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The Confessions
of Saint Augustine of Hippo
The original, squashed down to read in about an hour

Augustine with his mother - painting by Ary Scheffer

(Hippo Regius, modern Annaba, Algeria, c390)

Jesus Christ laid down certain principles, but his teachings were made into a Religion by others - most notably Paul of Tarsus and, here, Augustine of Hippo. Amongst Western Christians, Augustine is considered the Patron of Religious Thinkers, a saint and doctor of the Church, his feast celebrated on August 28th. To the Eastern church he is the Blessed Augustine, remembered on the 15th of June.

Based on the 1882 translation by EB Pusey. Abridged: GH

For more works by St Augustine, see The Index

The Confessions of St Augustine

My son, here take the books of my Confessions. Take and use them as a Christian should, and with the charity of a Christian. Here find me as I am, and praise me for no more than I am. Here believe of me only what this testimony tells. Here observe me as I have been. And if something in me pleases you, here praise Him with me. "For it is he that hath made us and not we ourselves." As, then, you find me in these pages, pray for me that I may go on to be perfected. Pray for me, my son, pray for me.
From Augustine's final letter to his son Darius, written shortly before his death

{I} "Great art thou, O Lord, great is thy power, infinite thy wisdom. I seek thee, O Lord, in the faith that you gave me and through the son who inspired me. {II} But how shall I call upon my God? {III} Do the heavens and the earth contain thee? Though thou fill many vessels, none confine thee. And when thy vessels are poured out, they make you only greater. Do great things contain more of thee, and smaller things less? Or art thou wholly everywhere, yet so that nothing contains thee wholly?

{IV} What, therefore, is my God? Lover without passion, penitent without remorse, even thy anger keeps serene. Men pay dear to hold thee in debt, yet you owe them naught. O my God, my life, my holy Joy, what can I say of thee?

{VI} Still, dust and ashes as I am, allow me to speak before thy mercy. From whence came I to this life-in-death? Or is it death-in-life? I do know that thy mercy, a greater food than the milk of my own mother's breast, has sustained me from the beginning. In my infancy, I learned to laugh and then to tell my wishes with crying and flailing. That infancy is long dead, and I understand pregnancy, but where did I come from, O Lord? Is any man skilful enough to have fashioned himself?

{VII} When a man cries "Woe, the sins of men", thou showest him mercy, for thou made the man but not the sin. But what of the infant' mewling, jealousy, the anger? For in thy sight not even the day-old infant is free from sin. Yet the infant's innocence lies in frailty of body and not of mind, and we look kindly on such faults.

{VIII} I grew out of infancy, or rather boyhood grew into me (for where would infancy go?); and I was no longer an infant who could not speak, but now a chattering boy. I remember how I learned to speak. My elders did not teach me words by rote, as they taught me my letters afterward. But I myself, when I was unable to communicate all I wished to say to whomever I wished by means of whimperings and grunts and various gestures of my limbs, I myself repeated the sounds already stored in my memory by the mind which thou, O my God, hadst given me. When they called some thing by name and pointed it out while they spoke, I saw it and realized the name they uttered. And what they meant was made plain by the gestures of their bodies, a kind of natural language, common to all nations, which expresses attitude and preference through changes of countenance, gestures and intonations. So it was that I gradually identified the objects which the words stood for and, having formed my mouth to repeat these signs, I was thereby able to express my will. Thus I advanced deeper into the stormy fellowship of human life.

{IX} O my God! I was sent to a school, to learn tricks of speech for the sake of honour and foolish wealth. And when I learned not, I was flogged, as our forefathers thought proper. And I was punished for playing. And why? So that I might learn as a man play more shameful games. But about this time, O Lord, I observed men praying, and I began to pray. {X} And yet, O Lord my God, creator of all, I sinned against my parents and teachers. Look down on these things with mercy, O Lord, deliver us who call upon thee; deliver too those who call not upon thee, that they might learn of thee.

{XI} Even as a boy I had heard of eternal life promised to us through the Lord our God. My mother Monica and the whole household, except my father, did acknowledge thee. But it was her desire, O my God, that I should take thee as my true Father. O my God, why was I not baptised into thee at that time?

{XII} I had no love of learning, and hated to be driven to it, for no man does well against his will. So I, so small a boy, yet so great a sinner, was punished as thou ordained. {XIII} I learned to read. I followed the wanderings of Aeneas, and the sadness of Dido, who slew herself for love. Yet, O God, light of my heart, I did not love thee, and thus committed fornication against thee while those around me cried out "Well done!" The friendship of this world is indeed fornication against thee! I was driven to Greek by the rod, yet I loved to learn Latin. Oh, that men might see how better curiosity leads to learning than threats and fear! {XV} O Lord, my King and my God, may all my boyhood learning now be offered in thy service.

{XVI} O, woeful torrent of human custom, drowning the sons of Eve! Which of our gowned masters could admit that Homer's fictions transfer human evils to the gods, and so lead men to imitate their foulness? And yet, O torrent of hell, the sons of men pay fees for this learning. O, you teachers, you beat against the rocks and roar; "Here eloquence may be learned. Here persuasion may be got" {XVII} O my God, how I wasted the talents thou gave me in such smoke and wind!

{XVIII} Look down, O Lord, and see how diligently the sons of men follow the petty rules of grammar and pronunciation, yet neglect thy eternal rules of everlasting salvation. As if it were more a sin to mispronounce a word than to sin against thy commandments. No wonder I was carried toward vanity and away from thee, O my God, with such men as my models. {XIX} But I survived my boyhood. I did learn to take pleasure in truth. I had a good memory and spoke with vigour. Thanks be to thee, my joy, my pride, my confidence, my God. Thanks be to thee for thy gifts.

