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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter I.—His Mother Having Followed Him to Milan, Declares that She Will Not Die Before Her Son Shall Have Embraced the Catholic Faith.

1. O Thou, my hope from my youth, 432 where wert Thou to me, and whither hadst Thou gone? For in truth, hadst Thou not created me, and made a difference between me and the beasts of the field and fowls of the air? Thou hadst made me wiser than they, yet did I wander about in dark and slippery places, and sought Thee abroad out of myself, and found not the God of my heart; 433 and had entered the depths of the sea, and distrusted and despaired finding out the truth. By this time my mother, made strong by her piety, had come to me, following me over sea and land, in all perils feeling secure in Thee. For in the dangers of the sea she comforted the very sailors (to whom the inexperienced passengers, when alarmed, were wont rather to go for comfort), assuring them of a safe arrival, because she had been so assured by Thee in a vision. She found me in grievous danger, through despair of ever finding truth. But when I had disclosed to her that I was now no longer a Manichæan, though not yet a Catholic Christian, she did not leap for joy as at what was unexpected; although she was now reassured as to that part of my misery for which she had mourned me as one dead, but who would be raised to Thee, carrying me forth upon the bier of her thoughts, that Thou mightest say unto the widow’s son, “Young man, I say unto Thee, arise,” and he should revive, and begin to speak, and Thou shouldest deliver him to his mother. 434 Her heart, then, was not agitated with any violent exultation, when she had heard that to be already in so great a part accomplished which she daily, with tears, entreated of Thee might be done,—that though I had not yet grasped the truth, I was rescued from falsehood. Yea, rather, for that she was fully confident that Thou, who hadst promised the whole, wouldst give the rest, most calmly, and with a breast full of confidence, she replied to me, “She believed in Christ, that before she departed this life, she would see me a Catholic believer.” 435 And thus much said she to me; but to Thee, O Fountain of mercies, poured she out more frequent prayers and tears, that Thou wouldest hasten Thy aid, and enlighten my darkness; and she hurried all the more assiduously to the church, and hung upon the words of Ambrose, praying for the fountain of water that springeth up into everlasting life. 436 For she loved that man as an angel of God, because she knew that it was by him that I had been brought, for the present, to that perplexing state of agitation 437 I was now in, through which she was fully persuaded that I should pass from p. 90 sickness unto health, after an excess, as it were, of a sharper fit, which doctors term the “crisis.”



Ps. 71.5.


See iv. sec. 18, note, above.


Luke 7.12-15.


Fidelem Catholicum—those who are baptized being usually designated Fideles. The following extract from Kaye’s Tertullian (pp. 230, 231) is worthy of note:—“As the converts from heathenism, to use Tertullian’s expression, were not born, but became Christians [fiunt, nascuntur, Christiani], they went through a course of instruction in the principles and doctrines of the gospel, and were subjected to a strict probation before they were admitted to the rite of baptism. In this stage of their progress they were called catechumens, of whom, according to Suicer, there were two classes,—one called ‘Audientes,’ who had only entered upon their course, and begun to hear the word of God; the other, συναιτοῦντες, or ‘Competentes,’ who had made such advances in Christian knowledge and practice as to be qualified to appear at the font. Tertullian, however, appears either not to have known or to have neglected this distinction, since he applies the names of ‘Audientes’ and ‘Auditores’ indifferently to all who had not partaken of the rite of baptism. When the catechumens had given full proof of the ripeness of their knowledge, and of the stedfastness of their faith, they were baptized, admitted to the table of the Lord, and styled Fideles. The importance which Tertullian attached to this previous probation of the candidates for baptism, appears from the fact that he founds upon the neglect of it one of his charges against the heretics. ‘Among them,’ he says, ‘no distinction is made between the catechumen and the faithful or confirmed Christian; the catechumen is pronounced fit for baptism before he is instructed; all come in indiscriminately; all hear, all pray together.’” There were certain peculiar forms used in the admission of catechumens; as, for example, anointing with oil, imposition of hands, and the consecration and giving of salt; and when, from the progress of Christianity, Tertullian’s above description as to converts from heathenism had ceased to be correct, these forms were continued in many churches as part of the baptismal service, whether of infants or adults. See Palmer’s Origines Liturgicæ, v. 1, and also i. sec. 17, above, where Augustin says: “I was signed with the sign of the cross, and was seasoned with His salt, even from the womb of my mother.”


John 4.14.


“Sermons,” says Goodwin in his Evangelical Communicant, “are, for the most part, as showers of rain that water for the instant; such as may tickle the ear and warm the affections, and put the soul into a posture of obedience. Hence it is that men are oft-times sermon-sick, as some are sea-sick; very ill, much troubled for the present, but by and by all is well again as they were.”

Next: Chapter II