Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK VI.: ATTAINING HIS THIRTIETH YEAR, HE, UNDER THE ADMONITION OF THE DISCOURSES OF AMBROSE, DISCOVERED MORE AND MORE THE TRUTH OF THE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE, AND DELIBERATES AS TO THE BETTER REGULATION OF HIS LIFE. - A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. 1 (The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustine)
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BOOK VI.: ATTAINING HIS THIRTIETH YEAR, HE, UNDER THE ADMONITION OF THE DISCOURSES OF AMBROSE, DISCOVERED MORE AND MORE THE TRUTH OF THE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE, AND DELIBERATES AS TO THE BETTER REGULATION OF HIS LIFE. - Philip Schaff, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Vol. 1 (The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustine) 
A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff, LL.D. (Buffalo: The Christian Literature Co., 1886). Vol. 1 The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin, with a Sketch of his Life and Work.
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ATTAINING HIS THIRTIETH YEAR, HE, UNDER THE ADMONITION OF THE DISCOURSES OF AMBROSE, DISCOVERED MORE AND MORE THE TRUTH OF THE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE, AND DELIBERATES AS TO THE BETTER REGULATION OF HIS LIFE.
HIS MOTHER HAVING FOLLOWED HIM TO MILAN, DECLARES THAT SHE WILL NOT DIE BEFORE HER SON SHALL HAVE EMBRACED THE CATHOLIC FAITH.
1. O Thou, my hope from my youth,1 where wert Thou to me, and whither hadst Thou gone? For in truth, hadst Thou not created me, and made a difference between me and the beasts of the field and fowls of the air? Thou hadst made me wiser than they, yet did I wander about in dark and slippery places, and sought Thee abroad out of myself, and found not the God of my heart;2 and had entered the depths of the sea, and distrusted and despaired finding out the truth. By this time my mother, made strong by her piety, had come to me, following me over sea and land, in all perils feeling secure in Thee. For in the dangers of the sea she comforted the very sailors (to whom the inexperienced passengers, when alarmed, were wont rather to go for comfort), assuring them of a safe arrival, because she had been so assured by Thee in a vision. She found me in grievous danger, through despair of ever finding truth. But when I had disclosed to her that I was now no longer a Manichæan, though not yet a Catholic Christian, she did not leap for joy as at what was unexpected; although she was now reassured as to that part of my misery for which she had mourned me as one dead, but who would be raised to Thee, carrying me forth upon the bier of her thoughts, that Thou mightest say unto the widow’s son, “Young man, I say unto Thee, arise,” and he should revive, and begin to speak, and Thou shouldest deliver him to his mother.3 Her heart, then, was not agitated with any violent exultation, when she had heard that to be already in so great a part accomplished which she daily, with tears, entreated of Thee might be done,—that though I had not yet grasped the truth, I was rescued from falsehood. Yea, rather, for that she was fully confident that Thou, who hadst promised the whole, wouldst give the rest, most calmly, and with a breast full of confidence, she replied to me, “She believed in Christ, that before she departed this life, she would see me a Catholic believer.”4 And thus much said she to me; but to Thee, O Fountain of mercies, poured she out more frequent prayers and tears, that Thou wouldest hasten Thy aid, and enlighten my darkness; and she hurried all the more assiduously to the church, and hung upon the words of Ambrose, praying for the fountain of water that springeth up into everlasting life.5 For she loved that man as an angel of God, because she knew that it was by him that I had been brought, for the present, to that perplexing state of agitation6 I was now in, through which she was fully persuaded that I should pass from sickness unto health, after an excess, as it were, of a sharper fit, which doctors term the “crisis.”
SHE, ON THE PROHIBITION OF AMBROSE, ABSTAINS FROM HONOURING THE MEMORY OF THE MARTYRS.
2. When, therefore, my mother had at one time—as was her custom in Africa—brought to the oratories built in the memory of the saints1 certain cakes, and bread, and wine, and was forbidden by the door-keeper, so soon as she learnt that it was the bishop who had forbidden it, she so piously and obediently acceded to it, that I myself marvelled how readily she could bring herself to accuse her own custom, rather than question his prohibition. For wine-bibbing did not take possession of her spirit, nor did the love of wine stimulate her to hatred of the truth, as it doth too many, both male and female, who nauseate at a song of sobriety, as men well drunk at a draught of water. But she, when she had brought her basket with the festive meats, of which she would taste herself first and give the rest away, would never allow herself more than one little cup of wine, diluted according to her own temperate palate, which, out of courtesy, she would taste. And if there were many oratories of departed saints that ought to be honoured in the same way, she still carried round with her the selfsame cup, to be used everywhere; and this, which was not only very much watered, but was also very tepid with carrying about, she would distribute by small sips to those around; for she sought their devotion, not pleasure. As soon, therefore, as she found this custom to be forbidden by that famous preacher and most pious prelate, even to those who would use it with moderation, lest thereby an occasion of excess2 might be given to such as were drunken, and because these, so to say, festivals in honour of the dead were very like unto the superstition of the Gentiles, she most willingly abstained from it. And in lieu of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of more purified petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor;3 that so the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated there, where, after the example of His passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned. But yet it seems to me, O Lord my God, and thus my heart thinks of it in thy sight, that my mother perhaps would not so easily have given way to the relinquishment of this custom had it been forbidden by another whom she loved not as Ambrose,4 whom, out of regard for my salvation, she loved most dearly; and he loved her truly, on account of her most religious conversation, whereby, in good works so “fervent in spirit,”5 she frequented the church; so that he would often, when he saw me, burst forth into her praises, congratulating me that I had such a mother—little knowing what a son she had in me, who was in doubt as to all these things, and did not imagine the way of life could be found out.
AS AMBROSE WAS OCCUPIED WITH BUSINESS AND STUDY, AUGUSTIN COULD SELDOM CONSULT HIM CONCERNING THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
3. Nor did I now groan in my prayers that Thou wouldest help me; but my mind was wholly intent on knowledge, and eager to dispute. And Ambrose himself I esteemed a happy man, as the world counted happiness, in that such great personages held him in honour; only his celibacy appeared to me a painful thing. But what hope he cherished, what struggles he had against the temptations that beset his very excellences, what solace in adversities, and what savoury joys Thy bread possessed for the hidden mouth of his heart when ruminating1 on it, I could neither conjecture, nor had I experienced. Nor did he know my embarrassments, nor the pit of my danger. For I could not request of him what I wished as I wished, in that I was debarred from hearing and speaking to him by crowds of busy people, whose infirmities he devoted himself to. With whom when he was not engaged (which was but a little time), he either was refreshing his body with necessary sustenance, or his mind with reading. But while reading, his eyes glanced over the pages, and his heart searched out the sense, but his voice and tongue were silent. Ofttimes, when we had come (for no one was forbidden to enter, nor was it his custom that the arrival of those who came should be announced to him), we saw him thus reading to himself, and never otherwise; and, having long sat in silence (for who durst interrupt one so intent?), we were fain to depart, inferring that in the little time he secured for the recruiting of his mind, free from the clamour of other men’s business, he was unwilling to be taken off. And perchance he was fearful lest, if the author he studied should express aught vaguely, some doubtful and attentive hearer should ask him to expound it, or to discuss some of the more abstruse questions, as that, his time being thus occupied, he could not turn over as many volumes as he wished; although the preservation of his voice, which was very easily weakened, might be the truer reason for his reading to himself. But whatever was his motive in so doing, doubtless in such a man was a good one.
4. But verily no opportunity could I find of ascertaining what I desired from that Thy so holy oracle, his breast, unless the thing might be entered into briefly. But those surgings in me required to find him at full leisure, that I might pour them out to him, but never were they able to find him so; and I heard him, indeed, every Lord’s day, “rightly dividing the word of truth”2 among the people; and I was all the more convinced that all those knots of crafty calumnies, which those deceivers of ours had knit against the divine books, could be unravelled. But so soon as I understood, withal, that man made “after the image of Him that created him”3 was not so understood by Thy spiritual sons (whom of the Catholic mother Thou hadst begotten again through grace), as though they believed and imagined Thee to be bounded by human form,—although what was the nature of a spiritual substance4 I had not the faintest or dimmest suspicion,—yet rejoicing, I blushed that for so many years I had barked, not against the Catholic faith, but against the fables of carnal imaginations. For I had been both impious and rash in this, that what I ought inquiring to have learnt, I had pronounced on condemning. For Thou, O most high and most near, most secret, yet most present, who hast not limbs some larger some smaller, but art wholly everywhere, and nowhere in space, nor art Thou of such corporeal form, yet hast Thou created man after Thine own image, and, behold, from head to foot is he confined by space.
