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story of his student days in Carthage, his discovery of Cicero's Hortensius,
the enkindling of his philosophical interest, his infatuation with the Manichean
heresy, and his mother's dream which foretold his eventual return to the true
faith and to God.
1. I came to Carthage, where a caldron of unholy loves was seething and bubbling
all around me. I was not in love as yet, but I was in love with love; and, from
a hidden hunger, I hated myself for not feeling more intensely a sense of hunger.
I was looking for something to love, for I was in love with loving, and I hated
security and a smooth way, free from snares. Within me I had a dearth of that
inner food which is thyself, my God--although that dearth caused me no hunger.
And I remained without any appetite for incorruptible food--not because I was
already filled with it, but because the emptier I became the more I loathed
it. Because of this my soul was unhealthy; and, full of sores, it exuded itself
forth, itching to be scratched by scraping on the things of the senses.
Yet, had these things no soul, they would certainly not inspire our love.
To love and to be loved was sweet to me, and all the more when I gained the
enjoyment of the body of the person I loved. Thus I polluted the spring of friendship
with the filth of concupiscence and I dimmed its luster with the slime of lust.
Yet, foul and unclean as I was, I still craved, in excessive vanity, to be thought
elegant and urbane. And I did fall precipitately into the love I was longing
for. My God, my mercy, with how much bitterness didst thou, out of thy infinite
goodness, flavor that sweetness for me! For I was not only beloved but also
I secretly reached the climax of enjoyment; and yet I was joyfully bound with
troublesome tics, so that I could be scourged with the burning iron rods of
jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and strife.
2. Stage plays also captivated me, with their sights full of the images of my
own miseries: fuel for my own fire. Now, why does a man like to be made sad
by viewing doleful and tragic scenes, which he himself could not by any means
endure? Yet, as a spectator, he wishes to experience from them a sense of grief,
and in this very sense of grief his pleasure consists. What is this but wretched
madness? For a man is more affected by these actions the more he is spuriously
involved in these affections. Now, if he should suffer them in his own person,
it is the custom to call this "misery." But when he suffers with another, then
it is called "compassion." But what kind of compassion is it that arises from
viewing fictitious and unreal sufferings? The spectator is not expected to aid
the sufferer but merely to grieve for him. And the more he grieves the more
he applauds the actor of these fictions. If the misfortunes of the characters--whether
historical or entirely imaginary--are represented so as not to touch the feelings
of the spectator, he goes away disgusted and complaining. But if his feelings
are deeply touched, he sits it out attentively, and sheds tears of joy.
3. Tears and sorrow, then, are loved. Surely every man desires to be joyful.
And, though no one is willingly miserable, one may, nevertheless, be pleased
to be merciful so that we love their sorrows because without them we should
have nothing to pity. This also springs from that same vein of friendship. But
whither does it go? Whither does it flow? Why does it run into that torrent
of pitch which seethes forth those huge tides of loathsome lusts in which it
is changed and altered past recognition, being diverted and corrupted from its
celestial purity by its own will? Shall, then, compassion be repudiated? By
no means! Let us, however, love the sorrows of others. But let us beware of
uncleanness, O my soul, under the protection of my God, the God of our fathers,
who is to be praised and exalted--let us beware of uncleanness. I have not yet
ceased to have compassion. But in those days in the theaters I sympathized with
lovers when they sinfully enjoyed one another, although this was done fictitiously
in the play. And when they lost one another, I grieved with them, as if pitying
them, and yet had delight in both grief and pity. Nowadays I feel much more
pity for one who delights in his wickedness than for one who counts himself
unfortunate because he fails to obtain some harmful pleasure or suffers the
loss of some miserable felicity. This, surely, is the truer compassion, but
the sorrow I feel in it has no delight for me. For although he that grieves
with the unhappy should be commended for his work of love, yet he who has the
power of real compassion would still prefer that there be nothing for him to
grieve about. For if good will were to be ill will--which it cannot be--only
then could he who is truly and sincerely compassionate wish that there were
some unhappy people so that he might commiserate them. Some grief may then be
justified, but none of it loved. Thus it is that thou dost act, O Lord God,
for thou lovest souls far more purely than we do and art more incorruptibly
compassionate, although thou art never wounded by any sorrow. Now "who is sufficient
for these things?"