{I} The time has come to call to mind my past, how the sins of my soul made me corrupt in thy eyes.

{II} What delighted me save love? Yet I shunned the bright path of friendship and pursued the fleshly passion of fornication. Yet, thou didst hold thy peace. O! If I had me a guide to turn my tide to the shore of marriage, as thy law prescribes, O Lord. Or I might have heeded that voice from the clouds "It is good for a man not to touch a woman," and with joy become "a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake".

{III} Praise to my father for securing my education. But it was the same father who, at the baths, saw that I was becoming a man, and took joy in it, as if drunk with wine he forgot, as men do, the Creator, and looked only to his creation. I ignored the counsel of thy handmaiden, my mother, "not to commit fornication". Instead, I rolled in the mire of Babylon as if on a bed of spices. I was seduced by the invisible enemy, and I was easy to seduce.

{IV} Theft is punished by thy law and by man's. Yet, a group of young scoundrels, I among them, did steal away a load of pears from our neighbour's tree. Poor fruit they were, which we dumped to the hogs. It was an evil act, and I loved it for being evil.

{VI} O Lord my God, what beauty did I see in such a deed of darkness? Certainly not the beauty of justice or wisdom, nor the beauty of the earth, or the life teeming sea. Pride wears the mask of high ideals, but thou, O God, art high above all. Ambition seeks glory, whereas only thou shouldst be glorified. Ignorance and foolishness may hide under the name of simplicity and innocence, yet none has thy true simplicity and thy complete innocence. {VII} Yet, by thy grace and by thy mercy, these sins that I confess have been healed away by the One Physician.

{IX} We laughed at the thought of deceiving the owners. Yet, I would not have laughed alone, O friendship all unfriendly, you strange seducer of the soul. {X} Who can explain such a twisted and tangled knottiness? O my God, how I wandered far from thee, and made of myself a wasteland.

{I} I came to Carthage, where a caldron of unholy loves was seething and bubbling around me. I was looking for something to love, and, empty of thou, my soul itched to be scratched by the senses. And so I took joy with the body of my lover, and so polluted the spring of friendship with the slime of lust.

{II} The theatre captivated me. Now, what real compassion can there be in watching faked emotion? Yet I was moved to tears by fictions, and so became infected with a foul itch, the scratching of which led to inflammation, swelling and putrefaction. Such was my life, O my God!

{III} I had become a master in the School of rhetoric, a craft which praises highest the lawyer with greatest deviousness. I even took companionship with the jeering club called 'The Wreckers', though thou knowest I took no part in their worst excesses.

{IV} In my studies, I chanced upon Cicero's 'Hortensius', and it flamed in me the love of wisdom the Greeks call "philosophy". I read in Cicero how many take the honourable name of philosophy, and use it to adorn their own errors. But I did not then know the words of thy apostle "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit" {V} I studied, too, the Holy Scripture, and behold, I saw something sublime and veiled in mysteries.

{VI} Thus, I fell among the followers of Mani, men who spoke of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Paraclete and cried "Truth, Truth." The fables of poets I can make a food for the mind, but what nonsense were these men's snares! {VII} I came to hang on their foolish questions; "Whence comes evil?" "Has God hair and nails?" I did not yet know that evil is but privation of good, nor that God is spirit. I was blind.

{VIII} Can it ever, at any time or place, be unrighteous for a man to love God and his neighbour with all his heart? But the filthy lusts of the Sodomites are rightly held in detestation as perverting our fellowship. Likewise, theft, revenge and delight in pain all spring from fleshly lusts. {X} Yet, I equally mocked these holy laws, only to be mocked in turn by thee. I even accepted Manichean follies like believing that more mercy was to be shown to the trees and the fruits of the earth than unto men, for whom these were created.

{XI} But my faithful mother, that chaste, pious and sober widow, wept for me. Thou saw her tears watering the earth, and her prayers entered thy presence. {XII} And thou gave to her another answer, by thy bishop, who told her that I was inflated with the novelty of heresy, "Let him alone. Pray for him. He will come, he will come".

{I} From my nineteenth year, I lusted after empty fame. I entered poetic contests for straw garlands, and took to the false religion of "liberal arts". {II} I had a mistress, without lawful marriage. I did repel one filthy sorcerer who offered fame in return for sacrifices. {III} Yet I happily consulted with astrologers who said, "Your sin is the doing of Venus, or Mars", that man may regard himself blameless. Wise friends warned me of that falsehood, telling of how chance alone made astrologers seem like prophets. But I would not be persuaded.

{IV} In those years a dear friend of childhood, who I had turned away from true faith, was taken unto thee after a fever. My heart was utterly darkened by this sorrow and everywhere I looked, I saw death.

{VI} At that time, I marvelled that other mortals went on living since he whom I had loved as if he would never die was now dead. {VII} O foolish man! I fretted and wept, and dragged around my torn and bloody soul. I found no rest in gardens, in sport or song, nor in the pleasures of the bed. I should have raised my spirit to thee, O Lord, for thee to lighten my load. {VIII} Yet, time revived me through the consolation of friends, with whom I shared the things I loved instead of thee; pleasant discourse, jests, sharing books and caring glances.

{X} Lovely things grow to perfection; they wax old and perish. This is the way of things. {XI} "But do I ever pass away?" asks the Word of God. {XII} If beauty pleases you, then seek what you seek; but remember that it is not where you seek it. You seek for a blessed life in the land of death.

{XIII} Ah, but I understood not, and was drawn to love inferior beauties. I even wrote a book on "The Beautiful and the Fitting". {XIV} And, carried on the wind of pride, I dedicated it to Hierius, the Roman orator, because I wanted his praise. Man is himself a great deep! See how he lies helpless when not sustained by truth!