HE RECOGNISES THE FALSITY OF HIS OWN OPINIONS, AND COMMITS TO MEMORY THE SAYING OF AMBROSE.
5. As, then, I knew not how this image of Thine should subsist, I should have knocked and propounded the doubt how it was to be believed, and not have insultingly opposed it, as if it were believed. Anxiety, therefore, as to what to retain as certain, did all the more sharply gnaw into my soul, the more shame I felt that, having been so long deluded and deceived by the promise of certainties, I had, with puerile error and petulance, prated of so many uncertainties as if they were certainties. For that they were falsehoods became apparent to me afterwards. However, I was certain that they were uncertain, and that I had formerly held them as certain when with a blind contentiousness I accused Thy Catholic Church, which though I had not yet discovered to teach truly, yet not to teach that of which I had so vehemently accused her. In this manner was I confounded and converted, and I rejoiced, O my God, that the one Church, the body of Thine only Son (wherein the name of Christ had been set upon me when an infant), did not appreciate these infantile trifles, nor maintained, in her sound doctrine, any tenet that would confine Thee, the Creator of all, in space—though ever so great and wide, yet bounded on all sides by the restraints of a human form.
6. I rejoiced also that the old Scriptures of the law and the prophets were laid before me, to be perused, not now with that eye to which they seemed most absurd before, when I censured Thy holy ones for so thinking, whereas in truth they thought not so; and with delight I heard Ambrose, in his sermons to the people, oftentimes most diligently recommend this text as a rule,—“The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life;”1 whilst, drawing aside the mystic veil, he spiritually laid open that which, accepted according to the “letter,” seemed to teach perverse doctrines—teaching herein nothing that offended me, though he taught such things as I knew not as yet whether they were true. For all this time I restrained my heart from assenting to anything, fearing to fall headlong; but by hanging in suspense I was the worse killed. For my desire was to be as well assured of those things that I saw not, as I was that seven and three are ten. For I was not so insane as to believe that this could not be comprehended; but I desired to have other things as clear as this, whether corporeal things, which were not present to my senses, or spiritual, whereof I knew not how to conceive except corporeally. And by believing I might have been cured, that so the sight of my soul being cleared,2 it might in some way be directed towards Thy truth, which abideth always, and faileth in naught. But as it happens that he who has tried a bad physician fears to trust himself with a good one, so was it with the health of my soul, which could not be healed but by believing, and, lest it should believe falsehoods, refused to be cured—resisting Thy hands, who hast prepared for us the medicaments of faith, and hast applied them to the maladies of the whole world, and hast bestowed upon them so great authority.
FAITH IS THE BASIS OF HUMAN LIFE; MAN CANNOT DISCOVER THAT TRUTH WHICH HOLY SCRIPTURE HAS DISCLOSED.
7. From this, however, being led to prefer the Catholic doctrine, I felt that it was with more moderation and honesty that it commanded things to be believed that were not demonstrated (whether it was that they could be demonstrated, but not to any one, or could not be demonstrated at all), than was the method of the Manichæans, where our credulity was mocked by audacious promise of knowledge, and then so many most fabulous and absurd things were forced upon belief because they were not capable of demonstration.1 After that, O Lord, Thou, by little and little, with most gentle and most merciful hand, drawing and calming my heart, didst persuade me,—taking into consideration what a multiplicity of things which I had never seen, nor was present when they were enacted, like so many of the things in secular history, and so many accounts of places and cities which I had not seen; so many of friends, so many of physicians, so many now of these men, now of those, which unless we should believe, we should do nothing at all in this life; lastly, with how unalterable an assurance I believed of what parents I was born, which it would have been impossible for me to know otherwise than by hearsay,—taking into consideration all this, Thou persuadest me that not they who believed Thy books (which, with so great authority, Thou hast established among nearly all nations), but those who believed them not were to be blamed;2 and that those men were not to be listened unto who should say to me, “How dost thou know that those Scriptures were imparted unto mankind by the Spirit of the one true and most true God?” For it was the same thing that was most of all to be believed, since no wranglings of blasphemous questions, whereof I had read so many amongst the self-contradicting philosophers, could once wring the belief from me that Thou art,—whatsoever Thou wert, though what I knew not,—or that the government of human affairs belongs to Thee.
8. Thus much I believed, at one time more strongly than another, yet did I ever believe both that Thou wert, and hadst a care of us, although I was ignorant both what was to be thought of Thy substance, and what way led, or led back to Thee. Seeing, then, that we were too weak by unaided reason to find out the truth, and for this cause needed the authority of the holy writings, I had now begun to believe that Thou wouldest by no means have given such excellency of authority to those Scriptures throughout all lands, had it not been Thy will thereby to be believed in, and thereby sought. For now those things which heretofore appeared incongruous to me in the Scripture, and used to offend me, having heard divers of them expounded reasonably, I referred to the depth of the mysteries, and its authority seemed to me all the more venerable and worthy of religious belief, in that, while it was visible for all to read it, it reserved the majesty of its secret3 within its profound significance, stooping to all in the great plainness of its language and lowliness of its style, yet exercising the application of such as are not light of heart; that it might receive all into its common bosom, and through narrow passages waft over some few towards Thee, yet many more than if it did not stand upon such a height of authority, nor allured multitudes within its bosom by its holy humility. These things I meditated upon, and Thou wert with me; I sighed, and Thou heardest me; I vacillated, and Thou didst guide me; I roamed through the broad way4 of the world, and Thou didst not desert me.
ON THE SOURCE AND CAUSE OF TRUE JOY,—THE EXAMPLE OF THE JOYOUS BEGGAR BEING ADDUCED.
9. I longed for honours, gains, wedlock; and Thou mockedst me. In these desires I underwent most bitter hardships, Thou being the more gracious the less Thou didst suffer anything which was not Thou to grow sweet to me. Behold my heart, O Lord, who wouldest that I should recall all this, and confess unto Thee. Now let my soul cleave to Thee, which Thou hast freed from that fast-holding bird-lime of death. How wretched was it! And Thou didst irritate the feeling of its wound, that, forsaking all else, it might be converted unto Thee,—who art above all, and without whom all things would be naught,—be converted and be healed. How wretched was I at that time, and how didst Thou deal with me, to make me sensible of my wretchedness on that day wherein I was preparing to recite a panegyric on the Emperor,1 wherein I was to deliver many a lie, and lying was to be applauded by those who knew I lied; and my heart panted with these cares, and boiled over with the feverishness of consuming thoughts. For, while walking along one of the streets of Milan, I observed a poor mendicant,—then, I imagine, with a full belly,—joking and joyous; and I sighed, and spake to the friends around me of the many sorrows resulting from our madness, for that by all such exertions of ours,—as those wherein I then laboured, dragging along, under the spur of desires, the burden of my own unhappiness, and by dragging increasing it,—we yet aimed only to attain that very joyousness which that mendicant had reached before us, who, perchance, never would attain it! For what he had obtained through a few begged pence, the same was I scheming for by many a wretched and tortuous turning,—the joy of a temporary felicity. For he verily possessed not true joy, but yet I, with these my ambitions, was seeking one much more untrue. And in truth he was joyous, I anxious; he free from care, I full of alarms. But should any one inquire of me whether I would rather be merry or fearful, I would reply, Merry. Again, were I asked whether I would rather be such as he was, or as I myself then was, I should elect to be myself, though beset with cares and alarms, but out of perversity; for was it so in truth? For I ought not to prefer myself to him because I happened to be more learned than he, seeing that I took no delight therein, but sought rather to please men by it; and that not to instruct, but only to please. Wherefore also didst Thou break my bones with the rod of Thy correction.2
10. Away with those, then, from my soul, who say unto it, “It makes a difference from whence a man’s joy is derived. That mendicant rejoiced in drunkenness; thou longedst to rejoice in glory.” What glory, O Lord? That which is not in Thee. For even as his was no true joy, so was mine no true glory;3 and it subverted my soul more. He would digest his drunkenness that same night, but many a night had I slept with mine, and risen again with it, and was to sleep again and again to rise with it, I know not how oft. It does indeed “make a difference whence a man’s joy is derived.” I know it is so, and that the joy of a faithful hope is incomparably beyond such vanity. Yea, and at that time was he beyond me, for he truly was the happier man; not only for that he was thoroughly steeped in mirth, I torn to pieces with cares, but he, by giving good wishes, had gotten wine, I, by lying, was following after pride. Much to this effect said I then to my dear friends, and I often marked in them how it fared with me; and I found that it went ill with me, and fretted, and doubled that very ill. And if any prosperity smiled upon me, I loathed to seize it, for almost before I could grasp it it flew away.