4. But at that time, in my wretchedness, I loved to grieve; and I sought for
things to grieve about. In another man's misery, even though it was feigned
and impersonated on the stage, that performance of the actor pleased me best
and attracted me most powerfully which moved me to tears. What marvel then was
it that an unhappy sheep, straying from thy flock and impatient of thy care,
I became infected with a foul disease? This is the reason for my love of griefs:
that they would not probe into me too deeply (for I did not love to suffer in
myself such things as I loved to look at), and they were the sort of grief which
came from hearing those fictions, which affected only the surface of my emotion.
Still, just as if they had been poisoned fingernails, their scratching was followed
by inflammation, swelling, putrefaction, and corruption. Such was my life! But
was it life, O my God?
5. And still thy faithful mercy hovered over me from afar. In what unseemly
iniquities did I wear myself out, following a sacrilegious curiosity, which,
having deserted thee, then began to drag me down into the treacherous abyss,
into the beguiling obedience of devils, to whom I made offerings of my wicked
deeds. And still in all this thou didst not fail to scourge me. I dared, even
while thy solemn rites were being celebrated inside the walls of thy church,
to desire and to plan a project which merited death as its fruit. For this thou
didst chastise me with grievous punishments, but nothing in comparison with
my fault, O thou my greatest mercy, my God, my refuge from those terrible dangers
in which I wandered with stiff neck, receding farther from thee, loving my own
ways and not thine--loving a vagrant liberty!
6. Those studies I was then pursuing, generally accounted as respectable, were
aimed at distinction in the courts of law--to excel in which, the more crafty
I was, the more I should be praised. Such is the blindness of men that they
even glory in their blindness. And by this time I had become a master in the
School of Rhetoric, and I rejoiced proudly in this honor and became inflated
with arrogance. Still I was relatively sedate, O Lord, as thou knowest, and
had no share in the wreckings of "The Wreckers"
(for this stupid and diabolical name was regarded as the very badge of gallantry)
among whom I lived with a sort of ashamed embarrassment that I was not even
as they were. But I lived with them, and at times I was delighted with their
friendship, even when I abhorred their acts (that is, their "wrecking") in which
they insolently attacked the modesty of strangers, tormenting them by uncalled-for
jeers, gratifying their mischievous mirth. Nothing could more nearly resemble
the actions of devils than these fellows. By what name, therefore, could they
be more aptly called than "wreckers"?--being themselves wrecked first, and altogether
turned upside down. They were secretly mocked at and seduced by the deceiving
spirits, in the very acts by which they amused themselves in jeering and horseplay
at the expense of others.
7. Among such as these, in that unstable period of my life, I studied the books
of eloquence, for it was in eloquence that I was eager to be eminent, though
from a reprehensible and vainglorious motive, and a delight in human vanity.
In the ordinary course of study I came upon a certain book of Cicero's, whose
language almost all admire, though not his heart. This particular book of his
contains an exhortation to philosophy and was called Hortensius. Now it was this
book which quite definitely changed my whole attitude and turned my prayers
toward thee, O Lord, and gave me new hope and new desires. Suddenly every vain
hope became worthless to me, and with an incredible warmth of heart I yearned
for an immortality of wisdom and began now to arise that I might return to thee.
It was not to sharpen my tongue further that I made use of that book. I was
now nineteen; my father had been dead two years,
and my mother was providing the money for my study of rhetoric. What won me
in it [i.e., the Hortensius] was not its style but its substance.
8. How ardent was I then, my God, how ardent to fly from earthly things to thee!
Nor did I know how thou wast even then dealing with me. For with thee is wisdom.
In Greek the love of wisdom is called "philosophy," and it was with this love
that that book inflamed me. There are some who seduce through philosophy, under
a great, alluring, and honorable name, using it to color and adorn their own
errors. And almost all who did this, in Cicero's own time and earlier, are censored
and pointed out in his book. In it there is also manifest that most salutary
admonition of thy Spirit, spoken by thy good and pious servant: "Beware lest
any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of
men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in him all
the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily." Since at that time, as thou knowest,
O Light of my heart, the words of the apostle were unknown to me, I was delighted
with Cicero's exhortation, at least enough so that I was stimulated by it, and
enkindled and inflamed to love, to seek, to obtain, to hold, and to embrace,
not this or that sect, but wisdom itself, wherever it might be. Only this checked
my ardor: that the name of Christ was not in it. For this name, by thy mercy,
O Lord, this name of my Saviour thy Son, my tender heart had piously drunk in,
deeply treasured even with my mother's milk. And whatsoever was lacking that
name, no matter how erudite, polished, and truthful, did not quite take complete
hold of me.
