Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book II/Chapter 2
Chapter II.—Stricken with Exceeding Grief, He Remembers the Dissolute Passions in Which, in His Sixteenth Year, He Used to Indulge.
2. But what was it that I delighted in save to love and to be beloved? But I held it not in moderation, mind to mind, the bright path of friendship, but out of the dark concupiscence of the flesh and the effervescence of youth exhalations came forth which obscured and overcast my heart, so that I was unable to discern pure affection from unholy desire. Both boiled confusedly within me, and dragged away my unstable youth into the rough places of unchaste desires, and plunged me into a gulf of infamy. Thy anger had overshadowed me, and I knew it not. I was become deaf by the rattling of the chains of my mortality, the punishment for my soul’s pride; and I wandered farther from Thee, and Thou didst “suffer” me; and I was tossed to and fro, and wasted, and poured out, and boiled over in my fornications, and Thou didst hold Thy peace, O Thou my tardy joy! Thou then didst hold Thy peace, and I wandered still farther from Thee, into more and more barren seed-plots of sorrows, with proud dejection and restless lassitude.
3. Oh for one to have regulated my disorder, and turned to my profit the fleeting beauties of the things around me, and fixed a bound to their sweetness, so that the tides of my youth might have spent themselves upon the conjugal shore, if so be they could not be tranquillized and satisfied within the object of a family, as Thy law appoints, O Lord,—who thus formest the offspring of our death, being able also with a tender hand to blunt the thorns which were excluded from Thy paradise! For Thy omnipotency is not far from us even when we are far from Thee, else in truth ought I more vigilantly to have given heed to the voice from the clouds: “Nevertheless, such shall have trouble in the flesh, but I spare you;” and, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman;” and, “He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” I should, therefore, have listened more attentively to these words, and, being severed “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake,” I would with greater happiness have expected Thy embraces.
4. But I, poor fool, seethed as does the sea, and, forsaking Thee, followed the violent course of my own stream, and exceeded all Thy limitations; nor did I escape Thy scourges. For what mortal can do so? But Thou wert always by me, mercifully angry, and dashing with the bitterest vexations all my illicit pleasures, in order that I might seek pleasures free from vexation. But where I could meet with such except in Thee, O Lord, I could not find,—except in Thee, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us to heal us, and killest us that we may not die from Thee. Where was I, and how far was I exiled from the delights of Thy house, in that sixteenth year of the age of my flesh, when the madness of lust—to the which human shamelessness granteth full freedom, although forbidden by Thy laws—held complete sway over me, and I resigned myself entirely to it? Those about me meanwhile took no care to save me from ruin by marriage, their sole care being that I should learn to make a powerful speech, and become a persuasive orator.
- Matt. xvii. 17.
- 1 Cor. vii. 28.
- 1 Cor. vii. 1.
- 1 Cor. vii. 32, 33.
- Matt. xix. 12.
- Isa. x. 26.
- Deut. xxxii. 39.
- Ps. xciii. 20, Vulg. “Lit. ‘Formest trouble in or as a precept.’ Thou makest to us a precept out of trouble, so that trouble itself shall be a precept to us, i.e. hast willed so to discipline and instruct those Thy sons, that they should not be without fear, lest they should love something else, and forget Thee, their true good.”—S. Aug. ad loc.—E. B. P.