HE LEADS TO REFORMATION HIS FRIEND ALYPIUS, SEIZED WITH MADNESS FOR THE CIRCENSIAN GAMES.
11. These things we, who lived like friends together, jointly deplored, but chiefly and most familiarly did I discuss them with Alypius and Nebridius, of whom Alypius was born in the same town as myself, his parents being of the highest rank there, but he being younger than I. For he had studied under me, first, when I taught in our own town, and afterwards at Carthage, and esteemed me highly, because I appeared to him good and learned; and I esteemed him for his innate love of virtue, which, in one of no great age, was sufficiently eminent. But the vortex of Carthaginian customs (amongst whom these frivolous spectacles are hotly followed) had inveigled him into the madness of the Circensian games. But while he was miserably tossed about therein, I was professing rhetoric there, and had a public school. As yet he did not give ear to my teaching, on account of some ill-feeling that had arisen between me and his father. I had then found how fatally he doted upon the circus, and was deeply grieved that he seemed likely—if, indeed, he had not already done so—to cast away his so great promise. Yet had I no means of advising, or by a sort of restraint reclaiming him, either by the kindness of a friend or by the authority of a master. For I imagined that his sentiments towards me were the same as his father’s; but he was not such. Disregarding, therefore, his father’s will in that matter, he commenced to salute me, and, coming into my lecture-room, to listen for a little and depart.
12. But it slipped my memory to deal with him, so that he should not, through a blind and headstrong desire of empty pastimes, undo so great a wit. But Thou, O Lord, who governest the helm of all Thou hast created, hadst not forgotten him, who was one day to be amongst Thy sons, the President of Thy sacrament;4 and that his amendment might plainly be attributed to Thyself, Thou broughtest it about through me, but I knowing nothing of it. For one day, when I was sitting in my accustomed place, with my scholars before me, he came in, saluted me, sat himself down, and fixed his attention on the subject I was then handling. It so happened that I had a passage in hand, which while I was explaining, a simile borrowed from the Circensian games occurred to me, as likely to make what I wished to convey pleasanter and plainer, imbued with a biting jibe at those whom that madness had enthralled. Thou knowest, O our God, that I had no thought at that time of curing Alypius of that plague. But he took it to himself, and thought that I would not have said it but for his sake. And what any other man would have made a ground of offence against me, this worthy young man took as a reason for being offended at himself, and for loving me more fervently. For Thou hast said it long ago, and written in Thy book, “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”1 But I had not rebuked him, but Thou, who makest use of all consciously or unconsciously, in that order which Thyself knowest (and that order is right), wroughtest out of my heart and tongue burning coals, by which Thou mightest set on fire and cure the hopeful mind thus languishing. Let him be silent in Thy praises who meditates not on Thy mercies, which from my inmost parts confess unto Thee. For he upon that speech rushed out from that so deep pit, wherein he was wilfully plunged, and was blinded by its miserable pastimes; and he roused his mind with a resolute moderation; whereupon all the filth of the Circensian pastimes2 flew off from him, and he did not approach them further. Upon this, he prevailed with his reluctant father to let him be my pupil. He gave in and consented. And Alypius, beginning again to hear me, was involved in the same superstition as I was, loving in the Manichæans that ostentation of continency3 which he believed to be true and unfeigned. It was, however, a senseless and seducing continency, ensnaring precious souls, not able as yet to reach the height of virtue, and easily beguiled with the veneer of what was but a shadowy and feigned virtue.
THE SAME WHEN AT ROME, BEING LED BY OTHERS INTO THE AMPHITHEATRE, IS DELIGHTED WITH THE GLADIATORIAL GAMES.
13. He, not relinquishing that worldly way which his parents had bewitched him to pursue, had gone before me to Rome, to study law, and there he was carried away in an extraordinary manner with an incredible eagerness after the gladiatorial shows. For, being utterly opposed to and detesting such spectacles, he was one day met by chance by divers of his acquaintance and fellow-students returning from dinner, and they with a friendly violence drew him, vehemently objecting and resisting, into the amphitheatre, on a day of these cruel and deadly shows, he thus protesting: “Though you drag my body to that place, and there place me, can you force me to give my mind and lend my eyes to these shows? Thus shall I be absent while present, and so shall overcome both you and them.” They hearing this, dragged him on nevertheless, desirous, perchance, to see whether he could do as he said. When they had arrived thither, and had taken their places as they could, the whole place became excited with the inhuman sports. But he, shutting up the doors of his eyes, forbade his mind to roam abroad after such naughtiness; and would that he had shut his ears also! For, upon the fall of one in the fight, a mighty cry from the whole audience stirring him strongly, he, overcome by curiosity, and prepared as it were to despise and rise superior to it, no matter what it were, opened his eyes, and was struck with a deeper wound in his soul than the other, whom he desired to see, was in his body;4 and he fell more miserably than he on whose fall that mighty clamour was raised, which entered through his ears, and unlocked his eyes, to make way for the striking and beating down of his soul, which was bold rather than valiant hitherto; and so much the weaker in that it presumed on itself, which ought to have depended on Thee. For, directly he saw that blood, he therewith imbibed a sort of savageness; nor did he turn away, but fixed his eye, drinking in madness unconsciously, and was delighted with the guilty contest, and drunken with the bloody pastime. Nor was he now the same he came in, but was one of the throng he came unto, and a true companion of those who had brought him thither. Why need I say more? He looked, shouted, was excited, carried away with him the madness which would stimulate him to return, not only with those who first enticed him, but also before them, yea, and to draw in others. And from all this didst Thou, with a most powerful and most merciful hand, pluck him, and taughtest him not to repose confidence in himself, but in Thee—but not till long after.
INNOCENT ALYPIUS, BEING APPREHENDED AS A THIEF, IS SET AT LIBERTY BY THE CLEVERNESS OF AN ARCHITECT.
14. But this was all being stored up in his memory for a medicine hereafter. As was that also, that when he was yet studying under me at Carthage, and was meditating at noonday in the market-place upon what he had to recite (as scholars are wont to be exercised), Thou sufferedst him to be apprehended as a thief by the officers of the market-place. For no other reason, I apprehend, didst Thou, O our God, suffer it, but that he who was in the future to prove so great a man should now begin to learn that, in judging of causes, man should not with a reckless credulity readily be condemned by man. For as he was walking up and down alone before the judgment-seat with his tablets and pen, lo, a young man, one of the scholars, the real thief, privily bringing a hatchet, got in without Alypius’ seeing him as far as the leaden bars which protect the silversmiths’ shops, and began to cut away the lead. But the noise of the hatchet being heard, the silversmiths below began to make a stir, and sent to take in custody whomsoever they should find. But the thief, hearing their voices, ran away, leaving his hatchet, fearing to be taken with it. Now Alypius, who had not seen him come in, caught sight of him as he went out, and noted with what speed he made off. And, being curious to know the reasons, he entered the place, where, finding the hatchet, he stood wondering and pondering, when behold, those that were sent caught him alone, hatchet in hand, the noise whereof had startled them and brought them thither. They lay hold of him and drag him away, and, gathering the tenants of the market-place about them, boast of having taken a notorious thief, and thereupon he was being led away to appear before the judge.
15. But thus far was he to be instructed. For immediately, O Lord, Thou camest to the succour of his innocency, whereof Thou wert the sole witness. For, as he was being led either to prison or to punishment, they were met by a certain architect, who had the chief charge of the public buildings. They were specially glad to come across him, by whom they used to be suspected of stealing the goods lost out of the market-place, as though at last to convince him by whom these thefts were committed. He, however, had at divers times seen Alypius at the house of a certain senator, whom he was wont to visit to pay his respects; and, recognising him at once, he took him aside by the hand, and inquiring of him the cause of so great a misfortune, heard the whole affair, and commanded all the rabble then present (who were very uproarious and full of threatenings) to go with him. And they came to the house of the young man who had committed the deed. There, before the door, was a lad so young as not to refrain from disclosing the whole through the fear of injuring his master. For he had followed his master to the market-place. Whom, so soon as Alypius recognised, he intimated it to the architect; and he, showing the hatchet to the lad, asked him to whom it belonged. “To us,” quoth he immediately; and on being further interrogated, he disclosed everything. Thus, the crime being transferred to that house, and the rabble shamed, which had begun to triumph over Alypius, he, the future dispenser of Thy word, and an examiner of numerous causes in Thy Church,1 went away better experienced and instructed.
