianity, but they themselves produced no uncorrupted copies f. Still did I pant
* It is evident that this sect comprehended in it the fundamental errors of the Docites, of whom we have spoken repeatedly.
f The Manichees, like all other heretics, could not stand before the Scriptures. They professedly rejected the Old Tes
under those masses of materialism, and was prevented from breathing the simple and pure air of thy truth.
Some unexpected disadvantages in the way of my profession laid me open to any probable offer of employ in other parts of Italy. From Milan, a requisition was made to Symmachus, prefect of Rome, to send a professor of rhetoric to that city. By the interest of my Manichean friends I obtained the honour, and came to Milan. There I waited on Ambrose the Bishop, a man renowned for piety through the world, and who then ministered the bread of life to thy people with much zeal and eloquence. The man of God received me like a father, and I conceived an affection for him, not as a teacher of truth, which I had no idea of discovering in thy Church, but as a man kind to me; and I studiously attended his lectures, only with a curious desire of discovering whether fame had done justice to his eloquence or not. I stood indifferent and fastidious with respect to his matter^ and at the same time was delighted with the sweetness of his language, more learned indeed, but less soothing and agreeable than that of Faustus. In their thoughts there was no comparison; the latter erred in Manichean fallacies, the former taught salvation in the most salutary manner. But salvation is far from sinners, such as I then was, and yet I was gradually approaching to it and knew it not. As I now despaired of finding the way to God, I had no concern with sentiment; language alone I chose to regard. But the ideas which I neglected came into my mind,
tament, as belonging to the malignant principle; and when they were pressed with the authority of the New, as corroborating the Old, they pretended the New was adulterated. Is there any new thing under the sun ? Did not Lord Bolingbroke set up the authority of St. John against St. Paul? Have we not heard of some parts of the Gospels as not genuine, because they suit not Socinian views ? Genuine Christian principles alone will bear the test, nor fear the scrutiny of the whole word of God.
Chap- together with the words with which I was pleased.
ll- , I gradually was brought to attend to the doctrine
of the bishop. I found reason to rebuke myself for the hasty conclusions I had formed of the perfectly indefensible nature of the law and the prophets. A number of difficulties, started upon them by the Manichees, found in the expositions of Ambrose a satisfactory solution. The possibility of finding truth in the Church of Christ appeared; and 1 began to consider by what arguments I might convict Manicheism of falsehood. Could I have formed an idea of a spiritual substance, their whole fabric had been overturned, but I could not. Moreover, I found that the philosophers in general explained the system of nature better than the Manichees. It seemed shameful to continue in connexion with a sect replete with such evident absurdities, that I could not but prefer to them the Pagan philosophers, though I dared not trust these with the healing of my soul, because they were without the saving name of Christ. In conclusion, I determined to remain a catechumen in the church recommended to me by my parents, till I saw my way more clearly.
O Thou ! my hope from my youth, where wast thou ? Thou madest me wiser than the fowls of heaven; yet I walked through darkness and slippery places. My mother was now come to me, courageous through piety, following me by land and sea, and secure of thy favour in all dangers. She found me very hopeless with respect to the discovery of truth. However, when I told her my present situation, she answered, that she believed in Christ, that bef ore she left this world she should see me a sound believer. To thee her prayers and tears were still more copious, that thou wouldest perfect what thou hadst begun, and with much zeal and affection she attended the ministry of Ambrose. Him she loved as an angel of God, because she understood that I had broken oft- from Manichean connexions through his means, and she confidently expected me to pass from sickness to health, though with a critical danger in the interval.
She had been used to bring- bread and wine for the commemoration of the saints; and still retaining the African custom, she was prohibited by the door-keeper, understanding that the bishop had forbidden the practice. Another person would not soon have been obeyed, but Ambrose was her favourite, and was himself amazed at the promptitude of her obedience. The reasons of the prohibition were, the fear of excess, and the danger of superstition, the practice itself being very similar to those of the Pagans*. Instead therefore of a canister full of the fruits of the earth, she henceforward, on the commemoration-days of the martyrs, gave alms, according to her ability, to the poor, and received the Lord's Supper, if it was celebrated on those occasions. Ambrose himself was charmed with the fervour of her piety and the amiableness of her good works, and often brake out in his preaching, when he saw me, congratulating me that I had such a mother, little knowing what sort- of a son she had, who doubted of all these things, and even apprehended that the way of life could not be found. Nor did I groan to thee in prayer for help, being intent only on study, and restless in discussions and investigations. In a secular view, Ambrose himself appeared to be a happy man, revered as he was by the imperial court; only his celibacy appeared to me in a melancholy light. But what hope he bore within, what struggles he had against the temptations of grandeur, what was his real comfort in adversity,
* Here is a striking instance of the growth of Pagan superstition in the church. The torrent was strong, and notwithstanding occasional checks which it irceived, at length overspread ill Christendom, and quite obscured tiie light of the Gospel.
Chap- his hidden strength and joy derived from the bread of **- , Life, of these things I could form no idea; for I had no experience of them ; nor did he know the fluctuations of my soul, nor the dangerous pit in which 1 was enslaved. It was out of my power lo consult him as I could wish, surrounded as he was with crowds of persons, whose necessities he relieved. During the little time in which he was from them, (and the time was but little) he either refreshed his body with food, or his mind with reading. Hence I had no opportunity to unbosom myself to him. A few words of conversation sufficed not . I expected in vain to find him at leisure for a long conversation*. I profited, however, by his sermons. Every Lord's day I heard him instructing the people, and I was more and more convinced of the falsity of the calumnies which those deceivers had invented against the divine books. And when 1 found, that the Mosaic expression of man made after the image of God, was understood by no believer to imply that God was in human form, though I still could form no idea of a spiritual substance, I was glad, and blushed to think how many years I had falsely accused the Church, instead of learning by careful inquiry f.
The state of my mind was now something altered; ashamed of past miscarriages and delusions, and hence the more anxious to be guided right for the time to come. I was completely convinced of the falsehood of the many things I had once uttered with so much confidence. I was pleased to find, that the Church of Christ was plainly free from the
* Doubtless, could the modesty of Augustine have prevailed on him to desire such a conference, he might have obtained it. And what a bishop then was, may be seen in Ambrose.
f A remarkable instance of partiality, attended with a remarkable frankness of confession. Augustine for nine years believed that the general church held the corporeal form of the Supreme Being, though he might with ease have learned the contrary at any time. But heresy in all ages acts in the same disingenuous spirit.
monstrous absurdity of which I had accused her. I found, too, that thy holy men of old held not those sentiments with which they were charged. And I was pleased to find Ambrose very diligently commending a rule to his people, " the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life *;" when the bishop, removing the mystic veil, opened to us those things, which according to the letter might seem to teach perverseness : what he said was agreeable to me, though I was far from being convinced of its truth -h My former mistakes and blameable rashness rendered me now exceedingly sceptical, and I wanted the fullest intuitive evidence. By faith, indeed, I might have been healed ; but having experienced a bad physician, I now dreaded a good one. By believing alone could I be cured; yet for fear of believing false things, I refused to be healed, resisting thy hands, who hast made for us the medicines of faith, and hast sprinkled them over the diseases of the world, and hast attributed so great authority to them.
I could not, however, but prefer the general doctrine of the church, and think it was more reasonable to enjoin faith in subjects incapable of demonstration, than to require the belief of most absurd fables after pretending to promise us knowledge. By degrees, thou, Lord, with a mild and merciful hand regulating and composing my heart, enabledst me to consider how many things I believed which I had never seen, what credit I gave to friends, to physicians, to many others, without which the com
• An important observation surely ! abused much by Origen, and many of his followers, to fanciful and capricious purposes. In Augustine, however, the distinction between letter and spirit was generally made commensurate with that between flesh and spirit, and in effect distinguished self-righteous from evangelical religion.