{XV} I began to understand that goodness came from the rational soul, and that evil was some kind of entity. I knew such an entity could not come from thee, O my God, and learned to call it Monad and Dyad the evil-doer. What did it profit me to untangle "Aristotle's Categories", or knotty volumes of rhetoric, without pious faith? O, those of lesser wit are easier fledged! O God, let thy wings bear us up when we are little and even down to our grey hairs, carry us.

{I} Lord! Accept my confession! {III} In my twenty-ninth year, I began to compare the teachings of the philosophers with the dictamens of the Manicheans. Probability seemed to favour the philosophers, yet still I was commanded to believe the teachings of Mani, even where they contradicted mine own reason.

{IV} Yet, O Lord God of Truth, is any man pleasing to thee because he knows the seasons of the stars and other things? No man can be happy who knows thee not, and happy can be he who knows thee, but he have little learning. {V} Thou hast said to man, "Behold, godliness is wisdom".

{VI} I sat at the feet of Faustus, the Manichean bishop, yet I was not permitted to raise doubts. Faustus knew nothing of the liberal arts, above a little grammar and some of Tully's orations. But eloquence he had in abundance.

{VIII} Thou didst so deal with me that I was persuaded to go to teach in Rome. So, with sadness, I lied to my sweet mother and slipped away unseen. Didst thou, O God, not hear my mother's tearful prayers that I stay? Thou, O Lord, had a greater purpose.

{IX} Lo, in Rome, I was struck with grievous illness and would have fallen into fiery torment from my sins. Yet thou heard my mother's prayers and saved me, to carry out thy plan. {X} Still I met with the deluded and deluding "saints" of Mani. Yet I now was half inclined to join the "Academic" philosophers in doubting everything, and denying man the power of comprehending certainty. Yet still, I thought of God as like a huge man and of evil as some solid thing.

{XII} I began my work teaching rhetoric, yet found that some students would conspire to transfer to another teacher, to evade their master's fees, an unfaithfulness I never had to bear in Africa. Such people are base indeed; they fornicate against thee. {XIII} So I applied to work in Milan, and went there, to Ambrose thy bishop, whose eloquent discourse abundantly provided thy people with the flour of thy wheat and the sober intoxication of thy wine. That man of God received me as a father would. I was drawing closer.

{XIV} The good bishop spoke as well as Faustus had, but only gradually did I see that he also spoke truly. He showed me how parts of the Old Testament were allegorical, where my literal interpretation had killed me spiritually. I resolved, at last, to become a catechumen; to take instruction in the faith of Christ.

{I} My mother joined me, assured in a dream that she would have safe passage. {II} And she brought to the oratories offerings of porridge, bread, and wine, as had been her custom in Africa. But Ambrose forbade these earthly gifts, so that she learned to bring instead a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all she could to the poor.

{III} Ambrose seemed a happy man, only his celibacy appeared a burden, and I longed to discourse with him. {IV} I delighted in his sermons, and came to see that the Catholic faith taught no falsehoods, even if I could not yet discern the truth. {V} I began to see how honestly the Catholic Church accepted thy teachings, without need of the Manicheans absurd proofs. I began to see how thy Scripture was revealed through spiritual interpretation. And thou wast with me.

{VI} I remember seeing a poor drunk laughing in the streets. He bought his contentment with a few coins, and would lose it the same night. But I lived on with my confusions.

{VII} I remember too, how my good student Alypius took to following the madness of the gladiators' fights. I failed to persuade him the better, but thou showed me how to. I was teaching a text, when a simile occurred to me from the gladiatorial circus. Thou hast written in thy Book, "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you." Now Alypius, took this to mean himself, and soon abandoned the bloody pastime.

{IX} In another incident, I believe O my God, that as thou meant to raise that man to greatness, you helped him to learn humility. In confusion over a theft in the marketplace, the police mistakenly arrested Alypius. But thou came to the rescue of his innocence, and the true thief was found.

{X} Nebridius also come to Milan, so there were three begging mouths, waiting for thy food.

{XIII} I wooed, and became engaged to a girl two years too young to marry. And because she pleased me, I agreed to wait for her.

{XIV} We were weary of the turbulent vexations of life. We considered making a community of ten, holding a purse in common, and each taking a turn to manage. But considering our wives, or our betrothed, the plan was cast aside.

{XV} I sent my old lover back to Africa, still vowing to thee that she would know other man, and leaving with me my son by her. But, slave of lust, I could not bear the two years before I could obtain a real wife. So, I procured another mistress.

{XVI} Thus, Alypius, Nebridius, and myself whiled our time in discussions of good and evil. But I could not hear you near, calling "Run, I will carry you; yea, I will lead you home and then I will set you free."

{I} I now saw that thou, O God, has no body. But still I thought of thee as an infinity interpenetrating the whole mass of the world, so that a greater part of the earth would contain a greater part of thee; a smaller part, a smaller fraction of thee. But thou art not such a one. {III} But still I did not know the cause of evil, but began to realise that evil doing comes from free will. I had seen a light, for I knew that I had free will.

{V} Where has this evil crept in? What is its root and what its seed? If evil has no being, why then do we shun something which is nothing? Such perplexities! {VII} I kept on asking. But my swelling pride kept me from hearing the answer. {VIII} But thou, O Lord, forever the same; thou hast compassion on our dust and ashes.

{IX} Thou didst obtain for me certain books of the Plato nists. And therein I found, not in the same words, but to the selfsame effect, "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God". Truly, these books came from thee. {X} At last, thy light entered my inward soul! Not this earthly light, but as if the light of day were grown brighter and brighter, to flood all space. Love knows it, O Eternal Truth and True Love and Beloved Eternity! Thou didst lift me up, that I might see that there was something to be seen!