THE WONDERFUL INTEGRITY OF ALYPIUS IN JUDGMENT. THE LASTING FRIENDSHIP OF NEBRIDIUS WITH AUGUSTIN.
16. Him, therefore, had I lighted upon at Rome, and he clung to me by a most strong tie, and accompanied me to Milan, both that he might not leave me, and that he might practise something of the law he had studied, more with a view of pleasing his parents than himself. There had he thrice sat as assessor with an uncorruptness wondered at by others, he rather wondering at those who could prefer gold to integrity. His character was tested, also, not only by the bait of covetousness, but by the spur of fear. At Rome, he was assessor to the Count of the Italian Treasury.2 There was at that time a most potent senator, to whose favours many were indebted, of whom also many stood in fear. He would fain, by his usual power, have a thing granted him which was forbidden by the laws. This Alypius resisted; a bribe was promised, he scorned it with all his heart; threats were employed, he trampled them under foot,—all men being astonished at so rare a spirit, which neither coveted the friendship nor feared the enmity of a man at once so powerful and so greatly famed for his innumerable means of doing good or ill. Even the judge whose councillor Alypius was, although also unwilling that it should be done, yet did not openly refuse it, but put the matter off upon Alypius, alleging that it was he who would not permit him to do it; for verily, had the judge done it, Alypius would have decided otherwise. With this one thing in the way of learning was he very nearly led away,—that he might have books copied for him at prætorian prices.3 But, consulting justice, he changed his mind for the better, esteeming equity, whereby he was hindered, more gainful than the power whereby he was permitted. These are little things, but “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much.”4 Nor can that possibly be void which proceedeth out of the mouth of Thy Truth. “If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”5 He, being such, did at that time cling to me, and wavered in purpose, as I did, what course of life was to be taken.
17. Nebridius also, who had left his native country near Carthage, and Carthage itself, where he had usually lived, leaving behind his fine paternal estate, his house, and his mother, who intended not to follow him, had come to Milan, for no other reason than that he might live with me in a most ardent search after truth and wisdom. Like me he sighed, like me he wavered, an ardent seeker after true life, and a most acute examiner of the most abstruse questions.6 So were there three begging mouths, sighing out their wants one to the other, and waiting upon Thee, that Thou mightest give them their meat in due season.7 And in all the bitterness which by Thy mercy followed our worldly pursuits, as we contemplated the end, why this suffering should be ours, darkness came upon us; and we turned away groaning and exclaiming, “How long shall these things be?” And this we often said; and saying so, we did not relinquish them, for as yet we had discovered nothing certain to which, when relinquished, we might betake ourselves.
BEING TROUBLED BY HIS GRIEVOUS ERRORS, HE MEDITATES ENTERING ON A NEW LIFE.
18. And I, puzzling over and reviewing these things, most marvelled at the length of time from that my nineteenth year, wherein I began to be inflamed with the desire of wisdom, resolving, when I had found her, to forsake all the empty hopes and lying insanities of vain desires. And behold, I was now getting on to my thirtieth year, sticking in the same mire, eager for the enjoyment of things present, which fly away and destroy me, whilst I say, “To-morrow I shall discover it; behold, it will appear plainly, and I shall seize it; behold, Faustus will come and explain everything! O ye great men, ye Academicians, it is then true that nothing certain for the ordering of life can be attained! Nay, let us search the more diligently, and let us not despair. Lo, the things in the ecclesiastical books, which appeared to us absurd aforetime, do not appear so now, and may be otherwise and honestly interpreted. I will set my feet upon that step, where, as a child, my parents placed me, until the clear truth be discovered. But where and when shall it be sought? Ambrose has no leisure,—we have no leisure to read. Where are we to find the books? Whence or when procure them? From whom borrow them? Let set times be appointed, and certain hours be set apart for the health of the soul. Great hope has risen upon us, the Catholic faith doth not teach what we conceived, and vainly accused it of. Her learned ones hold it as an abomination to believe that God is limited by the form of a human body. And do we doubt to ‘knock,’ in order that the rest may be ‘opened’?1 The mornings are taken up by our scholars; how do we employ the rest of the day? Why do we not set about this? But when, then, pay our respects to our great friends, of whose favours we stand in need? When prepare what our scholars buy from us? When recreate ourselves, relaxing our minds from the pressure of care?”
19. “Perish everything, and let us dismiss these empty vanities, and betake ourselves solely to the search after truth! Life is miserable, death uncertain. If it creeps upon us suddenly, in what state shall we depart hence, and where shall we learn what we have neglected here? Or rather shall we not suffer the punishment of this negligence? What if death itself should out off and put an end to all care and feeling? This also, then, must be inquired into. But God forbid that it should be so. It is not without reason, it is no empty thing, that the so eminent height of the authority of the Christian faith is diffused throughout the entire world. Never would such and so great things be wrought for us, if, by the death of the body, the life of the soul were destroyed. Why, therefore, do we delay to abandon our hopes of this world, and give ourselves wholly to seek after God and the blessed life? But stay! Even those things are enjoyable; and they possess some and no little sweetness. We must not abandon them lightly, for it would be a shame to return to them again. Behold, now is it a great matter to obtain some post of honour! And what more could we desire? We have crowds of influential friends, though we have nothing else, and if we make haste a presidentship may be offered us; and a wife with some money, that she increase not our expenses; and this shall be the height of desire. Many men, who are great and worthy of imitation, have applied themselves to the study of wisdom in the marriage state.”
20. Whilst I talked of these things, and these winds veered about and tossed my heart hither and thither, the time passed on; but I was slow to turn to the Lord, and from day to day deferred to live in Thee, and deferred not daily to die in myself. Being enamoured of a happy life, I yet feared it in its own abode, and, fleeing from it, sought after it. I conceived that I should be too unhappy were I deprived of the embracements of a woman;2 and of Thy merciful medicine to cure that infirmity I thought not, not having tried it. As regards continency, I imagined it to be under the control of our own strength (though in myself I found it not), being so foolish as not to know what is written, that none can be continent unless Thou give it;3 and that Thou wouldst give it, if with heart-felt groaning I should knock at Thine ears, and should with firm faith cast my care upon Thee.
DISCUSSION WITH ALYPIUS CONCERNING A LIFE OF CELIBACY.
21. It was in truth Alypius who prevented me from marrying, alleging that thus we could by no means live together, having so much undistracted leisure in the love of wisdom, as we had long desired. For he himself was so chaste in this matter that it was wonderful—all the more, too, that in his early youth he had entered upon that path, but had not clung to it; rather had he, feeling sorrow and disgust at it, lived from that time to the present most continently. But I opposed him with the examples of those who as married men had loved wisdom, found favour with God, and walked faithfully and lovingly with their friends. From the greatness of whose spirit I fell far short, and, enthralled with the disease of the flesh and its deadly sweetness, dragged my chain along, fearing to be loosed, and, as if it pressed my wound, rejected his kind expostulations, as it were the hand of one who would unchain me. Moreover, it was by me that the serpent spake unto Alypius himself, weaving and laying in his path, by my tongue, pleasant snares, wherein his honourable and free feet1 might be entangled.
22. For when he wondered that I, for whom he had no slight esteem, stuck so fast in the bird-lime of that pleasure as to affirm whenever we discussed the matter that it would be impossible for me to lead a single life, and urged in my defence when I saw him wonder that there was a vast difference between the life that he had tried by stealth and snatches (of which he had now but a faint recollection, and might therefore, without regret, easily despise), and my sustained acquaintance with it, whereto if but the honourable name of marriage were added, he would not then be astonished at my inability to contemn that course,—then began he also to wish to be married, not as if overpowered by the lust of such pleasure, but from curiosity. For, as he said, he was anxious to know what that could be without which my life, which was so pleasing to him, seemed to me not life but a penalty. For his mind, free from that chain, was astounded at my slavery, and through that astonishment was going on to a desire of trying it, and from it to the trial itself, and thence, perchance, to fall into that bondage whereat he was so astonished, seeing he was ready to enter into “a covenant with death;”2 and he that loves danger shall fall into it.3 For whatever the conjugal honour be in the office of well-ordering a married life, and sustaining children, influenced us but slightly. But that which did for the most part afflict me, already made a slave to it, was the habit of satisfying an insatiable lust; him about to be enslaved did an admiring wonder draw on. In this state were we, until Thou, O most High, not forsaking our lowliness, commiserating our misery, didst come to our rescue by wonderful and secret ways.
BEING URGED BY HIS MOTHER TO TAKE A WIFE, HE SOUGHT A MAIDEN THAT WAS PLEASING UNTO HIM.
