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The Confessions: Chapter II
Chapter II.—As His Lungs Were Affected, He Meditates Withdrawing Himself from Public Favour.
2. And it seemed good to me, as before Thee, not tumultuously to snatch away, but gently to withdraw the service of my tongue from the talkers trade; that the young, who thought not on Thy law, nor on Thy peace, but on mendacious follies and forensic strifes, might no longer purchase at my mouth equipments for their vehemence. And opportunely there wanted but a few days unto the Vacation of the Vintage; 696 and I determined to endure them, in order to leave in the usual way, and, being redeemed by Thee, no more to return for sale. Our intention then was known to Thee; but to men—excepting our own friends—was it not known. For we had determined among ourselves not to let it get abroad to any; although Thou hadst given to us, ascending from the valley of tears, 697 and singing the song of degrees, “sharp arrows,” and destroying coals, against the “deceitful tongue,” 698 which in giving counp. 130 sel opposes, and in showing love consumes, as it is wont to do with its food.
3. Thou hadst penetrated our hearts with Thy charity, and we carried Thy words fixed, as it were, in our bowels; and the examples of Thy servant, whom of black Thou hadst made bright, and of dead, alive, crowded in the bosom of our thoughts, burned and consumed our heavy torpor, that we might not topple into the abyss; and they enkindled us exceedingly, that every breath of the deceitful tongue of the gainsayer might inflame us the more, not extinguish us. Nevertheless, because for Thy names sake which Thou hast sanctified throughout the earth, this, our vow and purpose, might also find commenders, it looked like a vaunting of oneself not to wait for the vacation, now so near, but to leave beforehand a public profession, and one, too, under general observation; so that all who looked on this act of mine, and saw how near was the vintage-time I desired to anticipate, would talk of me a great deal as if I were trying to appear to be a great person. And what purpose would it serve that people should consider and dispute about my intention, and that our good should be evil spoken of? 699
4. Furthermore, this very summer, from too great literary labour, my lungs 700 began to be weak, and with difficulty to draw deep breaths; showing by the pains in my chest that they were affected, and refusing too loud or prolonged speaking. This had at first been a trial to me, for it compelled me almost of necessity to lay down that burden of teaching; or, if I could be cured and become strong again, at least to leave it off for a while. But when the full desire for leisure, that I might see that Thou art the Lord, 701 arose, and was confirmed in me, my God, Thou knowest I even began to rejoice that I had this excuse ready,—and that not a feigned one,—which might somewhat temper the offence taken by those who for their sons good wished me never to have the freedom of sons. Full, therefore, with such joy, I bore it till that period of time had passed,—perhaps it was some twenty days,—yet they were bravely borne; for the cupidity which was wont to sustain part of this weighty business had departed, and I had remained overwhelmed had not its place been supplied by patience. Some of Thy servants, my brethren, may perchance say that I sinned in this, in that having once fully, and from my heart, entered on Thy warfare, I permitted myself to sit a single hour in the seat of falsehood. I will not contend. But hast not Thou, O most merciful Lord, pardoned and remitted this sin also, with my others, so horrible and deadly, in the holy water?
“In harvest and vintage time had the lawyers their vacation. So Minutius Felix. Scholars, their Non Terminus, as here; yea, divinity lectures and catechizings then ceased. So Cyprian, Ep. 2. The law terms gave way also to the great festivals of the Church. Theodosius forbade any process to go out from fifteen days before Easter till the Sunday after. For the four Terms, see Caroli Calvi, Capitula, Act viii. p. 90.”—W. W.129:697
Ps. 120:3, 4, according to the Old Ver. This passage has many difficulties we need not enter into. The Vulgate, however, we may say, renders verse 3: “Quid detur tibi aut quid apponatur tibi ad linguam dolosam,”—that is, shall be given as a defence against the tongues of evil speakers. In this way Augustin understands it, and in his commentary on this place makes the fourth verse give the answer to the third. Thus, “sharp arrows” he interprets to be the word of God, and “destroying coals” those who, being converted to Him, have become examples to the ungodly.130:699
In his De Vita Beata, sec. 4, and Con. Acad. i. 3, he also alludes to this weakness of his chest. He was therefore led to give up his professorship, partly from this cause, and partly from a desire to devote himself more entirely to Gods service. See also p. 115, note.130:701
Next: Chapter III
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