{XII} And it was made clear to me that all things are good even if they are corrupted. Evil, then, cannot be corrupted further as it has no substance, for if it were a substance, it would be good. And because all that thou madest is not equal, each by itself is good, for our God made all things very good. {XIII} That thou art to be praised is shown from the fact that the earth itself, dragons, all deeps and fires, and hail, snow and winds, and all stars and angels, all hills, fruitful trees, beasts and creeping things, and flying fowl, and all people and princes praise thy name! {XIV} I awoke in thee, and beheld thee as the Infinite.

{XVI} And I asked what wickedness was, and I found that it was no substance, but a perversion of the will bent aside from thee, O God, the supreme substance. {XVIII} But I had not embraced that "Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus," in whom "the Word was made flesh" in order that thy wisdom might become milk for our infancy. {XIX} I saw in our Lord Christ only a man of incomparable wisdom, miraculously born of a virgin, sent to set us an example of divine care. But concerning the mystery of "the Word made flesh," I could form no notion.

{XX} But, having learned from the Plato nists to search for the incorporeal Truth, I saw how thy invisible things are understood through the things that are made. {XXI} With great eagerness, then, I fastened upon the venerable writings of thy Spirit through thy apostle Paul.

{I} O my God, let my bones be bathed in thy love. Of thy eternal life I was now certain, although I had seen it "through a glass darkly." I no longer craved certainty about thee, but rather greater steadfastness in thee. {II} I went, therefore, to Simplicianus, the spiritual father of Bishop Ambrose. I recounted to him the mazes of my wanderings, and he congratulated me on following the Plato nists above the deceitful fallacies of other philosophers. Then he told me of how Victorinus of Rome, a teacher of rhetoric like me, had likewise come to faith, and, despite the laws, made a proud and public profession of Christ.

{IV} O Lord, stir us up and call us back; inflame us and draw us to thee; stir us up and grow sweet to us; let us now love thee, let us run to thee.

{VI} At this time, one Ponticianus, a fellow African and high official of the emperor's, came to visit us. He spied on our table the writings of Paul. For he was a Christian, and told us of many things we knew not before. He told of Anthony, the Egyptian monk, and of monasteries full of good brothers. {VII} But while he was speaking, thou, O Lord, turned me toward myself, that I might see how ugly I was, and how crooked and sordid, bespotted and ulcerous. I had long desired wisdom, yet here I was, still postponing the abandonment of this world and praying "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet."

{VIII} I was greatly disturbed in spirit, angry at myself with a turbulent indignation because I had not entered thy will and covenant, O my God, while all my bones cried out to me to enter thy grace. {IX} I willed that I leave all and follow my God, but my earthly form did not obey. How can such happen? {X} I was at war with myself, against the will of mine own spirit.

{XII} I cried; "And thou, O Lord, how long? How long, O Lord? Wilt thou be angry forever? "How long, how long? Suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl, I know not which, coming from the neighbouring house, chanting over and over again, "Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it." I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. So I opened the Apostle's book and read "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but in the Lord Jesus Christ." I had no need to read further. My heart was infused with something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.

{II} My plan became clear; to wait while harvest holiday was over, and then resign my position.

{III} Friend Verecundus, a heathen, was distressed by my choice, but gave us the use of his country house. And behold! Soon afterwards, he was taken with a sickness and chose to be baptised to depart this life to thy resurrection. Nebridius, too, became a faithful member of the Catholic Church, serving thee in perfect continence among his own people in Africa. Then thou didst release him from the flesh, and, my sweet friend, he now he lives in Abraham's bosom. Where else might he drink his fill from the fountain of thy wisdom?

{IV} So, I left my professorship, and retired with my friends and my beloved mother to the villa. O my God, how did I cry to thee when I read the fourth psalm of David, "When I called upon thee, O God of my righteousness, thou didst hear me". During that time thou didst torture me with a terrible toothache, so that, God of all health, we bowed our knees in supplication, and the pain was gone.

{V} By letters I notified the holy man Ambrose of my resolution. {VI} So, we returned to Milan, myself, Alypius, and Adeodatus (my son from my sinning) and were baptised. We were made free by the voices of thy sweet-speaking Church! The truth was poured forth into us, and my tears ran down, and I was happy.

{VIII} Thou, O Lord, also brought to us Evodius, a young man who had served as a secret service agent. He had converted to thee and baptised. We planned to return together to Africa, but, reaching Ostia, my mother died. I will not speak of her gifts, but of thy gift in her. That sober matron had, in her youth, slipped into the habit of drink. What could prevail against that secret disease but thy medicine, O Lord? A slave girl called her "a drunkard", and, stung by this taunt, she saw her vileness and was cured. For, as the flattery of friends corrupts, so often do the taunts of enemies instruct. Thou, O Lord, ruler of heaven and earth, healest one soul by the unsoundness of another.

{IX} Thus modestly and soberly brought up, she was given to a husband, and she busied herself to gain him to thee, She endured with patience his infidelity and his violent anger. While other matrons equally bore the marks of blows on their disfigured faces, she would admonish them for blaming their husbands, for they ought not to oppose their lords. Even her mother-in-law was at first prejudiced against her by the whisperings of malicious servants. But my father had those servants beaten, so that no one dared to criticise her. They lived together with a wonderful sweetness of mutual good will. Such gifts, O my God, my Mercy, did though bestow upon that good handmaid of thine, in whose womb thou didst create me.

{X} On the day she departed, we were discussing together what is the nature of the eternal life of the saints, that "fountain of life which is with thee" speaking and marvelling at thy works. Then my mother said "Son, I have no longer any pleasure in this life." {XI} I held back my tears, but lamented that must bury her so far from home. "Nothing is far from God," she said, and that devout soul was set loose from her body.

