Nicene and Post Nicene-Fathers, Vol. I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Confessions: Chapter VI
Chapter VI.—On the Source and Cause of True Joy,—The Example of the Joyous Beggar Being Adduced.
9. I longed for honours, gains, wedlock; and Thou mockedst me. In these desires I underwent most bitter hardships, Thou being the more gracious the less Thou didst suffer anything which was not Thou to grow sweet to me. Behold my heart, O Lord, who wouldest that I should recall all this, and confess unto Thee. Now let my soul cleave to Thee, which Thou hast freed from that fast-holding bird-lime of death. How wretched was it! And Thou didst irritate the feeling of its wound, that, forsaking all else, it might be converted unto Thee,—who art above all, and without whom all things would be naught,—be converted and be healed. p. 94 How wretched was I at that time, and how didst Thou deal with me, to make me sensible of my wretchedness on that day wherein I was preparing to recite a panegyric on the Emperor, 453 wherein I was to deliver many a lie, and lying was to be applauded by those who knew I lied; and my heart panted with these cares, and boiled over with the feverishness of consuming thoughts. For, while walking along one of the streets of Milan, I observed a poor mendicant,—then, I imagine, with a full belly,—joking and joyous; and I sighed, and spake to the friends around me of the many sorrows resulting from our madness, for that by all such exertions of ours,—as those wherein I then laboured, dragging along, under the spur of desires, the burden of my own unhappiness, and by dragging increasing it, we yet aimed only to attain that very joyousness which that mendicant had reached before us, who, perchance, never would attain it! For what he had obtained through a few begged pence, the same was I scheming for by many a wretched and tortuous turning,—the joy of a temporary felicity. For he verily possessed not true joy, but yet I, with these my ambitions, was seeking one much more untrue. And in truth he was joyous, I anxious; he free from care, I full of alarms. But should any one inquire of me whether I would rather be merry or fearful, I would reply, Merry. Again, were I asked whether I would rather be such as he was, or as I myself then was, I should elect to be myself, though beset with cares and alarms, but out of perversity; for was it so in truth? For I ought not to prefer myself to him because I happened to be more learned than he, seeing that I took no delight therein, but sought rather to please men by it; and that not to instruct, but only to please. Wherefore also didst Thou break my bones with the rod of Thy correction. 454
10. Away with those, then, from my soul, who say unto it, “It makes a difference from whence a mans joy is derived. That mendicant rejoiced in drunkenness; thou longedst to rejoice in glory.” What glory, O Lord? That which is not in Thee. For even as his was no true joy, so was mine no true glory; 455 and it subverted my soul more. He would digest his drunkenness that same night, but many a night had I slept with mine, and risen again with it, and was to sleep again and again to rise with it, I know not how oft. It does indeed “make a difference whence a mans joy is derived.” I know it is so, and that the joy of a faithful hope is incomparably beyond such vanity. Yea, and at that time was he beyond me, for he truly was the happier man; not only for that he was thoroughly steeped in mirth, I torn to pieces with cares, but he, by giving good wishes, had gotten wine, I, by lying, was following after pride. Much to this effect said I then to my dear friends, and I often marked in them how it fared with me; and I found that it went ill with me, and fretted, and doubled that very ill. And if any prosperity smiled upon me, I loathed to seize it, for almost before I could grasp it flew away.
In the Benedictine edition it is suggested that this was probably Valentinian the younger, whose court was, according to Possidius (c. i.), at Milan when Augustin was professor of rhetoric there, who writes (Con. Litt. Petil. iii. 25) that he in that city recited a panegyric to Bauto, the consul, on the first of January, according to the requirements of his profession of rhetoric.94:454
Here, as elsewhere, we have the feeling which finds its expression in i. sec. 1, above: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
Next: Chapter VII
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