\ It would be well, if many, who stumble at the Old Testament, were more convinced of their own ignorance and incompetency, for want of a just and solid acquaintance with its typical nature, and the laws of interpreting it.
mon affairs of life could never be transacted; also, how firmly I believed who were my parents, though I could not possibly have any demonstration concerning the matter. Thus thou persuadest me, that those who believed thy books were not to be condemned for credulity, but those who disbelieved them were to be condemned for unreasonable obstinacy, especially as their credibility was established by the great authority which they had obtained throughout the world. " How do you know that those books were divinely inspired r" appeared to me now a question implying a doubt not worthy to be attended to. For, amidst all the contentiousness of philosophers, which had so much agitated my mind, I had ever preserved the belief of thy existence and Divine providence. Sometimes, indeed, this belief was stronger, sometimes weaker, yet it never left me, notwithstanding my great perplexity concerning thy nature, or the way of approaching thee. As we are too infirm to discover truth by abstract reasoning, and therefore need the authority of divine revelation, I apprehended, that thou wouldest never have given such high authority and influence to the Scriptures through the world, unless this had been the appointed means of our knowing thee, and seeking thy will; and now the absurdities, which the literal interpretation of many things seem to involve, after I had heard a probable exposition of several of them, I referred to the depth of mysteries; and hence the authority of thy book appeared more venerable and more credible, as it lay open to every one's view, and yet reserved the dignity of the secret by the most profound sentiments; offering themselves to all in a language the most open and the most humble, and exercising the attention of serious minds. I considered these things, and thou wast present with me; I sighed, and thou heardest me; I fluctuated, and thou directedst my course; I went along the broad way of the world, and thou didst not desert me *.
My heart was thirsting after honours, profits, and marriage, and thou deridedst me. In these lusts I suffered the bitterest difficulties; thou being so much the more propitious, the less thou sufferedst any thing to be pleasant to me which was not thyself. See, Lord, my heart. Now let it stick close to thee, which thou hast freed from the tenacious glue of death. How miserable was I, and how didst thou cause me to feel my misery on that day, when I was preparing to recite a panegyric to the emperor, in which there were many falsehoods, and I expected applause, even from those who knew them to be falsehoods, when my heart brooded over its anxieties, and passing through a certain street of Milan, I saw a poor beggar, I suppose at that time with a full belly, jocund and merry ! I sighed, and spake to my friends who were with me, of the many pains of our madness, because from all the toils, which with so much labour and vexation we underwent, we expected only that same rest and security, which that beggar had already attained, though we were uncertain whether we should ever reach it. In truth, he was not possessed of true joy, but I, by the ambiguous windings of art, sought it in a more delusory way. He, however, was evidently merry,
• We have seen here the close thoughts of an original thinker, who had once as strong a prejudice as any against Scripturetruth ; owning his rashness in condemning what he had not understood ; convinced of the rationality of the Scriptures, after he had in some measure discovered the true key to their meaning; persuaded of their divinity, from their providential propagation m the world ; owning the unreasonableness of expecting demonstration, and of refusing assent to grounds of faith such as determine us in common life; spying a divine beauty in the plainness and simplicity of their language, adapted to all capacities : and comprehending at length the necessity of a serious mind, in order to render them effectual to saving purposes.— Sceptics and infidels would do well to follow him in this train of thought: they need not to be ashamed to imitate a person so acute and ingenuous.
Chap. I full of anxiety; he at his ease, I full of fear. Were u- , I asked, whether frame of mind I should prefer, I should without hesitation choose his. Yet if I were asked, whether I would be Augustine, or the beggar, I should say the former. How perverse was this ! Much to this purpose did I say to my friends, and often observed how things were with me ; and I found myself miserable, and I grieved, and doubled that misery. And if any thing prosperous smiled upon me, I was backward to lay hold of it, because it flew away almost before I could lay hold of it*.
My most intimate conversations on these subjects were with Alypius and Nebridius. The former, my townsman, had studied under me both at Tagasta and at Carthage, and we were very dear to each other. The torrent of fashion at the latter place hurried him into the Circensian games, of which he became extravagantly fond. I was vexed to see him give into a taste so destructive of all sobriety and prudence in youth, and cannot but take notice of the providential manner in which he was delivered. While I was one day expounding in my school at Carthage, an allusion to the Circensian games occurred as proper to illustrate my subject, on which occasion I severely censured those who were fond of that madness. I meant nothing for Alypius ; but thou, Lord, who hadst designed him for a minister of thy word, and who wouldest make it manifest, that his correction should be thy own work, infixedst a deep sting of conviction into his heart; he believed, that I spake it on his account, loved me the more for it, and shook off the Circensian follies. But he was afterwards involved in Manicheism with me, deceived by the appearance
* A lively picture of human vanity, perfectly agreeable to the whole tenour of Ecclesiastks, and evidencing the distress of those in high life to be at least equal to that of their inferiors. Ambition receives no cure from the review, till the man knows what is better.
of good. Afterwards he came to Rome, to learn Cent.
the law, and there was ensnared with a new evil, a
fondness for the barbarous sports of gladiators, to which he had had a strong aversion. Some friends of his carried him to them by force, while he declared with great confidence, that his mind and eyes should still be alienated from those spectacles. For a while he closed his eyes with great resolution, till, on a certain occasion, when the whole house rang with shouting, overcome by curiosity, he opened his eyes to see what was the matter. Beholding a gladiator wounded, on the sight of the blood he was inebriated with the sanguinary pleasure. He gazed, he shouted, he was inflamed, he carried away with him the madness, which stimulated him. to repeat his visits; he became enamoured of the sports, even more than those who had dragged him thither against his will, and seduced others. Thence thou with a strong and merciful hand recoveredst him at length, but long after, and taughtest him to put his confidence not in himself, but in thee*. On another occasion, Alypius was apprehended as a thief, and circumstances seemed to tell so much against him, that it was by a particular providence his innocence was cleared. But he was to be a dispenser of thy word, an examiner of many causes in thy Church, and he learned caution and wisdom from this event. Him I found at Rome, and he removed with me to Milan, and practised in the law with uncommon uprightnessand integrity. With me, he was uncertain with respect to his plan of religion and the way of happiness.
My friend Nebridius also left a good paternal
* It is obvious to observe hence the folly of self-confidence, and the bewitching power of temptation over so weak and corrupt a creature as man. Many who would deem it impossible that they should enter with spirit into the obscenity of the stage, or the cruelties of the slave trade, by a little indulgence, may soon become what beforehand they would abhor.
estate in the neighbourhood of Carthage, for the sake of enjoying my company; and we three were panting after happiness, till thou shouldest give us meat in due season ; and amidst all the bitterness which attended our worldly concerns, while we were wishing to see the end of these things, we found ourselves in darkness, and we said with sighs, How long ? Yet we still followed objects with which we were dissatisfied, because we knew nothing better to substitute in their room.
As to myself in particular, I reviewed attentively how long I had been in pursuit of the true wisdom, with a determination to give up secular pursuits in case of success. I had begun at nineteen, and I was now in my thirtieth year, still miserable, anxious, procrastinating, fed with tantalizing hopes, solicited in my conscience to set apart a portion of time each day for the care of my soul. " Your mornings are for your pupils : why do not you employ to serious purpose the afternoons ? But then what time shall I have to attend the levees of the Great, and to unbend my mind with necessary relaxation ? What, then, if death should suddenly seize you, and judgment overtake you unprepared ? Yet, on the other side, what if death itself be the extinction of my being! But far be from my soul the idea. God would never have given such high proofs of credibility to Christianity, nor have shown himself so marvellously among men, if the life of the soul be consumed with the death of the body. Why, then, do I not give myself wholly to seek God ? But do not be in too great a hurry: you have friends of consequence, by whom you may rise in the world!"