{XII} Evodius took up the Psalter and began to sing, "I will sing of mercy and judgement unto thee, O Lord." I struggled to restrain the animal grief which arose in me, and I entreated thee to heal my sorrow; but thou didst not.

{XIII} And while my blessed mother had been "made alive" in Christ, and had lived in praise of thy name, yet she did of times speak against thy laws. But, O God of my heart, I now beseech thee, forgive her, O Lord, "enter not into judgement" with her.

{I} Let me know thee, O my Knower; let me know thee as I am known. Let me be taken to thee, O Strength of my soul. {II} To thee, O Lord, I am laid bare. Whatever I am, O Lord, I confess to thee, in silence of sound but crying aloud with strong affection. {IV} May the fruit of my confessions be refreshment to other men.

{V} Thou, O Lord, knowest that there is something of man which "the spirit of the man does not know of itself." {VI} Thou hast smitten my heart with thy Word, and I have loved thee. But what do I love? I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars; and they answered, "Neither are we the God whom you seek." {VII} What is it, then, that I love when I love my God? It is not in mere life that I find my God, for the horse and the mule have life. I have a mind.

{VIII} But I will soar above even this, and closer yet to my God. I will enter the fields and spacious halls of memory, to ask what should be brought forth. Oh men! Ye marvel at the mountains and the seas and the skies, and yet neglect to marvel at yourselves.

{IX} Oh, with what marvellous quickness this wondrous filing system works! {X} My memory is filled with colours, sounds, words, tastes, and senses of touch. But these are not the things themselves. How can this be? {XIII} I remember many things which I know now as false, yet it is not false that I remember them. {XIV} I can remember fears without fear, and desires without desire. The memory seems as the belly of the mind, and joy and sadness are like sweet and bitter food. But look, it is from my memory that I say that there are four basic emotions; desire, joy, fear, sadness. {XV} Yet, when I name memory itself, I know what I name. {XVI} And how can I remember forgetfulness?

{XVII} It is a profound marvel, O my God, let me leap toward thee and find what I am. I have a memory, yet even beasts and birds have memory or else they could never find their lairs again, nor acquire their habits.

{XVIII} The woman searched for a lost a coin, could never do so unless she remembered it. {XIX} We can remember the things we name, but a notion entirely forgotten, we cannot even search for.

{XX} We all seek happiness, and we know that it is more than a word, for when a Greek hears it spoken in Latin, it means to him nothing. {XXI} But what of our memory of numbers? This seems not like remembering seeing Carthage, but as something from elsewhere.

{XXIII} All men would rather rejoice in truth than in falsehood. Why, then, does truth generate hatred, and why does thy servant who preaches truth come to be an enemy?

{XXIV} Memory is a great territory, O Lord! And in it all I have still not found thee. But I found Truth, there found I my God, who is the Truth. These are my holy delights, which thou hast bestowed on me in thy mercy, mindful of my poverty. {XXV} But where in my memory dost thou abide, O Lord? What sort of lodging hast thou made for thyself there? What kind of sanctuary hast thou built? I do not find thee among the images of corporeal things, nor among the remembered affections, nor wast thou in the depths of memory. For just as thou art not a bodily image, thou art the Lord God of the mind. Thou hast elected to dwell in my memory from the time I learned of thee.

{XXVI} Where, then, did I find thee to be able to learn of thee? Everywhere and at once, O Truth, thou guidest all who consult thee, though all do not hear in clarity. He is thy best servant who seeks not to hear from thee what he himself wills, but who wills rather to listen to thy call.

{XXVII} Oh, too late have I loved thee, beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved thee. Behold, thou wast within me and I was searching outside, among the beauty of thy creation. At last, didst thou call out loud, didst thou force open my deafness and didst chase away my blindness. Thou didst breathe fragrant odours and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for thee. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace. {XXVIII} Lord, have pity on me; my evil sorrows contend with my good joys. Lord, have pity on me. Thou art the Physician, I am the sick man; thou art merciful, I need mercy. Is not the life of man on earth an ordeal? {XXIX} My whole hope is in thy exceeding great mercy and that alone. Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt. O Love, O my God, enkindle me!

{XXX} Obviously thou commandest that I should be continent from "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Thou commandest me to abstain from fornication, and thou hast counselled something better than marriage. Lord, let my soul be free from the sticky glue of lust. Until then, I confess my filthy wickedness unto my good Lord, trembling with joy at thy gifts and grieving over my imperfections.

{XXXI} Drunkenness is far from me, but "surfeiting" sometimes creeps upon thy servant. For no man can be continent unless thou give it. O Lord, my God, give ear, look and see, have mercy upon me; and heal me. {XXXII} I am not much troubled by the allurement of perfumes, though I may deceive myself in this. {XXXIII} I am free from the allure of beautiful sounds, though I confess I find some repose in thy sweet hymns. {XXXIV} The pleasures of sight confront me everywhere as daylight, the queen of colours, floods so many beautiful forms. From this, thou will rescue me, thou will.

{XXXV} There is yet another temptation more perilous still- the foolish pursuit of knowledge and learning. True, the theatres do not now carry me away, nor care I to know the courses of the stars, and I detest sacrilegious mysteries. But how I take interest in idle tales! How I can be diverted by the sight of a dog chasing a rabbit, or a lizard catching flies! Such vanities interrupt our prayers.

{XXXVI} But, O Lord, there is yet a temptation left me; the desire to be feared and loved of men. O Lord, we are thy little flock. Stretch thy wings above us, and let us take refuge under them. {XXXVII} Thou knowest that I know not for certain how far I am clean of secret faults, which thy eyes alone perceive. I beseech thee, O my God, to reveal myself to me also, that I may confess to my brethren, who are to pray for me. {XXXIX} There is one more evil temptation; the empty desire to please ourselves, taking pleasure in thy good things as if they were our own and not truly thine.