23. Active efforts were made to get me a wife. I wooed, I was engaged, my mother taking the greatest pains in the matter, that when I was once married, the health-giving baptism might cleanse me; for which she rejoiced that I was being daily fitted, remarking that her desires and Thy promises were being fulfilled in my faith. At which time, verily, both at my request and her own desire, with strong heartfelt cries did we daily beg of Thee that Thou wouldest by a vision disclose unto her something concerning my future marriage; but Thou wouldest not. She saw indeed certain vain and fantastic things, such as the earnestness of a human spirit, bent thereon, conjured up; and these she told me of, not with her usual confidence when Thou hadst shown her anything, but slighting them. For she could, she declared, through some feeling which she could not express in words, discern the difference betwixt Thy revelations and the dreams of her own spirit. Yet the affair was pressed on, and a maiden sued who wanted two years of the marriageable age; and, as she was pleasing, she was waited for.
THE DESIGN OF ESTABLISHING A COMMON HOUSEHOLD WITH HIS FRIENDS IS SPEEDILY HINDERED.
24. And many of us friends, consulting on and abhorring the turbulent vexations of human life, had considered and now almost determined upon living at ease and separate from the turmoil of men. And this was to be obtained in this way; we were to bring whatever we could severally procure, and make a common household, so that, through the sincerity of our friendship, nothing should belong more to one than the other; but the whole, being derived from all, should as a whole belong to each, and the whole unto all. It seemed to us that this society might consist of ten persons, some of whom were very rich, especially Romanianus,1 our townsman, an intimate friend of mine from his childhood, whom grave business matters had then brought up to Court; who was the most earnest of us all for this project, and whose voice was of great weight in commending it, because his estate was far more ample than that of the rest. We had arranged, too, that two officers should be chosen yearly, for the providing of all necessary things, whilst the rest were left undisturbed. But when we began to reflect whether the wives which some of us had already, and others hoped to have, would permit this, all that plan, which was being so well framed, broke to pieces in our hands, and was utterly wrecked and cast aside. Thence we fell again to sighs and groans, and our steps to follow the broad and beaten ways2 of the world; for many thoughts were in our heart, but Thy counsel standeth for ever.3 Out of which counsel Thou didst mock ours, and preparedst Thine own, purposing to give us meat in due season, and to open Thy hand, and to fill our souls with blessing.4
HE DISMISSES ONE MISTRESS, AND CHOOSES ANOTHER.
25. Meanwhile my sins were being multiplied, and my mistress being torn from my side as an impediment to my marriage, my heart, which clave to her, was racked, and wounded, and bleeding. And she went back to Africa, making a vow unto Thee never to know another man, leaving with me my natural son by her. But I, unhappy one, who could not imitate a woman, impatient of delay, since it was not until two years’ time I was to obtain her I sought,—being not so much a lover of marriage as a slave to lust,—procured another (not a wife, though), that so by the bondage of a lasting habit the disease of my soul might be nursed up, and kept up in its vigour, or even increased, into the kingdom of marriage. Nor was that wound of mine as yet cured which had been caused by the separation from my former mistress, but after inflammation and most acute anguish it mortified,5 and the pain became numbed, but more desperate.
THE FEAR OF DEATH AND JUDGMENT CALLED HIM, BELIEVING IN THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL, BACK FROM HIS WICKEDNESS, HIM WHO AFORETIME BELIEVED IN THE OPINIONS OF EPICURUS.
26. Unto Thee be praise, unto Thee be glory, O Fountain of mercies! I became more wretched, and Thou nearer. Thy right hand was ever ready to pluck me out of the mire, and to cleanse me, but I was ignorant of it. Nor did anything recall me from a yet deeper abyss of carnal pleasures, but the fear of death and of Thy future judgment, which, amid all my fluctuations of opinion, never left my breast. And in disputing with my friends, Alypius and Nebridius, concerning the nature of good and evil, I held that Epicurus had, in my judgment, won the palm, had I not believed that after death there remained a life for the soul, and places of recompense, which Epicurus would not believe.6 And I demanded, “Supposing us to be immortal, and to be living in the enjoyment of perpetual bodily pleasure, and that without any fear of losing it, why, then, should we not be happy, or why should we search for anything else?”—not knowing that even this very thing was a part of my great misery, that, being thus sunk and blinded, I could not discern that light of honour and beauty to be embraced for its own sake,1 which cannot be seen by the eye of the flesh, it being visible only to the inner man. Nor did I, unhappy one, consider out of what vein it emanated, that even these things, loathsome as they were, I with pleasure discussed with my friends. Nor could I, even in accordance with my then notions of happiness, make myself happy without friends, amid no matter how great abundance of carnal pleasures. And these friends assuredly I loved for their own sakes, and I knew myself to be loved of them again for my own sake. O crooked ways! Woe to the audacious soul which hoped that, if it forsook Thee, it would find some better thing! It hath turned and re-turned, on back, sides, and belly, and all was hard,2 and Thou alone rest. And behold, Thou art near, and deliverest us from our wretched wanderings, and stablishest us in Thy way, and dost comfort us, and say, “Run; I will carry you, yea, I will lead you, and there also will I carry you.”
[1 ]Ps. lxxi. 5.
[2 ]See iv. sec. 18, note, above.
[3 ]Luke vii. 12-15.
[4 ]Fidelem Catholicum—those who are baptized being usually designated Fideles. The following extract from Kaye’s Tertullian (pp. 230, 231) is worthy of note:—“As the converts from heathenism, to use Tertullian’s expression, were not born, but became Christians [fiunt, non nascuntur, Christiani], they went through a course of instruction in the principles and doctrines of the gospel, and were subjected to a strict probation before they were admitted to the rite of baptism. In this stage of their progress they were called catechumens, of whom, according to Suicer, there were two classes,—one called ‘Audientes,’ who had only entered upon their course, and begun to hear the word of God; the other, συναιτου̑ντες, or ‘Competentes,’ who had made such advances in Christian knowledge and practice as to be qualified to appear at the font. Tertullian, however, appears either not to have known or to have neglected this distinction, since he applies the names of ‘Audientes’ and ‘Auditores’ indifferently to all who had not partaken of the rite of baptism. When the catechumens had given full proof of the ripeness of their knowledge, and of the stedfastness of their faith,they were baptized, admitted to the table of the Lord, and styled Fideles. The importance which Tertullian attached to this previous probation of the candidates for baptism, appears from the fact that he founds upon the neglect of it one of his charges against the heretics. ‘Among them,’ he says, ‘no distinction is made between the catechumen and the faithful or confirmed Christian; the catechumen is pronounced fit for baptism before he is instructed; all come in indiscriminately, all hear, all pray together.’ ” There were certain peculiar forms used in the admission of catechumens; as, for example, anointing with oil, imposition of hands, and the consecration and giving of salt, and when, from the progress of Christianity, Tertullian’s above description as to converts from heathenism had ceased to be correct, these forms were continued in many churches as part of the baptismal service, whether of infants or adults. See Palmer’s Origines Liturgicæ, v. 1, and also i. sec. 17, above, where Augustin says: “I was signed with the sign of the cross, and was seasoned with His salt, even from the womb of my mother.”
[5 ]John iv. 14.
[6 ]“Sermons,” says Goodwin in his Evangelical Communicant, “are, for the most part, as showers of rain that water for the instant; such as may tickle the ear and warm the affections, and put the soul into a posture of obedience. Hence it is that men are ofttimes sermon-sick, as some are sea-sick, very ill, much troubled for the present, but by and by all is well again as they were.”