In such an agitation of mind as this did I live, seeking happiness, and yet flying from it. To be divorced from the enjoyments of the world I could not bear, particularly from female society ; and as I had no idea of acquiring continency but by my own strength, I was a stranger to the way of prayer and divine supply of grace. Thou, Lord, wilt give, if we solicit thine ears with internal groaning, and in solid faith cast our care on thee. My mother was solicitous and importunate for my being married, that I might in that state receive baptism. I promised marriage to a person who was then too young; and as she was agreeable to me, I consented to wait almost two years. During this interval, a number of us, about ten in all, formed a scheme of living in common in a society separate from the world, in which a townsman of mine, Komanianus, a man of considerable opulence, was particularly earnest. But some of us being married men, and others desirous of becoming so, the scheme came to nothing. Thou deridedst our plans, and preparedst thy own, meaning to give us food in due season, and to open thine hand, and fill our souls with blessedness. In the mean time my sins were multiplied, and the woman with whom I had cohabited, returning into Africa under a vow of never more being acquainted with our sex, and leaving with me a natural son which I had by her, I, impatient of the delay, took another woman in her room. Praise and glory be to thee, 0 Fountain of mercies ! I became more miserable, and thou approachedst nearer. Thou wast going to snatch me out of the mire of pollution, and I knew it not. The fear of death and future judgment was the check which restrained me. This had never left me amidst the variety of opinions with which I was agitated, and I owned to Alypius and Nebridius, that the Epicurean doctrine would have had the preference in my judgment, could I have fallen in with Epicurus's idea of the annihilation of man at death ; and I inquired why we might not be happy, if we were immortal, and were to live in a perpetual state of voluptuousness without any fear of losing it; ignorant as I was of the misery of being so drenched in carnality, as not to see the excellency
VOL. II. z
of embracing goodness itself for its own sake. I did not consider, that I conferred on these base topics with friends whom I loved, and was incapable of tasting pleasure, even according to the carnal ideas I then had of pleasure, without friends*.
O my serpentine ways! Wo to the soul which presumed, if it departed from thee, that it should find any thing better. I turned on every side, and all things were hard, and thou alone wast my rest; and lo! thou comest and freest us from our miserable delusions, and placest us in thy way, and comfortest us, and sayest, " Run and I will bear you ; I will carry you through, and bear you still."
And now the older I grew, the more defiled was I with vanity, still destitute of the spiritual idea of God ; not conceiving however of thee, O Lord, as existing in human form, an error of which. I now saw, I had unjustly accused the catholic church, but still viewing thee as an object of sense, however refined ; and when I removed the ideas of space and quantity, thou seernedst to be nothing at all. For thou hadst not yet illuminated my darkness. 1 he arguments of my friend Nebridius appeared to me conclusive against the Manichean idea of an independent evil principle in nature. I was grown firm in the belief, that in the Lord is nothing corruptible, mutable, or in any sense imperfect; that evil must not be imputed to him, in order that we may clear ourselves of blame, with the Manichees. Still, however, a question distressed me, how came evil into being at all? Admitting that it lies in the will of man, that the distinction between a natural and
* A strong intimation that happiness consists in love or friendship. Whence the pleasure of friendsnip with Jesus, an Almighty, nll-sufhcient friend, made man for us, and sympathizing with us, appears to give us the just and adequate idea of bliss.
moral inability is real and just, and that the former is not the proper subject of blame as the latter is ; still I inquired, who ingrafted into my stem this cyon of bitterness, seeing that I was created by Him who is infinite sweetness! I inquired whence came evil, and I saw not the evil which was in my investigations. I stated the great difficulty in various lights, and it still appeared as inexplicable as ever. The faith, however, of Christ our Lord and Saviour remained firm with me, rude and unformed indeed ; yet m)' mind forsook it not, and was imbibing it daily more and more*.
From the vain science of astrology also, which I had cultivated with obstinacy, I was delivered, partly by the reasonings of my excellent friend Nebridius, and partly by a story which I heard of a master and slave born at the same point of time, whose different fortunes in life appeared to be a sufficient confutation of all predictions by the starsf ; and the case of Esau and Jacob in holy writ illustrated the same thing. But it was thou, and thou only, who recalledst me from the death of all error, O thou life that knowest not death, and thou wisdom who illuminatest indigent minds. Thou breakest this bond for me; still was I seeking whence comes evil. Yet, by all the fluctuations of thought thou didst not
* I have endeavoured to compress the author's accounts of his difficulties in these two questions of the substance of God, and of the o: igin of evil, into a small compass, not thinking it needful to translate them at large. Municheism was the cause of his trouble in regard to the former. The latter is in all ages a natural temptation to our proud minds, and we are slow t'i learn to answer it with St. Paul: Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliesi against God? llom. ix. Humility will end the subject there ; and pride is not to be satisfied by any investigations.
f Few men have candour enough to put themselves in the places and scenes of others- Nothing is more certain than this, that Augustine and Melanclhon were men of extraordinary understanding ; both however were addicted to astrology, an absurdity, which even the weakest in our age escapes. Such is the difference of the times !
Chap, suffer me to be seduced from the faith of thy existir* , ence, of thy perfections, of thy providence, or to doubt that in Christ thy Son and in the Scriptures thou hast laid down the way of salvation. What were the groanings, the labours of my heart! While I silently inquired, distressed and confounded, thou knewest the whole, thou knewest what I suffered, and no man whatever, not my most intimate friends, could know, by any description which I could give, the bitterness of my soul. My folly was, to look for a local, external happiness. No such was found to receive me. By the original dignity of my nature, I was above all sensual objects ; and thou, my true joy, madest me subject to thyself, and subjectedst to me the works of thy hands. This was the middle region of health, in which I might serve thee and rule the body. But I proudly rose up against thee, and was justly punished, by being enslaved to those things which should have been my subjects ; they gave me no respite nor rest. My pride separated me from thee, and closed my eyes with its own tumid importance. But thou, Lord, remainest for ever, and retainest not anger for ever ; thou pitiest us, and rememberest that we are dust and ashes. It pleased thee to remove my deformities, and by internal incentives thou agitatedst me, that I might be impatient till thou madest thyself assuredly known to me by internal illumination. The morbid tumours of my mind were gradually lessening under thy secret medicinal hand, and the eyes of my understanding, darkened and confounded as they were, by the sharp eye-salve of salutary pains, were healing day by day.
And first, as thou wouldst show me how thou resistest the proud, and givest grace to the humble; and how great thy mercy is shown to be in the way of humility ; thou procuredst for me, by means of a person highly inflated with philosophical pride, some of the books of Plato translated into Latin, in which I read passages concerning the Divine Word, similar to those in the first chapter of St. John's Gospel; in which his eternal divinity was exhibited, but not his incarnation, his atonement, his humiliation, and glorification of his human nature. For thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them to babes; that men might come to thee weary and heavy laden, and that thou mightest refresh them; thou, who art meek and lowly in heart, whodirectest the meek in judgment, andteachestthe gentle thy ways, seeing our low estate, and forgiving all our sins. This is a knowledge not to be attained, while men are lifted up by the pomp and grandeur of what appears to them a sublimer doctrine. Thus did I begin to form better views of the Divine nature, even from Plato's writings, as thy people of old spoiled the Egyptians of their gold, because whatever good there is in any thing is all thy own; and at the same time I was enabled to escape the evil which was in those books, and not to attend to the idols of Egypt.
However, I was hence admonished to retire into myself under thy guidance, and I was enabled to do it, because thou art my helper. I entered, and saw with the eye of my mind the immutable light of the Lord, perfectly distinct from sensible light, not only in degree, but in kind. Nor was it in the same manner above my mind, that oil is above water, or as heaven is above earth, but superior, because he made me, and I was inferior, because made by him*. He who knows truth, knows this light, and
* He had been long corrupted by the Atheistic views which he had learned from the Manichees, and no wonder that he now found it so difficult to conceive aright of God. There appears something divinely spiritual in the manner of his deliverance. That the Platonic books also should give the first occasion is very remarkable; though I apprehend the Latin translation which he saw, had improved on Plato, by the mixture of something scriptural, according to the manner of the Ammonian philosophers.
Chap, he who knows it, knows eternity. Love knows it nj O eternal truth, true love, and loving eternity ! Thou art my (rod. I pant after thee day and night. And when I first knew thee, thou tookestme that I might see that " to be " which I saw ; and that I who saw, "as yet was not." Thou impressedst repeatedly my infirm sight, thou shinedst on me vehemently, and I trembled with love and horror, and I found that I was far from thee in a region of dissimilitude, as if I heard thy voice from on high, " I am the food of those that are of full age; grow, and thou shalt eat me." Nor shalt thou change me into thyself, but shalt thyself be changed into me. And I said, can God be nothing, since he is neither diffused through finite nor infinite space? And thou criedst from afar, " I am that I am*," and I heard with my heart, and could not doubt. Nay I should sooner doubt my own existence, than the truth of that which is understood by the things that were made.
