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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter II.—He Teaches Rhetoric, the Only Thing He Loved, and Scorns the Soothsayer, Who Promised Him Victory.

2. In those years I taught the art of rhetoric, and, overcome by cupidity, put to sale a loquacity by which to overcome. Yet I preferred—Lord, Thou knowest—to have honest scholars (as they are esteemed); and these I, without artifice, taught artifices, not to be put in practise against the life of the guiltless, though sometimes for the life of the guilty. And Thou, O God, from afar sawest me stumbling in that slippery path, and amid much smoke 271 sending out some flashes of fidelity, which I exhibited in that my guidance of such as loved vanity and sought after leasing, 272 I being their companion. In those years I had one (whom I knew not in what is called lawful wedlock, but whom my wayward passion, void of understanding, had discovered), yet one only, remaining faithful even to her; in whom I found out truly by my own experience what difference there is between the restraints of the marriage bonds, contracted for the sake of issue, and the compact of a lustful love, where children are born against the parents will, although, being born, they compel love.

3. I remember, too, that when I decided to compete for a theatrical prize, a soothsayer demanded of me what I would give him to win; but I, detesting and abominating such foul mysteries, answered, “That if the garland were of imperishable gold, I would not suffer a fly to be destroyed to secure it for me.” For he was to slay certain living creatures in his sacrifices, and by those honours to invite the devils to give me their support. But this ill thing I also refused, p. 69 not out of a pure love 273 for Thee, O God of my heart; for I knew not how to love Thee, knowing not how to conceive aught beyond corporeal brightness. 274 And doth not a soul, sighing after such-like fictions, commit fornication against Thee, trust in false things, 275 and nourish the wind? 276 But I would not, forsooth, have sacrifices offered to devils on my behalf, though I myself was offering sacrifices to them by that superstition. For what else is nourishing the wind but nourishing them, that is, by our wanderings to become their enjoyment and derision?



Isa. 42.3, and Matt. 12.20.


Ps. 4.2.


“He alone is truly pure who waiteth on God, and keepeth himself to Him alone ” (Aug. De Vita Beata, sec. 18). “Whoso seeketh God is pure, because the soul hath in God her legitimate husband. Whosoever seeketh of God anything besides God, doth not love God purely. If a wife loved her husband because he is rich, she is not pure, for she loveth not her husband but the gold of her husband” (Aug. Serm. 137). “Whoso seeks from God any other reward but God, and for it would serve God, esteems what he wishes to receive more than Him from whom he would receive it. What, then? hath God no reward? None, save Himself. The reward of God is God Himself. This it loveth; if it love aught beside, it is no pure love. You depart from the immortal flame, you will be chilled, corrupted. Do not depart; it will be thy corruption, will be fornication in thee” (Aug. in Ps. lxxii. sec. 32). “The pure fear of the Lord (Ps. 19.9) is that wherewith the Church, the more ardently she loveth her husband, the more diligently she avoids offending Him, and therefore love, when perfected, casteth not out this fear, but it remaineth for ever and ever” (Aug. in loc.). “Under the name of pure fear is signified that will whereby we must needs be averse from sin, and avoid sin, not through the constant anxiety of infirmity, but through the tranquillity of affection” (De Civ. Dei, xiv. sec. 65).—E. B. P.


See note on sec. 9, below.


“Indisputably we must take care, lest the mind, believing that which it does not see, feign to itself something which is not, and hope for and love that which is false. For in that case it will not be charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned, which is the end of the commandment” (De Trin. viii. sec. 6). And again (Confessions, i. 1): “For who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? For he that knoweth Thee not may call on Thee as other than Thou art.”


Hos. 12.1.

Next: Chapter III

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