Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book VIII/Chapter 1
Chapter I.—He, Now Given to Divine Things, and Yet Entangled by the Lusts of Love, Consults Simplicianus in Reference to the Renewing of His Mind.
1. O My God, let me with gratitude remember and confess unto Thee Thy mercies bestowed upon me. Let my bones be steeped in Thy love, and let them say, Who is like unto Thee, O Lord? “Thou hast loosed my bonds, I will offer unto Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” And how Thou hast loosed them I will declare; and all who worship Thee when they hear these things shall say: “Blessed be the Lord in heaven and earth, great and wonderful is His name.” Thy words had stuck fast into my breast, and I was hedged round about by Thee on every side. Of Thy eternal life I was now certain, although I had seen it “through a glass darkly.” Yet I no longer doubted that there was an incorruptible substance, from which was derived all other substance; nor did I now desire to be more certain of Thee, but more stedfast in Thee. As for my temporal life, all things were uncertain, and my heart had to be purged from the old leaven. The “Way,” the Saviour Himself, was pleasant unto me, but as yet I disliked to pass through its straightness. And Thou didst put into my mind, and it seemed good in my eyes, to go unto Simplicianus, who appeared to me a faithful servant of Thine, and Thy grace shone in him. I had also heard that from his very youth he had lived most devoted to Thee. Now he had grown into years, and by reason of so great age, passed in such zealous following of Thy ways, he appeared to me likely to have gained much experience; and so in truth he had. Out of which experience I desired him to tell me (setting before him my griefs) which would be the most fitting way for one afflicted as I was to walk in Thy way.
2. For the Church I saw to be full, and one went this way, and another that. But it was displeasing to me that I led a secular life; yea, now that my passions had ceased to excite me as of old with hopes of honour and wealth, a very grievous burden it was to undergo so great a servitude. For, compared with Thy sweetness, and the beauty of Thy house, which I loved, those things delighted me no longer. But still very tenaciously was I held by the love of women; nor did the apostle forbid me to marry, although he exhorted me to something better, especially wishing that all men were as he himself was. But I, being weak, made choice of the more agreeable place, and because of this alone was tossed up and down in all beside, faint and languishing with withering cares, because in other matters I was compelled, though unwilling, to agree to a married life, to which I was given up and enthralled. I had heard from the mouth of truth that “there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake;” but, saith He, “he that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Vain, assuredly, are all men in whom the knowledge of God is not, and who could not, out of the good things which are seen, find out Him who is good. But I was no longer in that vanity; I had surmounted it, and by the united testimony of Thy whole creation had found Thee, our Creator, and Thy Word, God with Thee, and together with Thee and the Holy Ghost one God, by whom Thou createdst all things. There is yet another kind of impious men, who “when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful.” Into this also had I fallen; but Thy right hand held me up, and bore me away, and Thou placedst me where I might recover. For Thou hast said unto man, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;” and desire not to seem wise, because, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” But I had now found the goodly pearl, which, selling all that I had, I ought to have bought; and I hesitated.
- Ps. xxxv. 10.
- Ps. cxvi. 16, 17.
- Job. i. 10.
- 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
- 1 Cor. v. 7.
- John xiv. 6.
- “Simplicianus ‘became a successor of the most blessed Ambrose, Bishop of the Church of Milan’ (Aug. Retract. ii. 1). To him St. Augustin wrote two books, De Diversis Quæstionibus (Op. t. vi. p. 82 sq.), and calls him ‘father’ (ibid.), speaks of his ‘fatherly affections from his most benevolent heart, not recent or sudden, but tried and known’ (Ep. 37), requests his ‘remarks and corrections of any books of his which might chance to fall into his holy hands’ (ibid.) St. Ambrose mentions his ‘having traversed the whole world, for the sake of the faith, and of acquiring divine knowledge, and having given the whole period of this life to holy reading, night and day: that he had an acute mind, whereby he took in intellectual studies, and was in the habit of proving how far the books of philosophy were gone astray from the truth,’ Ep. 65, sec 5, p. 1052, ed. Ben. See also Tillemont, H. E. t. 10, Art. ‘S. Simplicien.’”—E. B. P.
- Ps. xxvi. 8.
- 1 Cor. vii. 7.
- Matt. xix. 12.
- Wisd. xiii. 1.
- See iv. sec, 18, and note, above.
- “And the Holy Ghost.” These words, though in the text of the Benedictine edition are not, as the editors point out, found in the majority of the best mss.
- Rom. i. 21.
- Ps. xviii. 35.
- Job xxviii. 28.
- Prov. iii. 7.
- Rom. i. 22.
- In his Quæst. ex. Matt. 13, likewise, Augustin compares Christ to the pearl of great price, who is in every way able to satisfy the cravings of man.
- Matt. xiii. 46.