[1 ]That is, as is explained further on in the section, the Martyrs. Tertullian gives us many indications of the veneration in which the martyrs were held towards the close of the second century. The anniversary of the martyr’s death was called his natalitium, or natal day, as his martyrdom ushered him into eternal life, and oblationes pro defunctis were then offered. (De Exhor. Cast. c. 11; De Coro. c. 3). Many extravagant things were said about the glory of martyrdom, with the view, doubtless, of preventing apostasy in time of persecution. It was described (De Bap. c. 16, and De Pat. c. 13) as a second baptism, and said to secure for a man immediate entrance into heaven, and complete enjoyment of its happiness. These views developed in Augustin’s time into all the wildness of Donatism. Augustin gives us an insight into the customs prevailing in his day, and their significance, which greatly illustrates the present section. In his De Civ. Dei, viii. 27, we read. “But, nevertheless, we do not build temples, and ordain priests, rites, and sacrifices for these same martyrs, for they are not our gods, but their God is our God. Certainly we honour their reliquaries, as the memorials of holy men of God, who strove for the truth even to the death of their bodies, that the true religion might be made known, and false and fictitious religions exposed. . . . But who ever heard a priest of the faithful, standing at an altar built for the honour and worship of God over the holy body of some martyr, say in the prayers, I offer to thee a sacrifice, O Peter, or O Paul, or O Cyprian? For it is to God that sacrifices are offered at their tombs,—the God who made them both men and martyrs, and associated them with holy angels in celestial honour; and the reason why we pay such honours to their memory is, that by so doing we may both give thanks to the true God for their victories, and, by recalling them afresh to remembrance, may stir ourselves up to imitate them by seeking to obtain like crowns and palms, caling to our help that same God on whom they called. Therefore, whatever honours the religious may pay in the places of the martyrs, they are but honours rendered to their memory [ornamenta memoriarum], not sacred rites or sacrifices offered to dead men as to gods. And even such as bring thither food—which, indeed, is not done by the better Christians, and in most places of the world is not done at all—do so in order that it may be sanctified to them through the merits of the martyrs, in the name of the Lord of the martyrs, first presenting the food and offering prayer, and thereafter taking it away to be eaten, or to be in part bestowed upon the needy. But he who knows the one sacrifice of Christians, which is the sacrifice offered in those places, also knows that these are not sacrifices offered to the martyrs.” He speaks to the same effect in Book xxii. sec. 10, and in his Reply to Faustus (xx. 21), who had charged the Christians with imitating the Pagans, “and appeasing the ‘shades’ of the departed with wine and food.” See v. sec. 17, note.
[2 ]Following the example of Ambrose, Augustin used all his influence and cloquence to correct such shocking abuses in the churches. In his letter to Alypius, Bishop of Thagaste (when as yet only a presbyter assisting the venerable Valerius), he gives an account of his efforts to overcome them in the church of Hippo. The following passage is instructive (Ep. xxix. 9):—“I explained to them the circumstances out of which this custom seems to have necessarily risen in the Church, namely, that when, in the peace which came after such numerous and violent persecutions, crowds of heathen who wished to assume the Christian religion were kept back, because, having been accustomed to celebrate the feasts connected with their worship of idols in revelling and drunkenness, they could not easily refrain from pleasures so hurtful and so habitual, it had seemed good to our ancestors, making for the time a concession to this infirmity, to permit them to celebrate, instead of the festivals which they renounced, other feasts in honour of the holy martyrs, which were observed, not as before with a profane design, but with similar self-indulgence.”
[3 ]See v. sec. 17, note 5, above.
[4 ]On another occasion, when Monica’s mind was exercised as to non-essentials, Ambrose gave her advice which has perhaps given origin to the proverb, “When at Rome, do as Rome does.” It will be found in the letter to Casulanus (Ep. xxxvi. 32), and is as follows:—“When my mother was with me in that city, I, as being only a catechumen, felt no concern about these questions, but it was to her a question causing anxiety, whether she ought, after the custom of our own town, to fast on the Saturday, or, after the custom of the church of Milan, not to fast. To deliver her from perplexity, I put the question to the man of God whom I have first named. He answered, ‘What else can I recommend to others than what I do myself?’ When I thought that by this he intended simply to prescribe to us that we should take food on Saturdays,—for I knew this to be his own practice,—he, following me, added these words. ‘When I am here I do not fast on Saturday, but when I am at Rome I do, whatever church you may come to, conform to its custom, if you would avoid either receiving or giving offence.’ ” We find the same incident referred to in Ep. liv. 3.
[5 ]Rom. xii. 11.
[1 ]In his Reply to Faustus (vi. 7), he, conformably with this idea, explains the division into clean and unclean beasts under the Levitical law symbolically. “No doubt,” he says, “the animal is pronounced unclean by the law because it does not chew the cud, which is not a fault, but its nature. But the men of whom this animal is a symbol are unclean, not by nature, but from their own fault, because, though they gladly hear the words of wisdom, they never reflect on them afterwards. For to recall, in quiet repose, some useful instruction from the stomach of memory to the mouth of reflection, is a kind of spiritual rumination. The animals above mentioned are a symbol of those people who do not do this. And the prohibition of the flesh of these animals is a warning against this fault. Another passage of Scripture (Prov. xxi. 20) speaks of theprecious treasure of wisdom, and describes ruminating as clean, and not ruminating as unclean. ‘A precious treasure resteth in the mouth of a wise man, but a foolish man swallows it up.’ Symbols of this kind, either in words or in things, give useful and pleasant exercise to intelligent minds in the way of inquiry and comparison.”
[2 ]2 Tim. ii. 15.
[3 ]Col. iii. 10, and Gen. i. 26, 27. And because we are created in the image of God, Augustin argues (Serm. lxxxviii. 6), we have the ability to see and know Him, just as, having eyes to see, we can look upon the sun. And hereafter, too (Ep. xcii. 3), “We shall see Him according to the measure in which we shall be like Him; because now the measure in which we do not see Him is according to the measure of our unlikeness to Him.
[4 ]See iii. sec. 12, note, above.
[1 ]2 Cor. iii. 6. The spiritual or allegorical meaning here referred to is one that Augustin constantly sought, as did many of the early Fathers, both Greek and Latin. He only employs this method of interpretation, however, in a qualified way—never going to the lengths of Origen or Clement of Alexandria. He does not depreciate the letter of Scripture, though, as we have shown above (iii. sec. 14, note), he went as far as he well could in interpreting the history spiritually. He does not seem, however, quite consistent in his statements as to the relative prominence to be given to the literal and spiritual meanings, as may be seen by a comparison of the latter portions of secs. 1 and 3 of book xvii. of the City of God. His general idea may be gathered from the following passage in the 21st sec. of book xiii.:—“Some allegorize all that concerns paradise itself, where the first men, the parents of the human race, are, according to the truth of Holy Scripture, recorded to have been, and they understand all its trees and fruit-bearing plants as virtues and habits of life, as if they had no existence in the external world, but were only so spoken of or related for the sake of spiritual meanings. As if there could not be a real terrestrial paradise! As if there never existed these two women, Sarah and Hagar, nor the two sons who were born to Abraham, the one of the bond-woman, the other of the free, because the apostle says that in them the two covenants were prefigured! or as if water never flowed from the rock when Moses struck it, because therein Christ can be seen in a figure, as the same apostle says. ‘Now that rock was Christ’ (1 Cor. x. 4). . . . These and similar allegorical interpretations may be suitably put upon paradise without giving offence to any one, while yet we believe the strict truth of the history, confirmed by its circumstantial narrative of facts.” The allusion in the above passage to Sarah and Hagar invites the remark, that in Galatians iv. 24, the words in our version rendered, “which things are an allegory,” should be, “which things are such as may be allegorized.” [Ατινα ἀστιν ἀλληγορουμενα. See Jelf, 398, sec. 2.] It is important to note this, as the passage has been quoted in support of the more extreme method of allegorizing, though it could clearly go no further than to sanction allegorizing by way of spiritual meditation upon Scripture, and not in the interpretation of it—which first, as Waterland thinks (Works, vol. v. p. 311), was the end contemplated by most of the Fathers. Thoughtful students of Scripture will feel that we have no right to make historical facts typical or allegorical unless (as in the case of the manna, the brazen serpent, Jacob’s ladder, etc.) we have divine authority for so doing, and few such will dissent from the opinion of Bishop Marsh (Lecture vi.) that the type must not only resemble the antitype, but must have been designed to resemble it, and further, that we must have the authority of Scripture for the existence of such design. The text, “The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life,” as a perusal of the context will show, has nothing whatever to do with either “literal” or “spiritual” meanings. Augustin himself interprets it in one place (De Spir. et Lit. cc. 4, 5) as meaning the killing letter of the law, as compared with the quickening power of the gospel. “An opinion,” to conclude with the thoughtful words of Alfred Morris on this chapter (Words for the Heart and Life, p. 203), “once common must therefore be rejected. Some still talk of ‘letter’ and ‘spirit’ in a way which has no sanction here. The ‘letter’ with them is the literal meaning of the text, the ‘spirit’ is its symbolic meaning. And, as the ‘spirit’ possesses an evident superiority to the ‘letter,’ they fly away into the region of secret senses and hidden doctrines, find types where there is nothing typical, and allegories where there is nothing allegorical, make Genesis more evangelical than the Epistle to the Romans, and Leviticus than the Epistle to the Hebrews, mistaking lawful criticism for legal Christianity, they look upon the exercise of a sober judgment as a proof of a depraved taste, and forget that diseased as well as very powerful eyes may see more than others. It is not the obvious meaning and the secret meaning that are intended by ‘letter’ and ‘spirit,’ nor any two meanings of Christianity, nor two meanings of any thing or things, but the two systems of Moses and of Christ.” Reference may be made on this whole subject of allegorical interpretation in the writings of the Fathers to Blunt’s Right Use of the Early Fathers, series i. lecture 9.