I now began to understand, that every creature of thine hand is in its nature good, and that universal nature is justly called on to praise the Lord for his goodness t. The evil which I sought after has no positive existence; were it a substance, it would be good, because every thing individually, as well as all things collectively, is good. Evil appeared to be a want of agreement in some parts to others. My opinion of the two independent principles, in order to account for the origin of evil, was without foundation. Evil is not a thing to be created ; let good things only forsake their just place, office and order, and then, though all be good in their nature, evil, < which is only a privative, abounds and produces positive misery. I asked what was iniquity, and I found it to be no substance, but a perversity of the will, which declines from thee the Supreme Substance
to lower things, and casts away its internal excellencies, and swells with pride externally *.
And I wondered that I now began to have a desire after thee, and no longer took a phantasm for thee. I was not urgent to enjoy thee, my God, for though I was hurried toward thee, by thy beauty, I was presently carried downward from thee by my own weight, and I could no longer sin without groaning; the weight was carnal habit. The memory of thee was with me, and I did not doubt of the reality of that divine essence to which I should adhere, but of myself being ever brought into a state of spiritual existence. I saw thy invisible things by the things which were made, but I could not fix my attention to thee; my corruption exerting itself, I returned to my usual habits, but I could not shake off the fragrance of memory, smelling the true good, regretting the loss, and impotent to taste and enjoy t.
I now sought the way of obtaining strength to enjoy thee, and found it not, till I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ
Jesus, WHO IS ABOVE ALL, GOD BLESSED FOR
Ever;};, calling and saying, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. For the Word was made flesh, that thy wisdom might suckle our infancy. But I did not yet in humility hold the humble Jesus, my Lord, nor
* Perhaps a more just account of the manner in which evil is produced can scarcely be given ; it is certainly well calculated to confute the principles of Manicheism.
f In many true converts this was their state exactly, while God was turning them from darkness to light. Such a sense of God, as never before was known, is attained, sufficient to conquer the false and injurious thoughts of him, which had been before imbibed, be they what they may. Hut the man feels his impotence with respect to good, and he must, with Augustine, struggle and endure for a time, till the strength of Jesus is perfected in his weakness.
% Here is a clear testimony to the authenticity and genuine interpretation of that remarkable text, Rom. ix. 5, the light of which has been so peculiarly offensive to those whom fashionable here&jes in our age have darkened.
know the mysterious power of his weakness, that he might humble, nourish, and at length exalt heavyladen souls. Far other thoughts had I conceived of Christ. I had viewed him only as a man of unequalled wisdom. But, of the mystery of the Word made flesh, 1 had not formed the least suspicion. Only I concluded from the things written of him, that he must have had a human soul. Alypius indeed had conceived, that the catholic faith denied him the spirit of a man, and was a longer time prejudiced against the truth, because he confounded the Church with the Apollinarian heresy. As to myself, I was not till sometime after taught to distinguish the truth from the opinion of Photinus *; but there must be heresies, that they who are of the truth may be made manifest.
But when, by reading the Platonic books I began to conceive of the immaterial infinite Supreme, I talked of these things like a person of experience, but was perishing, because void of Christ, I desired to appear wise, was puffed up with knowledge, and wept not. Love, on the foundation of humility, which is Christ Jesus, was to me unknown. The books of Plato knew not this; still would I remark the providence of my God, in leading me to study them, before I searched the Scriptures, that I might remember how I had been affected by them ; and when afterwards my wounds should be healed by thy hand through the Scriptures, I might distinguish the difference between presumption and confession, between those who see whither we ought to go, without knowing the means, and those who see the way itself leading to the actual inheritance. Had I been informed at first by thy Scriptures, and thou hadst endeared thyself to me in their familiarity, an after-acquaintance with Plato might either have shaken my faith, or raised in me an undue estimation of the worth of his writings.
* Which seems to have been the same with Sabellianism.
With eagerness, therefore. I took up the inspired Cent. volume•, and particularly the Apostle Paul; and >_ v those questions, in which he once had seemed inconsistent with himself, and the law, and the prophets, were now no more. There now appeared one uniform tenour of godliness, and I learnt to rejoice with trembling, and I took up the book, and found whatever truth I had read there, is said with this recommendation of thy grace, that he who sees should not so Glory As If He Had Not RecLived, not only that which he sees, but the power of seeing itself f. For what hath he, which he hath not received ? And he who cannot see afar, should however walk in the way, by which he may come, see, and lay hold. For though he be delighted With
THE LAW OF GOD IN THE INWARD MAN, YET
WHAT SHALL HE DO WITH THE OTHER LAW IN
HIS MEMBERS WARRING AGAINST THE LAW OF
HIS MIND, AND BRINGING HIM INTO CAPTIVITY
TO THE LAW OF SIN, WHICH IS IN HIS MEMBERS^?
For thou, Lord, art just, but we have sinned and
dealt wickedly, and thy hand is heavy upon us, and
we are justly delivered up to the power of the old
sinner who has the power of death, because he
persuaded us to follow his will, by which he did not
stand in the truth. Who shall deliver us from the
body of this death, but thy grace through Jesus
Christ our Lord, in whom the prince of this world
could find nothing worthy of death, and who by his
death blotted out the hand-writing that was against
us? The Platonic books had nothing of this, nor
* It may be remarked here, how depraved the taste of man is, and how much and how long he will suffer before he give himself simply to the instruction of God's own words.
f He means the inestimable privilege of spiritual understanding, through his want of which St. Paul had long appeared to him contradictory, confused, and disgusting. The man is well qualified to recommend to others the value of divine teaching, who, like Augustine, is experiencing it in himself. Nothing teaches humility like such experience.
t Rom. vii.
the face of piety, the tears of confession, the sacrifice of a troubled spirit, a broken and contrite heart, salvation, the spouse, the holy city, the earnest of the Holy Spirit, the cup of our redemption. In them no one hears, " Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." It is one thing to see a land of peace at a distance, with no practicability of attaining it, and another to pursue the right road towards it, under the care of the heavenly Commander, who made the road for our use. I was wonderfully affected with these views, while I read The Least Of Thine Apostles, and I considered thy works and trembled.
All My Bones Shall Say, Lord, Who Is Like Unto Thel? Thou hast broken my bones in sunder. How thou brakest them, I will relate; and all who worship thee, when they hear these things, shall bless the Lord. Though now confirmed in my doctrinal views, my heart was yet uncleansed. I approved of the Saviour, in general, who is the Way, but was offended with his narrow way, and thou inspiredst me with a desire of going to Simplician, an aged, experienced Christian, even from his youth, who seemed capable of instructing me in my present fluctuations. My desires no longer being inflamed with the hope of honour aud money, 1 was displeased with the servitude of the world in which I lived. Thy sweetness was now more agreeable in mine eyes; but another tie still detained me, in which I had permission indeed in a legal way, though exhorted to the higher and nobler practice of celibacy *. I had heard from the mouth of Truth, that there are eunuchs, Who Have Made Themselves Eunuchs For The Kingdom Of Heaven's Sake.
* Corinthians vii.