9. I resolved, therefore, to direct my mind to the Holy Scriptures, that I might
see what they were. And behold, I saw something not comprehended by the proud,
not disclosed to children, something lowly in the hearing, but sublime in the
doing, and veiled in mysteries. Yet I was not of the number of those who could
enter into it or bend my neck to follow its steps. For then it was quite different
from what I now feel. When I then turned toward the Scriptures, they appeared
to me to be quite unworthy to be compared with the dignity of Tully. For my inflated
pride was repelled by their style, nor could the sharpness of my wit penetrate
their inner meaning. Truly they were of a sort to aid the growth of little ones,
but I scorned to be a little one and, swollen with pride, I looked upon myself
as fully grown.
10. Thus I fell among men, delirious in their pride, carnal and voluble, whose
mouths were the snares of the devil--a trap made out of a mixture of the syllables
of thy name and the names of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Paraclete.
These names were never out of their mouths, but only as sound and the clatter
of tongues, for their heart was empty of truth. Still they cried, "Truth, Truth,"
and were forever speaking the word to me. But the thing itself was not in them.
Indeed, they spoke falsely not only of thee--who truly art the Truth--but also
about the basic elements of this world, thy creation. And, indeed, I should
have passed by the philosophers themselves even when they were speaking truth
concerning thy creatures, for the sake of thy love, O Highest Good, and my Father,
O Beauty of all things beautiful.
O Truth, Truth, how inwardly even then did the marrow of my soul sigh for thee
when, frequently and in manifold ways, in numerous and vast books, [the Manicheans]
sounded out thy name though it was only a sound! And in these dishes--while
I starved for thee--they served up to me, in thy stead, the sun and moon thy
beauteous works--but still only thy works and not thyself; indeed, not even
thy first work. For thy spiritual works came before these material creations,
celestial and shining though they are. But I was hungering and thirsting, not
even after those first works of thine, but after thyself the Truth, "with whom
is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Yet they still
served me glowing fantasies in those dishes. And, truly, it would have been
better to have loved this very sun--which at least is true to our sight--than
those illusions of theirs which deceive the mind through the eye. And yet because
I supposed the illusions to be from thee I fed on them--not with avidity, for
thou didst not taste in my mouth as thou art, and thou wast not these empty
fictions. Neither was I nourished by them, but was instead exhausted. Food in
dreams appears like our food awake; yet the sleepers are not nourished by it,
for they are asleep. But the fantasies of the Manicheans were not in any way
like thee as thou hast spoken to me now. They were simply fantastic and false.
In comparison to them the actual bodies which we see with our fleshly sight,
both celestial and terrestrial, are far more certain. These true bodies even
the beasts and birds perceive as well as we do and they are more certain than
the images we form about them. And again, we do with more certainty form our
conceptions about them than, from them, we go on by means of them to imagine
of other greater and infinite bodies which have no existence. With such empty
husks was I then fed, and yet was not fed.
But thou, my Love, for whom I longed in order that I might be strong, neither
art those bodies that we see in heaven nor art thou those which we do not see
there, for thou hast created them all and yet thou reckonest them not among
thy greatest works. How far, then, art thou from those fantasies of mine, fantasies
of bodies which have no real being at all! The images of those bodies which
actually exist are far more certain than these fantasies. The bodies themselves
are more certain than the images, yet even these thou art not. Thou art not
even the soul, which is the life of bodies; and, clearly, the life of the body
is better than the body itself. But thou art the life of souls, life of lives,
having life in thyself, and never changing, O Life of my soul.
11. Where, then, wast thou and how far from me? Far, indeed, was I wandering
away from thee, being barred even from the husks of those swine whom I fed with
husks. For how much better were
the fables of the grammarians and poets than these snares [of the Manicheans]!
For verses and poems and "the flying Medea"
are still more profitable truly than these men's "five elements," with their
various colors, answering to "the five caves of darkness"
(none of which exist and yet in which they slay the one who believes in them).
For verses and poems I can turn into food for the mind, for though I sang about
"the flying Medea" I never believed it, but those other things [the fantasies
of the Manicheans] I did believe. Woe, woe, by what steps I was dragged down
to "the depths of hell"--toiling
and fuming because of my lack of the truth, even when I was seeking after thee,
my God! To thee I now confess it, for thou didst have mercy on me when I had
not yet confessed it. I sought after thee, but not according to the understanding
of the mind, by means of which thou hast willed that I should excel the beasts,
but only after the guidance of my physical senses. Thou wast more inward to
me than the most inward part of me; and higher than my highest reach. I came
upon that brazen woman, devoid of prudence, who, in Solomon's obscure parable,
sits at the door of the house on a seat and says, "Stolen waters are sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant."
