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Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:
The Confessions: Chapter VII

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VII.—He Leads to Reformation His Friend Alypius, Seized with Madness for the Circensian Games.

11. These things we, who lived like friends together, jointly deplored, but chiefly and most familiarly did I discuss them with Alypius and Nebridius, of whom Alypius was born in the same town as myself, his parents being of the highest rank there, but he being younger than I. For he had studied under me, first, when I taught in our own town, and afterwards at Carthage, and esteemed me highly, because I appeared to him good and learned; and I esteemed him for his innate love of virtue, which, in one of no great age, was sufficiently eminent. But the vortex of Carthaginian customs (amongst whom these frivolous spectacles are hotly followed) had inveigled him into the madness of the Circensian games. But while he was miserably tossed about therein, I was professing rhetoric there, and had a public school. As yet he did not give ear to my teaching, on account of some ill-feeling that had arisen between me and his father. I had then found how fatally he doted upon the circus, and was deeply grieved that he seemed likely—if, indeed, he had not already done so—to cast away his so great promise. Yet had I no means of advising, or by a sort of restraint reclaiming him, either by the kindness of a friend or by the authority of a master. For I imagined that his sentiments towards me were the same as his father’s; but he was not such. Disregarding, therefore, his father’s will in that matter, he commenced to salute me, and, coming into my lecture-room, to listen for a little and depart.

12. But it slipped my memory to deal with him, so that he should not, through a blind and headstrong desire of empty pastimes, undo so great a wit. But Thou, O Lord, who governest the helm of all Thou hast created, hadst not forgotten him, who was one day to be amongst Thy sons, the President of Thy sacrament; 456 p. 95 and that his amendment might plainly be attributed to Thyself, Thou broughtest it about through me, but I knowing nothing of it. For one day, when I was sitting in my accustomed place, with my scholars before me, he came in, saluted me, sat himself down, and fixed his attention on the subject I was then handling. It so happened that I had a passage in hand, which while I was explaining, a simile borrowed from the Circensian games occurred to me, as likely to make what I wished to convey pleasanter and plainer, imbued with a biting jibe at those whom that madness had enthralled. Thou knowest, O our God, that I had no thought at that time of curing Alypius of that plague. But he took it to himself, and thought that I would not have said it but for his sake. And what any other man would have made a ground of offence against me, this worthy young man took as a reason for being offended at himself, and for loving me more fervently. For Thou hast said it long ago, and written in Thy book, “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.” 457 But I had not rebuked him, but Thou, who makest use of all consciously or unconsciously, in that order which Thyself knowest (and that order is right), wroughtest out of my heart and tongue burning coals, by which Thou mightest set on fire and cure the hopeful mind thus languishing. Let him be silent in Thy praises who meditates not on Thy mercies, which from my inmost parts confess unto Thee. For he upon that speech rushed out from that so deep pit, wherein he was wilfully plunged, and was blinded by its miserable pastimes; and he roused his mind with a resolute moderation; whereupon all the filth of the Circensian pastimes 458 flew off from him, and he did not approach them further. Upon this, he prevailed with his reluctant father to let him be my pupil. He gave in and consented. And Alypius, beginning again to hear me, was involved in the same superstition as I was, loving in the Manichæans that ostentation of continency 459 which he believed to be true and unfeigned. It was, however, a senseless and seducing continency, ensnaring precious souls, not able as yet to reach the height of virtue, and easily beguiled with the veneer of what was but a shadowy and feigned virtue.


Footnotes

94:456

Compare v. sec. 17, note, above, and sec. 15, note, below.

95:457

Prov. 9.8.

95:458

The games in the Provinces of the empire were on the same model as those held in the Circus Maximus at Rome, though not so imposing. This circus was one of those vast works executed by Tarquinius Priscus. Hardly a vestige of it at the present time remains, though the Cloaca Maxima, another of his stupendous works, has not, after more than 2500 years, a stone displaced, and still performs its appointed service of draining the city of Rome into the Tiber. In the circus were exhibited chariot and foot races, fights on horseback, representations of battles (on which occasion camps were pitched in the circus), and the Grecian athletic sports introduced after the conquest of that country. See also sec. 13, note, below.

95:459

Augustin, in book v. sec. 9, above, refers to the reputed sanctity of Manichæus, and it may well be questioned whether the sect deserved that unmitigated reprobation he pours out upon them in his De Moribus, and in parts of his controversy with Faustus. Certain it is that Faustus laid claim, on behalf of his sect, to a very different moral character to that Augustin would impute to them. He says (Con. Faust. v. 1): “Do I believe the gospel? You ask me if I believe it, though my obedience to its commands shows that I do. I should rather ask you if you believe it, since you give no proof of your belief. I have left my father, mother, wife, and children, and all else that the Gospel requires (Matt. 19.29); and do you ask if I believe the gospel? Perhaps you do not know what is called the gospel. The gospel is nothing else than the preaching and the precept of Christ. I have parted with all gold and silver, and have left off carrying money in my purse; content with daily food; without anxiety for to-morrow; and without solicitude about how I shall be fed, or wherewithal I shall be clothed: and do you ask if I believe the gospel? You see in me the blessings of the gospel (Matt. 5.3-11); and do you ask if I believe the gospel? You see me poor, meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, mourning, hungering, thirsting, bearing persecutions and enmity for righteousness’ sake; and do you doubt my belief in the gospel?” It is difficult to understand that Manichæanism can have spread as largely as it did at that time, if the asceticism of many amongst them had not been real. It may be noted that in his controversy with Fortunatus, Augustin strangely declines to discuss the charges of immorality that had been brought against the Manichæans; and in the last

Chapter of his De Moribus, it appears to be indicated that one, if not more, of those whose evil deeds are there spoken of had a desire to follow the rule of life laid down by Manichæus.


Next: Chapter VIII

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