I went then to Simplician, the spiritual father of Cent. bishop Ambrose himself, who loved him as his . \' father. I explained to him my religious situation. When I was relating, that I had read some Platonic books translated by Victorinus, a Roman rhetorician, who had died a Christian, he congratulated me on having met with that philosopher rather than any of the rest; because they are full of fallacy, but in him intimations are given of God and of his word *. Then for my practical instruction, he gave me the narrative of the conversion of Victorinus, with whom he had been intimate at Rome. Thy grace was indeed admirable in thai convert. Me was a man of great learning, far advanced in life, well skilled in all liberal knowledge; lie had read, criticised, and illustrated many philosophers; he had taught many illustrious senators ; had been honoured by a statue erected in the Roman Forum, as a reward of his labours; and even to his old age was a worshipper of idols, and a partaker of all the rites, to which almost the whole Roman nobility at that time were addicted ; moreover, he had, many years, defended the monstrous and absurd objects of worship, to which the common people had been accustomed, but now he was not ashamed to become a child of thy Christ, an infant of thy fountain, with his neck subjected to the yoke of humility, and his forehead subdued to the reproach of the cross. O Lord, thou, who bowedst the heavens and earnest down, who touchedst the mountains, and they smoked, by what means didst thou insinuate thyself into his heart! He read, as Simplician told me, the holy Scripture, and studiously investigated all Christian literature, and told my instructor, not openhy, but in secrecy as to a friend, " Know that I am already a Christian." He answered, " I shall not believe it,
* Here I apprehend is a proof of llie decay of Christian taste in the church at that time, the consequence of Ammonianism and Origenisni, namely, a disposition to find in Plato what he has aot What communion bath the temple of God with idols
nor rank you among Christians, till I see you in the Church of Christ." But he smiling, answered, " Do walls then make Christians ?" This kind of dialogue was frequently repeated between them. For Victorinus feared to offend his friends, men of rank and dignity, and he dreaded the loss of reputation. But after that, by further studying of the word, and by secret prayer, he had acquired more strength, and feared to be denied by Christ before the angels, if he denied him before men, and felt himself condemned for being ashamed of Christian sacraments, though he had not been ashamed of demon-worship, he blushed at his false modesty, and suddenly said to Simplician, " Let us go to the Church, I wish to be made a Christian." The venerable old saint, unable to contain his joy, went with him when he was imbued with the first sacraments of instruction. Not long after, he gave in his name, that he might have the benefit of Christian baptism. Rome was astonished; the church rejoiced. The proud saw and were indignant, and gnashed with their teeth and pined away ; but, the Lord his God was the hope of thy servant, and he no longer regarded lying vanities. At length, when the season came on of professing his belief, which profession is usually delivered at Home from a high place, in the sight of the faithful, in a certain form of words gotten by heart, by those who are to partake of thy grace in baptism, an offer was made by the presbyters, that he should repeat them more secretly, as was the custom for some who were likely to be disturbed through bashfulness. But he chose rather to profess his salvation in the sight of the holy multitude; for there was no salvation in rhetoric, and yet he had publicly professed it. When he mounted the pulpit to repeat,—all who knew him, (and who was there that did not know him ?) with a whisper of congratulation resounded his name. Amidst the general joy, the sound though checked with decent reverence, went round, " Victorinus, Victorinus !" Cent. They exulted at the sudden sight of him ; and were . v' as suddenly silent, that they might hear him. He pronounced the form of words with an excellent confidence, and all wished to hold him in their bosom, and they actually did so in love and joy *.
O gracious God ! what is the cause, that men more rejoice in the salvation of a soul despaired of, than if it had always been in a state of security! For even thou, merciful Father ! rejoicest more over one penitent, than over ninety and nine just persons, that need no repentance, and we hear with peculiar pleasure the recovery of thy prodigal son. Now what is the reason, that the mind is more delighted with things recovered, than with things never lost ? Human life is full of such instances. Is this the law of human happiness ? How high art thou in the highest, and how inscrutable in the deepest! Thou never recedest from us, and with reluctance we return to thee. Awake, O Lord, and do, quicken and recall us, inflame and carry us along; burn, be sweet to our taste, and let us now love and run. The joy of Victorinus's conversion indeed was reater, because his influence and authority, it was oped, might be useful to the salvation of many. For, far be it from thee, that in thy house there should be respect of persons, since thou Rather
HAST CHOSEN THE WEAK THINGS OF THE
WORLD TO CONFOUND THE STRONG, AND BASE
Things Of The World, yea, and things which are
not, to bring to nought things that are f. What a
* I thought a careful translation of this story was proper. It is an instance of victorious grace, something like that which we have more at large related by Augustine concerning himself. It shows how disreputable real Christianity was among the great, even in countries where it was the established religion, as was then the case at Rome; and what grace is needful to cause men to be willing to bear the cross of Christ; and it illustrates also some Christian customs and discipline at that time.
f 1 Cor. i.
Chap- treasure had the heart and tongue of Victorinos n- been to Satan! Well did it become thy sons to exult, because our King had bound the strong man, and they saw his goods taken from him, and cleansed, and fitted for thy honour, and to every good work.
Hearing these things from Simplician, I was inflamed with the desire of imitation. But after he had informed me further that Victorinus, on occasion of Julian's prohibitory law, had given up his professorship, I found an inclination to imitate him, bound as I was, to the same calling, not by a foreign chain, but by my own iron will. The enemy held my will, thence formed my chain, and held me fast. From a perverse will was formed lust, from the indulgence of lust was formed habit, and habit unresisted became necessity. Of such links was my chain of slavery composed; and the new will, which was beginning in me, to worship thee freely, and enjoy thee, my sole certain pleasure, was not yet strong enough to overcome the old one, hardened by custom. Thus two wills, the old and the new, the flesh and the spirit, contended within me, and between them tore my very soul*. 'J hus did I understand by my own experience what I had read, that the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh f. I indeed was actuaied by both, but more by that which I approved, than by that which I disapproved. 1 had now no just excuse; truth was certain to me, yet I was loth to serve thee, and was as afraid to be rid of my impediments, as I ought to have been of contracting
* Excellent comment on Horn. vii.— A description only to be fully understood by experienced Christians.
f Galat. v. where the same subject is more briefly handled: the conflict is well known to true Chilians all their days, though it most strikes their minds at first. In the unconveried it can have no existence, because the will is inclined only une way, and it is therefore quite a dillerent thing from the conflict between reason and passion, with which it has been confounded.
them. My meditations on thee, were like the Cent. attempts of men desirous of awaking, but sinking „ Yj . again into sleep. I had not a heart to answer
thee, AWAKE THOU THAT SLEEPEST, AND ARlSE FROM THE DEAD, AND CHRIST SHALL GIVE
Thee Light *. By and by—shortly—let me alone a little—these were the answers of my heart. But, by and by had no bounds, and let me alone a little, went to a great length. In vain was I delighted with thy law in the inner man, when another law in my members warred against the law of my mind. Wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death, but thy grace through Jesus Christ our Lord?
My anxiety increasing, I daily groaned to thee, I frequented thy church as often as I had leisure from those employments under the weight of which I groaned. Alypius was with me during his vacation from the law, which was his practice, as rhetoric was mine Our other friend, Nebridius, was gone to assist Verecundus at Milan, in teaching grammar, who studiously avoided attendance upon the great, that he might command leisure to improve his mind. On a certain day, Politian, an African, one of our townsmen came to visit me and Alypius. We sat down to converse, and upon the play-table which was before us, he saw a book, opened it, and found it to be the Apostle Paul, to his great surprise; for he supposed it to have been a book relating to my profession. He, though a soldier at court was a devout person, and congratulated me on my taste. On my informing him, how earnestly I studied those epistles, he gave me an account of Anthony the Egyptian monk, a character to that hour unknown to us ; lie lniormea us also of a number of monasteries, of which we knew nothing. There was even a monastery at Milan under the care of Ambrose at that time, of which we * Ephesians v.
had not heard *. When he had given a narration also of two of his companions, who suddenly gave themselves up to God in the same way, and forsook the world, I felt myself confounded. About twelve years had now elapsed from the nineteenth year of my life, when I read Cicero's Hortensius, to this time since I had begun to seek wisdom, and I was yet at a distance from joy. In the entrance on youth, I had prayed for chastity, and had said, "Give me chastity and continence, but grant not my request immediately." For I was afraid, lest thou shouldest quickly hear my prayer, and heal this distemper of concupiscence, which I wished rather to be fully gratified than extinguished. And I had gone on perversely in depraved superstition, with a heart at enmity against thy truth, and had deferred from day to day to devote myself to thee, under the pretence that I was uncertain where the truth lay. Now that it was certain, I was still a slave, and " I hear of others, who have not studied ten or twelve years as I have done, and who, notwithstanding, have given themselves up to God." Such were my thoughts. What pains did I not take to spur my reluctant spirit! My arguments were spent, a silent trepidation remained, and I dreaded deliverence itself as death. " What is this," said I to Alypius, " which you have heard? Illiterate men rise and seize heaven, while we, with all our learning, are rolling in the filth of sin." In the agitation of my spirit I retired into the garden belonging to the house, knowing how evil I was, but ignorant of the good thou hadst in store for me. Alypius followed me, and we sat remote from the house, and with vehement indignation I rebuked
* Should the serious reader find himself inclined to blame this monastic taste, I agree with him : but let the principle have its just praise; it originated in a desire of freedom from the temptations of the world ; and let professors of godliness observe, how much the excessive indulgence of the commercial spirit prevents their own progress in our times.