[2 ]Augustin frequently dilates on this idea. In sermon 88 (cc. 5, 6, etc.), he makes the whole of the ministries of religion subservient to the clearing of the inner eye of the soul, and in his De Trin. i. 3, he says: “And it is necessary to purge our minds, in order to be able to see ineffably that which is ineffable [i. e. the Godhead], whereto not having yet attained, we are to be nourished by faith, and led by such ways as are more suited to our capacity, that we may be rendered apt and able to comprehend it.”
[1 ]He similarly exalts the claims of the Christian Church over Manichæanism in his Reply to Faustus (xxxii. 19). “If you submit to receive a load of endless fictions at the bidding of an obscure and irrational authority, so that you believe all those things because they are written in the books which your misguided judgment pronounces trustworthy, though there is no evidence of their truth, why not rather submit to the evidence of the gospel, which is so well-founded, so confirmed, so generally acknowledged and admired, and which has an unbroken series of testimonies from the apostles down to our own day, that so you may have an intelligent belief, and may come to know that all your objections are the fruit of folly and perversity?” And again, in his Reply to Manichæus’ Fundamental Epistle (sec. 18), alluding to the credulity required in those who accept Manichæan teaching on the mere authority of the teacher: “Whoever thoughtlessly yields this becomes a Manichæan, not by knowing undoubted truth, but by believing doubtful statements. Such were we when in our inexperienced youth we were deceived.”
[2 ]He has a like train of thought in another place (De Fide Rerquæ non Vid. sec. 4). “If, then (harmony being destroyed), human society itself would not stand if we believe not that we see not, how much more should we have faith in divine things, though we see them not; which if we have it not, we do not violate the friendship of a few men, but the profoundest religion—so as to have as its consequence the profoundest misery.” Again, referring to belief in Scripture, he argues (Con. Faust xxxiii. 6) that, if we doubt its evidence, we may equally doubt that of any book, and asks, “How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence?” And once more he contends (De Mor. Cath. Eccles. xxix. 60) that, “The utter overthrow of all literature will follow, and there will be an end to all books handed down from the past, if what is supported by such a strong popular belief, and established by the uniform testimony of so many men and so many times, is brought into such suspicion that it is not allowed to have the credit and the authority of common history.”
[3 ]See i. sec. 10, note, above.
[4 ]Matt. vii. 13.
[1 ]In the Benedictine edition it is suggested that this was probably Valentinian the younger, whose court was, according to Possidius (c. i.), at Milan when Augustin was professor of rhetoric there, who writes (Con. Litt. Petil. iii. 25) that he in that city recited a panegyric to Bauto, the consul, on the first of January, according to the requirements of his profession of rhetoric.
[2 ]Prov. xxii. 15.
[3 ]Here, as elsewhere, we have the feeling which finds its expression in i. sec. 1, above: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
[4 ]Compare v. sec. 17, note, above, and sec. 15, note, below.
[1 ]Prov. ix. 8.
[2 ]The games in the provinces of the empire were on the same model as those held in the Circus Maximus at Rome, though not so imposing. This circus was one of those vast works executed by Tarquinius Priscus. Hardly a vestige of it at the present time remains, though the Cloaca Maxima, another of his stupendous works, has not, after more than 2500 years, a stone displaced, and still performs its appointed service of draining the city of Rome into the Tiber. In the circus were exhibited chariot and foot races, fights on horseback, representations of battles (on which occasion camps were pitched in the circus), and the Grecian athletic sports introduced after the conquest of that country. See also sec. 13, note, below.
[3 ]Augustin, in book v. sec. 9, above, refers to the reputed sanctity of Manichæus, and it may well be questioned whether the sect deserved that unmitigated reprobation he pours out upon them in his De Moribus, and in parts of his controversy with Faustus. Certain it is that Faustus laid claim, on behalf of his sect, to a very different moral character to that Augustin would impute to them. He says (Con. Faust. v. 1): “Do I believe the gospel? You ask me if I believe it, though my obedience to its commands shows that I do I should rather ask you if you believe it, since you give no proof of your belief. I have left my father, mother, wife, and children, and all else that the Gospel requires (Matt. xix. 29); and do you ask if I believe the gospel? Perhaps you do not know what is called the gospel. The gospel is nothing else than the preaching and the precept of Christ. I have parted with all gold and silver, and have left off carrying money in my purse; content with daily food; without anxiety for to-morrow; and without solicitude about how I shall be fed, or wherewithal I shall be clothed: and do you ask if I believe the gospel? You see in me the blessings of the gospel (Matt. v. 3-11); and do you ask if I believe the gospel? You see me poor, meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, mourning, hungering, thirsting, bearing persecutions and enmity for righteousness’ sake; and do you doubt my belief in the gospel?” It is difficult to understand that Manichæanism can have spread as largely as it did at that time, if the asceticism of many amongst them had not been real. It may be noted that in his controversy with Fortunatus, Augustin strangely declines to discuss the charges of immorality that had been brought against the Manichæans; and in the last chapter of his De Moribus, it appears to be indicated that one, if not more, of those whose evil deeds are there spoken of had a desire to follow the rule of life laid down by Manichæus.
[4 ]The scene of this episode was, doubtless, the great Flavian Amphitheatre, known by us at this day as the Colosseum. It stands in the valley between the Cælian and Esquiline hills, on the site of a lake formerly attached to the palace of Nero. Gibbon, in his graphic way, says of the building (Decline and Fall, i. 355). “Posterity admires, and will long admire, the awful remains of the amphitheatre of Titus, which so well deserved the epithet of colossal. It was a building of an elliptic figure, five hundred and sixty-four feet in length, and four hundred and sixty-seven in breadth, founded on fourscore arches, and rising, with four successive orders of architecture, to the height of one hundred and forty feet. The outside of the edifice was encrusted with marble, and decorated with statues. The slopes of the vast concave which formed the inside were filled and surrounded with sixty or eighty rows of seats of marble, likewise covered with cushions, and capable of receiving with ease above fourscore thousand spectators. Sixty-four vomitories (for by that name the doors were very aptly distinguished) poured forth the immense multitude; and the entrances, passages, and staircases were contrived with such exquisite skill, that each person, whether of the senatorial, the equestrian, or the plebeian order, arrived at his destined place without trouble or confusion. Nothing was omitted which in any respect could be subservient to the convenience or pleasure of the spectators. They were protected from the sun and rain by an ample canopy occasionally drawn over their heads. The air was continually refreshed by the playing of fountains, and profusely impregnated by the grateful scent of aromatics. In the centre of the edifice, the arena, or stage, was strewed with the finest sand, and successively assumed the most different forms; at one moment it seemed to rise out of the earth, like the garden of the Hesperides, and was afterwards broken into the rocks and caverns of Thrace. The subterraneous pipes conveyed an inexhaustible supply of water; and what had just before appeared a level plain might be suddenly converted into a wide lake, covered with armed vessels and replenished with the monsters of the deep. In the decoration of these scenes the Roman emperors displayed their wealth and liberality; and we read, on various occasions, that the whole furniture of the amphitheatre consisted either of silver, or of gold, or of amber.” In this magnificent building were enacted venatios or hunting scenes, sea-fights, and gladiatorial shows, in all of which the greatest lavishness was exhibited. The men engaged were for the most part either criminals or captives taken in war. On the occasion of the triumph of Trajan for his victory over the Dacians, it is said that ten thousand gladiators were engaged in combat, and that in the naumachia or sea-fight shown by Domitian, ships and men in force equal to two real fleets were engaged, at an enormous expenditure of human life. “If,” says James Martineau (Endeavours after the Christian Life, pp. 261, 262), “you would witness a scene characteristic of the popular life of old, you must go to the amphitheatre of Rome, mingle with its eighty thousand spectators, and watch the eager faces of senators and people; observe how the masters of the world spend the wealth of conquest, and indulge the pride of power. See every wild creature that God has made to dwell, from the jungles of India to the mountains of Wales, from the forests of Germany to the deserts of Nubia, brought hither to be hunted down in artificial groves by thousands in an hour; behold the captives of war, noble, perhaps, and wise in their own land, turned loose, amid yells of insult, more terrible for their foreign tongue, to contend with brutal gladiators, trained to make death the favourite amusement, and present the most solemn of individual realities as a wholesale public sport, mark the light look with which the multitude, by uplifted finger, demands that the wounded combatant be slain before their eyes; notice the troop of Christian martyrs awaiting hand in hand the leap from the tiger’s den. And when the day’s spectacle is over, and the blood of two thousand victims stains the ring, follow the giddy crowd as it streams from the vomitories into the street, trace its lazy course into the Forum, and hear it there scrambling for the bread of private indolence doled out by the purse of public corruption; and see how it suns itself to sleep in the open ways, or crawls into foul dens till morning brings the hope of games and merry blood again;—and you have an idea of the Imperial people, and their passionate living for the moment, which the gospel found in occupation of the world.” The desire for these shows increased as the empire advanced. Constantine failed to put a stop to them at Rome, though they were not admitted into the Christian capital he established at Constantinople. We have already shown (iii. sec. 2, note, above) how strongly attendance at stage-plays and scenes like these was condemned by the Christian teachers. The passion, however, for these exhibitions was so great, that they were only brought to an end after the monk Telemachus—horrified that Christians should witness such scenes—had been battered to death by the people in their rage at his flinging himself between the swordsmen to stop the combat. This tragic episode occurred in the year 403, at a show held in commemoration of a temporary success over the troops of Alaric.
