Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book IV/Chapter 14
Chapter XIV.—Concerning the Books Which He Wrote “On the Fair and Fit,” Dedicated to Hierius.
21. But what was it that prompted me, O Lord my God, to dedicate these books to Hierius, an orator of Rome, whom I knew not by sight, but loved the man for the fame of his learning, for which he was renowned, and some words of his which I had heard, and which had pleased me? But the more did he please me in that he pleased others, who highly extolled him, astonished that a native of Syria, instructed first in Greek eloquence, should afterwards become a wonderful Latin orator, and one so well versed in studies pertaining unto wisdom. Thus a man is commended and loved when absent. Doth this love enter into the heart of the hearer from the mouth of the commender? Not so. But through one who loveth is another inflamed. For hence he is loved who is commended when the commender is believed to praise him with an unfeigned heart; that is, when he that loves him praises him.
22. Thus, then, loved I men upon the judgment of men, not upon Thine, O my God, in which no man is deceived. But yet why not as the renowned charioteer, as the huntsman known far and wide by a vulgar popularity—but far otherwise, and seriously, and so as I would desire to be myself commended? For I would not that they should commend and love me as actors are,—although I myself did commend and love them,—but I would prefer being unknown than so known, and even being hated than so loved. Where now are these influences of such various and divers kinds of loves distributed in one soul? What is it that I am in love with in another, which, if I did not hate, I should not detest and repel from myself, seeing we are equally men? For it does not follow that because a good horse is loved by him who would not, though he might, be that horse, the same should therefore be affirmed by an actor, who partakes of our nature. Do I then love in a man that which I, who am a man, hate to be? Man himself is a great deep, whose very hairs Thou numberest, O Lord, and they fall not to the ground without Thee. And yet are the hairs of his head more readily numbered than are his affections and the movements of his heart.
23. But that orator was of the kind that I so loved as I wished myself to be such a one; and I erred through an inflated pride, and was “carried about with every wind,” but yet was piloted by Thee, though very secretly. And whence know I, and whence confidently confess I unto Thee that I loved him more because of the love of those who praised him, than for the very things for which they praised him? Because had he been upraised, and these self-same men had dispraised him, and with dispraise and scorn told the same things of him, I should never have been so inflamed and provoked to love him. And yet the things had not been different, nor he himself different, but only the affections of the narrators. See where lieth the impotent soul that is not yet sustained by the solidity of truth! Just as the blasts of tongues blow from the breasts of conjecturers, so is it tossed this way and that, driven forward and backward, and the light is obscured to it and the truth not perceived. And behold it is before us. And to me it was a great matter that my style and studies should be known to that man; the which if he approved, I were the more stimulated, but if he disapproved, this vain heart of mine, void of Thy solidity, had been offended. And yet that “fair and fit,” about which I wrote to him, I reflected on with pleasure, and contemplated it, and admired it, though none joined me in doing so.
- See vi. sec. 13, below.
- Matt. x. 29, 30.
- Eph. iv. 14.