ray sinful spirit, because it would not give itself up to God. I found I wanted a will. Still was I restrained, and thou, in secret, wast urgent upon me with severe mercy. Vanities of vanities, my old mistresses, shook my vesture of flesh, and whispered, Are we to part ? and for ever ? The evil suggestions which I felt, may thy mercy avert from the soul of thy servant! Canst thou live without us? they said ; but with less and less power. On the other hand appeared the chaste dignity of Continence. Canst thou not, said she, perform what many of both sexes have performed, not in themselves indeed, but in the strength of the Lord ? Cast thyself on him, fear not, he will not suffer thee to fall. Turn a deaf ear to the suggestions of the flesh ; they speak of pleasure, but not as the law of thy God. Such was my internal controversy. When deep meditation had collected all my misery into the view of my heart, a greatstorm arose, producing alarge shower of tears. To give it vent, I rose up hastily from Alypius. The sound of my voice appeared pregnant with weeping, and he remained motionless in the same place. I prostrated myself under a fig-tree, and with tears bursting out, I spake to this effect: How long, Lord, wilt thou be angry ? for ever ? remember not my old iniquities. For I perceived myself entangled by them. How long shall I say to-morrow? why should not this hour put an end to my slavery ? Thus I spake, and wept in the bitterness of my soul, and I heard a voice, as from a neighbouring house, repeating frequently, " take up and read, take up and read." I paused, and began to think, whether I ever had heard boys use such a speech in any play, and could recollect nothing like it. I then concluded that I was ordered from heaven, to take up the book, and read the first sentence I cast mine eyes upon. I returned hastily to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there I had placed the book of St. Paul's Epistles. I
VOL, II. A A
Chap- seized it, opened, and read what first struck my ll- , eyes; " Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying ; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." Nor did I choose to read any thing more, nor had I occasion. Immediately at the end of this sentence, all my doubts vanished. I closed the book, and with a tranquil countenance gave it to Alypius. He begged to see what I had read, I showed him it, and he read still further #. " Him that is weak in the faith receive ye;" which he applied to himself, as he told me. With a placid serenity and composure suitable to his character, in which he far excelled me, he joined with me in going to my mother, who now triumphed in the abundant answers given to her petitions. Thus didst thou turn her mourning into joy.
BOOK IX. O Lord, I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid, thou hast broken my bonds in sunder. Let my heart and tongue, and all my bones say, Lord, who is like unto thee ? and do thou answer me, and say to my soul, I am thy salvation. Who and what am I? what evil am I not? Was it my will, or words, or deeds, that have done it ? No: but thou, Lord, good and merciful, by thy powerful right hand delivered me from the depths of misery; and thoroughly cleansed the very bottom of my heart of all its corruptions. The whole of my evil lay in a will stubbornly set in opposition to thine. But where lay my free-will of old time, and from what deep secret was it called out in a moment, by which I bowed my neck to thy easy yoke, and my shoulders to thy light burden, Christ Jesus, my helper and Redeemer ? How sweet was it, in a moment to be free from those delightful vanities, to lose which * Rom. xiii. end, and xiv. beginning.
had been my dread, to part with which was now my Cent. joy ! Thou ejectedst them, O my true and consum- . y. mate delight, and thou enteredst in their room, O sweeter than all pleasure, but not to flesh and blood ; clearer than all light, but to the inner man; higher than all honour, but not to those who are high in their own conceits. Now was my mind set free from the corroding cares of avarice and ambition and lust, and I conversed familiarly with thee, my light, my riches, my Saviour, and my God.
I determined in thy sight to give up my employments, not abruptly, but gradually *. And opportunely, the vintage vacation being at hand, I resolved to continue in my employment till that time. I was glad also, that I had an opportunity of saying to my scholars, what was true, that the care of my health, which had suffered much from fatigue, obliged me to cease from the laborious office of teaching. And to have given up the work before the vacation might have appeared arrogant, and ex
* I would suggest four particular remarks on the narrative of our author's conversion. 1. That it does please God in every age to distinguish some of the works of his Holy Spirit by extraordinary circumstances. It is of little consequence, to debate whether the voice heard in the garden was miraculous or not, whether literally true, or an impression on his mind. Either way it was equally from God, and sheds a lustre on the conversion of a great and eminently holy personage, who was called to testify remarkably for God in his day. 2. There is generally some master-sin, which impedes the work of God in all his people; Augustine's was sensuality, and in the mortification of that master-sin the grace of God is peculiarly illustrated. 3. The great medium of deliverance always is, the written word of God testifying of Jesus, and salvation only by putting him on through faith. 4. Man's extremity is God's opportunity. In our weakness thoroughly felt God appears. Is it to be wondered, that the Saint before us proved so strong and zealous a champion of the effectual grace of God, and was made use of to revive the clear doctrine of it in the church, and was trained up by his own experience to defend it against the subtilties. of Pelagius ? He who foresaw what Pelagius would introduce, in his adorable wisdom, thus provided an experienced pastor of his church, who in due time should withstand his corruptions.
posed me to the censure of vanity. But should any of thy servants think, that I did wrong in remaining in the chair of deceit a day longer, I will not contend. But hast not thou, most merciful Lord, washed away this, with all my other deadly sins, in the laver of regeneration ?
Our friend Verecundus was seized with a distemper, and, receiving baptism in the midst of it, departed this life in thy faith and fear. Not long after my conversion, my friend Nebridius also, though he had sunk into the error which takes away the proper manhood of thy Son, was recovered; and becoming a faithful Christian, in Africa his own country, quitted this tabernacle of clay, and now lives in Abraham's bosom. He no more puts his ear to my mouth, but his spiritual mouth to thy fountain to receive as much wisdom as he is capable of—happy without end.
It is pleasant to me to remember and confess how thou didst teach me and my friend Alypius, in the country, where we enjoyed the affectionate and sedulous care of my mother. We were both in the capacity of catechumens, and I read with pleasure the Psalms of David. With what mingled pity and indignation did I look on the Manichees, who madly rejected the antidote of life. O that they saw the internal eternal life, which because I had tasted, I grieved that I could not show it to them !
The holidays being finished, I signified to my scholars, that they must provide themselves another teacher. And I wrote to Ambrose an account of my errors, and of my present desire; and begged him to recommend some part of thy word more particularly to my attention, as a proper preparative for baptism. He pointed out to me the prophet Isaiah, I apprehend, on account of his superior perspicuity in opening the Gospel. However, finding the first part of this prophet more obscure, and apprehending the rest to be similar, I deferred the reading of him, till I was more experienced in the Scriptures. The time approaching in which I must give in my name, I left the country and returned to Milan. There I received baptism with Alypius and the boy Adeodatus, the fruit of my sin. He was almost fifteen years old, and, in understanding, he exceeded many learned men. I glorify thee for thy gifts, my God ; for I had nothing in the boy but sin. For that I brought him up in thy religion, thou, and thou only, inspiredst me. I looked with trembling at his prodigious genius. But thou soon removedst him from the earth, and I remember him with greater satisfaction, as I have now no anxiety for his childhood, his youth, or his manhood. Nor could I at that time be satisfied with contemplating the mystery of redemption. The hymns and songs of thy church moved my soul intensely ; thy truth was distilled by them into my heart; the flame of piety was kindled, and my tears flowed for joy. This practice of singing had been of no long standing at Milan. It began about the year when Justina persecuted Ambrose. The pious people watched in the church, prepared to die with their pastor. There my mother sustained an eminent part in watching and praying. Then hymns and psalms, after the manner of the East, were sung, with a view of preserving the people from weariness; and thence the custom has spread through Christian churches.
