Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book IV/Chapter 4
Chapter IV.—Sorely Distressed by Weeping at the Death of His Friend, He Provides Consolation for Himself.
7. In those years, when I first began to teach rhetoric in my native town, I had acquired a very dear friend, from association in our studies, of mine own age, and, like myself, just rising up into the flower of youth. He had grown up with me from childhood, and we had been both school-fellows and play-fellows. But he was not then my friend, nor, indeed, afterwards, as true friendship is; for true it is not but in such as Thou bindest together, cleaving unto Thee by that love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. But yet it was too sweet, being ripened by the fervour of similar studies. For, from the true faith (which he, as a youth, had not soundly and thoroughly become master of), I had turned him aside towards those superstitious and pernicious fables which my mother mourned in me. With me this man’s mind now erred, nor could my soul exist without him. But behold, Thou wert close behind Thy fugitives—at once God of vengeance and Fountain of mercies, who turnest us to Thyself by wondrous means. Thou removedst that man from this life when he had scarce completed one whole year of my friendship, sweet to me above all the sweetness of that my life.
8. “Who can show forth all Thy praise” which he hath experienced in himself alone? What was it that Thou didst then, O my God, and how unsearchable are the depths of Thy judgments! For when, sore sick of a fever, he long lay unconscious in a death-sweat, and all despaired of his recovery, he was baptized without his knowledge; myself meanwhile little caring, presuming that his soul would retain rather what it had imbibed from me, than what was done to his unconscious body. Far different, however, was it, for he was revived and restored. Straightway, as soon as I could talk to him (which I could as soon as he was able, for I never left him, and we hung too much upon each other), I attempted to jest with him, as if he also would jest with me at that baptism which he had received when mind and senses were in abeyance, but had now learnt that he had received. But he shuddered at me, as if I were his enemy; and, with a remarkable and unexpected freedom, admonished me, if I desired to continue his friend, to desist from speaking to him in such a way. I, confounded and confused, concealed all my emotions, till he should get well, and his health be strong enough to allow me to deal with him as I wished. But he was withdrawn from my frenzy, that with Thee he might be preserved for my comfort. A few days after, during my absence, he had a return of the fever, and died.
9. At this sorrow my heart was utterly darkened, and whatever I looked upon was death. My native country was a torture to me, and my father’s house a wondrous unhappiness; and whatsoever I had participated in with him, wanting him, turned into a frightful torture. Mine eyes sought him everywhere, but he was not granted them; and I hated all places because he was not in them; nor could they now say to me, “Behold; he is coming,” as they did when he was alive and absent. I became a great puzzle to myself, and asked my soul why she was so sad, and why she so exceedingly disquieted me; but she knew not what to answer me. And if I said, “Hope thou in God,” she very properly obeyed me not; because that most dear friend whom she had lost was, being man, both truer and better than that phantasm she was bid to hope in. Naught but tears were sweet to me, and they succeeded my friend in the dearest of my affections.
- Rom. v. 5.
- Ps. xciv. 1.
- Ps. cvi. 2.
- Ps. xxxvi. 6, and Rom. xi. 33.
- See i. sec. 17, note 3, above.
- Ps. xlii. 5.
- The mind may rest in theories and abstractions, but the heart craves a being that it can love; and Archbishop Whately has shown in one of his essays that the idol worship of every age had doubtless its origin in the craving of mind and heart for an embodiment of the object of worship. “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us,” says Philip (John xiv. 8), and he expresses the longing of the soul; and when the Lord replies, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” He reveals to us God’s satisfaction of human wants in the incarnation of His Son. Augustin’s heart was now thrown in upon itself, and his view of God gave him no consolation. It satisfied his mind, perhaps, in a measure, to think of God as a “corporeal brightness” (see iii. 12; iv. 3, 12, 31; v. 19, etc.) when free from trouble, but it could not satisfy him now. He had yet to learn of Him who is the very image of God—who by His divine power raised the dead to life again, while, with perfect human sympathy, He could “weep with those that wept,”—the “Son of Man” (not of a man, He being miraculously born, but of the race of men [ἀνθρῶπου]), i.e. the Son of Mankind. See also viii. sec. 27, note, below.