[1 ]“Alypius became Bishop of Thagaste (Aug. De Gestis c. Emerit. secs. 1 and 5). On the necessity which bishops were under of hearing secular causes, and its use, see Bingham, ii. c. 7.”—E. B. P.
[2 ]“The Lord High Treasurer of the Western Empire was called Comes Sacrarum largitionum. He had six other treasurers in so many provinces under him, whereof he of Italy was one under whom this Alypius had some office of judicature, something like (though far inferior) to our Baron of the Exchequer. See Sir Henry Spelman’s Glossary, in the word Comes; and Cassiodor, Var. v. c. 40.”—W. W.
[3 ]Pretiis prætorianis. Du Cange says that “Pretium regium is the right of a king or lord to purchase commodities at a certain and definite price.” This may perhaps help us to understand the phrase as above employed.
[4 ]Luke xvi. 10.
[5 ]Luke xvi. 11, 12.
[6 ]Augustin makes a similar allusion to Nebridius’ ardour in examining difficult questions, especially those which refer ad doctrinam pietatis, in his 98th Epistle.
[7 ]Ps. cxlv. 15.
[1 ]Matt. vii. 7.
[2 ]“I was entangled in the life of this world, clinging to dull hopes of a beauteous wife, the pomp of riches, the emptiness of honours, and the other hurtful and destructive pleasures” (Aug. De Util. Credendi, sec. 3). “After I had shaken off the Manichæans and escaped, especially when I had crossed the sea, the Academics long detained me tossing in the waves, winds from all quarters beating against my helm. And so I came to this shore, and there found a pole-star to whom to entrust myself. For I often observed in the discourses of our priest [Ambrose], and sometimes in yours [Theodorus], that you had no corporeal notions when you thought of God, or even of the soul, which of all things is next to God. But I was withheld, I own, from casting myself speedily into the bosom of true wisdom by the alluring hopes of marriage and honours; meaning, when I had obtained these, to press (as few singularly happy had before me) with oar and sail into that haven, and there rest” (Aug. De Vita Beata, sec. 4).—E. B. P.
[3 ]Wisd. viii. 2, Vulg.
[1 ]“Paulinus says that though he lived among the people and sat over them, ruling the sheep of the Lord’s fold, as a watchful shepherd, with anxious sleeplessness, yet by renunciation of the world, and denial of flesh and blood, he had made himself a wilderness, severed from the many, called among the few.” (Ap. Aug. Ep. 24, sec. 2). St. Jerome calls him “his holy and venerable brother, Father (Papa) Alypius” (Ep. 39, ibid.). Earlier, Augustin speaks of him as “abiding in union with him, to be an example to the brethren who wished to avoid the cares of this world” (Ep. 22); and to Paulinus (Ep. 27), [Romanianus] “is a relation of the venerable and truly blessed Bishop Alypius, whom you embrace with your whole heart deservedly; for whosoever thinks favourably of that man, thinks of the great mercy of God. Soon, by the help of God, I shall transfuse Alypius wholly into your soul [Paulinus had asked Alypius to write him his life, and Augustin had, at Alypius’ request, undertaken to relieve him, and to do it]; for I feared chiefly lest he should shrink from laying open all which the Lord has bestowed upon him, lest, if read by any ordinary person (for it would not be read by you only), he should seem not so much to set forth the gifts of God committed to men, as to exalt himself.”—E. B. P.
[2 ]Isa. xxviii. 15.
[3 ]Ecclus. iii. 27.
[1 ]Romanianus was a relation of Alypius (Aug. Ep. 27, ad Paulin.), of talent which astonished Augustin himself (C. Acad. i. 1, ii. 1), “surrounded by affluence from early youth, and snatched by what are thought adverse circumstances from the absorbing whirlpools of life” (ibid.). Augustin frequently mentions his great wealth, as also this vexatious suit, whereby he was harassed (C. Acad. i. 1, ii. 1, 2), and which so clouded his mind that his talents were almost unknown (C. Acad. ii. 2), as also his very great kindness to himself, when, “as a poor lad, setting out to foreign study, he had received him in his house, supported and (yet more) encouraged him; when deprived of his father, comforted, animated, aided him; when returning to Carthage, in pursuit of a higher employment, supplied him with all necessaries.” “Lastly,” says Augustin, “whatever case I now enjoy, that I have escaped the bonds of useless desires, that, laying aside the weight of dead cares, I breathe, recover, return to myself, that with all earnestness I am seeking the truth [Augustin wrote this the year before his baptism], that I am attaining it, that I trust wholly to arrive at it, you encouraged, impelled, effected.” (C. Acad. ii. 2). Augustin had “cast him headlong with himself” (as so many other of his friends) into the Manichæan heresy (ibid. i. sec. 3), and it is to be hoped that he extricated him with himself; but we only learn positively that he continued to be fond of the works of Augustin (Ep. 27), whereas in that which he dedicated to him (C. Acad.), Augustin writes very doubtingly to him, and afterwards recommends him to Paulinus, “to be cured wholly or in part by his conversation.” (Ep. 27).—E. B. P.
[2 ]Matt. vii. 13.
[3 ]Ps. xxxiii. 11.
[4 ]Ps. cxlv. 15, 16.
[5 ]In his De Natura Con. Manich. he has the same idea. He is speaking of the evil that has no pain, and remarks: “Likewise in the body, better is a wound with pain than putrefaction without pain, which is specially styled corruption;” and the same idea is embodied in the extract from Caird’s Sermons, on p. 5, note 7.
[6 ]The ethics of Epicurus were a modified Hedonism (Diog. Laërt. De Vitis, etc., x. 123). With him the earth was a congeries of atoms (ibid. 38, 40), which atoms existed from eternity, and formed themselves, uninfluenced by the gods. The soul he held to be material. It was diffused through the body, and was in its nature somewhat like air. At death it was resolved into its original atoms, when the being ceased to exist (ibid. 63, 64). Hence death was a matter of indifference to man [ὀ θάνατος ουδὲν πρὸς ὴμα̑ς, ibid. 124, etc.]. In that great upheaval after the scholasticism of the Middle Ages, the various ancient philosophies were revived. This of Epicurus was disentombed and, as it were, vitalized by Gassendi, in the beginning of the seventeenth century; and it has a special importance from its bearing on the physical theories and investigations of modern times. Archer Butler, adverting to the inadequacy of the chief philosophical schools to satisfy the wants of the age in the early days of the planting of Christianity (Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, ii. 333), says of the Epicurean: “Its popularity was unquestioned; its adaptation to a luxurious age could not be doubted. But it was not formed to satisfy the wants of the time, however it might minister to its pleasures. It was, indeed, as it still continues to be, the tacit philosophy of the careless, and might thus number a larger army of disciples than any contemporary system. But its supremacy existed only when it estimated numbers, it ceased when tried by weight. The eminent men of Rome were often its avowed favourers; but they were for the most part men eminent in arms and statesmanship, rather than the influential directors of the world of speculation. Nor could the admirable poetic art of Lucretius, or the still more attractive case of Horace, confer such strength or dignity upon the system as to enable it to compete with the new and mysterious elements now upon all sides gathering into conflict.”
[1 ]See viii. sec. 17, note, below.
[2 ]See above, iv. cc. 1, 10, and 12.