Thou, who makest men to be of one mind in an house, unitedst to us one of our young townsmen, Euodius, who had served in the army, and was now regenerated. We determined to return to Africa; and when we were at the mouth of the Tiber, my mother departed this life. I must not pass by the conceptions of my soul concerning her, who endured labour for my temporal birth, and laboured in heart for my spiritual birth. She had been brought up in a Christian family, but did not so much commend her mother's care, as that of a
Chap, decrepid old servant of the house, who had nursed , her father, whose years and character were highly respected, and who superintended the education of her master's daughters. She never suffered them to drink even water, except at meals, telling them, that if ever they became mistresses, the custom of drinking would remain, but they would then indulge it. in wine, not water. Yet my mother Monica, notwithstanding the care of this provident governess, when young had learned by degrees to drink wine, having been sent to draw it for the use of the family. By what method was she delivered from this snare ? Thou providest for her a malignant reproach from a maid of the house, who, in a passion, called her drunkard. From that moment she gave up the practice for ever. Thus didst thou prepare a cure for her evil practice, by the malevolent railing of another, that no man may attribute it to his own power, if his admonitions of another be attended with salutary effect*.
After her marriage with my father Patricius, she endeavoured to win him over to thy service by the amiableness of her manners, and patiently bore the injuries of his unfaithfulness. She still looked for thy mercy, that learning to believe in thee, he might become chaste. His temper was passionate, but his spirit benevolent. She knew how to bear with him when angry, by a perfect silence and composure; and when she saw him cool, would meekly expostulate with him. Many matrons in her company would complain of the blows and harsh treatment they received from their husbands, whose tempers were yet milder than that of Patricius; then she would exhort them to govern their tongues, and remember the inferiority of their condition.
* I could not prevail with myself to pass over altogether this, and a few more circumstances of domestic life, which follow. Let the piety and prudence, which they breathe, compensate for their simplicity. To a serious mind they -will perhaps appear, not only not contemptible, but even instructive.
And when they expressed their astonishment, that Cent. it was never heard that Patricius, a man of so vio- v* lent a temper, had beaten his wife, or that they ever were at variance a single day, she informed them of her plan. Those who followed it, thanked her for the good success of it; those who did not, experienced vexation. Her mother-in-law, at first, was irritated against her by the whispers of servants. But she overcame her by mild obsequiousness, insomuch that she at length informed her son of the slanders of those backbiters, and desired that they might be restrained. Thus she and her mother-inlaw lived in perfect harmony. It was a great gift, which, O my God, thou gavest to her, that she never repeated any of the fierce things, which she heard from persons who were at variance with one another, and was conscientiously exact, in saying nothing but what might tend to heal and to reconcile.
I might have been tempted to think this a small good, had I not known by grievous experience the innumerable evils resulting to society from the contrary spirit, by which men extend mischief like a pestilence, not only repeating the words of angry enemies to angry enemies, but also adding what never had been said; whereas the human mind should not be content with negative goodness in such cases, but should endeavour to promote peace by speaking what is good, as my amiable mother did, through the effectual teaching of thy Spirit. At length, in the extremity of life, she gained her husband to thee, and he died in the faith of Christ.
It was through thy secret appointment that she and I stood alone at a window facing the East, in a house at the mouth of the Tiber, where we were preparing ourselves for our voyage. Our discourse was highly agreeable, and forgetting the past, we endeavoured to conceive aright the nature of the eternal life of the saints. It was evident to us, that no carnal delights deserved to be named on this subject; erecting our spirits more ardently, we ascended above the noblest parts of the material creation to the consideration of our own minds, and passing above them, we attempted to reach heaven itself, to come to thee, by whom all things were made. There our hearts were enamoured, and there we held fast the first fruits of the Spirit, and returned to the sound of our own voice, which gave us an emblem of the Divine Word. We said, if the flesh, the imagination, and every tongue should be silenced, for they proclaim, We Made Not Ourselves, But He Who Remaineth For Ever: If these things should now hold their peace, and God alone should speak, not by any emblems or created things, but by himself, so that we could hear his Word ; should this be continued, and other visions be withdrawn, and this alone seize and absorb the spectator for ever, is not this the meaning of, " Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord *?" At that moment the world appeared to us of no value : and she said, Son, I have now no delight in life. What I should do here, and why I am here, I know not, the hope of this life being quite spent. One thing only, your conversion, was an object for which I wished to live. My God has given me this, in larger measure. What do I here?—Scarcely five days after, she fell into a fever. A brother of mine, who was with us, lamented that she was likely to die in a foreign land. She looked at him with anxiety, to see him so grovelling in his conceptions, and then looking at me, said, Place this body any where; do not distress yourselves concerning it . I could not but rejoice, and give thee thanks, that she was delivered from that anxiety, with which I knew she always had been agitated in regard to a sepulchre, which she had provided for herself, and prepared
* Matth. xxv. In Rev. xxi. 23. the same sublime thought is described under the medium of sight, which here is conveyed under the medium of hearing.
near the body of her husband. I knew not the time when this void had been filled by the fulness of thy grace, but I rejoiced to find this evidence of it. I heard afterwards, that while we were at Ostia she had discoursed with some friends, in my absence, concerning the contempt of life, and they, expressing their surprise that she did not fear to leave her body so far from her own country; " Nothing," said she, " is far to God, and I do not fear that he should not know where to find me at the resurrection." She departed this life on the ninth day of her illness, in the fifty sixth year of her age, and the thirty-third of mine *.
Now, Lord, my groaning testifies that I am displeased with myself; but thou art light and pleasure, and art loved and desired, that I may blush for myself, and renounce myself, and choose thee: and neither attempt to please thee, nor myself, but by depending on thee. For when I am wicked, then to confess to thee is no other thing than to be displeased with myself; and when godly, this is nothing else, but to confess that thou affordest that gift to me. The confessionsof my past evils, which thou hast forgiven, changing my mind by faith and thy baptism, when they are read and heard, excite the heart, that it sink not in despair, but may watch in the love of thy mercy, and the sweetness of thy grace, by which the weak, brought to feel his own weakness, is made strong. But what advantage will result from my confessing, as I now propose, not what I was,
* In what follows to the end of this Book, the Author gives a very amiahle picture of the filial affections, tempered by piety and resignation, which he felt on this occasion, not indeed without a mixture of the superstition of praying for the dead, which was growing in this century. In him the evangelical spirit, however, predominates extremely, even while he is indulging the superstitious. But let it suffice to have given this general account.
but what I now am ? I will discover myself to such as will rejoice over me for what is good, and will pray for and sympathize with me in regard to what is evil, more secure as I am, through thy mercy, than my innocence. I am a little child, but my Father always lives, and is my sufficient guardian. What temptations 1 can or cannot resist, I know not. But my hope is this, that thou art faithful, that thou dost not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but with the temptation also makest a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it*. Lord, I love thee; thou hast smitten my heart with thy Word, and 1 have loved thee. But what do I love, when I love thee ? not the heavens and the earth, nor any created beauty. They cry aloud, we are not God, he made us. Where shall I find thee, but in thyself, above me ? Too late did I love thee, thou Primaeval Beauty ! Thou calledst aloud, and overcamest my deafness: thou shonest, and dispelledst my darkness. Thou wast fragrant, and I panted after thee. I tasted, and hungered and thirsted after thee : thou touchedst me, and I was inflamed into thy peace. When I shall stick wholly to thee, I shall no more have pain and fatigue, and my whole life shall live full of thee. But now, because thou supportest him whom thou fillest, because I am not full of thee, I am a burden to myself. My wholesome griefs and pernicious pleasures contend together, and I know not on which side the victory stands. Woe is me ! Thou art ray physician, I am sick. Thou art merciful, I am wretched. All my hope lies in thy immense mercy. Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt. Thou commandest us to keep from the lust of the flesh, from the lust of the eyes, and from the pride of life : and what thou commandest, thou hast given me. Yet there still live in my memory the images of evils, to which I had been habituated, • 1 Cor. x.
and they occur to me even in sleep. Is not thy hand,
O God, able to heal all the diseases of my soul, and to sanctify even the hours of rest ? I would rejoice with trembling in what thou hast given me, and mourn over that which is imperfect, and hope that thou wilt perfect thy mercies, when death shall be swallowed up in victory.
There is another evil of the day, and I wish the day may be sufficient for it. We refresh the continual ruins of the body by food, till this corruptible shall put on incorruption. Thou hast taught me to use food as medicine. But while I am passing from the uneasiness of hunger to the rest of satiety; in the very passage the snare of concupiscence is laid for me; and the bounds of innocence are not easily defined, and a pretence for indulgence is made on that very account. These temptations I daily endeavour to resist, and I call on thy right hand for my salvation, and make known to thee my agitations of soul, because I am not yet clear on this subject.