{XLII} Should I ask the angels? Should I pray? Should I invoke a ritual? Many have sought thee in the pride of learning, or have been deceived by the power of magic. They have sought a mediator, but found instead the devil, disguised as an angel of light. {XLIII} The true Mediator between God and man is the man Christ Jesus Christ. He was mortal as men are mortal, he was righteous as God is righteous. As man he was Mediator, but as the Word he was equal to God. For us, he was both Priest and Sacrifice, and out of slaves, he maketh us thy sons. Without thy son, I should utterly despair.

{I} Dost thou hear me from thy infinity O Lord? Dost thou see events in time? Why do I now tell thee this tale? But to stir my readers to love thee! For the love of thy love I do it. {II} Let thy Scriptures be my chaste delight. Thou hast not willed that the deep secrets of thy pages be written in vain. Thou hast made many darksome secrets in the forest of thy word. Perfect me, O Lord, and reveal them unto me.

{III} Moses wrote of how thou madest the heaven and the earth without words. If he were here now, I would not understand his Hebrew tongue, but if his truth could speak to me, I would be assured. I would be assured.

{V} But how didst thou make the heaven and the earth? Not like a craft-worker, imposing form on something that already existed, according to the fancy of the mind thou gave him. O God, where was the place before any places for thee to make it in? Thou didst speak and they were made, and by thy Word thou didst make them all. {VI} But how didst thou speak? Only from a body comes a voice. Didst thou then make a body?

{VII} Thou dost call us to understand the eternal Word. {VIII} But, my Lord, I know not how to ask. {IX} O God. Thou hast made heaven and earth, through thy Word, thy Son, thy Power and thy Truth. Who can tell of such a wonder!

{X} Some sinners dare to ask, "What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?" {XII} How shall I reply to such people? I will not answer, as one is did "He was preparing hell for those who pry too deep." What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not: yet I say boldly that I know. I know that there would be no past time if nothing had fallen away, and if nothing were still coming there would be no future time; and if there were nothing at all there would be no present time.

{XV} And yet we speak of a long time and a short time, and of time past and future. {XVI} And we say that this time is twice as long, or another three times as long, but we measure the passage of time only when we measure the intervals of perception. {XVII} Who is there who will tell me that there are not three times; time past, time present, and time future? From the future, time becomes present, as if it proceeds from some secret place.

{XVIII} What is the manner by which seers foretell secret things? Perhaps their causes and their signs are seen, which already do exist, as when I see the dawn and can predict the sunrise. So predicting the future would be only through seeing the present. {XIX} O sweet Light of my secret eyes. How teachest souls of the future? For thou hast taught thy prophets.

{XX} It seems manifest that there are three times; a time present of things past; a time present of things present; and a time present of things future. The time present of things past is memory; the time present of things present is direct experience; the time present of things future is expectation.

{XXI} We measure time by saying that this period is longer or shorter than another. {XXII} O Lord my God, O good Father, I beseech thee through Christ, do not close off these things. Let their light dawn by thy enlightening mercy, O Lord.

{XXIII} I once heard a learned man say that the motions of the sun and moon are time. {XXIV} But thou dost not command me to believe that time is motion, for no body is moved but in time. {XXVI} Yet I do measure intervals of time, but what is it that I thus measure, O my God? I ask thee. O my God, what is it that I am measuring?

{XXVII} It seems that we measure neither times future nor times past, nor times present, nor times passing by; and yet we do measure times. {XXVIII} Future time, which is non-existent, is not long; but "a long future" is "a long expectation of the future." Nor is time past, which is now no longer, long; a "long past" is "a long memory of the past." The same holds in the whole life of man, and the whole age of the sons of men.

{XXX} Thy truth will be my mould. Let all understand that thou, eternal Creator of times, art before all times; nor is any creature "above time."

{XXXI} But far be it from thee, O Creator of the universe, and Creator of our souls and bodies, that thou shouldst merely know all things past and future. Far, far more wonderfully, and far more mysteriously thou knowest them. For thou dost not know in the way of a man singing familiar songs, through his remembrance of words. Thou art unchangeable eternally, O creator of minds. From the beginning thou didst know of all things, at all times. Time is thine, but thou art not in time. Let him who understands this confess to thee; and let him who does not understand also confess to thee!


{I} My heart is deeply stirred, O Lord, when words of thy Holy Scripture strike upon it. Who need fear to be deceived when truth promises? {II} I humbly praise thee that madest heaven and the earth that made me. But where is thy heaven of heavens, O Lord, of which we hear in the words of the psalm, "The heaven of heavens is the Lord's, but the earth he hath given to the children of men"? {III} O, my God, Thou didst command that "darkness was on the face of the deep." If there was no light as yet, why was it that darkness was present?

{VI} O Lord, when I first heard of such things, I did not understand it, for I could not conceive of matter without form. {VII} Yet, in the beginning, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, through thy Wisdom, which is born of thy substance, thou didst create something out of nothing.

{VIII} The heaven of heavens was thine, O Lord, but the earth was then invisible and unformed and there was an abyss over which there was complete darkness. Thou created light, and on the second day did make this firmament between the waters. But before any day thou hadst already made a heaven, and this earth itself was invisible unformed matter. For thou, O Lord, hadst made the world out of nothing and into almost nothing. Yet, we men marvel at it.

{IX} The Spirit, the Teacher of thy servant, tells nothing about times and is silent as to the days before thy creation. For, clearly, that heaven of heavens, which thou didst create in the beginning, is nonetheless a partaker in thy eternity. {X} Speak to me. Converse with me, O Lord. I have believed thy books, and their words are very deep.

