Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Confessions: Chapter III
Chapter III.—Having Heard Faustus, the Most Learned Bishop of the Manichæans, He Discerns that God, the Author Both of Things Animate and Inanimate, Chiefly Has Care for the Humble.
3. Let me lay bare before my God that twenty-ninth year of my age. There had at this time come to Carthage a certain bishop of the Manichæans, by name Faustus, a great snare of the devil, and in any were entangled by him through the allurement of his smooth speech; the which, although I did commend, yet could I separate from the truth of those things which I was eager to learn. Nor did I esteem the small dish of oratory so much as the science, which this their so praised Faustus placed before me to feed upon. Fame, indeed, had before spoken of him to me, as most skilled in all becoming learning, and pre-eminently skilled in the liberal sciences. And as I had read and retained in memory many injunctions of the philosophers, I used to compare some teachings of theirs with those long fables of the Manichæans and the former things which they declared, who could only prevail so far as to estimate this lower world, while its lord they could by no means find out, 362 seemed to me the more probable. For Thou art great, O Lord, and hast respect unto the lowly, but the proud Thou knowest afar off.” 363 Nor dost Thou draw near but to the contrite heart, 364 nor art Thou found by the proud, 365 —not even could they number by cunning skill the stars and the sand, and measure the starry regions, and trace the courses of the planets.
4. For with their understanding and the capacity which Thou hast bestowed upon them they search out these things; and much have they found out, and foretold many years before,—the eclipses of those luminaries, the sun and moon, on what day, at what hour, and from how many particular points they were likely to come. Nor did their calculation fail them; and it came to pass even as they foretold. And they wrote down the rules found out, which are read at this day; and from these others foretell in what year and in what month of the year, and on what day of the month, and at what hour of the day, and at what quarter of its light, either moon or sun is to be eclipsed, and thus it shall be even as it is foretold. And men who are ignorant of these things marvel and are amazed, and they that know them exult and are exalted; and by an impious pride, departing from Thee, and forsaking Thy light, they foretell a failure of the suns light which is likely to occur so long before, but see not their own, which is now present. For they seek not religiously whence they have the ability where-with they seek out these things. And finding that Thou hast made them, they give not themselves up to Thee, that Thou mayest preserve what Thou hast made, nor sacrifice themselves to Thee, even such as they have made themselves to be; nor do they slay their own pride, as fowls of the air, 366 nor their own curiosities, by which (like the fishes of the sea) they wander over the unknown paths of the abyss, nor their own extravagance, as the “beasts of the field,” 367 that Thou, Lord, “a consuming fire,” 368 mayest burn up their lifeless cares and renew them immortally.
5. But the way—Thy Word, 369 by whom Thou didst make these things which they number, and themselves who number, and the sense by which they perceive what they number, and the judgment out of which they number—they knew not, and that of Thy wisdom there is no number. 370 But the Only-begotten has been “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification,” 371 and has been numbered amongst us, and paid tribute to Cæsar. 372 This way, by which they might descend to Him from themselves, they knew not; nor that through Him they might ascend unto Him. 373 This way they knew not, and they think themselves exalted with the stars 374 and shining, and lo! they fell upon the earth, 375 and “their foolish heart p. 81 was darkened.” 376 They say many true things concerning the creature; but Truth, the Artificer of the creature, they seek not with devotion, and hence they find Him not. Or if they find Him, knowing that He is God, they glorify Him not as God, neither are they thankful, 377 but become vain in their imaginations, and say that they themselves are wise, 378 attributing to themselves what is Thine; and by this, with most perverse blindness, they desire to impute to Thee what is their own, forging lies against Thee who art the Truth, and changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things, 379 —changing Thy truth into a lie, and worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator. 380
6. Many truths, however, concerning the creature did I retain from these men, and the cause appeared to me from calculations, the succession of seasons, and the visible manifestations of the stars; and I compared them with the sayings of Manichæus, who in his frenzy has written most extensively on these subjects, but discovered not any account either of the solstices, or the equinoxes, the eclipses of the luminaries, or anything of the kind I had learned in the books of secular philosophy. But therein I was ordered to believe, and yet it corresponded not with those rules acknowledged by calculation and my own sight, but was far different.
Ps. 34:18, Ps. 145:18.80:365
See Book iv. sec. 19, note, above.80:366
He makes use of the same illustrations on Ps. 8:0, Ps. 11:0, where the birds of the air represent the proud, the fishes of the sea those who have too great a curiosity, while the beasts of the field are those given to carnal pleasures. It will be seen that there is a correspondence between them and the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, in 1 John 2.16. See also above, Book iii. sec. 16; and below, Book x. sec. 41, etc.80:367
Ps. 8:7, 8.80:368
Ps. 147.6, Vulg.80:371
1 Cor. 1.30.80:372
In Sermon 123, sec. 3, we have: “Christ as God is the country to which we go—Christ as man is the way by which we go.” See note on Book iv. sec. 19, above.80:374
Next: Chapter IV
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