I hear my God, " let not your heart be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness*." The latter is far from me, let it not approach me; the former sometimes steals upon me, keep it at a distance from me. Who is there, Lord, that is perfectly temperate ? Whoever he be, let him magnify thy name. But I am not he, I am a sinful man. However, I magnify thy name, and He who overcame the world, and numbers me among the weak members of his body, intercedes for my sins.
In regard to the enticement of smells, I am not solicitous. When they are absent, I want them not; when present, I do not refuse them, content to be without them entirely. So I think; but such is ray miserable darkness, that I must not easily credit myself, because, what is within, generally lies hid, till experience evidence it. The only hope, the only confidence, the only firm promise, is thy mercy. * Luke xxi.
The pleasures of the ear have deeper hold on me. I find, even while I am charmed with sacred melody, 1 am led astray at times by the luxury of sensations, and offend, not know ing at the time, but afterwards I discover it. Sometimes, guarding against this fallacy, I err in the other extreme, and could wish all the melody of David's Psalms were removed from my ears, and those of the church, and think it safer to imitate the plan of Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, who directed a method of repeating the psalms more resembling pronunciation than music. But when I remember my tears of affection at my conversion under the melody of thy church, with which I am still affected, I again acknowledge the utility of the custom. Thus do I fluctuate between the danger of pleasure, and the experience of utility, and am induced, though with a wavering assent, to own that the infirmity of nature may be assisted in devotion by psalmody. Yet when the tune has moved me more than the subject, I feel guilty, and am ready to wish I had not heard the music. See where I am, and mourn with me, ye who are conscious of any inward feelings of godliness. I cannot expect the sympathy of those who are not. Thou, Lord, my God, hear and pity and heal me.
The pleasures of the eye I find to entangle me from time to time. But thou deliverest me, sometimes without pain, because I fall into them gently; at other times with pain, because I stick in them.
Another form of manifold danger is added, a curious spirit, palliated by the name of knowledge. Surrounded as we are with objects, when can I say I am freed from this ? What vehement temptations have I had from the enemy, to ask of thee a sign : But I beseech thee by our king, Jesus Christ, that, as I am far from consenting to it, so I may be farther and farther. What a trifle diverts me from a thought of great importance, and unless thou quickly admonish me by the conviction of my infirmity, either to divert the thought by some serious meditation, or to despise it altogether, I should become absolutely dull. My life is full of these evils, and even my prayers are often disturbed, and while I apply my heart to thine ears, I am overborne by a torrent of vanities.
What can give hope, except thy mercy, by which thou hast begun to renew us ? And thou knowest how much thou hast done for me already. I carry thy yoke, and find it easy, as thou hast promised. It always was so, but I did not believe it, when I was afraid to take it upon me ; but thou, O Lord, thou who alone rulest without pride, because thou hast no superior, can I in this life be exempt from pride ? Well done, well done, I find scattered in the nets by the enemy every where. Daily, Lord, we feel these temptations. Thou knowest on this head, the groans of my heart, and the floods of mine eyes. Nor can I easily see, that I grow more free from this pest of pride; and I much fear my secret evils, which thou knowest. I am poor and needy, and my best method is to seek thy mercy in secret groans and in self-abhorrence, till thou perfect that which concerneth me.
There is another internal evil, by which a man, without seeking to please others, pleases himself with thy good things, as if they were his own; or if he allows them to be thine, yet he is apt to fancy them bestowed upon him for his own merits; or he pleases himself with indulging an invidious spirit against others. In all these dangers thou seest the trembling of my heart; I feel my wounds healed every now and then by thee; but I feel not an exemption from them. Sometimes thou introducest me into an uncommon affection, into a sweetness past the power of description, which, were it perfected in me, I should not see what life would want to complete its felicity. But I sink back by the weight of misery, and am held entangled.
Whom shall I look to as my mediator ? Shall I go to angels ? Many have tried this, and have been fond of visions, and have deserved to be the sport of the illusions which they loved. A mediator between God and man must have the nature of both. The true Mediator, whom in thy secret mercy thou hast shown to the humble, and hast sent, that by his example they might also learn humility, the man Christ Jesus, hath appeared a mediator between mortal sinners, and the immortal Holy One, that, because the wages of righteousness is life and peace, by his divine righteousness he might justify the ungodly, and deliver them from death. He was shown to ancient saints, that they might be saved by faith in his future sufferings, as we by faith in the same sufferings already past. How hast'thou loved us, Father, delivering up thy only son for us ungodly! For whom he, our priest and sacrifice, who thought it no robbery to be equal with thee, was subjected to death. Well may my hope be strong through such an intercessor; else, I should despair. Many and great are my diseases, thy medicine larger still. Were he not made flesh for us, we could not dream of having any union with him. Terrified with my sins and the weight of my misery, I was desponding, but thou encouragedst me, saying, Christ died for all, that they which live, should not live to themselves, but to him that died for them *. Lo, I cast all my care on thee, Lord- that I may live. Thou knowest my weakness and ignorance, teach and heal me. He hath redeemed me with his blood, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Let not the proud calumniate me, if with the poor I desire to eat and be satisfied, and to praise the Lordt.
* 2 Cor. v.
f Psalm xxii. 26. We see in this last book the author's description of the conflict between flesh and spirit after his conversion, and the repose of his soul for peace and happiness only on the Lord Jesus as his righteousness and strength. I shall
Augustine, after hisconversion,returnedwith some friends into Africa, and lived upon his own estate for almost three years, retired from the world. A desire to oblige a person of some consequence in Hippo, who requested his instructions, brought him at length to that city, where Valerius was bishop,—a person of great piety ; but, on account of his slender acquaintance with the Latin tongue, scarcely adequate to the office of pastor in that place. Augustine, through the strong and urgent desires of the people, was ordained presbyter to Valerius; but wept on the occasion, from the genuine sense which he had of the importance of the office. He told Possidius that his tears were by some misconstrued*, as if he regretted that he had not been chosen bishop. Such poor judges are many, of the views and sensations of godly men ! Valerius rejoiced that God had heard his prayers, and that the people would now be supplied with such a pastor. He gave him licence to preach in the presence of the bishop, athingbefore unknown in Africa; but which from the good effects of this precedent, afterwards grew common. Here his ministry was useful in the instruction and edification of the brethren, and also in the defeat of various heresies. Divine truth, which had been almost buried amidst many schisms and distractions in Africa, now raised up its head again ; and Fortunatus, the great leader of the Manichees, was obliged, in confusion, to leave Hippo, when he found himself by the confession of the hearers, vanquished in a conference with Augustine.
make no further remaiks than to repeat his own observation in his retractations. " These confessions praise the God of righteousness and goodness, and excite the human understanding and affection toward him. They did this in me while I was writing them, and they do it still when I read them. What others may think of tbem, let them judge; but I know they have much pleased and do please many of the brethren." * Possid. Life of Aug.
Heretics vied with the members of the general church in their attention to the pastoral labours of Augustine, whose fame began gradually to spread throughout the Western world. Valerius rejoiced and gave thanks on the account, and being solicitous to preserve such a treasure to his church, he took care to get Augustine elected bishop of Hippo, in conjunction with himself. Age and infirmities rendered Valerius very inadequate to the work; and every true Christian will doubt which more to admire, the godly zeal of Augustine tempered with modesty and charity, or the unfeigned humility of Valerius. Augustine, after he had strongly resisted the inclinations of the bishop and all the church, at length accepted the office ; the duties of which he continued to discharge after the decease of Valerius. His zeal and laboriousness increased with his authority. The monastery of his institution became renowned in Africa; and about ten bishops of undoubted piety, known to our author *, came from this seminary. These instituted monasteries after the same pattern, and from them other churches were supplied with pastors; and the doctrines of faith, hope, and charity, by these means, and also by Augustine's writings, which were translated into the Greek tongue, were diffused and enforced with increasing vigour through the Christian world. His writings, however, never seem to have had any permanent influence in the Eastern church.