This woman seduced me, because she found my soul outside its own door, dwelling
on the sensations of my flesh and ruminating on such food as I had swallowed
through these physical senses.
12. For I was ignorant of that other reality, true Being. And so it was that
I was subtly persuaded to agree with these foolish deceivers when they put their
questions to me: "Whence comes evil?" and, "Is God limited by a bodily shape,
and has he hairs and nails?" and, "Are those patriarchs to be esteemed righteous
who had many wives at one time, and who killed men and who sacrificed living
creatures?" In my ignorance I was much disturbed over these things and, though
I was retreating from the truth, I appeared to myself to be going toward it,
because I did not yet know that evil was nothing but a privation of good (that,
indeed, it has no being);
and how should I have seen this when the sight of my eyes went no farther than
physical objects, and the sight of my mind reached no farther than to fantasms?
And I did not know that God is a spirit who has no parts extended in length
and breadth, whose being has no mass--for every mass is less in a part than
in a whole--and if it be an infinite mass it must be less in such parts as are
limited by a certain space than in its infinity. It cannot therefore be wholly
everywhere as Spirit is, as God is. And I was entirely ignorant as to what is
that principle within us by which we are like God, and which is rightly said
in Scripture to be made "after God's image."
13. Nor did I know that true inner righteousness--which does not judge according
to custom but by the measure of the most perfect law of God Almighty--by which
the mores of various places and times were adapted to those places and times
(though the law itself is the same always and everywhere, not one thing in one
place and another in another). By this inner righteousness Abraham and Isaac,
and Jacob and Moses and David, and all those commended by the mouth of God were
righteous and were judged unrighteous only by foolish men who were judging by
human judgment and gauging their judgment of the mores of the whole human race
by the narrow norms of their own mores. It is as if a man in an armory, not
knowing what piece goes on what part of the body, should put a greave on his
head and a helmet on his shin and then complain because they did not fit. Or
as if, on some holiday when afternoon business was forbidden, one were to grumble
at not being allowed to go on selling as it had been lawful for him to do in
the forenoon. Or, again, as if, in a house, he sees a servant handle something
that the butler is not permitted to touch, or when something is done behind
a stable that would be prohibited in a dining room, and then a person should
be indignant that in one house and one family the same things are not allowed
to every member of the household. Such is the case with those who cannot endure
to hear that something was lawful for righteous men in former times that is
not so now; or that God, for certain temporal reasons, commanded then one thing
to them and another now to these: yet both would be serving the same righteous
will. These people should see that in one man, one day, and one house, different
things are fit for different members; and a thing that was formerly lawful may
become, after a time, unlawful--and something allowed or commanded in one place
that is justly prohibited and punished in another. Is justice, then, variable
and changeable? No, but the times over which she presides are not all alike
because they are different times. But men, whose days upon the earth are few,
cannot by their own perception harmonize the causes of former ages and other
nations, of which they had no experience, and compare them with these of which
they do have experience; although in one and the same body, or day, or family,
they can readily see that what is suitable for each member, season, part, and
person may differ. To the one they take exception; to the other they submit.
14. These things I did not know then, nor had I observed their import. They
met my eyes on every side, and I did not see. I composed poems, in which I was
not free to place each foot just anywhere, but in one meter one way, and in
another meter another way, nor even in any one verse was the same foot allowed
in all places. Yet the art by which I composed did not have different principles
for each of these different cases, but the same law throughout. Still I did
not see how, by that righteousness to which good and holy men submitted, all
those things that God had commanded were gathered, in a far more excellent and
sublime way, into one moral order; and it did not vary in any essential respect,
though it did not in varying times prescribe all things at once but, rather,
distributed and prescribed what was proper for each. And, being blind, I blamed
those pious fathers, not only for making use of present things as God had commanded
and inspired them to do, but also for foreshadowing things to come, as God revealed
it to them.
15. Can it ever, at any time or place, be unrighteous for a man to love God
with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind; and his neighbor
Similarly, offenses against nature are everywhere and at all times to be held
in detestation and should be punished. Such offenses, for example, were those
of the Sodomites; and, even if all nations should commit them, they would all
be judged guilty of the same crime by the divine law, which has not made men
so that they should ever abuse one another in that way. For the fellowship that
should be between God and us is violated whenever that nature of which he is
the author is polluted by perverted lust. But these offenses against customary
morality are to be avoided according to the variety of such customs. Thus, what
is agreed upon by convention, and confirmed by custom or the law of any city
or nation, may not be violated at the lawless pleasure of any, whether citizen
or stranger. For any part that is not consistent with its whole is unseemly.
