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9. Theft is punished by thy law, O Lord, and by the law written in men's hearts,
which not even ingrained wickedness can erase. For what thief will tolerate
another thief stealing from him? Even a rich thief will not tolerate a poor
thief who is driven to theft by want. Yet I had a desire to commit robbery,
and did so, compelled to it by neither hunger nor poverty, but through a contempt
for well-doing and a strong impulse to iniquity. For I pilfered something which
I already had in sufficient measure, and of much better quality. I did not desire
to enjoy what I stole, but only the theft and the sin itself.
There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which
was not tempting either for its color or for its flavor. Late one night--having
prolonged our games in the streets until then, as our bad habit was--a group
of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried
off a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs,
after barely tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more
because it was forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart--which
thou didst pity even in that bottomless pit. Behold, now let my heart confess
to thee what it was seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having
no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved
my own undoing. I loved my error--not that for which I erred but the error itself.
A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself,
seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.