{XI} Thou hast told me already, O Lord, with a strong voice in my inner ear, that thou art eternal and alone hast immortality. This creation is not coeternal with thee. Thou art not changed by any shape or motion, and thy will is not altered by temporal process. Nor does any sin disturb the order of thy rule. In the light of thy knowledge, let me call "the heaven of the heavens of the Lord", "Thy house", where dwell the saintly spirit citizens of thy city above this visible heaven.

{XIII} O my God, thy Scripture says that thou madest heaven and earth, but it does not say on what day. I understand that thy "heaven of heavens" is where all things are known, not "in part," not "through a glass darkly," but as a simultaneous whole.

{XIV} Marvellous is the depth of thy oracles. We look on them with awe of honour and tremors of love. Their enemies I hate vehemently. Oh, if thou wouldst slay them with thy two-edged sword! Slay them, that they might live to thee! {XV} My God, the eternal God, hath not made any creature by any new will, and his knowledge does not admit anything transitory.

{XVI} Let those who deny these things bark and crow with as much clamour as they please. I will beseech them to be quiet and to listen to thy word. As for myself, I will sing to thee the songs of love in my pilgrimage to Jerusalem, my mother country. And I will say of them, "Be thou, O God, the judge between my confessions and their gainsaying."

{XVII} Some say that by 'heaven' Moses did not mean that spiritual creation which always beholds the face of God. And by 'earth' he was not referring to unformed matter. But such does not agree with the holy words "The earth was invisible and unformed," and "The darkened abyss."

{XVIII} But there is no value in contending words. The law, though, is profitable to discuss, for if a man use it lawfully, the end of the law "is love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned."

{XIX} It is certainly true, O Lord, that "the beginning" is thy wisdom. It is true that all was formed from the formless. {XX} From all these truths, never doubted by those whom thou hast granted insight of their inner eye, different beliefs can come. One man takes the sense of "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" to mean, "In his Word, coeternal with himself, God made the intelligible and the tangible, the spiritual and the corporeal creation." Another finds that God made the universal mass of this corporeal world, with all the observable and known entities that it contains. Yet another that God made the unformed matter of the spiritual and corporeal creation.

{XXIII} I have considered these theories as well as I may, and humbly confess my weak apprehension to Thee, O Lord, though already thou knowest it. Let us approach together the words of thy book of Genesis and make diligent inquiry in them for thy meaning through the works of thy servant, Moses, by whose pen thou hast given them to us.

{XXV} Men do not stand certain by their readings of thy holy writ because they are godly men, but rather out of love for their own worth.

{XXVI} O my God, thou exaltation of my humility and rest of my toil, grant that I, like faithful Moses, may use my heart and my tongue to interpret those books which profit all nations of the world. {XXVII} For just as a spring dammed up affords a larger supply of water, so thy word overflows into streams of clear truth, from which each may draw out a truth or two for himself. {XXVIII} Some spy the concealed fruits and pluck them with cheerful chirpings.

{XXX} Let all of us honour Moses, full of thy Spirit, O fountain of truth, and believe that thou didst reveal thyself to him. {XXXI} Thus, when one man says, "Moses meant what I mean," and another says, "No, he meant what I do," then why could he not have meant both if both opinions are true? There might yet be a third or fourth truth, and it might be that Moses saw all of them. For cannot the one God so temper his Holy Scriptures that they speak many truths to many different people?

{XXXII} What strength of mind, what length of time, would suffice for all thy books to be interpreted?

{I} I call on thee, my God, my Mercy, who madest me and didst not forget me. I call thee into my soul.

{II} Of thy goodness, thy creation exists, even though it can profit thee nothing. And we, who are a spiritual creation by virtue of our souls, we toil amid the shadows of our darkness until, through thy only Son, we become thy righteousness, like the mountains of God.

{III} Now what thou saidst in the beginning "Let there be light, and there was light", I interpret, as referring to the spiritual creation, as it had a life which thou couldst illuminate. {IV} What wouldst thou have lacked if these things had never been made? Thou didst not create them out of any lack but out of the plenitude of thy goodness, for thou art perfect, and their imperfection is displeasing. Therefore were they perfected by thee and became pleasing to thee.

{VI} But why, O truth-speaking Light? Disperse the shadows and tell me, I beseech thee, why thy Scripture should only at last refer to thy Spirit? Was it inappropriate to tell of him "moving over the waters", unless something had first been mentioned over which he could move?

{VII} As thy Apostle tells us, "Thy love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" who teacheth us about spiritual gifts and showeth us the excellent way of love, that we may come to the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ. The uncleanness of our own spirit flows downward with the love of worldly care; and the sanctity of thy Spirit raises us upward by the love of release from anxiety.

{VIII} Thus the angels fell, and the soul of man fell, that we might know the depth of the abyss over which thou decreed "Let there be light". For it is thou, O our God, who wilt enlighten our darkness. From thee shall come our garments of light, and our darkness shall be as the noonday.

{IX} In the beginning neither the Father nor the Son "moved over the waters". But if we understand the changeless supereminence of the divine Being, then Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all "moved over the waters."

{XI} Who can understand the omnipotent Trinity? Rare is the soul who, when he speaks of it, knows of what he speaks. I ask that men would consider three things in themselves; they are one man but hath knowing, and willing. Yet, understanding this, do not believe to have discovered the immutable Trinity in which the Infinite is its own selfsame object. Who can in any fashion express it?

{XII} Go forward in your confession, O my faith; say to the Lord your God, "Holy, holy, holy, O Lord my God, in thy name we have been baptised, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

{XIII} Deep calls unto deep like a rushing of waterfalls and speaks out to men, who groan under their burdens and thirst after the living God as the stag pants for the water. The Spirit opens the gates of the city of God, for man the bride to be joined to our Bridegroom, thy only Son.

