Chapter II

The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Book 9 - Chapter II

CHAPTER II

2. And it seemed right to me, in thy sight, not to snatch my tongue's service abruptly out of the speech market, but to withdraw quietly, so that the young men who were not concerned about thy law or thy peace, but with mendacious follies and forensic strifes, might no longer purchase from my mouth weapons for their frenzy. Fortunately, there were only a few days before the "vintage vacation"[268]; and I determined to endure them, so that I might resign in due form and, now bought by thee, return for sale no more.

My plan was known to thee, but, save for my own friends, it was not known to other men. For we had agreed that it should not be made public; although, in our ascent from the "valley of tears" and our singing of "the song of degrees," thou hadst given us sharp arrows and hot burning coals to stop that deceitful tongue which opposes under the guise of good counsel, and devours what it loves as though it were food.

3. Thou hadst pierced our heart with thy love, and we carried thy words, as it were, thrust through our vitals. The examples of thy servants whom thou hadst changed from black to shining white, and from death to life, crowded into the bosom of our thoughts and burned and consumed our sluggish temper, that we might not topple back into the abyss. And they fired us exceedingly, so that every breath of the deceitful tongue of our detractors might fan the flame and not blow it out.

Though this vow and purpose of ours should find those who would loudly praise it--for the sake of thy name, which thou hast sanctified throughout the earth--it nevertheless looked like a self-vaunting not to wait until the vacation time now so near. For if I had left such a public office ahead of time, and had made the break in the eye of the general public, all who took notice of this act of mine and observed how near was the vintage time that I wished to anticipate would have talked about me a great deal, as if I were trying to appear a great person. And what purpose would it serve that people should consider and dispute about my conversion so that my good should be evil spoken of?

4. Furthermore, this same summer my lungs had begun to be weak from too much literary labor. Breathing was difficult; the pains in my chest showed that the lungs were affected and were soon fatigued by too loud or prolonged speaking. This had at first been a trial to me, for it would have compelled me almost of necessity to lay down that burden of teaching; or, if I was to be cured and become strong again, at least to take a leave for a while. But as soon as the full desire to be still that I might know that thou art the Lord[269] arose and was confirmed in me, thou knowest, my God, that I began to rejoice that I had this excuse ready--and not a feigned one, either--which might somewhat temper the displeasure of those who for their sons' freedom wished me never to have any freedom of my own.

Full of joy, then, I bore it until my time ran out--it was perhaps some twenty days--yet it was some strain to go through with it, for the greediness which helped to support the drudgery had gone, and I would have been overwhelmed had not its place been taken by patience. Some of thy servants, my brethren, may say that I sinned in this, since having once fully and from my heart enlisted in thy service, I permitted myself to sit a single hour in the chair of falsehood. I will not dispute it. But hast thou not, O most merciful Lord, pardoned and forgiven this sin in the holy water[270] also, along with all the others, horrible and deadly as they were?

 

Book 9 - Chapter I Book 9 - Chapter III


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