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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.