{XV} Who but thee, our God, didst make for us that firmament of the authority of thy divine Scripture to be over us? The preachers of thy Word pass away from this life into another, but thy Scripture is here forever for all people, for all time.

{XVI} For just as thou art the utterly Real, and utterly immutable, so thy Essence knows and wills immutably. Thy Knowledge is and wills immutably. Thy Will is and knows immutably. The fountain of life is with thee, and "in thy light shall we see light."

{XVIII} Let us break our bread with the hungry, let us bring the shelterless poor to our house; let us clothe the naked. Let us be given wisdom by thy Spirit, for one, faith; to another, the gift of healing; to another, the power of working miracles; to another, the gift of prophecy; to another, the discerning of spirits; to another, the skill of tongues. So many works, but all the work of the one same Spirit. {XIX} "Learn to do well, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow," that the earth may bring forth the green herb for food and fruit bearing trees, that there may be lights in the firmament of heaven and that they may shine upon the earth. There was that rich man who asked of the good Teacher what he should do to attain eternal life, and was told to sell all and give to the poor. Follow him, O beautiful feet, and shine in the firmament. Run to and fro; make yourselves known among all the nations!

{XX} The words of thy messengers have gone flying over the earth, high in the firmament of thy Book. The needs of the people who were alien to the eternity of thy truth have called them forth, but only in thy gospel, since it was these "waters" which cast them up, the waters whose stagnant bitterness was the reason why they came forth through thy Word.

{XXI} Thus, in thy Word, it was not the depth of the sea but "the earth," separated from the brackishness of the water, that brought forth, not "the creeping and the flying creature that has life," but "the living soul" itself! "The living soul" is of "the earth," because only to the faithful is there any profit in restraining themselves from the love of this world, so that their soul may live to thee. Seek the Lord and your soul shall live and "the earth" may bring forth "the living soul." {XXII} O Lord, our God, our Creator, help us turn our affections away from the world in which we died by living ill, that we might begin to be "a living soul" by living well.

{XXIII} Thou commandest man to "judge all things," and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, over every creeping thing, over all cattle and wild beasts, and over all the earth. And man does this by the power of reason in his mind, a different man in different ways. So, likewise, in thy Church, by thy grace, thou hast made some who hold authority, and others to be subject to authority. But all are equal in thy spiritual grace, there is neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek, nor bond nor free.

{XXIV} Thou blessed men that they may be "fruitful and multiply", and likewise the fishes and the whales. Why didst thou not likewise bless the light, or the earth or the stars, or the beasts or serpents? I take it that 'the waters' of the sea and their waves are symbols of diverse meanings. And as the earth is replenished with human offspring, so its dryness is the symbol of its thirst for truth, and of the fact that reason rules over it.

{XXV} I also desire to understand, O my Lord God, why thou hast given herbs and trees for food, for us and for the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field and for creeping things. But thou hast not given these things to the fishes and great whales. These fruits of the earth show an allegory of the works of mercy, for we owe "fruits" to those who minister spiritual doctrine to us. We owe these fruits, also to "the flying creatures" because "their sound has gone forth into all the earth."

{XXVI} Just as thy servant Paul received gifts from the Philippians, I have learned from thee, O my God, to distinguish between the terms "gift" (which is a thing in itself) and "fruit" (which is the good and right will of the giver).

{XXVIII} O God, in thy words, I count seven times where it is written that thou saw what thou had created as "good." And there is the eighth time when thou didst see all things and call them "very good". Individually they were only good, but as a totality they were very good. {XXIX} Thou didst reply to thy servant with a strong voice in his inner ear, saying; "O man, what my Scripture says, I say. But while you see things in time, I do not see them in time."

{XXX} O Lord my God, I have taken a drop of thy sweet truth. I see that some men honour not thy works, and say that thou had no choice but to make some parts, such as the stars, the way they are. Or that thou fashioned from things already created elsewhere. They say that thou hast made the ramparts of thy universe to protect thee from thine enemies. And they say that thou didst neither make nor arrange the creatures and the growing things. They say that something alien to thee begot them. Such speakers are truly insane.

{XXXI} For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of a man which is in him? We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us from God. {XXXII} Thanks be to thee, O Lord! We see the heaven and the earth. We see the face of the earth, replete with earthly creatures, and man, created in thy image and likeness, with a touch of thy power of reason and understanding by virtue of which he has been set over all irrational creatures.

{XXXIII} Let thy works praise thee, that we may love thee; and let us love thee that thy works may praise thee.

{XXXI} We have explored the question of what thou didst desire to figure forth, and we have seen that this was wrought through thy Word, thy only Son, the head and the body of the Church, and that it signifies thy predestination before all times, without morning and evening. But when thou didst begin to unfold the things destined before time, since our sins had dragged us into profound darkness away from thee, thy good Spirit moved over us to reorder our disorders. Thou didst judge the ungodly and the wicked. Thou madest the authority of thy Book a firmament between those above who would be amenable to thee and those beneath who would be subject to them. Thou didst kindle the lights in the firmament, which are thy holy ones, who have the Word of Life and who shine with an exalted authority.

{XXXV} O Lord God, Grant us the peace of quietness, the peace of thy Sabbath, the peace without an evening. That we might find beautiful rest in thee in the Sabbath of life eternal.

{XXXVII} O Lord, our works are thy works through us. Thou seest not in time, thou movest not in time, thou resteth not in time.

{XXXVIII} We can see those things which thou hast made because thou seest them. Thou, O the one good God, hast never ceased to do good! And we have accomplished some good works by thy good gifts, and even though they are not eternal, still we hope, after these things here, to find our rest in thy great sanctification. What man or what angel can teach men to understand this? We must ask it of thee; we must seek it in thee; we must knock for it at thy door. Only thus shall we find. Only thus shall the door be opened. Amen


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