Nevertheless, when God commands anything contrary to the customs or compacts
of any nation, even though it were never done by them before, it is to be done;
and if it has been interrupted, it is to be restored; and if it has never been
established, it is to be established. For it is lawful for a king, in the state
over which he reigns, to command that which neither he himself nor anyone before
him had commanded. And if it cannot be held to be inimical to the public interest
to obey him--and, in truth, it would be inimical if he were not obeyed, since
obedience to princes is a general compact of human society--how much more, then,
ought we unhesitatingly to obey God, the Governor of all his creatures! For,
just as among the authorities in human society, the greater authority is obeyed
before the lesser, so also must God be above all.
16. This applies as well to deeds of violence where there is a real desire to
harm another, either by humiliating treatment or by injury. Either of these
may be done for reasons of revenge, as one enemy against another, or in order
to obtain some advantage over another, as in the case of the highwayman and
the traveler; else they may be done in order to avoid some other evil, as in
the case of one who fears another; or through envy as, for example, an unfortunate
man harming a happy one just because he is happy; or they may be done by a prosperous
man against someone whom he fears will become equal to himself or whose equality
he resents. They may even be done for the mere pleasure in another man's pain,
as the spectators of gladiatorial shows or the people who deride and mock at
others. These are the major forms of iniquity that spring out of the lust of
the flesh, and of the eye, and of power. Sometimes there
is just one; sometimes two together; sometimes all of them at once. Thus we
live, offending against the Three and the Seven, that harp of ten strings, thy
Decalogue, O God most high and most sweet.
But now how can offenses of vileness harm thee who canst not be defiled; or
how can deeds of violence harm thee who canst not be harmed? Still thou dost
punish these sins which men commit against themselves because, even when they
sin against thee, they are also committing impiety against their own souls.
Iniquity gives itself the lie, either by corrupting or by perverting that nature
which thou hast made and ordained. And they do this by an immoderate use of
lawful things; or by lustful desire for things forbidden, as "against nature";
or when they are guilty of sin by raging with heart and voice against thee,
rebelling against thee, "kicking against the pricks";
or when they cast aside respect for human society and take audacious delight
in conspiracies and feuds according to their private likes and dislikes.
This is what happens whenever thou art forsaken, O Fountain of Life, who art
the one and true Creator and Ruler of the universe. This is what happens when
through self-willed pride a part is loved under the false assumption that it
is the whole. Therefore, we must return to thee in humble piety and let thee
purge us from our evil ways, and be merciful to those who confess their sins
to thee, and hear the groanings of the prisoners and loosen us from those fetters
which we have forged for ourselves. This thou wilt do, provided we do not raise
up against thee the arrogance of a false freedom--for thus we lose all through
craving more, by loving our own good more than thee, the common good of all.
17. But among all these vices and crimes and manifold iniquities, there are
also the sins that are committed by men who are, on the whole, making progress
toward the good. When these are judged rightly and after the rule of perfection,
the sins are censored but the men are to be commended because they show the
hope of bearing fruit, like the green shoot of the growing corn. And there are
some deeds that resemble vice and crime and yet are not sin because they offend
neither thee, our Lord God, nor social custom. For example, when suitable reserves
for hard times are provided, we cannot judge that this is done merely from a
hoarding impulse. Or, again, when acts are punished by constituted authority
for the sake of correction, we cannot judge that they are done merely out of
a desire to inflict pain. Thus, many a deed which is disapproved in man's sight
may be approved by thy testimony. And many a man who is praised by men is condemned--as
thou art witness--because frequently the deed itself, the mind of the doer,
and the hidden exigency of the situation all vary among themselves. But when,
contrary to human expectation, thou commandest something unusual or unthought
of--indeed, something thou mayest formerly have forbidden, about which thou
mayest conceal the reason for thy command at that particular time; and even
though it may be contrary to the ordinance of some society of men--who
doubts but that it should be done because only that society of men is righteous
which obeys thee? But blessed are they who know what thou dost command. For
all things done by those who obey thee either exhibit something necessary at
that particular time or they foreshow things to come.
