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7. Finally the day came on which I was actually to be relieved from the professorship
of rhetoric, from which I had already been released in intention. And it was
done. And thou didst deliver my tongue as thou hadst already delivered my heart;
and I blessed thee for it with great joy, and retired with my friends to the
villa. My books testify to what
I got done there in writing, which was now hopefully devoted to thy service;
though in this pause it was still as if I were panting from my exertions in
the school of pride. These were
the books in which I engaged in dialogue with my friends, and also those in
soliloquy before thee alone.
And there are my letters to Nebridius, who was still absent.
When would there be enough time to recount all thy great blessings which thou
didst bestow on us in that time, especially as I am hastening on to still greater
mercies? For my memory recalls them to me and it is pleasant to confess them
to thee, O Lord: the inward goads by which thou didst subdue me and how thou
broughtest me low, leveling the mountains and hills of my thoughts, straightening
my crookedness, and smoothing my rough ways. And I remember by what means thou
also didst subdue Alypius, my heart's brother, to the name of thy only Son,
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ--which he at first refused to have inserted
in our writings. For at first he preferred that they should smell of the cedars
of the schools which the Lord
hath now broken down, rather than of the wholesome herbs of the Church, hostile
8. O my God, how did I cry to thee when I read the psalms of David, those hymns
of faith, those paeans of devotion which leave no room for swelling pride! I
was still a novice in thy true love, a catechumen keeping holiday at the villa,
with Alypius, a catechumen like myself. My mother was also with us--in woman's
garb, but with a man's faith, with the peacefulness of age and the fullness
of motherly love and Christian piety. What cries I used to send up to thee in
those songs, and how I was enkindled toward thee by them! I burned to sing them
if possible, throughout the whole world, against the pride of the human race.
And yet, indeed, they are sung throughout the whole world, and none can hide
himself from thy heat. With what strong and bitter regret was I indignant at
the Manicheans! Yet I also pitied them; for they were ignorant of those sacraments,
those medicines--and raved insanely
against the cure that might have made them sane! I wished they could have been
somewhere close by, and--without my knowledge--could have seen my face and heard
my words when, in that time of leisure, I pored over the Fourth Psalm. And I
wish they could have seen how that psalm affected me. "When I called upon thee, O God
of my righteousness, thou didst hear me; thou didst enlarge me when I was in
distress. Have mercy upon me and hear my prayer." I wish they might have heard
what I said in comment on those words--without my knowing that they heard, lest
they should think that I was speaking it just on their account. For, indeed,
I should not have said quite the same things, nor quite in the same way, if
I had known that I was heard and seen by them. And if I had so spoken, they
would not have meant the same things to them as they did to me when I spoke
by and for myself before thee, out of the private affections of my soul.
9. By turns I trembled with fear and warmed with hope and rejoiced in thy mercy,
O Father. And all these feelings showed forth in my eyes and voice when thy
good Spirit turned to us and said, "O sons of men, how long will you be slow
of heart, how long will you love vanity, and seek after falsehood?" For I had
loved vanity and sought after falsehood. And thou, O Lord, had already magnified
thy Holy One, raising him from the dead and setting him at thy right hand, that
thence he should send forth from on high his promised "Paraclete, the Spirit
of Truth." Already he had sent him, and I knew it not. He had sent him because
he was now magnified, rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. For till
then "the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
And the prophet cried out: "How long will you be slow of heart? How long will
you love vanity, and seek after falsehood? Know this, that the Lord hath magnified
his Holy One." He cries, "How long?" He cries, "Know this," and I--so long "loving
vanity, and seeking after falsehood"--heard and trembled, because these words
were spoken to such a one as I remembered that I myself had been. For in those
phantoms which I once held for truth there was vanity and falsehood. And I spoke
many things loudly and earnestly--in the contrition of my memory--which I wish
they had heard, who still "love vanity and seek after falsehood." Perhaps they
would have been troubled, and have vomited up their error, and thou wouldst
have heard them when they cried to thee; for by a real death in the flesh He
died for us who now maketh intercession for us with thee.
10. I read on further, "Be angry, and sin not." And how deeply was I touched,
O my God; for I had now learned to be angry with myself for the things past,
so that in the future I might not sin. Yes, to be angry with good cause, for
it was not another nature out of the race of darkness that had sinned for me--as
they affirm who are not angry with themselves, and who store up for themselves
dire wrath against the day of wrath and the revelation of thy righteous judgment.
Nor were the good things I saw now outside me, nor were they to be seen with
the eyes of flesh in the light of the earthly sun. For they that have their
joys from without sink easily into emptiness and are spilled out on those things
that are visible and temporal, and in their starving thoughts they lick their
very shadows. If only they would grow weary with their hunger and would say,
"Who will show us any good?" And we would answer, and they would hear, "O Lord,
the light of thy countenance shines bright upon us." For we are not that Light
that enlightens every man, but we are enlightened by thee, so that we who were
formerly in darkness may now be alight in thee. If only they could behold the
inner Light Eternal which, now that I had tasted it, I gnashed my teeth because
I could not show it to them unless they brought me their heart in their eyes--their
roving eyes--and said, "Who will show us any good?" But even there, in the inner
chamber of my soul--where I was angry with myself; where I was inwardly pricked,
where I had offered my sacrifice, slaying my old man, and hoping in thee with
the new resolve of a new life with my trust laid in thee--even there thou hadst
begun to grow sweet to me and to "put gladness in my heart." And thus as I read
all this, I cried aloud and felt its inward meaning. Nor did I wish to be increased
in worldly goods which are wasted by time, for now I possessed, in thy eternal
simplicity, other corn and wine and oil.
11. And with a loud cry from my heart, I read the following verse: "Oh, in peace!
Oh, in the Selfsame!" See how
he says it: "I will lay me down and take my rest."
For who shall withstand us when the truth of this saying that is written is
made manifest: "Death is swallowed up in victory"?
For surely thou, who dost not change, art the Selfsame, and in thee is rest
and oblivion to all distress. There is none other beside thee, nor are we to
toil for those many things which are not thee, for only thou, O Lord, makest
me to dwell in hope."
These things I read and was enkindled--but still I could not discover what to
do with those deaf and dead Manicheans to whom I myself had belonged; for I
had been a bitter and blind reviler against these writings, honeyed with the
honey of heaven and luminous with thy light. And I was sorely grieved at these
enemies of this Scripture.
12. When shall I call to mind all that happened during those
holidays? I have not forgotten them; nor will I be silent
about the severity of thy scourge, and the amazing quickness
of thy mercy. During that time thou didst torture me with
a toothache; and when it had become so acute that I was
not able to speak, it came into my heart to urge all my
friends who were present to pray for me to thee, the God
of all health. And I wrote it down on the tablet and gave
it to them to read. Presently, as we bowed our knees in
supplication, the pain was gone. But what pain? How did
it go? I confess that I was terrified, O Lord my God, because
from my earliest years I had never experienced such pain.
And thy purposes were profoundly impressed upon me; and
rejoicing in faith, I praised thy name. But that faith allowed
me no rest in respect of my past sins, which were not yet
forgiven me through thy baptism.