18. But I was ignorant of all this, and so I mocked those holy servants and
prophets of thine. Yet what did I gain by mocking them save to be mocked in
turn by thee? Insensibly and little by little, I was led on to such follies
as to believe that a fig tree wept when it was plucked and that the sap of the
mother tree was tears. Notwithstanding this, if a fig was plucked, by not his
own but another man's wickedness, some Manichean saint might eat it, digest
it in his stomach, and breathe it out again in the form of angels. Indeed, in
his prayers he would assuredly groan and sigh forth particles of God, although
these particles of the most high and true God would have remained bound in that
fig unless they had been set free by the teeth and belly of some "elect saint"!
And, wretch that I was, I believed that more mercy was to be shown to the fruits
of the earth than unto men, for whom these fruits were created. For, if a hungry
man--who was not a Manichean--should beg for any food, the morsel that we gave
to him would seem condemned, as it were, to capital punishment.
19. And now thou didst "stretch forth thy hand from above" and didst draw
up my soul out of that profound darkness [of Manicheism] because my mother,
thy faithful one, wept to thee on my behalf more than mothers are accustomed
to weep for the bodily deaths of their children. For by the light of the faith
and spirit which she received from thee, she saw that I was dead. And thou didst
hear her, O Lord, thou didst hear her and despised not her tears when, pouring
down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed.
Thou didst truly hear her.
For what other source was there for that dream by which thou didst console her,
so that she permitted me to live with her, to have my meals in the same house
at the table which she had begun to avoid, even while she hated and detested
the blasphemies of my error? In her dream she saw herself standing on a sort
of wooden rule, and saw a bright youth approaching her, joyous and smiling at
her, while she was grieving and bowed down with sorrow. But when he inquired
of her the cause of her sorrow and daily weeping (not to learn from her, but
to teach her, as is customary in visions), and when she answered that it was
my soul's doom she was lamenting, he bade her rest content and told her to look
and see that where she was there I was also. And when she looked she saw me
standing near her on the same rule.
Whence came this vision unless it was that thy ears were inclined toward her
heart? O thou Omnipotent Good, thou carest for every one of us as if thou didst
care for him only, and so for all as if they were but one!
20. And what was the reason for this also, that, when she told me of this vision,
and I tried to put this construction on it: "that she should not despair of
being someday what I was," she replied immediately, without hesitation, "No;
for it was not told me that `where he is, there you shall be' but `where you
are, there he will be'"? I confess my remembrance of this to thee, O Lord, as
far as I can recall it--and I have often mentioned it. Thy answer, given through
my watchful mother, in the fact that she was not disturbed by the plausibility
of my false interpretation but saw immediately what should have been seen--and
which I certainly had not seen until she spoke--this answer moved me more deeply
than the dream itself. Still, by that dream, the joy that was to come to that
pious woman so long after was predicted long before, as a consolation for her
Nearly nine years passed in which I wallowed in the mud of that deep pit and
in the darkness of falsehood, striving often to rise, but being all the more
heavily dashed down. But all that time this chaste, pious, and sober widow--such
as thou dost love--was now more buoyed up with hope, though no less zealous
in her weeping and mourning; and she did not cease to bewail my case before
thee, in all the hours of her supplication. Her prayers entered thy presence,
and yet thou didst allow me still to tumble and toss around in that darkness.
21. Meanwhile, thou gavest her yet another answer, as I
remember--for I pass over many things, hastening on to those
things which more strongly impel me to confess to thee--and
many things I have simply forgotten. But thou gavest her
then another answer, by a priest of thine, a certain bishop
reared in thy Church and well versed in thy books. When
that woman had begged him to agree to have some discussion
with me, to refute my errors, to help me to unlearn evil
and to learn the good-
- for it was his habit to do this when he found people ready
to receive it--he refused, very prudently, as I afterward
realized. For he answered that I was still unteachable,
being inflated with the novelty of that heresy, and that
I had already perplexed divers inexperienced persons with
vexatious questions, as she herself had told him. "But let
him alone for a time," he said, "only pray God for him.
He will of his own accord, by reading, come to discover
what an error it is and how great its impiety is." He went
on to tell her at the same time how he himself, as a boy,
had been given over to the Manicheans by his misguided mother
and not only had read but had even copied out almost all
their books. Yet he had come to see, without external argument
or proof from anyone else, how much that sect was to be
shunned--and had shunned it. When he had said this she was
not satisfied, but repeated more earnestly her entreaties,
and shed copious tears, still beseeching him to see and
talk with me. Finally the bishop, a little vexed at her
importunity, exclaimed, "Go your way; as you live, it cannot
be that the son of these tears should perish." As she often
told me afterward, she accepted this answer as though it
were a voice from heaven.